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Mail 395 Januiary 2 - 8, 2006






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Monday  January 2, 2006

Background: we learned that Intel is changing the name of its processor line from Pentium to "Core" and will be phasing out the Intel Inside logo. Intel is concerned about losing its reputation for highest end chips. In mail it was remarked that this is a bit like abandoning the "Crest" brand name. Eric then commented:

This says quite a lot about the neurosis brewing within the company. It isn't enough to still be raking in $Billions with no end in sight, the smallest segment of their market has fallen out of love with them and gone off to make sweet love with AMD. These were the people Intel bases its self-esteem upon. If the Pentium brand is sullied in the eyes of that group it must surely be a lost cause to the hundreds of millions who don't have any AMD brand recognition. They're going to make a big comeback marketing push despite most of the market not having any idea they need a comeback.

One one hand, it could be argued that they're long overdue for a new brand since Pentium was created as something that implied 586 but could be copyrighted. How many times did any of us wonder aloud if the 686 was going to be the Hexium? By the turn of the century that question was no longer asked and Pentium settled in for a long stay. It wasn't that long ago that the question of whether Prescott was going to be the start of Pentium 5 naming served as column fodder. What came after Pentium was no longer asked just as nobody asks what comes after Mustang. More Mustangs, of course!

On the gripping hand, the Pentium brand has been fantastically successful and the average consumer couldn't begin to guess what inspired the name. The Web and other internet services like e-mail became the ultimate killer app (and in the darkness bind them...) around the same time Pentium systems were hitting mainstream price points. A huge portion of the market has never owned or even used a pre-Pentium system but it doesn't matter how much Intel rakes in from regular folks. Although they could get the product line back up to snuff without most of the world noticing there was another choice in the interim, without the love of the overclockers they cannot feel good about themselves. What behavior is the 35-year old engineer's equivalent of a teen-age girl's eating disorder?

Dan suggested that leaping ahead is the behavior of lemmings but in real life that only happens at the instigation of certain entertainment companies when making wildlife films for the school market. Perhaps Eric Kim, the supposed mastermind of this marketing push, is a big Disney fan.

Eric Pobirs


From another conference:

...imagine: A visibly distinct low-IQ subgroup--in this case, teenagers with Down's Syndrome--wants to be with its own kind, much to the consternation of the "enlightened" superior-IQ group, which finds its own form of satisfaction in minimizing such intellect-distinctions. And yet of course, unlike the p.c. parents and litigation-shy administrators--indeed, no doubt in spontaneous rebellion against same--the normal student peers of the D.S. kids were perfectly happy with such segregation-by-intellect, as well as appearance.

For her part, the reporter, Ms. Marcus, seems to be more neutral--she seems simultaneously attracted to the progressive vision of integration, but at the same time, sympathetic to the even more "progressive" vision of multiculturalism, as evidenced by Eli's desire to live with on his own essentialist terms--no doubt heavily subsidized, of course, by the state. In the that vein, we might note, sotto voce in the text, the omnipresent "aide" to Eli, who "worked with his teachers to modify tests and lessons so that he could be in the same classroom as everyone else." It's a little unclear who was paying for this aide, probably the school.)



Eli's Choice

His parents fought for boy with Down syndrome to be in the mainstream. As a teenager, he just wanted to be with his friends.

By AMY DOCKSER MARCUS Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL December 31, 2005; Page A1

BETHESDA, Md. -- For years, Eli Lewis was the only student in his class with Down syndrome.

The genetic condition, which causes a range of cognitive and physical impairments, made it harder for him to do his school work. But his parents felt strongly that he could succeed. They hired a reading tutor. An aide worked with his teachers to modify tests and lessons so that he could be in the same classroom as everyone else. He participated in his middle school's award-winning chorus and was treated as a valued member.

But when all the other kids in his class were making plans to go to the local high school this fall, Eli, 14 years old, said he didn't want to go. He wanted to be in a small class with other students like him. "I don't want to get lost in a big crowd," Eli says.


I sort of had, in effect, Down's Syndrome for a week once, and I can definitely sympathize with mongoloid kids who want to hand around with other mongoloids.

When I was started chemotherapy in 1997, the doctors gave me an older generation anti-nausea drug that must knocked 50 points off my IQ the week I took it. One thing I noticed as I sat around was that I suddenly didn't have anything in the house that I could amuse myself with, other than daytime TV shows like Jerry Springer, which, I must admit, now seemed more interesting than I'd thought in the past. My books and magazines were too hard to read. My wife had bought me my favorite movie, "Lawrence of Arabia," to watch on video while I recuperated, but I couldn't make sense of the script, even though I'd seen it twice before. The only character whose motivations I could understand was Anthony Quinn's primitive warlord Auda.

Clearly, if I'd had to keep on taking the drug, I would have needed a whole new set of friends.

Happy New Year,


Letter from England (and Rome)

Diane and I flew to Rome the day after Christmas, and spent the rest of the week there. It was rather rainy, and I picked up a cold on the flight out, so I spent a day in bed, but the three and a half days I was able to get out and explore were wonderful. We're planning to return to Italy for longer, possibly at Easter 2007. Rome is so much cleaner than Paris, and they have cut back dramatically on the public smoking that plagues much of the rest of Europe!

During the afternoon of the first day (Monday), we explored the Trastevere, starting at the Piazza Monte Salvano and ending at the Botanical Gardens. On the Isola Tiberina, we had to laugh about the five protected species found on the island--norway rats, nutria, cormorants, and two species of gulls! On Tuesday, we visited the Etruscan Museum and then took a walking tour of the Roman Fora and some of the monuments of the old city. On Wednesday, we visited the Vatican museums and Saint Paul (another walking tour) and ended up at Castel Sant'Angelo, and on Thursday we explored the Capitoline Museum and revisited the Pantheon. We were planning to visit Ostia Antica on Friday, but my cold prevented that. Diane got out to visit the Palatine Hill and the Colusseum. All in all, a trip I'd recommend.

Harry Erwin


And more from Dr. Erwin:

Subject: "The one problem with the NHS is that all treatment decisions are political."

My wife's comment after reading the following story in the Guardian. (She works in medical statistics.)


She notes that the operation in question is effective and cheap, unlike some other popular treatments, but that whoever screams loudest wins in the UK. She also notes that the NHS does little preventative care, despite the cost-effectiveness.

Before I leave, a few other stories. The story on the Ukraine gas supply continues to evolve.




And a number of other issues are starting to emerge. For example, the nil effect of Government spending on transportation.



And the ballooning size of the Government department that is supposed to find job cuts.


I don't know the take-home message for Americans, except it is obvious that top-down command (especially when it comes from people with no experience in the trenches) works poorly.

-- "The data (or the marks when teaching) are sacrosanct--they tell us what actually happened."
Harry Erwin, PhD


The Peeping Tom worm.

Yet another 'advantage' of running Windows.


--- Roland Dobbins

Roland uses a Mac...


I got this in response to my remarks on reading over in view:

Subject:  Re: [WaPo] Mysterious IQ Drop for College Graduates

Jerry, It is true that reading doesn't take a high IQ, but what was really being tested wasn't "reading" per se (the ability to decode words out of symbols), which I'm sure virtually all college graduates can do, but "literacy" - the ability to comprehend written text. The difference is that your level of "literacy" looks no different if you read the text yourself or if someone reads it to you. Whats actually being measured in those literacy batteries is the ability to understand instructions, information and numbers. That's why I read between the lines and called it an IQ drop.

See pages 15-19:



I am a great admirer of Linda Gottfredson, but I think everyone is missing the point here.

I understand what you are saying, and I will make you a small bet.

Take the students demonstrating comprehension difficulties. Put them through the 70 lessons of my wife's program. Compare the results before and after. The results will be dramatic.

I think you will find they simply can't read. They are still puzzling out words.

Now one problem is that they have also spent a number of formative years unable to read, and thus never developed good reading habits. They are used to puzzling out words, and since they are never sure which word they are reading, they never developed the habit of close reading and paying close attention. How could they, when they were unsure of what they read?

The anti-phonics movement started when some idiots studied how accomplished readers read, and found they did not use any kind of phonics decoding, but "just read the words" -- which is how you and I read. Unless you encounter Dimethydiethylpolybromide you do not go through and sound out the word; you know the word because you have seen it many times before. It is entirely true that good readers eventually use ideographic means for reading a great part of what they read. The morons then concluded that since accomplished readers don't make use of phonics (although they certainly do make use of phonic cues as in the "though the rough cough plough me through" phrase) -- since accomplished readers don't much use phonic decoding, it is not necessary to teach that slow technique. Let them learn to read as fast readers do!

In California, which had the highest literacy in the nation, it was forbidden to teach phonics, and California plummeted. And of course our TEACHERS can't read either, or many of them couldn’t after that disaster. There is now an attempt to recover, but the perpetrators can't admit they were wrong (well one Superintendent of Public Instruction did, but he protested mostly that he meant well and didn't dwell on the extant of the disaster he presided over) but the ground lost is very hard to recover. It is much easier to propagate reading in a reading society; when large percentages become illiterate the whole damned system changes. You can no longer have civics and history and science in 4th - 7th grades because the kids can't READ. So you water down everything.

Literacy is the key to it all. Study after study has shown that if you can't read by 4th grade (and probably 3rd) you will virtually never go into science or high tech jobs. You get way behind.

The morons who run departments of Education have been so steeped in their anti-scientific "techniques" and are so much in control of credentials that recovery is nearly impossible, particularly since these selfish buffoons have to keep trying to justify the disasters they have heaped on the nation while they had absolute control of the education industry. They ought to be shot, but I'd settle for turning them out without pensions. Or even with pensions if we have to bribe them to go. As they shuffle out they will continue to insist, some with a whimper but most shouting defiantly, "We meant well!"

I put it to you that if we were to take half those low performing students and put them through Roberta's systematic phonics instruction course (70 lessons each about half an hour, an hour for those with sensory problems who have to do "air writing" and other multi-sensory retraining) you will see a dramatic increase in their abilities in all academic subjects.

They can't read. It's as simple as that. They can't read.

Discussion continues below with example.


Subject: We're doomed.



 Roland Dobbins

Probably not doomed but we have a dose of salts to take.


Subject: organ transplants

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

The Washington Times has an article written by Richard Spenser of London Daily Telegraph about Chinese organ transplants. The Chinese are selling organs from executed prisoners to anyone with the money. Niven and Pournelle have used this idea as a story plot. Maybe you could sue the Chinese government for stealing your intellectual property. See http://insider.washingtontimes.com/articles/normal.php?StoryID=20051219-115834-8584r 


William L. Jones

wljones (at) waymark (dot) net


Cleaning up mail that got overlooked when it first came in:

Subject: Free Medical, Australia,


Interesting reads on the sight as always.

Two comments.

First, whenever an American points out that a certain country provides free medical care for citizens, I want to ask about the quality of that care. We lived in NZ for four months, a country with socialized medicine. I can't tell you how many people died being shuttled from one part of the country to the other because of trauma quotas for hospitals. I met dozens of kids who were on three year waiting lists for surgeries like tonsilectomies. The spouse of my daughter's teacher incurred a frontal lobe injury when a sledge hammer fell off a work truck. He was told he could wait three months for an MRI, or pay $1500 and have one the next day.

We have to be careful what we wish for here . . .

Next, someone asked about the riots in Australia. They do not surprise me at all. Australia, for all its joie de vivre, has a long history of racial discrimination. Remember, this is the country where English settlers decided that aboriginal children would be better off growing up in white families. These same settlers-- many of them missionaries-- used the aborigines like slaves.

In 1976, when Australia was desperate for teachers. I, as a new graduate with an education degree, met an education recruiter from Australia who told me not to bother applying because I was too dark, and the government wouldn't let me in.

Finally, at the risk of sounding racist myself, I find that many Arab men I have met are angry, hostile and aggressive. My own encounters with them have been most unpleasant. I wonder if this isn't part of the problem too?


You don't care for the Sheik of Araby? 

Stay well


Subject: Useful Economist article on climate change indicators

Jerry, I commend the following


to your attention. Dr. Socolow's schema of wedges against climate change is a useful way to break down the problem, if problem there be.





My two daughters went to a local "alternative school" in our public school system. This school is unusual in that the alternative being used is old-fashioned traditional instruction. The school has several basic tenets: (1) reading is the skill that must be taught in grade school, for it is the foundation of all future success, (2) phonics is the way to teach reading (with some minor extensions), (3) all children will learn to read in -kindergarten-, (4) no social promotion.

Results: This school has the highest academic performance in our district, and is consistently in the top 2-3 elementary schools (out of about 1400) in the state of Virginia. Out of roughly 70 kindergarten students, typically 67 become proficient readers in kindergarten, and this result has been consistently achieved for 25 years. The school has roughly 15% of the children on subsidized meals and is about 67% caucasian, 13% asian, 8% black, 12% hispanic. Over the last few years, racial diversity has increased and the fraction of students on subsidized meals has increased while test scores have risen.

This school is despised (and that is not to strong a word) by many in this school district, because it is a magnet school, widely sought after, and it raises the question of why this performance is so clearly superior to other local schools. The local school board members routinely make a practice of saying that our school is "no better" than any other; the admission lottery is routinely oversubscribed by factors of 5. We have been warned by school board members never to "brag" about how well the children do! Presumably, this leads to uncomfortable questions and comparisons.

I became interested in this school at a kindergarten orientation meeting when my older daughter was entering kindergarten. At the meeting, the question was asked "Do you teach the children to read in kindergarten?". The answer was an evasion. The question was repeated, and again the school district functionary obfuscated. I was puzzled by this. After the meeting, we had a chance to talk to the lead teacher at the magnet school. I told her how puzzled I was by an evasion to a simple question about reading, and asked if the magnet school taught reading in kindergarten. She said, "Of course we do. I teach 46 kindergartners each year and 44 or 45 of them learn to read. The ones who don't are usually the youngest who barely made the age cutoff for kindergarten."

Apparently, it is not PC to say that you teach reading in kindergarten, since ~2-3% of the children can't learn to read at that age. This prevents my local school district from stating this as a goal. The magnet school is no longer allowed to send representatives to the kindergarten orientation meeting....apparently hearing about the magnet school makes some people feel badly about their local school.

My local school district is, on the whole, excellent. However, we do our children a great disservice by letting political correctness trump rational discussion.

Chuck Bouldin

Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide. But: one wonders if the champions of political correctness don't send their kids to private schools or teach them to read at an early age themselves, so that by ruining the public schools they can keep the lower classes who can't afford private schools in their places? If the system were designed to solidify class boundaries, ruining the public schools by preventing the teaching of reading would be the first step to take. Since this is the result produced, I wonder again if it is not intended. How can so many educated people be so stupid? How can they ignore all evidence that their imbecile meddling is producing disasters?

Are those in charge of education fools, or are they evil? Those are the only alternatives I come up with. Political correctness is not a game with inconsequential implications, it is a monstrous system for keeping the minorities down, solidifying class lines, and generally seeing that the worst stay on top.

I doubt that any of this will change, either.

Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide.

No child left behind means no child in public school will ever get ahead. Happy New Year.


Dr. Pournelle:

You have a quote I see quite often: "Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide."

Quite accurate, in my opinion.

This appears to be the long version of that:


Tom Brosz


Value of education:

I find it bizarre that politicians want to find ways of spending less on health care and more on education. At least medicine *does something*!

A guess would be that if we spent half as much economic results would not change. (Because over a generation we doubled spending in real terms, and results did not change.)




Economic View By ANNA BERNASEK

SOCRATES once said that the more he learned, the more he became convinced of his own ignorance. It's a familiar feeling for anyone who tries to make sense of the American education system.

This academic year, the better part of $1 trillion will be spent on education in the United States. That's an awful lot of spending, approaching 10 percent of the overall economy. But what exactly is the return on all of that money?

While the costs are fairly simple to calculate, the benefits of education are harder to sum up.

Much of what a nation wants from its schools has nothing to do with money. Consider the social and cultural benefits, for instance: making friends, learning social rules and norms and understanding civic roles.

But some of the most sought-after benefits from education are economic. Specialized knowledge and technical skills, for example, lead to higher incomes, greater productivity and generation of valuable ideas.

Those benefits are vital to a nation's growth. In recent years, Americans have become keenly aware of the impact of education as freshly educated workers from China and India compete for good jobs once held in the United States.

Today, many parents have a gut feeling that education is the way to ensure prosperity for their children, yet there is surprisingly little certainty about how much education contributes to the nation's overall wealth.

It is largely a problem of measurement. Economists have tried for decades to quantify the impact of education. They still don't have all the answers, but their work can shed some light on what Americans are getting for their investment. That information could serve as a backdrop for debates on how much government should spend on education and what should be left to individuals. <snip>

There are plenty of studies to show that spending more on education does not bring about better results. Of course the teacher unions don't precisely point to those. Nor do colleges of education.




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Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Subject: But Atomic Energy is SO Dangerous...


"Rescuers entered a coal mine last night after waiting almost 12 hours for dangerous gases to clear, following an explosion that trapped 13 miners underground."


These are the stories with which I grew up, Dr. Pournelle, which may explain my enthusiasm for nuclear power plants -- even including breeder reactors.

Charles Brumbelow

Nuclear power doesn't cause off-site deaths, or has not so far; indeed there are more people killed annually at grade crossings by coal trains than ever died from nuclear power.

And if you factor in the war casualties needed to secure fossil fuel power...




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Wednesday, January 4 2006

Subject: Macros in W2K

Dr. Pournelle:

You and the folk you get answers from have often found things that were not obvious from "official" documentation, so I thought I'd try this one with you:

Way back in Windows 3.1, I remember Windows having a utility that would let you create macros of keyboard commands with a shortcut that would then enter that string of commands into whatever application was active. I cannot, however, seem to find that functionality in later versions of Windows. It seems that Macros are now handled by the various applications instead.

Does that function still exist within Windows (specifically W2K) or is there an applet that will emulate it. What I want to do is automate some processes that take a number of steps but which we always do the same way in an application that doesn't have built-in macros--you know, exactly what macros are designed for.

David L. Burkhead Advanced Surface Microscopy, Inc. E-Mail: dburkhead@asmicro.com


It's 2 AM, I just filed my day one show report, and I'm for bed. I'll catch up on mail in a couple of days.

Stay well



CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


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Thursday, January 5, 2006

Subject: Power up the Warp Drives Mr. Scott

Seems the Govt is funding Hyperspace Drive development....


-- John Harlow, President BravePoint JHarlow@BravePoint.com Voice: (770)449-9696 x3012 Fax: (770) 449-9003 www.BravePoint.com Progress,Web,.NET & Java Specialists

No programmers were harmed in the creation of this message

I was told about this some time ago. I have no expertise in such matters, but it is my understanding that no demonstration of proof of concept has ever been done: the first one will be terribly expensive. Clearly a reactionless drive of some kind would change both the nature of space travel and our understanding of physics, and I'd sure love to see one.


Subject: Mac version of Roberta's software

Jerry, you need to hold up your end on the reading education front. Roberta's program is good. Just one problem: it doesn't work on the current MacOSX. How hard can it be to port over from Hypercard?


Our kids go to a school that only uses Macs. I know many (more than 10) families that have recently purchased Macs, in part because they have young kids in school and the school uses Macs.

All three of my kids used your wife's software. On a Mac. This required some doing, as I had to:

1. Piece together a working old Mac from the large pile of old computer debris in the basement. 2. Find the right OS software to install, since Roberta's software doesn't run under MacOS 9.2 or under MacOSX. I think MacOS 8.0 is what finally worked. 3. Get the "Literacy Connection" software installed. (There was some annoying glitch. I don't remember the particulars.)

My eldest (son) had no interest whatsoever in reading during kindergarten. He is pretty stubborn and we didn't get anywhere with getting him to read during kindergarten. Beginning in first grade, he used the TLC software for several months and made good progress. Then suddenly, he got interested in reading and became an excellent *phonetic* reader. He then stopped using the software, saying that he preferred to read books instead of learning how to read books. (Hard to argue with that...)

My middle child (daughter) used the software for 6 weeks during kindergarten. She then became an independent reader and reads voraciously.

My youngest child (daughter) is now in kindergarten. She is using the software. She can already read most things, although she hasn't mastered the vagaries of phonetic exceptions.

So kwitcha bitchin and get Roberta's software available on the platform that many schools use: MacOSX.


Well, II know it works. What I have to do is see if there's a current version of Hypercard that works with OS x; acquire one; retrieve the source code from Roberta's very elderly machines, and transfer that to Ariadne the Power Book; and get the time to see why the program doesn't work now.

All of which sounds a lot easier than it will be since I have done no serous programming for years.

It needs to be put over all right. Indeed, we need to do a version that can call Roberta's recorded speech sounds on the Windows version since the Mac version hands the string to the Mac sound system to speak in the voice of Agnes, and I suspect that's what isn't working on OS X.

And I need a master Hypercard expert to consult with.

The program works even if it uses Agnes rather than a human voice. Thanks for the kkind words.

My problem is time and energy, of which I have nowhere near enough.


More on the Sony Reader.


--- Roland Dobbins

I will have more on this in the show report and next week here.

Very interesting


Subject: Keyboard mapping -

There are many keyboard mapping programs out there, including many that will assign macros to various keys and key combinations.

Below are some URLs to several, I have no personal experience with any of these.


http <http://www.keyboard-macro-recorder.com/journal-macro.htm>  ://www.keyboard-macro-recorder.com/journal-macro.htm 

<http://www.keyboard-macro-recorder.com/journal-macro.htm>  http://www.keyboardexpress.com/keyexpdo. <http://www.keyboardexpress.com/keyexpdo.htm>  htm

<http://www.keyboardexpress.com/keyexpdo.htm>  Thanks

John Jacobson


Hellewell on the WMF patch

Dr. Pournelle:

Starting to see additional reports about problems with the unofficial WMF patch, relating to printing problems. Printing problems occur with the patch, and with the de-registering of the SHIMGWV.DLL .

I think that the security community is going overboard a bit on this problem, and the need to install the patch. (For instance, I don't think the "sky is falling".) I'll admit that I was one of those following that crowd by recommending installing the unofficial patch. But, as mentioned in my response to your message on Monday, I've changed my thinking on how to respond to this threat. (I've posted that response in the Tuesday entry on my Daynotes site here: http://digitalchoke.com/daynotes/2006/2006-01-01.php#tuesday .)

In addition, today's (Wed) security alert from Microsoft indicates that the WMF vuln only applies to Windows 2000, XP, and Server 2003 products. Other Windows versions are not vulnerable to a WMF attack, even though they have WMF capabilities.

While I think it is vitally important to be aware of vulnerabilities, a multi-layered defense is best. That defense includes installing 'official' patches, even if they are a bit slow to arrive. Although the MS patch is not out until next Tuesday (1/10/06), I am confident that it will be much more thoroughly tested than any unofficial patches.

I am also confident that my other defenses are protecting me against this (and other) vulns. That defense includes daily (or hourly) anti-virus updates, along with other safe computing practices (as I have previously written about at my site).

Yes, the WMF vuln is serious, but getting into the habit of installing unofficial patches may be more dangerous. We've tried to educate users not to install patches recieved via email from non-vendor sources. If we start saying that non-vendor patches are good, we increase the possibility of getting an evil (or modified for evil) non-vendor patch.

I'll keep on alerting people about the latest threats. But I am becoming more cautious about how I respond to those threats. My layered defenses have protected me well in the past, and keeping those defenses current will protect me against future threats.

As for any that have installed the unofficial patch, I understand that it can be uninstalled through the Add/Remove Programs feature. And the DLL can be re-registered to restore printing functionality. My current recommendation is to ensure a layered defense: current anti-virus, current "official" patches, automatic updates, and safe computing practices.

Enjoying your reports from CES, and appreciate the time and effort you put into those conferences for those of us that cannot attend.

Regards, Rick Hellewell





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Friday,  January 6, 2006

Cool Britannia.

Such an improvement:


-- Roland Dobbins

Perhaps there won't always be an England





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Saturday, January 7. 2008

Hello again Dr. Pournelle

Thanks for your comments on Wing Commander. I rather liked the movie as well, but I'd have liked it even more if you'd gotten credit for the interstellar jump points as an adaptation of the Alderson Drive.

I recently read a Tom Godwin anthology, and the editor stated that arrangements for the movie rights to "The Survivors" have been completed. Any idea who bought them or what chance there is for an actual movie?

Thanks again for all the good work you do.

Dave Porter






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Sunday, January 8. 2006

Subject: IKEA is Germany's 11th biggest restaurant by earnings.

Go figure


Eric Pobirs

There may be such a thing as a cheap lunch...


On Parental Influence:

Judith Rich Harris says:

"Is it dangerous to claim that parents have no power at all (other than genetic) to shape their child's personality, intelligence, or the way he or she behaves outside the family home? More to the point, is this claim false? Was I wrong when I proposed that parents' power to do these things by environmental means is zero, nada, zilch?

"A confession: When I first made this proposal ten years ago, I didn't fully believe it myself. I took an extreme position, the null hypothesis of zero parental influence, for the sake of scientific clarity. Making myself an easy target, I invited the establishment — research psychologists in the academic world — to shoot me down. I didn't think it would be all that difficult for them to do so. It was clear by then that there weren't any big effects of parenting, but I thought there must be modest effects that I would ultimately have to acknowledge.

"The establishment's failure to shoot me down has been nothing short of astonishing. <snip>"


There's two issues with this. For one, now that I'm going through behavior genetic literature, what I see is two different kinds of results based on how we look at the data: comparing means and comparing correlations. Research that compares correlations of adoptive/biological families (mostly done by a handful of American behavior geneticists) typically finds low (not always zero, nada, zilch) shared family influence, but research that compares means of adoptive/biological families (mostly done by a handful of French sociologists) typically finds big roles for genetics and shared family. So, for example, we seem to see from adoption studies comparing means that family income does effect IQ, and crime studies from Denmark show that adoptive families with criminal records affect crime rates of kids with law-abiding biological parents and *really* effect kids with law breaking biological parents. So the first issue is if correlation is a reliable method for saying there is no shared family influence and if means need to be given more weight by behavior geneticists. The second is restriction of range (which could be the reason for the contradiction between means and correlations), and if there are enough adoptive families at the lower ends of intelligence, income, conscientiousness, crime etc. to allow an accurate test of shared family influence.

Another issue is that whatever the important extra-parental influences, parents have influence over different locations, which must contain almost all of them. Parents who move from Italy to America have children with a different (and important) "macro-shared" environment, full of different opportunities, customs and values. Has behavior genetics declared the death of shared environment prematurely without considering levels of "shared environment" that occur above family - neighborhood, city, state, country, etc? Also if these things matter (which seems indisputable) and are mediated by shared family (which seems indisputable), again are the correlations hiding important details of parental influence?


A complex issue. We know there's more to personality and behavior than genetics. How much more isn't so clear, and what parts matter isn't so clear; but statistical differences between children of a two parent household and of a single parent household on measures like incarceration after becoming adults, and other very objective events, are very real. Correlation is a powerful tool, but it is sometimes flawed; and often correlations are neither linear nor obvious. There are often other factors: correlation of A and B are high if and only when factor C is involved. There can be interactions.

With small computers we now can process vast matrices of information and find multiple correlations which we formerly would not see simply because inverting matrices before computers became ubiquitous was almost impossible (one of my first jobs as a graduate student was assisting in calculating a matrix inversion using Monroe calculators and sheets of folded paper...

Of course as the tools have improved the understanding of statistical inference seems to have very nearly vanished in the social sciences.


Subject: The IQ debate

Dear Jerry

I'm impressed that you cover this subject. I'm saddened that I have to be impressed as that reflects an intellectual environment that is less than healthy.

One thing in the debate that is totally overlooked is the consequences of a link between race and IQ for sub Saharan Africans themselves as, if it IS true, then the sooner we know it, the sooner we can do something about the awful lives and deaths they live.

Nick Lindsley

Most of the unpleasant facts are not only known but not even in dispute. Underlying causes, and what can be done, cannot be discussed until one is prepared to face the facts.

The modern state of political correctness makes rational discussion of the problems nearly impossible.


It's the Demography, Stupid

I have been beating the "Demographics" drum, so it's good to start seeing the alarm raised in the mainstream media.

But Steyn has one thing badly wrong:

> Scroll way down to the bottom of the Hot One > Hundred top breeders and you'll eventually > find the United States, hovering just at > replacement rate with 2.07

Yes, but *half* those babies are being born into "dependency" (Medicaid pays for the birth, mother goes on the Women/Infants/Children (WIC) supplemental (to Food Stamps) program for women too poor to even *feed* themselves/their new infant. So America's Taxpaying Classes, which are the ones that sustain a First World nation, are not breeding anywhere *near* replacement.





It's the Demography, Stupid

The real reason the West is in danger of extinction.


Wednesday, January 4, 2006 12:01 a.m.

Most people reading this have strong stomachs, so let me lay it out as baldly as I can: Much of what we loosely call the Western world will not survive this century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many if not most Western European countries. There'll probably still be a geographical area on the map marked as Italy or the Netherlands--probably--just as in Istanbul there's still a building called St. Sophia's Cathedral. But it's not a cathedral; it's merely a designation for a piece of real estate. Likewise, Italy and the Netherlands will merely be designations for real estate. The challenge for those who reckon Western civilization is on balance better than the alternatives is to figure out a way to save at least some parts of the West.

One obstacle to doing that is that, in the typical election campaign in your advanced industrial democracy, the political platforms of at least one party in the United States and pretty much all parties in the rest of the West are largely about what one would call the secondary impulses of society--government health care, government day care (which Canada's thinking of introducing), government paternity leave (which Britain's just introduced). We've prioritized the secondary impulse over the primary ones: national defense, family, faith and, most basic of all, reproductive activity--"Go forth and multiply," because if you don't you won't be able to afford all those secondary-impulse issues, like cradle-to-grave welfare.

Americans sometimes don't understand how far gone most of the rest of the developed world is down this path: In the Canadian and most Continental cabinets, the defense ministry is somewhere an ambitious politician passes through on his way up to important jobs like the health department. I don't think Don Rumsfeld would regard it as a promotion if he were moved to Health and Human Services.

The design flaw of the secular social-democratic state is that it requires a religious-society birthrate to sustain it. Post-Christian hyperrationalism is, in the objective sense, a lot less rational than Catholicism or Mormonism.<snip>












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