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Mail 135 January 8 - 14. 2001 

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This week:



Monday January 8, 2001 

Column Deadline Today


I met you several years ago (1995?) at an Albuquerque computer show commemorating the 20th anniversary of the invention of the Altair microcomputer. You had problems with your hotel room on that trip too.

It does appear that greenhouse gases are affecting global temperatures, but there may be other factors. I think this article from Intellicast regarding the sunspot cycle and global temperatures contains plenty of food for thought: 

-- Pat O'Connell

I always have problems with hotel rooms. Thanks.

Date: 1/8/01 Subject: "Homeopathic" medicines

I just noticed your comments on "homeopathic" zinc, and got to thinking.

On my desk is a tube of "homeopathic" arnica gel. Arnica is an herb used to treat bruises and other soft tissue injuries, and it's sold as a "pain relieving gel". On the back label, I notice that the gel contains "Arnica montana HPUS 1X 7%" and an array of inactive ingredients.

Now I note an ambiguity here: every "X" represents a 10-fold dilution, with 12X being a dilution into the parts per trillion, and some homeopathic medicines diluted to the point where we begin to talk about steep odds against even one molecule of the active ingredient remaining in the potion. 1X is a fairly reasonable concentration of an active ingredient, depending on the baseline. (Ten percent of what?)

However, the additional note, 7%, confuses me. Does this mean that a 1X dilution takes the fraction of arnica down to 7% by volume? (Or weight?) Or does this gel contain 7% of a 10:1 dilution of the active ingredient, for 0.7% of the active ingredient?

Maybe I should just see if my favorite herb store carries the herb and make my own potion.

On the plus side, the thumbnail I slammed in the car door, while still purple, is considerably less purple than it was three weeks ago, and shows no sign of falling off yet. It would appear that, at the very least, I have done no harm.

...........Karl Lembke

Have some 12X water diluted by alcohol...

Drugging Our Children 

By Peter R. Breggin, M.D.

Parents throughout the country are pressured and coerced by schools to give psychiatric drugs to their children. Teachers, school psychologists, and administrators commonly make dire threats about their inability to teach children without medicating them. They sometimes suggest that only medication can stave off a bleak future of delinquency and occupational failure. They even call child protective services to investigate parents for child neglect and they sometimes testify against parents in court. Often the schools recommend particular physicians who favor the use of stimulant drugs to control behavior. These stimulant drugs include methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, and Metadate) or forms of amphetamine (Dexedrine and Adderall).

Stimulant drugs, including methylphenidate and amphetamine, were first approved for the control of behavior in children during the mid-1950s.

Since the early 1990s, North America has turned to psychoactive drugs in unprecedented numbers for the control of children. In November 1999, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) warned about a record six-fold increase in Ritalin production between 1990 and 1995. In 1995, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), a agency of the World Health Organization, deplored that "10 to 12 percent of all boys between the ages 6 and 14 in the United States have been diagnosed as having ADD and are being treated with methylphenidate [Ritalin]." The United States uses approximately 90% of the world's Ritalin.

The number of children on these drugs has continued to escalate. A recent study in Virginia indicated that up to 20% of white boys in the fifth grade were receiving stimulant drugs during the day from school officials. With 53 million children enrolled in school across the United States, probably more than 5 million are taking stimulant drugs.

Stimulant medications are far more dangerous than most practitioners and published experts seem to realize. Animals and humans cross-addict to methylphenidate, amphetamine and cocaine.

Furthermore, their addiction and abuse potential is based on the capacity of these drugs to drastically and permanently change brain chemistry. Studies of amphetamine show that short-term clinical doses produce brain cell death. Similar studies of methylphenidate show long-lasting and sometimes permanent changes in the biochemistry of the brain.

All stimulants impair growth not only by suppressing appetite but also by disrupting growth hormone production. This poses a threat to every organ of the body, including the brain, during the child's growth. The disruption of neurotransmitter systems adds to this threat.

These drugs also endanger the cardiovascular system and commonly produce many adverse mental effects, including depression.

Too often stimulants become gateway drugs to illicit drugs. As noted, the use of prescription stimulants predisposes children to cocaine and nicotine abuse in young adulthood.

Stimulants even more often become gateway drugs to additional psychiatric medications. Stimulant-induced over-stimulation, for example, is often treated with addictive or dangerous sedatives, while stimulant-induced depression is often treated with dangerous, unapproved antidepressants. As the child's emotional control breaks down due to medication effects, mood stabilizers may be added. Eventually, these children end up on four or five psychiatric drugs at once and a diagnosis of bipolar disorder by the age of eight or ten.

In my private practice, children can usually be taken off all psychiatric drugs with great improvement in their psychological life and behavior, provided that the parents or other interested adults are willing to learn new approaches to disciplining and caring for the children. Consultations with the school, a change of teachers or schools, and home schooling can also help to meet the needs of children without resort to medication.

The ADD/ADHD diagnosis was developed specifically for the purpose of justifying the use of drugs to subdue the behaviors of children in the classroom. The content of the diagnosis in the 1994 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association shows that it is specifically aimed at suppressing unwanted behaviors in the classroom. The diagnosis is divided into three types: hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. Under hyperactivity, the first two (and most powerful) criteria are "often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat" and "often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected." Clearly, these two "symptoms" are nothing more nor less than the behaviors most likely to cause disruptions in a large, structured classroom.

Under impulsivity, the first criteria is "often blurts out answers before questions have been completed" and under inattention, the first criteria is "often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities." Once again, the diagnosis itself, formulated over several decades, leaves no question concerning its purpose: to redefine disruptive classroom behavior into a disease. The ultimate aim is to justify the use of medication to suppress or control the behaviors.

Advocates of ADHD and stimulant drugs have claimed that ADHD is associated with changes in the brain. In fact, both the NIH Consensus Development Conference (1998) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (2000) report on ADHD have confirmed that there is no known biological basis for ADHD. Any brain abnormalities in these children are almost certainly caused by prior exposure to psychiatric medication.

Hundreds of animal studies and human clinical trials leave no doubt about how the medication works. First, the drugs suppress all spontaneous behavior. In healthy chimpanzees and other animals, this can be measured with precision as a reduction in all spontaneous or self-generated activities. In animals and in humans, this is manifested in a reduction in the following behaviors: (1) exploration and curiosity; (2) socializing, and (3) playing. Second, the drugs increase obsessive-compulsive behaviors, including very limited, overly focused activities.

Children become diagnosed with ADHD when they are in conflict with the expectations or demands of parents and/or teachers. The ADHD diagnosis is simply a list of the behaviors that most commonly cause conflict or disturbance in classrooms, especially those that require a high degree of conformity.

By diagnosing the child with ADHD, blame for the conflict is placed on the child. Instead of examining the context of the child's life - why the child is restless or disobedient in the classroom or home - the problem is attributed to the child's faulty brain. Both the classroom and the family are exempt from criticism or from the need to improve, and instead the child is made the source of the problem.

The medicating of the child then becomes a coercive response to conflict in which the weakest member of the conflict, the child, is drugged into a more compliant or submissive state. The production of drug-induced obsessive-compulsive disorder in the child especially fits the needs for compliance in regard to otherwise boring or distressing schoolwork.

Many observers have concluded that our schools and our families are failing to meet the needs of our children in a variety of ways. Focusing on schools, many teachers feel stressed by classroom conditions and ill-prepared to deal with emotional problems in the children. The classrooms themselves are often too large, there are too few teaching assistants and volunteers to help out, and the instructional materials are often outdated and boring in comparison to the modern technologies that appeal to children.

By diagnosing and drugging our children, we shift blame for the problem from our social institutions and ourselves as adults to the relatively powerless children in our care. We harm our children by failing to identify and to meet their real educational needs for better prepared teachers, more teacher- and child-friendly classrooms, more inspiring curriculum, and more engaging classroom technologies.

 At the same time, when we diagnose and drug our children, we avoid facing critical issues about educational reform. In effect, we drug the children who are signaling the need for reform, and force all children into conformity with our bureaucratic systems. Finally, when we diagnose and drug our children, we disempower ourselves as adults. While we may gain momentary relief from guilt by imagining that the fault lies in the brains of our children, ultimately we undermine our ability to make the necessary adult interventions that our children need. We literally become bystanders in the lives of our children. It is time to reclaim our children from this false and suppressive medical approach. I applaud those parents who have the courage to refuse to give stimulants to their children and who, instead, attempt to identify and to meet their genuine needs in the school, home, and community. 

Dr. Breggin is the Director of the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology. Printed with permission.

I have little to add to that. There is discussion below.







This week:



Tuesday,  January 9, 2000

Date: 1/9/01 Subject: "Homeopathic" medicines

It just occurred to me, in a moment of putridity...

We've been hearing all about hexavalent chromium in the water supply. The concentration of the stuff in the water DWP serves is less than ten parts per billion. At this level, we're actually drinking a homeopathic dose of the stuff, which should actually (according to homeopathic theory) cure diseases!

Maybe the Department of Water and Power should charge extra for this service...

.........Karl Lembke (who happens to work for DWP)




There is a tendency to dismiss floppies because the reviewer has no personal need for them. Consider the following scenario.. I have a Canadian payroll program on sale in Canada - about 200 customers coast to coast. Twice yearly I have to send program updates to each customer. The files occupy 200K to 800K. All customers now have floppies so can accept and install these updates. If floppies disappear, what would you suggest that I send updates on. Users are small business owners. Most do not have Zip or other such units. Many do not have CD-ROM. Only 3.5" floppies are universally available. PLEASE don't encourage their retirement while they are widely needed by us small folk with older systems. Thanks for listening.


I doubt I have much to do about it. Incidentally, I have an LS-120 on my newest Pentium IV system. I have never used it as anything but a floppy, but today I'll go to Fry's and see if they have some LS-120 disks I can try. I'll also see what those things cost. It came with the system.


In your latest installment of Chaos Manor, you said, "They tell me the Pentium 4 is not as fast for ordinary software as a Pentium III of the same speed would be." I just finished reading a rather lengthy review of the P4 that you might find interesting. It was written with a bad attitude. But, if you can get past that, the information in it is informative. It can be found at: 

Always read and enjoy your column, since the print version days.

Regards, Glenn Marble "Talk is cheap because supply exceeds demand."

Thanks. I will look into that. My experience with the P IV is that at 1.5 GHz it is faster than anything I have, although not half again as fast as the 1066 MHz machine. On the other hand, I don't have anything that challenges it. And when there are programs that take advantage of the P-IV architecture -- I have a couple from HP -- the P-IV is AWESOME.  But more on that in the column and at another time.

Jerry wrote: >Today, the electronics for audio studios are still expensive enough > that it takes real money to build one. >That's all about to change.

It's already changed quite radically over the past decade. Recording hardware of a quality to compete with "pro" recordings has been available well within your $50,000 budget for a number of years. In fact many hit songs have been made on rigs of that kind.

> New computer systems like the Intel Pentium 4 have the capacity to let > you simulate a 200-channel audio mixer in software. Hard-disk prices > have fallen through the floor, so there's plenty of room for > recordings on hard drives.

I believe you're overestimating what's needed for music production. A decent PIII will manage 32 track playback no problem (and that's 32 sounds being made, multiple takes use no physical tracks unlike a tape recorder so even this is probably more than is needed for most pop music).

>Sound Forge, the best of the audio-editing software, is cheap in > comparison to renting a sound studio or making a deal with a > recording company.

This is highly arguable. While Sound Forge has the cleanest interface the current release is getting aged and falls down compared to Steinberg's WaveLab in a number of areas such as: - It only supports 16bit files. - It is slow handling large (i.e. song size) files. - WaveLab integrates multi-track features and audio CD burning (the CD Architect add-on for Sound Forge has been discontinued and cost more than WaveLab itself)

Personally I use Sound Forge for working with small 16bit files such as processing samples to be transferred to my hardware sampler, and WaveLab for rough mastering of song files.

>Good microphones and other physical equipment are also cheap in > comparison to what studios charge,

This is an interesting question, because here in the UK due to the aforementioned revolution in semi-pro music hardware a decent studio can be had for very low rates. A studio large enough to record a small band and possessing very nice mics and outboard can be hired for something like 15 an hour. The recording chain used for a vocal alone would cost 3000 plus. In the case of recording drums which would require maybe 6+ mics, etc I expect the balance to still lay with the small studio. Of course I would then take those recordings home to mix on the PC at my leisure!

>In other words, it's now possible to put together a studio capable of > making a professional-quality audio master for well under $50,000, a > figure within reach of many start-up groups if several of them pool > their resources.

This is true, but the point was reached several years ago and the figure is now well below this (barring the need to soundproof a room which can be very expensive).

I hope my comments have been coherant and helpful.


You clearly know more about this than I do. I was going on what people in the Los Angeles recording business tell me. I don't know WaveLab but I suspect anyone seriously going into this business would do more than read my column before investing heavily. My real point was that the blood sucking recording industry, which is one of the more rapacious groups of, uh, gentlefolk, I have ever encountered (they make book publishers look generous) is losing its stranglehold. 

As to all this having been possible earlier, yeah, I know. I said so about 5 years ago, and got banged on the head by the "recording quality" people who hated all things digital. As to renting studios, perhaps. If I were a recording artist I would learn all I could about the new stuff and get my own so as to be in control; and build my own acoustic facilities so as to be able to experiment and get things the way I wanted. But then I have always been a tinkerer.

More amazing is what this will all do to the MOVIE industry. I can't wait.

Jerry, Great thoughts on digital audio this week. I'm a professional musician in Texas, I mastered my band's last CD using Sound Forge and Waves plugins on NT, and T-Racks on BeOS (some tracks on the NT machine, others on the BeOS machine). It sounds surprisingly good with todays technology, but I expect much better computer audio hardware to come out in next year or so - it was just a feeling really, but your column this week confirms my thoughts.

A very interesting digital audio site is . Lot's of good information on digital audio, how to make it sound better, why some sounds bad, etc...

Guy Minervini 

p.s. Some of those early CD's didn't use the right masters - I had a Yes album that was horrendous on the original CD release.

Thanks. And yes, I understand that some of the original CD's sounded awful and that may be part of the reason for the prejudice against "digital" on the part of artists. I assure you the prejudice is real.

As you may remember, you and I had a discussion on zinc and the common cold some years (?) ago. A somewhat sardonic quote from Farr et al in the Journal of Chronic Disease in 1987 says "anything tasting as bad as zinc and with as much aftertaste as zinc must be good medicine".

The most recent abstract I'm able to find comes from the Journal of Nutrition 130(5S Suppl):1512S-5S, 2000 May. Your readers may not know that a meta-analysis is an analysis of previously published studies. The authors Jackson, JL; Lesho, E; and Peterson, C conclude:

The common cold has been estimated to cost the United States > $3.5 billion per year. Despite several randomized clinical trials, the effect of treating colds with zinc gluconate remains uncertain due to conflicting results. We conducted a meta-analysis of published randomized clinical trials on the use of zinc gluconate lozenges in colds using the random effects model of DerSimonians and Laird. Ten clinical trials of cold treatment with zinc gluconate were identified. After excluding two studies that used nasal inoculum of rhinovirus, eight trials were combined and analyzed. The summary odds ratio for the presence of "any cold symptoms" at 7 d was 0.52 (95% confidence interval, 0.25-1.2). We conclude that despite numerous randomized trials, the evidence for effectiveness of zinc lozenges in reducing the duration of common colds is still lacking.

In a similar vein from Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2):CD001364, 2000 Marshall writes: 

OBJECTIVES: Interest in zinc as a treatment for the common cold has grown following the recent publication of several controlled trials. The objective of this review was to assess the effects of zinc lozenges for cold symptoms. SEARCH STRATEGY: A search was made of the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register, MEDLINE, EMBASE and reference lists of articles. Searches were run to the end of 1997. SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised double blind placebo-controlled trials of zinc for acute upper respiratory tract infection or cold. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two reviewers independently extracted data and assessed trial quality. MAIN RESULTS: Seven trials involving 754 cases were included. With the exception of one study, the methodological quality was rated as medium to high. For most outcome measures different summary estimates were used across the studies to describe the duration, incidence and severity of respiratory symptoms. This limited the ability to pool results. Results from two trials (04 - Mossad; 08 - Smith) suggested zinc lozenges reduced the severity and duration of cold symptoms. However, there was significant potential for bias, and further research is required to substantiate these findings. Overall, the results suggest that treatment with zinc lozenges did not reduce the duration of cold symptoms. REVIEWER'S CONCLUSIONS: Evidence of the effects of zinc lozenges for treating the common cold is inconclusive

Conclusions: I'm a cardiologist and haven't really looked at this, but after a this quick look, I'm not sold on using zinc. I'm keeping an open mind, but don't have enough data yet. As to the specifics of Zicam, I looked at the Gum investors web site and scientific evidence portion of it. Sorry, ain't science in any way, manner, or fashion.

As to the FDA labeling a substance as homeopathic. I, too, doubt that they have anything to do with that sort of label. However, perhaps another reader has more information.

Mark Huth 

I'd really like to get into space, but how is that going to happen?

Thank you. I have my skeptical doubts about the stuff myself. But then I was ready to try snake oil (which actually seems to have worked at least once for me -- well the label said it was made "from the freshest of snake biles" anyway). Sometimes desperate measures...   I take huge amounts of vitamins and stuff. I probably make expensive urine, but I do seem more productive than most my age.




This week:



Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Paying Bills and digging out from the mess of finishing a column. And it's raining outside. Why the devil couldn't it have rained for the Rose Bowl? We need the rain and every January people back east see our weather, hate theirs, and move here. We need rain. We don't need more people in LA.


Totally agree with your remark about the Bulger-killing boys (Thompson and Venables) who will be rehoused "anonymously in the community". The irony is that they say one of them is a reformed character, and one isn't. The law makes no consideration. The tabloids will still have their mob justice sentiment and will publish wherever they can.

Oh, and there's that thing called "the internet". What then, English Justice? A further irony is that the killers could then well suffer the same barbarism that they instigated against a toddler themselves. An eye for an eye?!

David J Burbage

Those who commit heinous crimes don't get much sympathy from me or anyone else. IN this case we have youthful offenders and perhaps one deserves a second chance. The ideal outcome would be for both of them to appear to have been torn to pieces by outraged mobs, then quietly go back to a normal society and live out their lives in peace and obscurity. That way we discourage repeats of the crime. But then what if the unrepentant one -- well you get the idea.

I don't even hint that I know all the answers, and in general I prefer leaving such matters to politicians with the proviso that in the US at least that means state and local politicians.  Hard cases make bad law. 

Regarding "vigilantes":  Committees of Vigilance come to existence when the authorities are perceived as incapable or unwilling to protect a community. The conventional wisdom is to perceive them with horror, but sometimes what is the alternative? Unless you subscribe to the theory that individuals have no right to self protection and must always defer to the "powers that be, for they are of God." 

Dear Jerry

Having read your column and website for aeons I thought I'd finally drop you a line! I have worked in various support capacities over the years in the IT industry, most notably for Compaq and Digital (outsourced Microsoft support). The overwhelming consensus among my colleagues is that LS120 drives perform poorly. Understand, I've never used one myself, though many colleagues do. The consensus is they are unreliable, with disks readable on one machine and not another, and also slow.

Regards Liam Walsh

No data at all. I bought a pack of the media yesterday and I'll get around to tests shortly. It does not look like a technology whose time will come.


Following  could be important:


I'm sending this to all my PC user friends - I thought that an alert about this little software "feature" might be appreciated. It cost me a good chunk of time and made me miss a deadline... Please pass this around to those who might need it.

If you have Office 97 or earlier you can ignore this missive.

If you have Excel 2000 (part of Office 2000) this is a heads-up warning!

I just lost almost 2/3 of a day's worth of work here due to my system hanging.

And upon restart I expected Excel 2000 to allow me to continue where I had left off, possibly losing the last few minutes of work... but it didn't.

In investigating why, I discovered a nasty little "feature" in Microsoft Excel 2000 - it seems that the "new and improved" Excel 2000 does NOT have the auto-save built-in like Excel97 had.... and if you don't see it as you do the initial customizing after a new installation you tend to forget it...

MS has an add-in program on the installation CD that restores this "missing" feature - but the default state is NOT added in, which means that auto-save is OFF. You have to not only enable the feature, but also configure it since the default configuration is a show-stopper! And if you don't think to go install it and enable it, you're sunk!

To see if you already have the autosave option file on your hard disk, start Excel 2000, then click on "Tools" and then on "Add-Ins". In the list that will pop up, look for "Autosave Add-In". You'll probably find the check box unchecked. Click on it to check the box, then click OK. The autosave module will immediately load and you will not have to reboot. From now on when you start Excel 2000 it will take a few extra seconds to load (and the status line will show "Loading autosave.xla") but it's worth it.

Once it is loaded you will have a new AutoSave entry on the Tools menu. The default is 10 minutes, which considering today's fast hard disks is too long - why should you have to redo even 10 minutes work? I sent mine for 2 minutes, and I turned off "Prompt before Saving" - that "feature" just freezes the program until you say "go ahead" and when off the system will quietly save your work in the background.

Mike Morris


And then there is this:

I saw Mr. Morris' note on Excel's autosave (or lack thereof) and decided to check into it. No offense to Mr. Morris, but I do like to double check any computer advice being passed around....

But indeed, Microsoft does have a Knowledge Base article about this very subject, with instructions on how to turn autosave on. Article ID: Q2139 at:


So you can mark it as confirmed: Mr. Morris is spot on. :}

--Robert Brown "Most computer problems can be solved by a suitable charge of high explosive."

He usually is. Thanks


> And when there are programs that take advantage of the P-IV > architecture -- I have a couple from HP -- the P-IV is AWESOME.

Any half-decent chip running at 1.5 GHz will be awesome. Unfortunately, the Pentium 4 *is* only half-decent.

Do please read that article on; it explains in detail why the Pentium 4 is brain-damaged. One can have some sympathy for Intel: they had to cut their original design way back, so the Pentium 4 is not what they originally planned it to be. But one's sympathy should be limited; the way they chose to cut it back turned out to be poor.

There are all sorts of clever tricks you can do on Pentium chips prior to the Pentium 4, that now take 2 or 3 times as many clocks to perform. For example, Microsoft compilers use clever tricks to make a multiply by 10 very fast, and on the Pentium 4 that code will take 3 times as many clock cycles. It is fortunate that you have 1.5 billion clocks to burn every second, since so many are wasted.

It is possible, and likely, that future Pentium 4 chips will erase the brain damage and live up to their true potential. But right now I recommend that only people who write about computers should buy a Pentium 4.

If you spend $3000 on a Pentium 4 system with 1.5 GHz CPU, and if you run specially optimized code, it will be faster than a 1 GHz Athlon. Just barely faster. And the Athlon system will cost half or even a third as much!

P.S. It seems, and I am not kidding, that Intel doesn't trust the average computer buyer to correctly interpret "IV" as a Roman numeral 4. Thus it is officially "Pentium 4" and not "Pentium IV". -- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"

You may well be right. My experience with the Pentium IV "white box" I got from Intel is that it runs everything faster than anything I have with the possible exception of the Athlon. The Athlon works just fine, and has a very high end video board as does Forrie the Pentium IV.

As to the "barely faster" using code optimized for the Pentium IV, perhaps, but that has not been my experience. Perhaps I do not have enough programs designed to show off the Athlon; but when the P IV (and I at least know IV = 4) is running programs designed for it, which is to say very high end video processing, "awesome" is still a good term for it.

On homeopathy:

Karl Lembke wrote:

"It just occurred to me, in a moment of putridity...

We've been hearing all about hexavalent chromium in the water supply. The concentration of the stuff in the water DWP serves is less than ten parts per billion. At this level, we're actually drinking a homeopathic dose of the stuff, which should actually (according to homeopathic theory) cure diseases!

Maybe the Department of Water and Power should charge extra for this service..."

And you replied:

"I LOVE IT!!!"

And so did I until I thought about it. Homeopathic dilutions are accompanied by a process called succussion. The material to be prepared is shaken rhythmically with the water using a figure eight motion for a short period of time. Note that the material does not have to be soluble in water and that the material taken to the next dilution is the water. Thus it may take far fewer dilutions to reach the less than one molecule level. Each dilution is succussed, and it's the succussion that is critical in the manufacture of homeopathic medicines. The theory is that the more dilute, the more potent the homeopathic drug.

When I was taught this, the trainer commented that I had the perfect rythm when succussing and that obviously I had been taught in ancient Egypt!

BTW, I have used homeopathic remedies to great effect on a number of occasions, including treating warts on goats' udders. The goats assured me that it couldn't possibly be the placebo effect as they were unable to read the label on the bottle. They also told me that they were working on a better expanation for the effectiveness of homeopathy. One that was more like goat sh*t than bull sh*t :-)

Jonathan Sturm

Every now and then I hear stories of homeopathic remedies working with animals, but I do not think I have seen anything but stories: that is, I am unaware of any repeatable science on homeopathy and animals. I am prepared to believe there are many strange things in our universe, but I tend to side with science when there is real science to side with...

The ... oddity you've run into is a feature, to call it that, of how Windows handles passwords. When you were on Forrie and tried to access a domain resource that resource asked, basically, "Who the heck are you?" Forrie, behind the scenes, responded with the userid and password that you'd logged in with. If those names and passwords match a domain account, the domain server gives you a thumbs up and you're in. It works the same way when logging into an NT workstation locally, or part of a workgroup and then trying to access a network resource; as long as the local account name and password match, you're okay. The problem, of course, is that with expiring passwords and whatnot, the local accounts and domain accounts can quickly get out of sync.

(I saw a network once with had a Netware directory tree and 3 NT domains, none of which had more than 1 server in them, and a dozen other NT servers all in their own workgroup, and 500 users who had to have accounts individually coordinated between their workstations (all in workgroups) and _every server they might need access to_. They had a person whose job consisted entirely of managing all these passwords. All on token ring, no less (this was only a year ago). I told them that their network couldn't be in worse shape if it were on fire. If it were on fire they could at least start over clean....)

All in all, Windows networking does work pretty well, though I do wish there was an option to run 2000 Professional in 'Casual' mode....


--Robert Brown "Most computer problems can be solved by a suitable charge of high explosive."

That's what we need! Casual Mode!  I had suspected that it was something to do with user names and passwords. Thanks for confirming.







This week:


read book now


Thursday, January 11, 2000

Dr. Breggin stated:

>They sometimes suggest that only medication can stave off a bleak future of delinquency and occupational failure. They even >call child protective services to investigate parents for child neglect and they sometimes testify against parents in court. Often >the schools recommend particular physicians who favor the use of stimulant drugs to control behavior.

I have serious problems with these statements. Schools, teachers, etc. do *not* do this unless they want to be liable for the payments! If a school or teacher recommends a course of treatment, or a doctor, they can, by federal guidelines for special education, be presumed to be assuming the cost of said course of treatment and doctor visitation.

We have been warned very specifically that we are *not* to diagnose a child, recommend a particular doctor, recommend testing, etc. If a parent asks, we may give them information about clinics where they can find more information, but we may not recommend one clinic over another.

Susan Nixon

You may have serious problems with this, but I have several sources telling me that it happens, and that parents who don't use the services of some of these drug them all physicians are threatened with visits from Child Services.  Given that one child was taken from a mother who called a help line to ask if it was normal to get some sexual thrill from her daughter nursing -- and it took $5000 in legal fees to get the child back -- in some communities the Child Welfare people are as feared as ever was the Gestapo. I expect this varies not only from state to state but within states, but it is not, I think, an idle concern.



Hello. I read your article regarding (re)writable cd technology and found it quite helpful, thank you. I was wondering though...are "home-burnt" cd's longevity the same as those that are manufactured? I have heard some dyes are better than others. Thank you.

Kam Daneshvar

I would certainly be careful to buy Kodak if I were concerned about longevity, but in fact I suspect it's not likely to matter.

I am unsure what to make of this next letter:

Hello... you are really different from other writers because you are always talking abaout your experiences. 

Have I been complimented or?

And there is this:

May I ask if you are related to a sci-fi author of similar name?


You may ask. and I believe I am...

Hi, Jerry. Chris Hare.. I sent you mail once before, about a year ago now. Different account, probably, can't remember what it was about, no matter. Anyhow, I do recall being able to set up 2000 Pro as a peer-to-peer network, IPX and NetBEUI and NetBIOS. Took a bit of swearing at, but it's possible. If you feel interested enough, I can tell you more. Right now, it's on a peer-to-peer with a series of varyingly dodgy Win98SE boxes. I could, if you feel like it, try to rebuild something as 2000 Server, and try to make that work peer to peer as well. Never done it, seems vaugely interesting, and I was planning to rebuild the 2000 Server hard drive, now the machine it'll be attached to got upgraded. Up to you, if you care to hear. Chris Hare

Yes, sorry, I was joking. You can use Windows 2000 Pro in peer to peer and in fact that's what I recommend for simple networks. I don't really need Server here except that I need to have experience with it so I can write about it. And in fact I really prefer things set up "properly"; but it does take time and effort.

W 2000 will work peer to peer with NetBEUI or TCP/IP and works quite well. Of course if you want to share Internet connections you need to implement TCP/IP

I never quite know what to say when someone sends a thing like this:

Hi, Jerry

I enjoy reading your books and articles. Including (as your column mentioned) The Mote in God's Eye. I've always maintained that the web will have truly arrived when I can read it in the bathroom.

Anyhow, I'm writing about your Jan 3. column. No doubt you're aware that the Pentium 4 is receiving poor and lukewarm reviews from various places.



Many are saying that AMD has eclipsed Intel-- that their current chips are more than a match for Intel's newest.

So if you're touting the Pentium 4 as a revolution, it would strengthen your article significantly to say why you believe those people are wrong. To say what you think about AMD's ability to compete. It seems you feel it's a Pentium Pro situation-- update the software and the performance will come. But I'm just guessing here.

Part of what I find confusing about the article is that I run a Celeron system (a 300A @ 450 MHz), and find it suits my needs as a musician quite well. I've never used more than 64 tracks. For me, that independent music revolution has been here since 98. Sure, I can't do noise reduction or really complicated effects in real time, but I'd rather do those in postproduction anyhow.

I do see the possibility of music changing, since home studios make it more convenient to record at a whim. Certainly, that freedom is attractive to me, but working freeform also makes me aware of my limitations as a recording engineer. The problem is that recording music isn't just about the equipment. Producing a quality album requires the skills of an audio engineer, and that's the limiting factor I see for many.

I also mess around with video. Some of the filtering is so processor intensive that I run it overnight. But I'm not sure that even a 4x speed increase would be good enough for me.

So while Intel's always been the one to beat, I'm not sure this is a revolution.


-- Aaron Bentley

And I am not sure you are responsive to what I said. Perhaps there ought to have been a stronger paragraph break between the section on the P IV and what followed about "systems LIKE the Pentium IV" which was generic? If so that's my fault.

As to audio engineers and so forth, perhaps. And perhaps there is such a thing as an artist who can figure out how to edit. The thrust of what I was saying was that widespread availability of high quality recording systems will help break the stranglehold the Recording Industry has had. And that is GOOD. Publishers have never had the power over authors that recording companies have had over performers.

Now certainly, the revolution is more likely to be accomplished with some specialization, with some people working with the equipment and others being artistic composers and arrangers and others performing. Certainly I left some of that to the imagination of the readership. But my point was, and is, that once the investment requirements for making professional quality recordings have come down sharply, you will see some variety.

As with BLAIR WITCH and some other such in the movie business. And having better video editing and computer graphics creation and rendering capabilities at low cost will continue to change the movie and TV industry too.

I never quite know how to deal with people who accuse me of "TOUTING". I don't tout, and I rather dislike having that term used for what I do. 

I am sure you know more about all this than I do. Have a nice day. As to video, read Alex Pournelle and David Em, who work with this a lot more than me. 

Finally, AMD may have caught up with Intel and may not, but what I said stands: the performance of the P IV with software written to take advantage of its instructions appeared to me to be very impressive. It works here, too, not just at COMDEX. But there isn't a lot of such software, there is certainly nothing like Soft Image using the P IV instructions, and until there is, the effect isn't going to be all that great. AMD is doing a good job, and it's good for us all to have competition. And I think I have said that many times.

A couple of days ago I sent out a tip on MS Excel 2000's hidden autosave function. Well, here's a update on a side effect that I found - one that is on par with the original problem.

Let me set the environment I'm in.... I have a large file - over 340 pages at 50 lines per page - that is the wide area network equipment and PBX equipment inventory for a nationwide company - and it doesn't include the users PCs, printers or servers.

Anyway, I was massaging the data and correcting errors like the 24 different spellings - so far - of "Hewlett Packard" that I've found. Or the 9 different "Cisco" variations - "Crisco 7000 rooter" presents an interesting mental picture...

Here's the latest gotcha:

Yesterday I was asked by a co-corker to print out a list of all the equipment with asset tags but missing manufacturers name or model numbers - sort of a "hit list" for the field personnel to look for on site visits.

OK, no problem. Look for the model number value <empty> or UNKNOWN.

I load the file, select all, sort it by model number, delete everything before the model number value UNKNOWN, select and delete everything after UNKNOWN up to the lines that have empty model number cells, and print what's left to 11x17 paper. Sent the co-worker over to the Laserjet 5si that has the 11x17 tray. He comes back a few minutes later with 39 pages at 50 lines per page. No problem. Close the file *without* saving, reopen it and go back to work on what I was doing before the co-workers request.

What's wrong with the above picture?

When I opened the original file all that was there was the just-created subset of the data... Excel's autosave had saved the file *back to the original filename* while I was printing. Fortunately just 15 minutes before my co-worker asked for the "hit list" printout I had emailed the file to another department and my most recent work was still in my sent mail folder. Thank you, God.

No Thanks to the brains at Microsoft. Either they give us no autosave or they give us autosave to the main file - not a temp file that Excel looks for on startup and recovers from... Hey guys - go look at Word Perfect 5.1 for MS-DOS 3.3 from 20 years ago. Copy their technique. It works and doesn't get in the way of getting work done.

And based on past performance (Office 95 and Office 97) it will be 2-3 years before it's fixed, and it will probably require the users to adapt - again - to a new way of doing things.


Mike Morris



In a message dated 1/11/01 8:27:55 PM !!!First Boot!!!, writes:

I think so

Did you know the editor of Analog? RJ. ichee_index

I wonder what is going on?

My daughter sent this URL, commenting "Good God. We need to wrap the kids in cotton batting, obviously. ARGH!" 

The news is about how schools are shying away from allowing animals, party food from home, plants in elementary school class rooms. Might trigger an allergy--or a lawsuit. And we wonder why modern folk are cut off from the real world.

Julie Woodman

Aarrgggh indeed. In our desire to protect everyone from everything at all times we have lost sight of purpose.  I have some sympathy for those with allergies but they HAVE them, and depriving everyone else is probably not the best answer to it. The end of that logic is "if there are no cripples and asthmatics the rest of us can live better lives"; and don't kid yourself that there have not been civilizations that adopted that as their marching order. Religion slows that tendency; but we have a war on religion, too,

And on the subject of religion, the following was posted in another discussion group.

First who:

Carol Iannone writes on literature and culture for a variety of publications. Her article, "The Truth about Inherit the Wind" appeared in First Things, February 1997.

I could add a lot more including her articles in COMMENTARY and other places. In any event I have long been an admirer. This arose in a long discussion on evolution. I pointed out that St. Augustine speculated that the universe might have been created in "germinal causes" and left to work out things by itself, with Divine Intervention rare compared to the "normal" run of things (this in contrast to the "no sparrow shall fall" school). This was not good enough for some of those in the discussion. It went on for a while, and Carol posted this. Note that the included quotations are from public sources:

When I say that evolution and creationism constitute a standoff between two worldviews, I mean that it's a standoff between two ways of looking at life and the universe and the nature of man, two belief systems that both have immediate and practical consequences, in William James sense, leaving aside the ability to "prove" either in some final sense. Both are compatible with the experience of those who profess them.

The spiritual or metaphysical is not the same as occultism and supernaturalism, as many seem ignorantly to think.

The "Christian Darwinists" that Jon Entine refers to below "who believe that God created Nature to set the Darwinian processes in motion" have a a basically incoherent position, as do evolutionists who imagine that this position is valid. And Jon seems to suggest that when he says that belief in intervention is "just a relic of Judeo-Christianity." Kind of condescendingly, evolutionists let Christians say this silly thing just to feel better, all the while knowing that there is no basis in evolutionary theory for the idea. Regarding Eastern religion being more compatible with evolution, that is beside the point for our culture, for Western culture partly built on Judeo-Christianity.

And I am only answering Ron Unz and others who wonder at how conservatives could have the temerity to disbelieve in evolution. So I repeat:

>>As William Provine, historian of > > science from Cornell and a leading adherent of Darwinian evolution, put it, > > "prominent evolutionists have joined with equally prominent theologians and > > religious leaders to sweep under the rug the incompatibilities of evolution > > and religion." Provine insists that evolution finds no intelligent design > > operating in nature and "no such thing as immortality or life after death." >> Instead, "we're produced by a process that gives not one damn about us," the > > same process that produced the AIDS virus, he goes on to say.

So I say, stop the farce. Be as honest as Provine. Stop pretending. Just say it openly and repeatedly in open forums. That evolution is completely and totally incompatible with any meaningful idea of God, providence, afterlife, morality not based on evolutionary premises, and the idea of a soul Then the standoff between the two views will be clearer and more understandable. And people will be able to understand why conservatives resist it.

I put Paul Gross into the honest Provine category since he has posted the following, to my great relief:

"But it is a fact that evolutionary science (which includes nowadays quite a lot of physics) has, so far, nothing to do with God or the "transcendent." Maybe someday it will, when and if somebody produces objective evidence for one or both of those." And for adding this:

"The transcendent, or whatever name you want to use for it, is clearly a part of human cognition and culture; so it must be conveyed via education, one way or another."

Thank you Paul. At the same time, it must be said that many conservatives are drawn to the idea of sociobiology because it suggests that there is an innate human nature that social engineers cannot endlessly manipulate to achieve their egalitarian ends.

Which, I think, frames the discussion nicely. I have never had any problem being a scientist and retaining my religion; at least no more than I would have being a non-scientist and doing so. Either there is some meaning to this vast universe or there is not. I do not think pure science will find that meaning. That does not mean that in a conflict between science and revelation science is wrong; as Acquinas points out, in such conflicts it seems we have misunderstood the science, misunderstood its meaning, or we have misunderstood revelation. Any or all of these are not only possible but probable...







This week:



Friday, January 12, 2000

Ed Hume on education:


You are right on about New York schools. My wife was a school board member (she substitute taught at the high school and developed a constituency of kids, some of whom were old enough to vote; the rest had their parents vote for her because she was the best teacher they had ever had). What I learned:

Our school district spends $10,500 per kid per year. Some of it is indeed special ed: some kids have one or even two handlers who care for their needs in the classroom. These badly-disabled children are being "mainstreamed" at the insistence of parents who think contact with non-disabled children will magically bring their kids back from their dire straits. The kids themselves consequently miss out on habilitation and education designed to teach them at a level where they can learn. The energy and time they divert from the teachers does not help them, but harms the other kids.

The New York teachers union is the most powerful political force in the state. The laws reflect their wishes. You don't get credentialed to teach unless you do it their way. Schools are run for the benefit of the teachers.

Teachers and principals all have tenure. Teachers and administrators are unionized. With rigid academic testing, blindly adopted, students can only graduate if they pass all the tests. No more manual arts education paths. At a time when we understand that people have differing skills (a.k.a. "multiple intelligences"), our state bureaucracy sees only one way.

The schools put down those who want to learn, and elevate athletes, allowing them to go around bullying others (not confined to our district). Parents demand lights at our stadium so jocks can perform at night, but do not demand academic excellence (this is part of the problem).

Teachers are supported even when wrong. Teachers demand that students all learn at the same pace. One girl I know is not allowed to read advanced French in class because the only French instruction available is introductory, and doing something other than what the teacher is doing disrespects the teacher.

My younger daughter was home from school for a while with pneumonia. My wife home-schooled her, but then she did not want to go back to school: she was learning lots of good stuff, and it was exciting.

We are leaving Upstate New York to obtain a good education for our kids (the local private schools are good only in comparison with our public schools), voting with our feet as our ancestors did when they came to the US.


And many others do that, or homeschool. Yet the Republic once had schools that were the envy of the world. The goals have changed, of course. Education associations and unions look out for their members not for the public and not for the children. When those outfits are also lobby organizations, the political authorities look out for the interests of the teacher union member (and particularly their officers, which is to the interests of those active in union affairs, which is to say the teachers who have time to do that or would rather do that than spend their time teaching). The result is that no one is looking out for the children or the public, and no one will.

Democracy in action. It was all predicted. We are going through the degeneration of democracy phase. That usually ends with some kind of tyrant and an new political system. Our system is now SYSTEMATICALLY unable to look out for the interests of the children or for the future of the Republic.

The interesting part is that it is so very undemocratic: with bad public schools economic dominance will come to those who bequeathed their children a decent education. Hereditary government come back. Well, well, well.

Read some of your recent comments about the pathetic state of affairs in the N.Y. school system.

What is your opinion of homeschooling?

In my case, we found that it was the only way to insure a proper schooling for our children. As a result, they not only read, write, and count far above their "grade level," but so far they view going to the bookstore as one of their most exciting privileges. I wish that the love of reading could be instilled in the students at the public schools, but I fear this cannot happen in the present climate of "whole language" (what does that mean?!). And if they cannot - or will not - read, they simply cannot receive a proper education. (Unless of course they want to be a social scientist! ;-)).

P.S. Hats off to Roberta for fighting against this sad state of affairs with her reading program!

Robin Gould

I think homeschooling is a necessary evil. I recall the education I got from rural Tennessee public schools, and later the splendid education from the Christian Brothers. I wasn't all that socialized -- the Army did most of that for me -- but I did learn something about getting along, and if I had not been in school I would not have. Also, public schools in my day assured some minimum standard knowledge. We had all read Silas Marner and A Tale of Two Cities and Evangeline and Hiawatha and The Lady of the Lake and Paul Revere's Ride and The Man Without A Country and The King of the Golden River and so forth by 10th grade. We had read them and the teachers could assume we had read them. We all knew the plus and times tables through 12 times 12. 

We had all had some Tennessee, US, and world history. We had some common knowledge including of civic affairs. Certainly home schools can do better than the degenerate public schools found in many places now, but permit me to mourn the country school, two grades in one room, that I went to in the 1930's.

Roberta is almost finished with the Windows version of her reading program. This system teaches any child to read in about 70 lessons each taking about half an hour. I should say to read English. Details at her web site. Homeschooling is an alternative I wish had not been forced upon us.







This week:



Saturday, January 14, 2000

Dr. Pournelle,

Oddly enough, though I've been a fan of yours for about 15 years, and I've been surfing the web for about five, this is my first visit to you site. I have to compliment you on the layout. It's very quick to load on my system, which is always a bonus.

Looking over your last weeks e-mail, I feel as though I could become a regular contributor here. There is a plethora of topics hit upon here that I feel deeply about, from computer systems to quack medecine to the state of our education system.

It's the last topic that's compelled me to write at this late hour. My oldest son almost became a victim of the "drug'em into submission" philosophy of our local school system. He's eleven and has always had behavioral problems. During the past two years, they've become worse and my lady and I have had a hell of a time dealing with them and him.

The school system here in North Carolina was of little help. There were a couple of individual teachers that tried, but the prevalent attitude was summed up by a particularly noxious school counselor who called my lady at work one day last year to scream "You've got to get your son to a psychiatrist today or we'll have to expel him!"

It seems that Rick's behavior (fidgeting, not paying attention, inappropriately straying from his seat, purposely ignoring the teacher) were classic symptoms off ADD. To top it all off, Rick had a nasty habit of telling highly improbable tales of his life at home, on the streets, at school, all designed to bring more attention to himself.

We never did take him to see a pshrink that day, but we did visit the counselor and lay down the law. He was not to talk to Rick anymore. If any of his teachers had a problem with him, they were to let us know and we would deal with it at home if they couldn't find a way to discipline him at school.

Several days later, we were informed by the Guilford County Department of Social Services that we were the subjects of a child abuse investigation and would be recieving a visit from a social worker. We wer told this was because of a bruise the guidance counselor had noticed on the back of Rick's neck. Rick told the counselor that he had thrown a tantrum at home and while trying to stop him, I had grabbed him by the shirt collar. All this was true, but the counselor, who would now only talk to us with the principal present, cited this as a sign of further physical abuse, and sicced the social workers on us. To this day, you would be hard put to convince me that this counselor wasn;t trying for a little vengeance after Rebecca and I told him that he wasn't worth the paper his bachelor's degree was printed on.

Well the social worker came and went and Rebecca and I both got nice letters clearing us of any suspicion, and life went on.

This year, as Rick entered sixth grade and middle school, his behavior got worse. Most notable were two incidents at school where he threatened a teacher that he would shoot her and told another to f*** off and die.

Before things could get worse, Rebecca and I decided to cut the problem off at the pass. We went to the school and told the teachers and counselors the same thing we had told them the year before at the elementary school. Teach him, discipline him, notify us if you can't control him, but leave off the counseling. He's smart enough that counseling does no good; he just plays games with the counselor.

Rebecca then took him to see a pshrink recomended by our pediatrician. Apparently, the pshrink took fifteen minutes to diagnose Rick not as a victim of ADD, but as bipolar, and prescribed medication based on his diagnoses. I was a little skeptical, at first, about the validity of a fifteen minute diagnoses, but went along with it.

Fortunately, the meds are actually helping. He's still eleven, he's still slower than molasses on an Old Forge morning and he still gets into more than his fair share of trouble, but he's no longer the moody, morose and occasionally violent hood he had been turning into.

The meds haven't made him dull and lifeless as I've seen Ritalin do, they haven't taken away his imagination, and they haven't taken away his dislike of doing the dishes.

In a backhanded way, I suppose, the muttonheads at the school did help, just not the way they would have liked to. I shudder to think of the students whose parents they have convinced to drug their kids with Ritalin because they were behaving like Rick. Not only are they causing these kids to walk through life like zombies, but if they actually do have a problem, like Rick apparently does, it's not being treated as it should.

Now, don't get me started about the education these kids are getting.


Paul . Lewin

Visit my websites at: or

Catch me on AIM as Caermon or on ICQ (#38393471)

I think I will collect stories of  this kind into one place. There seem to be a lot of them.

Dr. Pournelle:

That Ed Begley Jr. has found solar cells priced at $3 a peak watt has really caught my attention.

The Web site

tells you how many effective "peak watt" hours you can expect on average per day. At an average of 5.6 L.A. peak hours per day, $3 (1 peak watt) worth of solar panel generates 2 kWHr/year or about 20 cents worth of electricity at the rates I am paying these days in Wisconsin. That means the "payback" time is 15 years.

Back in the ancient past (last summer), the cheapest solar cells I could find were $5/peak watt, electricity was 7 cents/kWHr, Madison has less sunlight than LA -- payback was over 40 years. We can talk accounting formulas, interest rates, returns on the stock market until the cows come home, but my threshold for doing an energy project is 20 years payback, so you see why Mr. Begley's news is getting me interested in solar cells.

Of course we are talking grid-connected solar because batteries can only take so many charges and boost the cost of off-grid power to about a $1/kWHr. Many states (Wisconsin is one) have ``net metering laws'' requiring the power company to buy electricity from you at the same price you buy it from them provided you are on net a power consumer. The law is meant to encourage solar panels without requiring the power company to buy large amounts of electricity from a commercial generator at or above retail electric rates, something that is really, really stupid and something no state would ever pass a law to make happen (but then again!).

Our power company was at the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair telling everyone what great people they are that you could mail them an extra five bucks a month to get a cooperative share in this windmill. When I told their rep that I wanted to put up grid-connected solar panels and asked about their "net metering" policy, the fellow stood 6 inches from my face and started getting really upset. I guess corporate feel-good environmental policy only goes so far.

Back in ancient times, retail electricity was 7 cents/kWHr but the marginal generating cost using wholesale-priced natural gas was about 1 or 2 cents, so you see why the power guy lost his temper when I invoked the net metering law.

Wholesale natural gas has shot up to 4-6 cents/generated kWHr, retail electric is about 10 cents nationwide, and I have no idea what is happening in California. If a homeowner can buy solar panels for $3/peak watt, there must be some wholesale discount on those things, and maybe the power company will want to start putting them on everyone's rooftop.

Paul Milenkovic Madison, Wisconsin

I will look into it. I can only say that Ed was speaking casually at a street corner with some neighbors, and thus I know no more at the moment. I'll ask next time I see him. I did remember the number. $3 a Watt. And see below.

One factor that I haven't seen mentioned in the discussion on education on your website is the evolution (I guess) of law that required equalization of funding within states.

I think this evolution, while probably sparked by some real inequities, has negatively impacted most school systems. For example, I live in a high cost of living area (San Mateo County, in the Bay area). My kids' school doesn't have the funding to attract the same caliber of new teacher that could be recruited into a less expensive area.

When I was a child (in a NY suburb), my parents chose to live in a particular part of my hometown because it was in a different -- and far more expensive -- school district. But the extra taxes that they chose to pay bought them a superior educational experience for their kids. I'd like to see that kind of flexibility brought back.

On the other hand, I accept that such an approach is hardly fair to families who can't afford to live in high tax areas. But I think that's true of many choices that we all face (heck, I'd rather live in Palo Alto!). And, in any event, the proper forum for that kind of discussion is in the legislature, as part of a targeted subsidy program.

All the current system does is force everyone to the same low level.

- Mark

An equality of low quality is apparently to be preferred. There remain private schools. And of course the goal is Lake Wobegone...

We agonized over the Public/Private school every parent who has the financial 'where-with-all' to bother looking at the choice.

1) The LAN at my house has the library of Congress in three rooms .... and specialized software (TO BOOT!) vs. an image of my children not knowing the kids in their neighborhood......isolated, alone. Nerds.

2)'s far cheaper in terms of time and money to enhance a child's three R's (and throw in a little Kipping) than provide a social setting where they can learn the things that make free men great; cooperation and teamwork .... not to mention preferred access to mates.

I DO want grandchildren.

Is California really so bad? My sisters (all three) and my various nieces and nephews all live there. Alta Loma actually.

You're scarring me Dr. Pournelle.

Tampa, FL

Clearly I didn't think it all that bad; but then my boys went to St Francis de Sales and Notre Dame High School.

From: Stephen M. St. Onge
Subject: Miseducation

Dear Jerry:

You are of course right, the state of US/American education is awful,
but there's a reason for that: it's what we the people want.

One of my all time favorite cartoons was in an early "Playboy." Mr.
and Mrs. SurburbanWhiteBread types are in their home, talking to their adult son. Next to him is the world's most obvious hooker (she wears a sandwich board advertising her prices). The caption: "Son, you're blinded by love."

The USAmerican public, as a whole, loves the present public school
system, is satisfied with their own school, and wants it to continue.
Anytime the public decides they want change, they'll get it. But don't hold
your breath.

Meanwhile, this will someday not seem funny. In fact, someday, it will
seem straightforward, serious, and unremarkable.

Collegiate Entrance Exam
Time limit: 3 weeks

1. What language is spoken in France?

2. Give a dissertation on the Ancient Babylonian Empire with particular
reference to architecture, literature, law and social conditions.
- or -
Give the first name of Pierre Trudeau.

3. Would you ask William Shakespeare to:
a. Build a bridge
b. Sail the ocean
c. Lead an army
d. Write a play

4. What religion is the Pope?
a. Jewish
b. Catholic
c. Hindu
d. Polish
e. Agnostic
(check only one)

5. Metric conversion -
- how many feet are in 0.0 meters?

6. What time is it when the big hand is on the 12 and the little hand is on
the 5?

7. How many commandments was Moses given?

8. What are the people in America's far north called?
a. Westerners
b. Southerners
c. Easterners
d. Northerners

9. Spell - Bush, Carter, and Clinton.

10. Six kings of England have been called George, the last one being called George the Sixth. Name the previous five.

11. Where does the rain come from?
a. Macy's
b. 7-11
c. Canada
d. The Sky

12. Can you explain Einstein's Theory of Relativity?
a. yes
b. no

13. What are coat hangers used for?

14. The Star Spangled Banner is the national anthem for what country?

15. Explain Le Chatelier's principle of Dynamic Equilibrium
- or -
Spell your name in block letters.

16. Where is the basement in a 3 story building located?

17. Which part of America produces the most oranges?
a. New York
c. Canada
d. Wisconsin

18. Advanced Math: If you have 3 apples, and you eat one, how many apples did you eat?

19. What does NBC (National Broadcasting Co.) stand for?

20. Our University's tradition for excellence began when?
a. B.C.
b. A.D.


Best, Stephen

You left out a couple of important questions, but those are obvious. So the colleges go the way of the schools. Why not?






This week:


read book now


Sunday, January 14, 2000

Jerry, I have always admired your books and columns since the early days of Byte. However, you are playing fast-and-loose with units in your latest daybook. "kW" is a measure of power (the rate at which we generate or use energy). kW-hr is a measure of energy, which is what we buy (our energy usage rate, integrated over time).

Some numbers: In northern CA a couple of years ago (pre-crisis), I was paying ~$0.13 for a kW-hr. In CO, I am now paying ~$0.08 per kW-hr. In the Pacific Northwest, if you are "lucky" enough to live close to a hydro plant, you will pay ~$0.03 per kW-hr.

A friend, who is somewhat of an expert on the subject, claims that a typical 10kW installation of solar cells, inverters, batteries, etc., amortized over it's life, including maintenance will cost ~$0.17 per kW-hr. This obviously used to be too expensive versus plugging into the grid. But now is beginning to look attractive (at least in northern CA, but clearly not in the Northwest).

Ed Begley Jr's (is he the tall, blond actor from 'St. Elsewhere'?) solar cells, at $3/Watt, would cost $30,000 for a 10kW array. Such an array would generate perhaps (10kW)*(12hrs of daylight per day)*(15 sunny days per month)*(1/2 fudge factor for geometrical/seasonal effects) or 900 kW-hrs per month. This is in the ballpark for a typical smallish home usage. This amount of energy would be worth (in CA at $0.15/KW-hr) $135 per month, or $1620 per year, or $16,200 for 10 years. Not a very good return on a $30,000 investment, but not terrible either. Of course, one has to buy the batteries and inverter...

I just pulled these most of these numbers off the top of my head, so they are probably not completely accurate, but they are close enough to indicate feasibility.

Keep up the good work. -Ted Longman

Thank you for the analysis but I am puzzled by "fast and loose". Unclear might be a better (and to a writer more devastating) accusation. I used the figure $3/Watt because that is what Ed Begley Jr. quoted, and yes, he's the chap whose career started (so far as I know) on St. Elsewhere. He is a congenial leader of the environmental movement here in LA, and does things by example rather than intimidation. And a thoroughly nice man.

Your analysis seems about the same as mine. $3/Watt needed some kind of assumptions, so I made a few in my top of the head analysis over in View. In both yours and mine we left out the really expensive part, which is batteries or other power storage facility, and the switching and conversion equipment, neither of which is cheap: Ed claims to sell power back to the grid. I've never examined what he uses (he's not particularly technical so when he showed me the establishment I didn't ask that kind of question) but that would require some really good equipment to get the frequency exact and stable and the phase relationship proper: after all, roof solar generates DC and the grid wants something else entirely. I suspect the expense of that kind of equipment is not small even by Hollywood movie standards.

Ed has long known that simple interest on what he has put into building his solar power facilities would pay his electricity bills forever, but of course that wasn't the point of building it. I suppose the English would call what he has done a "folly". He thinks of it as an example. I'd call it an interesting experiment I am glad I don't have to fund. But he sure did have electric lights and TV when the rest of us didn't....

On units, of course one pays by the kW/hour. That was, when I was in high school, 1.5 cents kW/hr in the TVA districts, something higher in other power districts in the Tennessee basin.  If it is now truly possible to put in reliable solar power to amortize at under 20 cents kW/hr, that is quite a breakthrough. As I explained earlier, I am not entirely sure what $3/Watt means, but I would assume it's the power delivered by the cells at high noon on a clear day (we'll leave out what part of the year). But if with all the storage and electronics and the rest you can get power at under 20 cents kW/hr lifetime cost, it begins to look attractive. After all, you have to cover the south side of your roof with something, and in summer I would presume that extracting the solar energy and piping it off as electricity would help keep the house cooler..

Of course the solar constant limits what you can get off your roof, and weather makes it an unlikely power source in much of the country. Me, I prefer space solar power. High capital costs, but there are a number of side benefits. As Julia Ecklar's wonderful song puts it, "And the Earth is clean, like a springtime dream, no factory smokes appear, for we've left the land to the gardener's hand, and they all are circling here."  I have never understood why the Greens aren't big on space exploration. If we have to strip mine something, wouldn't asteroids be better? And I'd rather have rectennae in Death Valley than square kilometers of little blue cells...

Mr. Pournelle,

Greetings! A while back I sent you a couple of messages about my wonderful little hobby where we build 144th scale model warships, mount bb cannon on them and fight battles. Well, I'm given to understand that the Southern California contingent now has a local pond in Pasedena and is battling on a monthly basis. I don't know exactly where, but you could contact (someone who says he doesn't want his mail address here after a couple of years of it being here) (who happens to be the national club president) for more info if interested.


Chris Grossaint

p.s.. On the subject of grid electrical power, and keeping in mind I'm not an expert. In my research of home solar power I've found that passive solar construction is the way to go. I read a book called "New England Solar Home" or something like that and the author outlined some steps to take in building a home that wouldn't need much active heating at all. And this was in New England. Translate that to most of the rest of the country which gets more solar wattage, add photovoltaics, and viola, no need for the grid. Well, except maybe to export power. BTW, I live in Colorado and my house is an absolute energy nightmare, so I'm not doing much about this particular problem (wives seem strangely ambivalent about being self-sufficient, have you noticed?) Also, I think home builders and designers are significantly at fault for building absolute pieces of you know what for homes. Whatever it takes to maximize the number of suburbanites you can get per acre.


Oh, I agree that more intelligent construction of houses to suit the environment is a good idea. The California "Monterrey Style" house with thick walls, small deep windows, white stucco exterior, shutters, is a wonderful design for most of this area. Of course you are about as likely to see a Norman chateau with high pitched roof to shed snow as a Monterrey style house now...  And if you want to go high tech, there are ways to store summer heat in rocks under the house so they will heat it in the winter; apparently cost effective ways.

And atriums, and greenhouse walls, and such are all worth looking into. We can engineer houses to be much more energy efficient without going to the extreme that Suzette Hayden Elgin did in having her house underground (although she seems to like it). Strict insulation, without ventilation particularly in some areas, will get you high radon levels in the house and that's not so good...

Dr. Pournelle:

A number of letters on your site have discussed the cost of home solar cell setups, although I am still not seeing much attention paid to cell lifetime (a 20-year payback on costs does not do much good if the cells give up after 10 years). Particular attention has been paid to Ed Begley Jr.'s setup, which has rightly been pointed out as not economically practical. You referred to it as a "folly"--in the old architectural sense, of course, not in the derogatory sense the word is usually used today. No normal person could make economic use of a system like he has, unless he lived on a mountaintop somewhere.

It is also apparent that no normal person would have the computer setup in your house that you do. However, you are a professional tester and reviewer ("I do this so you don't have to") and the fact that your overall setup may not be financially or even technically practical for most people is irrelevant to your purpose.

I can see Ed Begley Jr.'s solar house in this same pioneering light ("I spend the big bucks so you won't have to!") Perhaps he should set up and try other types of systems like tracking collectors, and start experimenting with other technologies. Some more details on his personal experiences with the technology and costs on his web site would also be useful. A regular column perhaps, on his latest efforts? ("Ed on Energy: In Which I Install A Cold Fusion Cell in my Basement")

Tom Brosz

You know, I think I will put that to him. Thanks. With some pictures. And I think he does see his system as experimental. He can afford it, the publicity probably doesn't hurt although I suspect he gives his "movement" more publicity than it gives him, and it's an experiment; and the analogy with my computer establishment is spot on.

Actually, only the use of the **units** "kW/hr" which is nonsensical. The correct **units** are "kW-hr" (or to be more correct, but less obvious, "kWh" according to the"Handbook of Physics and Chemistry". Which is the PRODUCT of the power used TIMES the length it is used. Which is the ENERGY consumed/generated. Your power DIVIDED by time makes no sense.

I just cleaned up your units/math with a few semi-facts of my own.

Sorry to be so pedantic.

On your thoughts about Space-based Solar power... Have you or anyone you know done the calculation of the additional warming of the earth by bringing such additional solar energy to it. Clearly, this added energy will be dissipated as heat somewhere/somehow and result in the additional warming of the earth. I wonder if it would be 0.0001 deg or would it be significant. It would be interesting to do an order-of-magnitude calculation. Of course, any heating caused by space-based power would be offset by less heating from fossil fuels.

-Ted Longman 

Well, on reflection it can't be KW/hr can it? Ah well. I suspect I got the point across. Thanks.

Seeing the solar power discussions on your site lately reminded me of this story from a week or so back 

The technology seems still in the prototype stage, but they're predicting that it will bring solar power costs down to $1/watt.

--Robert Brown "Most computer problems can be solved by a suitable charge of high explosive."

Fascinating. Thanks.

Having just received a power bill, which seemed kinda high, I was fixin' to write and tell you that being a TVA power user was not what it used to be; but, I divided it out and found it to be 6.07 cents per kwh. I guess I better just be quiet.

Jesse Farr

And it was a cent and a half during WW II. Not bad.

And from Dr. Hume:

My friend Lawrence Husick (see below) just got this from an MD who is a few weeks past a triple-bypass...seems like good info to tuck away.

- - ---------------------------------

Let's say it's 6:15 p.m. and you're driving home (alone of course), after an unusually hard day on the job. You are tired, upset and maybe frustrated.

Suddenly you start experiencing severe pain in your chest that starts to radiate out into your arm and up into your jaw.

You are only about five miles from the hospital nearest your home, unfortunately you don't know if you'll be able to make it that far.

What can you do?

You've been trained in CPR but the guy that taught the course neglected to tell you how to perform it on yourself.


Since many people are alone when they suffer a heart attack, this article seemed in order. Without help, the person whose heart stops beating properly and who begins to feel faint, has only about 10 seconds left before losing consciousness.

However, these victims can help themselves by coughing repeatedly and very vigorously. A deep breath should be taken before each cough, and the cough must be deep and prolonged, as when producing sputum from deep inside the chest.

A breath and a cough must be repeated about every two seconds without let up until help arrives, or until the heart is to be beating normally again. Deep breaths get oxygen into the lungs and coughing movements squeeze the heart and keep the blood circulating. The squeezing pressure on the heart also helps it regain normal rhythm. In this way, heart attack victims can get to a hospital.

Tell as many other people as possible about this, it could save their Lives!

>From Health Cares, Rochester General Hospital via Chapter 240's newsletter, AND THE BEAT GOES ON ... (reprint from The Mended Hearts, Inc. publication, Heart Response)


Lawrence A. Husick LIPTON, WEINBERGER &; HUSICK Intellectual Property and Technology Law

We have at least two heart specialists in the readership. Let's see what Dr. Huth has to say on this...






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