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Mail 495 December 3 - 9, 2007
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December 3, 2007
The article at the following link (the secret to raising smart kids) is important:
"More than three decades of research shows that a focus on effort—not on intelligence or ability—is key to success in school and in life."
This is also relevant to the following article:
Philip E. Ross (2006) "Secrets of the Expert Mind", Scientific American, 295(2):46-53, August 2006:
Expertise is knowledge-guided perception (apperception)--structured knowledge, not analysis--and is usually the result of intensive training, not talent. What matters is not experience per se, but "effortful study", involving continually tackling challenges just beyond one's competence. Most people can’t judge their level of competence, so that’s where good teachers and mentors come in. But don't overrate expertise. Statistical decision theory consistently beats expert judgement when _operating on the same data_. See:
The advantage of expertise shows up when dealing with imprecise and ambiguous data and problems.
I think any traditional Chinese or Jewish parent could have told us about this...
England imports a lot of expertise-particularly interdisciplinary expertise--and is unable to train it. For example, it can't train
(enough) nuclear engineers for the nuclear industry (and the submarine service). It has to import engineers in most fields (civil, electrical, mechanical, etc.). As a PhD biologist, I'm a bit amused and also a bit irritated about this--my titles here include MIET and MBCS--I currently find myself teaching most of the computational statistics classes at my university, and have recently been moved into the internet engineering group at my school, something I have almost no background in. A technical generalist can expect to have a job for life (or at least to 65) in England.
News from England--
MI5 warns of Chinese state-sponsored espionage: <http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/
UK teacher in the Sudan runs up against religious extremism:
Labour donations scandal--small change in American terms:
Data loss scandal:
Reduction in the DWI threshold:
The yob problem locally:
Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security,
University of Sunderland.
Weblog at: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>
Subj: The Return of the US Army Air Force: Sky Warrior
>>General Atomics, the manufacturer of the Predator UAV, is developing the new Sky Warrior UAV [for the Army]. ... The Sky Warrior is very similar in weight, size and capability to the Predator. Basically, it’s “Predator Lite”, and that’s why the air force is nervous. ... [T]he army will not use pilots at all as operators. This appalls the air force, which is scrambling to turn fighter and transport pilots into Predator operators. The air force does use non-pilots for micro-UAVs (similar to the army’s five pound Raven), which are used to guard air force bases. But for larger UAVs, the air force is concerned about collisions, with other UAVs or manned aircraft. The army believes the future holds technological solutions for this problem.<<
Dave Winer on the Hollywood writer's strike.
I don't like Dave Winer and generally disagree with just about everything he says, but I believe that this post, *including the comments thread*, is worth reading and pondering, irrespective of one's views on the strike and its implications:
-- Roland Dobbins
December 4, 2007
I am sure the taxpayers of California will be pleased to hear how generously our masters spend their money.
December 5, 2007
We have considerable material on Barnett and his analysis of the future.
I've corresponded extensively with Dr. Barnett, read both his books (autographed copies; we met when he gave the Nimitz Memorial Lecture in National Security Affairs at UC Berkeley, in 2005), and read his weblog daily:
Dr. Barnett is not an advocate of empire, he is a near-rabid advocate of immediate, literal CoDominium.
With the Chinese.
And not in twenty years, or fifty years, or at some indeterminate point in the future when they've finally decided to drop the whole totalitarianism gig in favor of Fukuyamist liberal democracy.
Now. This instant. Without concessions or modifications of any kind.
Think about that.
He is essentially (and openly) Marxist in his analytical viewpoint, liberal Catholic/Fukuyamist (pre-apologia) in his animating philosophy, which explains his drive to 'civilize' the planet. The protege and prize pupil of VADM Art Lebrowski, the famous proponent of Network Centric Warfare, Dr. Barnett has proven hugely influential with the junior officer corps of all the services over the last 4-5 years (I witnessed this phenomenon in person, at Berkeley) and with the junior bureaucrats in organizations such as State, where he is viewed as subversively urging the younger generation to get on with the business of taking up The Last Man's Burden.
Barnett's making a lot of headway and gaining a lot of mindshare, because, essentially, he's the only game in town - the only Man With A Plan. If he had been placed in Bremer's job, the true test of the neocons' theories would've taken place, as he's extremely energetic, detail-oriented, and pragmatic to a fault.
Barnett is smart, and ruthless. He believes in the inevitability of the ChiCom's liberalization, and believes this will come about by essentially loving them to death, and attacking their youth with our cultural weapons of mass destruction. He is perfectly willing to take the view that the Chinese must break some eggs in order to cook an omelette; he refuses to entertain the thought that they might be cooking another dish entirely, and spicing it with arsenic.
Barnett is the bete noir of William Lind and the Fourth-Generation Warfare (4GW) school; he is about 90 degrees out of phase with John Robb, the 'Global Guerillas'/Open Source Warfare theorist). Barnett has some nice things to say about the 4GWers and Robb; Robb has some nice things to say about Barnett, but Lind and co. can't stand him.
I like Dr. Barnett personally and respect his intellect and drive, even as he is opposed to just about everything I believe in, and dangerously wrong (not naive; he has no illusions about the ChiCom regime) about the eventual disposition of China, which I view as the greatest threat to this nation, and to the cause of human freedom, in the history of the world. If we're going to build a CoDominum (or even an empire), he's well-suited for it; I don't want to embark upon the project in the first place, and certainly not with the Communist Chinese!
But, if we are going to build a CoDominium, we need Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett and willing, ruthless men of similar abilities, to administer it. As things stand, the influence he has over our junior officer corps is going to have a very large impact in the coming years; his notions strike them as romantic and inspiring, as it provides them with a raison d'etre and a mission to essentially save the world. Since the service academies have become so politically correct and declined generally in the quality of their academic instruction, these young officers don't have the grounding in history and philosophy necessary to see the inherent dangers in Barnett's plan, rendering them all the more susceptible to its allure.
I like him. But I fear him - or, more properly, I fear the long-term results of his influence on the officer corps. But I guess that's because I'm old-fashioned, and prefer the Old Republic to a shiny new, free-trade-driven, technocratic CoDominium.
It is important to understand that the Barnetts of the world are quite eager to sweep reactionaries like you and me into the dustbin of history. While I have no doubt that human nature will frustrate their ultimate ambitions, when we're gone, no one will remember or possess the necessary erudition to understand that there was in fact another course available to these United States; by the lights of Dr. Barnett and his fellow determinists, those of us who oppose what they perceive as Manifest Destiny are not only stupid but actively selfish and evil, and therefore ought to be shunned, if not actively censured.
-- Roland Dobbins
Most junior officers are always enthusiastic for Empire. It is only after long experience that they begin to understand history.
Competent Empire is much better than incompetent Empire.
It may well be that we Old Guard of the Old Republic are destined for the dustbins. I trust I have enough friends among the senior officer corps to warrant an honorable exile, not to be sent to some small windy island.
Despite my strong misgivings about Barnett, here is an example of why I like and respect him, even so.
-- Roland Dobbins
Of course, there's one way to deal with this situation quite thoroughly and efficiently, had we the stomach for it.
Of course, there's one way to deal with this situation quite thoroughly and efficiently, had we the stomach for it.
Given that we don't, we'd be well advised to stop making noises about 'democracy' and 'elections', and instead do everything we can to keep South Asia's closest analogue to Ataturk firmly at the helm.
Subject: An American Soldier and Gentleman
These are the last two paragraphs of a letter written to Senator Ron Paul by an American soldier and gentleman. The link to the rest is at http://www.freemarketnews.com/WorldNews.asp?nid=52180 Although I don't think foreigners should interfere in the domestic politics of other Nations as a rule, I do think Mr Carter's letter warrants the widest distribution
Thank you and God Bless.
Is Ron Paul a Senator?
Subj: Fermi Paradox: Is it the metallicity?
A recent paper by Russian researchers finds that "[a]pproximately 5 billion years ago average metallicity began to systematically increase, and its dispersion and the average relative magnesium abundance - to decrease."
So "stars like ours may not have been able to form in our area of the galaxy until about the time the Sun first appeared. ... [T]his would offer a take on the Fermi Paradox: They’re not here because we’re the first, or at least we’re early on the scene in a galactic neighborhood that’s relatively young in terms of living planets."
Not the first instance I've seen of the "we're (one of?) the first" resolution of the FP, but the first I've seen that offers an astrophysical *mechanism* for making us (one of?) the first.
Subj: Colonel Falkenberg, Northrup-Grumman has your new desktop
Looks like one of the first might come from Carnegie Mellon...
Thanks for all that you do!
Subject: datapoint in public education debate
Too many students attend college
We've known this for a long time. But the Iron Law of Bureaucracy applies very much to colleges and universities.
Subject: Ron Paul, MC
Dr. Paul is, as a well-known science/science fiction writer is wont to say, a congresscritter. He ran for Senate once upon a time, but was defeated in the Republican Primary by former Senator Gramm. Apropos of absolutely nothing, Phil Gramm is one of those old-fashioned, small-government republicans that seems to be lacking, sorely, in the government.
Actually I knew that but it's well to make it clear. My friend Ed Clarke who was once the Libertarian Party candidate for President, is supporting Ron Paul although with no high expectation of success. Paul is of all the candidates the most likely to try to restore the Old Republic.
I read the following article on the train on my way to work. It reminds me of your articles about the demise of paperback and the recent debate on Kindle. Well, here in Japan, people have to commute to work on crowded trains. Cell phone games, Internet access, emails, and now novels are among the most common scene you will find on a train in Japan.
I have tried for years using WinCE, PDA (Palm and now Zaurus with Linux on it!), ultrasmall notebooks to read eBooks, but I still end up reading my broadsheet paper-based newspaper instead!
Maybe I should try to get a Kindle over Christmas.....
Regards Ken Ho
The article is is a cut&paste from Yomiuri web site, the article can be found at this URL http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20071205TDY02308.htm
However, Yomiuri only allows free access on the day of the publication (presumably Tokyo time). Hence I included it here.
Picture of the future?
December 6, 2007
Subject: Barnett's plan
I have now watched the long version on Google Video. Great plan, two problems:
1. bureaucracy 2. the Bell Curve ( as applied to the US)
His sysadmin force, by it's nature, cannot be an "up or out" force, so the Iron Law applies. China's bureaucracy makes ours look efficient.
If globalization is the key to world peace, and if for the foreseeable future, that implies that we ship all the left of the Bell Curve jobs to emerging countries, then what do we do with our new jobless folks. Our first order responsibility must be to our own people. If we can't take care of our own, then we sure as hell can't take care of the world, so what do we do?
My guess is that globalization is the path to perpetual war for perpetual peace. We can mind our own business, only we don't. Our intervention in Kossovo was insane: here was an historic province of Serbia with a Serbian majority as late as the 1920's; which never ever had a policy of legal immigration of Albanians; and the US bombs Belgrade in order to enforce Albanian rights in a place few Americans could find on a map (and a majority of those would be Serbian)! This is roughly analogous to Russia bombing Washington to get the US to cede San Diego to Mexico.
That's where globalization leads. It leads to the US about to fight the Kurds to keep them from annoying the Turks, or else having to side with the Kurds against the Turks. Neither is an inviting prospect.
We defended Viet Nam during the Cold War because we had a national interest in Containment as a policy and if you are for containment you must do some containing. We let millions go to reeducation camps and become boat people because the Democrats in Congress smelled blood in the water and wanted Republican scalps, and couldn't be bothered to support an ally against a naked blatant invasion from the North by an armored army with more tanks than the Wehrmacht had at Kursk. That is a measure our our constancy and determination.
Globalization means domestic imperialism because empires need constancy of purpose and can't kowtow to the Senate. Rome was an Empire before Caesar, but it wasn't a competent one because Senate and People couldn't agree on how to govern it or how to govern the army or what to do about the Gauls, or how to suppress the pirates in the Mediterranean and Ionic Seas. Pompey took care of the pirates, then it took Caesar to take care of Pompey, and ---
Those who will not study history are condemned to repeat it. Imperial Republics do not last; either they cease to be imperial or, far more likely, they cease to be Republics. Venice was an exception for a long time and the Framers studied and discussed the Venetian Republic; I doubt that ten members of Congress know that or know anything about Venice and Venetia. And Venice did not seek to be global.
Perpetual war for perpetual peace.
Subject: On Empire
The pragmatic problem, for Americans of going for a world empire is that they are thinking small.
The history of Europe from 1568 (Netherlands' rebellion) to 1918 is of endless fights as to who got to be Holy Roman Emperor & rule Belgium. Meanwhile Britain, which had the advantage of being an independent land mass took the rest of the world.
In the long or even medium term what language is spoken on the Moon & Ganymede is more important than that of Kosovo & Iraq & need not cost more to influence.
First, let me say that I am not a SFWA member, nor yet eligible to join, and have no insider knowledge of the Scribd affair.
That said I want to say that I have known Andrew Burt, and participated in his on-line Critters Writers' Workshop, for over ten years. I first met him on-line, but have also met him personally (at the Baltimore Worldcon).
To anyone who knows Andrew Burt, the very LAST adjectives that would come to mind to describe him are "lazy", or "incompetent". Andrew has been industrious, cheerful, intelligent, friendly, and helpful, in every contact I have had with him over the years. He created and has run Critters entirely in his own time and on his own dime, a huge undertaking. It costs his participants not a penny. He's offered free ISP accounts for struggling people who'd like to learn. Last year when multiple modes of backup had failed me, he managed to scrape from the archive a ten year old MS of a short story I'd Crittered.
I'm sure you knew this already, but my personal contact with Andrew leads me look skeptically on any recounting of the Scribd events that attributes veniality or incompetence to Andrew Burt.
Subject: washingtonpost.com on Blogging in Japan
Japanese, not English, has become the dominant language of the blogosphere, according to Technorati. But unlike Americans, who often times blog to stand out, the Japanese blog to fit into society. washingtonpost.com discusses blogging in Japan in a video feature by Ben de la Cruz and Nancy Donaldson.
Subject: Gore and global warming in WSJ
Good WSJ article on Gore and global warming:
Jerry While I was doing some work around the house Sunday afternoon I heard part of a program on KABC-TV 7 in LA. The show was on the basic subject of how difficult it is for children to learn to read and the massive long lasting effort that must be undergone with brave and dedicated teachers to enable as many kids that learn to read to do so. This is completely counter to my own experience and makes me wonder if teachers with this attitude that reading is hard and difficult might be just the reason why children today have a hard time learning.
If the teacher says it is very difficult and then puts the student through a strenuous program that takes a long time to show results then the student will believe there teacher and have a hard time, right? I believe that this is the problem with learning today, the teachers make a big scene about the difficulty and then naturally the student has a difficult time and becomes discouraged. Our overpriced schools and teachers are teaching failure and that is naturally what they are going to get. 14th in the world in basic math, is this really no child left behind?
-- James Early Long Beach, CA
Depends on the teacher. It is very much in the interest of the bureaucracy to make education mysterious and appear very difficult.
A few thoughts on parsing the mailbag on ebooks this week:
(1) With respect to Mr. Horning, when I'm looking at military manuals and reports my usual need is (a) translation into English :) (b) improved hypertext connectivity particularly between related documents in a series, and (c) the ability to highlight, extract, and integrate material between documents in a useable fashion. Admittedly I'm not a field user of the manuals, so my needs and experiences might not be typical; but a portable device is not likely to be useful unless it allows keyword searching and tagging between documents. (For a manual-carrier, that might be menu-and-wand driven rather than text entry driven, but simply searching on document titles -- or worse yet, file numbers -- would be less helpful.)
(2) In general, the attributes you describe to the desirable device already apply to a reasonably-profiled Tablet PC with GPS card and cellular modem (using VOIP), which also brings full PC capability. Admittedly I've not gotten that much use out of my Table PC yet, but then through circumstances I chose a wide-screened Tablet PC (from Gateway, which has never been my favorite OEM) which proved to be uncomfortably heavy as anything other than a desktop device (even in tablet mode). Still, given a choice and my experiences with e-books on my now-abandoned Palm, I would probably spring up to an added-functionality tablet rather than down to a device with an uncomfortably small screen / reading profile.
Just watch and have fun. So Macromedia Flash is good for something!
It is indeed. Indeed.
---- Roland Dobbins
Just keep firmly in mind, this was not a hate crime. Black students cannot commit hate crimes on white adults. Keep that firmly in mind.
Musings on E-Book Readers
Dear Dr. Pournelle:
As a long time e-book reader, first on my Sony Clie and later on my HP Tablet, I am interested in your discussion of e-books and readers and thought I might add my $.02 to the mix.
Upon the death of my HP Tablet pc. ( I still do sorely miss that machine it had the best tablet form factor that I ever came across), I was left with the choice of going bigger with a new tablet/laptop/slate computer or smaller.
I decided on smaller, and some what less expensive, and purchased an HTC Advantage 7501 from Am****.com. I now use this as a functional laptop and blackberry substitute and e-book reader. At 5 inches the vga color touch screen is easily to read, the keyboard is workable, and the books purchased from Baen Books (including yours, in a convenient single download set), are well formatted and the type clear.
I suggest to you, and your readers, to look into this "jacket pocket sized" devise. It is good enough for my everyday use and fills several niches.
For quick internet, email or Microsoft office projects on the go, as well as reading e-books, it may be something that interests you.
Please continue doing what you do, both on your website and in your writings. My tenuous grasp on sanity would be much tougher without them. :-)
P.S. I have no affiliation with HTC or any of its retailers.
FYI a review of the advantage can be found at:
And the manufacturers website can be found at:
I find it is also a telephone, something along the lines of my Jasjar. I'll have to look into this. Thanks.
Subject: Inferno found
Imagine a predominantly dark, hot place that is over 2,000 AUs in diameter. If that isn't Hell, I don't know what is.
‘Dark stars’ may have populated early universe
Neutralinos are believed to annihilate occasionally and produce heat, but Gondolo’s group has calculated that a primordial clump of hydrogen and helium would trap this heat in its core, keeping the clump from compacting and thus stemming fusion. The resultant dark star could grow up to 2,000 AU in diameter — 200,000 times that of our Sun — while glowing with infrared radiation (Phys. Rev. Lett. in publication; preprint available at arXiv:0709.2369 <http://arxiv.org/abs/0709.2369> ).
Bin Laden statement analysis
This link goes to an interesting analysis of Bin Laden's Oct 23 statement. It was circulated as recommended reading by the USAF Air University staff.
The author has credentials that include 22 years in the CIA, and Chief of the Bin Laden Unit at the counterterrorist center from 1996 to 1999. It is an interesting read especially since it includes an estimate of how Bin Laden feels the insurgency has done in laying the groundwork for an Islamist state following US forces withdrawal. You don't get this sort of stuff from CNN or Fox news because they can't possibly understand what it means or how to spin it.
An interesting thing… The US has forces which aggressively carry out whatever plans are handed down under a unified chain of command, even if the plans or support for the plans aren't ideal. Bin Laden has a plan he has been developing for many years which takes advantage of our inherent weaknesses, but he can't seem to get his troops organized and unified under one command. I'm not sure which side's problems are more frustrating but according to this analysis, it seems as though Bin Laden considers interference by Saudi Arabia and Iran to be about as helpful as the Congressional budget maneuvers are to President Bush's strategy. Both sides of this conflict are divided internally at various levels, and both sides see divisions among those who are paying the bills and providing ideological guidance.
It's called Christmas,
Finally some backlash against “Happy Holidays” – a music video with the lyrics posted so you can read them:
“It's called Christmas” on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAckfn8yiAQ
As to why people have been avoiding “merry Christmas,” I found this line to be very interesting:
“After 2000 years, He’s still intimidating people.”
Heh. Quite the take.
December 8, 2007
Subject: Now THIS is just COOL!
Seen on CNN.com
Someone was THINKING!
Subject: Good News Story
With not very high expectations, I went to listen to some classical music tonight and was overwhelmed with talent and energy. Reading up later, on the feel-good side of the story, I was reminded and heartened that sparks continue to be lit by individuals with passion.
If any of your readers can catch a performance of the Buskaid Soweto String Ensemble, I believe they'd find it time very well spent.
Young Soweto kids, from the roughest areas, are transforming themselves through a musical program started by a professional Viola player from NZ. Two have advanced to perform with major orchestras and I suspect that more will follow. Not bad for a small Trust started 12 years ago.
Baroque music played up to the standard necessary for the Albert Hall and the Proms with a little street music for spice. Short on tails and black ties, long on straight musicality. It's enjoyable to see good musicians enjoying the making of very nice sounds.
Education article from the Economist
I imagine you may have seen this already but I find the article to be interesting. Certainly it contains nothing surprising to you but it is a sad confirmation of much you have predicted.
Re: Housing crisis
Well...so what _consequences_ do you suggest? If losing their homes is a bad thing, but allowing them to keep their homes is a bad thing, then what the hell _DO_ we do? Zero out their credit rating? Harvest their kidneys? Brand them on their foreheads with searing rods of iron?
And--as you point out--it's not these buyers who are the only ones at fault. Loans do not coalesce out of the ether; someone had to write out all that bad paper and sell it. Are we really saying that the people at the bottom should lose their houses, and the bankers who sucked millions out of them shouldn't feel any pain? You're saying that it's better for millions to lose their houses than it is for millionaires to lose investment returns? (Investment returns which will be just as lost if the mortgage is foreclosed, mind you.)
-- Mike T. Powers
Since the only public office I would accept would be proclamation as Emperor by the Legions -- when that happens you have no choice in the matter, as C-C-Clo-Claudius discovered -- I don't have to have an answer.
I repeat. It is not a good thing for the Republic for a million families to lose their houses, but the bailout should not be without unpleasant consequences. That would take ingenuity but I don' t think it's impossible.
Certainly those who shared in creating the bubble need to be made to pay as well, but ruin is a bit much also.
Fortunately I don't have to spend all my time thinking about these matters. My preference is to let the market forces work, but to set some limits to where the market can go. I doubt I have any great expertise in these matters, but since there are few Nobel Prize winners in economics whose works to not contradict those of the other Nobel laureates in economics, perhaps no one does.
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I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too... I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail.
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