CHAOS MANOR MAIL
Mail 354 March 21 - 27, 2005
FOR THE CURRENT VIEW PAGE CLICK HERE
Highlights this week:
March 21, 2005
Hail the Vernal Equinox
Note that there was considerable discussion in MAIL over the weekend.
For days I have been wrestling with the question you (and Bill Gates) posed about changing high schools. I have had some spirited debates with my spouse who was arguably much better educated than I was in high school. He is five years older and grew up on the West Coast in Orange County, while I grew up outside of Syracuse, NY.
He studied among other things, the history of California. I studied the history of NY. He knows about the Erie Canal. I know about the Gold Rush.
We both hold high school diplomas.
This leads me to the following thoughts. Before we can have a discussion about how to change high school, we have to decide what is important for students to learn during those years. What should be the goal of public eduation? In a very inept way, I think this is part of what No Child Left Behind is suppose to address.
The variables to consider in the case of public education are enormous. Can we have a one-size fits all education system? Some people argue yes, but fail to remember, for example, that schools are filled with special needs children these days who a couple of generations ago were either in special schools, at home, or institutionalized.
The impact of special interest groups on the educational system is enormous.
Here in New Jersey, a school district decided not to close next year for the Jewish holidays. There was an enormous outcry from the Jewish community in the district, followed by calls from the Muslim community to close in recognition of their holidays, and a request to close for Asian New Year and the Indian celebration of Dawali! The Christians, these other groups note, get vacation time for Christmas and Easter.
Then there are the curriculum issues. Do you know that in the State of NY, for example, studying the potato famine is required because a group of Irish constituents leaned on legislators to pass such a regulation? Again, here in NJ, health curriculums mandate the study of suicide, cutting behavior, and sex education in the 7th and 8th grades whether kids are emotionally ready or not.
My biggest challenge as a teacher, and now a homeschooling mom, is history. There's so much of it. How does one pick and choose what is important? And whose history do we teach? The Holocaust is undoubtedly a dark chapter in human history, but not the only incidence of genocide on a large scale. So then, should we teach about the concept of genocide and cite examples, or should we teach exclusively about the Holocaust leaving the impression among high school students that that was something that happened in the past and happens no longer?
We can't possibly teach children every piece of history. As my ten-year old pointed out the other day, "We make history everyday mom, how can I learn it all?"
For her, a lot of history is being taught through art. She loves to draw. We have learned that a lot of what society knows about the history of mirrors was learned through examining artwork, for example. Right now we are reading a new book titled Chasing Vermeer. We have spent time learning about Delft, Vermeer, and Vermeer's artwork. The book also has a character who loves pentominoes, so we have been playing with those too as we read the book. Actually, I have never read such an interactive piece of fiction! We have had to decode messages. We have puzzled out rectangles with the pentominoes, and we are trying to discover the hidden messages in the illustrations. This book is packed with learning!
But I digress.
Questions about how to teach math and science have also plagued educators. I have always hated the fact that we separate areas of study as if we never need math in science, or have to read in math. And, as soon as educators label something Science or Math, it gets the kiss of death. Do you think a kid would mess around with pentominoes if he or she thought it was Math?
But truly the biggest problem in schools today is not learning, but socialization. In the absence of a focus on and a desire for learning, kids have been allowed to create subcultures that are quite harmful. For example, a recent incident at a high school in Maryland found one girl piercing the tongues of two other girls with a nail (as in hammer and nail), in a school bathroom, during the day. There was apparently blood everywhere (caught red-handed!) and the school district is in a quandary about how to discipline these students.
While as a society we have closed institutions for the psychiatrically ill and for those with disabling conditions, we have chosen to build bigger schools; schools that are more impersonal, harder to monitor, and allow students to run the place. Where's the learning curve?
As this email progresses, I have yet to even address issues like teacher certification, poverty, language barriers, harassment, and bullying. And then there is entertainment. Kids have so much to entertain themselves with that dealing with a human being seems boring. When I teach I often talk to students about their multi-tasking behaviors. They are so used to sitting in front of a TV while computing, talking on the phone, eating, you name it, that they have not learned the skills of interpersonal communication. I tell my students that I am not a television and I get offended when they talk while I am talking, something the TV never complains about, I'm sure!
Personally, as I watch all the college-educated managers lose their jobs around here, I believe my children will be best served by having manual skills along with their college education. If they can learn to cut hair, groom animals, lay bricks, whatever, they will always have a skill they can use to put food on the table.
Day after day our society feels as though it is in a freefall and I, for one, have no idea where we will land. Our kids are a mess because they are essentially warehoused all day, sometimes starting at the age of 6 weeks, while parents make money to own that Mercedes or McMansion.
And, like you, I don't believe more money is the answer. The Princeton Regional Schools System is one of the wealthiest in this state. The teachers are among the highest paid for the 180 days they are in the classroom. The system is a disaster, and the teachers openly admit that they can't reach all the children.
Our society is adrift in so many ways.
Thanks for opening this conversation on education.
Sue Ferrara, PhD
I would say the one certainty is that a local school board has a chance of perceiving priorities in a proper manner; while the chances of getting priorities straight through creation of huge regional, state, or national school boards approaches nil. And see below
I read with interest your correspondents loathing of Visual Basic. I am fairly convinced that VB was one of the reasons that Windows became the 'de facto' environment for a lot of businesses, instead of the Mac, or some *ix system.
The ability for a small to medium sized business to create a stand alone application just can't be underestimated.
I've been an IT Professional now for over 10 years, and I've seen appalling code written in VB, and in "Office" macros. However I've also seen some well structured and maintained code written in VB.
Given a dedicated programming team, with experience, then VB may not be the language of choice, its not "cool". However there is a lot of industries where computer experience is not part of the job, its just a tool.
I'm aware of quite a few Visual Basic 3 applications, still in daily use by large companies, as they solve the problem. They still work on Windows 3.1, but also work without problem on XP SP2 and Windows Server 2003. Pretty impressive.
I've been involved in the deployment of Java based applications in the last two years, and I'm amazed that this great language is completely hamstrung by the need to run pseudo interpreted. The only way to get the benefit of more than one processor is to run duplicate copies of an application. Client side Java applications are not able to use OS conventions and thus end up with annoyed users.
Microsoft should have ported VB6 to the Mac and Linux, they would have made a lot of money...
James Chamier Hampshire, UK
We are in substantial agreement.
your point is well taken, and I'm sorry I didn't address it earlier. The Florida Supreme Court found that the Governor's legislative attempt (Terry's Law) was in violation of the FLORIDA constitution, not the US Constitution, so it has always been a state issue. I'm linking to the decision.
But that too is an interpretation matter: unless the Florida Constitution explicitly allows its courts a sovereignty that most state courts do not have --
That is, although we in the US are accustomed to take Marbury vs. Madison as settled law, it was not so prior to the Civil War, and is largely validated by conquest. Not trusting to such, the Reconstruction Congress put Congressional right to enforcement of the Reconstruction Amendments in the Amendments themselves.
It is not a settled matter that state courts have any right to declare state laws invalid. Moreover, if the Florida legislature decided to impeach the judge on that matter, it would be within its power. Legislative supremacy is the usual presumption of democratic states; the "checks and balances" of the US Constitution are in part accepted because of the Federal, i.e. confederate, nature of the Union, which was a union of sovereign states.
In that sense it remains a state matter, and perhaps it should remain so, but I do not see this as quite so cut and dried as you do. On the other hand, we are in agreement that this ought to be a state, not a Federal matter. I do believe, though, that while the Congressional ploy of subpoenaing Terri was an odd and overly legalistic use of the Federal power of Inquisition, it was technically legal, and the House would be within its rights to send a Sergeant at Arms to arrest the judge for contempt and throw him into the District of Columbia jail for the duration of this Congress (but no longer). It is a seldom used power that arose again in Reconstruction, but it is a power held by each of the Houses. The Congress is the Grand Inquest of the Nation, and part of that power is the power to protect the objects of its inquisitions. A novel use of the power in the case of a person incapacitated, but not unprecedented as a means of providing Federal protection to witnesses and potential witnesses. I had more to say on that in View last week.
I can't resist adding one more reference, which says about what I have been saying:
Subject: Prosecuting the torturers.
-- Roland Dobbins
Excerpt: Where does it say, under Florida law, that a judge has the power to authorize the commission of felony violations of the law? A judge manifestly had no power to tell Michael Schiavo and the hospice that they could feel free to shoot or hang or over-medicate Terri to death. Why in the world do we think he had the cognate power to permit a torture?
I find that question compelling. If there is no right to order death by shooting or hanging, how is there a right to order death by thirst?
*YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK ON THE DAY AFTER ST. PATRICK'S DAY:* Zach, heading out of town, pages from the airport: "The security lines are the longest I have ever seen. The reason: most of the agents called in sick. The real reason: they are all hung over."
Don't know if this is true but seems reasonable to me !
No data, but don't we all feel safer?
And on that score,
Subject: Groundhog Day.
-- Roland Dobbins
It is a very sad thing that nowadays there is so little useless information.
-- Oscar Wilde
Imagine you're a schoolteacher in, say, 1959. A time traveler from 2005 arrives, and is questioned about the future. In the conversation, the following is learned:
In 2005, an object about the size of a paperback book can be made, for each child, for the cost-to-manufacture of about 18 loaves of bread. This object can be hooked to another costing each school district the equivalent of about 100 loaves of bread, and a selection of any of about 50,000 classic books of science and literature from the Greeks throughout history up to about 1920, absolutely free, including Melville, Dickens, Twain, Swift, Rousseau, Voltaire, all versions of the Bible in any language you wish - in short every child could have an inexpensive object to carry with them anywhere, which could contain within it basically ALL OF THE WORLD'S LITERATURE. It would be portable, as easy on the human eye as a book, and could survive most casual accidents, and bumps, short of being thrown off a building, being forcibly held underwater,or burned... And it could probably be powered by the sun, a rechargable battery, or both.
The 1959 schoolteacher might say that truly 2005 must be a Utopia, with every child able to have such a thing to use. Then the teacher is informed that, well, they tried it and it's not very popular and the kids wouldn't read that "stuff" anyway, and it might take away from the profits of the large entertainment industries, and that, well, nobody really makes anything like this anymore in 2005.
And that accredited institutions could write textbooks for various projects like this, referred to as "open source," and schools could use essentially free textbooks. But that isn't done because of the pulp and paper lobbies and big textbook corporations.
Oh, there are devices that COULD do this, but they cost about 10 times as much, they aren't really promoted for that use, they are really kind of fragile, and, well, they really aren't made for reading text, anyway. See, there's not really much of an interest in that sort of thing. And only the fairly well-off kids can afford them. But they don't want them. Nobody is really interested at all.
The teacher from 1959 would be heartbroken.
As sometimes I am too.
Project Gutenberg. http://www.gutenberg.org/
Well, let's see. Google "price loaf bread" and find bread offered at $2.25/loaf, so $45 or so for the reader, and $225 for the server that connects to the Internet and brings in the books. Specification was "manufacturing cost" and this doesn't seem out of line, although I am not sure what device I could actually buy now for $50 that would do the job. Still, if we set out as a goal to provide such for every child, we could probably do it.
Population of US is about 300 million (it was 140 million when I was in 7th grade civics and required to learn it), and about 25% will be under age 18 or school age, so 75 million units needed, or about $3.9 billion. The Department of Education budget is something about $50 billion a year. My guess is that actually providing everyone under age 18 with a device like this, connected wirelessly to servers, would be under $10 billion at most including an endowment to keep it operating -- and that it would do more good than the entire Department of Education. Say as good as half of it. Thus saving $25 billion a year, year after year, and providing education opportunity to anyone who tants it; making home schooling possible; etc. etc.
Of course home schoolers have this capability available more or less now. And see below
Jerry - if you're like me it's likely that you have needed this web site at least once or twice in your life. Frank da Cruz, from Columbia University in New York, has written what he calls Frank's Compulsive Guide To Postal Addresses.
What this does is tell you the proper way of writing the postal address for every country in the world. And boy, are there ever a lot of variations.
Not only is this guide exhaustive and engrossing, it's actually downright entertaining, with asides and jokes scattered throughout, and even items of historical interest. Trust me, if you're the least bit curious you'll lose at least three quarters of an hour here.
Barry Rueger http://www.threesquirrels.com
|This week:||Tuesday, March
From: Stephen M. St. Onge
Ready to become a cyborg? The Guardian says that NTT claims to have developed a technology to sent 2 Mbps through your skin. http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/biz/archives/2005/03/20/2003247076
Put your MP3 player in your pocket, and it transmits through your skin to your headphones. Touch your camera with one hand, your PC with another, and download pictures. Shake hands, and exchange electronic business cards.
As for the possibilities for cracking systems, I shudder to think ("Your Palm picked up a virus when you stood in that crowded elevator this morning, and when you touched your computer, it transferred.")
And as the last paragraph says:
"An intriguing possibility is that the technology will be used as a sort of secondary nervous system to link large numbers of tiny implanted components placed beneath the skin to create powerful onboard -- or in-body -- computers."
Pardon me while I go paranoid, please.
DELENDAM ESSE SAUDI ARABIA!
And we thought wearable computers were an innovation.
From: Stephen M. St. Onge Subject:
Henry Vanderbilt notes (http://www.jerrypournelle.com/mail/mail352.html#Thursday) " . . . the T-Space consortium (we both know a lot of the participants) doesn't expect to get a contract from NASA to build new Lunar exploration vehicles. Not because they couldn't build a serviceable spacecraft, but because they couldn't possibly keep up with the paperwork requirements. . . . NASA has gotten into the habit of paying for process, not results"
Yes, one of the recurring themes of life. Most of the public fool system story can be written around the theme of paying for process and ignoring results. And when reading Temple Grandin's book _Animals in Translation_, Ms. Grandin tells of her continual struggle to prevent the sabotoge of her ten point checklist to insure that slaughter houses are humane. It consists of five problems that can't occur more than a certain percentage of the time, and five abuses that can never occur at all. She says the bureacrats continually try to replace it with controls on input, and hundred point checklists, despite the fact that such lists are proven to work far less well than her's.
So it goes.
DELENDAM ESSE SAUDI ARABIA!
And on a less humorous note, The two prototype contracts will most likely go to the two established Big Aerospace consortiums, who have decades of practice handling all the paperwork to NASA spec. As for the chances of their building practical affordable spacecraft, alas, , and modern Big Aerospace is very good at delivering exactly what the customer is actually paying for...
March 23, 2005
But you see there are these rules, and rules are rules, and the purpose of the USA is to have rules. And those people might be terrorists you know and we would have to evacuate the airport. Ordnung!
But we were born free.
Perhaps the TSA has serious rivals, though:
I just got back from four days in London. We did a play, bought some books, and took five of the guided walks <http://www.walks.co.uk/>. We've been doing this for three years now, and they're a wonderful way of exploring London. This time we:
1. Visited Greenwich by river. Saw the Cutty Sark, visited the Naval Hospital with the Painted Room and the Queen's House with the Admiralty paintings.
2. Visited Southwark by river. Saw the various theatre locations and visited the Globe reconstruction. Walked back by London's wobbly bridge.
3. Visited Westminster by night. Got some incredible pictures and visited a night session of the House of Commons.
4. Walked from the City of London to Cambridgeshire. The Bishop of Ely holds land in the diamond district that is legally part of Cambridgeshire. It is very well policed, and popular with diamond merchants.
5. Visited a number of Christopher Wren churches and ended up in the crypt of St. Paul's.
Interesting article in a recent New Scientist (5 March) on teenagers. Barry Bogin <http://www.umd.umich.edu/casl/behsci/anthro/BoginCV/> suggests that girls actually transition from childhood to adulthood during their growth spurt, about six years before they reach full fertility. During the intervening period, they are (low status) adults practising social, sexual, and cultural activities associated with adulthood and preparing to raise children. On the other hand, boys go through an intermediate stage starting at 13 or 14 when they begin producing viable sperm and during which they continue to look like boys until their final change of appearance at 17 or 18. During that phase, they function as subordinate males, practicing male rivalries and establishing coalitions without being a threat to adult men or being attractive to adult women. It could clarify some of the weirder sexual behavior patterns seen in our species.
-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing,
University of Sunderland.
Subject: Destroy 80,000 homes per year
Call to demolish polluting homes
Eighty-thousand houses need to be demolished yearly for the next decade if the UK is to meet its climate change commitments, research suggests.
And so it begins. Sorry Mrs. Richards. We know you and your husband built this house just after the Big War, but quite frankly it's about as energy efficient as a toaster; which reminds me, that has to be tossed too. Eat your bread untoasted, every bit of saved energy helps the planet!
And for what? A possible drop in global temperature of 1° C? Possible, but not likely because the oceans are retaining the increasing heat, assuming there is any which hasn't been truly proven either. The entire thing would be ludicrous if it weren't going to cost so much. Of course, the U.S. will get the blame if nothing changes the "alarming rise in global temperatures."
Subject: A Morsel of Goat Meat.
--- Roland Dobbins
Do not read this if you don't want to break your heart.
Subject: Stalin's Little Helper.
--- Roland Dobbins
Anyone who would do a typical Stalinist hatchet job on Marilyn Monroe after shopping her to the President would do just about anything.
After reading Russ Newsom's note to you, and your response to it, I have to say....
I WANT ONE
Sorry for shouting, but such a device ought to have a larger market than just kids who are in school. Although I don't think anything can ever replace the feel of a real paper book in your hands (or at least something equivalent, with pages and a cover) I think such a device would be substantially useful for a variety of purposes.
The e-books which came out a few years ago were too expensive and too clunky, and (IIRC) required a subscription to a service in order for you to use them.
What I want is a device which will display about half of a letter-sized page at 1:1 with reasonable contrast. It need not be color; grayscale will do. It should be able to store about 3-5 books in an unencrypted, publicly usable format (Adobe's PDF would not be bad). Perhaps a plug-in module of some kind would do for allowing people to download and read copyrighted novels and books, which would have to be encrypted to reduce piracy, but it would not be the primary thrust of the device.
Make works that are in the public domain available on a server for free download, or maybe a buck or two apiece, a la iTunes.
As a nascent novelist myself, I'd love to have a device like this. I'd use less paper on printing draft copies, as I hate sitting at the keyboard and reading text off the CRT. No doubt there would be other uses, as well, besides its "native" use for educational texts.
On the plus side, I'm hearing good things about the quest for "digital paper", and the folks who are working on OLED displays keep inching closer to something that industry can manufacture with the reasonable expectation that it will last long enough for the device it is in to become obsolete.
Well, I have the device in my TabletPC. Of course it costs about $3000 full up; worth every penny so far as I am concerned. My only complaint about Lisabetta the TablePC (HP 1100 the one with Intel CPU not the cycle-deprived Crusoe chip model) is that she isn't fast enough, and after getting used to faster machines she seems slow; but of course she's as fast as desktops were not very long ago.
I can put up a book indistinguishable from a hardbound except being backlit it can be read in the dark; and she holds as many hardbound books as I care to store. I remain astonished that TabletPC's have not really caught on just yet, and I suppose it's the price; but they will.
After reading Russ Newsom's letter to you I also decided that I wanted one. After looking a bit yesterday I think I may have found it. The eBookWise 1150. http://www.ebookwise.com/ebookwise/ebookwise1150.htm This thing looks to be about the right size, isn't (very) expensive and does not require proprietary formats. You can upload whatever you have in TXT, .DOC, .RTF or HTML formats. I even found a tool specifically made for converting Project Gutenberg eTexts into (mostly) pretty HTML. I have also found a web page explaining ways to covert most other ebook type formats as well.
Proper use of the thing DOES seem to require the optional eBook Librarian software. http://www.breeno.org/eBook/
Seems to me that paper textbooks could be replaced rather easily.
--------------------------------------- Henry Lyles
At $130 it isn't precisely cheap, but it does look useful. Perhaps I'll get one and report. Immediate questions are what rights you get from buying the ebooks, although of course there will be plenty in public domain. It is not instantly clear how you get books and store them on the device, but again I suspect that will all be clear. It uses SmartMedia cards, which are easily available. In fact I have a dozen or so.
Has anyone experience with this device before I go out and buy one? They've been around a while but I am suddenly curious. I confess, though, that I prefer my TabletPC for most such purposes. She's a bit heavier than this gadget, but I can mark up and edit with her too...
From the start I have argued that the HumVee was never intended to be an armored vehicle, and that add-on armor did not make sense. I was right. A high percentage of our non-combat deaths have been because of HumVee rollovers. If a job requires armor, send an armored vehicle like the Bradley or an APC, not a motorized can of spam. I believe that no soldier should be assigned to PR for combat troops who has not had combat experience. These dimple cheeked RAMFs who apologize for necessary combat actions make me sick. If my Marine grandson is on sentry duty I don't want him to hesitate before doing his duty because some asshat has filed charges against his buddy.
Walter E. Wallis
To make it worse, they don't give Purple Hearts to those wounded or killed in "traffic accidents", although those are caused by requiring the troops to ride in vehicles that are unsafe at any speed.
This is an odd war, but of course the peasants in the field and the burghers in the town should neither know nor care when the Monarchy is as war -- at least that was Frederick the Great's view. And here we are.
Given the events of the past two years in the Middle East, is the following statement still true or have the U.S. and Russian roles reversed?
From The Strategy of Technology
"The United States is dedicated to a strategy of stability. We are a stabilizing rather than a disturbing power and our goal is preserving the status quo and the balance of power rather than seeking conquest and the final solution to the problems of international conflict through occupation or extermination of all opponents. In a word, the U.S. sees the Technological War as an infinite game, one played for the sake of continuing to play, rather than for the sake of "victory" in the narrow sense.
The U.S.S.R. is expansionist; aggressive; a disturber power which officially states that the only true peace is that of world Communism. Marxist theory would make the Technological War a finite game, to be ended with a clean win."
With Russia 'out of the way' are the neocons trying to 'win' the war?
Good question. I am not entirely certain of the answer.
Subject: Banned in Bordeaux.
--- Roland Dobbins
Researchers who reverse-engineer software to
Or something like that. I am not entirely sure I understand just what happened, but then French law can often be astonishing. Cartesian reasoning applied to the Code Napoleon...
New Machines Could Turn Homes Into Small Factories
Could this be a new Industrial Revolution?
"...Conventional rapid prototype machines cost around £25,000 to buy. But the latest idea, by Dr Adrian Bowyer, of the University’s Centre for Biomimetics, is that these machines should begin making copies of themselves. These can be used to make further copies of themselves until there are so many machines that they become cheap enough for people to buy and use in their homes..."
They obviously can't make everything, but what are the social implications? I'm certainly no Luddite, but the question I have is that if everyone has one of these, what will people do for a living to feed them?
Cheers, Rod Schaffter
-- "Lesson one is that free people almost never go to war with each other. Lesson two is that they don't let each other starve, either. Democracy isn't a slogan, and it's not a gushy feeling. It's a matter of both personal and national security: the more of it the world has, the safer we all are." --Dean Esmay
Thingmakers: inevitable, I suppose, although perhaps not here yet. Implications to be considered...
Subject: judical activism or restraint?
James Taranto has an interesting take on the Schiavo case in today’s “Best of the Web”
Whatever else one may say about the 11th Circuit's ruling in Schiavo v. Schiavo <http://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/ops/200511556.pdf> (link in PDF), it is not a work of judicial activism. Quite the opposite, it is a caricature of judicial restraint. The court bent over backward to construe the statute, and its duty in hearing the appeal, as narrowly as possible in an effort to frustrate Congress's intent. Call it judicial passive-aggression.
Caricature is a pretty good description I guess, regarding the Federal courts. But the Florida courts seem determined to defy the legislature. I am not sure why they think that is a good idea. And it would be interesting if the Governor simply defied the courts in the name of popular sovereignty.
- Roland Dobbins
Now that is truly fascinating... and see below
March 24 is the 100th anniversary of the death of Jules Verne. I've written an essay entitled, "Jules Who?: A Century Later, Does the Man Who Invented the Future Still Matter?" I thought it might be of interest to you and your readers:
Comments will be appreciated, corrections will be incorporated.
There's a little more in the news now:
Effectiveness of terrorism control orders: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/terrorism/story/0,12780,1444611,00.html> .
The law is an ass: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/crime/article/0,2763,1444584,00.html>
-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior. http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her
Thanks! One minor note, actually it was "The law is a ass", and the US has plenty: http://www.shazbot.com/lawass/
Subject: Lese majeste.
- Roland Dobbins
Two more on the Terri Schiavo disgrace . . .
And, in case you missed it . . .
Charles Brumbelow, CFO Nashville Public Television
In Re: yesterday's post by Mr. Vanderbilt
Over the past week, my firm has been approached by two companies involved with CEV. A major factor in the CEV project appears to be "simulation-based acquisitiion." What this appears to mean is that EVERY feature of the CEV will be "virtually" etched in silicon before the first real aersopace-grade aluminum is cut. In parallel will be development of what sounds like a preliminary "X" version of the vehicle to test some of the early developmental concepts. Both the flight test of the X vehicle and the PRELIMINARY design review of the software vehicle are scheduled for 2008!
To the extent that the software exercise is designed to meet the "paperwork monster" and the X-version is where the real engineering is done, this might not be an all bad thing (except for being as expensive as all git-out). But my comfort level is not high, since the software model appears to be at the level of mechanical-and-electrical-and-chemical of every component down to the tubing between the propellant tanks and the catalyst chamber for the monopropellant attitude control thrusters. With every even semi-qualified contractor in the country competing for each system/subsystem/component software model.
The other disadvantage of the CEV as a single vehicle for all applications is that it is going through incremental design "spirals" from earth launch/orbit/reentry vehicle to lunar transfer vehicle to lunar lander to Mars transfer vehicle to Mars lander. What do you want to bet that in the long run it ends up being cheaper to have four different vehicles all labeled CEV to do the job right?
We all know that if we really want a Lunar Colony, it takes 2 lines of legislation:
"Congress has determined that an American owned Lunar Colony is in the national interest.
The Treasurer is directed to pay $10 billion US Dollars to the first American owned company to place 31 Americans on the Moon and keep them there, continuously, alive and well, for three years and one day."
Subject: Re: CEV project
Upon reading J's recent post regarding the CEV project why is it that it sounds like it suffers from a massive case of second system effect? Or in this case more like third or fourth system effect, but who's counting anymore these days?
NASA is a bureaucracy and the bureaucrats are fighting for their lives, or at least their livings. Nothing will get them out of the way of progress. Nothing short of abolishing NASA or firing the lot of them, and the courts/courtiers will prevent that.
Subject: Are the courts in rebellion?
Dear Dr. Pournelle: Watching the Schiavo case, I'm noting a very disturbing tendency of the courts - Federal and State - to completely ignore the will of the legislature.
It's one thing to overturn a law that clearly violates the Constitution. But to refuse to hear arguments that Congress has explicitly directed the courts to hear? To refuse to preserve evidence and witnesses that Congress has summoned? That's not the act of a judiciary operating in accordance with the Constitution.
It is an act of open rebellion against the United States. Without benefit of a Bill of Secession. And there is a good case that this rebellion should be put down by force of arms - pour encourager l'autres.
V/R: Mike McDaniel
Of course they are in rebellion, and of course it will eventually be settled by force of arms. Emperors eventually do. They are empowered by the Will Of The People when the people are constantly thwarted by aristocrats: the Courtiers being the aristocratic party of America. Just now it would only take defiance of the courtiers; there will come a time when it will take blood.
----- Roland Dobbins
Spanish religious politics has never been simple. The "worker priest" movement has had its fits and starts... Good article.
March 25, 2005
Subject: Schiavo case
Hi Jerry, I spent quite a few years of my life working is a "Skilled Nursing Facility" as they call them. Took care of a few who were like ms. Schiavo. There really isn't much to it - turn them every few hours, change the feeding formula as needed, clean them up, and at a good place (there are more than the press, who only report scandals and no reporter could last a shift if you ask me, leads the general public to believe), we get them out of bed daily, a PT person will take all their limbs through full range of motion enough to slow (I've never seen us totally avoid) contractures, and a activities person will do some amazing tactile stuff, or play music the chart says she liked. My point is we can and do take care of the persistent vegetative quite well for years and years. I don't know why, if she's been stable in this condition for 15 years (which I have no trouble believing) why suddenly she has to die now. I haven't seen news reports that give that part of the background - true until last weekend I wasn't aware of the case - but the coverage sure hasn't told much of the story and what it has converted the case of one real human into a symbol in a cause - actually, I tend to be "pro choice" but in a low-commitment, each case at a time sort of way and dislike this kind of grand-standing. So I actually find myself saying to the court et al, butt out and let the fine staff, esp. the CNAs, do their jobs. Keep on feeding her year-in, year-out. She'll die when she dies. I have no problem not doing CPR when that time comes, but certainly that time isn't now.
Well said, and pretty close to what the State of Florida legislature said; but the courts for some reason seem devoted to death. I am still wondering why a court that could not sentence her to be shot to death by musketry can sentence her to death by thirst. Or why a county probate judge should be able to over-rule the state legislature.
Subject: Terri Schiavo's Unstudied Life.
--- Roland Dobbins
Subject: One small victory.
-- Roland Dobbins
Those who cannot exercise good sense should not be in positions of summary power; but their unions will keep them there even so.
Subject: Mendel's Law May Be Flawed http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,66995,00.html
Does this result somehow reverse the Central Dogma of Biology? Given that other genes are the "environment" from which the organism acquired the more functional genes? Or is this result a form of the genome's editing function, somehow "thrown-back" a generation? It seems to indicate a kind of genetic "race memory". Normally inter-generational "editing" is done by the ecological, rather than genealogical, environment. Whatever, this regulation could be harnessed for technological construction in humans.
Subject: Mendel's Law Article
Not too surprising and not particularly inconsistent with what we knew previously. There are many minor exceptions to the standard model of inheritance. The difference between a PhD biologist and a high school biology instructor with an MS is the demonstrated ability to do and communicate original work. That has to be based on a detailed knowledge of all the exceptions in their special area. Mother Nature makes very creative use of her clay.
-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior. http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her
Subject: China vs. USA
Ron Unz here:
I append below a fairly typical analysis of international economic trajectories from the LA Times, representing (I think) as it does the "anti-conventional-wisdom" conventional wisdom. The book reviewer dismisses the notion of China becoming a rival superpower in the foreseeable future. One or two of our own list members have been similarly dismissive about this same suggestion.
Obviously, the likelihood of such predictions are heavily dependent upon time-scales, unforeseeable events, and also definitions. But when exploring such hyper-macro-questions, I think one should be similarly guided by the hyper-macro-facts.
(1) China has over four times America's population.
(2) Based on all existing quantitative evidence, the average intelligence of the Chinese is (roughly) 1/2 SD higher than that of Americans, a gap which is very, very considerable, especially considered over a continental scale.
In support of the plausibility of (2), China has had (I believe) the world's highest major-country economic growth rate for the last thirty years or so, a growth rate enormously greater than that of the US, Europe, or any of China's rough developmental peers such as India.
Partly due to this last situation, China now has, in kind if not in degree, the same fiscal relationship to America that America has had to e.g. Argentina. Namely, they lend us large sums of money, which we then squander in strange and ingenious ways. The strong likelihood of a dramatically falling dollar means that we will probably pay back these borrowings in roughly the same way that Argentina has its, namely with a gigantic "haircut" (though probably not approaching Argentina's 70%).
In fact, I would suggest that the strongest argument on the side of America's long-term advantage is the distinct possibility that technological factors will continue to increasingly favor the maxi-max solution, namely disproportionately benefiting those countries in which even a tiny slice of the population represents an absolute maximum of worldwide skills in various abilities, roughly corresponding to the "Hollywood effect." Also, America's current strength in various fields might give it some long term first-mover or network effect advantages. But both these factors would have to be pretty extreme and long-lasting to counteract (1) and (2) above.
America's other obvious advantage is that our governmental leadership is pragmatic, moderate, "reality-based" and stable in contrast to the endless geopolitical/economic disasters inflicted on China by a leadership which is radical, extreme, and ideologically fanatic. Individual listmembers can judge the relative weight of this particular consideration in today's world.
On an empirical level, I'd been quite interested in China and its modern history many, many years ago, taking a class or two and reading dozens of books. About 25-30 years ago, I concluded that there was a very high likelihood of China's rise to world greatness and perhaps even world dominance, an analysis considerably disputed at the time by many of my educated friends. All I can say is that with some ups and downs and a few hiccups along the way, things have generally played out much as I'd expected from about the late 1970s or so.
On the other hand, I must admit that America's own recent behavior has been a considerable surprise to me.
"The effects of China's surge are debatable" Seth Faison, Los Angeles Times Tuesday, March 22, 2005 China, Inc. How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges America and the World Ted C. Fishman Scribner: 342 pp., $26
Subject: Terri Schaivo
Doctors Lament Misuse of Proper Terminology in Schiavo Debate:
Texas Law Bush Signed in 1999 Authorized Forced Ending of Life:
Judge Nixes Feeding Tube as Schiavo Weakens:
"Gov. Jeb Bush has ordered his legal team to scour state laws for a way to reconnect Schiavo's feeding tube. There were calls from a supporter of the parents for him to take further action."
"On Thursday, Bush said his powers "are not as expansive as people would want them to be. ... I cannot go beyond what my powers are and I'm not going to do it."
"And a neurologist who was among those who made the previous diagnosis said brain scans clearly show that Schiavo's cerebral cortex has deteriorated and been replaced by spinal fluid.
"There isn't a reputable, credible neurologist in the world who won't find her in a vegetative state," said Ronald Cranford of the University of Minnesota."
I am unsure of the relevance here. Is it that in the absence of a living will, those with expert credentials should make decisions? Incidentally, the final statement is untrue. There are few credentialed neurologists who won't find her in a vegetative state, but at least one from the Mayo Clinic seems to have doubts.
But then I disagree with the Governor, who I believe has ample power to carry out the will of the legislature in defiance of the judges. I don't think judicial supremacy is a very good principle.
--- Roland Dobbins
A good summary of the dilemma faced by modern science in explaining (1) we are here, and (2) the universe expands at impossible rates.
Subject: I feel so much safer - great prioritization!
--- Roland Dobbins
Let this stand for several similar:
Let me see if I have this straight: The people and politicians who are trying to take away the rights of Schiavo's husband are the same ones who do not want to allow gays to wed due to the sanctity of marriage. Did I get that right?
--dean, who has his Living Will on file, watched his mother pass through this exact process seven years ago through her Living Will, has never been able to latch onto the concept of a god, still believes in man's capacity for dignity without one, and is now utterly sick of this spectacle...
The wind that my point created when it flew over your head has caused a tsunami in southeast Asia. I hope you're happy.
I completely fail to see why attitudes toward gay marriage have any relevance at all, other than as some kind of well-poisoning, but then poisoning the well is the usual form of argument here.
Rights of a husband: well, that's sort of what's in controversy here: absent some documentary evidence of wife's intentions, husbands do not normally have the right to starve their wives to death. Florida law does provide for "persistent vegetative state" but the same body that made that law, the legislature, provided for the intervention of the Governor into the matter. Why the one law is valid and the other is not has not been made very clear.
Your views on the existence of a deity have no relevance in the matter. Your having made a living will provides that you will not put your wife in a similar situation. Your mother's having made a Living Will certainly makes her situation different from this one, even though you assert that this is the same "exact process."
If the lady is already dead, then this whole matter is irrelevant to her; if she feels nothing (and we can certainly hope that is the case) then it matters only to her husband and her parents. The husband would have been divorced by most women when he moved in with another woman and fathered two children on her. There was no divorce here, but the existence of this marriage seems at least debatable; while his interest in having her finally dead and buried is palpable.
One wants to be careful establishing precedents that exempt people from the protection of the laws, even if the method of exempting them is to declare them no longer people, or dead already. We have the Dutch experience to demonstrate where this can lead: people who did not ask to be killed have been done in, on the grounds that their quality of life is too low.
Legislatively establishing classes of non-persons no longer protected by the law, who can be killed at will, is a serious matter, or so I would think; and if there are to be mistakes made, errors in the direction of equal protection of the laws would seem to be less dangerous than the other. If she is already dead and gone, there is no great harm in feeding a corpse. If she is not, there is considerable harm in starving someone to death because a spouse said they wanted it that way.
Why you somehow feel that your own rights are challenged here is not clear.
The Geek Show
This the the RFP and related requirements for the Crew Exploration Vehicle, including well over 100 supporting documents.
One case in point: the Data Item Descriptions -- the format information for reports to be submitted -- runs 311 pages. That NOT the length of the reports to be submitted, that's the length of the instruction set.
I tell you three times, you cannot make rockets out of dead tree pulp and acetate.
I spent part of the afternoon rereading Marshall's opinion in Marbury v Madison. It's been more than 20 years since we studied it in Con Law class in law school, but the fulcrum is just as I remembered it: where there is a right there is a remedy.
Interestingly, Marshall cites the tradition of English law for the proposition, but the point is that that was the point.
Later he goes on to talk up how the courts must interpret the law, but all of that could arguably be dismissed as dicta, or not strictly part of the court's essential finding: that the court is called upon in that case to make a decision.
What has always struck me about this is that it does not establish judicial supremacy. All Marshall's point says is that a just government, when a right is set up, makes sure that the right is honored. At bottom, it is the fundamental element that makes a middle class and democracy possible. Nothing about this point (except Marshall's window-dressing and hand-waving) says that this is an exclusive function of the courts.
His case was about what a court must do. Later in it he says that courts must determine - for purposes of making decisions - what laws are in accord with the Constitution and what laws are not in accord with it, and hence void. Along the way he makes a nice disquisition on how the Constitution must be the supreme law of the land, how other laws cannot function if they contravene the Constitution, and other fairly noncontroversial issues that he pumps up as if they were things that must be said (in fact, they were dicta, but you wouldn't get that from a casual reading; the man was good).
Of course his opinion was all about what a court must do. It issued from a court, after all. But there was nothing in there that would force one to conclude that protecting citizens under the law is an exclusive function of the courts. Had he said so, he might have been impeached by a Congress whose members all remembered the formation and ratification of the very Constitution he was interpreting (this was 1803).
As best I can tell, even if we accept Marbury v Madison on its own terms, there is a role for both the Executive and the Congress in protecting the Rights of the citizens of our country. The Executive? The inaction of the brothers Bush is so like their father. The Congress? Senator Frist has questions. Why is he not down there interviewing Terry? Would a state judge dare keep a US Senator from investigating this?
We are being abandoned to the mercy of the courts. At least in Florida, it seems that this is little mercy indeed.
Marbury never did get his commission, either.
No wrong without a remedy was a principle of the English Common Law; but there is no Common Law (judge-made law) of the United States. Holmes and Brandeis in particular worked very hard to get that on record. US law comes from legislation. Interestingly, some western states explicitly state that; while some Eastern States have adopted the Common Law, and in a few it is good pleading to cite English court precedents, including precedents later than 1776 (the M'Naughten Rule is a good example...)
Of course Mr. Justice Kennedy has now asserted that international public opinion is relevant to US Federal Law; he includes two treaties signed by the US -- one not ratified, and the other with an explicit demurer to the very principle Kennedy wishes to establish.
And people wonder why I do not think the judiciary is the proper repository of sovereign power.
Here is a pair of letters illustrative of what I have been trying to say:
Subject: Understanding Schiavo
What do we get when we mix the ideals of Marxism, humanism, and reductionism, and use them to educate a generation of lawyers, teachers, politicians and bureaucrats? A society where supposedly intelligent, rational people can vigorously oppose the death penalty for a convicted serial killer, and at the same time readily support the forced starvation of a severely handicapped woman. The confluence of these three philosophies may also also explain the many examples of hostility towards religious symbols in public places, the forced medication of millions of students in public schools, and naïve beliefs that science and technology can predict or even effect changes in systems as complex as Earth’s climate.
Our nation was founded on the idea that human rights originate from a source beyond the realm of Man. Large forces in politics, academia, and the courts now seem willing to reject that founding principle as incompatible with “modern” thinking. The media crudely portray this as a battle between Blue-state intellectuals and Red-state religious zealots. I think it is far more important than that, and may represent a true turning point in the history of this republic.
Subject: priority one
Jerry, what is so difficult about the rule of law? The courts have ruled the husband is her legal guardian. Her parents fought that and lost.
He wanted the feeding tube removed in accordance with her wishes. Her parents have fought and are still fighting. The evidence has been introduced according to the rules of evidence. Everything has been done to the letter. The parents keep on fighting and now the reports get even more outlandish every day. Last week she was reported to have spoken… I want to live. The judge asked the attorney, “Why did it take so long for this to be introduced?” The attorney replied, “We have been really busy.”
I’m willing to throw out the testimony of the experts hired by each side. I will listen however, to the experts appointed by the courts. They have no side to please in this matter. They all have testified to her zero chances of recovery.
That fact, applied to her wish to not exist in a state like that for her last 7 years, is her right to die. The courts have applied the law and are upholding her right to die. Her husband is only a proxy in speaking of her wishes. She is dying because she can’t swallow.
Swallowing is as intricate as a concerto and far more difficult then standing upright – so bare with me a moment
While she can indeed swallow in the Pharyngeal Phase and Esophageal Phase she can’t perform the Oral Phase.
Both Pharyngeal and Esophageal phases are reflex and involuntary, governed by a functioning brain stem while the Oral phase (however not entirely) is controlled by the frontal cortex anterior to the sensorimotor cortex. Terrie Schiavo has what amounts to a bag of water were her frontal cortex used to be. She can swallow saliva and other liquids that originated near or have made it back far enough to stimulate the Pharyngeal phase – but those fluids move very slowly. Simply put, anything that flows at a greater rate than production of saliva (such as a bolus of food or a sprits from a glass) would certainly be aspirated in whole or in part without the oral preparatory and oral transport system functioning. Bluntly, a bag of water simply can't get the job done. No different than a ventilator breathing for her. She can’t sustain her own life on her own.
I find her parents to be two of the most selfish people on this planet. They seem incapable of grasping the reality that their daughter has no chance for recovery. They believe their hope can somehow overcome this obvious reality. They have turned this private family matter into a circus. Many groups have latched on for the public recognition this spectacle has garnered.
My solution is simple. Give her parents two years to offer therapy. At the end of two years, a court appointed neurologist goes in and does a through examination. If it is shown that there has been no change in her condition, her parents and family members, attorneys will be taken out to the court house steps and executed on national TV.
Everyone seems to be cashing in on this spectacle. The other day Pat Robertson told his TV audience that withholding food and hydration was akin to the Nazis. A year ago he spoke to this same TV audience about how we should root out the bad guys in An Najaf, Iraq. “Let’s surround the city and cut off all electricity, food and water until they hand over the insurgents. If they don’t, it will be long hot summer.” So I guess Jesus has no problem with starving innocent peoples but honoring a woman’s wishes to not live on in a maintained manner likens us to Nazis…
(Name withheld by me.)
Priority One: the rights of a corpse are more important than the lives of the parents, who ought to be executed in public.
Once again: I have pretty well always agreed with the people who think the best solution to this matter would have been for Mrs. Schiavo to have departed in peace and dignity. The chances for her recovery are extremely small.
Nor have I ever argued that the state has a duty to provide extraordinary means for preserving life; nor, absent legislation to that effect, do I think people have any right to such treatment at public expense, and I would not vote to provide such treatment as a matter of right or entitlement. Nor do I question the right of a person to make a living will refusing treatment.
Nor do I question the notion of marriage, or that the symbolic giving away of the bride may be given meaning in the law. This is not Rome and the rights of the Pater Familias do not extend to children when they have established their own households.
Providing food and water have never been thought of as extraordinary means for preserving life. Forcing death by starvation and forcibly preventing anyone from providing food and water are not the equivalent of disconnecting a heart/lung machine. Even there, the legislature has the power and one might say the duty to provide for cases like Schiavo where she is not comatose, and needs assistance in eating and drinking, and might be said to be dead (but not brain dead): in her case she needs assistance that comes close to "extraordinary" means.
I would like to presume no one would insist on starving her if she could feed herself; or even if she could swallow food and drink placed in her mouth. I would like to presume that, but I know there are many who would in fact starve her even if she could feed herself, to uphold the "rights" of her husband. Kevorkian would go a good bit further than that. It is this tendency to expand the "rights" of those to whom the elderly and infirm are a burden that concerns me.
The Florida legislature did provide laws to be applied in the case of "persistent vegetative state", and one might think that would be the end of it. The legislature made the law, the courts applied it, and that is the end of the matter.
But: The Legislature of Florida created whatever "rights" the husband has to decide for a wife in these matters. The same legislature created an exception in this case: the Governor could intervene if he thought that in the public interest.
The courts have never questioned the first law. They have decided the second is not constitutional, but the grounds haven't been given other than a general principle of judicial supremacy. It is that judicial supremacy I object to. Those who protest that this is a matter of the rule of law are correct: but those who insist that courts must always have the final say in such matters are just plain wrong. In the US law does not come from God or out of the ground: our governments secure rights and derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and in any dispute as to what is the will of the governed -- what used to be thought of as "political matters" -- the legislature and has the final say. Our experiments in judicial activism, notably the court imposed doctrines in the abortion matter rather than leaving that to the state legislatures, have caused more unrest than anything else in our recent history. Judges do not make law and they are not superior to the legislature, and the power of a court to intervene in the case of an execution is not the same as the power of the court to order death in defiance of the legislature.
I will agree this is not a Federal matter, although in the narrow technical sense the Congress does have the constitutional authority to summon witnesses, and to protect them. Subpoenaing a witness who can't possibly testify may be absurd but it is legal, and ordering her protection until she can testify is a power necessary and proper to that function. I am not sorry that Congress has not chosen to continue that course, which would take a resolution by the full House directing its sergeant at arms to carry out the orders of the House to summon and protect the witness, and call upon the Executive to assist, by force if necessary. The House has not chosen to precipitate that kind of constitutional Federal/State crisis, and that is probably just as well. We really would not want to see a shootout between the Army and the deputy sheriffs.
I do think the Governor of Florida ought to intervene; or else to find, as he could under the empowering law, that he is mistaken in his finding of fact. But he should not cower before the courtiers.
It is very much a matter of principle here: and I fail to understand why the presumption should be to uphold the rights of death, even to the absurd extent of offering public execution to the parents. But a better example I could not have devised.
The Rule of Law. The Awful Majesty of the Law, in full panoply, descends to uphold the right of a husband to starve his wife to death; the duty to this man, and to what seems to be officially ruled to be a corpse, is of such vast importance.
As a final matter: I don't recall spending any time reading or listening to Pat Roberson. To the extent I give attention to religious authority in this matter my direction has come from the Holy See, which has stated that heroic measures are not required, but withholding food and water from a person not terminally ill is murder. I have not questioned the right of the state of Florida to implement legislation in contravention of that finding; but I don't question the right of the legislature to make exceptions to its rules either.
March 27, 2005
Subject: Newsflash: TSA lied.
-- Roland Dobbins
Imagine our surprise.
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