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Monday  June 28, 2010

Ray's Hellburger

Dr. Pournelle, President Obama has been going out to many local restaurants. Often on 'date nights' with Mrs. Obama. It's usually a one paragraph story in the local gossip section, presumably it made the news this time because he took a foreign head of state with him. Ray's Hellburger has the best burgers in town, and not as expensive as you'd expect. Ray also runs some highly respected local steak houses and seems to run the burger joint as a hobby. The President has been there several times. This in contrast to one of the complaints about the Bushes, that they never left the White House unless they were going to Texas.

That area of Arlington (along Metro) has, in the past 20 years or so, become a city. A growth pattern that Fairfax County is trying to duplicate in Tyson's Corner with much traffic disruption.

Kit Case

I suppose the days when a President could walk the streets of an American city accompanied only by a couple of Secret Service agents are long gone, a victim of a ruder age (and a lot larger population). My nostalgia for the days when Harry Truman could walk up Pennsylvania Avenue, then down to the Mall, and back to the White House every day when he was in Washington is real, but I have no illusions that it will ever return. I do think they could open Lincoln Square and Pennsylvania Avenue again.

I never knew the times when citizens could walk up to the front door of the White House, but I fondly remember going to the Capitol building and wandering through it's halls, and through the tunnels; of going down to the crypt below the dome, unaccompanied by anyone. The crypt was intended to be the tomb of George Washington, but he had other arrangements. He's at Mount Vernon. The US keeps the catafalque used in state funeral processions there. I fondly remember visiting the House chamber with then Minority Whip Newt Gingrich at midnight one night. I got to sit in the Speaker's chair. Newt wouldn't sit in it until he was elected to the post...

It was the people's house, and the people were trusted to be in it. That all seems to be gone.

Now when the President goes out for a burger, it takes a procession of SUV's, motorcycle police, and the disruption of the people's business. In DC that's fine and even Constitutional -- the Congress is explicitly given the power to govern DC as it sees fit. But I would think it an intrusion of some importance to have that procession of SUV's in Arlington.

I recall when there wasn't much in Tyson's Corners. A liquor store -- in those days there were no bars in Virginia, and the Sunset Club in the Marriot Key Bridge had to serve (private clubs being allowed). Research Analysis Corporation had a large war-gaming facility in Mclean but I recall some difficulties in finding a place to stay when I was sent there to take part in some studies of air/ground warfare.

Enough musing. I don't begrudge the President a hamburger nor Ray's Hell Burger the publicity; but I do think the time it took to travel in cavalcade from the White House and back might have been better spent by the two Presidents. It's not as if there were not some important issues to discuss. A night out with the family is one thing, but lunch with the President of Russia is fairly rare even in these days of easy travel.


You missed the point of the story, which was that the Russian Pres demanded that a lot of extra hot peppers be piled on his food.


I've never quite understood the mania for peppers. Moderation... Niven likes to tell the story of Steve Barnes and the 15 Spice Roll...




After reading your piece on the Hellburger--which made me laugh hysterically toward the end--I felt it necessary to write. I am not going to say the name of Country A because Country A has laws pertaining to the royal family. If one talks badly about members of the royal family, they may be subject to capital punishment. Almost certainly, such people would not be allowed in the country. Since I want to continue to travel to Country A, I will not mention the actual name of Country A.

When I was in Country A, I was out on the street one day and suddenly everyone stopped and faced the road way. My companion and I stopped--shocked. We looked and all the locals made gestures of respect to a member of the royal family as the motorcade sped across an empty set of streets. I commented on this occurrence later that evening to a cynical, English friend who commented that Prince so and so was probably going shopping. As I stayed in Country A longer, I got to know some of the locals. They made similar comments.

My point is, this sort of story reminds me of certain third world nations like Country A. This type of image does not--as you pointed out--play in Russia. Nor does this type of image play in most developed nations. I believe it was Lao Tsu who posed an interesting point--which I will paraphrase and modify to make succinct. The head of the department of sanitation does not roll around with lights and sirens, limousines, motorcades, personal guards, and so on. The head of the department of sanitation undertakes the tasks necessary to actualizing the responsibilities of the office, and Lao Tsu points out that Emperors should function in a similar manner. They should be invisible, they should do their jobs, and they should be so compatible with their surrounding environment as to escape notice. In any case, I find the behavior disturbing.

-- BDAB,


As Pareto noted, many people do enjoy pomp and circumstance. It is often important. America has some traditional state occasions -- laying a wreath at Arlington is one of them -- but we also expect a certain informality, as with Truman. Of course we lost Presidents due to their accessibility, even in less dicey times.

I don't think the President ought to be invisible, but perhaps he is a bit over exposed lately?


To Hellburger and back:

You note the cost in time when Obama took Medvedev out for lunch at a greasy spoon. (Am I the only one who likes to see this president less busy-- to the point of even hoping he actually wastes the next crisis or two?). But it would be interesting to see an accounting of how much the venture cost in dollars. I would bet the total is vastly more than hosting the Russian president for a first-class lunch at the White House, even if you threw in a guest performance by Paul McCartney. It all seemed to be an attempt to show off as a "man of the people," which Obama is seeming less and less. (Those expensive shoes on the tarball-strewn beach.) I felt sorry for Medvedev, sitting in a dress shirt at a tiny table loaded with bottles of ketchup and mustard, soft drinks, fries and dripping burgers, translators leaning in, photographers flashing away. That particular lunch can't have been much fun. Productive, even less.


Cost isn't a real question, and I am sure that Medvedev is accustomed to photo ops -- Putin is fond of them.  But I do begrudge the time spent, given the coming nuclear crisis in Iran. But perhaps they had already discovered they had no grounds for agreement?


Subj: Residuals

The recent Mail item "New Form of Gene Regulation Hints at Hidden Dimension of DNA" reminded me of the late Professor John Tukey insisting that we call the differences between the fitted values from a model and the corresponding actual observed data "residuals", not "random errors".

The supposed randomness of those residuals is an *assumption*of*the*model*, not an Eternal Truth. We need to cultivate a healthy skepticism about that assumption. In particular, after we fit a model, we need to *examine* the residuals, to see whether that assumption makes any sense. Often, it will not.

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

Exactly. I spent a week in conference with Tukey among others, and was much impressed with his views. Statistical inference is a much abused art, particularly in the social sciences, where "all the interactions were significant!!"


Letter from England

The Commonwealth Fund health survey of industrialised nations was published this week. <http://tinyurl.com/26euhhm> <http://tinyurl.com/2aquuzo> <http://tinyurl.com/342zlr9>. The US came in last in per-capita cost and nearly last in outcomes.

 Reaction to austerity budget: <http://tinyurl.com/243oq2f>. UK Government is looking at incentives to encourage the jobless to move. <http://tinyurl.com/24o2s2e> <http://tinyurl.com/2cmum3h>


"The data (or the marks when teaching) are sacrosanct--they tell us what actually happened." Harry Erwin, PhD http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her


Slow Glass?

I had to read this twice to make sure I wasn’t having a flashback to Bob Shaw’s classic, “Light of Other Days”.


E.C. "Stan" Field


Doddering Dodd,

Good grief how can these politicians say stuff like this and expect us to rejoice over their "hard" work????



"No one will know until this is actually in place how it works. But we believe we've done something that has been needed for a long time. It took a crisis to bring us to the point where we could actually get this job done."


Whilst I've no particular love for Enron and think them fools, there's quite a bit worth pondering in this article, IMHO.


- Roland Dobbins

The Enron affair always has disturbed me. I think we do not know the entire story.


Beware the Fury of the Legions

It seems the Washington Post has re-discovered what you've been saying since -- 2001? [More like 1968 JEP]


"We had been told, on leaving our native soil," wrote the centurion Marcus Flavius to a cousin back in Rome, "that we were going to defend the sacred rights conferred on us by so many of our citizens [and to aid] populations in need of our assistance and our civilization." For such a cause, he and his comrades had willingly offered to "shed our quota of blood, to sacrifice our youth and our hopes." Yet the news from the homeland was disconcerting: The capital was seemingly rife with factions, treachery and petty politics. "Make haste," Marcus Flavius continued, "and tell me that our fellow citizens understand us, support us and protect us as we ourselves are protecting the glory of the empire."

"If it should be otherwise, if we should have to leave our bleached bones on these desert sands in vain, then beware of the anger of the legions!"


Stanley McChrystal is no Marcus Flavius, lacking the Roman's eloquence, among other things. Yet in ending his military career on such an ignominious note, he has, however clumsily, issued a warning that deserves our attention.

The responsibility facing the American people is clear. They need to reclaim ownership of their army. They need to give their soldiers respite, by insisting that Washington abandon its de facto policy of perpetual war. Or, alternatively, the United States should become a nation truly "at" war, with all that implies in terms of civic obligation, fiscal policies and domestic priorities. Should the people choose neither course -- and thereby subject their troops to continuing abuse -- the damage to the army and to American democracy will be severe. "

Which is what you've been saying since ... forever?

I see you are right. The US cannot survive as a republic if it insists on creating a permanent military caste. Freedom requires self-discipline; those that cannot discipline themselves will be disciplined by others. Making one caste of people 'the adults' while everyone else is a child is not exactly a recipe for democracy or freedom. Instead, we need to ALL be adults, ALL be disciplined, and that means a citizen-army.

If we are to remain free. I don't believe the current trends indicate this is by any means a 100% certainty.

Which reminds me: Where is the original source for that quote? It's clear that both you and Professor Bacevich have read a book I haven't encountered, and I would like to.


Brian P.

Larteguy I have been using that quote since Viet Nam days.




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Tuesday,  June 29, 2010


Charles Gordon successfully campaigned in China with the Ever Victorious Army (mercenaries) and the British used proxy armies throughtout the empire, could the U.S. do the same in Afghanistan? Field a private army supported by American airpower and armor? It appears from afar that part of the world, former Soviet regions, Indochina, India and Pakistan, contain a lot of ex-military available for hire. Someone once proposed offering Indian army soldiers American citizenship for 10 years occupation duty in Afghanistan. Another way to look at the Afghan war is that 9-11 cost 3,000 dead and $500 billion in economic losses, and if we allowed Islamic fascists to attack the U.S. every two years since 9-11, that would mean an additional 15,000 dead civilians and 2.5 trillion dollars in economic losses. Fighting in South Asia is better than fighting in North America.

 Darryl Miyahira, Honolulu. Hawaii.


It is certainly possible; whether politically possible or not is something else. The problem with paid armies has long been known. Septimius Severus brought one to Rome from North Africa in the year that the Praetorians in Washington, oops, Rome, auctioned off the Empire, As Machiavelli said, mercenaries can ruin you by running away and thus losing your battles, or by robbing the paymaster. The temptation is always to treat them as an expense secondary to important things like health care reform or Food Stamps or extended unemployment benefits.

It certainly can be done. Auxiliaries who never saw Rome remained loyal for a long time. Constantine was born in Britain.

But the temptation to cut benefits and send them less and less is eternal.

Send Gordon to Khartoum; we don't need to send an army... 


"I have shown rigorously that the books do contain codes and symbols and that unraveling them reveals the hidden philosophy of Plato."





--- Roland Dobbins

Dr Kennedy, whose findings are published in the leading US journal Apeiron, reveals that Plato used a regular pattern of symbols, inherited from the ancient followers of Pythagoras, to give his books a musical structure. A century earlier, Pythagoras had declared that the planets and stars made an inaudible music, a ‘harmony of the spheres’. Plato imitated this hidden music in his books.

The hidden codes show that Plato anticipated the Scientific Revolution 2,000 years before Isaac Newton, discovering its most important idea – the book of nature is written in the language of mathematics. The decoded messages also open up a surprising way to unite science and religion. The awe and beauty we feel in nature, Plato says, shows that it is divine; discovering the scientific order of nature is getting closer to God. This could transform today’s culture wars between science and religion.

“Plato’s books played a major role in founding Western culture but they are mysterious and end in riddles,” Dr Kennedy, at Manchester’s Faculty of Life Sciences explains.

“In antiquity, many of his followers said the books contained hidden layers of meaning and secret codes, but this was rejected by modern scholars.

“It is a long and exciting story, but basically I cracked the code. I have shown rigorously that the books do contain codes and symbols and that unraveling them reveals the hidden philosophy of Plato.

“This is a true discovery, not simply reinterpretation.”

This will transform the early history of Western thought, and especially the histories of ancient science, mathematics, music, and philosophy.<snip>

Astonishing. I have not given this sufficient thought to warrant an opinion.  [and see below]


Medvedev -- Putin

Isn't sending Medvedev to confer with Obama somewhat like sending Biden to confer with Putin, titles not withstanding?

Charles Brumbelow

Putin certainly hopes so.


Burgers in D.C.

There are three or four places to get a good burger in D.C., if you happen to swing through.

Five Guys is a ubiquitous local chain. The burgers are good, the very fresh fries with Cajun spice are *outstanding*. There’s even a Five Guys at Dulles. I was waiting for a flight and chuckled when a bunch of Germans waiting for their gate to open snapped into line without knowing what it was. “Was ist den Five Guys?” one of them asked me. I told him “the best!” in loud and slow English because I wanted to not let on that I knew what was going on, and then eavesdrop on the conversation between the Germans as they puzzled out that it was about some kind of hamburger, and pommes frites. They found the multitude of available toppings somewhat baffling. Needless to say, they managed to order and were “mmmmmm”ing themselves to death on this local delicacy.

A couple other places are worthwhile – Ollie’s Trolley down near the FBI building is pretty solid. A dive bar that I love at 17th & I (by a lot of DHS-associated offices) called “The Bottom Line” does a great burger, particularly the Heidenburger. Owner Dickie Heidenberg – whose sister was a stewardess who had her throat slit by the terrorists who conducted the Pentagon attack on 9/11 – invented an oval-shaped burger on a hoagie roll back in the mid-90’s when he ran out of hamburger buns one day. So it’s this long oval-shaped burger. It comes with sautéed onions and blue cheese. What makes it nice is that everybody from immigrant laborers to K Street big shots cram into the little basement bar and have a beer with a burger or quesadilla at lunch; it’s a throwback, I imagine, to ‘50s saloons.

The other place to get a good burger in D.C. is just about any reputable steakhouse. It’ll cost you $9 but it will be really good. Maybe up to $12. District Chop House, Mortons and naturally the Palm stand out, as does Old Ebbitt Grill, but most of them hit at least a triple with the burger, if not a home run. I suspect most of them are dry aged beef nearing the end of its run, so you get primo meat.

BTW, any recommendations for good sci fi reading? I exhausted the Heinlein canon last summer, have read most of yours & Niven’s stuff, Scalzi’s, much of Asimov’s & Dick’s stuff, as well as Gibson and a few other notables. I like sci fi as military conjecture or political / social science conjecture, not too keen on the fantasy/soap opera elements. (Or Heinlein’s later porny stuff… was he fooling around with LSD in the 60’s?) Anyhow if you have some advice my summer reading list could use a boost.

Warmest regards and thanks for doing what you do,


I doubt I will be shopping for burgers in DC, but it's good to know just in case. I always liked the Roy Rogers near the old Institute for Strategic Studies, but I am sure it is long gone now.

I read little science fiction now. Not by choice, it's time.

Mr. Heinlein, after Stranger, sold so enormously well that he did not feel any need for the kind of meticulous editing he had practiced up to that point, nor for listening to the advice of his editors. His books sold no matter what. That happens often to authors. It leads to longer and longer works. And while his later works were self indulgent, they continued to have many flashes of the old master. One of his works -- Time Enough for Love? -- contained an entire novel about people settling on a frontier planet; had that been taken out and published separately it would not only have sold well but probably won awards.

I wish I had time for summer reading...


Archimedes' cannons


I wonder what L. Sprague DeCamp would’ve made of this. . .




Post hoc ergo propter hoc: Thousands of experiments have conclusively proven that beating drums and clashing cymbals brings back the sun after a total eclipse.


Quantum entanglement holds DNA together?!



---- Roland Dobbins

An engineering use for quantum entanglement?


Subj: DummyDragon/Falcon-9 upper stage reenters; launch anomalies explained


Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com





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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Emotional Costs of Hooking Up

From Woody Allen's movie "Love and Death":

Diane Keaton character: "But don't you understand? Sex without love is an empty experience."

Woody Allen character: "Yes, but as empty experiences go, it's one of the best."

We've known for millennia that men and women have different sexual psychologies, and we've known for 3-4 decades the evolutionary reasons for this. It's crazy that the psychology of sex (and not just the mechanics of avoiding pregnancy and STDs) isn't taught to kids in middle school or high school health classes. with an eye to giving them a little more sympathy and understanding of what they're getting into with the opposite sex. But presumably the Left would be outraged at kids being taught about sex differences, and the Right would be outraged by kids being taught that they're products of evolution.

For that matter, kids should learn the five factor model of personality in high school health classes, but most kids who graduate from college don't hear about it.



Cost of Big Wig Security

I did not catch how many big wigs were in attendance. If there were five big wigs, on average, from each of the Group of 20, that would make 100 big wigs, or $8,970,000 per big wig. If I were a big wig, I'd rather ditch the summit and pocket the $8,970,000.

A meeting of big wigs in D.C. earlier this year resulted in a stupid death of the great Constance Holden. By battling for the inclusion of articles expressing a sociological point of view in _Science_, she was worth more than all these big wigs plus all of the security for their summits.

Canada Agog at Security Price Tag for Summit http://www.nytimes.com/

<snip>The latest government estimate is $897 million for three days of summitry. That comes to about $12 million per hour, or a total near what the [Canadian] government spends per year in the war in Afghanistan.<snip>

By far the largest chunks are for personnel. The security force for the two meetings includes 20,000 soldiers, intelligence agents and police officers drawn from across Canada, a draft of about 13 percent of all available police officers and troops in the country.<snip>

I wonder if they paid poets to write epics about each big wig? Probably not yet. But for a big enough wig? (Actually I am trying to find a word I have forgotten: when the Roman emperor made a formal visit to the place, one of the required welcoming items was an epic poem in his honor; that has a specific name, and that name has slipped my mind. Ah well. If you remember something but not its name is that dementia?)

Roland reminds me that the word is panegyric. In late Imperial times it was expected when the Emperor visited a province there would be a speech of fulsome praise. It was often delivered by a young up and coming orator or poet, and it could be his making or his disgrace. A few of these have survived and they can be amusing to a modern audience. I suspect we may see a revival of the art of the panegyric -- indeed some would say we have seen ample signs of that already.


Sexual Mores

Hi Jerry,

Your comments in view triggered an interesting reflection. My wife and I both came of age in the 80's, right around the beginning of the AIDS panic. I don't know if it was our parents (who were pre-baby boom) instilling more traditional values, our midwest/west (i.e. non coastal) upbringing, Ronald Reagan in office, or the very legitimate fear of AIDS at the time, but we both are pretty horrified at the new trends among teens.

The fear of AIDS has diminished, and younger girls now dress like 'prosti-tots' (driven by Brittany, etc), while the boys dress like slobs well into their 20's. I can't tell you the number of young suburban white teens whose pants i want to yank up from around their knees. I wonder if they'd do it if they knew where that started - solidarity with arrested teen boys (mostly black) who had their belts taken away in jail.

Girls grow up earlier, boys grow up later. It's not a good combination. Bastard births (in the old sense of the term) are less a stigma, and marriage is on the decline. If this is the sexual revolution, well, I'd like to de-volve.



Of course the elders always see changes in mores as the beginning of the end. Civilization endured periods of decadence and recovered; and mankind endured plagues and Dark Ages and endures. And perhaps we have not sown the wind, but are moving forward to a new era of liberation. Perhaps.

I suspect that many of my age would have liked to try a period in which there were more women than men and no danger of commitment -- when there nearly any girl you met was one you could sleep with, and there was no thought of marriage.

Economically, families are always better off than singles when it comes to raising kids; but in our economic system that does not translate to more kids. Evolution seems to be moving in the direction of carelessness and lack of commitment. That may reverse the Industrial Revolution and bring mankind back to its normal state, a thin froth of rich atop a vast sea of people living at subsistence level; of population expanding to exceed food supplies. The Malthusian condition was pretty standard in most times and places from the invention of agriculture to about 1800 AD; and the periods of increased prosperity for the masses were due more to plague than productivity.

But perhaps productivity has caught up and we can afford what we are doing now. Our schools are predicated on the premise that we don't need many well educated people as a proportion of population. All the children are above average, or so we seem to assert.


Alternatives to college

Dr. P,

I thought you and your other readers would find this interesting:

Fast-tracking: Alternatives to college <http://radar.oreilly.com/2010/06/alternatives-to-college.html

How Zoho's internal program finds talent outside universities.

At Foo Camp 2010, Sridhar Vembu, CEO of Zoho <http://www.zoho.com>  , gave a talk called "Alternatives to College." … Sridhar's efforts at Zoho and their development center in Madras tell us something about how to develop a 21st century workforce by tapping into those who would not normally go to college. In short, his answer is not to prepare them for college but to prepare them to be productive in the workplace -- and to do that preparation in the workplace...

At Zoho, Sridhar created a program, which he called a "university" but it was nothing like a normal university. He began working with kids who had a high school education and who were unlikely to attend college for economic reasons. He didn't care if they had no previous computer experience. He didn't care that they didn't speak English.

Once in the program, the students were paid a stipend to attend each day. The program lasted 9-12 months and then the students entered a one-year apprenticeship program. After two years, the students were ready to be productive employees in an IT company. About 100 kids so far have been through the program.



William Clardy

Apprenticeships. But we can prevent all this by requiring that they pay minimum wages to apprentices and setting the minimum wage high enough.


More on residuals as against errors

Rod Montgomery's email and your comment reminded me of the shaggy-doggish "engineer's proof" that all numbers are factors of 120:-

1 is a factor of 120.

2 is a factor of 120.

3 is a factor of 120.

4 is a factor of 120.

5 is a factor of 120.

6 is a factor of 120.

7 is a factor of 120 with a small experimental error...

Yours sincerely,



Soccer Offside Rule

Actually the rule doesn't apply to scoring.

The short version: You cannot pass the ball to a player who is located beyond the last defense of the opposing team. The position is noted when the attacking team passes the ball not where the attacker player receives it. That's why you'll see some replays where they show the positions of the players right at the moment of the pass.

My team (Chile) hast just been eliminated by Brazil... latin american teams have been doing great anyway



Thanks.  I still do not understand the reasoning for the offsides rule. I have read three different justifications, all having to do with preventing "cherry picking" and it still makes no sense. Seems to me that having a few more goals scored per game might make it more interesting.


Subj: Scaling as the rationale for Soccer's rules


>>So here’s the logic underlying soccer’s rules: the game is supposed to scale down, so that an ordinary youth or recreation-league game can be played under the exact same rules used by the pros. This means that the rules must be designed so that the game can be run by a single referee, without any special equipment such as a scoreboard.

Most of the popular American team sports don’t scale down in this way. American football, basketball, and hockey --- the most common inspirations for “reformed” soccer rules --- all require multiple referees and special equipment. To scale these sports down, you have to change the rules. For example, playground basketball has no shot clock, no counting of fouls, and nonstandard rules for awarding free throws and handling restarts---it’s fun but it’s not the same game the Lakers play. Baseball is the one popular American spectator sport that does scale down.<<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

I fear that still doesn't explain cherry picking and offsides; indeed enforcing the offside rule which often requires instant replay study to determine whether the player was offside would not be likely in the local high school game...


Subject: on soccer and the offside rule


The use of an offside rule is hardly unique to soccer. Similar kinds of rules exist in American football, rugby, hockey, and lacrosse.

In the case of England versus Germany: the rule isn't in question, the competence of the officials is in question. That is hardly a unique problem in modern sports, where slow motion replay of every critical moment is common.

Low scoring does not necessarily mean an uninteresting sport. The hockey games that I have attended have generally been rousing affairs. Hockey has an offside rule, and the scoring is low, but that doesn't mean the games are dull. Some of the world cup games that I have watched have been similarly engaging.

As for basketball being the standard for excitement: opinions will vary on that score. I've been to a number of professional basketball games during the course of my life. I can't say that I found them to be all that interesting, despite the high numerical scores. My impression is that basketball games mostly get exciting at the end, if the score has remained tight. Unfortunately, in those circumstances, the game often seems dominated by the actions of the referee, with constant timeouts, fouls, free throws (or penalty shots as they call them in soccer), and scripted plays (or set pieces as they call them in soccer). Whether or not you like or appreciate that sort of stuff is clearly a matter of personal preference.

I do note that some commentators on the right seem to have an odd obsession with soccer. Because it is so popular in the rest of the world, but not here, they seem to have a need to discount the sport. I've seen a couple of weird op-ed pieces that have even sought to equate the spread of soccer in the US to the spread of socialism. That has always struck me as more than a bit silly.

CP, Connecticut

It is not clear to me why if I have the ball and am about to pass to a player who has run downfield, I am suddenly offside if someone on the other team runs away from his goal, leaving the prospective pass receiver a clear shot. The offside rule in football refers to something my team did; nothing I can do will make the other guy offside. Not so in soccer. I am not familiar with hockey, but I am told that offside in hockey refers to where you are, not where an opponent is.

As you say, it is a matter of taste.

The intricate rules in basketball were intended to make the game a bit less dependent on super players. In particular, one rule was pretty well invented to make it possible to win a game against a team that had Shaq; without the rule he'd patiently stand in the paint, wait for the pass, and score. Every time. No one else on his team had to shoot: they just had to pass in a combination that ended up with Shaq getting the ball, at which point he could jump up (with three people hanging on to him), make the shot, and then miss the free throw...  Of course that was time ago when he was younger.


Please remove your shoes -

Dear Jerry,

I appreciate reading the commentary on serious national issues. Your mail rocks! I wish I could add to the discussion but see my thoughts, (and more,) stated much better and with more education than I could ever contribute. However, I sometimes find odd little bits that may be of interest. I hope this documentary adds to the national awareness of just how unsafe transportation "safety" is.


Please remove your shoes.

R, Rose

Thanks for the kind words. I think my mail section rocks, too. My only real difficulty is in finding time to do it justice. I generally find something for everyone, or at least I hope so.


Speaking of something for everyone...

I want a ‘Buffy Staked Edward’ T-shirt « Gina Vivinetto’s Greatest Hits

The T-shirt pictured describes how I fee about "Twilight" quite well. Thought you could use a laugh,

Tim Harness.


Yes, I have sometimes found it amusing to speculate on what would happen if we introduced the Watchers and the Slayer into the Twilight Universe...


Hellburger - not that much of a waste of time -

Assuming that the two Presidents traveled in the same limo to Hell(burger) and back, I would expect that they had the same amount of time and privacy to discuss important matters in the back of the limo as they would have had sitting at a table at the white house.

When I travel abroad I like to go eat where the locals go ... it helps me understand their culture. So a trip to a burger joint is a way to show a foreign president something that is typical for a US citizen.

------- Jim Coffey

I would myself rather confer in a conference room, particularly if translators must be involved, where it would be possible to have maps and documents available, but perhaps they both carried their iPads, and the translators needed no relief crews.

In Cold War days we used to take pains to show Soviet officials the full parking lots in Detroit and Seattle, and fly them over LA where they could look down at the swimming pools. But in those times there were lines outside the McDonalds in Pushkin Square (and when I was there, two truckloads of Soviet military cadets with rifles; apparently the most trusted troops they had at the time). Of course we famously denied Khrushchev's request to visit DisneyLand, in theory on security grounds... But he had asked to go.


(trivia on Time Enough for Love)

One of Heinlein's works -- Time Enough for Love? -- contained an entire novel about people settling on a frontier planet; had that been taken out and published separately it would not only have sold well but probably won awards.

I think the name of the story was "The Tale of the Adopted Daughter". It's a beautiful story. It has such an emotional impact on me, that I can only pick it up and read it every few years.

A very powerful story of an immortal falling in love with an ephemeral.

- Paul


And a long piece of interest:

*For some reason I found this from 3 years ago today. Thought you might join me in wishing Mr. Heinlein happy 103rd!

Apt thinking even today: *"The power to tax, once conceded, has no limits; it contains until it destroys." * F


Robert A. Heinlein's Legacy

As they say on the moon, "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch!"



Science fiction at one time was despised as vulgar and "populist" by university English departments. Today, it is just another cultural artifact to be deconstructed, along with cartoons and People magazine articles. Yet one could argue that science fiction has had a greater impact on the way we all live than any other literary genre of the 20th century.

When one looks at the great technological revolutions that have shaped our lives over the past 50 years, more often than not one finds that the men and women behind them were avid consumers of what used to be considered no more than adolescent trash. As Arthur C. Clarke put it: "Almost every good scientist I know has read science fiction." And the greatest writer who produced them was Robert Anson Heinlein, born in Butler, Mo., 100 years ago this month.

The list of technologies, concepts and events that he anticipated in his fiction is long and varied. In his 1951 juvenile novel, "Between Planets," he described cellphones. In 1940, even before the Manhattan Project had begun, he chronicled, in the short story "Blowups Happen," the destruction of a graphite-regulated nuclear reactor similar to the one at Chernobyl. And in his 1961 masterpiece, "Stranger in a Strange Land," Heinlein--decades before Ronald and Nancy Reagan moved to the White House--introduced the idea that a president's wife might try to guide his actions based on the advice of her astrologer. One of Heinlein's best known "inventions" is the water bed, though he never took out a patent. <snip>

Robert A. Heinlein, who died in 1988, lived a life inspired by two great loves. One was America and its promise of freedom. As one of his characters put it: "Your country has a system free enough to let heroes work at their trade. It should last a long time--unless its looseness is destroyed from the inside." And he loved and admired women--not just his wife, Virginia, who provided the model for the many strong-minded and highly competent females who populate his stories, but all of womankind. "Some people disparage the female form divine, sex is too good for them; they should have been oysters."

In another hundred years, it will be interesting to see if the nuclear-powered spaceships and other technological marvels he predicted are with us. But nothing in his legacy will be more important than the spirit of liberty he championed and his belief that "this hairless embryo with the aching oversized brain case and the opposable thumb, this animal barely up from the apes will endure. Will endure and spread out to the stars and beyond, carrying with him his honesty and his insatiable curiosity, his unlimited courage and his noble essential decency."

/Mr. Dinerman writes a weekly column for the Space Review (www.thespacereview.com <http://www.thespacereview.com/>)./

-- Frank Pournelle President/CEO

Last Second Media Inc


The ultimate Star Wars pet

This video is great.


John Harlow, President BravePoint



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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Returning from San Diego. I no longer work in the car on the road...







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Friday,  July 2, 2010

A selection of pieces on the offside rule in soccer.

I was a football (soccer) referee for thirty years. From the laws of the game:

Offside position

It is not an offence in itself to be in an offside position. A player is in an offside position if: he is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent

A player is not in an offside position if: he is in his own half of the field of play or he is level with the second-last opponent or he is level with the last two opponents

Offence A player in an offside position is only penalised if, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play by: interfering with play or interfering with an opponent or gaining an advantage by being in that position

No offence There is no offside offence if a player receives the ball directly from: a goal kick a throw-in a corner kick

Infringements and sanctions In the event of an offside offence, the referee awards an indirect free kick to the opposing team to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred (see Law 13 – Position of free kick).

This law means that no one could park themselves in the opponent's goal or in front of the opponent's goalkeeper and gain an advantage from that. The team on the attack could effectively force the other team back to their half line. On the other hand, a fast player could always break loose. When I was refereeing, there were teams with set-piece plays to do that--making life for the leading lineman interesting if he was a little slow. He was expected to signal off-sides based on his assessment of the situation, and the centre ref then made the call.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD "Old age and treachery will beat youth and enthusiasm."


Per <http://ezinearticles.com/?Soccer-Rules---Offside&id=450157>

The purpose of the Offside Rule is the same in Soccer as it is in hockey -- to prevent "cherry-picking" by a player who camps in front of the other team's goal. Without the Offside Rule, Soccer would be a large field game of ping pong, filled with long kicks and alternating mad scrambles from one end of the field to the other. By preventing any "offside" player from participating in the game, the rule puts a premium on dribbling and passing, rather than long kicks. This promotes teamwork, which, in turn, encourages quick switching from one side of the field to the other, and compresses the action to a smaller area of the field -- usually about 30 or 40 yards long. The end result is that all the players stay closer to the action, and everyone has a better chance of participating in the game.

It looks to me like the rule turns the game into a more deliberate and strategic one than it would otherwise be.

As I read the further explanation of the offside rule, your example of the offensive player suddenly becoming offside when the defender moves to put him in that position does not actually put the offensive player in violation of the rule, so long as he does not use his offside position to gain an advantage. From this perspective, what the defender has done is temporarily removed the offensive player from the play, as if he had been physically blocked. This means that the offensive player has to be alert enough to avoid getting into a potentially offside position, which he can always do by remaining even with the ball. Sounds like everybody has to stay mentally on the ball, so to speak.

I'm not a soccer fan, although I endured five kids worth of soccerdadding. The subtle aspects of the game don't come into play at that level, so I never learned them. My guess is that you have to have played the game to really appreciate it.


Subject: On socceer and offside

Dr Pournelle

My credentials: I have watched this sport avidly for more than 40 years; I played for clubs and my college team; I coached select teams in the over 16 division and my Air Force unit team and the base team; I refereed professionally up to and including the pros. I no longer run center or the touch line. My legs are gone. But I still love the sport. I have no doubt that there are among your readers those with better and more current credentials than mine.

Your statement "It is not clear to me why if I have the ball and am about to pass to a player who has run downfield, I am suddenly offside if someone on the other team runs away from his goal, leaving the prospective pass receiver a clear shot. " is an incorrect conception of the offside law. (Other sports have rules. Soccer has laws.) You are not offside. As you stated it, neither is the 'player who has run downfield'; he may be offside when you make the pass. But I do not think that is the issue.

You are an intelligent man. If the sport captured your imagination, you would make the effort to comprehend the game situations covered by the offside law. It doesn't, and you don't. I do not fault you for this. You have your preference.

Me? I hate basketball. I have no interest in a sport that requires a hand calculator to tally the score. To me, it appears to be an interminable and boring series of set pieces.

But if we all like the same thing, Baskin-Robbins would sell only one flavor.

Live long and prosper h lynn keith

After all the discussions I am still uncertain, but it seems to me that the offside rule has some similarities to the passing rules in football: you cannot pass the ball to someone forward of your position after you have crossed the line of scrimmage. Even so, the position of the opposing players doesn't affect what you can do.

Eventually I came to the conclusion that the purpose of the Offside Rule is similar to reasoning that brought about the adoption of the three second rule in basketball; without it, tall centers tended to dominate the game. There is still debate about the wisdom of the rule, and the size of the restricted area, which has been changed a couple of times. Fans of big centers have one view, fans of long shots have another... I also came to the conclusion that not only do I not know enough about the game of soccer to have any right to an opinion about the rules, but also that I know more than I need to know already. I only became interested in the offside rule when a ruling (clearly shown to be wrong in the replay recordings) changed the course of one of the games, and my first impression was that the rule itself was irrational. Clearly it's not irrational, but it gives great power to the officials, particularly if the ruling is not subject to review. And enough.


Sympathy for the Turkish devil, 


Spengler calls this piece "Sympathy for the Turkish devil:"


Here's his thesis: "It was not the European Community, but rather the George W Bush administration, that pulled the rug out from under Turkey's secularists and built up Erdogan as a paragon of "moderate Islam". America's feckless nation-building policy in Iraq helped Turkey over the edge into Islamism."

Provocative, yes? Then he backs it up, and arrives here: "After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the George W Bush administration saw no reason to back the Turkish generals who had let them down in Iraq, and instead threw their backing to the Islamists, on the theory that Erdogan represented a sort of "moderate Islam" that would provide an example to other prospective democratic Muslim regimes. When Erdogan won parliamentary elections in 2003, Bush invited him to the White House before he took office, a gesture that persuaded most Turks that America had jettisoned its erstwhile secular allies . . ."

Finally, this: "With the United States in full strategic withdrawal, a Thirty Years War in western and central Asia seems all the more likely."

Really choice, as usual, and explains some of your disquietude at the Turkish situation.


Those were interesting times. Apparently few in the administration understood that the Secularists in Turkey are not "moderate" Islamics, nor did they actually have much information about Erdogan. The system set up by Mustapha Kemal Ataturk was very nearly unique in political history, and it lasted longer than most would have predicted.

We have not seen the end of this, alas. The implications will continue for a long time. There is a large irredentist movement in Turkey. Turkey remains a NATO ally. The combination may lead to detestable consequences.


Nigerians angry at oil pollution double standards- CNN


CNN has a report on the web now that tries to blame someone, we wonder who, on maintaining a double standard with respect to oil pollution. It seems that Nigeria has a problem and feel that someone should do something about it, as the pollution has gone on longer than the current US Gulf Oil spill. Well the problem may be that the Nigerian government, if there is such an institution, ignores oil pollution in exchange for petrodollars. And the blame is the world's??? The fact that representative government is susceptible to bribery and corruption, does not mean that the world is responsible because we buy the oil. And Apple is under attack because they cannot identify the source of minerals used in their equipment, like tantalum used in capacitors. The media has gone mad; but that is nothing new.



Re: What we didn't know about Plato

You quoted the article from an article at the University of Manchester: "The decoded messages also open up a surprising way to unite science and religion. The awe and beauty we feel in nature, Plato says, shows that it is divine; discovering the scientific order of nature is getting closer to God. This could transform today’s culture wars between science and religion."

This approach is neither surprising nor new. The idea that we can come closer to God through the study of the natural world is a commonplace teaching in Jewish writings, especially beginning in the Middle Ages. Offhand, two major Jewish philosophers who discussed these ideas at length are Maimonides (12th century) and Bachya ibn Paquda (11th century). The concept is arguably of Biblical origin (Job 12:7-9, Isaiah 40:26, among others). I don't know if this idea was recognized in the non-Jewish world (I suspect it was), but certainly in the Jewish world the ultimate unity of science and religion is "old-hat".

All the best. A fan and loyal reader,

Eliezer Abrahamson



: Natural Rights vs. Contract

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

The constitution has some points of resemblance to a contract, certainly more than the fundamental laws of, say, Tsarist Russia, Tokugawa Japan, or Wahhabi SAudi Arabia, but is not an actual contract. Lysander Spooner pretty well demolished the claim that it is ("The Constitution of No Authority").

But even supposing the Constitution to be a contract to which we are parties, why ought we to abide by its terms. Is there a natural law anterior to any and all human institutions and ordinances, that men ought to keep to their contractual obligations?

Regards, Nicholas D. Rosen

Good government is a gift from God.

I do not find the abolitionist Spooner's arguments compelling. His contention that the Constitution outlawed slavery although it was drafted and adopted by slaveholders is interesting, but proves mostly that the Framers were not proud of slavery and contemplated its possible abolition by the states; and that they were quite circumspect in describing institutions that allowed slavery precisely because a significant number of the delegates were opposed to slavery and hoped for its eventual abolition. To say that he demolished the authority of the Constitution may express your admiration for his works, but it is not a conclusion widely accepted at the time or since.

As to why we ought to abide by the Constitution's terms: what means "ought?" Our modern philosophers would say that there is no meaning to "ought"; to say "You ought to do X" is the exact equivalent of shouting "X Hurrah!" The Constitution doesn't say such things; it does establish rules, and requires that both Federal and State officials swear allegiance to the Constitution. We expect those who swear allegiance to act accordingly. The document provides means for removing those who are not loyal to the Constitution from public office, and for forbidding them ever again to hold public office. Beyond that, what can we say?

There was a time when every Sunday citizens would hear something to the effect of "God spake these words and said" followed by the Ten Commandments. The notion of reverence, respect for others and their property, was "in the air" and would  be disputed by few other than cranks. Now we are told that the Commandments cannot appear in our courtrooms. We have been given nothing as a substitute. We do have a vague notion of virtue, but that too has many meanings.

Prudence, Temperance, Courage, and Justice are, in the Western tradition, the four virtues from which we can infer right action. The problem is that while we can mostly agree on the definitions of Prudence, Temperance, and Courage, Justice is another matter. What is justice, and why should we prize it?

In The Republic Plato tries to deal with the proposition that it is better to appear to be just, and thus gain the approval of those around you, while actually being unjust and a criminal. In other words, that it's OK to be a villain so long as you get away with it. This fundamental problem has never really been solved: how is there justice if there is no fountain of justice? In 1787 it had not quite been 100 years since 1688 and the "Glorious Revolution" in England that put a more or less final end to the English Civil War that had resulted in the execution of the King, the Commonwealth or Interregnum, the Restoration, the Monmouth Rebellion, and a great deal of discussion and reflection by political philosophers. The Framers put together what they hoped would endure: would gain enough allegiance to build a nation of states.

For a long time that worked. It may be coming apart now. When people begin to ask why they should obey the law, keep their word, and generally be "just and upright" your Republic is already in trouble.

If the Constitution is not a Contract, what is it? The Declaration said that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. It also enumerated rights and grievances. It was explicitly not incorporated into the Constitution although the 9th and 10th Amendments hinted that there might be "natural rights". The intent of the Constitution was not to be a declaration of the rights of man; it was an instrument of government. 


Nuking the Gulf Oil Leak

I'm not convinced this is optimum & looks like overkill & at "roughly an 80 to 90%" not quire certain enough.. However as various Russians are keen to point out it has been done before.


Greenpeace's response "I would recommend that the international community not listen to the Russia <http://www.reuters.com/places/russia> ns. Especially those of them that offer crazy ideas. Russians are keen on offering things, especially insane things." would seem racist if it wasn't Greenpeace's Russian Office offering this advice.

As a society we are backing off from "crazy ideas." Whether crazy or not it is crazier that such thoughts will not even get public discussion of the pros & cons prior to being rejected.

Neil Craig

I don't know enough about underground nuclear explosions to know what might happen, but it is not obvious to me that a large nuclear explosion at the wellhead would in fact seal it. The pressures are enormous, and the flow patterns are not easily predicted. Can the heat from the blast seal the area or will the pressures blast a spout through the bomb-created magma? I'd hate to write the Fortran model of those actions even assuming that I have the equations right. I doubt anyone I know is capable of predicting the outcome, and I have friends who have been in charge of nuclear tests.


Subj: CAD Follies: Why did AirBus botch the wiring design on its A380?

I remember reading about the botch, but only yesterday learned the "why":


>>The German and Spanish offices still used Dassault Systemes' CATIA 4, while the French and British offices had upgraded to CATIA 5.<<

And it all went downhill from there.


Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com




- Roland Dobbins


A new age for jurors,


OK, the headline says this: N.J. suitcase killer Melanie McGuire seeks new trial saying juror blogged about case. Interesting little story of how New Jersey wives deal with their husbands when they tire of them. But the story is more important than that.


" . . . her attorneys are now asking for a new trial, based on their contention one of the jurors may have posted comments about the high-profile case on an online blog - perhaps even from inside the jury room, using a cell phone." <snip>

"Cell phones and other wireless devices are allowed inside jury rooms in New Jersey and most other states, although jurors are not permitted to use them. They are not supposed to seek information about the case outside the courtroom because it could be prejudicial, and must consider only facts allowed as evidence.

"Yet thanks to a multitude of gadgets, a quick trip to the bathroom now provides opportunity for jurors to look up a legal term online or view a particular intersection using Google Maps. Because someone could just as easily break the rules at home, most judges say confiscating phones causes too many logistical problems and undue hardship on jurors." <snip>

"For a lot of people, this is how we live. They don't thoroughly understand what's wrong with this in the context of the judicial system, because this is what they use to get information in every other aspect of life."

And in Arkansas, a building products company asked an appeals court to overturn a $12.6 million judgment, claiming a juror had posted biased updates on Twitter during the trial. One read, "just gave away TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS of somebody else's money."

Defense attorneys for former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, convicted on federal bribery charges, unsuccessfully argued last year for a new trial because they said jurors had been emailing each other as evidence was presented in court. This could not be proven, and a request for records from an Internet service provider was ruled too intrusive.

In response to such problems, many federal judges recently updated their jury instructions. Suggested directions released to all federal judges earlier this year forbid jurors to discuss the case by a long list of methods, including Blackberrys, iPhones, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.

"At some point, it's going to sound silly, because there's going to be so much social media out there and you can't list all of them," said Charles Dewey Cole Jr., an adjunct professor at Seton Hall Law School.

No matter how much new technology becomes available, he said, "you have to trust the people on the jury."

"I don't think that's so bad, because you're trusting them with a lot of other things, too," he added. "You're trusting them to make the right decision on the case."

Long ago jurors were expected to know all about a case before it started. Now they are expected to know nothing except what they are told. It may be that this latter model is now being rejected.


At the moment a jury consists largely of people who do not want to avoid jury duty. Whether that makes for justice is hard to determine. In DC it is almost impossible to obtain convictions on drug charges; hung juries are common and many acquittals are contradictory to the evidence.

The subject deserves a lengthy discussion I don't have time for, but the future of juries and justice is an important subject.




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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Intelligence: China Tries To Plug The Big Leak, buffy willow


Boy, does this sound familiar. "Alarmed at the amount of military information being innocently leaked by their soldiers on the Internet," military authorities have "banned all uniformed personnel from operating blogs, personal web sites or using social networking sites. They are also barred from Internet Cafes:"


This time it's not US military authorities, it's the Chinese. "Commanders have become increasingly alarmed at the amount of military information that was casually being distributed by troops via the web. This may have first become an issue when intelligence officers, pleased with how much military information they are able to collect foreign soldiers activity on the web, realized that it works both ways. Turning their intel collecting tools on Chinese language sites quickly detected a lot of info that was supposed to be secret.

The new rules went into effect on June 15th, and very unpopular. The Internet is very popular in China, which has over 400 million users (the most of any country)."

Heh. As usual, a lot to think about.


See what free men can do...


Re: A new age for jurors,

There is a long tradition, especially in America, of the "activist" jury. The main reason we have a right to trial by jury in our Bill of Rights is that a few high-profile cases, such as the trial of William Penn, showed the value of having juries be able to draw the line against laws which are unreasonable or are used in cases where applying them is unreasonable. A jury has the right, in every sense, to tell the judge and the state, "We find the defendant not guilty" even if it's for reasons the judge doesn't approve.

In modern times, as the law has expanded far beyond where it has any business going, juries are increasingly unwilling to convict people for things like drug "crimes", and judges increasingly try to perform end runs around juries' authority by concealing major material facts, such as the fact that someone accused of growing marijuana was using it as a medical patient, from juries.

So if I'm ever on one of those juries, I'm going to go out of my way to try to learn and use that sort of information. It's my duty, especially if the judge says I can't.

John David Galt

 Sacramento, CA

There is a long tradition of jury nullification in the history of English courts. It began with the Norman/Saxon conflicts. You cannot have justice if one group will automatically find not guilty when one of its members is involved, and that is beginning to happen in the US. Consequently prosecutors are relying on jurors never finding out about the possibility of jury nullification in cases where it might be appropriate, while some cultural groups make certain everyone in their group knows about it.

The results are interesting but not always what we might call justice.


Public spending and Greece

You wrote: "What the Democrats are after is value added tax as in Europe, so that the government disposes of a larger and larger percentage of national income. That seems to have worked well in Greece..."

The problem of Greece, is having a public sector which uses a medium (from a European perspective) percentage of the national income, but not having anybody paying tax. The Greeks want public programs, the public employees want a job and good salary and pensions, but nobody wants to pay taxes or otherwise pay for it. Bound to fail. The Iceland, Ireland and Spain's troubles are very different, as their problems are not from public spending, put private bubble spending. Italy and Portugal could resemble Greece, in due time. It is worth noting that Greece, Italy and Spain also has the most rapidly aging populations in Western Europe. Who is going to pay back all that debt? We Danes are so happy not to be in the Euro, and that our major trading partners are not in southern Europe.


Bo Andersen, Denmark

The problem of Greece is universal: if you allow people to build themselves benefits using other people's money, they will be pleased to do so, including 14 months pay for 11 months work and 90% pensions. SO long as some0ne else will pay why should you not 'fight' for your 'rights'. But then German burghers begin to grumble that they don't get 14 months pay for 11 months work so why should they pay for someone else to have those benefits.  And the beat goes on.

You grow the wheat. You other guys grind it. You, baker, make bread. Me, I'll eat it. And after a while that's a right, isn't it?


As for instance

"What is happening here is almost dictatorial."


---- Roland Dobbins


Subject: "iatrogenic" deaths

As an engineer, I subscribe to the KISS (keep it simple stupid) principal. So when I see people with 5 different doctors, who are getting about 3 different prescriptions from each one, it is natural for me to expect there to be a disaster.

On the other hand, I expect that reducing the number of prescriptions Americans are on, is likely to yield a big reduction in "iatrogenic" deaths. And that means taking people off prescriptions of marginal or questionable benefit.

Are people on a lot of prescriptions that aren't helping them?

Beatrice Golomb has spent a few years researching the subject, and she has some very interesting things to say about medical journals and big pharma:


Apparently, climate journals are not the only scientific journals that are likely to be compromised.

Cynthia Allingham 

When iatrogenic death is high on the list of causes of deat -- higher than traffic accidents -- it has become serious, and worth examining. How severe the risks are depends on where you are.

In Los Angeles, policemen pledged to use deadly force if needed to prevent anyone from taking a partner to Martin Luther King hospital, even if the policeman was wounded in the lobby of that hospital... Eventually MLK was closed. Fortunately not all are that bad,  but several respectable hospitals have known staph problems.


"It wasn't a threat, but these folks are from Chicago."


-- Roland Dobbins


Uncle Sam’s Amazing Warship of the Sky.


- Roland Dobbins

I loved those old airships...


USS Pampanito (SS-383)...


Drag your cursor on the picture to scroll around the area.

Charles Brumbelow


Horse Boy strikes again.


His first known appearance:


--- Roland Dobbins

The city that stands 'tween the dawn and the deep







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Sunday,  July 4, 2010     

And now a word from our founders...

Dr. P,

I found this fascinating. Old Tommy could be pretty bold with a pen.

Jefferson changed 'subjects' to 'citizens' in Declaration of Independence

By Marc Kaufman


That's what Thomas Jefferson first wrote in an early draft of the Declaration of Independence to describe the people of the 13 colonies.

But in a moment when history took a sharp turn, Jefferson sought quite methodically to expunge the word, to wipe it out of existence and write over it. Many words were crossed out and replaced in the draft, but only one was obliterated.

Over the smudge, Jefferson then wrote the word "citizens."

No longer subjects to the crown, the colonists became something different: a people whose allegiance was to one another, not to a faraway monarch.

Scholars of the revolution have long speculated about the "citizens" smear -- wondering whether the erased word was "patriots" or "residents" -- but now the Library of Congress has determined that the change was far more dramatic…



Bill Clardy


Science and Religion

Eliezer Abrahamson asks whether "this idea was recognized in the non-Jewish world (I suspect it was)."

For a short time, the faylasuf in Islam pursued knowledge of the natural world, but with al-Ghazali and "The Destruction of Philosophy," they turned their back on secondary causation. Maimonides wrote that the muslim 'tude was that God was the direct instrumental cause of everything. In the act of writing, God moved the hand and God moved the pen, and it is only the 'habit' of God that these events occur together! Ibn Rushd (known in the West as Averröes) also attacked this idea in "The Destruction of the Destruction," but he was stripped of all offices and forced to flee al-Andalus.

The Christians, too, picked up on the idea in Genesis that the heavens were 'just another created thing' and not 'alive, divine, and influential in human affairs,' as the pagans had supposed. Adelard of Bath wrote: If we turn our back on the amazing rational beauty of the universe we live in, we should indeed deserve to be driven from it, like a guest unappreciative of the house into which he has been received. To whom we may add: William of Conches, Thierry of Chartres, Theodoric of Fribourg, Robert Grosseteste, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, Jean Buridan, Nicholas Oresme, and many others. Many of these were churchmen as well; two are accounted saints by the Western Church. Theodoric of Fribourg not only gave a correct description of the rainbow using an experiment with glass water-bowls, but he was a bishop as well. Ditto, Grosseteste and Oresme. Historian Edward Grant ascribes this in part to the medieval university (a key invention of theirs): the entire undergraduate curriculum was devoted to logic, reason, and natural philosophy. To matriculate in the graduate school of theology, one first had to master this material. Consequently, every medieval theologian had first been trained in science.

Mike Flynn

If you do not believe that nature is lawful, you will not look for the laws of nature...


Subj: TWIT: cognitive dissonance! 8-)

So I'm watching the video of Leo and the three of you guys talking about the iPad.

You've just shown them and told them about your paper notebooks.

And Leo's saying something like, "I wonder whether that kind of stuff [i.e. paper] will survive, since we've all ... at least temporarily ... gone to bits."

And as he's saying this, he's *staring*intently*at*and*leafing*through*a*3-ring*binder*!!

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Andy Grove: 'But what kind of a society are we going to have if it consists of highly paid people doing high-value-added work -- and masses of unemployed?'


- Roland Dobbins

We can hope that it's not too late.

The schools ought to be teaching useful skills, not trying to force algebra on everyone whether it's needed or not. It comes of the egalitarian notion that everyone is entitled to a world class university prep education. That proposition is wrone on two counts. First, there is not usually specified a source of the entitlement; and second, a university prep education is useless to about half (I would say to far fewer than half, but clearly less than half) of the population. This is not Lake Woebegon. All the children are not above average, and it is silly to pretend that they are. Half the children are below average, and if a university education is useful to those below average, it will be far less useful than it should be to the other half. This is so obvious that those who pretend not to understand it must have some motive other than reason for that pretence. (Inability to reason is sufficient, but in fact the below average generally do not make that argument; they know they aren't likely to profit from a university education, and what they want is training in useful skills -- which the schools could provide were we not so obsessed with egalitarianism.

The result is that no one (other than the children of the rich and those lucky enough to get scholarships to expensive private schools, and those fortunate to enough to be in the few public schools that really understand) gets a world class university prep education, and few get even a reasonable high school education; the schools fail; and the remedy to the failure is always the same, give the education people more money. That has worked every time in the past so I don't suppose that the strategy will change in future.

That it is clearly self serving nonsense is unimportant.

We can hope it's not too late. Hope springs eternal.


'Americans still speak of equality, a nation of laws, and unalienable rights, but today these are hollow words unmoored in anything permanent.'


- Roland Dobbins


border security.


the range on the military model is 700 meters. you could install about 10,000 of these on the southern border and secure it pretty much completely. You'd have to continue to monitor for tunnel and or people wearing aluminum armour.

If you extended the range to 7000 meters you could do it with a thousand. Economy of scale could reduce the cost so that the whole shebang including the truck to mount it on would cost maybe 50k. You'd need operators 24/7 so perhaps 6,000 people total. even at 70k a year salary - about 4.2 million a year, and perhaps 50 million initial cost for the equipment with another 10 million per year maintenance and replacements... Cheaper than the fence and probably a lot more effective.

place them 6000 meters behind the border and just sweep the signal back and forth in a arc aimed towards the border. anyone walking into the beam would turn around, pronto, and go back into Mexico. 6,000 meters is a long way to tunnel too.

bob leever

It would certainly be worth while adding some of these to the Border Patrol's armory.


The 1/R^2 problem

Hello Jerry,

In response to the article on the 95 GHz 'non lethal beam' weapon, it was suggested that it would be a neat idea to jack up the power of the thing so that it would have the same effect at 7 km as the present system does at 700 m.

Here another 'cold equation' raises its ugly head, the one that says that RF field strength is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the transmitter.

Now I don't know much about the actual hardware involved in the system (transmitter power, antenna gain, etc) but what I do know is this: to create a beam with the same effect at 7 km as the present beam does at 700 m, the beam will be 100 times as intense at 700 m as the beam from the current system. And 10, 000 times as intense at 70 m as the beam from the current system.

At any rate, I suspect that if the current beam affects human targets at 700 m as described in the article, you would want to be mighty careful where you pointed a beam capable of working targets at 7 km. At least if you were interested in keeping it classified as a 'non lethal' weapon.

Which brings up the question of what happens to someone who walks into the beam at 70 m (or less) while you are toasting someone at 700 m with the current system? Does he enjoy it 100x as much as the guy at 700 m just because he gets 100x (or more) the RF field strength experienced by the guy at 700 m or are there other more serious side effects?

Bob Ludwick

Yes, of course, I didn't pay any attention to the factor of ten range thing. I would still say that having a few of these things with a half mile ranger would be useful; but as you say, it's a matter of physics that you can't easily manage the range increase.



Here it is July 4 again and every orchestra and sound system in the country will be playing the 1812 Overture to symbolize freedom and liberty. Of course the piece is about the Russian despot defeating the French despot.

I guess they play it because it has cannons. Which they always replace with howitzers. It seems to me that a Sousa march with Sousa shooting off a pistol in the middle would be good enough. (I've heard the record.)

I guess I'm just grouchy because they moved the best fireworks on TV from July 3rd to July 2nd and I missed it.



Blackberry antenna

I just saw your twit show. Very nice.

I have a blackberry and I started playing with it to see if I could reduce bars with my hand which I can. I then discovered (google) that there is an easter egg that displays the signal strength in dBm. Real engineering units. The egg is hold ALT then press MNLL. I love it.



'The state's computer system can't handle the technological challenge of restating paychecks to the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.'


---- Roland Dobbins


New Satellite to Monitor Debris in Earth Orbit.


-- Roland Dobbins





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