THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 572 May 18 - 24, 2009
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May 18, 2009
Hah. Absentmindedness. Some years ago I was a judge in the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, and used to be part of a team with some of the local TV science people. Then they stopped asking me. It wasn't a problem and I didn't notice until I realized after a few years that I wasn't doing it any more.
I now discover that it's the Intel Science Talent Search. That's probably when the disconnect happened. Don't know if they just changed staffs or if they had a policy of not using computer columnists or just what. Actually, I think Westinghouse lost track of me before 1998 when Intel tool over.
Hard at work on Mamelukes. I have a lot to learn about Renaissance naval warfare.
The President meets the Prime Minister of Israel today. The meeting will be closely watched. I suspect no one will be satisfied.
Roberta has been away visiting our oldest grandchild and family in Virginia. I've been batching it and Sable has been morose, but she perks up on our daily walks. I've been using the walks to plot.
May 19, 2009
Windows Vista ultimate once again is driving me nuts. I have an undisconnectible mapped drive. I can map to that drive letter, but when I try to disconnect that mapped drive, I disconnect all right, but it still shows in the list of drives on COMPUTER. I can't erase that. When I try to disconnect it tells me the connection doesn't exist. It can't disconnect. I can then go in and connect something else to that drive letter, but that doesn't work right. In short I can keep this connected to a particular network drive or it can be a connection that doesn't exist, but I can't just get rid of the darned thing.
There must be a way. This is probably a known bug in Vista. But I sure can't figure it out. Oh -- OK, I got it. Cancel distress message.
Of course I did figure it out: I connected something else to that drive letter, then disconnected it and reset the system. The drive letter was gone from Computer when it came back up. All's Well. Restarting still works in Windows Vista. Sometimes. It is also sometimes needed in Mac OS X, but I notice that since the OS X update a few weeks ago I have not had to do that.
I expect Windows 7 will fix a lot of the junk in Vista. I keep hearing very good things about Windows 7. There will be a little about that in the Mailbag that will be posted on Chaos Manor Reviews in a day or so. If you haven't seen the May column, it's up at Chaos Manor Reviews.
My sons Richard and Frank think it's time to save the world again: it's time for me to do another book on Survival With Style. When I protest that I sort of did that already, they point out that while just about all of you have seen it, we need something that will appeal to the Obama voters who really hoped for meaningful change in the system: something that tells it straight about technology and what the key to man's vast future can be. I may have said most of it already, but not enough people got the message, and it's time to get with it and get out there with real internet promotion and so forth. I'm for it, of course. I am quite convinced that the human race has a vast future ahead of it, and the path there is through the proper applications of technology. We are not doomed, we don't have to get poor quick, and we don't have to wait for massive die-offs and famines across the Earth.
We'll see. They know something about their generation. They grew up while I was writing my books. Thanks to subscribers I can take some time to work on this, and I guess I should (once I finish Mamelukes, of course). I doubt there will be anything in that book that readers here don't know, but perhaps it can be organized better. Richard was captain of the UCLA debate team the year they won the national championship, so he knows something about organizing arguments to be persuasive; and Frank does a pretty good job with publicizing. So, we will see. But that's what I did with the morning.
And I guess it can be important. See mail.
The Washington Post has a commentary on the Google Grab:
It makes some good points. Very good ones. But it doesn't consider the rights of authors. It seems to assume that information wants to be free even of costs of distribution. Perhaps I misunderstood?
Hah. Another little earthquake. Not as sharp or long lasting as the one the other night.
May 20, 2009
It's pretty clear that the man-made global warming hypothesis may have more economic influence than any theory in the history of mankind, including Marxism. It provides the justification for enormous government influence in every phase of economic life, and appears to herding the US economy into stalemate with bankruptcy for a great many people, and an over-all lower standard of living for everyone. That's change you can believe in.
One would think that given the implications, there would be more debate on the subject, but there isn't; indeed the tactics of those who favor the hypothesis are to declare the debate over, and those who don't accept it are "deniers" to whom we should pay no attention. Even Art Bell, who tells us that we must have an open mind on the happenings at Roswell, was saying that he "understood" his listeners "anger" at being told they have to give up their way of life, but the science is definitive and the debate is over. Good Grief.
Wouldn't it make sense to have an actual national debate on something this important before taking the drastic measures including the cap and trade enormous tax increase? And see mail.
California emphatically rejected tax increases, but so far the message hasn't sunk in. The purpose of the government of California is to pay enormous retirement benefits to teachers and state workers, then to pay large salaries and benefits to teachers and state employees not yet retired, and then to do everything else like put out fires and enforce laws and provide services. I see no discussion whatever of changing those goals and priorities, and until those priorities are changed, there is no "solution" to the "problem". (See mail for note on California pensions).
The problem is simple: we are committed to spending far too much money. When the money was rolling in it was spent and then some. The economy collapsed and there is not enough revenue. Revenue enhancement -- which is to say increased taxes -- is not likely to work -- that is raising taxes won't raise revenue. We're to the point where those with portable incomes are fleeing. The governor's original budget was a 10% across the board cut; not just a cut in planned increases, but an actual cut. That wasn't acceptable to anyone in government.
The only people with safe jobs are civil servants, who, with pensions and benefits, actually make more than their equivalent private sector counterparts. Any rational view of state government would conclude that we could (1) cut the payrolls by trimming about 10% of the workers, and (2) cut the salaries and benefits of the remainder by about 10%, and the essential work would be done and everyone would survive. Of course that's hard lines on those caught in the cuts; but then it's hard lines on the car salesmen who are losing their jobs because Chrysler -- which is to say Obama -- has declared the dealerships employing them redundant.
Government tried running factories in the past. The US built steel mills to make armor plate, certain that proper management and engineering would let a government plant produce the stuff for about half what private industry was charging. Of course the result was somewhat different, with the output about twice the open market price, and the plants closed not long after their long delayed opening. We all know how well the Post Office delivered mail when it had a monopoly. Apparently we have to run those experiments again, since no one studies history.
Once again, if you want a picture of government experimentation in a crisis atmosphere, read Amity Schlaes The Forgotten Man about the New Deal. Most of this was tried before. Apparently we have to try it again, only this time without oil and coal.
May 21, 2009
Bjorn Lomborg sums it all
up nicely in today's Wall Street Journal essay on The Climate Industrial
In any event, if you have not read this editorial it is worth your time. The Climate Industrial Complex is the most dangerous organization in the world, and in my judgment is up there with Fascism and Marxism as dangers to Western Civilization. Those latter two are still around and still a danger -- indeed, some Greens use tactics they could well have learned from the Brown, Black, and Red terrors; and note that most of the Climate Industrial Complex program (which will transfer a trillion dollars and more to the Greens without any noticeable benefit to the civilization) is also the agenda of powerful factions of the US Congress and the Administration. It is hard to discern what Obama really believes, but he appears to be a convert to the "consensus".
Nature isn't cooperating and it's getting harder and harder to support parts of the "Climate Change" belief system, but the movement is so far advanced that it may not matter. When Roosevelt tried to end The Great Depression, one of his tools was TVA and the generation of energy. Without lower energy costs we will not climb out of our depression. It is important to make it clear that the debate is not over, there is no real scientific consensus on man-caused global warming, and destroying the economy in order to reduce CO2 output in the United States is all cost with almost no benefit. That debate must continue; and you may be certain, absolutely certain, that those who try to keep this a debate will be labeled "deniers" and denigrated as fools.
The California election is done and although our clueless Speaker is saying that the voters were confused -- they must have been confused else they could never have voted this way -- it's pretty clear that even California voters, including some of those who benefit from the crazy economy, have had about enough of taxes. Now the government will go to the Feds. We're too big to fail. And the beat goes on. There is no money, but the state government, which grew nearly 50% in size in the past 5 years, can't cut expenses. To do so would destroy the schools...
All nonsense, of course. There are no more students in the California schools now than there were when the California education budget was considerably smaller than it is now -- and the schools are certainly no better now than they were then. In fact, the schools (with the exception of a few horrible inner city schools; those are best remedied with vouchers to the students who want to escape those horrors) in California are probably about as good as they are going to be, and cutting their budgets in half, while terribly painful to those working for the school districts, would probably not make a lot of difference in what is learned by the lower half of the bell curve -- in other words, wouldn't show up in our No Child Left Behind evaluations. We certainly could improve education for the students who ought to be headed for college; but that would first require that we recognize that a total of 25% or so ought to be going to "university level" educational institutions, looking into what that segment of the student population needs, and finding ways to provide it. Since we cannot politically recognize that half our pupils are below average, how can we possible recognize that 3/4 and more of out children are Not Gifted?
Public education should have two goals: education of those who should be going to university; and skill training including work habits and citizenship for all the rest. That's impossible so long as we don't recognize that not all need or can use a "world class university prep education", even if Bill Gates apparently believes that giving everyone in school a "world class university prep education" ought to be the goal of the school system. I haven't seen Mr. Gates for a decade, and while I used to have discussions with him on various matters the subject of education never came up, so I can't purport to speak for him; but it's my guess that his view is based on the premise that there are some undiscovered bright minds among those trapped in the school system, and they ought to be rescued. If everyone gets a world class university prep education, the we won't leave anyone valuable behind -- and after all, won't everyone profit from a good education?
It doesn't work that way, of course. By attempting to give everyone a proper university prep education we see to it that almost no one will get that. It's simply not possible to teach algebra to students who cannot answer the question "A company has 90 employees. They increase the work force by 10 %. How many employees will they now have?" The truth is, though, that 62% of eighth graders give the wrong answer, this on a multiple choice test giving 9, 81, 91, 99, and 100 as possible answers. Requiring students who can't answer questions like that to take algebra is cruel. It is also unproductive. Yet we require algebra for graduation from high school, and are upset by a 50% dropout rate. I am astonished that the dropout rate isn't more like 62%...
California could survive massive budget cuts. That won't be good for the economy here, of course, but it's a lot better than raising taxes. The California economy can't recover with present taxes, much less tax increases. Of course this isn't news. But the good news is that California could balance its budgets with across the board spending cuts, and still have the state services we had in say, the year 2000 and during the dot-bust.
Meanwhile, I spent the morning at the eye doctors. The big burn -- the 50,000 rad hard x-ray treatments I got last year to kill off the Lump in my head (successful, Deo gratia) -- seem to have done a number on my eyesight. I am about to get the most drastic change in my spectacle prescription I have ever had, and go to tri-focals. Expensive little buggers, too.
Tomorrow I get to the dermatologist, just to be sure that a blotch isn't dangerous.
The good news is that everyone thinks I am healthy. I don't have the energy I would like to have, but I am getting some work done, and as soon as I get this up I'll go up to the Monk's Cell and work on Mamelukes.
Thanks again to all those who have recently subscribed or renewed.
For those who haven't seen it, the essay on How To Get My Job is a bit out of date but still has some relevance.
May 22, 2009
Another medical appointment this morning. Nothing special, yesterday I managed to get a June appointment with the dermatologist rescheduled.
I have to get Mamelukes out because we have to start on Lucifer's Anvil, and I need to work on Survival with Style.
The campaign continues. I would hope that no President would send the armed forces out frivolously, but perhaps it it worth repeating to the Annapolis graduating class. I have no data on how well the speech was received. I do suspect there are pressing matters of governance that won't respond to daily speeches and a continuous campaign. At some point a president must govern.
I just heard about this on the radio. It seems odd. Apparently they are pumping CO2 into the ground: Rush Limbaugh calls Greeneville Ohio a "carbonated town." (Change the name to Alka-Seltzer Village!)
There is opposition
Apparently this is part of a study of CO2 disposal. I would suppose it harmless enough and we may learn something from it, but I am astonished at the lack of opposition from those who consider CO2 a pollutant. The Global Warming Consensus Coalition seems not terribly consistent. And the Global Warming Consensus remains, in my judgment, the most dangerous threat to prosperity and indeed to Western Civilization.
If it's true then we ought to be doing a lot more that we are; if it's not, we need to know that and stop ruining ourselves. And I certainly see no evidence that the debate ought to be closed.
I wasn't at this year's conference, but this may be interesting:
May 23, 2009
I had the yard people come today to clear out a lot of hedge at the back. Naturally they managed to saw through the telephone cable to the house. We now have no landline, and won't until Tuesday at earliest. My cell phone continues to work, although service to my home is awful and I may not get a call in some of the rooms of the house.
I'll probably repeat this Monday, but Roland has pointed me to a somewhat disorganized but valuable analysis of the $9.99 price of Kindle books from Amazon.
May 24, 2009
Thanks to all those who have written to tell me how I can splice my telephone cable. Alas, I don't think I am up to standing on a ladder while doing butt splicing on a couple of dozen wires. When I was younger I'd do it, but I'm not terribly good with heights. I suspect the telephone company will charge me, but I'm going to let them handle it.
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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