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Mail 679 June 13 - 19, 2011
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June 13, 2011
Walter Russell Mead acknowledges the truth of Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy.
---- Roland Dobbins
I've learned there seem to be two kinds of people in this world: those who like to spend money and those who like to make money. If they're careful, the latter can become very rich off the former. (Trout Rader did an analysis of this in his 1971 Economics of Feudalism.) Some of this week's stories are about people who like to spend money. <http://tinyurl.com/5vzkay9> <http://tinyurl.com/5th5j2h> <http://tinyurl.com/68paoc9> <http://tinyurl.com/6jnmj32> <http://tinyurl.com/3ft7pa5> <http://tinyurl.com/3ncpxkr>
A metal theft story that ended up with the police threatening to arrest stranded rail passengers: <http://tinyurl.com/67ughoq> <http://tinyurl.com/6c2bs9q> <http://tinyurl.com/5w5e9k9> <http://tinyurl.com/6e3crq6> <http://tinyurl.com/6452ahz> <http://tinyurl.com/69mx3rr> <http://tinyurl.com/3tvzppr>
Local metal thieves: <http://tinyurl.com/68okv4y>
UK postgraduate study only about educating foreign students: <http://tinyurl.com/6gkx5sj>. (I'm already seeing this.) The problem is that a UK bachelor's degree is a three-year degree; a UK masters is just an additional year; and a UK PhD is then three years of research with no further coursework. Then they talk about using foreign academics and post-docs as five-year guest workers. <http://tinyurl.com/5vumstd> <http://tinyurl.com/5u9ftas>
Harry Erwin, PhD
"If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." (Catherine Aird)
And the police state continues to rise:
<.> The Federal Bureau of Investigation is giving significant new powers to its roughly 14,000 agents — allowing them more leeway to search databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention.
The FBI soon plans to issue a new edition of its
manual, called the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, according
to an official who has worked on the draft document and several others who
have been briefed on its contents. The new rules add to several measures
taken over the past decade to give agents more latitude as they search for
signs of criminal or terrorist activity. </>
I have nothing positive to contribute to this story.
-------- Most Respectfully,
Campaign to Cut Government Waste
Our troubles are over. The President has put the Vice President in charge of finding and eliminating government waste. There is no need for the Redundancy Department after all.
How times change:
"We now have four wars in the Middle East. Two have some Congressional approval. Two others do not."
I previously summarized the administration's current opinion as to whether the President was required to seek Congressional approval before starting or prosecuting a war (paraphrased a bit, but accurate in substance).
That is now.
Here is what Candidate Obama had to say on the subject in December, 2007, when the Bush the Hated, according to widespread contemporary reports, was still in the process of destroying the country and rendering the Constitution moot:
"Two have some Congressional approval. Two others do not."
Am I right in saying that the Marines and Navy only are involved in this 'War' it does not need Congressional approval?
Traditionally, up through World War II, the Navy belonged to the President, but the Army belonged to Congress: that is, if the President wanted to intervene somewhere he used the Navy and Marines; to use the Army needed Congressional approval (and usually an appropriation). The Democrats rammed through the War Powers Act to restrain Nixon, and over time the old tradition sort of died. But it wasn't a bad tradition...
I suppose, in this context, "WTF?" expands as "What The Frack?"...
>>...250 billion barrels of oil in Israel’s Shfela basin, comparable to Saudi Arabia’s entire reserves of 260 billion barrels of oil...<<
The Lord moves in mysterious ways His Wonders to perform...
June 14, 2011
“many schools no longer required learning the times and addition tables to 15 by 15”
Many it’s a slow decline. In the 60s, in my district, it to 12 X 12.
"Mad Science" means never stopping to ask "what's the worst thing that could happen?" -Schlock Mercenary
Actually, it's best to learn them to 20 by 20: that makes the principles more obvious. But the important thing is to know that 9 times 8 is 72, and all the other stuff, without having to stop and calculate; you just know it. That makes it more automatic to use arithmetic to solve problems, leading to numeracy. Numeracy and literacy are primary school skills, and if learned well, lead to reading with understanding, and calculating with confidence. Much of that has to be learned by rote: having learned primary skills by rote, you have time in class to approach other questions in a more intellectual way. It would be better to go higher, but 12 x 12 is probably good enough. Alas, I have seen many heard many learned educators say that it is cruel to make children learn anything by rote.
Subj: Do the Work!
I wish somebody had told me this when I was in high school!
Calculus & Economics
I haven't gone through these courses yet, but they look interesting. MIT offers (for free) what they consider a two semester sequence in calculus, although my wife, a math professor, seems to think most colleges would take longer. However, as you stated in Monday's posting, calculus is essential for engineering. And since most students haven't had much experience in calculus in high school, it might be useful for them to learn it without grade fear.
Multivariable Calculus -
I'm probably going to go through both of these courses during the next couple of years. My educational plans include beginning a Ph.D. program in January 2014. One of the required courses in the program is an economics course, which has a prerequisite an earlier economics course. I haven't taken economics since Spring 1991, so I thought I'd check out the MIT OpenCourseware site ( http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm ) for ways to brush up on my economics. On their site I found a two semester sequence in Public Economics ( http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/economics/14-471-public-economics-i-fall-2007/ & http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/economics/14-472-public-economics-ii-spring-2004/ ). Since the Ph.D. I'm looking at is in Public Affairs, these could be extremely useful courses. But among their prerequisites are the two calculus courses above.
My mathematics background is a bit sketchy. I took an Honors Calculus class in 1976 during one of my failed efforts at college. I then took Business Calculus in 1990, and Linear Algebra in 1991. (And, of course, statistics courses in the business school and in the MPA program.) However, with my wife's help I can probably bulldoze my way through the MIT courses so I can also go through and understand the economics courses.
I've always wished I knew more economics than the one year sequence required for a business major. Since I have family responsibilities, I was looking for distance learning alternatives, and have found very little out there. In addition, my local university (UCF) has stopped accepting students into their Economics graduate program. I don't know if I should be concerned that there appears to be little demand for economics, or happy that there's little demand for the voodoo science of economics.
On a side note, you don't have to be an engineer or scientist to understand calculus. My oldest daughter is starting college in the fall as a vocal performance major (with a possible minor in French). She is bringing to the college a variety of AP credits, including both Calculus A/B and Calculus B/C. It's a bit depressing to realize that she was the only student at her high school, with a graduating class of over 800 students, that even took Calculus B/C. If Obama wants to create a bunch of engineers, he's got his work cut out for him. (I wonder if he ever took calculus?)
Fredrik V Coulter
The important thing in Calculus is to do the exercises. And do the exercises. And do the exercises. It's far too easy to think "Well, I understand that, so I can skip all this boring exercise work." And if the goal is to pass an examination that may be correct. If the goal is to learn to use the stuff, to think mathematically, you have to do the exercises, and lots of them, until those boring problems become easy -- which they will if you actually do the work. But that takes time and effort and determination, all of which are in pretty short supply in this modern age.
As a non-traditional student (I nearly finished my enlisted military career before starting my advanced education), I heartily wished I had learned to do the exercises before I entered High School. As it was, it took me until I was well into my 30's.
I don't think you are exaggerating about importing engineering talent, but I do think that we've been doing it for a long time. As an engineer, several of my better bachelors and post-graduate study professors and advisers were emigres from Asia, the Middle Eastern, or from areas around the Mediterranean (and one of them is the individual who finally got "do the exercises" through my thick head) who hold U.S. graduate, post-graduate, and doctoral credentials. A good friend of Indian (Hind) extraction is a practicing engineer, son of another teaching engineer, both with doctorates.
Color me cynical, but the fellow who designed your desktop system power switch may not even be an engineer, but if he is, he probably is working as a U.S. military contractor.
Glad you made the trip safely!
"Perhaps I am overstating. Perhaps."
Or, more realistically, understating.
The reasons for forcing kids to 'get a college education' by credentializing every job from street sweeper to astronaut are to extort around $100k from every budding citizen and turn it over to the most radical, marxist/socialist/totalitarian/racist/sexist subset of our society, to give said radical etc. subset four more years (at least) to convert the budding citizen into a 'useful idiot', and to impress upon him the consequences of resisting conversion.
The courses are many; the ones not graded subjectively are few. The professors grading the subjective courses are overwhelmingly Marxist/sexist/racist. If the students are not, they had better be able to lie convincingly. Or else.
Why ObamaCare Is Losing in the Courts
Second paragraph says it all:
Only a "general police power"—the right to enact laws alleged to be in the public interest without regard to interstate commerce or some other federal legislative authority—can support the law's centerpiece, the "individual mandate" that all Americans purchase health insurance. The Constitution denies that power to the federal government, reserving it to the states alone.
If liberals really think it is such a good idea to have a general insurance mandate, then pass an amendment to the constitution. On the other hand, why not leave it to the states?
Of course we no longer know what the Constitution says or allows.
Harry Erwin, Letter From England, "police threatening to arrest stranded rail passengers" Chaos Manor Mail, Monday June 13, 2011
I am not precisely sure, but I believe this incident took place in "third-rail" territory, to the south of London. That means that there's a lot of unshielded electricity on the ground, at 600 or 750 volts. Climbing down to the track without being properly trained was an extremely foolish thing to do.
Andrew D. Todd
Government Jobs Are OK
Well, I said the only thing growing in this economy is government. It's nice to know the bureaucrats are safe in these tough times. Yes we can! Remember, Bush II tripled the size of the bureaucracy before Obama tripled it again. So, it was a bipartisan effort.
-------- Most Respectfully, Joshua Jordan, KSC Percussa Resurgo
If you want a picture of the US future, go find articles on India during the Permit Raj
The normal noises are being made, but I am paying more attention to these noises in 2011:
-------- Most Respectfully, Joshua Jordan, KSC
The trouble here is that all the scenarios are believable, from "the money was stolen" to "better to let you think it was stolen than tell you how it was actually spent."
...Pentagon officials determined that one giant C-130 Hercules cargo plane could carry $2.4 billion in shrink-wrapped bricks of $100 bills. They sent an initial full planeload of cash, followed by 20 other flights to Iraq by May 2004 in a $12-billion haul that U.S. officials believe to be the biggest international cash airlift of all time.
This month, the Pentagon and the Iraqi government are finally closing the books on the program that handled all those Benjamins. But despite years of audits and investigations, U.S. Defense officials still cannot say what happened to $6.6 billion in cash .... For the first time, federal auditors are suggesting that some or all of the cash may have been stolen, not just mislaid in an accounting error.
Well, it's just a few billion. Nothing to worry about...
A Turing Machine
Okay, admittedly this guy has way too much free time, but how cool is it to be such an Ueber-Techno-Geek that you build a Functioning Turing Machine out of a few spare parts you just happen to have lying about the lab?
June 15, 2011
All kinds of distractions. We'll catch up tomorrow.
June 16, 2011
We have a number of comments on the failure of education
No doubt this is being portrayed as the parents' fault. Because, as we all know, the most influential factor in a child's schooling is the parents, and parental involvement is the most important part of a child's education, unless you're talking about homeschooling in which case parents are incompetent fools who shouldn't be allowed to do ANYTHING regarding their child's education.
-- Mike T. Powers
Re: No Knowledge Of Government
Someone might reply "so what? All you need to know is that there's Three Branches, you vote for President every four years, and the Supreme Court can overrule the other two if it wants".
And I'd say that this kind of thinking is where we get the TSA looking down your underwear, the CPSC telling you that handmade toys are deadly poison, the FDA saying the same thing about unlicensed yogurt makers (and the EPA about light bulbs), HHS going after unlicensed rabbit sales...
It's all coming from the unelected regulatory bureaucracy; the people who are Just Part Of The Government. Congress could kick these people out if it wanted to, or repeal the laws that give them power; but as long as the voting public thinks that the only meaningful part of government sits in the Oval Office, nobody's ever going to try.
-- Mike T. Powers
When I was a lad we learned about such things as the Bill of Rights in 5th grade. Item by item. And why, as in writs of assistance, and what a writ was. But that was a long time ago and we were not so modern as now.
Why are foreign nations allowed to file legal briefs in US court concerning a state law?
There must be a good reason. I don't know what it is.
As best I can reconstruct what happened, someone hacked into my Facebook account around six AM Eastern Time today.
That person proceeded to post explicit pictures to my site, change my site details, and spam my friends with unsavory material.
I apologize for anything you received. Please understand it was not from me.
I have notified the FBI of this breach, and have passed on to them what information I have.
And I have blocked my Facebook account.
===== HOWEVER---IF YOU HAVE A FACEBOOK ACCOUNT, THIS CONCERNS YOU =======
Carefully consider ANY accounts you may have co-linkd through Facebook, and at least consider unlinking them from your Facebook account.
In spite of the fact that I notified Facebook as soon as I discovered my account had been hacked (when my daughter called me---I'm sick and did not plan to even turn on my computer today),
...and in spite of the fact that I REQUESTED THAT MY SITE BE BLOCKED UNTIL I COULD FIX IT...
I received a notice from Facebook that they were blocking my account because _I_ had posted explicit materials.
It is unlikely that I'll be able to reopen my Facebook account---according to people who have had similar things happen, they have absolutely no customer service and simply blame the victim when accounts are hacked.
I had a couple of co-linked services, and now cannot log into these, either.
And I cannot reach any of my Facebook-only contacts to let them know what happened, or even to give them an alternative means of contacting me.
This includes friends and family I don't often hear from.
Finally, I had to change all passwords to all my internet logins (several hundred) to new unique passwords to make sure that the hacker would not be able to use anything that he might have found in my account. I was not sure what was in my account, but I had paid for advertising through Facebook, and there was a chance my financial information had been compromised.
If you have any information on Facebook you value, make sure YOU have alternate means of contacting people you care about, and make sure you have another way besides your Facebook login to get into non-Facebook accounts.
This has been a painful, expensive, and time- consuming lesson for me.
I hope it won't be for you.
This is a major reason why I do not have a Facebook page. That may change with the big changes coming here -- see VIEW -- or it may not depending on what I find when I seriously look at Facebook security.
I am certain of one thing: nothing put on Facebook is private. Assume anything you put on Facebook is available as if it were a public web site. The real question is whether it can be protected from hacking.
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
For your enjoyment, I present this opinion piece in the Washington Post:
The author -- one Peter Moskos -- advocates bringing back the whipping post and offering it as a voluntary alternative to incarceration. Seriously.
I suspect RAH would be proud.
I am fairly certain that we will never return to the cat and physical injury, but I am not at all certain that some form of corporal punishment might not work. I long ago proposed that paddling with a ping pong paddle would be an appropriate punishment for many juvenile crimes, and a lot more effective than incarceration.
They use caning in Singapore, and are apparently happy with that.
T&A Exercise -- Tristate -- 5,000 miles
T&A is continuing to roll out into the streets. It's not just the high school groping, now they want to grope everyone. This story has links to other stories and documents.
-------- Most Respectfully,
I haven't time to chase down those stories but it does seem to be The Iron Law in operation. I would be astonished if TSA didn't try to expand its operations.
June 17, 2011
Congratulations on having the opportunity and capability to learn new and better ways of blogging. I do sympathize with your reasons for postponing major changes in your site, of course.
Back in 1994, when I was involved in computer support and training, I became frustrated by the number of people who moaned and groaned about the frequently changing work procedures required by software and hardware improvements.
One morning early in 1994 I woke up thinking "What joy to awake every morning in a world so filled with things to learn."
Not everyone shared my joy, but that thought became the motto of my "Always Learning" web site.
That site is retired now, but nothing posted to the
Internet ever goes away as you know. Thus, I can point you to the way things
I also posted some things others have said about learning:
Most of us react with some dread when there are new things to learn. My granddaughter reacted with dismay at the age of 2 years and 8 months when she said: "Granddaddy, there's so much to learn!"
I'm looking forward to seeing your new blog site and learning how to navigate it.
Best regards, --Harry M.
I still do some silly things so you don't have to.
Don't use Facebook, please!
Love Chaos Manor. Glad to see you will be updating your software, and hope that the changeover to WordPress won't be too frustrating! I do wish to ask that you do not use FaceBook, or at the very least, please make sure that anything placed on Facebook is also available to your regular website. I am not a fan of Facebook, and I do not have an account, nor do I plan on getting an account. I have read too many horror stories about privacy issues, and about how individuals were locked out of their own accounts by malicious individuals. Have a look at this Ars Technica article on how they were locked out of their own facebook page:
Keep up the great work!
If I do open a Facebook page to link to the WordPress stuff it will have nothing on it that is not on WordPress and be there only for convenience of people who live on Facebook. I have no experience with Facebook and don't really want any. It's a loud public conversation so far as I am concerned.
Web Hosting and Facebook
In re web hosting, Leo Laporte thinks highly of SquareSpace. I use WordPress for my own blog, but I've heard others say that it's too high-maintenance; SquareSpace would seem a good alternative.
In re Facebook, Holly Lisle's recent experience has cemented my determination not to go near FaceBook in any respect.
My advice, worth what you paid for it....
-- Tim of Angle
The people I rely on for this transition chose WordPress, and it appears to be Good Enough. We will see. It starts shortly.
Subj: Fox Sci/Tech Today
Maybe the SF writers ought to enter that contest. Generation ships?
Steve Chu asked "Why are foreign nations allowed to file legal briefs in US court concerning a state law?" Anyone at all involved in any lawsuit may file an amicus curiae brief. Doesn't mean it'll get read.
Response to Mr Powers
I would LOVE to hear Mr Powers elaborate on his assertion that homeschooling parents are "incompetent fools who shouldn't be allowed to ANYTHING regarding their child's education".
Personally I have found this not to be the case. Most fools, I mean parents, I know who home school (being one of them myself, I know quite a few) tend to do so specifically because of a lack of confidence in the school system. We just see a lack of better options.
Now, maybe our choices aren't perfect. Maybe we aren't qualified to teach our own children, but the schools seem to even less so. How does trying to do it ourselves make us fools? I would ask that he give very specific reasons.
== I replied Perhaps he should have made it clearer that he was speaking ironically? ==
Apologies. Perhaps having been brow-beaten about it so often has made me too sensitive about the subject. You'd be amazed how much of that you get when you tell people you are home-schooling.
Re: “Doing the exercises. And doing the exercises. And doing the exercises…”
See <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/16/education/16homework.html> . In the Missing the Point department, this quote: “There is simply no proof that most homework as we know it improves school performance.”
Hey, if the kid can pass the standardized tests for this year, who cares if he’s absorbed the material well enough to actually *use* the skill?
—Joel Salomon [emphasis added]
Calculus is rarely of any use until you have spent several months DOING THE EXERCISES until it becomes a skill.
Sad to say, to 'multiply' 15x15 in my head, I had to add 10x15 and 5x15, but at least I was able to do that; It's amazing how much we rely on devices for an alternate to thinking - in many aspects of life; I was recently looking at ipad / ipad alternates and so many of the so called reviews I found were poorly cobbled bits of promotional material; having spent 25+ years dealing with various publications, I'm disappointed with the quality of the material and how thinly veiled [ at best ] the relationship between advertisers and media.
Subject: Snow in Yellowstone, 16-17 June 2011
I used to teach my Boy Scouts before we undertook 75 miles in the High Sierra, "There is no month or week in which it cannot snow in the Sierra. Be prepared for anything including whiteout blizzards. Even in August."
: Repent, the Maunder Minimum is Neigh !
Before discarding your Oakley shades and declaring victory in the sunspot wars, take a look at this:
-- Russell Seitz
Well, we will see. I still look at the charts and see accuracies of 0.1 degree, but I have yet to have an explanation of how one gets Earth temperature to 0.1 degree for now, much less for 1800.
'I guess if your job depends on the existence of climate refugees, and you couldn’t actually find any, then there would be an urgent need to ignore that reality, but I digress . . . '
--- Roland Dobbins
Salamander_ as a Kindle
Acting on your advice, I had my agent put my second novel, _Salamander_, up as a Kindle on Amazon. I don't have sales figures yet, since they are presumably going to her, but I've been following its ranking, and the pattern is interesting.
It started at something well above 100,000, as one would expect. I then put up a blog post on my self-publishing activities, including it, and its rating went to something like 30,000, then drifted gradually back up. My elder son Patri put up a mention of the book on his blog, and the rating went back down to (I think) the 20-30,000 rank, then drifted back up. There was a third such drop, cause unknown; my younger son thinks it might have been due to his putting a page about _Salamander_ on the site TV Tropes, which is a major source of his literary education--he knows quite a lot about a lot of books he hasn't read ("TV" was only its original subject, it now covers lots of things). I noticed a fourth drop, to just below 20,000, yesterday, and it is again drifting up.
I have four reviews so far, all of them five star, the most recent one quite perceptive, which is encouraging--the reviewer picked up on a somewhat subtle point.
All of which interests me both as an aspiring author and as someone curious about how the new technologies are influencing the publishing business. My current estimate of my blog readership, after putting up a post asking for information on the subject and getting some, is about 4000. I figure that's probably at least as many readers as I used to get when I published an article in _Liberty_, then the smaller of the two libertarian magazines (_Reason_ being the larger). I'm not sure it it is large enough to matter for marketing self-published books or not.
My other self-publishing project so far is a medieval and renaissance cookbook done with my wife via CreateSpace, a paperback 8x10 of about 160 pages selling for $9.
It's also available as a free pdf on the medieval part of my web page:
I don't know if you have any experience with CreateSpace, but it's very easy and inexpensive. The only hard part was multiple rounds of proofing, as we kept finding new minor errors in drafts we had already proofed.
- David Friedman
Good luck with all of that. My friends and advisors have done a marvelous job of getting many of my works into Kindle shape, and shortly there ought to be several of them. It's a new world out there. Of course there are sharks in those waters.
I know nothing of CreateSpace; from everything I know, 90%+ of eBook sales are through Kindle or Kindle Apps.
Just bloody-minded greed on the part of Apple.
-- Roland Dobbins
And not the worst threat
Jerry: Spam books? Stealing attribution/royalties!
Amazon Kindle spam.
-- Roland Dobbins
Argh. That's scary.
Just for background, feature dancers are those who do gigs visiting various establishments catering to entertaining men. I'm reliably informed that the most solid of these places do well enough not to require such things, but less well established or successful places use visiting acts to boost attendance, and I'd suspect the woman in question did a movie so she could use that on her resume to get more gigs dancing. I have known women who did movies and dancing as a sideline with other jobs such as real estate to actually pay bills. I also get the impression that the adult entertainment industry is at least as leftist as Hollywood, possibly because of decades of successful propoganda designed to show that conservatives are all evil puritans who want to prevent anyone anywhere from doing anything fun.
Whereas liberals are people who are concerned that someone, somewhere, is doing something without permission.
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IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature. In general, put the name you want at the end of the letter: if you put no address there none will be posted, but I do want some kind of name, or explicitly to say (name withheld).
Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name and address you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name and address (or no address) as you want them posted. Also, repeat the subject as the first line of the mail. That also saves me time.
I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too... I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail.
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