SD Cards; Educating Educators, Aliens and Talking to Them, Federalism, Sapir-Whorf; and Other Matters.

Chaos Manor Mail, Sunday, March 08, 2015


Continuing the March 4 discussion on SanDisk SD cards:

Regarding the 200 GB SanDisk microSD card, Chris Barker is simply wrong. This is not a primary storage device for a PC or other system that uses that volume for virtual memory paging. On an SSD, which is intended to replace a conventional hard drive and thus must fulfill the virtual memory role, provision is made for the loss of cell function without loss of advertised capacity as Mr. Barker explains. But this simply isn’t an issue for a volume that isn’t used for paging. The level of read and, most importantly, write activity is far, far less. The allocation of a large area to hide the loss of capacity over time simply isn’t necessary as the typical usage of an SD card or USB flash drive doesn’t produce the rate of loss that would be noticed in the device’s expected life cycle. Most current operating systems are designed to handle this as a background task. (The Windows ReadyBoost feature that first appeared in Windows Vista would have been a very high usage scenario for a USB flash drive but falling prices on RAM made it unlikely that many people managed to appreciably wear out a flash drive using ReadyBoost.)

    Another clue here is the extreme amount of capacity supposedly being set aside by SanDisk. A 256 GB SSD is typically sold as a 240 GB volume (before formatting) with 16 Gb set aside for replacing cells lost to wear. For a microSD card to have 3.5 times as much set aside for that purpose is absurd. It should also be noted that 256 GB SD cards are already on the market, which are electrically identical to microSD cards. If the capacity was due to factory allocation settings rather than physical chip volume, it would be reflected in the SD cards already.

    Using a SD card for primary storage on a desktop OS like Windows, MacOS, or Linux would be a miserable experience, so little provision is made for such usage. The performance level of UHS-I cards is at best on par with the last generation of parallel ATA before SATA became the prevailing hard drive interface for mainstream PCs. (UHS-II cards, offering read performance roughly between SATA-I and SATA-II, and devices that support them are still rare and not a factor for most conversations about SDXC. It’s possible they won’t catch on before an entirely new standard takes root.) In a related matter, the cell phone industry is prepping a major shift in how it interfaces primary storage because the bottleneck of the existing standard for embedded flash, eMMC 5.01, is expected to become a drag on performance gains by other components. A newer standard, UFS 2.0, offers substantially higher performance close to the latest generation of PCI-e SSD just appearing in PCs. Both eMMC and UFS are JEDEC standards, so there aren’t any rivalry issues as so often has complicated things in the past.

Eric Pobirs

I would say misinterpreted, rather than wrong. Of one thing we may be certain: the observation I made 30 years ago, that silicon is cheaper than iron and therefore memory drive would replace spinning metal for hard drives, as a long time coming but is finally arriving


DOJ Ferguson Report

Dear Dr. Pournelle,
The Justice Department has released its report on Ferguson

which essentially follows this report from before the events:

It appears that the city decided to use the police department as a revenue generating device, which so antagonized the community that it only took a single spark to touch off a riot. That happened. 

I’m a little bit puzzled as to what any of the rest of us can do about it; if there’s a city council then the most logical course would be for the city voters to Throw The Bums Out.  However, I also suspect that many of those most directly affected can’t vote due to felony convictions.  


Brian P. 

Didn’t New York do the same with their cigarette tax?

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I don’t think it’s quite the same thing.  The cigarette tax was one thing. By contrast, it appears that Ferguson took the ‘broken window’ concept of policing to an extreme by upping enforcement of minor violations up to 11 , and always levying a fine, never jail time, for the infractions. 

Point 2:  Almost all of the charges levied in Ferguson were municipal charges, even when there was an equally applicable state law.

What does that tell you? 

Point 3:  There were some other things as well. For instance, there was one woman who owed a $100 fine but couldn’t pay it, so she tried to pay a $27 partial remittance until she could get the money together. The courts wouldn’t take it.  They wanted the full amount at once, and refused any attempt.

There was another case where a gentleman had paid $500 on a $100 fine — and still owed $551 thanks to interest!

Put all this together and I think we’re seeing something far different than what we saw in New York .. this looks to me much like the ‘organized brigandage’ St. Augustine described in “City of God” , the sort of thing that happens when justice and the state part ways.

I admit I’m a bit confused as to how we reached this place. The point of a democracy is that the leaders are elected, and are supposed to be removed by an outraged citizenry when things get this bad, preferably with tar and feathers.   Likewise, there’s supposed to be oversight over police behavior, an internal affairs bureau, and recourse when things go bad.  Instead it’s as if the system has frozen up — we no longer seem to have any way of checking or restraining police or governmental power. 


Brian P.

One of the consequences of the Constitution is that these United States will always have different opinions about what is right and what is wrong. There will always be some who would make a Federal Case out of State and local policies which were not given to the Federal Government; abortion is one such. No one thought there was a Federal right to abortion in the Constitution for two Centuries, and the various states had different policies; it was a matter for the States, and there was insufficient national consensus for a Constitutional Amendment. The liberal view was that this was a moral issue of great importance, and the court found a right of privacy in the “emanations and penumbras” particularly in the 14th Amendment, although the States that adopted that Amendment would have been astonished to learn that were conferring a right of privacy which forbid state laws against contraception. The principle that the Constitution was a living document rather than a contract is now upon us, and the original Constitution which restricted the Federal Government to explicitly granted powers, reserving all the rest to the States (or to the people) is dead. Some mourn it still. In the deciding case Justice Stewart called the Connecticut statute “an uncommonly silly law” but argued that it was nevertheless constitutional. The Federal government might be far more “correct” by modern standards, but it did not have the Constitutional power to impose that view against the States any more than, prior to the 13th Amendment, it had the Constitutional power to end slavery.

The Ferguson system seems unseemly, but the remedy is political, not the force of the Federal government. Both State and Federal investigations have shown there is no Federal Case here. Similarly, the New York Cigarette tax seems stupid, and perhaps the Interstate Commerce law ought to be applied; but it seems to be New York’s business, not mine. Or the US Attorney’s.

Of course there is much in “modern” Federal practice that resembles “organized brigandage”. We are well on the way to what the late Sam Francis called “anarcho-tyranny”. We have sown the wind. Were I living in Ferguson I would study the Atlas, and were I in the business of helping the citizens of Ferguson I would be installing precinct committee members; not imposing my views by force because of my moral certainty. In particular, intimidating store clerks while stealing cigars is a dangerous and probably ineffective form of protest.


We’re not alone?

More evidence that we may not be alone in the universe:


Astronomers believe mysterious signals – previously dismissed as stellar bursts – are coming from an Earth-like planet.

The Gliese 581d planet has conditions that could support life, and is likely to be a rocky world, twice the size of Earth.

Signals from the planet were initially discovered in 2010, but last year dismissed as noise from distant stars.

Now, a further study claims that the 2014 research was based on ‘inadequate analyses of the data’ and that Gliese 581d does exist.


These guys have an SETI program? Let’s hope 22 light years is far enough away to keep them safe from us; else we might go in there and try to “liberate” them from their oppressive rulers and engage in nation building because it’s in the national interest and it will create jobs. =)

Seriously, though, it would be nice to make a friendly contact and it would be nice if “our people” were also friendly about it.

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

Others including Hawking have different vies about the desirability of communications; in any event you may confident that if we do try, it will be friendly on our part, and most of will mean it. We have no way of knowing the intentions of the aliens. And of course probabilities favor a more physical explanation anyway.


Subject: Are barely trained teachers just as good as education majors…

Dear Jerry,
I thought you might be interested.

Are barely trained teachers just as good as education majors? Looks like it.  •  The Wonkblog headline “Teach for America teachers aren’t any better than other teachers when it comes to kids’ test scores” buries the lede.A new study comparing test scores among elementary school …


I would say a good case can be made for two year certificates for grade school teachers; it seems to have worked in the past, and I suspect requiring 4 year degrees is counter-productive and does not produce the expected results. A case can be made for more intense education of high school teachers, but not in “education” courses.

: Educators vs. Education


I would suggest that if we wish to save our schools we need to “Return to those thrilling days of yesteryear” and examine the curriculum of the two year Normal School that trained teachers in the 19th and early 20th centuries. I would guess that the vast majority of the 6th Grade teachers using the 1914 Sixth Grade Reader had that education.

As the “Educators” have taken over the training of Teachers we have been afflicted with a steadily declining quality of Education coupled with a steadily increasing inflation adjusted cost of Education.

The current age of Credentialism has forced our Teachers to take an increasing number of courses in HOW to teach at the expense of WHAT to teach.

I do not see any solution to this problem as long as we have Federal Control of Education.

Bob Holmes

The question being how great the value of “how to teach” studies can be; no greater than the teacher’s knowledge. How well do Professors of Education do in grade school classrooms?

: Educationalism

The following book by the Underground Grammarian regarding educationalism should tickle your fancy:

The one-eyed man knows that he could never be king in the land of the two-eyed, and the half-wit knows that he would be small potatoes indeed in a land where most people had all or most of their wits about them. These rulers, therefore, will be inordinately selective about their social programs, which will be designed not only to protect against the rise of the witful and the sighted, but, just as important, to ensure a never-failing supply of the witless and utterly blind. Even to the half-wit and the one-eyed man, it is clear that other half-wits and one-eyed men are potential competitors and supplanters, and they invert the ancient tale in which an anxious tyrant kept watch against a one-sandaled stranger by keeping watch against wanderers with both eyes and operating minds. Uneasy lies the head.

Unfortunately, most people are born with two eyes and even the propensity to think. If nothing is done about this, chaos, obviously, threatens the land. Even worse, unemployment threatens the one-eyed man and the half-wit.

And the moral of that story is …


General Relativity – The Comic Book


No comment.


My own research on Clinton emails


First, hugs to you and Roberta. I am impressed as hell that you were back to writing and blogging while still in rehab (and tweeted about it a few times). You’re in our prayers.

Second, ABC News called me when the AP story broke about Clinton running her private e-mail on a home server and asked, “Can you verify/replicate this?” I’ve been working on it all week, and the answer still is, “No.”

In fact, I think AP leapt to an unjustified conclusion based on data I was able to recover as well. If anything, there are indications that the Clinton e-mail server may have been hosted by two successive hosting firms — The Planet and Confluence Networks — and the latter is a foreign-based, foreign-owned hosting system (though apparently making use of US-based server farms) well known for spam and malware sites.

The real, real question is: where was the e-mail domain server physically located? There may be some profound negative security implications depending upon that question, which may be why no Clinton associates have confirmed or denied the existence of a home server.

I’ve written two posts on the subject. Here’s the newest one:

And here is my original one, which has its own updates up front; it helps to scroll down to “BACK TO OUR ORIGINAL POST”, read to the end, then go to the top and read the updates:

Down the rabbit hole, indeed. ..bruce..

Bruce F. Webster

Long time readers will recognize Bruce as an old friend and longtime correspondent.


How America was Misled

One of many money quotes

At precisely the time Mr. Obama was campaigning on the imminent death of al Qaeda, those with access to the bin Laden documents were seeing, in bin Laden’s own words, that the opposite was true. Says Lt. Gen. Flynn: “By that time, they probably had grown by about—I’d say close to doubling by that time. And we knew that.”

This wasn’t what the Obama White House wanted to hear. So the administration cut off DIA access to the documents and instructed DIA officials to stop producing analyses based on them.

Sent by a usually reliable source.


: Sapir-Whorf refuted

Dear Dr. Pournelle:
Recently on your blog you marvelled over the lack of the word “blue” in Ancient Greek. You ask, following the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, if the Greeks actually experienced the color blue, under that azure Mediterranean sky.
I reply that there are many vivid experiences lacking words. Consider your stomach; when there is food in it, you are “full”; when there is no food in it, you are “hungry”. These are fine and short words. Now consider your bladder and your colon. When these are full, you are what? When they are empty, you are what? These feelings are vivid, intimate, urgent and felt by all, but I know no words for them!
My urologist says that the condition of having a full colon is called “tenemus”. That’s a noun, but he doesn’t know a corresponding adjective. Also it refers to the condition, not the feeling.
I propose the following; bladderful, bladdervoid, colonful, colonvoid. Those are the ‘polite’ and abstract words; their ‘rude’ and immediate synonyms are pissful, pissvoid, shitful, shitvoid. This 2x2x2 word-cube possesses mathematical regularity, and also musicality; I offer it to you for free. Use it in good health.
These words did not exist before now; yet they denote universal experiences. Thus I refute the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.
And as long as I am discussing missing useful words… we need words for velocity; short words to be said in a great hurry. Sailors have ‘knots’ for ‘nautical miles per hour’; but what do we call a mile per hour? “MPH” is an acronym, and it’s five syllables long; by the time you’ve screamed it at the driver, he’s already crashed the car. So what word will do? “Miph”? “Oomph”? Nah…
Or take “kilometers per second”; useful for all space-farers. I think “kaypees” will do admirably. This too I offer to you.

I had to demonstrate understanding of the Whorfian hypothesis as part of my Ph.D. qualifying examinations. I can honestly say I have thought about it little since then.


“Lest Darkness Fall”


I don’t think I told you, but I read “Lest Darkness Fall” last year and enjoyed it a great deal.

Phil Tharp

I just bet you did. Sprague spins a great yarn.


Brian P’s command on Sex and Terrorism 3/4

Last autumn, I took the time to listen through the famous recorded lectures of Greg Mosse on cultural history at the UW Madison web site. In those, he points out that many men are perfectly happy living in a state of slavery and bondage.
Doug Roberts
From my personal observation, it takes education and training for people to prefer freedom and liberty over slavery and bondage. It matters how tight the bonds are. I think it is an accident of history that here in the USA we built a nation upon the principles of liberty and freedom. We were taming a continent with little oversight. Only then do men resent the bonds of various forms of slavery. That may also help explain why, today, rural areas are bastions of liberty and freedom while urban areas are havens of restriction and limitation.

Some are content to let others face the challenges, and live off the efforts of others. When there are enough of those to control the government the Republic is doomed. Among other reasons, when the soldiers no longer respect the government…


Is it bad when 


Regarding your recent view comment about the legions not respecting the government… Is it bad when the reaction inside the operations center is general laughter, upon seeing “breaking news” on CNN about another physical security breach at the white house?

Name withheld…


Sex and terrorism

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

In one of your older novels (Prince of Sparta, I believe), your characters debate why their enemies are fighting. One concludes “it’s the girls”. 
Turns out that may apply to our current troubles as well.
Arab men in traditional culture have NO contact with women at all, not even dating, until they’re married. That can often not be until one reaches the thirties. 
This has the results you would expect.
ISIS, by contrast, offers a quick marriage both to male and female recruits. For the men  the attractions of marriage are obvious. Women are offered  ” wonderful husband and a free house with top-of-the-line appliances, such as a fridge, microwave and even a milkshake machine”.  Moreover, ISIS will pay a stipend for every  child the couple bears.
Framed that way, it’s obvious why they exert such a powerful draw.  People who aren’t ever going to amount to much , people who have been let down by their traditional culture, are flocking to a place that offers them a fresh start. And sex , of course. 

If this is the draw , then perhaps we can help demolish ISIS by offering similar things, or convince those countries that reform it’s necessary. It’s difficult for me to imagine those countries being truly stable if they’ve got all that sexual energy screaming for an outlet, even after we crush ISIS like the bug it is.

Brian P.

One of the attractions of Communism to undergraduates in the 50’s was that the girls believed in free love. That was effective in the days before the hookup culture. It would not be now in US universities.


M. Stanton Evans, gone to his reward.


Roland Dobbins

Mr. Evans, as Mr. Dobbins well knows, in the mid sixties had in his book a statement making me a Communist spy, despite the personal assurance of Russell Kirk that this wasn’t true. It’s a long story and not important now if it ever was.  RIP


Could IBM’s brain-inspired chip change the way computers are built? (WP)

IBM has worked its way up from a worm-size brain, with 256 processors that simulate neurons, to a chip with 1 million of them — the equivalent of a bee brain. By the end of next year, the team hopes to build a mouse-sized brain with 256 million processor-neurons, he said.

At 100 billion neurons, the human brain remains a distant dream.

That looks like a 256-fold (2^8) increase every two years, or 16-fold every year.

If we have 256 million neurons by the end of next year, that means 4 billion a year later, 65 billion the year after that, 1000 billion the year after.

So “a distant dream” is reached about four years from now.

Distance just ain’t what it used to be.


We can discuss the singularity another time; it does appear we are moving ahead with the concepts making AI possible.


The Unreasonable Power of Mathematics 

Dear Jerry:

Some brave souls at the BBC have decided to risk their careers by putting basic equations on screen in an attempt to deconvolute the Climate Wars.

It aired a day ago across the pond, and has already gone global oh  YouTube.:

Be warned: this program  just might change your mind.

Monckton & Soon’s Model  ? I don’t think so.

                         Russell Seitz

Fellow of the Department of Physics Harvard University        


I wonder if there is any significance to this article being in the UK press and not US…

Subj: Bubonic plague-carrying fleas found on New York City rats

Plague shots anyone?
“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a
child.” — Cicero, 46 B.C.

Dear Dr. Pournelle:
I appreciate that this article represents a point of view, and that this point of view is no more (and, of course, no less) arguable than the “realist” viewpoint which you appear to espouse with respect to Ukraine et al. I also appreciate that you are unlikely to come around to a different way of thinking on this subject.

I pass this along for two reasons: the author does a comprehensive job of laying out his position, contra the realpolitik view; and he does so in a way that i think exposes the weaknesses of the “realist” view in a measured and non-confrontational fashion.

As I’ve stated in other correspondence, I find your views on the subject quite distressing, the more so that you were one of the thinkers who most influenced me during the Cold War, when your positions seemed on all fours with the forward-leaning internationalist–indeed interventionist–bipartisan foreign policy that was this country’s from the late 1940s to the late 1960s, in which President Reagan played the final hand to a successful close.

It is quite difficult for me to reconcile one of Reagan’s strongest supporters with the (you’ll forgive the expression, but I am at a loss to find a better) neo-isolationist you seem to have become since the Cold War ended: and while it’s possible that it’s due to my ignorance or lack of sophistication, I like to think that those are not the primary factors in my failure.

And while we’re on the subject of epithets, your continued use of the term “neo-conservative” and its various pejorative attributes does nothing to make your argument more convincing, although it does irritate and alienate people like myself, who share some of those views. I leave it to you to decide whether that should affect your usage: of course “Chaos Manor” is your house, therefore your rules. But my late mother once observed that manners consisted in the avoidance of behaviors that made others uncomfortable.

I realize I am probably wasting my time (and yours), but you’ll have to forgive me for continuing to (politely, I hope) try.
Very respectfully,
David G.D. Hecht

I am not immune to emotional attachments, or to dislike of cooperation with tyrants and unpleasant leaders; the question is, what is the threat to the United States, and what agreements make us safer?

Russia needs and wants Russians, or inhabitants that can be Russified – assimilated into the Russian culture.  Ukrainians and Cossacks can be.  Some Slavs can be. Finns and Swedes cannot be, and their experience is that Poles cannot ne either.  They were given a large part of Poland after WW II, as well as Konigsberg. They don’t want Poles and dilution of the Russian culture.  They are a threat to Ukraine, but the Russophile Ukrainian population will assimilate nicely; the rest won’t.  Russia knows this.

Russia is no threat to US territory, and a life or death treaty with Ukraine will not increase the security of the US.  Russia and US have similar interests to the East of Ukraine; having a hostile relationship helps neither nation.

I am not an isolationist and never have been, any more than Jefferson was when dealing with the Barbary Coast.  I am a realist.

If you will give me a term more acceptable to describe  the modern interventionists who got us into a needless war in Iraq, and a prolonged stay in Afghanistan after we had cast out the Taliban I will endeavor to use it, as you do not like neo-conservative.  They were allies in the cold war, but do not understand that it is over.

According to the egregious Frum I have been read out of the Conservative movement, so while I think of myself as conservative I am no longer a “Leading Conservative Intellectual.” But then I am of a company with the late Messrs. Stephen Tonsor and Russell Kirk who also opposed the Iraqi invasions.

I believe we are at war to the knife with the Caliphate, and that war is far more a threat to the US than the Russian territorial disputes; and I firmly believe we must accept that war.  No war was ever won by waiting for the enemy to take the initiative. This puts us into a war in Iraq.  We must fight it.  It would not have come upon us without our invasion of Iraq, which I very much opposed – of course once we were in it it behooved us to fight to win.  And having won we needed a proconsul who understood our objectives.  At the price of much blood and treasure – most Iraqi but much of it ours – we imposed Bremer.

And now we refuse to acknowledge ISIS is at war with us, yet they say so hourly.




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




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