THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 555 January 26 - February 1, 2009
This site looks better if you set your default font to Georgia.
Highlights this week:
For boiler plate, search engine, and notes on what in the world this place is, see below.
For Previous Weeks of the View, SEE VIEW HOME PAGE
If you intend to send MAIL to me, see the INSTRUCTIONS.
This is a Day Book. Pages are in chronological, not blogological order.
January 26, 2009
In Washington at a conference for two days. Niven and I are safely and comfortably here.
I have lunch with Larry Bond in a few minutes. There is mail worth reading.
Pleasant lunch. Showed off my kindle which worked fine -- bought one of Bond's books by Kindle right there on the spot. Some say that Amazon is not doing right by the Kindle and perhaps so, but in fact I have found mine invaluable. I read on it as much as on paper now.
For platinum subscription:
Platinum subscribers enable me to work on what I think is important without worrying about economics. My thanks to all of you.
Did you subscribe and never hear from me? Click here!.
|This week:||Tuesday, January
It is 10 PM in DC. We are done with our conference. American Airlines says there is weather in Dallas, but so far our flights are still scheduled and on time. With luck I will get home tomorrow.
Does anyone know where I can find data on the state of the Arctic icecap during the period of the Viking colonies in Greenland and Vinland?
So far I find data on the Arctic icecap from 1500 or so, but nothing from the 800 - 1200 period. I am not sure how we'd have such data, and there may be none. This came up when Greg Benford and I were talking about Arctic ice today and what is or is not happening.
We're still in the DC area. American Airlines seems to think our flights will be at normal times, despite the weather. I sure hope so.
January 28, 2009
2300 Pacific Standard Time: We are home. Niven isn't quite home yet since he brought me home and now has to drive to his house, but all is well. The weather delayed our flight to Dallas by an hour, and at Dallas our flight to Burbank was delayed by an hour, which means we got in an hour later than planned; but we're here, we're safe, and all is well.
Regarding Arctic Ice in the Medieval Warm period I still don't have much data, and I'm not sure how one might ever get any, since by definition if all the floating ice melted there won't be anything older. On the other hand, do we know of any floating ice in the Arctic that is older than, say, 800 AD? Tom Brosz suggests looking for voyage records, but except for the Viking colonizations I don't know of any for the northern regions.
I am pretty sure those ice floes have melted during the last 50,000 years, and the polar bears survived all that, but I don't really have evidence.
January 29. 2009
Home. Much to do. It will take a while to clean up, and I also have a lot of Mamelukes to write. I want to get that out the door. We also expect an offer on our Big Book About Large Things Hitting the Earth, and I'll have to get to that.
Meanwhile, one thing I got from this conference: apparently I have recovered. At least a number of people including the conference sponsors went out of their way to tell me I sound like my old self and I still have some ability to think on my feet. I'm gratified.
I do need some time: I need to write a proposal for The Mask on the Wall, my story of being doomed and coming back from the walking dead. One of the people I saw back in DC was Charlie Sheffield's widow. Charlie had brain cancer in about the same place I did, and not all that many years before I had it. His was bigger than mine when they found it, and in 4 months he was dead. I've been given a few more years and apparently I even managed to be more or less coherent last year while getting the thing extirpated and then recovering from the brain sunburn of the radiation therapy.
(One thing I wasn't was a bookkeeper; I miss a good 40 or so subscriptions and renewals, almost all in July and August, as I found out when I sent a nag to those I thought hadn't renewed since 2007 or before. Buy did I find out! Thanks to all of you for being understanding on that -- and also thanks to all of you who did renew in response to that nag!)
And now it's time for our morning walk. Back in a bit.
Back from our walk. A beautiful day. I have put up a pile of mail. Now I have other work. And lunch. Not easy to catch up. Thanks to all those who have recently subscribed. It makes my life a lot easier since I don't have to scratch around for journalism gigs to pay the bills. And especial thanks to the platinum subscribers who let me plan my life on rational lines...
World crisis misery index http://www.intrade.com/widgets/crisis/WorldCrisisIndex.html
I have the lead story today at the Self Publishing Review blog, You may link to it or reuse it, as you desire.
Recommended for those contemplating self-publishing and would like a dose of realism.
Note: I presume everyone who reads Mail reads View; and i know that not everyone who reads View reads Mail; so I sometimes put references in View that might more logically be in Mail. I do this on whim so please don't draw too many inferences from it.
January 30, 2009
That sound of panting comes from me trying to catch up. I'm more and more convinced they aren't putting as many minutes in an hour as they used to, and the days seem to be a lot shorter.
I need to get Mamelukes out the door, and I very much want to get done the proposal for The Mask on the Wall. And of course there are the essays for this spot. At least the subscriptions keep me from having to grab journalism gigs; thanks to all of you who subscribe and renew.
I was recently at a conference on threats to the United States. There were a number of us there, and it was an open ended discussion to generate ideas. Participants came from a number of government and non-government organizations, and subjects ranged from fairly obvious to quite exotic.
Part of the conference had some of us stand up and comment on what we'd heard, and add our own conclusions and observations. When it came my turn to do that, I started off by saying that I would conclude with what I believed to be the most dangerous threat to the United States I could identify, and why I believed that Bill Gates might be a public enemy.
"I said that to make sure you'll stay awake for the rest of my talk. And understand, I know Bill Gates, and he is not evil nor does he have any bad intentions; my conclusions about him are connected to what I believe to be the worst threat to the country."
I won't go into the main body of what I talked about, but my conclusions were simple: I believe that the worst threat to the United States is our failure adequately to educate the smartest 25% of our students; that there are no hopeful counter trends; and the result will be disaster. Add to that our failure to train or teach skills to the lower half of the population, and the disaster is made worse. These trends have related causes.
The underlying cause is our attempt to provide every public school child with a university prep education. Bill Gates becomes involved because his foundations promote the idea that "every American child deserves a world class university prep education"; and the attempt to do that insures that very few American children will receive a world class university prep education, and most of the smarter children will receive an education that is indifferent at best. The failure of our schools to educate the smart kids will put the United States into a terrible competitive position that will only get worse. We will continue to live off our capital, both intellectual and financial.
The problem here is that I don't have any startling information: everyone knows the facts here. One fact is that this is not Lake Wobegone. Half of the American children are below average. That means that the only way to make sure that no child is left behind is to see that no child gets ahead.
It does not matter how much we want it to be so, roughly half the children will not learn Algebra in high school, or indeed at any other time of their lives. They will not be well served by an attempt to give them a world class university prep education -- and the attempt to provide it for everyone will insure that the students who could profit from a university prep education won't get a good one. There are few teachers who can give adequate attention to the brightest 25% of the class while trying to give everyone in the class a world class university prep education.
This situation has developed over the years; but we were put into an unrecoverable attitude by No Child Left Behind, which told teachers that their goal was to see that every child in the class made some minimum score on a national test. The result was predictable and predicted, but that didn't stop it. Since the brightest half of the class would get the wanted score, the way to improve the class average is to concentrate on those just below average and get them to achieve passing marks. This happens all over the country.
Repealing No Child Left Behind won't fix our education system. The only thing that will fix it is to understand that half of the American Children are below average. Below average children have no need for a world class university prep education. They can't profit from it, and they learn very little that is useful to their future lives from a world class university prep education. That is not to say that there is nothing they could be learning in school that would not be useful in their future lives. There are many skills that can be taught in school that will be relevant to the future lives of the half the children who are below average. It's just that those skills are not part of a world class university prep education.
Note I said skills. Learning skills is important: but skills are learned by practice; most are not relevant to what we call a university education. (The skills that are relevant should generally be learned much earlier than in high school: a good example are the addition and multiplication tables, which are learned by rote. Everyone can and should learn the addition and multiplication tables to 20. Some pupils will take a long time to learn this, while others will learn them in no time.) This is obvious, and quite relevant to the central axiom that half the children are below average. A good part of early grade school should be skill training: learn to read, learn to do arithmetic, learn the mechanics of writing. All those are necessary for a university education; but there will come a point at which half the children simply will not be able to learn what they must learn in order to acquire a world class university education -- and while there may be doubt about some of the pupils, it will for the most part be obvious who belongs to which group.
Go further. Among the half of the children who are above average, only about half of those will profit from a world class university prep education, and only about half of those ought to go to universities at all. The rest should go to what we used to call colleges, a role that the community colleges are taking over. Sorting out who ought to be prepared for the university and who for colleges is another topic for another time, and it's a large subject. It's important but if we can accept the notion that half the children are below average, we can begin to understand than not all those above average are a good fit for university education. First steps first.
That's pretty well what I said, and I meant every word of it. I believe that the worst threat to the future of the United States is a continuing trend: we are not properly educating the brightest 25% of our young people, and that will being about disaster; while our failure to teach relevant skills to the below average children contributes to the coming disaster. A nation of uneducated bright people coupled with a large part of the population who haven't been taught to do anything and thus are not only pretty well useless but know it can lead to a number of scenarios, few of them pleasant. And that, I put it to you, is where we are now, and those who continue to promote the idea that every child deserves a world class university prep education is an enemy of the Republic.
January 31, 2009
Leo LaPorte says he's using Windows 7 on his production equipment, and Microsoft is saying that the next Windows 7 will be a release candidate, and the one following that will be for sale. Windows 7 is coming. How much the upgrade from Vista will be isn't known. I confess that I haven't done anything with Windows 7 although as an MSDN subscriber I can have the latest and greatest when I want to; I will get to it at some point, since I try to do lots of silly things so you don't have to, but the time situation is complicated here. I have to get some fiction out the door, and the proposal for The Mask on the Wall. Reading over the daybook notes for that period I find there's a lot in there to write about. Coming back from a meeting with Charlie Sheffield's widow is another motivation. I'm here.
Meanwhile Leo is saying he gets up much earlier than I do, immediately opens his computer, and looks into Twitter. I wish him well, but I don't think I will ever get there. I do know the temptation to look at email every chance I get, and found myself updating my email at the airports on my last trip. Of course there wasn't anything that couldn't wait until I got home. Ah well.
This morning Google glitched, and for nearly an hour Google was warning you that any site you looked up could damage your computer. They fixed it -- in an hour or so -- but it is a warning.
A candidate for one of Pournelle's Laws: Any company that's too big to be allowed to fail should be broken up by antitrust action. Google and Microsoft come to mind. I have no animus against either, but are they not too large to be allowed to fail? Google has 80% of the search engine market; does that leave any room for viable competition? I have mixed emotions on these matters. The US government has grown without limit, and now there are few institutions that can stand up to it on any matter whatever. That implies the need for big organizations as a countervailing power.
My preference would be to break up the Federal Government -- that is give much of its power back to the States who can compete with each other -- and also make sure that 50% is about the maximum market share any company should have. But note the heading. This is speculation, quarter baked at best.
February 1, 2009
Friday the Thirteenth falls on Friday this month
I put up a good bit of mail, but otherwise I have taken the day off.
At some point I should write a defense of earmarks. Why is it automatically better to have bureaucrats in the executive departments spend money instead of legislators specifying where it will go? It isn't as if the money won't be spent, or that it would be given back to the taxpayers...
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.
If you have no idea what you are doing here, see the What is this place?, which tries to make order of chaos.
If you subscribed:
If you didn't and haven't, why not?
Strategy of Technology in pdf format:
For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:
For the BYTE story, click here.
Search: type in string and press return.
The freefind search remains:
Entire Site Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.