Abysmal Education, continued; Notes on AI; Warmest Year; Clinton eMails

Chaos Manor View, Thursday, March 05, 2015


While Steve Barnes was over for a story conference, we do talk about other things. One of them was his 11 year old son’s fascination with the California Sixth Grade Reader http://www.amazon.com/California-Sixth-Grade-Reader-Pournelle-ebook/dp/B00LZ7PB7E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425595105&sr=8-1&keywords=california+sixth+grade+reader available on Kindle.

His son very much liked the story of Jason and the Argonauts, but he is even more fascinated with the Macaulay poem Horatius at the Bridge. That’s no real surprise: just as girls are intrigued with the story of the romance in The Courtship of Miles Standish. Horatius has action, great lines, verses you can learn. Prior to this he was sort of reading at level in his school, meaning he had controlled vocabulary readers, and although he knew how to sound words out, he seldom had to do it because he seldom encountered new word and did care to read them if he did because the text wasn’t interesting. Horatius, on the other hand, is full of unfamiliar words, and he very much wants to know them because the poem is exciting. Not that this is anything that professors of education didn’t know in 1914, but they don’t know it now.

I was pleased to hear it because that is one of the reasons for getting the reader published. And I wasn’t surprised that he shows no similar interest in The Courtship of Miles Standish. Most boys don’t.


The physical therapist was here with her ingenious tortures. Of course I feel better afterwards, but it makes for an interesting hour.


I’ve Got The Ingredients. What Should I Cook? Ask IBM’s Watson (NPR)

OCTOBER 27, 2014 5:40 PM ET


IBM’s Watson computer has amused and surprised humans by winning at Jeopardy! Now, one of the world’s smartest machines is taking on chefs.

Well, not exactly. Watson is being used by chefs to come up with new and exciting recipes in a feat that could turn out to be useful for people with dietary restrictions and for managing food shortages.

If you give Watson a few ingredients and cuisine specifications, it can help you with recipe ideas. I had a few things in the kitchen, but I didn’t know what to make with them — ground turkey, frozen peas, dried mushrooms, canned tomatoes. I live in San Francisco, so it’s easy to get Asian and Mexican spices.

I sent an email to Watson and a couple of days later, the recipes arrived in my inbox. Watson sent three recipes for ground turkey and another for Mexican green pea pancakes. I picked one of the taco recipes and decided to make the pancakes.

The ingredients Watson chose were surprising. For example, the tacos called for grated citrus peel.

Though Watson can’t taste the recipes it churns out, it has an understanding of the chemistry behind taste. It understands what we humans enjoy and why, says Steven Abrams, an engineer with The Watson Group.

There is considerably more, but you get the idea.

The late L. Sprague de Camp was one of the funniest men ever to write science fiction, but he had no sense of humor; or at least as odd a sense of humor as anyone you will ever meet. He said he studied humor and jokes, and wrote what intellectually he thought would be funny. He did so successfully, as anyone who ever read The Incompleat Enchanter and his other fantasies knows full well. The point being that much of what is peculiarly human is intellectually understandable and describable; in theory a robot could do what Sprague did. Of course many of Sprague’s friends thought this was actually one of his jokes..


Arati Prabhakar—director of the Pentagon’s advanced research arm DARPA—has revealed a breakthrough achievement in machine mind control. Jan Scheuermann, a 55-year-old quadriplegic woman with electrodes in her brain, has been able to fly an F-35 fighter jet using “nothing but her thoughts.”

= = =

Scheuermann—who is quadriplegic because of an hereditary genetic disease—was recruited by DARPA for its robotics programs. Scientists and doctors implanted electrodes in the left motor cortex of her brain in 2012 to allow her to control a robotic arm, which she did successfully. But she’s not using the robotic arms to control the joystick in the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II simulator used for the tests. She is controlling the plane with “nothing but her thoughts,” according to Prabhakar, pure neural signaling:

Instead of thinking about controlling a joystick, which is what our ace pilots do when they’re driving this thing, Jan’s thinking about controlling the airplane directly. For someone who’s never flown—she’s not a pilot in real life—she’s flying that simulator directly from her neural signaling.

The implications of this for robotics are obvious.


Coldest year on record

Hello Jerry,

I second your opinion that warm is preferable to cold.  Makes for a larger supply and better selection of food, too.

Re:  “It’s cold outside, even after the warmest year in history.”

The headlines worldwide and the lead story on EVERY news broadcast, as well as being the focus of the SOU message, was some iteration of ‘2014 was the warmest year since records began in 1880.’.  Of course it was all because of anthropogenic CO2 (ACO2) AND spelled doom if ACO2 were not drastically reduced or eliminated by the taxing and regulating of every human activity that produced a government-identified and quantified ‘carbon signature.

What wasn’t prominently featured in the stories is that the record was set by 0.02 degrees.

NONE of the stories expressed the slightest curiosity as to whether we have had a world wide data collection system in place since 1880 that allows the ‘annual temperatures of the earth’ to be placed in rank order by year OR whether the overall precision of the network over the 135 years was adequate to justify a ‘record’ anomaly of 0.02 degrees as statistically significant.

Of particular interest to me is that NO prominent climate scientist or group focusing on ‘climate change’ expressed ANY doubt as to the validity of the record OR its significance as a harbinger of ACO2 driven doom.

Bob Ludwick

To emphasize: the previous heat records were set in the 1930’s, and the “record” only starts in 1880 or so. We know that in 1880 most of the data were not accurate to a tenth of a degree, certainly not to a hundredth. Moreover, in the 30’s I cannot believe that data from the USSR, China, Chinese Turkestan, Russian Turkestan, much of Viet Nam, much of Indonesia, much of Africa were reliable at all and at times were not even available. The same would be true of parts – large parts – of South America. They had other worries to occupy their attention. China was largely under warlords, or Japanese occupation. I could continue but surely the point is made? We simply do not know the average temperature of the Earth to a tenth of a degree, now or in the 1930’s; the models assume warming, but actual data shows no warming for a decade.


Clinton’s E-Mail System Built For Privacy Though Not Security – Bloomberg Business

(Bloomberg) — A week before becoming Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton set up a private e-mail system that gave her a high level of control over communications, including the ability to erase messages completely, according to security experts who have examined Internet records.

“You erase it and everything’s gone,” Matt Devost, a security expert who has had his own private e-mail for years. Commercial services like those from Google Inc. and Yahoo! Inc. retain copies even after users erase them from their in-box.

Although Clinton worked hard to secure the private system, her consultants appear to have set it up with a misconfigured encryption system, something that left it vulnerable to hacking, said Alex McGeorge, head of threat intelligence at Immunity Inc., a Miami Beach-based digital security firm.

The e-mail flap has political significance because Clinton is preparing to announce a bid for the Democratic nomination for president as soon as April. It also reminds voters of allegations of secrecy that surrounded Bill Clinton’s White House. In those years, First Lady Hillary Clinton fought efforts by some White House advisers to turn over information to Whitewater investigators and, later, sought to keep secret records of her task force on health-care reform.

Representative Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican who leads a special committee looking into the events surrounding the 2012 terrorist attack at a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, said he will subpoena Clinton’s e-mails.

“We’re going to use every bit of legal recourse at our disposal,” Gowdy said Wednesday during an interview on CNN.

Private Service

The committee also said Wednesday that it has discovered two e-mail addresses used by Clinton while secretary of state.

Nick Merrill, a Clinton spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, though he said in a statement Tuesday that her practices followed “both the letter and spirit of the rules.”

Setting up a private e-mail service was once onerous and rare. Now, it’s relatively easy, said Devost, president of FusionX LLC, based in Arlington, Virginia.

I have mixed emotions here. I would rather have a private mailbox were I Secretary of State. But there are matters of security and public responsibility. But an official mailbox gets lots of Spam..


Our abysmal schools

I would like to remind you that:
In India, with like 1.35 BILLION people, about half of them are illiterate.
I don’t mean can’t read at the eighth grade illiterate. I mean ILLITERATE.
If half of India’s population is illiterate, then how is our educational system failing? Well?
And yet, because there are so many desperate poor people in India, you can still get brilliant people to work for you for two dollars an hour.
This is not because the American educational system is somehow failing. This is because India is an overpopulated cesspit of misery almost beyond our understanding.
If an American of average ability, with an IQ of 100, gets a market wage of $12 an hour, and an Indian national, with an IQ of 140, gets a market wage of $2 an hour, this is not because Americans are stupid. It’s because Indians breed like crazy so that even the smartest of them have to settle for sub-poverty wages.
Supply and demand, people. Supply and demand.
Stop blaming Americans. Americans in WWII beat the cr*p out of the Japanese even though their real wages were five times greater. Poverty is not virtue, even though getting a smart person to work for you for pennies an hour might make it seem so..


Thank you, but I am well aware that some countries have a lower literacy rate than ours, and I do not share your inferences from that. Indeed, I do not share the modern view of literacy, at least of English; one can read or one cannot read, and learning to read took place in the first and second grades when I was in school – indeed both those grades were in the same room. Alas there were a few children in 3rd and 4th grades who could not read – were illiterate – and that greatly concerned the teachers. But for the most part, if you had four years of schooling, you were literate. The Army found that of illiterate recruits, more than 90% had never attended school to the fourth grade. Of course this was conscripts, who were all men, but there is no reason to suppose girls less able to learn English.

The California 6th grade Reader, http://www.amazon.com/California-Sixth-Grade-Reader-Pournelle-ebook/dp/B00LZ7PB7E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425595105&sr=8-1&keywords=california+sixth+grade+reader was the required reader in California public schools in 1914. Look at it on line and tell me that California schools are still that good. Your WW II examples draw conclusions about those who had that reader or a similar one in 6th grade.

I do not “blame” Americans, I observe what has happened to our schools. Even our teachers try to send their children to private schools, and who can blame them? There are good schools in America, but alas fewer and fewer are public tax supported schools, even though public school costs have far more than doubled as our literacy declined.

Supply and demand only works in a market economy. Since Federal aid to education the public schools are part of a command economy. That can produce good schools, and has in many places; but ours has not. I would welcome some injection of supply and demand into our school system, but it is unlikely.

For those who cannot afford private schools, teach your children to read before the education system gets hold of them. English pupils were expected to learn to read at age four or five until recently; your protoplasm is as good as theirs. Start with phonic works like Hop On Pop. Keep exposing them to challenges, and when they are old enough – which is well before the teachers say they are – give them access to tablets and The Kahn Academy on line. I would recommend Mrs. Pournelle’s Reading Program, but she has given up publishing it.

Or you can accept our current situation. I did not make up the data in Tuesday’s View. The source was http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/03/02/u-s-millennials-post-abysmal-scores-in-tech-skills-test-lag-behind-foreign-peers/?hpid=z4 and the Washington Post is not a right wing paper.


Melancholy Elephants by Spider Robinson

Spider has published this online, so the link is as legitimate as it gets.

Having just watched a web report about a law suit over the song “Blurred Lines,” the item is also timely.




Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




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