THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 654 December 20 - 26, 2010
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December 20, 2010
I have just finished the column. That's late. It should be posted tonight.
There was a discussion of the Earth's energy budget in Mail last night.
Tomorrow is Winterset. Appropriately the FCC will tomorrow being deliberations on regulating the Internet, despite the surprising agreement of Congress and the Courts that this would not be a good idea. The Net Neutrality advocates have been asking for this for a long time. My prediction is that the cure will be worse than the -- so far non=existent -- disease. Fortunately the new Congress may have a voice.
The column should be up in Chaos Manor Reviews by later this evening.
The South Koreans completed their exercises, and also flew combat jets just to make it clear that the rules of engagement may have changed. The North Koreans promptly announced that the South Koreans had s complied with the NK demands for changing their practice, so retaliation will not be necessary. It appears that a few more exchanges of bravado are in order but the Korean crisis seems over. With NK you never know, of course. God bless the Legions on guard over there. It will be a nervous Christmas for them. There have been worse Christmases in Korea, of course; we must count our blessings.
It is very much raining here in Los Angeles, and a great deal more is predicted. A lot more. Yesterday Alex and I -- read Alex, with me cheering him on -- got the gutters cleared out so our kitchen is no longer subject to flooding from gutter overflow. It has rained very hard indeed, and as far as we can see our new roof has held up splendidly, the only potential problem being gutters clogged with leaves from the neighbor's elm tree. The elm tree has run out of leaves -- finally -- so the gutters should stay clear until Spring.
I have been putting out bird seed on my balcony, some out in the rain but more under the eaves. They seem grateful. And while all the orioles and most of the humming birds flew south, a few humming birds remain, so I have made sure the humming bird feeder is kept full. It sure looks cold and wet out there.
Sable loves it: it's cold and so far no matter how hard it has rained she hasn't got wet skin under all that wolf fur. Her knee surgery worked just fine and she's entirely recovered including growing her fur back over where they had to shave. She's remarkably well designed. I'll try to get a good picture: she's really a beautiful dog. Also the most intelligent dog we have ever had, which means that she outsmarts us sometimes. Huskies are very cooperative, but they are not particularly obedient, treating rules as good suggestions that ought not get too much in the way.
I seem to be ramblingly chatty, having just finished a few thousand words of column. Merry Christmas.
The December column is now posted over at Chaos Manor Reviews
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|This week:||Tuesday, December
The December column is now posted over at Chaos Manor Reviews
The START Treaty Kabuki continues, with the Democrat lame ducks determined to ram through a treaty that does nothing for us and does nothing to limit Russia, while piling on difficulties for successful development of strategic defense. It does not address the large disparity in tactical nuclear weapons. That is likely more significant to NATO than to the US. The likelihood of any attack on the US is low, and tactical nukes would not figure in it to begin with; but the threat of nuclear blackmail in Europe, particularly on the fringes of the old Russian/Soviet Empire is not zero.
The treaty will restrict missile defense developments. It ought to be rejected and renegotiated; there's no urgency in this. But Obama wants the feather in his cap, and for some reason there's a bloc of Republican Senators who think there is some gain in this because it is "bi-partisan". I have tried to follow their arguments, but I don't understand them, and for that matter there's precious little debate to begin with. There are probably some deals in the making that we don't know about. Where is Wikileaks now that we need them?
There's a WSJ article on C. S. Lewis (who is on Palin's reading list) (link) that's probably worth your time, but it's on the wrong part of Lewis's works. The Narnia stories are whacking good reads at any age, but they weren't the most important parts of Lewis's writings. Lewis was known as "the apostle to the skeptics" for his modern apologetics: he tried to be an atheist, which was fashionable among intellectuals in his time as it is now, but he he kept having doubts. He was a "theological writer" rather than a theologian. He didn't try to be original, but he did try to explain, both with fictional works like "The Great Divorce" and "The Screwtape Letters", and then with frank apologetics like Mere Christianity. He explained the latter title thus: "as opposed to Christianity and water." He is best known for his fiction, but his non-fiction remains quite relevant.
It is Winterset, and the FCC is taking steps to give itself the power to rule the Internet. There will be RULES. Congress and the courts have told them they can't do this, but the FCC, driven by the Iron Law, continues to try to stake out new territory. The Internet is in danger: the pretense is "net neutrality" but you may be sure it will go a lot further than that. Winterset.
My thanks to those who have chosen to give subscriptions to this web site as Christmas presents. I confess I would not have thought of that. Thanks.
December 22, 2010
Welcome to Net Neutrality and the FCC regulation of the Internet. It took years, but the Iron Law prevails. We will now reap the rewards of turning the Internet into a regulated utility run by socialist ideals. Congratulations.
This article with its cry of despair lead was in today's Daily News along with some sample questions. It is certainly a condemnation of the school system, since all those who take the test have a high school education or GED equivalent. According to this article, only about 25% of those age 17 to 24 are even eligible to take the test. I haven't been following the changes to the AFQT (Armed Forces Qualification Test) but it used to be a rather good IQ test.
One presumes that none of the military services want recruits with IQ 85 or below. That's one standard deviation below the normal of 100. IQ 85 is considered below normal, but do understand that IQ tests -- and the AFQT test is pretty well an IQ test however they try to manipulate it -- measure abilities to do abstract reasoning. IQ 85 people can do many highly complex tasks that require skill training rather than educated reasoning, and they don't get so bored by doing them as nerds do. You don't need to be really smart to operate the same equipment every day; you do need some smarts if they change machinery on you. Same is true with weapons and much else.
At one time there were plenty of Army jobs for low IQ soldiers. Gun captains in the artillery needed smarts; loaders not so much, and those who got the ammunition to the guns didn't need smarts, they needed endurance, and the ability to function in situations of absolute madness. Singleminded devotion to getting that projectile from the revetment to the breech while crap is falling all around you is not particularly well correlated with IQ.
There are fewer such tasks in modern armies.
The basic minimum IQ admitted to the Legions is something worth debating and discussing. One would not expect IQ 85 - 90 soldiers to be promoted to leadership no matter how long they serve, and we do not have any provisions for "career privates", just as this Army doesn't have career captains. This may be the right policy.
The requirement for a high school diploma pretty well eliminates IQ 90 and below. That leaves about 80% of the population. Many of those are eliminated by criminal records or physical disabilities.
Is a 25% failure rate among those taking the test so very low given our modern military? And is this cause to worry? It is cause to wonder about the effectiveness of the school system, but we have long known that. The public school system is not organized to teach skills and discipline to the left hand side of the bell curve, and by trying to educate everyone in the system it compromises on education for those who need education while doing little for those who need skill training. We don't give the potential officers and non-coms the education they need because so many resources are used trying to give everyone a "world class university prep education" when everyone can't use that. As we have observed, no child left behind has some really grim unintended consequences.
That 25% of those taking the AFQT don't pass is a matter of concern, but we should be even more concerned about what we are trying to get that 25% to learn -- and whether we have taught enough and the right things to those who did pass. It ought also to raise some concerns about what we are teaching in high schools.
The schools are awful. The remedy is well known: fire the worst 10% of the teachers, and we can increase school effectiveness by about 50%. That doesn't translate directly, but it roughly would mean that instead of 25% failure of the AFQT the result would be closer to a 15% failure rate right there -- and it would save money by not paying the worst teachers.
Incidentally, I don't know the numbers but I would bet that graduates of armed services high schools don't have anything like a 25% failure rate, nor do they have anything like the national average dropout rate. Just guessing.
There is more on this in mail.
I am alarmed to discover that 25% of the population is ineligible for military service due to obesity. That's pretty serious. Perhaps I have misread.
http://www.iceagenow.com/ocean_warming.htm is clearly an AGW skeptic site. I have no idea of the validity of its assertions, but I haven't seen the questions answered either. Is there a large volcano under the North Pole ice?
Well, we now get to close down all the salad bars in the US, since Al Qaeda is now going to attack them with ricin and cyanide. Or perhaps we can have a RSA to search everyone and pat them down when they enter salad bars.
I know no more than this. I'd love to have BYTE back, but no one has approached me about it.
December 23, 2010
The OUTIES purchase page is beautiful in Internet Explorer and Firefox on my Mac, but on my Windows systems Firefox seems to have an ad blocker setting that I don't understand, and the small Amazon apps that display the links don't work. Oddly enough the link the Barnes and Noble edition works fine. If there's a Firefox expert in the house, what have I got set wrong and what can I do about it? Sometimes these conveniences get too smart for their own good. Anyway it's fine in IE.
I was digging about in the archives of this place. There are gems in there. As a minor example, a defense of teacher unions and their adherence to the Iron Law, and a suggestion that SF writers form a union... It does remind me: if your kids are in second grade and they can't read -- and by read I mean "big words" like Constantinople and polydimorphism -- then without drastic measures they probably won't learn to read. The school system is that bad. This is unlikely to be true for regular readers, but you may know neighbors with that problem. If so, look here. They can learn to read, even if the American school system is indistinguishable from an act of war on the American people. Help is at hand.
Whether this last week was a triumph of bi-partisanship or a Christmas Present for President Obama from the Republican "Leadership" as compensation for his drubbing in November is debatable, but this is not really the time for political discussions. God bless you all.
December 24, 2010
We can hope so, anyway. God bless you all.
December 25, 2010
December 25, 2010
Feast of the Nativity of Jesus Christ, commonly called Christmas
Merry Christmas to all
Merry Christmas to all. Last night I sent a brief note to all subscribers, and my thanks to all those who sent replies, far too many for even brief individual acknowledgments, and many thanks to all the readers who sent me Christmas greetings. I know from the number of subscribers that this site is appreciated, but it's nice to hear that directly from the readers as well. And no, this isn't the opening of a pledge drive. That will come when KUSC opens theirs...
December 26, 2010
I'll be doing TWIT in about an hour.
(Turns out I had the day wrong: i will be doing TWIT NEXT Sunday, not today. I knew that, but somehow -- oh, to heck with it. Anyway not today. Next week.)
I'm still catching up from the holidays, but I'm not so far behind as I was. I should be in good shape by the end of next week. There's a lot of mail built up here, and I'll see how much I can get done, and the Chaos Manor Reviews mailbag is due; with luck I'll get it done tonight for posting tomorrow evening.
Jennifer has solved the problem of the OUTIES purchase page http://www.newbrooklandpress.com/purchase looking odd on Firefox on Windows. It has to do with the Firefox AdBloc setting being set by default to reject the Amazon Ap the bring in the page and the link. Amazon needs to work with that, but since communication with editorial people at Amazon is very difficult, that may take a while. She fixed the site by not using the Amazon apps, but rather getting the cover pictures and doing the links directly. Doesn't take all that long. The growing pains of the new revolution in publishing are being surmounted.
Today's Los Angeles Times has a new piece on authorial self publishing,
featuring interviews with Greg Bear and Neal Stephenson.
The thrust of the article has to do with publishers as gatekeepers. We've said most of that here, but there are some items of interest.
For those who don't know, OUTIES is a novel set in the Mote in God's Eye universe by my daughter, Dr. Jennifer Pournelle. It's being published electronically, starting with Amazon and Nook and will eventually be in every format she can manage. She's also making arrangements to do it in print on demand for those who want a paper copy. It will eventually be in the Google book sales, but they have had it a week and nothing so far; holidays, perhaps. Amazon had the book up in a day once submitted. I don't know about iStore formats, of which there are many. I do read Kindle format books on my various Macs including iPhone.
I've been very interested in seeing just how this experiment in
publication goes. One thing we have learned is that keeping formats simple
is important. Maps are easier to insert than getting tables that look right.
Clearly you can get tables -- I have A Farewell to Alms, one of the more
important books of 2010
More another time.
I have been pointing out for years that one purpose of non-profits and various NGO's is to pay very high salaries to their executives. Most people don't notice this, but a very great many non-profit executives make far more than anyone including the owners of the average small business for profit can dream of making. Even so, I confess being shocked -- I mean really shocked, not shocked, shocked -- to find
I don't think the musicians make anything like that, and I doubt that many of the singers do either. It is of course the Iron Law in action yet once again.
My wife was part of the Opera League founders of the Los Angeles Opera. We have watched the LA staff grow and grow over the years, to the point there there is a bewildering variety of executives listed in the program. One of the LA Lakers executives sits next to us, and we were comparing notes: there are far more managers in the LA Opera than with the Lakers. We don't mean stage techs, costumers, voice coaches, and other production workers: this is just in the central office. Obviously some of them are involved in selling season tickets and raising money, but one does wonder if that many are needed.
I got mail from Ellenberger which caused me to go back and look at the lengthy aggregate of material on The Velikovsky Affair that I collected here some years ago. If you have any interest in just what the Velikovsky mess was all about, you can find it here.
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 COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 5,000 - 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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