THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
Monday, May 12, 2008
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This is a Day Book. Pages are in chronological, not blogological order.
May 5, 2008
Cinco de Mayo
1330: When I got my blood drawn last Thursday I discovered that there was a warrant out for more of my blood, and since I have an upcoming appointment with Dr. Rodriquez, the oncologist, and he'll want to see that as well as the internist who ordered it, I went out this morning at 0800 to get my blood drawn.
Choosing a Monday wasn't smart. It took a long time. Also they wanted a urine sample, and I had already done that task before driving out there, so while waiting between registration when I found out and getting to the technicians -- about 20 minutes, which was about how long I stood in the registration line -- I told you choosing a Monday wasn't smart -- I kept drinking water, and then after that I went to the cafeteria for coffee, breakfast, and a pint of tea. So about 10 AM I was able to give the urine sample and come home. By then I was nearly exhausted, but I sat down at the breakfast table and read the papers. There was a lot to read, much of it relevant to the day's work, which is the column including the International Edition.
There were also two articles relevant to education that need comments, both in the Wall Street Journal although there was no indication that the WSJ editors recognized that they had much to do with each other.
You and I now own a lot of them.
This follows the disastrous experiment of having the government be the direct lender back in Clinton's time as President. The problem then was that the bureaucracy wasn't able to process the loans in time for the students taking out the loans to pay their tuition and expenses.
You will note that whoever owns the loans, they are loans, and those who graduate having taken out those loans enter life under a burden of debt that many will never escape.
I also note that while I went through undergraduate education by way of the GI Bill (3 years benefits for each 2 years in the Korean War army) and Board Jobs (1 hour waiting on tables for 1 meal off the menu at Reich's Cafe in Iowa City; no longer possible under the minimum wage act), and my wife worked her way through college as an office worker with New York Life in Seattle, nowadays it is pretty difficult to work your way through college -- big lifetime devouring loans are often required, even if you manage to go to a state university under resident tuition. (The reason I went from Iowa to the University of Washington was that my parents were legal residents of Alaska when I got out of the Army, and in those days residents of Alaska were legal residents of the State of Washington for tuition purposes; and resident tuition was important to me given that the GI Bill didn't pay a lot and my work hours were limited by my class and work schedules. Fortunately I managed to get assistantships at both Iowa and UW, and those helped a lot.)
I also lived a rather Spartan life. In Iowa I had a single room in a private home; it had a gas ring but no refrigerator, so the only way to preserve food other than in deep winter when a window box was good enough was to keep a pot of soup simmering at all times. That soup became legendary among my friends: what went into it was anything including stuff I could collect at supermarkets when they were cleaning out the produce at closing time, stale (officially day old) bread, and any meat or protein I could collect. It all went into the pot, and my main meal at night was a big bowl of that soup/stew and a chunk of "day old" rye bread so hard that it had to be dipped in soup to be edible; and of course my daily meal at Reich's Cafe.
Spartan the life was, but it worked until I impressed my professors enough to get an undergraduate assistantship doing lab technical work at Iowa. At UW I was "animal room manager" which consisted largely of conveying huge garbage cans full of rat dung and dead rats down three flights of marble stairs (in Smith Hall; the lab was in the attic) a couple of times a week, and generally cleaning up the animal cages. It wasn't fun, but it paid me; I didn't have to go into debt.
Nowadays the notion of working your way through college seems bizarre.
Now even resident tuition in a state university plus the cost of living near campus comes to more than most undergraduates can make. It's true that bright students who can prove they're high up on the right side of the Bell Curve can manage "scholarships" and "grants" that serve to cut the costs, and some do escape huge debt loads on graduation: but then those well out to the right side of the Bell Curve usually manage one way or another.
It's the IQ 80 - 120 who end up debtors for the rest of their lives.
Of course many of them ought not be in college to begin with. If our high schools and junior (community) colleges were anything like what they ought to be, anyone to the left of IQ 115 wouldn't bother with college. What they learn in a 4 year college isn't going to be all that much help; what they need to learn can be taught for a lot less money than our Universities charge. And those out to the right of the Bell Curve find themselves in classes taught by immigrant grad students who speak incomprehensible dialects said to be English; the Universities have to have jobs for these people (whose governments often pay full tuition) and the size of classes leaves the university little choice.
Two things worth noting here: she left Dartmouth for Northwestern; one expensive university for another; and secondly, she taught Freshman Comp, otherwise known as Bonehead English. One wonders why Dartmouth or Northwestern accept students who need Bonehead English. The existence of Freshman Comp classes is an indictment of the whole college prep education system.
Note that Bill Gates and many experts claim that the goal of our high schools should be to guarantee every child in the nation a "world class university prep education". Note that if that were accomplished the demand for university education, already far too high (and the major factor in the spiraling costs that end up with half the middle class saddled with lifetime debts), would grow by more leaps and bounds, forcing the costs still higher.
Note also that the higher incomes the universities get let them afford Priya Venkatesan who teaches "French Narrative Theory" and Deconstruction in Bonehead English class.
Now I have to confess: When I went to the University of Iowa, they had tests for incoming freshmen, and my results got me relieved from both Freshman Comp and Freshman Speech; I was able to start the "core courses" Iowa was famous for in those days, and took Greeks and the Bible (a literature course involving a couple of dozen Greek plays by Aeschylus, Euripides, Sophocles, and that gang; the Laurence of Arabia translation of the Odyssey; and a very literary translation of the Bible; as well as Plato's Republic). I found that a lot more useful than Bonehead English would have been, but I suppose it disqualifies me for much commentary on the value of Freshman Comp and Freshman Speech. Still, from what I observed, those who did take Freshman Comp did not usually shine in the more advanced seminars in upper division work. Note that "did not usually" does not mean never and no one. I am sure that some -- perhaps many -- got bad secondary training and Freshman Comp helped them get where they ought to be.
But one thing I am certain of, "French Narrative Theory" in Freshman Comp doesn't accomplish that result. No one ever had problems in advanced courses because of a lack of French Narrative Theory or Deconstruction in high school -- and Bonehead English is supposed to remedy high school education defects, not teach college level Deconstruction theory. Note also that my Southern Catholic high school was able to teach me enough that I had no trouble getting exempt from Bonehead English.
The points here are two: first, pretending that everyone is competent to go to university drives the cost of university education up to the point that many will have to go heavily into debt in order to afford a university education; and secondly, the major universities are so awash in money now that they can afford -- and WANT to afford -- Priya Venkatesan to teach French Narrative Theory in Freshman Composition.
Many go to University who ought to have learned their career skills in high school -- or at least in junior college. It is not necessary for all the citizens of a republic to have gone to university and learned French Narrative Theory. One need not know know anything at all about Foucault or Deconstruction to be a good citizen, vote in elections, pay taxes; and indeed I put it to you that being without debt is probably preferable to knowing French Narrative Theory.
I think you will have no trouble drawing more inferences from the above pair of articles. And in case you were wondering, this is not my long delayed essay on education, although it has been inspired by that essay's conclusions. I'll do that essay when I get caught up on computer related stuff. This diatribe just flowed out; it's first draft, surely full of flaws, but I hope worth your time.
14:30 It is now time to get started on this week's column which must also include the International Edition for Japan, Istanbul, Sao Paulo, and points east and west...
Is there any program other than rar itself that will open .rar files?
The free windows program "universal extractor" will open rar and a lot of others. http://www.filehippo.com/download_universal_extractor/.
On requiring every child to be above average.http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/
May 1, 2008
You'd think James Watson would be pretty good at apologizing by now. Last October, the then 79-year-old Nobel Prize winner was quoted in the Sunday Times of London Magazine as saying that he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" given that "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours—whereas all the testing says not really."
Of course Watson is a well known idiot of no intellectual capability or value. It wasn't always that way, but last October it became obvious. And science doesn't permit certain subjects to be discussed as if they were amenable to scientific method.
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|This week:||Tuesday, May
A very important story:
The battle for secularism in Turkey.
- Roland Dobbins
Subject: A tale of two thermometers
Imagine my astonishment. But the article is well worth study.
1452: Not my best day. Or maybe it is. We'll have to see. A good night's sleep, after getting to bed about 0100, but I woke up sleepy. Breakfast, then back to bed. Roberta bullied me into getting up -- thank you -- and we took a walk. Then I went back to bed. In other words, I've been taking the advice about recuperation.
The problem is that I have deadlines, and it's time. So I am up, and I'll be working on the column.
May 7, 2008
A fairly good night after spending most of the day in bed. Got up and did some work before our walk. The walk went well.
I expect to finish the May column part one and the International Edition before dinner. Thanks again to those who subscribed recently. Now to get to work.
Got the column out including the International edition to Japan and Istanbul. There have been a score of subscriptions, doubtless because of a link from platinum subscriber Glenn Reynold's Instapundit http://www.instapundit.com/ yesterday.
I'm now grinding on some new essays.
Symptoms: a good night's sleep. Still sleepy and tired, but I am up and working. We'll see how that works. Heaven knows there's enough to do here, and of course the office is littered with the detritus that accumulates when I do a column. Usual lower back problems: that is they were usual for a year before I started the steroids. Then I got used to not having them. They're back. Not much I can do about that, alas.
Before steroids I never had indigestion. I was warned that the steroids would cause heartburn and worse, and indeed they did. I thought they'd go away when I quit the steroids. Actually, while it's not as bad as before, I still get it. This is disconcerting because that has never been a problem for me: I have always been able to eat anything that wasn't eating me, and never have a stomach pang. No longer. Now it hardly matters what I eat, it's Tums and Titralac as after dinner mints...
Now it's time to get to work cleaning this place up.
1550: We have successfully arrived in San Diego for the weekend, leaving Joe in charge at Chaos Manor. Joe and Sable get along famously; I sometimes think she likes it better when he's there than when we are, but she's always glad to see us so I suppose not. Anyway, it was an uneventful drive down, and I am looking forward to some solid recuperation. I may or may not get a mailbag out for the Review. I probably will, being of the temperament I am, but I have been told to get some rest and I intend to try...
1615: Dr. Wang called. He has good news. The MRI shows that my tumor is about half its previous size. It will probably shrink some more. There's no way to tell if what's left is a healthy tumor or scar tissue or just what. We'll do another MRI in about 6 weeks by which time we'll be able to tell more.
Since the monster is cut way back, I infer that most of my symptoms are the results of radiation damage and on introspection that's likely. The original symptoms are pretty well gone. I do have trouble fusing the two images in binoculars, or at least THESE binoculars that we keep here: I see two cormorants out on the buoy (and two buoys) when there's really only the one. Not much I can do about that except try with my own binoculars when I get home. I see all right without the binoculars and just this morning I was noticing that I don't have the problems reading I used to have.
All in all I'm apparently in pretty good shape, and things are looking up.
I see the oncologist, Dr. Rodriguez, next week. Now to relax...
May 9, 2008
For those who are new visitors to this site, my apologies: I usually start with a list of symptoms and personal observations, which must seem the height of arrogance: who in the world cares? It hasn't always been this way, but for several months I've been fighting a tumor in my head, and the daily story of symptoms and treatments and results has been part of the story. My publishers tell me I may get a book out of this -- there's a fair amount of interest in such books -- and this is after all my day book. Anyway, I soon get past that part of the day log, so have patience...
Slept until nearly 10. Wakeful night for much of the time. This morning my head is full of mush. Tinnitus in both ears, oddly enough, with a slight difference in frequency. Other than that in pretty good shape, but the usual lack of energy. A brisk walk may fix that. But it sure it late in getting started.
There's a huge pot full of mail, and I'm working on LisaBetta the HP Compaq 1100 TabletPC, for reasons I won't go into just now. Actually there isn't a good reason, at least not to work with her tiny keyboard and small screen, and I've just connected up the external monitor, keyboard, and mouse. That works just fine. LisaBetta is old and I can only get 1024 by 768 resolution, but that still works better than staring at the small screen when trying to get a lot done. Tablets, particularly small tablets like LisaBetta, are great for research -- a good Tablet with OneNote can change your life if you do a lot of research -- but the tiny keyboard and screen make it difficult to do production work with one. The remedy of course is a good external monitor, keyboard, and mouse for use when you're just trying to gin up words. Almost any computer is fast enough for just about any useful word processor. At the moment I'm writing in FrontPage, and there's no problem at all here.
For those who listen to the Lars Larson show, I'll be on tonight (Friday, May 9) at 5:20 PM PST which is to say 8:20 EST. The show originates on the east coast. Tune in a bit earlier to catch the introduction.
Returning to remotes: my one problem is resolution. The ViewSonic VA1930 wants 1440 x 900 resolution, and neither the IBM ThinkPad t42 nor Lisabetta will generate that. I brought a couple of Apple laptops, but alas, not the proper connectors to get them to work with the ViewSonic. This is the monitor I bought to keep at the beach condo, and while it's a good monitor, it's the wrong one for this job. I thought I was getting a 19" similar to the one I keep in the Monk's Cell for use with the IBM t42p, but it turns out the 1930 is a wide screen, and both the T42p and LisaBetta are prior to the wide screen fad. As to why wide screens are nearly ubiquitous in laptops, could it be the crowded conditions of airplanes make anything else impossible to use except in first class? One thing I like about tablets: you can fold them down, and edit using the pen, even when the person in front of you has racked the seat all the way back.
Anyway I am rambling. I'll try to get to mail shortly.
Roland found this:
Falkenberg citation on io9.com.
- Roland Dobbins
I know little of this:
Proposed orphaned works legislation
I haven't dug any deeper past this article. http://mag.awn.com/?article_no=3605 Are you or your colleagues familiar with it?
If what this guy says is true then it's a huge change in copyright law. All work becomes public domain unless registered with multiple services, with a separate fee for each work at each service. For novel writers, it wouldn't be a big issue. A small additional fee per book. But for more prolific forms of art, such as photography in particular, the fees and paperwork would be disastrous.
Is this really happening, and does it have a chance of going through?
I have not looked into this, nor have I the facilities to do it here. I invite comment, and I will bring it to the attention of SFWA.
I note that the Berne Convention was essentially written by Victor Hugo, who insisted that copyright extend for the lifetime of the author plus some future years, and that there be no requirements for lawyers and complex registrations since authors were not good at that.
The US is a signatory and it's unlikely that the other parties to that convention will agree to this. I suspect it's a tempest in a teapot, but it is worrisome.
Anthology editors and academics always prefer that works fall into the public domain sooner rather than later because that's their interest. They are always trying to change the rules to make less money flow toward the authors. Fortunately, authors and publishers have similar interests in this matter.
My friend Greg Cochran has this observation:
Headline of the day
" Relieved Castro blames "Idol" exit on inexperience <http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSN5837751620080508> "
Truly, the times they are a changin'.
I'm relieved. I worried about that....
May 10, 2008
At the beach. Early breakfast with my son, followed by all day in bed, followed by dinner with Frank and his partner. In between we did manage a two mile walk.
I've been reading and sleeping. I guess that's good for me.
If you want something detailed to think about:
“Sometimes it was so bad you had to scout the horizon like a gazelle at a watering hole in Africa."
Meanwhile, I've been reading Feith's account of how we go to Iraq. We'll see.
I'm sort of taking the weekend off.
Two observations on the Kindle and the future:
The Future of Reading.
-- Roland Dobbins
This pretty much jives with my Kindle experience.
-- Roland Dobbins
May 11, 2008
Happy Mother's Day
Not a bad day. Not much energy. I'll post a bunch of mail, but there won't be much except that. I am working on the Chaos Manor Reviews mailbag.
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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