School Thought Experiment View 681 20110702


View 681 Saturday, July 2, 2011 – 1

I’ve been catching up all day. I’ve been working on fiction, including getting some older books ready for Kindle publication, but also on the new novella with Niven and Barnes. This takes place in the Legacy of Heorot world, and is set in the time between that first book and Beowulf’s Children. (The Kindle version of Beowulf’s Children is in preparation.) We are calling this a novella but it will be about 50,000 words, which was a novel when I got into this racket.

There’s a ton of stuff to write about, but it’s late.

Thought experiment: in most cities now the average expenditure per child in school is $10,000. Now High Schools may have different requirements, but in my time, grade school was 2 grades to the room, about 20-25 students to the grade, and a teacher with a 2 year Normal school degree. Imagine now that we take a four-year degreed teacher, give her 25 students, and $200,000. She is free to do with the money as she sees fit, but for every student who doesn’t get a passing grade (we’ll quibble about how we go about determining that another time) she gets docked $8,000, and for every student who gets outstanding grades she gets a $10,000 bonus. Again we can quibble about how all this is determined, but assume it’s meaningful and real, not just a way to stroke the unions. She’s free to teach anywhere she wants; we can be sure that capitalism will take care of offering classrooms for rent with desks and chalkboards and all the expected accoutrements. She can hire assistants as she likes. She can buy or rent computers, and Internet connections. In other words, she is free to try what she likes and keep the profits, so long as the kids learn, and she can go for the bonuses.

Do you think this would be an improvement over what we are doing now?

It’s late. Good night.


War and Defense Mail 681 2011701


Mail 681 July 1, 2011 – 3

An Opening Note: I am composing this with cut and paste special in an ordinary Word window, after which I will convert it to Word Blog and go through and apply a style to my comments. At some point I am going to develop a “reply” style I can apply to my replies so I don’t have to use “quote”, and thus can use “quote” for quotes within mail to me.

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The end of cheap Verizon High Speed Data


After resisting mightily for several years, I finally succumbed and upgraded to a Verizon smart phone. I made my bet on Android and purchased a Samsung Droid Charge….More for the spectacular screen than for any other reason. So far, I am simply delighted with it.

Of interest to you, with your high speed internet access issues, and possibly to your readers, is the cost of high speed access. When I purchased the phone a couple weeks ago I was required to purchase a $30/month data plan. On the Verizon LTE (4G) network, available to me here on Long Island, NY, internet access is quite speedy….and since the phone can act as a data point for my netbook, the potential for large amounts of data makes the Verizon plan very attractive: $30/month for unlimited data!

The week after I committed to a 2 year renewal, one of the Droid sites reported that Verizon was going to terminate their unlimited plan in favor of a tiered usage plan. My $30/month would only purchase 2 GB!

I immediately contacted Verizon customer service (always a dreadful experience). The CSR I spoke with had not heard of this plan change and headed off to speak to her supervision….when she came back she confirmed it. But she also stated that existing plan users would be grandfathered in….both for their current contract AND for all future renewals!!

Since I have been burned by Verizon in the past and have become somewhat paranoid in dealing with them, I asked if she could email me a statement to that effect. I expected her to have to either clear that email with management or simply refuse. Much to my surprise and delight, she sent me that email the same day.

The point to this longer dissertation than I had expected is simply this: the $30/month unlimited data plan is STILL available to anyone under contract by July 7th. Given the skyrocketing cost of data across all the various providers, it will quickly amortize even the outrageous early termination fees charged. It might just be the most cost effective solution to your travelling high speed internet access needs.

And lastly, I highly recommend the Samsung Droid Charge….so far at least…it just works and that display really is wonderful. On the other hand, if any device is in need of “The Missing Manual” this is the one!

Warm regards,

Larry Cunningham

This really ought to go in Chaos Manor Mail and I may duplicate it there. Thanks. I will Tuesday 5 July head out to Verizon to see what they offer me: I can just about afford $30 a month to have known reliable unlimited data, but on the other hand I don’t travel so much any more. If AT&T had offered that I would probably have bought it: at the moment it costs me $50 for a gigabyte and the account is good for a month. I have used about 170 mb in the past two days here, but some of that was installing some programs and doing some updates. It’s clear I can’t do all my connectivity at that price. It’s not clear that I need a permanent road warrior solution. Thanks.

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AFRICOM: AF, Navy still flying Libya missions – Air Force News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq – Air Force Times


This is reminiscent of covert ops in Cambodia. Unfortunately; the mendacity is more blatant and unlike the Vietnam War which was just one battle in the Cold War, there is no cogent argument that the Libya intervention much less the overthrow of Mubarak serves US interests. The only explanation that seems plausible is articulated in Dinesh D’Souza’s, “The Roots of Obama’s Rage”. Obama views Mubarak and Quadaffi as NeoColonial puppet regimes that have to be overthrown because they made peace with the US. This doesn’t serve US interests.

Jim Crawford

One can make a case for wringing Qadaffi’s neck as being in the national interest pour encourager les autres; that is, as a general message that you shouldn’t down US planes with bombs, and you should not unduly annoy the President of the United States. Actions have consequences. Ghadaffi in particular has earned some special attention from the US. But if that is the objective, it ought to be accomplished and gotten over with: surely we do not want to send the message that we will bankrupt ourselves pursuing but not catching our enemies.

The odd part, to me, is that if the explanation is the rage of the President, why doesn’t he just do it? Running about dropping bombs in a rather uncoordinated way enriches no one. Except for those who make bombs, of course.

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Missile Defense


There was a letter in yesterday’s Washington Post proposing eliminating missile defense as part of the budget deals:

What I found interesting is that the author (a partner with Ted Postol of MIT) admits that the Russians would have to treat a missile defense system as effective, whether or not it truly was. As I recall, this was an argument that you had used in in the past to argue in favor of the system — the Russians would have to assume it would be effective, and therefore would have to expend that much more to overcome it.

The author here uses the same point to argue against the system, saying that the Russians and Chinese would have to build more to overcome the defenses (which he views as a bad thing) and would therefore not be as willing to enter into arms control deals.


The Constitution states that we should provide for the common defense, not for Mutually Assured Destruction. MAD Deterrence was important in the early times of the Post WW II Cold War, but the goal should always have been Assured Survival, not Assured Destruction, and when Reagan turned to that, it became the decisive move in the Cold War. A Navy and Coast Artillery – with BMD being the modern equivalent of coastal defense – are required.

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Who’ll keep taking Windows Tablets in the iPad era? • The Register

Jerry: Article on some of the history of Bill Gates 2001 tablet:

Chris C

An excellent ramble by Andrew Orlanski , last man to be using a Psion. He talked me into trying to use mine. It was a great idea, but it never quite got there. Having said all that, I will continue to say that the HP TabletPC plus OneNote made in combination the best research tool ever made, and had that been updated with a faster CPU and more memory and storage, I think it would have caught on. I love mine to this day even though she’s old and cranky and slow and a real fussbudget. But there’s something great about being able to scribble a note. Nowadays it would be possible to make that in two pieces with a Bluetooth keyboard for production work and the on screen keyboard for notes and stuff. I’d buy a really good update of LisaBeta in a heartbeat. I can recall doing an entire COMDEX with no other computer, and while the swivel keyboard made typing a bit awkward compared to, say, a ThinkPad, I was able to file daily reports plus a show report, and still keep up some of my BIX conferences, all from the Press Room; at nights I could use dialup to do some work with mail. Those were busy times, but I sure loved that machine. I would really like to see a revival of the Gates-inspired tablets.

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1998 Bronco Accident

Your pictures were impressive, as was your narrative that you were only going 35 mph or so when it happened. However, looking through your photos, I found it impossible to identify which tire was blown. Either the tire is too stiff without a load on it to be very flat, or AAA threw the spare on to make it easier to pull on the flatbed.

Makes a very good example of why drivers shouldn’t exceed the recommended speeds for their tires. A blowout at 65, 85, or 105 mph has far more catastrophic results than you experienced at 35. Accidents at 105 mph shred vehicles into small pieces. Tire, has a good set of charts on how to read load and speed ratings on tires. What they don’t mention is that is the ratings are only for brand new tires. Their load and speed capabilities degrade with wear and as the wire and ‘cloth’ belts break inside. Hit a few curbs too hard, and you’ll have breaks which look like scuffs and dimples in your tire (especially the sidewalls). If you figure on a 20% degradation in strength (a very loose guestimate), you’re down into the ‘normal’ high speed ranges. Take a look at a few cars tires in the parking lot; it gets very sobering.

As for giving up cruising Death Valley, just don’t do it solo anymore. Make a couples weekend of it with Larry & his wife. And don’t forget to bring your puppy.

Mike Houst

Well, I wasn’t going very fast for a desert dirt road, and had there not been that stupid berm on the side of the road I wouldn’t have rolled. I certainly wasn’t exceeding the capabilities of the Bronco II. Alas, something had damaged the tire or rim, and I hadn’t known that.

Cruising alone in Death Valley was never all that good an idea to begin with. And it’s a lot drive out there. Great old days though. Niven and I wrote some of the best Footfall scenes in a beat up old motel out on the ridge overlooking Death Valley…

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