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Wednesday, March 14, 2007
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|This week:||Monday January
I have had several letters pointing me to:
where you can learn about Holger the Dane (rumored to be an ancestor of Rollo (who led those who became the Normans from Skene to what became Normandy), who in family tradition is an ancestor of mine. Of course many Danes claim descent from Holger.
There is a special report from One Foot Inside North Korea
We're back from Italy. We had a good time and some of the pictures are posted on my blog: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>
First, a look at the week's news. (The Independent and the Telegraph now have RSS feeds, and some of these links come from those. Please let me know if a link fails, so I can figure out how to do it right.)
A view of Gordon Brown (Tony Blair's anointed successor) <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1980628,00.html>
A possible Bill of Rights for the UK
AB of Canterbury comments on education
Wasting the talent of children
Yet another justification for ID cards--'to stop bullying'. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/6210977.stm>
Oxford dons reject reorganisation
NHS cost cutting--consultants no longer to do
check-ups after surgery <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/
Horace Rumpole challenges ASBO
Kendall comments on PC science
Bologna Accord for higher education
Next, my look into the future.
As Niels Bohr said: "Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future."
Computer industry predictions and guesses:
1. The Feds will try to make an example of Steve Jobs.
2. Mac OS X 10.5 will be a success. I expect it to incorporate BootCamp, allowing the user community to run Windows XP as needed.
3. Vista DRM will be hacked quickly and decisively.
4. A soft landing for the US economy.
Political predictions and guesses:
5. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will both pull out of the 2008 presidential race.
6. Blair will hand over to Brown in the UK, who will have things turn to s**t in his hands as people discover his infatuation with central planning and his style of money management.
7. The UK NHS will continue to implode rapidly; as will English higher education, more slowly.
8. The UK ID card programme will continue to increase explosively in cost, as will the computerisation of NHS records.
9. Iraq will continue to evolve towards civil war.
10. China will *not* invade Taiwan.
11. North Korea will *not* invade South Korea.
12. The US will *not* invade Iran or Syria.
13. Osama bin Laden will *not* be captured.
14. The Bush Administration will be seriously embarrassed by setbacks in Congress and the Supreme Court.
15. The Democratic Party will continue to do the wrong thing whenever forced to make a decision.
16. Russia will continue evolving towards a dictatorship.
17. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will continue with *no* change.
18. The draft will *not* be reinstated.
19. There will be a major terrorist operation carried out by Al Qaeda in western Europe or America.
Scientific predictions, hopes and guesses:
20. Bird flu will *not* become a pandemic.
21. Someone will show that even with inflation, the state of the universe immediately after the big bang must be absolutely uniform to avoid creating observable black holes at the current epoch--in other words, they will show that inflation fails to smooth out lack of gravitational uniformity as it does smooth out lack of electromagnetic uniformity. (speculative)
22. Someone will come up with a viable model for consciousness that shows how it can exist in a material system of non-linear neurons and influence both sensation and behaviour. This will trigger some important advances in AI. (speculative)
23. Someone will come up with a model of disk cells in the inferior colliculus that explains *how* their detailed topology affects their processing of sensory data.
24. Someone will show how long-term memory can play a role in pattern matching in the hippocampus. This research will also begin to explain the role the hippocampus plays in storing medium-term and long-term memory.
25. Someone will come up with a model of working memory that shows how it can represent plans. This will provide an explanation of how goal-directed behaviour is able to reevaluate goal payoffs when new data are available.
26. Someone will come up with an explanation of how the cortex is able to predict the trajectories of objects so as to determine whether or not (and when) two will collide. This will probably involve the answer to question 25.
27. Someone will come up with a model of evolution at the chromosomal level that begins to explain the hybridisation we see in the paleontological evidence for the evolution of hominids and anthropoid apes. Basically, they will show that anthropoid/homind speciation is a gradual process that involves the accumulation of reversals in chromosomes so that crossovers are prevented on an individual chromosome by chromosome basis and hybrids become less and less likely to survive to breed over time. There will be evidence that viable hybrids continued to be produced for very long geological times, allowing characters to be mixed and matched, while still preserving multiple species in a common area of distribution.
28. Someone will come up with a model for human general intelligence that addresses the genetic and epigenetic variation between populations, the Flynn Effect, and the indirect role played by general intelligence in economic and social success. (speculative)
Classics predictions and guesses:
29. Something explosive will come out of Palestinian archaeology about the origins of Christianity. This may be new archaeological evidence, DNA analysis of old evidence, or a computerised analysis of early Christian writings that will have some interesting conclusions about the early evolution of the Way. (I've been hearing some rumours...)
30. Something very interesting will be found in underwater archaeology on the Sunda shelf. (speculative, has to do with very early evidence of advanced settlement)
30. Someone will nail down evidence of early settlement of the Americas.
-- "If they do that with marks and grades, should they be trusted with experimental data?"
Harry Erwin, PhD
Subject: How Old is the Grand Canyon? Park Service Won't Say
I no nothing of this source but if true I am appalled....but not surprised.
Well, I doubt that anyone now already convinced will be converted by such books, nor do I think it would be difficult to get the more conventional view that the Canyon was formed over a long period of time. Censorship in the name of the free exchange of ideas seems a bit bizarre to me; I would have thought that it was the ideologues who wanted to suppress views contrary to the accepted opinion. It is strange that the Park Rangers aren't allowed to express their own opinions; on the other hand, I don't have any direct evidence that they are so forbidden. I do know that in Chaco Canyon the rangers and docents seem to have no problems expressing their views.
I recall a young Navajo ranger telling Roberta and me about the year of the Synoptic Convergence at Chaco: in one of the Kivas (which we believe were places for religious events during the time of the Anasazi who built the palaces in Chaco) "A white man came out in full regalia and did the Eagle dance. He did it pretty well, but I kept wondering what was the point." Niven and I used the Anasazi and Atzlan legends as the basis for our books The Burning City and Burning Tower. Burning Tower was on sale at Chaco last time I was there (the climax of the book takes place there, about 14,000 years ago just after Atlantis sank).
Subject: Locking Students from the Library,
In Wickliffe. Ironic indeed.
"Mustn't seek the Holy Grail in the Public Library..."
(From Saroyan's wonderful play Jim Dandy)
Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide.
And on THAT subject:
Subject: The Enemy Within?
Jihad in Small Town America: Part I of a Series
Has anyone considered the effect of the energy use in making the paint? This would be to some extent a one-off, but there’s always maintenance.
On a slightly more serious note; it seems to me that legislation needs to be more subtle. It would make a lot of difference to require better insulation in the walls and roofs of buildings. I live in the UK, and about 2 years ago installed 8 inches of extra roof insulation and cavity wall insulation (most houses in the UK are double-wall brick). The annual heating bill has halved.
More radical solutions would include an upper limit on the size and number of south-facing windows in new construction (in the northern hemisphere) and a requirement to install some sort of heat-saving doors in such places as warehouses. There is a reason why traditional architecture in hot countries includes small windows.
In the cases, admittedly rare, where a new community has to be built with included power generation, a requirement for a district heating system might be the largest possible contribution. After all, the maximum efficiency of a power station is about 40%, and the excess is simply vented. Surely making use of some of this low-grade heat would be a good idea?
It is possible to save energy without any great cost either in lifestyle or cash. All it takes is the will, but in certain quarters wasting energy is apparently seen as part of machismo. After all, there has to be a reason for the popularity of enormous 4x4s, and it isn’t a massive increase in off-road driving.
It is often unstated but the first consideration in analyzing an energy conservation scheme should be to look at the energy costs of the remedies.
Conserving energy may be a good idea, but prosperity seems to correlate well with the availability of cheap energy to the masses.
Hammer in 2029 or 2036?
- Roland Dobbins
Which may be the subject of our next novel. Hitting the Earth with something big has been astonishingly lucrative...
Subject: 2006 XG1 may impact on October 31, 2041
2006 XG1 is a newly discovered asteroid which may impact on October 31, 2041, according to NASA. Check this link:
It has been assigned an initial rating of 1 on the Palermo scale.
It has a diameter of .7 kilometers, or roughly 2,300 feet. This compares to the diameter of Apophis, 2004MN4, which has a diameter of .25 kilometers, or roughly 825 feet.
Not only is it roughly 3 times the size of Apophis, it's coming in almost 50% faster. Apophis has an estimated impact velocity of 12.59 kilometers per second; 2006XG1 has an impact velocity of 18.58 kilometers per second.
The impact, if it occurs, will be huge. Apophis would strike with a force of about 400 megatons; 2006 XG1, if it hits, will hit with a force of 19,000 megatons. By comparison, the atomic weapon dropped on Hiroshima was 12 - 15 kilotons.
This means that 2006 XG1 will strike with a force equal to approximately one million, three hundred and fifty thousand Hiroshimas.
This bears watching. If it hits, it's going to make for an interesting Halloween...
Congratulations on taking over Copyright Commons....and a Merry Christmas too, of course. I'm in the opposite party on the Commons, of course, because I actually make a living from what I write. The mantra of people who want to abolish or limit copyright is that "information wants to be free". No argument there. Information should be free and readily accessible. The more information, the better. As long as you can sort true content from all the noise that comes in the course of a lively conversation.
But copyright is not about protecting or limiting the distribution of information, but about protecting the expression of that information. A fine, but essential distinction. As you know, I've had a blog called "The Fight For Copyright" for about three years now. I've also sued for copyright infringement and won twice in the last year. And the people I sued were not defenseless little guys, but major corporations, the least of which is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. So, I've been thinking about this. A lot.
In principle I have no objection to the various Copyright Commons schemes. In a free society, people may do as they wish with their own property. It is the flip side of that, when other people also want to make free with their property that we have the problem. I put copyright notices on everything, even though that is no longer required, because I want to make the matter clear. This is my property and you may not use it without my permission. Permission does not always equate to payment in dollars. There are other ways to get paid. My mantra is always that I am a professional and professionals get paid. Unfortunately, in current society, the more payment you can demand, the more respect you get. "Amateur" is a bit of a curse word.
But the main reason for copyright in the current context is not money, but control. This was the argument between John Updike and Kevin Kelley this year. Kelley wants an intellectual environment where there are no boundaries and calls that freedom rather than anarchy. Updike is a novelist. His writing is a singular act of communication between him and the reader and he wants no interruptions, thank you. (I am also a novelist and I feel the same way.) So much for "remix". Absent the specific permission of the original author , remix is an immoral act of intellectual vandalism much like the teenager who tags his name on a blank wall with a can of spray paint. It alters the original expression dramatically and not to the originators liking. Creative Commons does, I admit, provide a way for that permission to be granted.
The problem is that it's very existence also provides an excuse for those who find copyright law an inconvenience. Like "Fair Use" it is subject to misinterpretation and great abuse. The big issue in copyright is actually the Droit Morale; the moral right to control where, when and how one's creation will be made public. This is why the clock on a copyright begins when it is first published and not before.
Copyright Commons needs to take a stand in favor of the Droit Morale and make it clear that the licenses are specific and granted by those who create the expression of the information so licensed, upon certain conditions and not blanket permission to "do as thou wilt".
You have have my permission to use this on your blog, as does Jerry Pournelle to post it on Chaos Manor.
It looks as though the anecdote about the studio executive demanding the Army camouflage his studio is false, but has a kernal of underlying truth. The truth is that Warner Brothers did camouflage their studio complex because they feared it being mistaken for the Douglas Aircraft plant, after they worked with Douglas Aircraft to camouflage their plant.
The real story gets even better. The Douglas Aircraft company and the people from the Warner Brothers studio camouflaged 4.5 million square feet of the Douglas Santa Monica plant in 3-D to make it seem to be a residential neighborhood. They also poured green paint onto the runway to make it seem to be a grassy area. Pilots could not find the runwat, and Douglas aircraft resorted to having employees wave red flags to attract the incoming pilots' attention. See:
I enjoyed researching this.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
A little background, just so you understand where I'm coming from. - Several years ago, at the height of the CA power crisis, we retrofitted my mom's house (aka my closet server colo) with solar power. The 4KW array we put on the roof (flat) generates an average of $170/month in utility savings. _Average_. It, plus the battery array, provides sufficient power to take the house off-grid in an emergency. Can't run the washer/dryer, but that's about the extent of it. So, capital investment paid out, and that house is now brownout-proof, earthquake-power-loss-proof, and using significantly less net power. It should finish paying for itself in about 6 years. - My ranch in New Mexico is completely solar-powered. Rather than burn $100K pulling power lines out to the ranch, we wound up with a 7KW solar array. We own it, it's ours, and if we need more power, it's extensible. I've had thoughts about putting up a solar power generation station, closer in to the county power mains. 2-3MW worth, if I can swing it. - My previous-house-to-this was roofed in that white plastic spray-on roofing stuff. Worked quite nicely, and was sufficient for a ~15 degree temperature drop in summer, on 100 degree days, and for a net gain of about 10 degrees during cold winter nights. Note that the rest of the house was uninsulated.
OK, WRT rooftop solar, all of the following is purely IMHO: If you live in an urban area in California, putting solar panels on your roof is a straightforward infrastructure improvement in your home. In terms of cost, it should amortize out within 10 years, at which point it's paid for, you own it, and it's a valued improvement. It is also a civil defense statement, that you are prepared in that regard for the earthquakes/etc. that are a fact of life in California. In _either_ regard, it is worthwhile. When both are factored together, the logic is compelling, if somewhat pricey.
WRT "white" roofs: They are effective. That being said, thermodynamics applies, and that energy that you've reflected has to go someplace.
WRT convertible-color/heat pumps: One would think that having a silver-backed thin-film system that you could pump dark-colored transfer fluid into would suffice quite nicely for a convertible system. We used to have a solar hot-water system to deal with the pool, and it worked well. You need a pump, obviously, but a small, 40 watt solar electric panel would solve that problem nicely. That, plus some kind of radiant heating system (and you can now retrofit those to existing wood-frame/joist houses, rather than having to bury them in the slab per Eichler) would do just fine. Mostly a matter of having sufficient heating area to handle the house heat load. It also strikes me that you could use the same system, reversed, as a heat radiator during summer.
Anyway, many random thoughts, with a leavening of BTDT experience.
For people who aren’t up to reading Jensen’s
The g Factor: The Science of Mental Ability (Human
Evolution, Behavior, and Intelligence) <http://www.amazon.com/Factor-Science-
The g Factor: The Science of Mental Ability
there is a quite good easy book that I can recommend:
Intelligence, Race, and Genetics: Conversations with
Arthur R. Jensen (Hardcover) by Arthur Robert Jensen
The essential book for those who doubt the utility of IQ is Daniel Seligman, A Question of Intelligence (link). Seligman began with the usual assumptions that IQ is the bunk, most scientists don't believe in the utility of IQ tests, it doesn't measure intelligence, the Mismeasure of Man was a scientific book, etc., etc. Had he written the book he started out to write it would still be in print and probably on a best seller list. Instead he wrote the book the evidence drove him to write. Before you write me on this subject, please read Seligman; then deal with the evidence he assembles.
A great number of very intelligent people write nonsense on this subject. It is nonsense because, like those who denounced The Bell Curve without reading it because they were sure they knew what it said, most of those who pontificate on this subject are entirely -- ENTIRELY -- ignorant of the evidence and data on the subject.
I don't insist that you read the primary data or that you have advanced degrees in statistical inference. I do suggest that it would be well to read a good presentation of the data. Seligman begins with his initial assumptions and shows what happened to them; and what data convinced him that he had been wrong.
That is not to denigrate the above books.
I met Arthur Jensen at at AAAS meeting 25 or 30 years ago. He was subject to catcalls and denunciations in a scientific conference; and again those who were doing this (including in his press conference) admitted to me they had never read one word Jensen had read. Much the same happened to Bouchard of the Minnesota Twin IQ Studies; his works seem to have vanished from public access.
The IQ Question is even more than Global Warming subject to junk science and scientific Mau Mau tactics.
It's worse than this. Even when they're still known, they're suppressed for one reason or another. For example, the first year "shop course" at our local high school has been whiffle-balled. It consists of CAD instruction, which is good. But this is followed up by the shop teacher mounting styrofoam on Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) tools to 'machine' parts.
'Back in my day' (early 1970s) high school shop was mandatory for freshmen (emphasis on men). It consisted of "mechanical drawing" (drafting), followed by the students woodworking with real wood and sharp tools on table saws, bandsaws and lathes to make what they'd drawn. Those who continued to the second year started working with metal lathes and mills.
A healthy progression would have replaced mechanical drawing and manual power tools with CAD and hands-on CNC work with wood and metal. Instead there has been this degeneration which is spun as 'technological progress', and doubtless accompanied by heavy spending with preferred politically correct vendors.
High school chemistry has been whiffle-balled, too. If my high school's chemistry lab suddenly appeared today it would provoke a combined raid by the FBI, BATF, EPA and Homeland Security, with close air support orbiting overhead on-call. Wired Magazine documented the decline of hands-on American science education. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.06/chemistry.html
High School Junior ROTC is another classic example. Several years ago there was an uproar in Fort Myers, extended to the local newspaper, over JROTC conducting marksmanship training with air guns. The woman making most of the noise (and it's always seems to be women making these noises in support of dumbing down local education for ostensibly good reasons) would have drop fainted in her tracks if transported to *my* 1970 high school JROTC unit. The arms room contained 300 M-14s, about 20% with full auto switches, and all with firing pins stored separately. Next to the arms room was the .22 caliber indoor rifle range. The first two years was mandatory for all male students, including mandatory .22 caliber marksmanship training.
If you attended the voluntary two week summer camps held at an Army base then you spent the first week firing the M-14s on old known distance ranges. The second week was field maneuvers with blanks, grenade simulators, hand-held parachute flares... Regular Special Forces A teams served as the trainers, including training in how to kill and cook live chickens. After which your dinner was dropped on the ground clucking and scurrying away.
If you were on the combined regional 'Army' JROTC rifle team like I was, then you spent six weeks of summer camp training for the Camp Perry Nationals, followed by two weeks at the nationals. Now even air-guns are often banned, lab chemistry is 'taught' with the teacher demonstrating baking soda experiments and styrofoam is machined while the students watch goggled from a safe distance.
And XCOR Aerospace can't find good machinists.
The start has been postponed until after high school graduation. And it's become a profit center for banks issuing student loans since the student is now supposed to pay the bills himself, unless his employer does. This delay gives the 'universities' and 'colleges' a maximum chance for selling 18 y/os on what are frequently overpriced useless degrees. Degrees that land them at the shopping mall in low paid retail jobs after graduation with big student loans tied to their backs.
It's no exaggeration to say the value of most credential generating 'education' in America has gone down in inverse proportion to its paper dollar cost.
As regards Gerald Knorr's note asking why blacks should agonize over being lower-IQ when whites don't - it seems worth pointing out that a certain percentage of whites DO. Why else the obsession with Jews as being the source of all evil in the world? Mind you, these whites have a certain point; Jews _are_ on average smarter and therefore _are_ likely to be more represented in positions of power and influence that depend on being smart. That such a simple fact of life gets converted into massive conspiracy theories and Final Solutions is no less unreasonable than blacks insisting any failure on their part is because the system is rigged.
Beyond that - it seems reasonable that whites would be less prone to such thinking because they aren't as visibly low on the scale. Being white, with average white abilities, is "normal", so it doesn't matter too much if there are exceptions on the fringes. If whites become just another minority in a country where higher-IQ groups are comparable in population, I think you could see a drastic growth in the attitudes that currently lead to antisemitism.
This is fundamentally the problem with openly acknowledging IQ differences and taking an attitude of "just deal with it". Being smart is absolutely essential (though not necessarily sufficient) for success in a technological world. The letter about the adopted black son with assorted non-egghead skills makes good points, but how can skills of that sort be rewarded by a global market where technology drives everything? If it is possible, that would be good, but I don't see it happening; and that leaves such people permanently locked below a glass ceiling in terms of what they can earn, and their consequent status in society. Being smart is an aspect of personality that a given individual is absolutely helpless to affect. When brought face to face with such a situation, where they are locked into a certain segment of society with NO CHANCE to ever get out of it - well, in a class-conscious society, where knowing one's place is considered virtuous and normal, there would be no problem; but our current culture tells everyone to shoot for the moon because you can make it if you just try hard enough, because everyone is equal - which has been taken to mean that everyone is basically the same.
What does equality mean, if we accept that different groups are fundamentally different, and that the consequence of that is that some groups will be rewarded with more money and others never will reach that level? How does one value a human being, if not in the market sense - in terms of how much money can be offered for them? How can "I'm just as good as him" be reconciled with the fact that no matter how hard "I" work, "he" gets all the fast cars and hot women and happy family and big house without half trying, and how can "I" be expected to be satisfied with that situation in a country where "anyone, even you, can grow up to be President"?
Admitting that people are unequal and teaching them what sort of things they will probably be good at, and what they should reasonably expect out of life, seems to be the way out - the only way to have a multiracial society that doesn't lie to itself. But that is a society with castes, and it is not at all something that fits with what I've always understood as the fundamental values of America.
I hope genetic engineering gets going fast enough and effective enough so we can make ourselves as smart as we like or find necessary without having to face this sort of thing.
Kent Peterson firstname.lastname@example.org
"... there was always a minority afraid of something, and a great majority afraid of the dark, afraid of the future, afraid of the past ..." - Ray Bradbury, _The Martian Chronicles_
Acknowledging that some people learn by skill training and some by "education" does not make for a caste system: we did things that way for a very long time in this republc. Now it's true enough that Social and Economic Status -- SES -- was able to compensate for IQ differences. The results were not a caste system, but sometimes it looked that way. The Movie 'The Good Shepherd' (reviewed in today's edition of Chaos Manor Reviews) shows some of that. Back when Harvard and Yale and Princeton admitted children of alumni by preference over "diversity", SES was often more important than IQ. Bright kids from families without lots of money and former connections with the ruling class -- I am a pretty good example of that -- never even thought of applying to Harvard or Yale; at least I didn't. The University of Tennessee was about the best I could shoot for (by pure luck I ended up at the University of Iowa in time to study with George Mosse, Van Allen, Kurt Lewin, Harold Bechtoldt, Wendell Johnson, and a host of other stars) despite my IQ and academic high school grades.
For better or worse, we have converted the republic from a mixed system of merit, SES, IQ, and personality to a meritocracy; and we are now trying to convert the meritocracy to a "diversity society." The meritocracy could have resembled a caste system -- this was one of the concerns of The Bell Curve but most critics of that work didn't read that far. What we have now may be a lot worse.
Note that pure meritocracy can result in military dictatorship rather easily; after which "merit" generally means being smart enough to rise through the resulting bureaucracy. But no one reads history now.
Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide.
Subject: Barking Mad.
According to the UK's Financial Times; Quote:-
"A report sponsored by Sir David King, the UK government’s chief scientist. The paper covering robots’ rights was written by a UK partnership of Outsights, the management consultancy, and Ipsos Mori, the opinion research organisation. If we make conscious robots they would want to have rights and they probably should,” said Henrik Christensen, director of the Centre of Robotics and Intelligent Machines at the Georgia Institute of Technology."
Presumably this is after we all commute in private aeroplanes and take food pills instead of eating meals.
Our tax pound at work.
As I understand it, when it became obvious that Iraq was defeated, much of the Iraqi Army was still in service. The US broadcast to the Iraqi generals that they should keep their forces together. We would take care of back pay, and the generals "would have an honorable place in the building of a new Iraq."
How much of the army might have stayed together in order to collect their pay I don't know but since most didn't have other prospects of employment, it's not unreasonable that most would have answered roll call and stayed in barracks.
Whether politically that is a good idea is worth debating, but sending armed men home with no prospects of a job is probably not the right alternative. Lying to the generals about their future was probably not a good idea.
The Fallujah Brigade was tried in desperation after a great deal of history.
Some former Baathists were committed party members. Others joined because it was the way to get a job. As my daughter said when we first went in there, the locals knew who the good guys and bad guys were. The local sheiks still had influence and authority.
The army was disbanded. It might have been held together. Try a little reality.
Subject: School, education, long life...
Reading the article on Maplewood's library brings back memories three decades past, as I went to high school in Maplewood. Even then, the town was filled with a lot of soft-headed idiots who declaimed any responsibility on their children's parts or on their own as parents when their precious darlings misbehaved. In that era, Maplewood's high school had a computer, Monroe programmable calculators (as you'd recall, a precursor to what was to come in handheld calculators), a swimming pool, language labs with recording and playback capability to work to remedy speech issues, and a plethora of other rich resources. The schools and the area had then, and continue to have, an abundance of resources and money to spend on the schools and libraries.
But even three-plus decades back, parents complained that there "weren't enough programs" and the school system should somehow address the lack of oversight and parenting on the parts of the students in Maplewood. Even in that era, there was a harsh pushback to any kind of rules for the privileged children of Maplewood. I personally saw parents threaten police with lawsuits and loss of job for the "crime" of telling children to behave in public places. Visits in the years since haven't removed an iota of this impression of the town, where the children can run wild without restraint. The needs of the children for instant gratification of their desire to be entertained _right now_ and provided "programs" by others (always non-parents, family, or other such guardians) are not at all new, just reaching higher levels.
I'd recommend reading the town blog to get a good feel for just how many people simply can't accept that both children and parents have responsibilities ( http://maplewood.southorangevillage.com/thread.php?qs1=4041 ).
There's a (hopefully) tongue-in-cheek comment from another town that reads, "As an experienced psychologist, I would like to weigh in.
Youngsters need to feel validated and loved. Fighting, urinating, scrawling graffiti, talking back to librarians and refusing to leave when asked are all healthy behavior traits. These actions need to be fostered and encouraged not only by the parents but also the librarians. Children need to express themselves without repression in order to grow and develop.
The best thing to do when there is an incident between a librarian and a child is to terminate the librarian. These people clearly are not trained to handle the fragile psychology of children."
Here and there on the blog referenced above, you'll find plaintive voices calling for some kind of intelligent response to the problem, but they're obviously not going to receive any attention.
Note that Maplewood's property taxes that fund the schools and libraries often soar well above $20k/annum for individual houses in the town. One would think that such a level of money could allow for the hiring of at least one or two people with functioning brain cells.
But perhaps not.
On the subject of schools and education, today's NYT has another interesting article. "Staying in school" can mean a longer life, apparently.
One item that I note is the comment, "Dr. Lleras-Muney and others point to one plausible explanation — as a group, less educated people are less able to plan for the future and to delay gratification."
If you couple this concept with the currently out-of-control basis of our society for instant gratification (see discussions above on Maplewood), one could see some kind of basis for the concept.
Note though, that people who went through the education system in decades past were "socialised" to understand that they would have to both delay instant gratification for long term benefits, this topic usually addressed through ethical and moral discussions, which are anethema to today's educational establishment; as well as delay gratification where it could create unpleasantness for others (again, see the Maplewood discussion above). This combination was inculcated in most people by perhaps sixth grade (along with other trivial skills such as reading, arithmetic, history, and, - dare I note this ? - civics), while today one is lucky to find such erudition in many high school graduates. "I want my MTV" was the pathetic slogan of many in the 'eighties and 'nineties, but the slogan of today seems to be, "I can do whatever I want, and nobody can stop me". But I digress (slightly)...
So, "staying in school" now may mean something rather different than for my experiences three-plus decades gone, or yours some (slightly longer) period away. After all, as you've so cogently pointed out in various essays, the terms "education", "schooling", and "learning" are not synonymous nor, perhaps even linked any longer.
And we all wonder why the libraries in Maplewood have to be closed each afternoon now...
Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide.
Happy New Year. I thought you might be interested in another example of inmates running the educational asylum.
Extracted from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16441559/site/newsweek
I was reading your site again today and saw:
"Make the schools as equal as possible"
This quote made me nearly choke on my beverage. Shouldn't our goal be to make EACH school as GOOD as possible?
This may produce some inequalities, but it's a worthier goal than suppressing success.
-- Other things equal, the greater the size and complexity of government, the greater the likelihood that many of its activities will escape meaningful democratic control.
But sometimes there's good news
"... wind power can't replace any conventional power generation, because power has to be supplied even when the wind doesn't blow. In other words, wind power has to be built in tandem with conventional power plants."
We see this comment frequently. But on the west coast of North America, we have the perfect "filler" electricity source that does not "need to be built in tandem". Hydro power generation rate is generally adjustable within wide variations in very short ramp-up times, but is limited to a particular amount of energy per year (amount of water times "head"). Where I live, in BC, a huge portion of our baseline electricity is provided by hydro power.
If the limited amount of hydro energy per year were used only when solar or wind power is idle, we haven't built new generation capacity. We've just used what we have more intelligently.
I never see hydro proposed as filler for intermittent energy sources. It seems obvious to me. And with the value of hydro as a quick-launch power source it seems a waste to spend the limited annual amount of such energy as a baseline source.
(If hydro were used for "filler" generation, then the water levels downstream from the dam may become more uneven. For the giant Columbia river, this would probably be trivial. But on smaller rivers, it could be an issue. I think that a town in Quebec was destroyed a decade or so back by careless control of a dam's flow rate.)
Southern California Edison used to do this sort of thing way back when SCE actually owned its generating facilities before the California legislature "deregulated" the power industry to the benefit of Enron and others who had friends in Sacramento. We enforce all the laws except those that hold people accountable for bad legislation.
Pumped storage -- and of course conserving high head volumes when possible -- is a very efficient way to do things and any system that has a substantial amount of hydro power might well decide to use Wind and Ground Based Solar as a supplement to conserve that water head. Thanks.
January 4, 2006
I said then:
You will find those at:
Steve Barnes, who hopes to keep Niven and me healthy for a long time (if you read Fallen Angels you have met Steve; he's definitely in that book) found these for us years ago. I am up to seven repetitions with a goal of 15; I was at 15 a few years ago and neglected doing them, to my regret and detriment. Niven, I believe, routinely does 15 or did the last time we went on a research trip and stayed in the same motel room.
I find that if I write until I am tired, then do these, I can write more; and they are great for reducing if not eliminating back problems.
For more on writing, see "How To Get My Job."
Guards in the library. What next? I guess police states develop when the citizens show they have no self-control?
I would rather have guards than gangsters in the library.
Well, perhaps the comment that I quoted yesterday wasn't tongue-in-cheek at all, but serious, as the folks in Maplewood are softening their heads further, if the blog for the town ( http://maplewood.southorangevillage.com/thread.php?qs1=4041 ) is to be believed. There have been even more cries for "programs", as well as the delightful tactic of blaming the librarians for not clamping down on the behaviour of the little thugs who throng the library. This in a town where the net level of academic and library support is in the upper 5% of the nation, but the degree of personal and familial responsibility is obviously in the very bottom levels.
I can't speak for you, but I find no "philosophy of consolation" in any of this. The juxtaposition of such specious discussions of responsibility in a town that offers so many abundant opportunities is more a philosophy of classic tragedy, if not a classic tragedy derived from hubris. I'm frankly ashamed to say that I lived in and attended school in the town and graduated from their high school.
Let's not forget the case in Morristown, New Jersey where a public library was forced into a settlement allegedly in the six-figure range with a homeless man who the library tried to exclude due to his egregious lack of personal hygiene and improper behaviour. I'm confident that this has had a substantial chilling effect on any library that wishes to eject a patron, regardless of the reasons. Such lessons are lost on the fine citizens in Maplewood, however, who are collectively moaning and howling about unfair it is that the library has closed for a whole Two And One Quarter Hours Per Day, but cast blame widely at everyone _except_ the vicious children who precipitated the closure, including arson threats against a branch library and personal injury threats against the librarians.
As the usual clarion screeches and whines for the ACLU to intervene echo through the town blog. "Susan1014" also succinctly states,
"Librarians are paid to manage the library. That includes following through if police support is needed. They shouldn't need me standing behind them to provide moral support to file a police report. They are paid professionals, and need to take the tough parts of their job along with the good parts. Managing problem teenagers is one of the bad parts."
Sure, there's not any need for "moral support" for the librarians, or for that matter, support of any kind. Let's hold the librarians responsible for the behaviour of the people in the building, remove all tools for the librarians to enforce any decent rules of conduct, and, just for yucks, tell the little thugs who urinate in the library, ruin the books, and generally wreck mayhem, that they have no responsibilities whatsoever, now or in the future.
And we all wonder why the libraries in Maplewood have to be closed each afternoon now...
The liberal philosophy, which brought the lawsuits in favor of the "homeless" derelict who stank up a library and annoyed patrons, all in the name of "civil liberties" and equality, has brought us to this pass as it will bring us to far worse. Can you imagine Washington and Adams -- or Jefferson -- sending Federal marshals to enforce the "rights" of a non-bathing "patron" of a public library against the towns people who paid for the library?
Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide.
My brother is a lawyer who this year has begun teaching high school history. The school district covers a nice upscale suburb of Philadelphia, but the includes some downscale places as well. Like any new kid on the block, he has been given the toughest classes. One kid is undergoing the "expulsion process" because he has been assaulting other kids. His mother sued, and so he is _legally_ allowed "five inappropriate outbursts" per class before the teacher may take note. On a quiz about ancient Greece, he gave sets of four terms or names from ancient Greece: the student was supposed to eliminate one as "not belonging" and write a sentence using the other three appropriately. One set of four was a "gimme" that included his own name. Some students got it wrong.
The following are some comments he had regarding teaching, after I sent him the link to your site about the English teacher who was threatened because he "tracked" the students in his class. He has given his permission to pass them along.
The idea that you can design a curriculum that asks different students to perform different tasks (at different "degrees of difficulty") for the same grade is one that is promoted here, not something we’d get disciplined for. We already have 3 levels (reduced from 4) of courses: standard (college prep), honors and advanced placement. The kids can elect which to take (to a point, if their testing and prior performance warrants). The motivated kids who want to go to the "ivies" take as many AP classes as they can since colleges look for those. Kids who want to "skate" or those who already have 3-4 AP classes might deliberately elect a college prep class to get a break in the schedule. Consequently, my 5 "college prep" classes contain students who will go to an elite college and some who will not even try to get in to a trade school.
And by the way, the kids themselves know where they fit on the continuum by the time I see them in 10th and 11th grade. They generally don't elect honors because they know they can't do that work. They also know who the "smart" kids are within the class. Having them do different assignments would not stigmatize them at all. My problem would be making sure the kids who CAN do more challenging work don't slack off deliberately to get the "easy" A. So one of the biggest challenges as a new teacher is to pay attention to every student's performance early on so I can judge which ones can do what kind of work. The next time someone wants to bash public education, they should try designing a 50-minute lesson on the birth of US imperialism that keeps 24 teenagers with 5 different ability levels engaged. Now think of a way to validly assess each student as to whether they can comprehend, evaluate, synthesize, apply (etc.) what you wanted them to learn that day. Now do it again tomorrow, and the day after, and the next day, about 175 times for modern US History. Now do it for all my classes in Western Civilization. I feel sorry for the teachers who teach more than 2 different subjects.
As for the guy who divided his class by ability, that technique is accepted in my district. In fact, I am REQUIRED to spend at least 4 full days with other new teachers in the district throughout the year at day-long seminars learning about and practicing "differentiated instruction." That concept includes a lot of "education-speak" techniques to deal with individual students, but differentiating by ability is certainly an approved way of dealing with a classroom of "mixed ability" kids. The literature and studies support it as far as I’ve been able to tell. The problem is that it requires a tremendous amount of preparation time. For example, one of the techniques we discussed in my DI seminar was a "tic tac toe" design. That requires me to come up with 9 different specific types of products to assess on a given topic (test, powerpoint, essay paper, demonstration, performance, etc.). They are laid out in 9 boxes and the students then have to choose any 3 in a straight line to complete by the end of the unit. You can arrange the tasks so that the student cannot avoid at least one "hard" assignment. But if one of my 11th grade students reads at a 6th grade level, I can't just moan about the quality of elementary or middle school reading teachers (or parents of kids who can't or won't encourage reading at home). I also can't throw up my hands and flunk students who can't read the assigned textbook (or any other HS-level material). I have to find a lower-level textbook or maybe a video to cover the material for that student. I have to design classwork, homework and assessments (not an essay – these students can’t write) that gives these students the best chance of understanding the material.
This is nothing like school when I was a student. But I wonder how I would have done in this environment.
Legally allowed five disruptions. Not much more needs to be said.
On Going Roman
*By* *J. R. Dunn* <http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/author/j_r_dunn/>
...There's something to be said for taking on the role of a third-millennial Rome. Antiochus IV Ephiphanes <http://concise.britannica.com/ebc/article-9355515/Antiochus-IV-Epiphanes>, Seleucid ruler of Syria, long had his eye on Egypt. Finally, in 169 B.C., he crossed the Sinai with a conquering army.
He took everything but Alexandria, and then decided to move against the city. The Romans had no legions in the area. But they did have an official, G. Poppilius Laenas, an older gentleman of the equestrian class, Rome's ancient nobility. He met the Syrian army as it reached the city and was shortly speaking to the king himself, telling him that the Senate of Rome forbade him to remain, and to take his army back home.
"I'll think about it," Antiochus told the envoy, "And I'll have an answer tomorrow."
Leanas then took his walking stick (some accounts call it a "staff", in an attempt to make it more convincing, but it was a walking stick), and drew a circle around Antiochus.
"Sonny," he said. "You'll answer me before you step out of that circle."
Antiochus gave his answer, and the next day the army was on its way back to Syria.
It would be pleasant to wield that kind of power, to draw a circle around Assad, or Ahmadinejad, or Kim, and demand the correct answer. But how many Carthages would have to burn before we gained it? How much would it cost? Hiroshima and Nagasaki failed to impress for long. Would it take a dozen Hiroshimas? A hundred?
And what price would we pay? Part of it would be abandoning forever our vision of what the U.S. is and could be. No longer the City on the Hill, no longer the last best hope, the nation that has for so long pioneered a new method of wielding power. Did the Romans themselves have such a vision? Did aged senators lie awake nights recalling an ancient dream washed away in the blood of innumerable imperial victims? We don't know. That's lost to us.
But we had better know this: if the U.S. ever does take on the trappings of imperium, if we, out of despair or terror, turn to Roman methods, then, like Scipio, we will be witnessing our own fate in the cities we set ablaze.
Fate is by definition unavoidable. Nations are often forced into roles they might not have chosen, the way Britain found itself an empire "in a fit of absentmindedness". For now, we - the Americans, despised and envied across the world -- still stumble along, doing the best we can, taking our licks and looking for solutions while living up to our image of ourselves. But the critics should be wary of screaming too loud, of conspiring too well, of undermining us too thoroughly. Because if they succeed, if they do get what they insist they want, then the result may well be something they never conceived, and it will be their desolation, and our peace.
A good point, I think, and well made.
Indeed. I know how to be imperial. Most of us who have studied history do. We begin by recruiting auxiliaries and calling them a Foreign Legion. Light infantry and constabulary only, they do the work of occupation, while our Regular forces stand ready to destroy our creations if the Foreign Legion gets out of hand. The Regulars are the real Legions.
We also recruit puppet kings and presidents to do the real dirty work that we don't even want our Foreign Legion doing.
And we build monuments. Not the small desolations I advocated as monuments back when September 11 first happened. Real desolations to serve as monuments to our grim determination. Caesar severed the right hands of the Gauls who rebelled. It was effective. Most rebellions ceased. The Turks governed Iraq peaceably enough. Everyone knew what would happen if they rebelled. Fallujah sewn with salt.
But we would no longer be America, as I have often said.
January 5, 2007
Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad:
Hello Dr. Pournelle
The police were called, by a school principal, because a 12-year-old special education student wet herself. The principal, who has the interesting last name of Duckwork, says she did it on purpose.
You would think that the police would be appalled, to be involved in such silliness. I certainly would not wish to go on such a call, were I a police officer. Unfortunately, stupid seems to pervade the city government of Danville, and includes the police department, as well as the school. The 12 year old was charged with disorderly conduct. I particularly like the remark by the police officer, who seems to be taking this foolishness far too seriously, that the girl could, perhaps, do community service, rather than pay a fine. I am curious as to what type of community service they think appropriate, for a 12-year-old girl, in special ed.
Even presuming that this was intentional, whatever happened to calling the parents, or sending the child home? Will we soon be seeing the police called when students are late to class? We need to get our children out of these schools, and out from under the control freaks, social engineers, and time passers, who run them. When I was back in school, thirty years or so ago, a principal would have never considered handling this situation in such a manner. A grown man who has to call the police to handle a 12-year-old girl should be ashamed of himself. This is nothing more than a presumed adult, bullying a child, because he knows that he can. Is this man actually being paid, to do whatever it is that he does? He should lose his job; but the union will see to it that nothing happens.
One wonders at the sanity of all concerned. The girl is "special education" but mainstreamed. She's done this before. The school is at wit's end. The girl is terrified of the principal. So, to make sure she isn't scared any more, we take her away in handcuffs. That should cure her defiance.
When I saw the link in mail 447 about the 12-year-old who was arrested for wetting herself at school I had to look further.
The Danville Area School District deeply regrets the recent incident with the Danville Middle School student who was charged for disorderly conduct. The charges have been dropped.
I tried to get to local news stories that had not been filtered by wire services and major outlet editing, but unfortunately the local newspaper for the area <http://www.pressenterpriseonline.com/> only allows subscribers to read their web site. I find that very often, outrageous-sounding stories like this wind up seeming not so outrageous when I look at what the locals are saying, as opposed to what the major news organizations print.
You may add my voice to the din requesting that you work on fiction rather than subscriber content. If there were to be some kind of premium for subscribers, my wish would be for something like the old tojerry forum on bix, where I could ask questions of your other readers (and answer those that I can). I suppose that would be prohibitively difficult for you though.
One wonders if the charges would have been dropped without the vast publicity this imbecile action on the part of a school principal generated. One also wonders if anything will happen to the principal. But I suppose all is well that ends well. If it did.
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