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Mail 397 January 16 - 22, 2006






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Monday January 16, 2005

Visitors, hot water heater replacements, and other matters. If you did not see Saturday's Education piece, do have a look.

  Letter from England

If you've seen Stewart and Cohen (1997), Figments of Reality, CUP, you will have read their chapter 9, "We Wanted to Have a Chapter on Free Will, but We, Decided not to, so Here It Is." In it, they criticise the simple-minded genetic determinism that many western people now believe--a tendency for people not to accept responsibility for their own actions, denying they have free will. The authors then point out that it has become routine for government ministers in the UK to separate policy (for which they are responsible) from provision (which is someone else's problem). They suggest that that sort of minister is a serious danger to himself and the public and should be removed from office without delay, along with the government that stomached him. It appears Labour may have walked into that morass with the current row about the schools.

The law is an ass http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1987507,00.html 

Tax fraud levels in the UK http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4614226.stm 

Women bishops in the CoE. (I have no theological objections, myself.)

Mental health and diet http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4610070.stm 

Iran plays the oil card http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,12858,1687387,00.html 

NHS problems http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1987998,00.html

UK politics http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article338875.ece 

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her


Atomic Rockets! Torchships!

Great site!


The term "Torchship" was coined by Robert Heinlein, and is featured in his stories Farmer in the Sky, Time for the Stars, Double Star, and "Sky Lift". Sometimes it is referred to as "Ortega's Torch". Nowadays it is implied that a Torchship is some kind of high thrust fusion drive, but Heinlein meant it to mean a total-conversion mass-into-energy drive. The closest thing on the engine list is the beam-core Antimatter drive.

Petronius The Arsebiter Of Taste


Subject: Stardust@home

Internet volunteers to look for dust from Stardust probe!


-- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est" steve@hastings.org http://www.blarg.net/~steveha

They might find something, too


> Subject: WMF in Vista.
> > > WMF in Vista.
> > http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,1911406,00.asp
 > > > Roland Dobbins

I preen. I asked the VISTA team if they had deleted this WMF thing from Vista and my colleagues laughed at me. Of course they knew about it. Of course they had chopped it out.

Only, apparently, they copied the object code directly over without looking at it, and the ghoul has risen from the grave yet again.

I preen.


WMF And Steve Gibson


I am hoping that Bob Thompson's characterization of Steve Gibson as a "gadfly" was meant in the sense of "One that acts as a provocative stimulus; a goad" and not the alternative definition presented in the American Heritage Dictionary, "A persistent irritating critic; a nuisance". Steve has a long history of identifying significant issues, many of them security-related, and bringing them to the attention of millions of users, along with very helpful tools and instructions. Much of his work falls into the category of fixing problems that Microsoft could have, and should have, avoided in the first place, and more often than not the issues that he has identified early on have grown to be serious issues we all have had to deal with.

I first ran Steve's Shield's Up security check in 2000, just after I installed high-speed internet service. I was surprised at how vulnerable Microsoft's default settings left my system, but I was astounded, even at that early stage of broadband adoption, how much activity there was probing my ports. Steve's site provided the education I needed to protect my systems.

In a similar vein to you, doing 'silly things' so we don't have to, Steve has invested time and energy for the good of the computing community, and deserves a real hats-off. While he may not be spot-on with the WMF issue, he is right to publicly raise questions. At a minimum he may goad Microsoft into doing a better job at identifying and resolving these security issues (oh, wait, I forgot, we're all supposed to upgrade to Vista, then the problems will be gone -- isn't that the Microsoft marketing plan?).

Greg Alonzo Philadelphia, PA gnalonzo AT polarishealth DOT com

I can't speak for Mr. Thompson. You will recall I said:

"Bob Thompson refers to Gibson as a gadfly. I would put his usefulness higher than that, but along the same vector. Steve can be paranoid at times. It's well to have such people in the community."

I can repeat that if you like.




This week:


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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

This day was devoured by locusts.




This week:


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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Jerry: The discover military channel (MILI here in Comcast land) is airing:

*"Creating the X-Craft"* The creation of the U.S. Navy's newest warship, the X-Craft

Which is a large high-speed water jet thruster catamaran optimized (I presume) for littoral combat.

Airdate is Jan 20, at 7pm (midwest).

Also, same channel, Warbots on the 27th.

Chris C

-- "Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." M. L. King Jr.

Worth catching. Thanks.

Also, if they ever do a real story of the x-projects at Edwards, it is worth paying attention to. Prizes and X-Projects (real x-projects, not thefts and boondoggles like X-33) are the best and often only ways for government to do its job of preparing for the future without mucking everything up. But I have said all this, perhaps more coherently, in my presentations, and in essays here.


Subject: Special banking for Muslims

Another warning sign:

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - In the quest to find new and profitable ways to attract consumers, the banking industry has found religion.

Islamic banking is emerging as a small but growing trend among lenders in the United States, as niche players create specialized products and services for Muslims that fall within the tenets of Islamic law, or Shariah.


John Witt Senior Mechanical Engineer

Diversity in action. There will be more of this.


On the Symantec Root Kit


I know that there was a very big deal made out of the NProtect folder in the news. Some took proper restraint, because they have had a lot of experience with Norton Utilities. This particular folder has been “Hidden” for almost 12 years now. The hiding was done to only affect the Windows search and Explorer functions. The reasoning is to allow to properly track modify and deleted files for file recovery purposes. Even though it is hidden in certain views, it’s not hidden in many other ways. In fact, you could always easily go to that location from a command prompt. The problem with the claims that a hacker could take advantage of it, is that hackers have tried in the past (a search of http://www.sarc.com <http://www.sarc.com/>  will allow you to locate threats that have attempted to use this folder in the past). To date, there has not been one successful attempt at taking advantage of the NProtect folder to attack a customer. In fact, all other major security vendors have known about this folder since it’s inception and have always done an “on access” scan for any item in that folder that is accessed. The problem with the Sony rootkit, is that not only did it hide from windows in all ways is that it set up a hidden partition to further hide the source code. This is not the case with the NProtect folder. I just thought that you should be made aware of this.


Thank you. My problems with Symantec and Norton have more to do with its busybody aspects and the creeping featurism, and impossibility of uninstalling, than with the hidden folder.


Subject: Using marine batteries for older APC UPS 1400s...

Hi Jerry,

When the batteries of my (now) 12 year old APC Pro 1400 died, I found that the replacement cost plus shipping was near enough to Walmart's deep discharge marine batteries that I just bought two of those (for 24V) and a couple of automotive battery cables. I had to drill a couple of holes for the battery cables to enter the box and I had to solder the big cables to the internal wires, but that was no big deal. Of course, two big batteries take up a little floor space.

The UPS will run for hours now!! <grin>

Just remember that you want "deep discharge" batteries, not standard automobile batteries. You may have to check the water level once or twice a year if it isn't a sealed battery -- only add distilled water. Deep discharge batteries do not have the high cranking amps of standard starting batteries, but you can discharge them almost completely without harming them.

I have no idea what APC would say about doing this...

Also, if you are ever looking for a slick little generator, consider the Honda EU series at 1000, 2000, and 3000 watts. They use inverters to make sine wave AC and throttle the engine only enough to produce the needed power -- making them very fuel efficient. They also run at about 59 db, which is very quiet. I believe Panasonic and a couple of other firms now also make inverter-based generators.


-John G. Hackett

I confess one reason I like APC UPS is that is so very easy to replace the batteries, put the dead battery in the box the new one came in, affix the included UPS shipping label, and let UPS take it away... It costs more to do it that way, but time is not a commodity in great supply here.

And on Marine vs. Deep Discharge Batteries, see below.


Subject: There are days I wonder...

Dr. Pournelle,

On January 10th in the Washington Post there was an article about sleep needs of teenagers. Here's the URL: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/09/AR2006010901561.html 

This past Saturday there were two letters responding to this article. Here's the URL for the letters: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/13/AR2006011301711.html 

I don't know about Tennessee when you were growing up. From what you write, I can see major differences from the New Jersey suburb where I attended school in the 1950s and 1960s. I can also see some intriguing similarities.

This past weekend I asked some older men at church when the school day began for them when they attended high school. One man from somewhat rural New York said 8 AM. The rest of us gave starting times of 8:30, 9:00 and, in one case, even later.

When I was in high school, if anyone fell asleep in class, they were sent to the nurse. People assumed they were sick. This did not happen very often. But we were allowed to sleep to a reasonable hour. I typically got up around 7 AM, had breakfast with my parents and then went to school. My high school was less than two miles away. That meant we didn't ride school buses.

The second letter really surprised me. Classes starting at 7:20 AM? Bus pickups at 5:23 AM? And people wonder why high school students fall asleep in class?

I'm curious what your readers have experienced with regard to this issue. I'm very curious about your take on this issue.

This kind of research should have been a long time ago. What's really sad is the resistance that this kind of discovery is facing. To me, it's another indication that the people who run our schools really don't know what they're doing -- and don't want to learn how to do things better themselves. They'd rather blame somebody else for failure.


Chuck Divine

Keep them busy but don't teach them much, and don't let them drop out or miss classes because the school loses money; keeping them warm  bodies in there for the head count is the most important thing a school can do now.

And no child left behind is no child gets ahead. By God they will all get a world class university prep education no matter how much we have to water down the requirements for getting into university, and turn the university curricula into high school syllabi. Why not?


Subject: Atypical Teen School Sleep Experiences

Jerry, In response to the discussion on your site, my experiences, FWIW:

I grew up in rural Kentucky where busing was the principle option for getting to school. Busses ran to local (district) elementary schools arriving about 7:30 (classes starting at 8:00) and departing about 15:10 for home, then the consolidated high school students were transported on to the high school arriving just before 8 and departing ASAP the end of classes at 14:30. The bus reached my home -- relatively near the end of the route -- about 7:10 in the morning and 15:25 in the afternoon.

Further, I spent three years working as manager /ball boy for the basketball and track teams, which usually meant staying for practice until 16:30 (track) to as late as 19:00 (basketball) plus one or two meets/games per week, returning to school (and thence to home) between 20:00 and 22:00. Homework (such as there was, and that was the down side -- in four years only a few classes demanded much in the way of homework that wasn't done in class) was fit between times.

For most of the time I was in school, Mom worked leaving the house about 6:15 for a 7:00 shift, which meant waking up at 05:30 for breakfast with her prior to her departure. (She woke up at 04:00 - 04:30, a practice she has not given up 40 years later).

So I was routinely getting by on 7 hours sleep a night (often less on Fridays when I would stay awake reading Heinlein juveniles or Doc Smith for the upteenth time or Perry Rhodan, and I'll bet you've never heard that said in the same sentence before) without falling alseep in class or even on the team bus going to and from track events and ball games.

Jay is also involved in comparatively heavy academics (public magnet high school college prep, but I think he qualifies for it, plus a computer course that is so intense that he may not need to go to college to succeed -- he has the chance for Cisco certification out of HS and I think wants to be the next Michael Dell or Bill Gates :) plus academic competition, robotics competition (www.usfirst.org), church choir and on-line gaming. He is also getting by on about 7 hours of sleep with few noticable problems (other than occasionally needing two wake-up calls). But he's not sleeping at school.

Jim W

My high school was 15 or 20 minutes by public bus. I can't remember when it started, but I would guess 0830. I had to stay extra time for ROTC drill (which was held at a public school across the street, there was no ROTC program at Christian Brothers) but that wasn't every day.  I don't recall feeling sleep deprived in high school. The Army was another matter...


Subject:  re: the INSS MacArthur

... as envisaged by a very clever modeller:


Thought you and Niven might be interested -- though it's quite possible you've been shown this before, I suppose.

cheerily, Bill Ernoehazy, MD http://www.dedoc.net

Very well done indeed. Thanks.


Subject: Project Orion video clip 


Project Orion: a re-imagining by Rhys Taylor

A beautiful animated rendering of an Orion class nuclear pulse rocket on a mission to Mars.

Freeman Dyson will one day be known as the man who was the Da Vinci of the 20th century. The beauty and sadness is that, unlike Leonardo, we had the technology to actually build what Freeman Dyson designed.

We could have colonies on Mars and the moon, and a starship approaching the Centauri system this very moment if we had taken the road not chosen.

Watch, weep and dream.




Subj: Artillery: no more unguided MLRS rockets


 ARTILLERY: No More Unguided MLRS Rockets

=January 16, 2006: The U.S. is no longer buying unguided rockets for its 227mm MLRS multiple rocket system. All future purchases will be guided rockets. The primary guided rocket is the M30, carrying a 200 pound high explosive warhead, and using GPS for navigation. That means that at maximum range (over 60 kilometers), each rocket will still land within 10-20 feet of the aiming point. This gives MLRS the same accuracy as JDAM bombs. With the 60 kilometer range, one MLRS vehicle (carrying twelve rockets) or a HIMARS truck (carrying six rockets) can provide smart bomb accuracy for any troops within range. ...=

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com


Subject: ethernet bridging

Jerry, I was interested in your comments on your Byte column about using a router as a bridge by changing some secret setting. I currently have a netgear Wpn824 pre-n router and have been looking into a bridge for my Tivo, much like you mentioned that you have for your replay TV. I currently have the wireless portion encryption set with WPA-PSK, which is still relatively new. I was looking at getting another router like you suggested and setting it up as a bridge. But Netgear documents show that you can only set it up as a wireless access point. Here is the link,

answer&prior_ transaction_id=270099&


So I think some manufacturers will not let you use your router as a wireless bridge anymore. So I have to settle on their WG602 Wireless bridge. Also WDS (wireless distribution system) which wireless bridges use, is not certified by the Wi-Fi alliance so you usually cannot mix manufacturers between bridges and routers. Meaning you take your chances on getting a bridge and router working together if they are from different companies.

Michael Scoggins

Most of my experience is with D-Link. I recall we had problems using Netgear when Niven needed a bridge at his house.


Subject: Stupid in America,


Those who consume their information from the mass media are now informed thanks to ABC's 20/20. How sad the that for many the walk-up call has to come from the TV.



And the suckers -- parents, taxpayers -- never catch wise. Throw more money in. That will fix everything. Pay more and more but never demand any results.

And they never catch wise.


Subject: Military Reorganization Proposal 

Dear Jerry,

>>I do note one item I can't pass by: he wants to transfer most of the National Guard to Homeland Security. The purpose appears to be to create a Civil Defense organization.<<

THIS is a political and Constitutional issue of the first order.

>>There is another underlying question here: what is the purpose of the American military establishment in these times? Until we understand why we need a military it is difficult to come up with an optimum organization.<<

The last time we truly did this, rather than just going through the motions, was early post-Vietnam circa 1972. Back then the conclusions were strategic nuclear deterrence, defending Central Europe and South Korea from Communist invasion, maintaining sea lines of communication with Europe, the Far East and resource areas. These were the Mega Missions. In 1980 Jimmy Carter added the "Carter Doctrine" defining defense of the Persian Gulf states from outside conquest as a vital US interest on a par with defending NATO and the ROK, although build-up activity was proceeding throughout the 1970s. This third mission however was found not to require new tactical organizations and equipment, just enhanced strategic sea and air lift.

I think Mr. Hoffman has specific land scenarios in mind. In line with the New Imperial Politics these strategic missions and goals are not being discussed with us mere peasants. We are simply being notified of what we have to be prepared to do on order of the Imperial Capital. The force structure he proposes also excludes certain scenarios by its reduction of heavy force capabilities. Among these are conventional land invasions of Iran or fighting on land in the Middle East for the purpose of defending it against an outside peer competitor able to muster Heavy Forces.

We must therefore speculate on where Hoffman and his associates envision wide-spread Complex Irregular Warfare occurring. Additional invasions and occupations of Islamic states in addition to Iraq are both possible and have been called for by many in positions of great influence over Washington, D.C. These countries might include Syria, Yemen, Oman, Saudi Arabia and possibly Central Asian states not adjacent to China. Another highly likely area for this structure to be employed is northern South America north and west of Brazil.

Subject to the above Mr. Hoffman's specific proposals can be evaluated further.

Best Regards,



On Batteries

When the batteries of my (now) 12 year old APC Pro 1400 died, I found that the replacement cost plus shipping was near enough to Walmart's deep discharge marine batteries that I just bought two of those (for 24V) and a couple of automotive battery cables. I had to drill a couple of holes for the battery cables to enter the box and I had to solder the big cables to the internal wires, but that was no big deal. Of course, two big batteries take up a little floor space.


Mr Hackett needs to know there is a difference between Marine and Deep Cycle batteries.

Here is my understanding.

Whereas Marine batteries are better than standard automotive batteries with regard to their tolerance to being greatly discharged, they are still not as good as Deep Cycle batteries.

Deep Cycle batteries are intended to be discharged 80%, Marine Batteries about 50%.

Lead-Acid batteries will tend to migrate Sulfate Ions through the wires which can be very hard on electronic equipment over time. Automobiles have some kind of arrestor to prevent the Radio and CD Player etc. from sufering from this.

Brice Yokem




CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Subject: Comrade Clipper

This is interesting:


Kevin Price Senior PC Technologist

Indeed it is.


Subject: The coming dominant language,


You have said that there is no law mandating that English be the language of space exploration. Well, it seems that the wealthy in America know what the next dominant language will be . . .






--- Roland Dobbins



Subject: Thought police attack Kellog and Viacom -

Consumer "Advocates" (aka Thought Police) to sue Viacom and Kellogg over advertising


I'll leave the obvious comments about parental responsibility to the reader.

Now the real question: Is socialism/communism and this type of centralized "we know best" totalitarian control an inevitable outcome of an affluent capitalist society? By our very success, we have enough surplus to allow those type of people and attitudes to flourish without consequence. Is a cycle of enlightenment->growth->prosperity->affluence->arrogance->decline->crash mandatory a natural, process?

We all have ideas about how to break the cycle (I personally feel that taking back control of the schools is the key, which is why the 'government knows best' crowd is so passionately against it). The question is: Can any of those realistically happen?



Abolish the public schools or return them to local control (abolishing them is a federal power grab I would not care to support). Control of the school system and indoctrination of the next generation is key to imperial control.

Note that Caesar was a Populares, not an Optimate; as to who may be the leader of the Populares now that John John is no more, I do not know.


Good news from Francis Hamit

Dear Jerry:

I have just been notified that Amazon Shorts will publish, as a serial (between 12 and 14 parts) the first in my planned series of Civil War novels. The SHENANDOAH Spy takes place between July 1861 and July 1862 and explores the early career of Belle Boyd, who became so famous for her role as a scout and spy that she made a living talking about it for the last 12 years of her life. The book is based upon real events and personalities, but is fictional. It is the first of as least five.

More details when I have them. You are the first to know.


Francis Hamit



 Re: Your comments on the Bremer book

Dear Jerry:

I haven't read the Bremer book yet, but you comments seem to hit a prevailing theme with this administration. Wasn't FEMA director Mike Brown just such a case? Given huge responsibilities without the necessary background and savvy. These people have brought arrogance to a new high.


Francis Hamit

But Bremer is a senior Foreign Service Officer and thus in theory well qualified.

Management will solve all problems. You can manage your way out of all dilemmas.

The heresy of the modern age.


Subject: Article: Most College Students Lack Skills

Dr. Pournelle,

Allow me to be the first to submit this article from this afternoon's headlines: Study: Most College Students Lack Skills http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=

My favorite quote about the "brighter news": "Overall, the average literacy of college students is significantly higher than that of adults across the nation. Study leaders said that was encouraging but not surprising, given that the spectrum of adults includes those with much less education." I used to take the literacy of college graduates for granted, until I encountered executives who lack the ability to compose a readable e-mail.

-Mat Bergman, two-time college dropout


Mat Bergman

Aaaaarrrrrgggghhhh!  We have sown the wind. Now we reap. And see below




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


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Friday,  January 20, 2006

Subject: LA Magnet Schools

An article in today's LA Times may shed light on why public scools are in decline now.



The schools were supposed to be magnets for educational excellence, attracting motivated students to integrated campuses outside of their neighborhoods.

When magnets were launched in 1976, almost 40% of the district's students were white, about one-third Latino and one-quarter black. Magnet schools were required to reflect that balance in a district facing a court order to desegregate.

Today, magnets, as a group, are considered the best schools in a district mostly known for its problems. What many are not, however, is well-integrated. In today's district, fewer than one in 10 students is white. And magnets have emerged as a way of keeping the middle class in public schools.


Not really a surprise.

Keep up the good work, Dave Krecklow

I already commented on this in VIEW, but it is worth repeating. The subject is of utmost importance. Of course nothing will be done. And see below


Subject: Populares and Optimate

Once more you sent me researching, Dr. Pournelle.

This time I found http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~dee/ROME/CRISIS.HTM 

This article made the point that slavery is primarily an economic tool to keep the wages of labor near subsistence levels.

Expressed in other words, this is the real justification for allowing (de facto encouraging) illegal immigration and easy outsourcing.


Charles Brumbelow

You are not supposed to know this. Of course it once was taught in high school.


Subject: The last word on WMF "back door"

I think we can now safely discount the idea that someone at Microsoft put in the WMF exploit as a secret back door.


-- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"


Shades of the Mote.


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: Hey, check this out!!! XCOR again!!!


I haven't been able to talk about this because we were waiting for permission from the Air Force. We got it, and Alan Boyle jumped on it; the press release was supposed to be out two hours from now. That pulse you see is REAL TIME. No video fakery. And note the nozzle: it's COVERED WITH ICE. While the rocket engine is firing, it's so cold it's frozen. How's THAT for efficiency!???!!

Oh, we do have fun here.. ;->




The problem also crops up in Scotland but they seem to have an idea of what is wrong, see http://news.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=95382006  keep up the good work

 Vito Meiller

They may think they know, but the real problem is that Scotland is not Lake Weobegon.

Only about 20% of the population ought to be going to college. The rest need to learn skills for making a living. They can learn those in high school. But you will never have the bottom 20% scoring as well as the top 20% in college prep courses. It is futile and dangerous to try. And see below






This week:


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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Subject: Students offered a B-minus for skipping classes

It's endemic. First, the government offered farmers money to not grow wheat. Now this. >Charlie

Students offered a B-minus for skipping classes

Last Updated Fri, 20 Jan 2006 18:20:01 EST CBC News <http://www.cbc.ca/news/credit.html http://www.cbc.ca/story/canada/national/2006/01/20/pass-class20060120.html

More on this Monday; I have many letters on education and we'll get them up then. And see next item


Subject: Educational Disaster

The actual report (as opposed to the media reports, which are notoriously inaccurate) regarding the lack of skills in college students near graduation can be found here:


 The results of the report strengthen the likelihood that capability of students is part of the explanation. For example, the results of the report indicate that students whose parents had graduated from college were significantly better at the skills being measured than those whose parents had only a GED or H.S. diploma (intelligence is hereditable). I also note that there were significant differences in the skills based on race. You will not be surprised by the racial results. The report also indicates that students from selective four year colleges had significantly better skills at prose literacy than those from non-selective colleges. Surprisingly to me, the students of the selective colleges did not do significantly better at the two other skills being measured (document and quantitative literacy). Selectivity was based on Barron's guide to colleges.

%20of%20Americas%20College%20Students_appendices.pdf ) .

Apparently, Barron's rates schools as noncompetitive and competitive. I'm not familiar with Barron's criteria, so do not know what percentage of schools are competitive in Barron's view or whether I would agree with Barron's designations.

V. René Daley

The point that is missed in all this is that this is not Lake Woebogon where all the children are above average. Now it would astonish most professors of education to learn that most "below average" children can learn quite a lot. Read the letters written by Civil War private soldiers for some inspiration. American people have been building the most prosperous economy in the world, buying houses, buying and fixing cars, and doing a great number of things requiring both manual and cognitive skills for a long time, and the average high school graduate used to be able to recite poetry (mostly ballads and rhyming poetry with scansion but perhaps that is no bad thing), appreciate a certain degree of literature, particularly of the "story telling" variety, read Eli Culbertson's book on winning friends, and in general live pretty good lives. We didn't expect them to go to college or to benefit from college; but we did teach them a good bit.

That doesn't happen now. First we demand that all kids get a world class college prep education -- that was one of Bill Gate's most misguided statements. Then when we discover that if we do that some race ahead and some fall behind, and we insist that no child be left behind, we put most of our effort into those who will profit from it least,   and concentrate on making college material of those with IQ below 90. And since none can fall behind, we have to see that none get far ahead.

The result is predictable, was predicted, and the predictions are bearing out.

We have sown the wind, and it is a disaster, and since we continue with the same assumptions it can only get worse.

We do no good for the bright children but we do no good for the average and below average either.

Of course if the goal is to see that the children of people rich enough to send their children to private schools, or to have a stay at home parent to home school, will get far ahead of everyone else regardless of intelligence or merit, we may achieve that goal. At least we are trying to do that. Whether IQ will out is another matter. But we are certainly a long way toward what Vonnegut's wonderful story Harrison Bergeron (http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/hb.html ) described.

And the suckers never catch wise.

Incidentally, Vonnegut wrote that in 1961. Think about that.

From the same correspondent:

Subject: Education Disaster

Everyone is talking about the results of the study which found that college students, on the eve of graduation, cannot do basic skills. People are assuming that this means that colleges are failing to adequately educate their students. While this is almost certainly a component of the results, I think the problem also is caused by the current demographics of college students. Back in 1960, approximately 81% of kids 16 and 17 years old were enrolled in school (h.s. and college), while only 21% of people aged 20 to 21 were enrolled in school (h.s. and college). (http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/education/cp60pcs1-20/tab-73-75.pdf ) . Roughly speaking, only 25% of high school graduates went to college. I safely assume that, on the whole, this 25% represented students who were of above average intelligence. In 2004, 12.5 million students between 15 and 24 were enrolled in high school, while 8.7 million in the same age range were enrolled in college. (http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/school/cps2004/tab09-01.xls) . This seems to indicate that about 75% of high school graduates now go to college. Clearly, it is no longer the case that virtually all college students are above average intelligence. Accordingly, part of the problem reflected in the education report is probably due to the lowered capabilities of the college population.

I also note that the report indicates that the study was conducted at a representative slice of 2 and 4 year colleges. I would like to know (1) what "representative" means; and (2) what the results look like for top tier colleges. I can almost guarantee that the results will be drastically different (in a good way) in the Ivy League (Yale, Harvard, etc.) and in top liberal arts colleges (e.g., Haverford, Swarthmore, Carleton) and other similar institutions. Unfortunately, the results will also be drastically different (in a bad way) for bottom tier schools.

René Daley

The Europeans used to say that Americans get a very good high school education but they have to go to college to get it. We are now moving that up to graduate school. The fundamental flawed assumptions are:

(1) that students IQ 85 - 115 can't learn much in high school so there is no point in teaching them much

(2) that everyone deserves a world class college prep education (Bill Gates only popularized this assumption which seems built into the American entitlement philosophy)

(3) that such an education can be provided to everyone

(4) that unless they get a world class college prep education the IQ 85-115 students are deprived,

(5) that there isn't anything worth teaching to them except to give them a world class college preparatory education,

(6) that everyone ought to go to college and thus pay tuition (or have it paid for them) so that there will be full employment for the intellectual class who feed off the rest of the population like leeches and demand ever rising payments and perks.


And of course it would come to this:

Outsourcing homework.


-- Roland Dobbins


And for a picture of the future:

Panlong Journal.



"I'm a son of the senior government official," the man added. "I'm actually risking too much to meet you. I could just shut up and have a happy life, but we've got to do something so the next generations have a better and cleaner place to live."

--- Roland Dobbins


Subject: This racist undercurrent in the tide of genetic research


The "Anti-Creationists" are sure in a bind, aren't they? Once one affirms Darwin, there is no logical stopping point, because "race" = "evolution" = "widely varying geography and environmental conditions".

It was gracious of Kohn to refer to Charles Murray's latest writing as "magisterial".

I hope eventually that opinion morphs to the point where group differences are treated like pornography--something available to adults who seek it out, but not something pushed on anyone, especially not children.


I know of absolutely no argument for assuming human equality other than religious postulates, as Jefferson did in the Declaration. War on religion is a war on the underlying assumptions of American political life. Why the same group that insists on equality of outcomes in all matters also insists on undermining the religous basis of American politics is an interesting question. Hypocrisy or double dyed villainy?



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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Subject: Garage sale find provokes thought

While chasing old cameras and tube audio gear, I picked up a Sun SPARCstation 10 for the princely sum of fifty dollars, with optical mouse and pad, keyboard, and nineteen-inch monitor. The monitor works very well and I have repurposed it on a PC for the time being as I really don't need a Sun workstation. It was of course an impulse purchase.

But this thing, now on a shelf with old Tek scopes and whatnot, provoked some serious thought. Supposing one had been a writer, say, back in the mid or late 1980s when these things were new. That was before Linux: if you wanted a Unix system with its cornucopia of command line utilities like troff, yacc, lex, TeX, vi, emacs, and whatnot, you paid out the you-know-where. My guess is this thing cost some company close to ten thousand dollars when it was new.

But supposing you were a professional writer, you know, back then and bought one anyway with the notion that the Unix environment offered some big advantages and would pay its own way and then some over such environments as MS-DOS, the nascent Macintosh OS, the Atari ST or even the Amiga. And supposing you had bought one, learned to use Unix and its tools, and wrote on, missing out on the worlds of Windows or Mac OS in the nearly twenty years (can it really be twenty years???) since. What would the economic and social implications have been?


Eventually someone would have invented word processors. Bob Forward wrote his first novel with TECO, though...






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