jp.jpg (13389 bytes)


Mail 326 September 6 - 12, 2004






BOOK Reviews

read book now

emailblimp.gif (23130 bytes)

CLICK ON THE BLIMP TO SEND MAIL TO ME. Mail sent to me may be published.


LAST WEEK                 Current Mail                  NEXT WEEK



Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun

Highlights this week:


  The current page will always have the name currentmail.html and may be bookmarked. For previous weeks, go to the MAIL HOME PAGE.


If you are not paying for this place, click here...

IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature. In general, put the name you want at the end of the letter: if you put no address there none will be posted, but I do want some kind of name, or explicitly to say (name withheld).

Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name and address you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name and address (or no address) as you want them posted. Also, repeat the subject as the first line of the mail. That also saves me time.

I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too...  I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail. 

Monday -- Tuesday -- Wednesday -- Thursday -- Friday -- Saturday -- Sunday

 Search engine:


or the freefind search

   Search this site or the web        powered by FreeFind
  Site search Web search

read book now

Boiler Plate:

If you want to PAY FOR THIS PLACE I keep the latest information HERE.  MY THANKS to all of you who sent money.  Some of you went to a lot of trouble to send money from overseas. Thank you! There are also some new payment methods. I am preparing a special (electronic) mailing to all those who paid: there will be a couple of these. I have thought about a subscriber section of the page. LET ME KNOW your thoughts.

If you subscribed:

atom.gif (1053 bytes) CLICK HERE for a Special Request.

If you didn't and haven't, why not?

If this seems a lot about paying think of it as the Subscription Drive Nag. You'll see more.

Search: type in string and press return.


line6.gif (917 bytes)

read book now If you contemplate sending me mail, see the INSTRUCTIONS here and here.



This week:


read book now


Monday  September 6, 2004








This week:


read book now


Tuesday,  September 7, 2004

Column time deadline

Subject: Undergound History of American Education

Saw this on /.. 

A damning look at the institution of modern compulsory schooling and the factors which brought it about by a "teacher of the year".


-- John Harlow, President BravePoint

Have not seen it. (Roland reminds me that I have seen it. Alas, it's deadline day and I don't remember, and I haven't time to dig for it.)

I do note that some of these become mere teacher bashing; our problems are deeper. Many teachers mean well but have never known that 98% of all children who come to school can learn to read by age 7, but some will require some hard work and different teaching methods. If you don't know something is possible, and in fact have been taught that it is not possible, you will never try it. That is known as being in a Dark Age if it were previously known.

We are in a Dark Age in education in the US.

Fred divides our problems into those we can't solve and those we won't solve. Education is clearly one of those we won't solve. We have done better in the past. The novel Charlie Sheffield and I wrote, HIGHER EDUCATION, talks about other paths, but we aren't likely to take those either.

Let me put this up here for the record: 

Comments of Gen. Anthony Zinni (ret.) during a speech before the Florida Economic Club, Aug. 23, 2002:

Attacking Iraq now will cause a lot of problems. I think the debate right now that's going on is very healthy. If you ask me my opinion, Gen. Scowcroft, Gen. Powell, Gen. Schwarzkopf, Gen. Zinni, maybe all see this the same way.

It might be interesting to wonder why all the generals see it the same way, and all those that never fired a shot in anger and really hell-bent to go to war see it a different way. That's usually the way it is in history. (Crowd laughter.)

But let me tell you what the problem is now as I see it. You need to weigh this: what are your priorities in the region? That's the first issue in my mind.

The Middle East peace process, in my mind, has to be a higher priority. Winning the war on terrorism has to be a higher priority. More directly, the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Central Asia need to be resolved, making sure Al Qaeda can't rise again from the ashes that are destroyed. Taliban cannot come back. That the warlords can't regain power over Kabul and Karzai, and destroy everything that has happened so far.

Our relationships in the region are in major disrepair, not to the point where we can't fix them, but we need to quit making enemies we don't need to make enemies out of. And we need to fix those relationships. There's a deep chasm growing between that part of the world and our part of the world. And it's strange, about a month after 9/11, they were sympathetic and compassionate toward us. How did it happen over the last year? And we need to look at that -- that is a higher priority.

The country that started this, Iran, is about to turn around, 180 degrees. We ought to be focused on that. The father of extremism, the home of the ayatollah -- the young people are ready to throw out the mullahs and turn around, become a secular society and throw off these ideas of extremism. That is more important and critical. They're the ones that funded Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations. That ought to be a focus. And I can give you many, many more before you get down to Saddam and Iraq.

Our friends in the region who, a couple years ago, every time we wanted to throw a bomb at Saddam, kept saying, "Why don't you get serious? We'll support you if you take him out. But if you're only going to piss him off and let him rise from the ashes, we don't want to do it."

Now that we want to do it, it's the wrong time. He'll drag Israel into the war. The mood on the street is very hostile at this moment. It is the wrong time. You could create a backlash to regimes that are friendly to us. You could create a sense of anti-Arab, anti-Islamic feelings from the West (among people who) misinterpret the attack.

We could end up with collateral damage.

You could inherit the country of Iraq, if you're willing to do it -- if our economy is so great that you're willing to put billions of dollars into reforming Iraq. If you want to put soldiers that are already stretched so thin all around the world and add them into a security force there forever, like we see in places like the Sinai. If you want to fight with other countries in the region to try to keep Iraq together as Kurds and Shiites try and split off, you're going to have to make a good case for that. And that's what I think has to be done, that's my honest opinion.

You're going to have to tell me the threat is there, right now. That immediate, that it takes the priority over all those things I've just mentioned.... I've just hit the tops of the waves.

(Person in audience speaks. Laughter.)

In fairness to President Bush, because I work for him -- I don't get paid, though -- in fairness to President Bush, President Bush has invited the debate and he allows anyone who has a view to speak to the debate. I mean, within his own administration you hear different views.

So I'm encouraged by the fact the debate takes place. It ought to be, and it ought to be public and open. And although it's messy and we're trying to figure out which way to come down on it, I think it's good that it's happening, that Congress is looking into it. That it isn't a party issue. I mean, you have Sen. Hagel and Dick Armey and others, that have taken a position, and other -- Sen. Inohofe and others who have taken another -- even within the parties, you have people on both sides. That's what great about the U.S.

So I don't mind the debate. It should be confusing because it's a confusing issue, but in the end the people are going to have to decide, if this -- if the threat is there, and the case is going to have to be made to them.

I still want to bring the army home, defend our borders, and develop the new weapons of the Technological War. The key to the War on Terror is energy: if we don't need to buy the oil the Middle East becomes the backwater its culture would have made it long ago except for petroleum.





This week:


read book now


Wednesday, September 8, 2003

Geez, Jerry:

For the past week every time I check the site I have "How We Lost the War on Terrorism" staring at me from "Highlights." I've been biting my tongue, but...

We haven't lost "the war" on anything - maybe a battle here and there hasn't gone well, but the war is just beginning (our active engagement in it, anyway - the war started back in the 70s), and will probably take a decade or generation or more to finish.

NOBODY knows whether the Bush Doctrine is good policy: not Bush, not you, not me, certainly not John Kerry. We're in the middle of the storm, and it all looks black - that's the way of storms. IF Iraq in five years is a moderate country ruled even nominally by its poeple the good we will have done for the Iraqis, the mid-East, ourselves and the world will almost be beyond measure. If not at least we tried, and we'll try something else. Freedom is never free.

It's just TOO BAD you are inconvenienced when you fly - get over it. I have friends who fly a whole lot more than you do (one is heading to Russia for two weeks tomorrow, for example) and they have yet to complain. You'd REALLY be inconvenienced if your plane was blown out of the sky as happened twice in Russia in recent weeks; I'd bet their airport security looks a lot more like ours right now, wouldn't you?

You know I'm a big fan of yours but your Chicken Little "the sky is falling" routine is really wearing thin. I'm exponentially more concerned about true animals killing school children than I am about some Patriot Act enabled heavy from the FBI breaking down my door - and you should be, too.

Most sincerely,

Tim Loeb


 I love Drudge report 

No one knows whether throwing 1,000 dead troopers and $200 billion into the sands is working or not? Then how will we know?

Leave that one. Do you seriously suppose that running Americans through a rat race at Dulles is increasing our security? You know better and so do I. If we wanted security we would give up political correctness and concentrate on the likely terrorists; while honing our technological skills for sniffing out explosives. What we are doing is silly.

Recall the mission: to prevent airplanes from being blown up, and prevent them from being hijacked and used as cruise missiles. The latter is easily accomplished by making it clear that the cockpit door won't be opened no matter what, and the passengers are not merely free but encouraged to savage the would-be hijackers. Since I, and presumably you, know how to encase explosives in plastic shells to resemble objects routinely passed through the x-ray systems, tell me how you will prevent anyone who doesn't mind getting killed from blowing up an airplane? Or blowing up the people conveniently assembled in the rat race at the security line?

You have to know better than this. Get used to it.

The Drudge Report picture is interesting.


Can anyone make sense of this one?

Subject: Is an unpublished regulation a true regulation?

Hi Doc,

I was reading through the Register and found this interesting tidbit. 

There is a link in the article to a filing by the DOJ that is as frightening as it is absurd: 

In a nutshell: There may or may not be a directive that has the force of a regulation but we can't tell you what it is except under seal and have never published it, (nor will we ever publish it since you do not "need to know"), as required by law....

I really don't know what more to add.

Ramón A. Santini

(La perfection est atteinte non quand

il ne reste rien à ajouter,

mais quand il ne reste rien à enlever.)

Subject:  Good grief,2933,131584,00.html 


Teachers Back Away From Red Ink

A growing number of the nation's educators are stocking up on purple pens for grading papers and passing on the traditional red, which they say can be intimidating and damaging to a student's self-confidence.


I think the title of this story should read "If You Can't Do Your Job Change Something Innocuous."

Braxton S. Cook

The business of the schools is neither education nor training but rather the delivery of a product: people with credentials. The credentials need not be earned. And don't you want them to have self esteem? You're a monster, aren't you?



I had a similar experience with new Ad-Aware version finding stuff.

However, at work we are now asked to use Spybot Search & Destroy, which is free. 

It found a lot of items to object to that Ad-Aware did not complain about. I have not used the two enough to know if S&D misses items a later pass with Ad-Aware will find.

Using both is not a bad idea.

Note: There is a know bug with Spybot 1.3 that reports it fixes something it calls a DSO Exploit but problem is still there on next scan, even after a re-start. This issue is reported resolved in version 1.3.1 which has not yet been released.

I can tell you that some victims at work are finding their computers much more useable after any being cleaned of all this crud--especially anything that adds to the registry as a startup item.

And I am all in favor of rounding up the folks behind spyware, malware, worms, virii, spam, etc. and sending them to Iraq for use a mine detectors.


As I've said, both Spybot and Adaware are useful, and each finds things the other did not. Sigh.


CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, September 9, 2004

Subject: an interesting development in materials science 

"The most interesting application may be the development of energy-efficient, low-cost, solid-state lighting. By creating a matrix of layers of varying sizes of nanodots embedded in a transparent medium such as aluminum oxide, Narayan can create a chip that glows with white light. Solid-state lighting would use about one-fifth the energy of standard fluorescent lighting and last for approximately 50 years.

"Another interesting application for the nanodots is the development of a chip that can hold 10 terabits of information -- information that equals 10 million million or 10 to the 13th power bits -- which is equivalent to 250 million pages of information. Narayan estimates that a chip with this storage capacity represents an increase of more than two orders of magnitude, or five hundred times the existing storage density available today."

David Plunkett

Fascinating. And nano-paper may not be far away. Information technology outstrips Moore's Law and by a lot.


This story raises an issue: 

" . . . six deaths for every 10,000 people taking erythromycin for the typical two weeks while on the other drugs.

"This is an unacceptably high risk," Ray said."

But when your doctor estimates that a particular finding has less than a 1% risk something serious (100/10,000), then it's OK for him to skip ordering a test, as did a doctor a few years ago--which caused the death of my wife's old math teacher.

Actually, I was trained to run that test, but modern medical programs teach physicians to skip such low probability items.


Due to a penicillin allergy I developed in the Army in 1951, I take erythromycin and I don't believe I have ever been tested in any way; of course by now if the stuff would kill me it would have.

Hello Dr. Pournelle,

Some South Africans are looking to implement the pebble bed concept. Safe and cheap power -- God knows we need it. 

Cheers, Clyde Wisham

**** "Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first." -- Mark Twain ****

There are many safe nuclear power designs. Westinghouse builds them in Japan and other places -- but not in the US.

Dear Jerry:

I don't think I can tell you anything, but I was trying to remind you of first principles. Such as the politics of the possible. You & I know nuclear power can be safe (so do the French, Germans, and Japanese) but your solution of building a bunch of new plants and establishing energy independence hasn't a hope in hell. Solar power microwaved back to us from space?? Fabulous idea, no longer science fiction, but as soon as you utter the word "microwave" the wacko environmentalists and other Luddites will shut you down, period, amen.

So what's a compassionate conservative to do? As much as he can... that's achievable. The TSA was turned into an employment plan, rather than a security plan, and Bush had to swallow hard and sign on to get SOMETHING done.

It all relates to your education essay (where IS that essay, BTW?) - Americans are now sufficiently dumbed down that they do not understand the science behind something as simple as nuclear fission, and ignorance has never yet bred much forward thinking. And so the Luddites win, and we start to live in a Luddite world.

Tim Loeb

And the remedy is to get used to it, including the rat mazes at Dulles International.

But despair is a sin, and if I don't get to do anything else I will be able to say I told you so; and since we are headed for Empire, I may as well document the solutions to the problems we could solve but won't, lest we forget that energy is a crisis only because it is one of the problems we won't solve.

We are probably headed for a Dark Age: in a Dark Age, people forget that they ever knew things. We will forget that we ever could have solved the energy problem with fission plants fueled with the peace dividend of all that refined Uranium from superfluous atom bombs.

re: Drudge report pistol grip

 The grip on the shotgun Kerry is holding is not a "pistol grip", it's  a standard stock. Pistol grips either replace the standard grip with  just a pistol style grip (ie, the firearm is no longer designed to sit  against the shoulder), or protrude below the stock (like most assault rifles).

On second glance, I don't think anyone truly believes that the grip in the photo would be classed as a pistol grip. The point, which I missed the first time, was that the definition was loose enough that in theory it could be classified as such.



From: Stephen M. St. Onge
 Date: Sept. 9th, 2004 Subject: Space flight

Dear Jerry:

If you haven't seen it yet, a good article on what's wrong with NASA's approach to manned space flight, and what we can do instead, at . He likes X-prizes, for one thing

Best, Stephen


Everyone likes prizes now. Pity I couldn't get them introduced by Gingrich when he was Speaker. We tried, and Richard even drafted some of the legislation.

But in those days much of Congress didn't know NASA was the enemy. Note that no one has been transferred or demoted after the Columbia disaster; not even the fool, and I do not use that word lightly, who said they didn't want to know about damage to the orbiter because there was nothing they could do about it; or the moron who said they couldn't do anything about it because they didn't have the budget for a rescue mission.

NASA needs a Dinosaur Farm. I suggest Senegal, although Michoud would work if the EPA would forbid sunscreen and bug repellent.


Maths holy grail could bring disaster for internet,3858,5009766-103690,00.html 

Two of the seven million dollar challenges that have baffled for more than a century may be close to being solved Tim Radford, science editor Tuesday September 7, 2004

Mathematicians could be on the verge of solving two separate million dollar problems. If they are right - still a big if - and somebody really has cracked the so-called Riemann hypothesis, financial disaster might follow. Suddenly all cryptic codes could be breakable. No internet transaction would be safe.

On the other hand, if somebody has already sorted out the so-called Poincaré conjecture, then scientists will understand something profound about the nature of spacetime, experts told the British Association science festival in Exeter yesterday.

Both problems have stood for a century or more. Each is almost dizzyingly arcane: the problems themselves are beyond simple explanation, and the candidate answers published on the internet are so intractable that they could baffle the biggest brains in the business for many months.

They are two of the seven "millennium problems" and four years ago the Clay Mathematics Institute in the US offered $1m (£563,000) to anyone who could solve even one of these seven. The hypothesis formulated by Georg Friedrich Bernhard Riemann in 1859, according to Marcus du Sautoy of Oxford University, is the holy grail of mathematics. "Most mathematicians would trade their soul with Mephistopheles for a proof," he said.

The Riemann hypothesis would explain the apparently random pattern of prime numbers - numbers such as 3, 17 and 31, for instance, are all prime numbers: they are divisible only by themselves and one. Prime numbers are the atoms of arithmetic. They are also the key to internet cryptography: in effect they keep banks safe and credit cards secure.

This year Louis de Branges, a French-born mathematician now at Purdue University in the US, claimed a proof of the Riemann hypothesis. So far, his colleagues are not convinced. They were not convinced, years ago, when de Branges produced an answer to another famous mathematical challenge, but in time they accepted his reasoning. This time, the mathematical community remains even more sceptical.

"The proof he has announced is rather incomprehensible. Now mathematicians are less sure that the million has been won," Prof du Sautoy said.

"The whole of e-commerce depends on prime numbers. I have described the primes as atoms: what mathematicians are missing is a kind of mathematical prime spectrometer. Chemists have a machine that, if you give it a molecule, will tell you the atoms that it is built from. Mathematicians haven't invented a mathematical version of this. That is what we are after. If the Riemann hypothesis is true, it won't produce a prime number spectrometer. But the proof should give us more understanding of how the primes work, and therefore the proof might be translated into something that might produce this prime spectrometer. If it does, it will bring the whole of e-commerce to its knees, overnight. So there are very big implications."

The Poincaré conjecture depends on the almost mind-numbing problem of understanding the shapes of spaces: mathematicians call it topology. Bernhard Riemann and other 19th century scholars wrapped up the mathematical problems of two-dimensional surfaces of three dimensional objects - the leather around a football, for instance, or the distortions of a rubber sheet. But Henri Poincaré raised the awkward question of objects with three dimensions, existing in the fourth dimension of time. He had already done groundbreaking work in optics, thermodynamics, celestial mechanics, quantum theory and even special relativity and he almost anticipated Einstein. And then in 1904 he asked the most fundamental question of all: what is the shape of the space in which we live? It turned out to be possible to prove the Poincaré conjecture in unimaginable worlds, where objects have four or five or more dimensions, but not with three.

"The one case that is really of interest because it connects with physics, is the one case where the Poincaré conjecture hasn't been solved," said Keith Devlin, of Stanford University in California.

In 2002 a Russian mathematician called Grigori Perelman posted the first of a series of internet papers. He had worked in the US, and was known to American mathematicians before he returned to St Petersburg. His proof - he called it only a sketch of a proof - was very similar in some ways to that of Fermat's last theorem, cracked by the Briton Andrew Wiles in the last decade.

Like Wiles, Perelman is claiming to have proved a much more complicated general problem and in the course of it may have solved a special one that has tantalised mathematicians for a century. But his papers made not a single reference to Poincaré or his conjecture. Even so, mathematicians the world over understood that he tackled the essential challenge. Once again the jury is still out: this time, however, his fellow mathematicians believe he may be onto something big.

The plus: the multidimensional topology of space in three dimensions will seem simple at last and a million dollar reward will be there for the asking. The minus: the solver does not claim to have found a solution, he doesn't want the reward, and he certainly doesn't want to talk to the media.

"There is good reason to think the kind of approach Perelman is taking is correct. However there are some problems. He is very reclusive, won't talk to the press, has shown no indication of publishing this as a paper, which you would have to do if you wanted to get the prize from the Clay Institute, and has shown no interest in the prize whatsoever," Dr Devlin said.

"Has it been proved? We don't know. We have good reason to assume it has been and within the next 12 months, in the inner core of experts in differential geometry, which is the field we are speaking about, people will start to say, yes, OK, this looks right. But there is not going to be a golden moment."

The implications of a proof of the Poincaré conjecture would be enormous, but like the problem itself, very difficult to explain, he said. "It can't fail to have huge ramifications: not only the result, but the methods as well. At that level of abstraction, that level of connection, so much can follow. Differential geometry is the subject that is really underneath understanding everything about space and spacetime."

Seven baffling pillars of wisdom

1 Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture Euclid geometry for the 21st century, involving things called abelian points and zeta functions and both finite and infinite answers to algebraic equations

2 Poincaré conjecture The surface of an apple is simply connected. But the surface of a doughnut is not. How do you start from the idea of simple connectivity and then characterise space in three dimensions?

3 Navier-Stokes equation The answers to wave and breeze turbulence lie somewhere in the solutions to these equations

4 P vs NP problem Some problems are just too big: you can quickly check if an answer is right, but it might take the lifetime of a universe to solve it from scratch. Can you prove which questions are truly hard, which not?

5 Riemann hypothesis Involving zeta functions, and an assertion that all "interesting" solutions to an equation lie on a straight line. It seems to be true for the first 1,500 million solutions, but does that mean it is true for them all?

6 Hodge conjecture At the frontier of algebra and geometry, involving the technical problems of building shapes by "gluing" geometric blocks together

7 Yang-Mills and Mass gap A problem that involves quantum mechanics and elementary particles. Physicists know it, computers have simulated it but nobody has found a theory to explain it


China's Telecom Forays Squeeze Struggling Rivals Amid a Shaky ecovery, Competitive Pressures Hit Western Companies Hard


The hard-driving expansion of China's telecom companies around the world is deepening the woes of struggling North American and European rivals and forcing them to scramble.

The Chinese equipment makers are snatching business away from the big, established vendors, and not just with their well-known lower prices. The new weapon: competitive technology. The Chinese incursion comes at a time when the incumbents are still smarting from the recent, three-year bust that has claimed hundreds of thousands of jobs in the West.

"We are seeing these companies now in markets where we wouldn't have six months ago," says William Owens, chief executive officer of Nortel Networks Corp., based in Brampton, Ontario. "This is not just in the Third World, but we are seeing them globally. As a strategic imperative, we must be focused in getting our costs down." <sni


Subject: The "war" on terrorism


A couple of remarks about recent things on the site. You are SPOT ON about what it takes to really win the war on terrorism: An policy of energy-independence from oil from the mid-east. This doesn't have to be petroleum independence, not even freedom from imported oil, although that would be better. During Gulf War I, the bumper sticker I liked most was "War is not an energy policy". This is still true.

Second, on airport "security". As you say, the farce we put up with now is just that, an expensive, tedious joke. Of course, the lemmings want to feel protected, so no one will accept the truth of this until it is demonstrated in a bloody way. My favorite demonstration to convince people of this is to show them the little kitchen knife I bought years ago in Japan: Ceramic silicon nitride blade, plastic handle. About 4" long and fiendishly sharp, and, of course, totally invisible to the magnetic screening. You could put this in your coat pocket and walk right through the security gate with a much deadlier weapon than box cutters. Defeating the security measures at airports is trivially easy, but no one wants to believe this.

I could be persuaded that airport security is effective by a simple test. Let independent Tiger Teams try to defeat it, make the results of the tests (but not the methods) public. If the security system passes then you and I are old cynics who don't know what we're talking about. I could accept that and sleep better at night. However, these tests won't ever be done publicly because the people who run the security system know what would happen.

Chuck Bouldin

I take no joy in being right about these things As Fred says, there are problems we can't solve and problems we won't solve.




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  September 10, 2004




Subject: Kerry's real view on the world

Forget that Kerry voted against putting Pershing missiles in Europe, or against missile defense systems. His view of the world has long been the same. While others attack him for his Senate testimony as a young veteran talking about war crimes, I think this quote is most telling:

"...we cannot fight communism all over the world, and I think we should have learned that lesson by now."

From Page 183 of his testimony.


This was once the view of many people, and was a real problem to us old Cold Warriors who kept urging a strategy of technology in the Seventy Years War. Of course a strategy of technology would work now, too; and while Bush isn't precisely doing what we need to do, he's a lot more likely to do the right thing in this than Kerry.

We need to keep in mind what the objectives are.








This week:


read book now


Saturday, September 11, 2004

Subject: Bad news for brains in Britain

They had a story on NPR (Morning Edition I think) this AM about English Universities having to close their Chemistry departments due to a lack on interest. I've looked, but I can't find a link to the story. Perhaps someone else can.

English industry is very worried. One company interviewed said they can't find English employees.

The most galling part was that Psychology Degree enrollments were up 5-fold while Chem enrollment was down a similar amount. The explanation of it was, "more people oriented, more timely and safer."


-- John Harlow, President BravePoint

Not to mention that psychology has no real subject matter or content, so it's pretty easy compared to physiology or physics or chemistry. But all subject matters are equal aren't they? Including humbugology.

Subject: Dinosaur Farm

"NASA needs a Dinosaur Farm. I suggest Senegal, although Michoud would work if the EPA would forbid sunscreen and bug repellent."

Kwajalein Island- "If you don't bring it with you, you won't find it here". Well, not actually "south" South Pacific, the Marshall Islands are more near-equator, half-way between Hawaii and Borneo, both in their geographic location, and in their geo-political mindset. 

You might even be able to sell it to them.

Mike Z

I was never on Kwaj, but I did spend several days on Wake Island. Perhaps we can start an observation place there.

Subject: Profiling

From <
/oped/articles/2004/09/09/where_is_the_muslim_outrage/ >

"...One in particular stands out: an extraordinary column in the pan-Arabic daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat by Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, the manager of the Al-Arabiya news channel.

"It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists," he begins, "but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims.""

Gene Horr


Subject: Samuelson on outsourcing, and a thought on Frum

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

It occurred to me that you might be interested in looking at this piece by Paul Samuelson < > regarding outsourcing and the questionable benefits of same. It struck a connection -- perhaps merely a short circuit -- with your discussions of revenue tariffs and keeping jobs here that average and below average folks can perform with skill, satisfaction, dignity and pride.

There seems to be no human calculus yet that will show the relationship between the extra $20 you spend on electronic goodies, and the replaceable money and irreplaceable time we spend worrying about what all those unemployed folks are doing. Hopefully they're not doing to you.

Any status on Jannisarries? I am looking forward to how Rick and Tylara get out of this one. As I recall, Roland Green co-authored Clan and Crown(Vol2), and y'all turned out one of my favorite works.

Just a thought in passing. You often refer to the egregious Frum reading out out of the conservative movement. Isn't that like a Mormon reading you out of the Catholic Church? This is an interesting time for philosophy if we can keep out heads out of our navels while we study it.

Thank you for wonderful books, thought-provoking columns, winning the Cold War, and helping keep the dream of space alive. I shall repay forward as best I can.

Warm Regards to you and Mrs. Pournellle,

Mason Shaar

Thanks for the kind words. I recall many years ago being at dinner with Paul Samuelson. After it was over Peter de Lucca said something about "who was that chap," and I told him. "You mean 'we owe it to ourselves?' Samuelson?"


"But he's a civilizational monster! And I didn't know it."

Of course that may have been the father of the present author. Charming man. As to owing it to ourselves, I have always pointed out that borrowing to buy tools and education makes sense; I borrowed the money for Zeke, my first computer. But borrowing to go on vacation or otherwise consume might not be so wise. As Colonel Crawley found in Vanity Fair...

SPACE INVADERS Where No Webcam Has Gone Before For astronomy buffs, taking pictures of planets, nebulae, and other deep-sky objects can be expensive. Astronomy cameras start at $1,500 and can reach $5,000. But there's a cheaper way to wish upon a star: tinkering with Webcams. Following instructions freely available on the Internet, enthusiasts have modified common $99 Webcams made by Logitech International (LOGI ) and Philips (PHG ) to capture surprisingly impressive images of planets and stars. Here's how it's done. Using Webcams with "charge-coupled device" (CCD) chips, which are especially sensitive to light, stargazers can simply remove the lens to shoot bright subjects such as the moon and nearby planets. More distant nebulae and galaxies require longer exposure times, and more fiddling. Do-it-yourselfers manually solder tiny circuits in the Webcam to block the signal that ends the exposure. Then they clean up the image with special software. Too much grunt work? Companies such as Melbourne (Fla.)-based SAC Imaging Systems and Portugal's Perseu sell already-modified Webcams to those less eager to do the handiwork themselves. SAC President William Snyder expects sales of his cameras, which sell for around $250 on average, to double this year to $500,000. Perseu reports similar numbers. Bigger players are catching on, too. Venerable Meade Instruments (MEAD ), a maker of high-end astronomy gear, will roll out a $299 CCD-based camera by October. "[It was] an untapped market," says Ken Baun, Meade's vice-president for engineering. Not quite the Hubble Space Telescope, but, at a couple billion dollars cheaper, it's quite a bargain.

By Susan Zegel

-- Richard F. Doherty, Research Director The Envisioneering Group


Dear Dr. Pournelle,

You've probably heard from a lot of folks by now concerning AT&T billing.

They've started billing for NOT using their long distance service. They hit me for about $8 for a couple of months before I found out what was going on and cancelled any connection I have with them.


Jim Young

That seems to be the case. $6 for NOT using their "service" and another $2 for "statement fees" for sending me the bill. I shall cancel Monday morning. Ye gods.

Years ago when AT&T tried to market PC's I said that if they bought Colonel Sanders they'd advertise hot dead chicken. I was wrong. It would have been "warm, dead, chicken."


You commented:

We are probably headed for a Dark Age: in a Dark Age, people forget that they ever knew things. We will forget that we ever could have solved the energy problem with fission plants fueled with the peace dividend of all that refined Uranium from superfluous atom bombs.

My pre-bedtime reading for the last couple of weeks has been Barzun's 'From Dawn To Decadence: 1500 to the Present'. Worth reading even though you're looking at 1,000+ very dense pages, and a coming upheaval is this central thesis of the book.


Dean Riddlebarger The Other One Consulting

That was my book of the Month and of the Year when it came out


Subject: An Age of Marvels....

I realize, Jerry, that for a number of people in your generation, that much mockery ensued in the impressionable days of their undergraduate engineering classes when they left their sliderules back at home.

And now, with the aid of a cheap computer, wireless access in campus halls, and a worldwide internet connection, no one need ever suffer the scorn of their engineering professors again! 

Truly, we live in an age of marvels!

Ken Burnside Ad Astra Games

I LOVE IT!  Thank you!


Subject: Tulia.

-- Roland Dobbins

After all that. Well, a day...


Stuck here in Oregon; would rather be off playing in the wreckage in Florida, where FEMA is now paying $18.88 for temporary 'community relations officers', plus food, lodging and air tickets in and out. Anyway, since I'm on line, I can answer your telecom question about the $8 ATT nothing charge.

ATT is 'PIC'-ed to those lines as the default Long Distance carrier, I will wager. ATT this year instituted a $8/month minimum on their default LD plan.

To stop this, tell SBC you want to change to another carrier, or none at all. If you pick another, you are subject to their terms and conditions and resulting billings. The best website I've seen for comparing LD carriers and all their flea-flickin' fees is 

There's one LD carrier for interstate LD, and another for intrastate LD. You might even have a third, for intra-LATA toll calls, but I don't think LA has this special feature.

Or, you can have SBC select no carrier at all. Then, SBC charges you (less) for the privilege of having no other company bill you for long distance service connectivity. That's what we do at our home, and if we need LD, we either use the cellphones which have free US LD, or use the Vonage line which has free US/Canada calling.

After making your choice, I'd suggest "PIC-locking" your lines, so you can't be assigned to another carrier without verifying the change with you first. This prevents 'slamming', which ATT and other carriers have done, whereby the LD carrier lies to your LEC and puts you on their service, then bills you.

I'd like to be a yellow-dog Libertarian, really, I would. But, without regulation, the corporate shysters nibble us to death with fine print and service fees.


At $30/mo for unlimited US/Canada calling out, Vonage can be a good deal, since you've already got broadband. Their feature set is very nice; they offer features which it doesn't cost them to add (or the ILEC, incumbent local exchange carrier, i.e., SBC) because the switch can do them all, anyway (and the software's written decades ago), things SBC will gleefully overcharge you (with profit margins exceeding 29,000%, in the case of voice mail), and things your LEC can't do at all.

If the network goes down, Vonage will redirect your inbound calls to any number you wish. They include E911 capability (so the 911 operator knows where you are) in the standard service (dependent on technical compatibility of their phone switch, somewhere in Jersey, with your E911 center).

I could blather on about the feature set, but I'd just suggest you look them over. I'm sure you'd find things you'd like which Vonage offers free or very inexpensively.

Vonage even have a $15/mo plan which gives 500 minutes/mo of free US/Canada calling. With Vonage and other VOIP (Packet8 is another good one) carriers, every outgoing call is metered on the el cheapo plan, so that 500 minutes include local calls we place. But, for $15/mo, it's still a deal. Inbound calls are not metered by any VOIP provider AFAIK, unless you pay for an INWATS (800, 866, 877, 888) toll-free inbound number.

The downside of VOIP is if the LAN or your broadband fails, you have no dial tone. However, as long as you have one wireline number in the house attached to your LEC, you still have a phone even if the Internet crashes, so I'd suggest keeping one, count it, one, line.

USENET's comp.dcom.telecom is a good place for more info on this, should you wish to learn more. The moderator there, Pat Townson, gets a month free on every referral to Vonage made, and since he's semi-retired and keeps comp.dcom.telecom a useful newsgroup by his moderation efforts, I'd hope if you choose Vonage that you'd let him officially refer you.


Oh, and here's more IE vulnerabilities:

Several vulnerabilities in IE (VU#526089, VU#490708, VU#413886) can be combined to download arbitrary code to vulnerable Windows systems. These vulnerabilities are publicly referred to as "hijackclick," "drag and drop," and "'whatadrag" and are exploited to install malicious code known as "Akak." When exploiting the "drag and drop" vulnerabilities, a malicious website entices the user to drag the scroll bar. During the "drag and drop," an image element is dragged to a window that references the Windows startup folder (shell:startup). The image element actually references an executable file that is copied to the startup folder. This file will be executed the next time that the user logs in. Public reports indicate that Akak functions as a proxy, installs a backdoor, and contacts a master server. It is important to note that any arbitrary executable file could be installed using this "drag and drop" technique. Sites that attempt to install Akak also exploit two previously patched IE vulnerabilities (VU#713878, VU#323070). The following documents describe these vulnerabilities in more detail:

VU#526089 <> - Internet Explorer treats arbitrary files as images

VU#490708 <> - Microsoft Internet Explorer window.createPopup() function fails to restrict chromeless windows

VU#413886 <> - Microsoft Internet Explorer allows mouse events to manipulate window objects (HijackclickV3, WinXP SP2 not affected)

VU#713878 <> - Microsoft Internet Explorer does not properly validate source of redirected frame (patched by MS04-025)

VU#323070 <> - Outlook Express MHTML protocol handler does not properly validate location of alternate data (patched by MS04-013)

-- John Bartley, K7AAY, tel. admin, PDX, views mine. Handheld Cellular Data FAQ rm -rf /bin/laden && newfs -m 99 /dev/iraq


The last part of this letter brought joy to my heart!

It is from the web site  With much love. Al hamudlillah.

David Couvillon

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


Today the Interim National Assembly held its first meeting. Several mortars fell near the place where the proceedings were taking place, some shaking the walls of the building. These explosions did not seem to bother those present in the slightest. For those who doubt the bravery and determination of the Iraqi people, just imagine this happening anywhere else. Would any other assembly in any other place just continue its work with such absolute calm and normalcy under similar circumstances?

Every Iraqi reporting to work every morning in broad daylight is challenging the vile criminals who are targeting the very daily life of ordinary citizen. Only in the last couple of days, a lady professor was assassinated in Mosul and the Dean of Anbar University Dr. Abdul Hadi Al-Heeti kidnapped from the front of his house as he was about to leave for work. The scum, who are perpetrating such a campaign of murder and terror against good people for no other reason than these latter wanting to go on with their daily lives, are being hailed by other scum abroad, especially from among the Arabs, as being “legitimate resistance fighters”.

The majority of the Iraqi people are being targeted as a punishment for their acceptance and support for this new project of freedom and liberation. There are reports, though, especially from some provinces in the South ( Diwaniya, Kut and Samawa for example) that the ordinary people are starting to strike back and that in some areas the criminals are being hounded and are cowering and begging for mercy and even returning some of the loot which they have previously stolen.

Sooner or later it will be the Iraqi people themselves who are going to cleanup their house.



Subject: Intelligence

I've been at a workshop on neural computation and psychology in Plymouth. There was a paper of particular interest by Jonathan Evans on thinking and reasoning. He discussed recent evidence for a dual process theory of reasoning, where symbolic rule-based reasoning reflects operation of a slow, serial, analytic system, and associative and highly contextualized reasoning processes are associated with a distinct, fast, highly parallel, and evolutionarily prior heuristic system. Heuristic reasoning appears to the primary mode, and only individuals of high cognitive ability have much facility with the analytical system.

General intelligence seems to be a measure of the performance of the analytic system, not the heuristic system.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior.


Well we know that "g" exists as well as a number of special factors. But it is not PC to study this.


Dr Pournelle,

On airport security.

I’ve just returned for a week-long aerial journey around much of north-western Europe, and have been reminded once more of what I had never really forgotten.

Along with every other European I have ever discussed this with, I considered the so-called airport security that operated in the United States before 9/11 to have been weak and ineffective to the point of pointlessness. Please understand, I am not talking here with the benefit of hindsight. This had been a common source of wonderment , head-shaking and discussion among European travellers in America long before 9/11; certainly at least one decade before 9/11 the topic came up regularly, because in Europe (with certain weak exceptions such as Greece) the matter was taken seriously while it was clear from simple observation that it was not in the US.

Immediately following 9/11, the general response among us Europeans who had travelled in the States was, firstly, considering the pathetic apology for security at airports there, 9/11 or something like it was a disaster that could almost have been predicted. Secondly, the universal assumption was that American airports are going to have to take security seriously, at last.

Well, of course they have, in the shape of the TSA. But now they seem to have gone about as far too far the other way. Instead of effectively no security at US airports, now you can hardly move for it. Meanwhile, Europe has of course tightened up since 9/11. Even Greece has been brought in line, thanks in good part to the Olympic Games I suppose. But even at the busiest European airports, such as Heathrow, Frankfurt or Charles de Gaulle, which have as many passengers as the busiest US airports, passengers are not faced with the interminable delays and intrusive questioning (unless justified) that you, and I, and others, experience now in the home of the brave and the land of the free.

Well, Now you’ve had your national over-reaction in terms of airport security to 9/11, don’t you think the long term answer is to devise a middle way?

Jim Mangles

If the goal is to prevent airplanes from being taken over and used as cruise missiles, what we had before 9/11 was perfectly adequate. You can't take over a plane with a box cutter unless the passengers allow it, and while you can murder a few people you won't survive unless the passengers have been told they will be jailed if they resist the takeover. Change the rules of engagement and get rid of TSA.

If the goal to to prevent suicide bombers from bringing down an airplane, neither we nor Europe has the answer. Anyone determined to do it can manage it. I won't supply details.

A middle way? We sort of had it before 9/11, and creating government jobs for people who can't manage a MacDonalds isn't an improvement.


Subj: Kwajalein inappropriate for NASA Dinosaur Farm?

Ye wouldna desecrate the Reagan Test Site, would ye, laddie? 8-(  Reagan Test Site

Tho' 'tis true the Gipper would nae begrudge the sacrifice, if there's nae other way.



By Col. William Campenni The Washington Times | August 25, 2004

George Bush and I were lieutenants and pilots in the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron (FIS), Texas Air National Guard (ANG) from 1970 to 1971. We had the same flight and squadron commanders (Maj. William Harris and Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, both now deceased). While we were not part of the same social circle outside the base, we were in the same fraternity of fighter pilots, and proudly wore the same squadron patch.

It is quite frustrating to hear the daily cacophony from the left and Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, et al., about Lt. Bush escaping his military responsibilities by hiding in the Texas ANG. In the Air Guard during the Vietnam War, you were always subject to call-up, as many Air National Guardsmen are finding out today. If the 111th FIS and Lt. Bush did not go to Vietnam, blame President Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, not lowly Lt. Bush. They deliberately avoided use of the Guard and Reserves for domestic political calculations, knowing that a draftee only stirred up the concerns of one family, while a call-up got a whole community's attention.

The mission of the 147th Fighter Group and its subordinate 111th FIS, Texas ANG, and the airplane it possessed, the F-102, was air defense. It was focused on defending the continental United States from Soviet nuclear bombers. The F-102 could not drop bombs and would have been useless in Vietnam. A pilot program using ANG volunteer pilots in F-102s (called Palace Alert) was scrapped quickly after the airplane proved to be unsuitable to the war effort. Ironically, Lt. Bush did inquire about this program but was advised by an ANG supervisor (Maj. Maurice Udell, retired) that he did not have the desired experience (500 hours) at the time and that the program was winding down and not accepting more volunteers.

If you check the 111th FIS records of 1970-72 and any other ANG squadron, you will find other pilots excused for career obligations and conflicts. The Bush excusal in 1972 was further facilitated by a change in the unit's mission, from an operational fighter squadron to a training squadron with a new airplane, the F-101, which required that more pilots be available for full-time instructor duty rather than part-time traditional reservists with outside employment.

The winding down of the Vietnam War in 1971 provided a flood of exiting active-duty pilots for these instructor jobs, making part-timers like Lt. Bush and me somewhat superfluous. There was a huge glut of pilots in the Air Force in 1972, and with no cockpits available to put them in, many were shoved into nonflying desk jobs. Any pilot could have left the Air Force or the Air Guard with ease after 1972 before his commitment was up because there just wasn't room for all of them anymore.

Sadly, few of today's partisan pundits know anything about the environment of service in the Reserves in the 1970s. The image of a reservist at that time is of one who joined, went off for six months' basic training, then came back and drilled weekly or monthly at home, with two weeks of "summer camp." With the knowledge that Mr. Johnson and Mr. McNamara were not going to call out the Reserves, it did become a place of refuge for many wanting to avoid Vietnam.

There was one big exception to this abusive use of the Guard to avoid the draft, and that was for those who wanted to fly, as pilots or crew members. Because of the training required, signing up for this duty meant up to 2½ years of active duty for training alone, plus a high probability of mobilization. A fighter-pilot candidate selected by the Guard (such as Lt. Bush and me) would be spending the next two years on active duty going through basic training (six weeks), flight training (one year), survival training (two weeks) and combat crew training for his aircraft (six to nine months), followed by local checkout (up to three more months) before he was even deemed combat-ready. Because the draft was just two years, you sure weren't getting out of duty being an Air Guard pilot. If the unit to which you were going back was an F-100, you were mobilized for Vietnam. Avoiding service? Yeah, tell that to those guys.

The Bush critics do not comprehend the dangers of fighter aviation at any time or place, in Vietnam or at home, when they say other such pilots were risking their lives or even dying while Lt. Bush was in Texas. Our Texas ANG unit lost several planes right there in Houston during Lt. Bush's tenure, with fatalities. Just strapping on one of those obsolescing F-102s was risking one's life.

Critics such as Mr. Kerry (who served in Vietnam, you know), Terry McAuliffe and Michael Moore (neither of whom served anywhere) say Lt. Bush abandoned his assignment as a jet fighter pilot without explanation or authorization and was AWOL from the Alabama Air Guard.

Well, as for abandoning his assignment, this is untrue. Lt. Bush was excused for a period to take employment in Florida for a congressman and later in Alabama for a Senate campaign.

Excusals for employment were common then and are now in the Air Guard, as pilots frequently are in career transitions, and most commanders (as I later was) are flexible in letting their charges take care of career affairs until they return or transfer to another unit near their new employment. Sometimes they will transfer temporarily to another unit to keep them on the active list until they can return home. The receiving unit often has little use for a transitory member, especially in a high-skills category like a pilot, because those slots usually are filled and, if not filled, would require extensive conversion training of up to six months, an unlikely option for a temporary hire.

As a commander, I would put such "visitors" in some minor administrative post until they went back home. There even were a few instances when I was unaware that they were on my roster because the paperwork often lagged. Today, I can't even recall their names. If a Lt. Bush came into my unit to "pull drills" for a couple of months, I wouldn't be too involved with him because I would have a lot more important things on my table keeping the unit combat ready.

Another frequent charge is that, as a member of the Texas ANG, Lt. Bush twice ignored or disobeyed lawful orders, first by refusing to report for a required physical in the year when drug testing first became part of the exam, and second by failing to report for duty at the disciplinary unit in Colorado to which he had been ordered. Well, here are the facts:

First, there is no instance of Lt. Bush disobeying lawful orders in reporting for a physical, as none would be given. Pilots are scheduled for their annual flight physicals in their birth month during that month's weekend drill assembly — the only time the clinic is open. In the Reserves, it is not uncommon to miss this deadline by a month or so for a variety of reasons: The clinic is closed that month for special training; the individual is out of town on civilian business; etc.

If so, the pilot is grounded temporarily until he completes the physical. Also, the formal drug testing program was not instituted by the Air Force until the 1980s and is done randomly by lot, not as a special part of a flight physical, when one easily could abstain from drug use because of its date certain. Blood work is done, but to ensure a healthy pilot, not confront a drug user.

Second, there was no such thing as a "disciplinary unit in Colorado" to which Lt. Bush had been ordered. The Air Reserve Personnel Center in Denver is a repository of the paperwork for those no longer assigned to a specific unit, such as retirees and transferees. Mine is there now, so I guess I'm "being disciplined." These "disciplinary units" just don't exist. Any discipline, if required, is handled within the local squadron, group or wing, administratively or judicially. Had there been such an infraction or court-martial action, there would be a record and a reflection in Lt. Bush's performance review and personnel folder. None exists, as was confirmed in The Washington Post in 2000.

Finally, the Kerrys, Moores and McAuliffes are casting a terrible slander on those who served in the Guard, then and now. My Guard career parallels Lt. Bush's, except that I stayed on for 33 years. As a guardsman, I even got to serve in two campaigns. In the Cold War, the air defense of the United States was borne primarily by the Air National Guard, by such people as Lt. Bush and me and a lot of others. Six of those with whom I served in those years never made their 30th birthdays because they died in crashes flying air-defense missions.

While most of America was sleeping and Mr. Kerry was playing antiwar games with Hanoi Jane Fonda, we were answering 3 a.m. scrambles for who knows what inbound threat over the Canadian subarctic, the cold North Atlantic and the shark-filled Gulf of Mexico. We were the pathfinders in showing that the Guard and Reserves could become reliable members of the first team in the total force, so proudly evidenced today in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It didn't happen by accident. It happened because back at the nadir of Guard fortunes in the early '70s, a lot of volunteer guardsman showed they were ready and able to accept the responsibilities of soldier and citizen — then and now. Lt. Bush was a kid whose congressman father encouraged him to serve in the Air National Guard. We served proudly in the Guard. Would that Mr. Kerry encourage his children and the children of his colleague senators and congressmen to serve now in the Guard.

In the fighter-pilot world, we have a phrase we use when things are starting to get out of hand and it's time to stop and reset before disaster strikes. We say, "Knock it off." So, Mr. Kerry and your friends who want to slander the Guard: Knock it off.


U.S. Air Force/Air National Guard Herndon, Va.5

================= Wm E Haynes Aerospace Systems Analyst

I don't find the military service of either candidate very relevant, but Bill Clinton made no secret of working his ticket, and was considered fit to be President.


I do not dare comment on this next one:

Subject: NIMH Lobbying Effort-

I have to say, funding research that looks at what college students hang on their dorm walls seems a little off-the-wall to me, and a waste of money.

This announcement came to an adolescent medicine list I am on.


The House of Representatives began debate on Wednesday morning (September 8) on H.R. 5006, the FY 2005 Labor/HHS/Education Appropriations bill. The House is scheduled to complete work on Thursday. There are several amendments of concern that may be offered. These include:

Two possible NIH amendments by Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) - that are summarized below:

1) Prohibits the National Institute of Mental Health at NIH from further funding a grant studying "what makes a meaningful day?" for college students. The amendment would not cut any funding to NIMH; it would simply prevent the Institute from funding this grant and free up any funds that would otherwise go to this grant for other mental health grants.

RATIONALE FOR URGING CONGRESS TO VOTE NO: - Research Relevance: The proposed study of the importance of daily goals in life incorporates journal writing as a way to examine the role of autobiographical memory, personality, and well-being.

The proposed study has relevance to the prevention of mental disorders as writing about stressful events or traumatic experiences may improve mental health and well-being and may prevent the onset of depression.

Understanding the use of goal setting as a treatment for those with mental or emotional disorders, combined with the importance of highlighting positive memories in cognitive behavioral therapy, is important to furthering treatment development.

2) Prohibits the National Institute of Mental Health at NIH from further funding a grant studying dorm room wall decorations and college students' Web pages. The amendment would not cut any funding to NIMH; it would simply prevent the Institute from funding this grant and free up any funds that would otherwise go to this grant for other mental health grants.

RATIONALE FOR URGING CONGRESS TO VOTE NO: Research Relevance - Assessing the physical and virtual environments that individuals choose for themselves may convey whether that individual is suffering from depression or other psychological disorders. Information could assist in developing effective suicide prevention programs.

The environments that children and young adults surround themselves with can tell us a lot about their mental state and if they are suffering from or are more vulnerable to emotional disturbance or mental disorders;

NIMH has concluded its support for this one-year basic research project.

A possible amendment by Representative Melissa Hart (R-PA): Rep. Hart may offer an amendment to block access to emergency contraception (birth control pills) at school-based health centers. In 2001 Rep. Hart offered a similar amendment.

RATIONALE FOR URGING CONGRESS TO VOTE NO: If offered, this amendment would restrict access to an FDA-approved method of pregnancy prevention. It is contrary to efforts to reducing rates of teen pregnancy and abortion, would jeopardize the health of low-income teens, and overrides the FDA's determination that emergency contraception is a safe and effective method of pregnancy prevention.


But if I were to comment it would be that perhaps we ought to abolish the NIMH entirely.


To: Jerry Pournelle Subject: in the interest of truth

I liked this...a bunch

Mark Huth

Doc, you have a weird sense of humor...

But maybe not as weird as this:


Don't miss this one: 

Poncho-man! As the website says, with soldiers like this, we can't lose.



Feeling safer already?


The Experimental Aircraft Association is urging its members and all aviation enthusiasts to contact their Congressional representatives and strongly oppose a newly introduced bill by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.)

This bill (H.R. 5035) would require the Department of Homeland Security to create a method of screening all passengers and property on each flight of all passenger aircraft in the U.S., including general aviation aircraft of all types. It would also prohibit non-airline aircraft from flying within 1,500 feet of any structure or building, and prohibit non-airline aircraft from flying over any U.S. city with a population of 1 million or more. It would further require that pilots of all aircraft in U.S. airspace remain in contact with the Federal Aviation Administration, presumably by radio, regardless of altitude or location.

"The extreme shortsightedness of this bill speaks for itself and completely counters the government's own security experts, who have continually stated that general aviation does not pose a significant security threat to the U.S.," said Doug Macnair, EAA's Vice President of Government Relations. "It's sad that the solemn anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks is being used to introduce this bill, which does nothing to enhance security and smacks of election-year grandstanding."

With 17,000 landing facilities and nearly 200,000 aircraft in the United States, EAA maintains that it is inconceivable that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FAA could ever fund and administer such a plan. DHS and the Transportation Security Administration have repeatedly indicated that general aviation does not warrant such levels of security when compared to other transportation modes and threats.

"We as a nation need to focus our limited resources on the most serious vulnerabilities and threats to our security," Macnair added. "TSA has made extensive studies of those threats and nowhere has that agency ever suggested such draconian measures as those proposed in this bill."

EAA members and others can express their opposition to this bill to their congressional representatives by finding their contact information at EAA immediately contacted members of the House Aviation Subcommittee to state its extreme opposition to this legislation.

For additional information please go to the EAA website at .



The Chinese are aiming at replicating success:  (2004-09-10)


Anyone who believes the Chinese are stupid, or are not a formidable threat, should retire to a monastery.





CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, September 12, 2004

Subject: What garbage.

Not a critical thinker amongst them:

---- Roland Dobbins

I haven't read it, and I probably won't. Norman is usually a little saner about such matters. He's an old friend, anyway.


Dr Pournelle,

Apropos Dr Erwin's comments on Jonathan Evans' work on thinking and reasoning, it appears that this research is repeating much of the research done in the 80s and 90s, without apparent awareness of the existence of this work. In particular, Prof Rasmussen's work on task errors produced a multi-level model of decision making (J Rasmussen, "Mental models and the control of actions in complex environments", "Mental Models and Human-Computer Interaction", 1, New York, North-Holland, 1990); this model distinguished between Knowledge (Symbolic), Rule and Skill-based decision making, each with its characteristic behaviours.

In addition, Dr Klein's analyses of expert decision making under stress identified various techniques used by decision makers depending on task expertise, task complexity and time pressure (G A Klein, "Recognition-primed decisions", "Advances in Man-Machine Systems Research", 5, Greenwich CT, JAI Press, 1989). Finally, research on aircrew for the UK Defence Research Agency resulted in the development of a normative decision model with a three-level decision hierarchy, which ranged from symbolic reasoning to learned reflex (P D Morgan, "Simulation of an Adaptive Behavior Mechanism in an Expert Decision Maker", IEEE Trans SMC, 25, 1 1993).

These studies, plus a large body of related work by Minsky and others, indicated ways of relating functional intelligence to operator interaction with a complex and variable environment.

On another tack, when can we expect more about the Moties?


Peter D Morgan

La Royaute


On Brains IN England

Fairly accurate story, and is not restricted to chemistry. All the hard sciences, math, and engineering are affected. The situation has arisen from a number of intersecting causes, but mostly because the UK government believes in central planning: 1. Students are interested in maximizing their 'A-level' marks, which are needed to enter university, and the difficulty of the exams varies quite a bit. Math and science exams are particularly hard, and psychology is easy. This limits the number of applicants to hard-science/engineering/math courses. (And we've found that students lacking good math and science marks are unable to handle those courses. This year, the number applying was down so far that the admin told us to take anyone. The faculty then dug in their heels about maintaining standards.) 2. Students specialize at 16 on two or three subjects in secondary school, so they don't have a broad educational foundation needed for them to shift fields at university entry or later. Additionally, English university courses are very narrow (no breadth requirements) and short (three years), and post-graduate coursework only goes about a year beyond graduation, so English university graduates are rare in interdisciplinary fields. The 'Mandarin-style' emphasis on success in exams seems to burn students out by the time I see them. Finally, most professional fields have little or no continuing education requirement, which reduces the demand for post-graduate teaching. 3. The Government target is 50% post-secondary participation, and hard-science/engineering courses cost more, so the Government underfunds them, discouraging universities from even trying to offer them. (Current post-secondary participation is about 35% in England and 50% in Scotland, despite the English courses lasting three years and the Scottish four. Scottish graduates have a better reputation, as good or better than US graduates.) 4. Similar policies have been applied to post-graduate research degrees (3-year PhDs), and foreign universities have figured it out, so UK PhDs are now regarded as equivalent to a good international masters in making hiring decisions. Basically, they're regarded as unqualified to teach at a university level outside their narrow research specialties.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." (Catherine Aird)





Entire Site Copyright, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

birdline.gif (1428 bytes)