Autocorrect and other matters

Chaos Manor View, Monday, September 07, 2015

Labor Day, which means my gardener doesn’t have to work (he comes Mondays) but I have to pay him anyway.


When I typed the above, I typed in gargener, and of course got the red wavy line; right click on it, and I was offered corrections; but since this is Word 2008, I was also offered the autocorrect option: if I clicked that, I was offered gardener and gardeners as my choice to always have it changed to in future. This took a bit of thought, because I may someday mean gardeners, but I chose to let it correct it to gardener, now and forever. So when I typed it wrong, above, it was corrected, and I had manually to change it to the misspelled word; as it should. But my new machines have Office 365, and the egregious product managers at Microsoft have improved things by removing the easy access to autocorrect. They do things like that to justify getting paid, I suppose, as EEOC exists to find discrimination and is now desperate to find an ax murderer who wasn’t hired but maybe he is a transvestite so eligible for an anti-discrimination suit. Or something. Why they just can’t leave things alone is not hard to see: they have to do something to justify being employed, and they aren’t clever enough to see if the improvements need doing, or make it harder to use.

Of course autocorrect can be misused. I almost never employ it when it offers me several choices; I may in future want one of those choices, and I may next time mean gardeners rather than gardener when I type gargener and that is a harder mistake to spot; if I hadn’t been thinking about this and needed an illustration I probably would have not have added gargener to the autocorrect dictionary; but taking the choice away from me, although certainly an effective way to prevent me from making that error, is not the right way to go, and anyone not desperate for something to do and possessing the brains of a quagga or better would know that. I wish you a plague. Better, I wish you a stroke so that you hit multiple keys when typing. Then you’ll learn that jhitting multiple keys happens a lot but autocorrect can help people who do that a lot, if you’d just stop your campaighn to make our lives more miserable, you egregious people.

Microsoft, put it back the way it was! Now! Make my Surface 3 Pro useful again! Let me train Precious so that she corfrects error like the ones you see above. Please? I’ll even retract my curses – I haven’t yet gpot a white cock so I haven’t implemented them yet. You have time



It’s Labor Day, a long time before the Iowa caucuses, and Hillary is in so much trouble that she may not last until then, which would be a pity. She is their most beatable nominee, and she actually might be less of a disaster to the country than many other Democrats if she won the Presidency. I have not forgotten that when Newt and Bill Clinton ran the country we had a balanced budget, and while there was corruption it was lost in the noise. I sure miss those days. But Newt self destructed, and the new ruling class took over, and it has been pretty bad ever since. Yes, Clinton made mistakes. A big one was Albright choosing to be anti-Serb just as we were trying to learn how to get along with non-Soviet Russia. Involving us in territorial disputes in Europe where we have no interest was a major blunder whose consequences grow and grow. But I’d rather have the Clintons than what we have, or for that matter much of the country club ruling class. And the debt grows and grows, as we resemble Greece more and more. And nothing can be done. By the time anyone who cares about not having a $25 Trillion debt gets near where he could do anything about it, the ruling class will have gotten to them.

I’ve been reading Caesar’s Ambassador an historical by Alex Johnson. The main character is mentioned by name in Caesar’s Gallic War, but nothing much is said about him; this is his story of those times. It is very colloquial – one character says “It’s miller time!” when bringing in the beer. Millers made beer as vintners made wine, so it’s the sort of thing a half drunken nerdish soldier might say thinking he was clever…

But reading it I realize how far from the Republic we have come. God save us.


Star Trek and the descent of liberalism
I found this opinion piece tracking political parallels between the Star Trek TV series and films, and changes in liberalism over the last 50 years interesting. Perhaps you will find it so also:

Tom Craver

I recommend this essay. It is very perceptive.


minutia, strategy

Dr. Pournelle,
MS Office and Outlook suffer from creeping featuritis, a software development ailment roughly equivalent to bureaucratic regulation under your Iron Law: the organization feels it must do something in order to stay current and fresh, but to the rest of us, the product resembles the improvement by the (general, editor, accountant, etc.) who urinates in the drinking water. You’ve been more forgiving of Microsoft than I — even without a disability I was at your current frustration level with Word at version 2003. One would wish that artificial obsolescence was not so built-in to the product, but if so, I probably would have quit getting new word processing software with WordStar. While it is not a suitable strategy for you, since I was introduced to them on Solaris workstations 15-ish years ago, I continue to use variants of Open or Libre Office on my systems whenever possible. Featuritis still creeps into new releases of these semi-open source applications, but the user interface is pretty stable.
On nuclear defense, I’m still not sold on old-style deterrence as a strategy. As you’ve pointed out, MAD (I keep foolishly putting that down as MADD — intending to add Doctrine or Dead-end to the acronym, rather than referring to Mothers against drunk driving) was pretty much the pinnacle of deterrence, and strategic defense was laughed off the field. After all, Israel, Pakistan and the ever lovable and cuddly North Korea have done well up to now at deterrence with only a pocket full of nukes, even without having to prove those stockpiles are real. Isn’t there a strategy that includes something less than mutual obliteration?
In fact, I’ve wondered how you fit Israel’s current (rumored) stockpile into your assessment. They certainly understand the risks when assets are stored in a single location and are not ready for use — I’d suspect they are already dispersed and available for quick deployment. Nuclear effects being what they are, an attacker faces huge risk in leaving some assets available for retaliatory strikes. Would any attack take place if e.g. Mecca was guaranteed to be collateral damage of the revenge strike? How much deterrence is enough?

I haven’t time to answer all this. The operational cost of subs, and the perceived vulnerabilities of cruise missiles to the new Soviet SAM systems Iran is acquiring would seem to me to be major concerns; especially if you factor in the Will of Allah. Deterrence is an event taking place in the mind of an enemy; you cannot control it. More another time.

Regarding Israel, Iran and MAD

I would like to point out something which had probably been mentioned before. The utility of apparent irrationality (the example of throwing the steering wheel out of the window in a game of chicken is often given) only lasts as long as it isn’t really believed. During the Cold War, nobody thought the Russians wanted to die.
Unfortunately, the irrationality of Iran’s leaders isn’t feigned. A significant faction actually wants Armageddon.
Given that, one approach that might be useful is to remind Riyadh that the targets for an Israeli retaliatory strike against Iran would include at least two on Saudi soil; two which the rulers of Mordor aka Saudi Arabia consider especially important, at that.

Deterrence is an event continually taking place in the mind of an enemy commander…

Israel second strike potential

Dr. Pournelle,
Israel _does have_ naval-based second strike capabilities (five “Dolphin”-class submarines operational and one more on the way. So it is 96 long-range cruise missiles).
Best regards,
Alex Krol

I am aware of the Israeli supersnarks. I also know some of the capabilities claimed by for the new Russian SAMS being sold to Iran. Deterrence is an event taking place in the mind of an enemy commander. Submarine operations are expensive, complex, and hard on crews. Land dispersal in a small densely populated area is not simple; and again takes alert and well trained crews, ready to use the weapons at need, and believably ready to use them.


who’s the boss?
Dr. Pournelle,
You wrote “Deterrence is an event taking place in the mind of an enemy commander.”
Respectfully, I must suggest that deterrence must take place in the mind of the enemy’s political leader(s). A deterred military commander, or one who follows conscience over orders, is one that will be replaced, even in our country.

By commander I mean he who can say “Launch!” and reliably missiles will fly. It may be an Ayatollah, it may be someone else.  In the Soviet Union there were checks and balances; it had to be a collective decision. Iran has, we are told. a Supreme Leader. 

Herman Kahn wrote on this.  Armageddon is here. The General Secretary on the phone to the Marshal.  “Launch!”  “Sorry, Comrade Secretary, you’re breaking up.  Didn’t hear that.”  “Launch, damn you.  If you don’t launch, I’ll have you shot!”  “Ah heard you that time, don’t launch.  Understood.  By the way, the special operatives are having lunch…”

It is not easy to build a structure that will, day after day, maintain high competence, alert readiness, and willingness to end the world as we know it.  If we do not have such a force, visible and believable, deterrence is far less probable when stories of new secret weapons of defense float about, as they will.  “We can do it, but only this week!”  “What the hell are they waiting for?  Do I hear a message coming in?”

“For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.”



Income Inequality
Once upon a time, the World economy followed the same pattern, called the Malthusian World. The primary characteristic was that the vast majority of people lived at a starvation level. There was also a very small group of people who did quite well for themselves. Any small increase in food was quickly followed by a population increase, and living standards stayed the same. (This pattern still exists in some parts of the world.)
Then in Scotland about 250 years ago, the industrial revolution kicked off. The economic result of the industrial revolution was a much faster growth in the GDP. Population could not grow fast enough to absorb the new productivity, and a new phenomena developed, the growing middle class. And as GDP continued to grow, so did the middle class.
Recently, for a variety of reasons, GDP is not growing at the same rate as prior periods. (Before you blame Obama, this is a decades long tend.) This has been followed by a shrinking middle class.
It seems to me that there is a connection between GDP growth and income inequality. Unfortunately, the people who are complaining about income inequality are proposing solutions which dampen GDP growth. As we slide back to the Malthusian World, remember what road is paved with good intentions.


“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded—here and there, now and then—are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

“This is known as ‘bad luck’.”

– Robert A. Heinlein


Apple Just Spent an Incredible Amount of Money on Solar Power

$848 million. That’s the amount of cash Apple is spending on what Bloomberg calls “the biggest commercial solar deal EVER.” That may seem like a crap ton of money to us, it’s still less than a percent of the $178 billion in cash Apple—aka the 55th richest country in the world—has on hand right now.

Even though some reports describe the deal as Apple “buying” or “building” a solar farm, that’s not exactly what’s happening. In reality, Apple is investing $848 million in the 25-year-old Arizona company First Solar, which is in the process of building a huge (2,900 acre!) solar farm in Monterey County. In return, when the Monterey farm is up and running in 2016, First Solar will be giving Apple 130 megawatts of the output—enough to power “all of Apple’s California stores, offices, headquarters and a data center,” says Businessweek.

It’s a smart move, and though it’s record-breaking, it’s not unusual: A whole cadre of other mega-companies are buying stakes in solar and wind farming projects in the US, from Ikea to Wal-Mart. More importantly, tech companies have been scrambling to find more efficient ways to power their ever-growing sprawl of data centers. As we reported last year, Facebook is pouring resources into finding better ways to build these energy-hogs, including buying up wind energy to offset the cost.

Apple—which is looking to inflate its cloud over the next few years—is clearly looking to do the same.





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




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