CHAOS MANOR MAIL
Mail 399 January 30 - February 5, 2006
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January 30, 2006
More or less a quiet weekend.
Tube shooting case unravelling--Police tampered with log. http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/crime/article341765.ece http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/crime/article341958.ece http://www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0,,1697976,00.html http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,22989-2016188,00.html
Investigation of July bombings makes little headway.
Was there an al-Qaeda mastermind?
MI5-style operation to address Olympic building scams. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2016190,00.html
ID cards said to be of limited value against terrorism. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4659228.stm
Tagging of criminals valueless. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2014723,00.html
UK attitude towards abortion. http://www.guardian.co.uk/Observer/uk_news/story/0,,1697424,00.html
Iranian nuclear warning. http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,,1697505,00.html
"No students" in Loughborough http://education.guardian.co.uk/students/housing/story/0,,1697549,00.html
UK sliced bread to be banned by the EU. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2014721,00.html
How to get better care from the NHS--pay cash. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2014897,00.html
Curbing climate change unlikely. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4660938.stm
11-year-old heroin addict in Scotland. http://www.guardian.co.uk/drugs/Story/0,,1697920,00.html
-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her
Following in response to some mail I sent to my colleagues:
A few points:
1. Yes, TruBlueEnvironment is part of the Mac Classic emulation support. It's possible to have that enabled to load when a user logs into their Mac automatically. However this is not the default. These settings can be checked under System Preferences --> Classic
2. Anyone who tells you that you need to install an anti-virus program on your Mac is selling you snake oil. This goes for McAfee, Norton, and anyone else who spells out Doom-and-Gloom(tm) if you dont have AV on your Mac. Basically the big boys are trying to make a mountain out of a molehill and are sad that they cant get their regular yearly extortion tithing for updated AV definitions from Mac users. Also some AV packages on the Mac have been known to cause more problems then they actually solve. If you absolutely insist on needing AV then I suggest something free like clamXav found here:
It's based off the open source AV package clamav and is harmless to use as to the best of my knowledge. However I would have to disclaim that I've never used it or any other AV products on my Mac. Furthermore, David Pouge, the gentleman who writes a lot of the OS X Missing Manual series is in the same boat as me in that he too doesnt run any AV software because there simply are no active viruses on the OS X platform.
Hope that helps.
When You Fly in First Class, It's Easy to Forget the Dots.
--- Roland Dobbins
On Iraqi Democracy
Hello Dr. Pournelle
Like most of your subscribers, I eagerly await your next book, I have been a fan of your writing since I was a boy back in the seventies, and was delighted to have stumbled across your website, several years ago. I also loved your columns in Byte, and fondly remember Zeke, your friend who happened to be a Cromemco computer. Unfortunately, like many of those who are regular visitors to your site, I have an opinion on the situation in Iraq.
I am a sincere, but disillusioned believer in democracy. What many people seem not to understand, is that leadership is a skill and a responsibility. For millennia, we had kings, emperors, and such, who were trained or raised to fill this role. When they were unsuited to the job, things went poorly, and perhaps a rebellion or some such thing toppled them from their thrones, or they became puppets to more highly skilled, and ambitious men. It is no different with democracy. When the people rule themselves, we too, need to be trained or raised to fill this role. We too need to develop skills, and take responsibility, or we will be toppled from the throne, or become puppets to the manipulation of highly skilled and ambitious men. Self rule, or rule by a king, it is all the same; if you cannot handle the job, you will lose it to someone who can. This is why forcing democracy upon another nation, as a cure for it's ills, is such a tricky thing.
The problem with attempting to use democracy as a cure all, is that not every nation is sick in the same way. Democracy only works in a fairly homogeneous culture, and then only when this culture is comprised mainly of citizens. By citizens, I mean those who have a certain allegiance to the country and culture, as well as having an involvement in, and an understanding of, it's functioning. That is to say, those who are suited to the job of self-rule. You often speak of the middle class as being composed of such people. The middle class, to my mind, is the dynamic class. They do the work, and cannot afford to be complacent. The rich can get away with being passive, even idle, and the poor, particularly when being maintained by government largesse, do not concern themselves with the workings of the country, or with much of anything else, though some may have an interest in politics, since this is their meal ticket. The middle class, on the other hand, is the involved class. They are the citizens. With a majority of such people, a democracy may be sustained, and prosper. Without them, it cannot exist.
Unfortunately for Iraq, it may not yet be comprised of citizens, and probably cannot be made to be so for a generation, if then. It may also be that democracy is not applicable to all cultures. I know that this is sacrilege, and that to a true believer, democracy is worthy of veneration if not worship; but true believers are often out of touch with anything outside of the tenets of their faith. If the current culture of Iraq is not amenable to democracy, will the people there tolerate changing to one, which is? Would they, or any other people, be willing to give up their cultural identity in order to embrace a form of government which, to them, often seems like such a mixed blessing. This is not a criticism of the Iraqi people, nor is it meant to be some sort of racial slur against undemocratic Middle Easterners. In truth, it took many generations to acclimate Europeans to the democratic process, and it often seems as if this acclimation never quite took.
The American Revolution would never have happened during the first generation, or even the first several generations of American colonists.
Such a thing would also never have happened in England at that time. In point of fact, the English themselves were under far more stringent restrictions, and had a considerably larger tax load, than the American colonists; yet they did not rebel. With the exception of Cromwell, the English revolutions and civil wars tended to be between the barons and the king, or between one royal contender for the crown and another. I also like to note that much of what Cromwell did was undone after his death, even to having the government returned to "normal" with a new king at the helm. The fact that the body of Cromwell was latter dug up, and beheaded, makes me wonder about the future feelings of those countries, which America is attempting to enlighten.
I think that one of the reasons that the colonists were disposed towards rebellion, and a conversion to democracy, was in their manner of living. Being so far from "home" they had to adapt themselves to a system of nominal independence, if not limited self-rule. Over time, this tended to make them a rather self-directed group of Englishmen. Even so, anywhere from a third to a half of the colonists were loyalists during the revolution. Even after the revolution succeeded, there had been a strong movement towards making George Washington the king of America. To the minds of many of the former colonists, this would have been nothing more than the natural course of events. We had not yet become quite enamored with the idea of democracy.
Suppose now, that a group of outsiders had come in, thrown the English out, told the good English colonists that they would no longer be ruled by a king, and then set up elections. Would the colonists have welcomed their liberation, or would they have banded with their English rulers to oppose the outsiders? It may be that democracy cannot be imposed by outsiders. It either comes up from the people, or from the evolution of their culture, or it does not come up at all.
It is interesting to note that while we are busy trying to convert Iraq into a democracy, and make from it's people, a nation of citizens, we are going in the exact opposite direction here at home. How many people here are still citizens in the sense that they feel a part of their government and communities? How many still bother to vote, and how many would vote if there were threats of bombers at polling places? How many are aware of the workings of the government, or are educated and literate enough to find out, if they should ever feel the need? How many are securely middle class, property owning, self determined, and citizens in the traditional sense of the word? How many parents would be proud to see their sons go into the military? The answers to these questions are probably pretty good indicators as to the continued viability of democracy here.
Fifty years ago, and perhaps even thirty years ago, the United States was filled with citizens, who were quite able to live in, and contribute to a democracy. Things have changed considerably. This is largely due to the combined attack of the education system, the foolishness of political correctness, an entitlement system, which turns huge numbers of people into virtual wards of the state, and a tax system, which threatens to put the rest of us in the same situation. I am wondering more often, these days, if we are still up to the challenge of democracy ourselves, and how much longer it will remain a viable system here, with more and more people leaving the ranks of the responsible citizen. I hope that we are able to turn Iraq into a nation full of citizens, so that we can then use the experience to do the same thing here.
Education and assimilation; common language; we all know the remedies. It is politically incorrect to talk about them. We sow the wind.
Fair warning: very explicit and somewhat seamy subject matter:
From another conference:
> A quarter of girls aged fifteen had engaged in it,
> and more than half aged seventeen. Obviously,
> there was no previous data to compare this with,
> but millions of suburban dads were quite adamant
> that they had been born too soon.
Caitlin has got *that* one right!
The Atlantic Monthly | January/February 2006
BOOKS & CRITICS
Are You There God? It's Me, Monica
How nice girls got so casual about oral sex
by Caitlin Flanagan
The Rainbow Party
by Paul Ruditis
by Judy Blume
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret
by Judy Blume
The first time I heard a mother of girls talk about the teenage oral-sex craze, I made her cry. The story she told me-about a bar mitzvah dinner dance on the North Shore of Chicago, where the girls serviced all the boys on the chartered bus from the temple to the reception hall-was so preposterous that I burst out laughing. The thought of thirteen-year-old girls in party dresses performing a sex act once considered the province of prostitutes (we are talking here about the on-your-knees variety given to a series of near strangers) was so ludicrous that all I could do was giggle.
It was as though I had taken lightly the news that a pedophile had moved into my friend's neighborhood. It was as though I had laughed about a leukemia cluster or a lethal stretch of freeway. I apologized profusely; I told her I hadn't known.
The moms in my set are convinced-they're certain; they know for a fact-that all over the city, in the very best schools, in the nicest families, in the leafiest neighborhoods, twelve- and thirteen-year-old girls are performing oral sex on as many boys as they can. They're ducking into janitors' closets between classes to do it; they're doing it on school buses, and in bathrooms, libraries, and stairwells. They're making bar mitzvah presents of the act, and performing it at "train parties": boys lined up on one side of the room, girls working their way down the row. The circle jerk of old-shivering Boy Scouts huddled together in the forest primeval, desperately trying to spank out the first few drops of their own manhood-has apparently moved indoors, and now (death knell of the Eagle Scout?) there's a bevy of willing girls to do the work.
Saw this article, Dr. Pournelle,
"Celeb Sex Tapes: a String of Grainy Hits"
and it raised an interesting question... If actors engage in sex with actresses, have anti-prostitution laws been violated? If so, maybe those scenes need to be shot in Las Vegas -- although that would violate THEIR "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" advertising campaign.
Just some lighter fare for the weekend.
I read the translation of The Two Grenadiers. It's powerful, but I couldn't stand the translation. Heine is a lot blunter that the translator. I sat down and redid the translation so I could appreciate the poem better.
I went through and made a more literal translation, using the English words closest to Heine's German. I changed the word order a bit to fit English grammar, but I kept all the words from each line in the poem on the same line in the translation. The result is not romantic poetry any more, but IMO it gets the point across more clearly than the romantic translation that was provided. I am also sure that someone with better German than mine could have done a better job, but I thought I'd share.
I have done much the same thing. I think "Kaiser" does not need translation: Then rides my Kaiser right over my grave, with swords flashing and thundering, and rise I full armed from out of that grave, my Kaiser, my Kaiser, to guard... But indeed yours is better than the published translation.
Regarding your Onions and Orchids: Round 3 article on the Byte site. I don't think dual core was what made Apple make the jump to Intel processors. I think it was the VT(Vanderpool ) instruction set extensions. Based on what I've read, the Vanderpool (Intel)/Pacifica (AMD) extensions have the potential of dramatically increasing the speed of virtual machines and that's what Intel offers that Apple couldn't get with the Power PC, efficient support of Windows under OS/X.
To greatly oversimplify things, Pentium (compatible) processors have always supported 4 security levels, ring 0 through ring 3. The operating system kernel normally runs at ring 0, applications at ring 3, with rings 1 and 2 unused. Normally, the virtual PC software (“hypervisor” seems to be the most popular term for it) moves the virtual machine's kernel to ring 1 so it can run a ring 0 and control what the virtual machine does.
This involves a great deal of (read CPU intensive) behind the scenes juggling to keep the virtual machine's operating system from realizing it's not running at ring 0. Vanderpool/Pacifica adds what amounts to a ring -1 security level which allows the virtual machine's operating system to run at ring 0 as it expects to, without it having complete control over the computer. Charlie Demerjian over at the Inquirer had a series of articles on Vanderpool/Pacifica not too long ago. The URLs are below if you're interested.
Intel Vanderpool holds promise, some pitfalls
Tech Guide Part One
Intel Vanderpool: the thorns, the thorns
Intel Vanderpoo: More roses, roses
Part III Sic quod erat misunderstandum
Intel Vanderpool begs plenty of questions
Part IIII We continue to arsk
AMD's Pacifica revealed in full
Part One A bigger pool to swim in?
How AMD's Pacifica handles memory
Part Two Swimming in the different pools
AMD Pacifica turns the nested tables
Part Three Concludes the series
Subject: Jumping Steve
A time wasting plugin for the iTunes visualizer.
Radiological release in Jacksonville, FL.
- Roland Dobbins
Our own Dr. Ernoehazy ought to know something about this, since it's in his territory.
EPA wants to stick it to Teflon - DuPont asked to stop using key ingredient
Yet another example of adopting a high-cost 'solution' based on FUD. At least this time, the EPA admits that: "The science on PFOA is still coming in, but the concern is there,". What was DuPont going to do? Say no?
And people wonder why the birth rate is dropping among the intelligent and affluent. We can see what the future holds, and wouldn't want to inflict that on our children.
|This week:||Tuesday, January
by Daniel Pipes New York Sun January 31, 2006 http://www.danielpipes.org/article/3347
Reactions to the lopsided Hamas victory over
Fatah last week in the Palestinian Authority elections divided into three.
Some, like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee
expressed dismay, worried about Hamas openly boasting of its goal to destroy the Jewish state, seeing this as the end of the peace process.
Others, such as former president Jimmy Carter
A third group, which includes Boston Globe
columnist Jeff Jacoby
And me? The Hamas victory leaves me neutral with regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Not much separates Hamas anti-Zionism from Fatah anti-Zionism except that Hamas terrorists speak forthrightly while Fatah terrorists obfuscate. Even their tactics overlap, as Fatah denies the existence of Israel and Hamas negotiates with Israelis. Differing emphases and styles, more than substance, distinguishes their attitudes toward Israel. <snip>
Pipes is usually worth listening to for the best reasoning of the pro-Israel position.
Subj: An Iraqi's thoughts on democracy
Is there a place for democracy in the Middle East?
=When people voted for the religious choice that was because religion was in front of them all the time while [secular] parties like ours were more like a new face in the neighborhood, interesting but not convincing.=
Bernard Lewis has made the same point, that the religiously-oriented political parties started with a big advantage in established political organization, based in the mosques.
=Lack of security and the feeling of being targeted had led many people to entrench behind their sects. killings or marginalization were guided by the sectarian/ethnic identity to a great extent and this applies to all parties.=
=It is difficult to convince the simple segment of the population that democracy will not allow dictators to appear again and that it guarantees pluralism. We simply haven’t absorbed these concepts and it seems rather impossible for our people to trust democracy from the first trial.=
=Some said that it was too early to push the region to do elections because elections would bring fundamentalists…but if we don’t start now, then when?!=
=...[D]emocracy is still the one and only solution and we need to go through all its stages, even if we make wrong choices, what matters is that these would be our choices, not someone else’s.=
=...I think it’s going to be very difficult for the fundamentalists to perform a coup on democracy as long as the free world stands by our side until we pass the critical phase.=
=I think the coming four years-with all the intellectual freedom and technological facilities that cannot be contained by the ruler-will allow the liberal and secular powers to grow stronger and become more influential.=
Subject: UK Religious hatred bill
Surprisingly, Harry Erwin left this one out of today’s letter from England.
Very well reasoned speech by comedian Rowan Atkinson, criticising the proposed UK Religious Hatred Bill.
Subject: Intel chips for Apple
I do not think that Apple went with the Intel chips to get virtualization instructions. It's simpler than that.
Intel chips offer a much better performance/heat ratio.
Apple wants to make nifty notebooks, and those desktop iMac computers that are basically a nifty notebook on a stick. The Intel chips consume less power and give off less heat while delivering more performance. It's win/win/win.
Another point in favor of Intel is that Apple won't have to wonder whether there will be enough chips. Intel has *huge* production capacity. This is why there was no chance Apple would choose AMD.
Apple will eventually have Intel chips in their entire product line, but the last computers that will make the switch are their top-end workstations and servers.
P.S. Remembering the Pentium 4, it feels weird to be talking about how little heat an Intel CPU gives off! -- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est" firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.blarg.net/~steveha
I expect you're right.
Subject: Pentium Ring level security
I would like to add a dose of salt to the idea that the Windows OS levels of security with Pentium processors were proper decisions.
As I recall, the graphic parts were _added_ to the Ring 0 and people were not pleased when that was announced.
This seems to ensure that my ProLiant 800 either seizes or gives a blue screen when it has been on pages that use Macromedia Flash.
This doesn’t happen with my single processor boxes, so something that differs between one and two processors has upset the security of operations. If this affects many dual processor boxes, and I have heard that it is not uncommon, then I wonder about Apple and HP Media PCs with AMD dual core chips.
Just my two cents.
You can access the original at: http://space.com/adastra/adastra_tumlinson_060130.html
Rick Tumlinson (by the way Return to the Moon is still available at Amazon and other bookstores.)
By Rick N. Tumlinson From adAstra online/Space.Com
I don’t know if you noticed—between fashion reports from red carpets of Hollywood awards shows or the return of new Battlestar Galactica episodes—but NASA is thinking about dropping methane-type propellants from its requirements for the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) program in favor of harder to handle, yet more dangerous hypergolic propellants like those used in the shuttle and other old-school systems.
Now, this may sound just a tiny bit obscure and technical, but it is actually symbolic of the agency turning its back on the future, as it struggles to please its established constituencies by going backwards in time. This is of course ironic for an exploration and advanced research agency; in fact you might even call it anti-thetical to its purpose, as understood by the public who funds the whole thing. But to those of us who have watched this throwing out the oars and compass to save the ship mentality, it is nothing new—if not completely predictable. Remember the space shuttle being able to fly 50 times a year? Or, the space station that was going to be a port in space and a lab to learn how to live and work there? (This is the Internet my friends, go back and read the words from those who gave us these earlier myths—at the time they seemed just as solid as the current ones, and were pronounced with just as important and knowing voices.)
You see, once again, longterm supportability—and any relevance to any overarching goal like opening space to the people—is being sacrificed to pay for short term budget challenges that really don’t need to exist at all. On a leadership level, this isn’t all NASA’s fault. Due to internal and external pressures from old timers and those who think they’re supporting our space program in Congress (but are actually hurting it), NASA is trying to make sure that there is no gap between the shuttle’s 2010 retirement and the arrival of its "Crude Exploitation Vehicle".
Of course, as Bill O’Reilly would say, I am spinning this my own way. I admit it. My goal, the permanent and economically profitable expansion of the human species beyond the Earth, is not the goal of NASA, comments by their leadership in national newspapers notwithstanding. Their goal, if one can tease it out from their actions, is to look really busy doing really important things, while spending our money propping up certain major companies and political constituencies. They may have themselves fooled into thinking they are going somewhere, but with few exceptions, they are building a system that will lead us nowhere. This will be done at the greatest possible cost to the taxpayers and return the highest possible profit to the entrenched aerospace cabal that created the concepts in the first place.
So, back to methane propellant, which, not so coincidentally, is also a rather smelly gas exuded by well-fed animals. The ability to mine, extract and manufacture methane—based fuel from the resources we find in space and on the Moon and Mars is the equivalent of learning how to live off the land. You want to live in space permanently, you can’t take expensive, hard to use, and dangerous stuff with you all the time everywhere you go. Instead, you make the investment early to develop the tools to live cheaply later on. (Think of it this way, you need water at your new outpost in the desert. You either spend a few bucks to drill a well now, or you pay someone to bring you water forever. Evian anyone?)<snip>
The entire article is worth reading. Max Hunter always thought propane or methane were greatly preferable to hydrogen, and I have come to agree. NASA ought to be issuing development contracts for new propulsion systems. It's one thing NASA could do.
Back in June of '04, we had a little dialog <http://www.jerrypournelle.com/archives2/archives2mail/mail315.html#balloons> regarding JP Aerospace and their incrementalist approach to space access via blimps <http://www.jpaerospace.com/> . Nice to see they're making steady progress.
Today, I stumbled across (Thank you, BoingBoing <http://www.boingboing.net> !) a discussion of airborne windmills <http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/004052.html> . One tethered version <http://www.skywindpower.com/ww/index.htm> posits two cents per KWH, which ain't shabby, but has to ground when thunderbumpers start sparking, or Auntie Em's house flies by. Not suited for the tropics, better for high altitudes, places which really need the power (to keep back The Ice?)
Add in microwave power transmission as you explained in Fallen Angels <http://baen.com/library/067172052X/067172052X.htm> , and the tether could be non-conductive; therefore, lightning nearby would not require grounding it, and availability goes up. I think you and they need to talk, to benefit The Republic For Which We Stand.
At very least, this would enrich the near-space environment and makes it easier to work off the surface for long periods of time, which I thought was the point of your June '04 story-in-progress.
-- -- John Bartley K7AAY PDX OR USA ''This is a carburetor,'' Hank tells his son. ''Take it apart, put it back together; repeat until you're normal.'' - KOTH
It certainly would. And I need to look into this more. Thanks!
Net giants beware: freedom may not last.
-- Roland Dobbins
Subject: Functional MRI - lying
Jerry: A science fiction standard becomes reality? Functional MRI to test for lying. I predict the device/technique will be banned in Washington DC.
"How many people are going to emulate now, trying to go to high school like Sharon Stone, with no underwear on because she uncrossed her legs in front of five detectives?" Representative Bob Dorman (R-California)
I did some early work on polygraphs; this is of course beyond that, but with a good operator and full polygraph (hand and face temperatures are vital, and most police polygraphs do not have those) you can get almost any answer with 20 questions; I showed some of that in Prince of Sparta. I think it safe to say that we are not far from a time when the police can determine truth with accuracy acceptable to the courts.
What happens then? I should do a novel on that.
Subj: Stacked chips are coming
=Parthiban (Parthi) Arunasalam, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering, was awarded the Intel Best Student Paper Award in modeling or advanced packaging at the prestigious Electronic Components and Technologies Conference (ECTC) earlier this month.Titled “Smart Three Axis Compliant (STAC) Interconnect: An Ultra-High Density MEMS Based Interconnect for Wafer-Level Ultra-Thin Die Stacking Technology,” Arunasalam’s paper addressed development of electrical interconnects that will carry signals between chips when they are stacked on top of one another. ...=
Subject: H. Beam Piper on Democracy
In his immortal novel SPACE VIKING, H. Beam Piper wrote:
=== "You didn't say anything about representative government, or democracy, or the constitution," Trask mentioned. "And I noticed the use of the word `rule', instead of `reign'."
"That's right," the self-proclaimed Prince-Protector said. "There's something wrong with democracy. If there weren't, it couldn't be overthrown by people like Makann, attacking it from within by democratic procedures. I don't think it's fundamentally unworkable. I think it just has a few of what engineers call bugs. It's not safe to run a defective machine till you learn the defects and remedy them." ===
This was brought to mind by recent events in Palestine and Iraq.
Subject: A suggestion for a ritual
Several people have suggested this, I think, but I commend it to you.
The background is that the shadow of Armageddon, with its many aspects (genetic damage and nuclear winter being possibly the most potent) has weaved its way into the soul of humanity. We have become used to the idea that history may end at any moment, and the corruption of this shadow has contaminated our hopes and our dreams. Never before the Tragic Century has mankind had the power to write the last page of its story.
But the last escape from Pandora’s Box was Hope, and as you have pointed out despair is a sin.
The ritual suggestion is that, at an interval to be decided (my feeling is 10 years) that the leaders of every sovereign state in the world be invited to witness the detonation of a high-yield thermonuclear device, at a safe distance and in a location chosen to be of least possible harm to the ecology.
Why? Well, the reason is very simple; to remind all said leaders that if they make enough, and bad enough, mistakes, then what they have just seen is a sample of what awaits the people they lead. They would feel (and I do not claim that this phrase is original with me) heat like the gates of Hell opening, and see the Lovecraftian horror that underlies ordinary life.
To quote Oppenheimer, physicists have known sin. But perhaps by this they can redeem themselves.
Better than Grenfall's solution... Actually this may be a very good idea.
I have, among the e-documents on offer, an article called "Are Bad Telephone Manners Costing You Sales?" . I sell more of this title than any other, so apparently the need is great. The answer to the question is usually "yes."
I've had my own experiences with surly clerks over the past few years, including one at a copy shop that cost his employer major chunks of business by being abrupt, rude, and dismissive of threats to take future work elsewhere. They fired him, but are still recovering from the bad rap he put on the whole enterprise.
As someone who once rejoiced (well, not really) in the title "Vice President of Sales and Marketing" I can tell you that the people who own these enterprises want their people to be nice to the customers. That they are not is reflective of poor training, low motivation brought on by bad supervision and minimal wages, and lousy working conditions. In other words, they have the power to change it.
Back during that brief period I was a "Retail Investigator" I saw a lot of strange things. You learn quickly to count your change because the really clever thieves don't steal from the till; they steal from the customers by short changing them. Older people are particularly targeted because they are presumed to be less mentally acute. And one of the most important reports on every stop was the one on how the clerks treated the customers. I got a few people fired for this and was happy to do so. One was a store manager who accused an old man of stealing and made him turn out his pockets in front of everyone. He had nothing and at that point he owned that store if he decided to sue.
The problem is, IMO, that being a retail clerk is not a career or even a stepping stone towards one. It's a job and not a very well paid one. Still, we are the customers and without us they don't have a job of a business. That gives us the power to effect change.
Walking away is the best to do this. Lower blood pressure and it will correct the problem in time if enough people do it.
I don't know wisetronics, but I had a similar experience with an east coast company last year on line. The sequence of events was almost exactly the same. They were low price on the Cannon EOS20D. I ordered it and then got a call to "verify" my order. They were really trying to up sale my order to a more expensive package. They were also quite rude. When I insisted I wanted only what I ordered, I was informed that it would be several months before I got the camera. I then canceled, the guy hung up. VISA called a few days latter to check some questionable charges on the credit card I used for the order. My account had been stolen, the first time that has ever happened. You had best check your credit card.
I always look at charges on my American Express, but thanks for the warning.
Please, don't give your credit card out to random web sites. Buy only from reputable stores.
I thought long and hard on this, but the place appears to be an actual store in New York. I will pay considerable attention to charges on my American Express card, but I do not think there will be any. Con people would be smoother, to be blunt about it. This outfit seems to have bought a high place on Google search. I can't see how they can stay in business long though.
I don't recognize that specific name, but it sounds as though you're being victimized by what's become known generically as the "new york digital camera store" scam. The store names come and go, but they're all fly-by-night operations. They run ads with low-ball prices and then try to force you to "upgrade" by buying other items. Ultimately, they'll refuse to sell you what they'd advertised if you insist on the original price. If you do get a product, chances are good it won't be the model you ordered, will be "gray market" (no US warranty) and so on. Or you may find that they send you what you ordered, but when your credit card bill arrives you find they've charged more than the agreed price.
If I were you, I'd cancel that order and keep an eye on my credit card statements. Before you consider ordering a digital camera from any on-line source, check its ratings on resellerratings.com. Look not only for a high rating, but that there are many votes (to avoid the question of ballot-box stuffing) and a long, good history.
-- Robert Bruce Thompson
Thanks. I expect that's the right advice. I suppose also I rely a lot on American Express to take care of oddness on my account -- they are very good. Incidentally, Wisetronics has an 88 rating, and I suspect I would not have done business with them at all if I had looked it up.
Cheap lesson, I guess. And grist for the column. Thanks.
I know you "do silly things so others don't have to", but doing business with a new store over the internet without first checking resellerratings.com first is a bit extreme. You can see their rating http://www.resellerratings.com/seller10721.html, .88 on a scale of 0 to 10 when I looked.
Quoting just one review: "Wisetronics requested that I confirm my order by telephone. After some delay I spoke with a salesman who kept trying to sell me additional items I did not want. Finally he said, "I'm sorry the item is out of stock" and hung up."
Thanks for the site, columns, books, and everything.
Roy Harvey Beacon Falls, CT
Subject: Re: Wisetronics
Somebody has made a hobby of photographing the store fronts of camera stores in Brooklyn and Manhattan
Here is the apparent store front for Wisetronics
Here is the general list for Brooklyn
See also Tony Hawks Mis-adventure with another NYC camera shop
I notice that wisetronics has an 800 number.
If we could only get them on a telemarketers phone list. ....
Well, I don't wish them ill, but I do wish I had seen this picture of their store front before wasting time with them. Thanks.
Subject: The ultimate cargo cult,
Here is the ultimate cargo cult, in two senses of the word.
February 1, 2006
-- Roland Dobbins
Note that this is not distributism: it is concentration of the wealth in the hands of a ruling bureaucracy, which is quite a different thing. Few Americans own much; they depend on their jobs for life. Civil Servants are doubly dependent on the government. They may try to be independent of political authority but they can't be so; they have no property. Jeffersonian democracy depends on yeomanry. Even a nation of shop keepers have their shops. A nation of bureaucrats covers its collective.
Call Larry. Call Gil Hamilton. Organleggers!
"A dead body can be worth tens of thousands of dollars when it is dissected for parts."
(From another conference)
Highly analytical couples, such as scientists, may be more likely to produce children with autism, an expert has argued.
Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, of the University of Cambridge, said the phenomenon may help explain the recent rise in diagnoses.
He believes the genes which make some analytical may also impair their social and communication skills.
A weakness in these areas is the key characteristic of autism.
It is thought that around one child in every 100 has a form of autism - the vast majority of those affected are boys.
The number of diagnoses seems to be on the increase, but some argue this is simply because of a greater awareness of the condition.
In a paper published in the journal Archives of Disease of Childhood, Professor Baron-Cohen labels people such as scientists, mathematicians and engineers as 'systemizers'.
They are skilled at analysing systems - whether it be a vehicle, or a maths equation - to figure out how they work.
But they also tend to be less interested in the social side of life, and can exhibit behaviour such as an obsession with detail - classic traits associated with autism.<snip>
I am not at all sure what to make of this. I do know that many cases of "autism" are not; like ADD and dyslexia many diagnoses are just wrong, and in some cases are self serving (if the kid "has" dyslexia it's not my fault if I didn't teach him to read). But as The Bell Curve points out, our merit and opportunity society does tend to pair IQ levels together, resulting in more children from the union of likes.
This probably needs more study, and a lot more thought.
The State Of Our Cynicism.
- Roland Dobbins
George Will remarks on the obvious: democracy is not the answer to all questions. Jacobinism is not the path to a tranquil future.
I have resided in Asia for the longest time and have always followed your ideas and works, which are usually as educational as they are enjoyable to read. You've been more than generous with your thoughts and sources and I wish to respond a bit in kind.
In any case, you might like the work of this particular reincarnation of Oswald Spengler (RIP 1936), http://www.atimes.com/atimes/others/spengler.html - writing from a China where nothing said of the West can ever be so un-PC as to be verboten...
No true Scotsman starts a war
Fight a dictatorship, and you must kill the regime; fight a democracy, and you must kill the people. Two years ago I called George W Bush a "tragic character" (George W Bush, tragic character, November 25, 2003) who "wants universal good, but will end up doing some terrible things". Now we have begun the third act of his tragedy, which shatters the delusions that led him to the edge of disaster. President Bush met Nemesis in the form of Hamas, whose election victory in Palestine last week makes clear that democracy can empower the war party as well as the peace party.
The president's first reaction on Thursday to Hamas' electoral triumph constituted, perhaps, the most addled response of any US leader in history to a portentous event. He alternately praised "the power of democracy", claiming that Palestinians had voted for better education and health care, but warned that demanding the destruction of one's negotiating partner while maintaining an armed wing does not bode well for peace talks...
Democracy is rule by the middle class. There is no middle class in Palestine.
Subject: 500 GB drives
Your new 500 GB drive brings a question to mind: In "The Mote In God's Eye" you and Niven had portable computers that either contained or could access the sum total of human knowledge. How close are we to that? If you could take the contents of the Library of Congress, scan and compress the resulting files, would they fit on a 500 GB drive, along with decompression programming? I have no idea, but we must be getting close, aren't we?
I think besides just being an interesting thought experiment that this is something that, when done, will be equivalent to the wheel, printing press and steam engine. What say you and your correspondents? Is anyone qorking on such a project?
I recall in the 1970s at UC Irvine, when I was a student there, a project to build a computer database of all extant ancient Greek writings. Surely someone is doing the same for our own civilization? If not, they ought.
Petronius The Questioning
http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110007118 Iraqi Crossroads - How about a constitutional right to share in oil wealth? August 17, 2005
=Mr. [Ahmed] Chalabi hopes that the "equal measure" concept will pave the way in practice for the creation of an oil trust, under which Iraqis would from birth have accounts established in their name. Iraqis would receive their full and equal share of oil revenue and the government would have to vote to tax it away. Mr. Chalabi sees this as a way of breaking the "oil curse" that has turned so many oil-rich nations into corrupt tyrannies.=
Wealth and Democracy in Iraq - On Point Commentary by Austin Bay StrategyPage.com October 18, 2005
=...Robert Miller of the ZOR Foundation has advocated establishing an "Iraqi National Oil Trust," which shares oil profits directly with Iraqi citizens. ...=
I have to disagree with Bay about the CPA having made a mistake in not implementing the Oil Trust idea: if any new system is going to work, the Iraqis are going to have to set it up. I remember seeing Chalabi, on C-SPAN, saying that the Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani had asked Chalabi whether the Americans were going to write the new Iraqi constitution, like they'd done for the Germans and the Japanese. And Chalabi told him no, the Iraqis were writing it.
http://www.usskytrust.org/alaska.html Sky Trust - The Alaska Model
http://www.apfc.org/ Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation
Seems to me the key would be keeping the politicians from grabbing it again, like they did in Iraq in the 1950s (according to the Austin Bay article above). Need to make grabbing it take a supermajority large enough that nobody could put one together. On which score, it seems to me, "so far so good", since the Shiite religiously-oriented parties seem to have failed to win a big enough majority in the recent elections to form a government without at least one of the Kurds and the Sunnis as coalition partners.
I suppose it all comes down, really, to the new Iraqi security forces. Can the US+allies train them up to be both strong enough to hold down the non-government militias and fragmented enough that no faction could get control of enough of the security forces to seize power? This is a far harder job than training security forces to the point where they can defeat insurgents.
This might work. It would probably take outside force to implement, but it also gives each Iraqi a stake in keeping the oil flowing. It sure works better than "elections" to determine who gets the billions.
-- Roland Dobbins
Larger than Pluto...
Petronius the Questioning wrote: I recall in the 1970s at UC Irvine, when I was a student there, a project to build a computer database of all extant ancient Greek writings.
Here is at least a partial deeby: http://classics.mit.edu/Browse/index-Aristotle.html
+ + +
Regarding teaching algebra in HS, I have always thought a year of statistics might be more profitable to the kids. Every day they are bombarded with statistics -- by activists, industries, governments, and other interest groups -- but when did they last need to factor an equation? As a benefit, the statistically well-informed can find endless amusement reading newspapers and watching the evening news on TV.
"If to provide itself with a king belongs to the right of a given multitude, it is not unjust that the king be deposed or have his power reduced by that same multitude if, becoming a tyrant, he abuses his royal power." -- Thomas Aquinas, On Kingship, I:6
Michael Flynn is a fellow holder of the Heinlein Medal, and a professional statistician. He's entirely right: the abysmal lack of understanding of statistical inference is staggering, even among college graduates. And he's right about the amusement.
Subject: Electricians and algebra
Having gone through the four years of the electrical apprenticeship, I can say that algebra and other mathematics does play a part. One third is on the job training where you learn to pull wire, dig ditches and bend conduit. One third is study of the National Electrical Code so you know the rules. And one third is electrical theory where you do use algebra to manipulate Ohm's law. Admittedly, the electrician you happen to see at work does not seem to be using algebra much but he does have to be aware of how much amperage a circuit is carrying. Bending conduit requires a smattering of trigonometry. And, of course, you need these math skill to pass the journeyman's test.
Also I note that Strategy Page has a point about the Hamas victory. Up til now, they were just a terrorist organization ["terrorism is a grey area between a police concern and a military problem"] but when they become the government, any further attacks become an act of war.
~Peter J. Michael
Application of formulae does not require formal education in algebra. Passing tests probably does. My wife's father, having been invalided by silicosis from the mines in Idaho, moved to Seattle, taught himself to be an electrician, and made a second career installing electrical systems in shipyards. This was during WW II when labor was scarce and the examinations to become a journeyman were practical, not theoretical. I am not convinced that algebra is required. Math and arithmetic, yes, and that requires the addition and multiplication tables. Of course those aren't taught in early grades. Better the "new math" which no one understands and which helps no one. Ah well.
Subject: Algebra as Indicator of College Success
I was never very good at algebra, but did fine in college otherwise. Scored well on the LSAT, got a law degree and I've passed bar exams in two states. I am also a fair to middling lawyer. 8-)
Of course, I may have been turned off of math by tyrannical 5th grade teacher who hit me with a paddle if I didn't get the problems right on the board. I don't know, but I think that, at least as far as learning and practicing the Law is concerned, aptitude in Algebra is not a good indicator of success.
Lee Keller King
Formal algebra is essentially an IQ test; if you'd had to learn it, you could have. But we do note that the SAT has both Verbal and Math scores, and while those are correlated, the correlations are not very high.
Subject: on algebra
I graduated from high school in California in 1960 in Carmel, California. The town was about 5,000 then, and my high school class was 160 kids. The School Board ran our system, and local property taxes funded it. We also did the typical local additional fund raising for “extras”. It was a public school, not a government school.
I was on the college prep track. That meant I took one English, one math, one science, one language, one social study, one physical education and one elective classes each semester, two semesters a year. I really did not need much in the way of counseling each year, except for choosing electives (and getting the teachers I wanted). I did shop and radio shop, but a lot of guys chose auto shop. We probably were split 60% to 40% for this college-bound track versus the vocational track. Algebra was the freshman year (9th grade) math course. Kids not in the college prep track did not have to take algebra, they had another math course.
By observation my preparation then was superior to all but the best private schools now, but then I wanted to go to university. The kids who were in the alternate tracks were equally well-prepared for life with a HS Diploma. Obviously we could return to this system with enough motivation.
==In Tennessee in the 30's and 40's the college prep high school curriculum was four years of literature, four of math, four of a foreign language, two of civics, and some electives. Those with passing grades (later with a B average) were automatically admitted to the University of Tennessee. It was not expected that more than 20% of the students would take the college prep track, but most of those who opted for it did pass. The technical curriculum was different with practical courses like drafting; I don't recall the other technical track courses, since I was in an all academic track high school (mine was Catholic; Central High was the public all-academic high school; I recall painting GO CBC on their lawn with tri-iodide one dark night, resulting in a fairly spectacular event the next morning, and a permanent burn on Central's front yard; Brother Roberts knew precisely who had done it, but not officially...)
One of the great but little-acknowledged problems with algebra class is that, in my experience, math of any sort is taught in ways that don't work. Probably this has something to do with the fact that neither teacher nor student is likely to be well-trained in reading.
In my mathematically mis-spent youth, I had a textbook that gave this explanation for multiplying positive and negative:
You are filming a container of water. If you film the container as it is being filled, but project the film in reverse, the container will appear to be emptying. [DUH!]
The examples went on in this vein throughout all the possible combinations; apparently both text and teacher felt that the student was to discover the basic rule that multiplying like numbers produces a positive answer, mixed produces negative.
I never had a teacher state that principle in so many words until freshman math in college. Are things better now?
I wasn't among the people who failed math, but I certainly never enjoyed it. I suspect that most of the students who passed algebra in Los Angeles actually understood it just well enough to get by.
In any case, pre-college math courses seem to be designed to steer students from engineering and hard sciences into sociology and pre-law.
A 20-year-old university student was at a party. As with many college parties, there was alcohol involved. One party guest, a woman, appeared to be dangerously drunk. The 20-year-old called 911. He remained to assist even though the rest of the underaged students fled. A police officer asked if he'd been drinking. The man responded that he had (0.126 BAC upon testing. He was given a ticket, and later fined $71.00 (reduced from $140) for underage consumption.
The chief of police said that if he had been allowed to go on his way without a ticket, the police might have faced liability if he had had an accident due to intoxication.
Giving the police chief her due, what would have been wrong with calling the kid a cab? How many other people will die now because no one will want to risk a ticket by calling for aid?
Anarcho-tyranny strikes again.
(Sources: television and newspaper reports from the Minneapolis, MN area. The incident took place in a suburb.)
Interesting, if maddening site:
The object of the game is to keep the red square from hitting either the walls or any of 4 blue rectangles. Harder than it looks!
Learning to read, and learning the addition and multiplication tables, is well within the capability of everyone with IQ 80 or above, i.e.. more than 95% of the population. It requires only drills and training, and little abstract reasoning. My wife's reading program teaches nearly any English speaking human to read in 70 lessons. It also works with those who don't speak English well, although there will be a need for instructions in what the words in the lessons mean. It has been used in private schools for high IQ kids, in reform schools, in adult education classes, and in public schools in areas with few native English speaking pupils. It works. There is no excuse for not teaching kids to read (and I advise all parents to make sure their children can read by age 6 without regard to the school system; teach them yourself, and they will know; don't rely on the school system.)
The addition tables can be learned by end of second grade, as can the times tables. In both cases they should go up to 12 (twelve plus twelve is twenty-four, twelve time twelve is one hundred and forty four). This is straight memorization and needs to be drilled in until when you see 8 + 7 you know it's 15 without having to think about it.
Once kids can read, give them real books to read, not the vocabulary controlled pap that is designed to make money for publishers and incorporate the latest politically correct gubbage. There are a lot of good books out there in the world. By 6th Grade there is no reason why kids should not be reading them.
The effects of our awful public schools can be partly negated simply by being sure the kids can read and know their plus and times tables. And with very few exceptions all kids can learn that much.
Subject: dyslexia and autism
As someone who was dyslexic before the condition was generally recognized I often think I dodged a bullet by not being so labeled. I had "remedial reading" in the Third Grade and then again in the Eighth. I was once labeled "mentally retarded". I'm not surprised that high IQ parents produce more kids with autism. They probably over think the problem imposing their own anxieties when what the kid really needs is to simply be left alone to figure it out. I know that I had to work very hard to overcome dyslexia and had to use a number of workarounds. As you know I still employ someone to edit my writing.
IQ isn't the same for everyone. There are various kinds and at the ends of the Bell-shaped curve you get strange combinations, like those folks with Williams 's Syndrome, who can play and sing any kind of music, have great social skills, but can't read or do simple arithmetic. I think that the whole area of IQ and learning and teaching is more unknown than known.
There is a high level autism called Aspberger's Syndrome. It is characterized by high IQ people who have very poor social skills. In other words, science fiction fans.
Dyslexia usually means insufficient drills in phonics. True neurological dyslexia is very rare, and most of those cases respond to alternate sensory input including such things as "air writing", saying the names of the letters before trying to read the word, and so forth. Learning word attack skills can be tedious, and is boring to teach, so it's not usually done; and of course it results in "slow readers" compared to those who read whole words. Those speed differences vanish with practice, and after a while those with full phonic decoding ability are able to read anything, including words like dimethyldiethylbromide and Constantinople and antidisestablishmentarianism. Those who learned whole words only haven't a chance when encountering words they never say before and thus have to use controlled vocabulary readers. Producing controlled vocabulary readers is a very lucrative business so there is a big incentive to keep our kids from learning to read.
As to all the autism diagnoses, I refuse to believe that American protoplasm deteriorated so horribly since I was a kid that now 20% of the boys in the country have to be drugged. But that is for another discussion.
Subject: High school diplomas
I believe that we need three different high school diplomas. Basic, Standard and Honors. They would correspond to specific criteria. These would include specifics in the matter of courses passed and a final comprehensive test to a national standard. This system would provide opportunities for students of all IQ levels to show their efforts and diligence, something that employers value. It also provides an achievable goal at all levels. It would have the same effect as tracking did in our youth, but would not restrict a student from striving for the highest level they can.
The Standard would be today’s diploma with Algebra, hard sciences, English etc. The Basic would be for those who cannot achieve the Standard. They would be the kids who take Environmental Science instead of Chemistry, business math instead of Algebra, etc. The Honors would require a higher score on the graduation test along with a specified number of scores on Advanced Placement tests (to avoid course description inflation) as well as well tougher curricula, including more math, hard sciences, composition, economics and such. Students would be encouraged to go back to school and upgrade their diplomas if desired.
These diplomas would be standardized nationwide and would provide comparable gates for higher education and other opportunities. The advantages of this system are achievability for all, national comparability and opportunity for all.
"Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts." Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Perhaps an improvement on what we are doing. I'd be satisfied with getting the feds, and teachers unions, and professors of education out of controlling power, and getting local boards in control of the schools. Let a hundred flowers bloom...
Subject: Highly-educated unemployed
Dear Dr. Pournelle:
Governor Bob Taft of Ohio, in his state of the state address, proposed requiring
"all students to take the Ohio Core, a rigorous high school curriculum that includes four years of math, including Algebra II; three years of science, including biology, chemistry and physics; four years of English; three years of social studies; and at least two years of a foreign language"
In a state where a large majority of workers are in factory or trade jobs, I have to wonder at the nincompoopery of this proposal. I want my plumber to install my water-heater correctly, not converse with me in French. I want my carpenter to rebuild my back porch well, not explain what v=½at^2 means.
Not that the study of arithmetic, English, and the sciences aren't important, but the whole idea that everyone going through high school is tracked for college prep is nuts.
Back in the late 1960s I went to a technical high school in Cleveland. It had it's own cabinetry shop, a foundry, an automotive shop, a welding shop, and an electrical / electronics lab. Most of the boys in school were training for a trade. It also had a full business-machine wing for training in secretarial and business operations. A small minority of us were in the college prep classes. The rest of the school, about 3,000 kids, took the kind of arithmetic and English classes that would prepare them for life. When a kid got out of that high school, they could DO things. Even the college-prep people had to take enough practical courses so we could get a job out of high school if college didn't work out.
Now, kids who would be happier in a trade are funneled into college prep without much hope of getting into college or being prepared for it, let alone having the capabilities to pay for college.
In a backhanded acknowledgement that high schools aren't preparing kids for anything, another of Taft's proposals was moving
"all remedial education to Ohio's two-year campuses, where costs are lower"
-- Pete Nofel
P.S. Thanks for the "gentle nag." I renewed my subscription to your site.
Actually it's s=1/2 a t-squared but yes, I agree entirely. (v = at). And for a long time a high school diploma was real, and signified an ability to do a LOT of things.
Thanks for renewing!
Having done the coursework for a math PhD before finishing a computational biology PhD, I obviously find math congenial, so my opinion here is biased. I agree algebra shouldn't be required for high school graduation, but a high degree of competence in ordinary arithmetic should be if algebra is too abstract for a student. Students stuck in the wrong track should be able to switch, perhaps by an intensive summer school session or two.
None of my kids were mathematically-oriented, but they all got a grounding in calculus, probability, and statistics in college. One even got into differential equations and numerical analysis. It *can* be done with the right teachers.
-- Harry Erwin, PhD "If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." (Catherine Aird)
Indeed. And ability to change tracks needs to be built into the system. But there have to be tracks.
Dr. Pournelle: You said: "Application of formulae does not require formal education in algebra. Passing tests probably does. My wife's father, having been invalided by silicosis from the mines in Idaho, moved to Seattle, taught himself to be an electrician, and made a second career installing electrical systems in shipyards. This was during WW II when labor was scarce and the examinations to become a journeyman were practical, not theoretical. I am not convinced that algebra is required."
I tend to agree. I had run across references of workshops in the 1940's. They would have a highly-trained engineer, and his lesser skilled helpers. The engineer would hand out nomograms to the helper for the task at hand.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nomogram For those young readers out there, a nomogram is a first cousin to a slide rule. It is a set of scales printed on a piece of paper used to solve one specific equation. It can be faster to use than a slide rule since it is optimized for its equation.
The point is, a journeyman with the required nomogram in hand does not need algebra. For instance, a nomogram for Ohm's law would have three scales: volts, resistance, and current. Given any two known values and the nomogram will reveal the unknown value. No algebra is required in order to manipulate Ohm's law to get the proper variable isolated.
Nowadays I'm sure there are specialized pocket calculators and PDAs capable of the same feat. Some may mutter darkly about Asimov's short story "A Feeling Of Power", but such devices could streamline the passage of students through trade school.
Asimov's nightmare -- actually just a clever idea for a story -- was that we would all use hand calculators and forget how to do arithmetic. Our professors of education have already done that for us by eliminating learning the addition and multiplication tables as "drill and kill" education. And of course every move those eggheads make to "improve" education produces ever more ghastly results.
And the suckers who pay for it never catch wise, and pay huge tuition to send people to education schools to learn how to fail at teaching children to read, write, and cipher...
But wow are we cool and progressive.
Imagine a university that taught computer science but none of its graduates couldn't write programs, or if they did, had to do things they were taught ought never to be done. Who would hire its graduates? Well -- everyone if you made it a matter of law that only "credentialed" programmers could be hired, and that school had a monopoly on granting "credentials" -- and you define "qualified" as meaning "graduated from that college."
And the suckers never catch wise.
TO: Dr. Pournelle
I've been following many of your comments and discussion about schooling, and thought I might share a few of my observations with your readers.
My first hand experience and view is that public schools no longer can teach, and are beyond reform. Less than 6 months ago I decided to go with the home school route for my 9 year old son. This has been among one of the best decisions I have ever made in my entire life. The art of teaching has been twisted, lost and corrupted by the public education system.
The switch from public to home schooling has been remarkable and has defied my greatest expectations. My son's daily "core" education is built around the following:
1) 30 minutes of Bible study 2) 90 minutes of math 3) 120 minutes of reading 4) 60 minutes of writing
The above workload for my son is usually completed by noon, this leaves the 2nd half of the day open for polish in subjects like cooking, art, music and so on.
I would like to mention that I try to have my boy solo as much of the "core" work as possible. This is done to build independence and free thinking.
The approach I use in the above list is focus. When my son works on math he burns through a chapter out of a math textbook that consists of about 100 math problems. The problems are about a 50/50 mix of drills and story problems. The reading time is spent reading a single book cover to cover that I've already prescreened. The time for my son to complete a book can vary from days to weeks depending on the text. The chosen area of study is not interleaved with other subjects. When a subject or topic is picked for study it is focused on until the book(s) is finished. After completing book(s), a new subject is chosen. The writing time consists of hand writing a couple of pages a day. Writing is based off mix of personal free writing and writing on the daily subject at hand.
As simple as the above seems, in just a few months my 9 year old son's math, reading and writing skills are quickly nearing or passing that of many of my coworkers. He can crunch numbers like a human adding machine for hours. He can devour and comprehend books in days rather than weeks. He can now write pages on pages of coherent fiction and non-fiction. This improvement happened in months, not years. My boy is quickly mastering the art of self learning.
Returning back to the discussion about Algebra being required for public school graduation, I would argue that it makes no difference. Public school can't educate the masses in basic math and reading, what would make one think they could do it for Algebra.
Just because public schools can't teach Algebra doesn't mean I think children shouldn't learn it. I believe children ought to be taught Algebra. I happen believe 95% of the children in this country possess the brain power to work Algebra before the age of 10.
Real tragedy is that nearly a whole generation of Americans are no longer educated and are illiterate.
I would make a small bet regarding the percentage who will benefit from formal training in algebra. I'd put it at about IQ 90 to 95 and above, which is something more than half the population. To get to 95% you'd have to get much further down the IQ scale.
Now of course IQ is not the only measure of ability; it's a measure of ability to do abstract reasoning, symbol manipulation, particularly with a time limit, and that's pretty well a definition of algebra.
In pushing kids to learn, I do caution you to read about the education of John Stuart Mill. His father James Mill, and Jeremy Bentham (who remains stuffed in a glass box at London University where he is wheeled into meetings of the Board of Regents and is recorded as "present but not voting") decided to show what young children were capable of learning. John Stuart learned a lot, but the results were not universally beneficial.
Of course it is irrelevant whether or not algebra is required for graduation, since the public schools can't teach basic arithmetic; but it does have an effect on all those who drop out of school because they can't learn algebra, but who could have decent jobs -- only with all the affirmative action activities making personnel departments rely on credentials lest they be sued out of existence, having a high school diploma becomes important for getting any kind of real job.
Our system is designed to produce a steady supply of kids destined to be hewers of wood and drawers of water and never get ahead. The smart ones figure that out and try crime as an alternative career.
But we never catch wise. And those who do catch wise home school their kids or send them to private schools, or, in the rare cases where there is a good public school system -- there are some -- hunker down and hope no one notices that their kids actually learn in public schools. If the education professors ever find the places that work they'll do something to put paid to that joke.
Am I unduly cynical?
Reward future scientists - Shift in education policy would help keep nation competitive.
If current trends continue, by 2010 more than 90% of the world's scientists and engineers will live in Asia, warns the Business Roundtable, which represents the nation's leading companies. Failing to reverse that trend will result in a ³slow withering² of U.S. economic might, the group warns.
Strong stuff. And that's just the beginning of the complaints from the business community.
Math and science scores of high school students in the USA are lackluster, at best, when compared with international competitors. And most high school math and science teachers aren't capable of taking students to a higher level, the business leaders say.
Their worries ‹ and prescriptions for making the United States more competitive ‹ were summed up in a recent National Academy of Sciences report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm. Their goal: Double the number of engineering graduates by 2015.<snip>
wants to be even more outstanding, Dr. Pournelle.
"Wikipedia bars Congress from editing entries"
"The decision to temporarily block members of Congress and their staffs from changing content within the site's 990,000 English articles followed a Wikipedia investigation revealing Congress as a source of vandalism.
"In July, Meehan's staff deleted references in the online encyclopedia to the legislator's broken term-limits pledge and his robust campaign account, which last year was the largest of any House member, The Sun reported Friday."
Imagine my astonishment.
--- Roland Dobbins
Death by Government.
-- Roland Dobbins
The Theory of Counterinsurgency in Six Easy Paragraphs.
- Roland Dobbins
Let me win your hearts and minds or...
Subject: Solution to education woes?
More federal government spending more taxpayer and/or never-never dollars, of course.
"One initiative would reward low-income students taking on a demanding high school curriculum and pursuing college degrees in math, science or engineering. As long as they maintained a B-average, these students would receive grants of $750 in their freshman year and $1,300 as sophomores.
"A second program would similarly reward low-income college juniors and seniors majoring in math, science or critical languages. Those who maintained a B-average would get $4,000 a year in addition to aid received under existing programs."
Should do the trick post haste, don't you think?
That ought to do it!
- Roland Dobbins
Billions and billions spent.
-- Roland Dobbins
For $300 billion we could be independent of Middle East oil. We would also have the Moon and planets. Ah well.
Isn't it d = 1/2a*t*t (sorry, my version of Outlook won't let me perform superscript functions).
You'd listed "s" in your equation in response to a Thursday e-mail. I was taught that "s" was "speed" instead?
I'm probably wrong, but then again the "s" and "d" keys are neighbors!
Have a good weekend!
Traditionally it's "s". I wondered about it myself. I think I was told it's from Newton who wrote the Principia in Latin, but I am willing to be persuaded otherwise.
Subject: Learning to Read
I was reading words like "paradichlorobenzene" before I entered kindergarten. My mommy taught me off the backs of packages. It's true. They called me Einstein. Sadly, I did not live up to that name but still I can read and pronounce ""paradichlorobenzene."
I even got a degree in chemistry on the strength of that skill. They can't take that away from me. I got it fair and square.
Subject: Early libertarians and revolutionaries?
Here's a pair of quotes you might get a kick out of:
Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity. -- Augustine of Hippo, City of God, IV, 4
"If to provide itself with a king belongs to the right of a given multitude, it is not unjust that the king be deposed or have his power reduced by that same multitude if, becoming a tyrant, he abuses his royal power." -- Thomas Aquinas, On Kingship, I:6
Dr. Pournelle, It is my opinion that anyone who believes that all around them must be converted to the one “true” religion or be slain is a worshipper of Satan. In Milton’s Paradise Lost, Lucifer’s falling out with God was due to his desire to have all humans to be saved through strict obedience through the Archangel. No human was to be allowed to find his way to God via free will.
The question I have for your readers is that really the case for Islam? Does the Koran or its auxiliary documents direct its followers to convert, tax, or kill unbelievers? Or is this really just the twisting of the teachings by extremists? Can Islam really be compatible with the modern age?
Because I work for the government, I must ask that my E-mail remain anonymous.
This is the second inquiry; I intended to post the first with my remarks, and then fell busy or ill or both.
I still have no definitive answer. The Arabs will tell you that the Koran cannot be translated and therefore those who don't read Arabic haven't read the document. I don't find that a compelling argument, but fairness dictates that I repeat it for you. That said, my reading of what I am told is an excellent translation makes it very clear that there is the House of Islam -- submission -- and the House of War, which is everyone who has not submitted. There can never be peace between those Houses. There can only be truce.
The "People of the Book", which is to say Jews and Christians, may be forcibly converted -- the Janissary children certainly were with the approval of all the leading Turkish and Persian scholars of the time -- but need not be if put under tribute. Indeed, the tribute on Christians in the Balkans was the Christian children who became Janissaries after forcible conversion, and the Balkan Muslims, Bosnians and Albanians, converted to become tax collectors and to avoid the tribute; this is one reason for the hatreds that endure in that region to this day.
Islam or the sword appears to be the normal state of relations of Islam with the rest of the world; but there can be truce. In Sudan, alas, the infidels aren't even allowed to convert. They are enslaved. I have heard little denunciation of these practices coming from the Islamic scholarly centers. Perhaps I missed something?
I am sure that there are many Muslims who are Muslim in the same sense that a lot of Americans are Christians, and who pay about as much attention to the command to go forth and convert the heathen as your average churchgoer does to Christ's Great Commission. Generalizations about Muslim believers are thus bound to be false. But Mussellmen have ever been prone to evangelization, and waves of reformist fervor have swept the Middle East and North Africa a dozen times in history. Each wave was comparable to the waves of fervor that brought on the Crusades. The last great wave came with Suleiman the Magnificent and ended at the gates of Vienna (although there was another wave a hundred years later that ended in the same place, but it got that far due to divisions in the West).
I know of no authoritative pronouncement ending the Holy War between the House of Islam and the House of War, and now that the Caliphate is abolished I am not sure there is anyone capable of issuing such a fatwa.
I am not sure that is an answer to your question and I haven't time for more. Reader comments invited.
February 4, 2006
Your readers might find Section IV of this article relevant to understanding why the question is difficult to answer: http://uk.encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761557364/Koran.html .
Well, it's decent introductory material, as Encarta often is.
I suppose the prior question is, "is this a difficult question?" That is, the obvious answer is that the Koran makes it very clear that you can have only truce, never peace, with the House of War. It might seem that the burden is on those who want to show this is merely symbolic and not to be taken seriously.
Of course some things are taken more seriously than others.
More on the education issue:
Subject: Why Johnny Doesn't Get Taught To Weld
The reason for the decline of trade education, and the emphasis on intellectual education, is easy to see: Trades in general are being pushed further and further from the American life. This is not through preference on the part of the average American, or through improvements in manufacturing efficiency, or through simple contraction of the economy. It is a conscious choice by business leaders to purchase manufactured goods outside of America. Things are, simply, cheaper elsewhere, and I guess I can't really blame a B-school grad for conflating "cheaper" with "better'" (or redefining "quality" to mean "within spec...barely".) If the only jobs for Americans are going to be clerks, junior clerks, junior junior clerks, middle managers, VPs, and The Boss...then why bother teaching anyone something mechanical? Have you got problems with the plumbing in your house? Hey, there are _people_ who _do_ that sort of thing. And, of course, there's no need to worry about the guys who lost their jobs; they don't live in New York, they live out on some dirt farm in South Michidahowandianasota.
It's been proven that people will follow instructions to ridiculously implausible ends, content in the knowledge that Someone Else Is In Control. If people are instructed to look at price above all else, and give the technical information and knowledge to the lowest bidder, then they'll follow those instructions to the grave. I used to bitch about ITAR, but then I realized that it's an attempt to keep at least SOME technical ability inside the United States. And it isn't working--I'm involved in negotiations to purchase a crucial part of an Army communications system from a non-US company!
-- Mike Powers
We famously converted our consumer industries to making the sinews of war in 1941. Can we do that now? And "good old American know-how" was once the envy of the world. Now we know how to run boiler rooms (once known as bucket shops) and sell used cars, but we can hope that is an incomplete image.
Subject: HS Math
There was a study a couple of years ago which suggested that HS geometry was more highly correlated with college success than any other single HS course.
I personally suspect that is because HS geometry is the only place most students encounter even rudimentary deductive logic. (Though from my son's course, I think even that was watered down from what I had in rural KY 33 years ago.)
In any event, four credits of math (including one year of algebra and one year of geometry) are now required for HS graduation in Alabama. Similarly, four credits of science, four credits of English, four credits of "social science," two credits of foreign language, and one credit of combined PE and Health. (Jay has just finished Hamlet, as a sophomore).
The typical college prep math course is Algebra, Algebra II/Trig, Precalculus, and Calculus. I agree with Mike Flynn that at least a partial year of probability and statistics would be good, and I'm trying to see if the precalc course includes at least combinatorics and basic probability. The college prep science course is biology, chemistry, physics, and one science elective.
Jay's HS is also a technical magnet and he will be getting at least two courses per year of computer science and engineering (he did a combined course of Java and Visual Basic in the fall, will take C++ next fall, and if he takes all of the available networking electives is expected to pass his Cisco network certification course, which will put him well ahead of me in terms of computer experience.)
I am told that college prep education for the middle classes is better than I think it is, although the stories I get from those teaching freshman classes in universities do not make me comfortable with this hypothesis. I suppose it depends on where and when.
It is possible to get a decent education in the US.
My wife continues to remind me of papers presented at a AAAS meeting in Chicago years ago: those who are not proficient in reading and arithmetic by fourth grade almost never have any future whatever in science or engineering, and this is pretty well independent of native intelligence; the intellectual development is stunted. Then I look at 4th grade proficiency studies.
Subject: Engineers, math and science education
Dear Doctor J,
I like to add a little historical perspective to things under discussion, and so:
The current "to do" about how "if this goes on" soon 90% of the world's engineers will not be Americans.
Well. two points, the first statistical, the second historical.
If the USA is five per cent of the worlds population and has 10% of the world's engineers, we're doing OK in sheer numbers, for what th is worth (but see my second point for what this may be worth).
During the late and unlamented so called "Cold War" ( I have a problem calling something "cold" that was hot enough to kill my uncle in Korea), I recall that the late and unlamented Soviet Union consistently had on the order of two to three times the number of engineers and science Ph.D's that the USA had.
Did them a lot of good, huh?
It seems that having really good engineers AND a really free system of developing and implementing what the "techies" dream up is the key, NOT having a lot of "credentialed" tech people running around.
The Soviet techies dreamed up, consistently, really good ideas that they just could not bring to fruition in an economic system geared towards barely (?) feeding everyone while banging out megatons of low-quality weapons ("Quantity has a quality all it's own." Stalin, allegedly).
Britain had only four (five?) universities until the late nineteenth-century (when the "red brick" universities were founded), and yet was the leading industiral and technological power of both the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The great expansion of university education in Britain of the twentieth century did not prevent the "decline" of Britain (which "decline" was only relative to the rise of the rest of the world. In real terms Britain is immensely more powerful and wealthy than ever the old Empire was).
Perhaps, rather than worry about the numbers of engineers and scientist's we train, we ought to concentrate on making sure that the engineers and scientists we now produce are the best they can be.
I'd be in favor of giving any American scientist who wins a Nobel prize in hard science a Cool Billion to spend as he wished. Same for similar high level science and engineering prizes. If the government can't see the way to this, then Bill Gates and Paul Allen ought to do it. Soros even.
Why not? We spend twenty times that a year for the standing army at NASA to occasionally murder seven of our best and brightest in one of their archaic roman candles. (Never miss a chance to gratuitously pull the Emperor's non-existent pant's down).
Quantity is not the quality we want. I will always prefer one Jerry Pournelle typing alone to a million monkeys banging away for a million years.
Keep up the good work, and despair not.
Petronius the Cheerleader
To your knowledge, did Robert A. Heinlein get the idea for his Foster in "Stranger In A Strange Land) being kept after death in a glass box at the Fosterite main temple from Jeremy Bentham being kept like that by London University?
I don't know where Robert got that notion, but I would guess it was from his visit to Moscow not long before he wrote his "Man From Mars" novel.
In my judgment, prizes to be paid for specific accomplishments in the public interest would go a long way to correct most problems. But I've said all that many times.
Subject: Math, carpentry, dyslexia
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
Enjoying this week's dialogue on education. A few experiences:
When I was quite young I became aware I didn't know left from right. After some instruction from my older brother, I realized I was on my own. I tried marking my right hand but it wore off. For almost a year I used my own method I came up with: I would pretend someone had thrown a fastball at me. I would pretend to catch it with one hand. Knowing I was "right handed" (I had been told this and it was so), I would then let my own body tell me which was right and left. I wonder how many dyslexic kids simply have never been drilled on left and right? I feel teachers simply assume it, and it's never really taught to those kids who need it. I suspect some basics are simply skipped. I also suspect dyslexic kids might be vastly better off if drilled in some very simple things.
Going through high school in a rather wretched Southern school, I was blessed with an absolutely wonderful high school Algebra teacher. Don McDuffie, bless you! One day he led us for several days through a lesson on spherical trigonometry, and then changed one of the coordinates to imaginary numbers, and walked us through the things that arose when you did that. Some, most, kids got it. Those who didn't, he told it was okay. On Friday, he said: "I have just taught you some of the most difficult mathematics there is. You all did well, and this is far above high school level. I wanted you to know that you can do anything you want to in life." Believe me, these were normal, non-exceptional kids. On another occasion he came in and wrote pi on the blackboard to 100 places by memory. "No one needs to actually memorize this. It's pointless, in fact. I did it to show what a human can do if they set their mind to something."
I don't feel your readers should persist in the idea that tradespeople do not need certain forms of math and science. Carpenters with math do a far better job, and the benefits are profound, even solely confined to the job at hand, not to mention their uses in becoming an informed democratically participating citizen. I dare say even a "common laborer" can improve his output and employability by using, and enjoying using, his or her mind. I have seen it time and again in the construction trade. Some very bright people go into trades because they like working with their hands and don't like sitting at a desk and wearing a tie. I suspect many, many more kids ought to be in a 'trade school." But for every trade there is a science and math language for that trade, and it should be taught well and fully in that context. The trade school that does not is short-changing its students.
Give some kids a pad and pencil, a ranch, and a good teacher, and I bet you could create many first rate veterinarians, with advanced anatomical and biochemical knowledge just as good as classroom-taught, and still not have them have to sit on their rumps 6 hours a day in a classroom. Some kids learn far better by doing, and learn just as well.
To make the record clear I am very strongly in favor of teaching mathematical skills, starting in First Grade with the Addition Tables and in Second Grade the multiplication tables, in both cases up to the 12's; the tables to be learned by rote memory and drilled to perfection. Then other arithmetical skills (which actually become a lot easier to teach if there's no problem doing simple addition and multiplication).
What I question is the need for formal algebra, which is abstract reasoning through symbol manipulation; I do not believe that should be required for high school graduation. I would demand that until a student knows the plus and times tables to the 12's they not be admitted to high school in the first place, but that's another story.
From another conference:
I don't think the reporters who worked on this story are fully aware of how awfully Politically Incorrect the conclusions that this kind of brain research might lead....
Speaking of politically incorrect:
Here are the most recent crime figures I've seen. They were recently calculated by Jared Taylor at American Renaissance and can be purchased as a detailed booklet called The Color of Crime for $8.95 from http://www.amren.com/store/colorcrime.htm.
The Major Findings:
. Police and the justice system are not biased against minorities.
. Blacks are seven times more likely than people of other races to commit murder, and eight times more likely to commit robbery.
. When blacks commit crimes of violence, they are nearly three times more likely than non-blacks to use a gun, and more than twice as likely to use a knife.
. Hispanics commit violent crimes at roughly three times the white rate, and Asians commit violent crimes at about one quarter the white rate.
. The single best indicator of violent crime levels in an area is the percentage of the population that is black and Hispanic.
. Of the nearly 770,000 violent interracial crimes committed every year involving blacks and whites, blacks commit 85 percent and whites commit 15 percent.
. Blacks commit more violent crime against whites than against blacks. Forty-five percent of their victims are white, 43 percent are black, and 10 percent are Hispanic. When whites commit violent crime, only three percent of their victims are black.
. Blacks are an estimated 39 times more likely to commit a violent crime against a white than vice versa, and 136 times more likely to commit robbery.
. Blacks are 2.25 times more likely to commit officially-designated hate crimes against whites than vice versa.
. Only 10 percent of youth gang members are white.
. Hispanics are 19 times more likely than whites to be members of youth gangs. Blacks are 15 times more likely, and Asians are nine times more likely.
. Between 1980 and 2003 the US incarceration rate more than tripled, from 139 to 482 per 100,000, and the number of prisoners increased from 320,000 to 1.39 million.
. Blacks are seven times more likely to be in prison than whites. Hispanics are three times more likely.
All of which is disturbing, and all of which is subject to varied interpretations; but before one can understand a situation one has to acknowledge that it exists. I think it would be nearly impossible to publish the above in any national magazine or newspaper or have it acknowledged on the evening news. Perhaps I am wrong.
Contact: Emma Dickinson
Intelligence may contribute to health inequalities
Does IQ explain socioeconomic inequalities in health? Evidence from a population based cohort study in the west of Scotland BMJ Online First
Intelligence may play an important role in health inequalities, finds a study published online by the BMJ today.
Reducing socioeconomic inequalities in health is an important issue and the target of many governments. Understanding the causes of socioeconomic inequalities in health is crucial if effective interventions are to be identified.
One theory is that intelligence (IQ) might have a role in explaining these inequalities. This is based on evidence that low IQ scores are linked to higher rates of later death and disease, and IQ scores follow a social trend.
Researchers in Scotland tested the hypothesis that by taking account of IQ, the relation between socioeconomic position and health would disappear. Their study involved 1,347 men and women, aged 56 in 1987 and living in the West of Scotland. IQ was assessed by written test and socioeconomic position by interview. Over a 17 year period, the health of these men and women was monitored.
As expected, the poorest socioeconomic groups were at greatest risk of ill health and mortality. Taking account of IQ markedly reduced these effects. But, the risk of ill health in disadvantaged people was still at least twice that of advantaged people in half of the associations examined.
"Our findings indicate that IQ does not completely explain the health differences between rich and poor, but may contribute to them," say the authors.
"The currently scant information about IQ and health needs to be enhanced, with empirical investigation of why IQ might predict health and how the links between low socioeconomic status, low IQ, and poor health might be broken," they conclude.
Subject: Re: Intelligence may contribute to health inequalities
These studies do not even speculate on the extent to which ill health contributes to poverty and low IQ. Thus I'd bet that people who got polio as children ended up poorer than their brothers and sisters who didn't.
Re: Falling IQ in the UK
Hello, I am an occasional reader and saw this on my irregular trawl of newspapers and thought it might interest you. I suspect I'm not the only one who'll be sending you this, but just in case I am:
Regards, Henry Leach.
-- Roland Dobbins
Is comment needed? But see below.
Subject: de Borchgrave: Reaping What We Sow.
- Roland Dobbins
We wanted democracy... And we sow the wind.
This was in reply to a question forwarded by a reader. It may be of general interest.
Subject: RE: JPG = EXE
Sorry for the confusion.
A simple rename of jpg to exe will cause the jpg not to open. A simple rename of exe to jpg will cause the default graphics viewer program to try to open the exe file as a graphic (which will fail, because the jpg is not 'built' correctly). A exe->jpg opened at a command prompt will run the program (example: rename calc.exe to calc.jpg, then type in 'calc.jpg' at a command prompt, and the calculatore program will start).
You could put an executable header in a jpg, and the executable part of the jpg might run when you open it at a command prompt. That's not simple to do, though. The default viewer/program for the jpg wouldn't open the exe-turned-jpg, since it is not build correctly. (Default viewing program as found in Windows Explorer, View, File Types.)
A 'normal' jpg has no executable content.
Mother of Parliaments. Land of Magna Charta
February 5, 2006
Column time. Go read yesterday's mail. There's a lot there.
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