Standards II (revisited)

OK, the last post about standards drifted way off topic, or so it seemed to some. I tried to get a screen grab of an interview with the owner as seen on FOX News. Since I could not get a direct link to the clip, I grabbed it and reduced it in size to post. Unfortunately the video clip is still too large, even after I reduced the resolution by 50%, so here is the audio from the clip. The video just included stock footage that many have seen before. The point is that he took the effort to exceed standards, deeper pilings, special windows and accepting the fact that the first floor would be swept away.


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No bear yet…

Boy am I eating crow….

From Oct 16, first at 1245 AM, second at 331 AM and finally at 808 AM.

I’m not sure how big the rack on the buck was, maybe a 7-pointer.

My wife is gloating over my invisible bear…

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The Heart of a Teacher

Dave Ramsey often encourages people to look for an investment advisor with the heart of a teacher. I’m learning more about what that means.

Some people are in the position of training a new person, on the job, for example. But they don’t enjoy it. They hope the person will learn the new skills as quickly as possible, and go away and not ask for any more training. They want the new person to do their job, and do it well, so that the reluctant trainer won’t get in trouble with their supervisor.

A person with a teacher’s heart loves the learning process. They like the challenge of finding new ways of explaining the lesson. They demonstrate the skill once, then ask them to do it while they shadow them. They are willing to repeat the lesson until the person gets it.

A teacher has a patient heart, and enjoys the teaching process–and the learning process. Teachers, whether by vocation or avocation, are usually lifelong learners, and often enjoy reading and traveling for that reason.

A person can have a teacher’s heart no matter their profession. I believe both my parents were teachers, though they earned their bread in other ways.


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TOTD 2018-09-27: The New 95

Peter Thiel created the 1517 Fund, named after the year when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg (this story may be apocryphal, but the theses were printed and widely distributed in 1517 and 1518).  Thiel’s fund invests in ventures created by young entrepreneurs, most beneficiaries of Thiel Fellowships, who eschew or drop out of the higher education fraud to do something with their lives before their creativity is abraded away by the engine of conformity and mediocrity that present-day academia has become.

The goal of these ventures is to render impotent and obsolete the dysfunctional scam of higher education.  There is no richer target to be disrupted by technology and honesty than the bloated academia-corporate-government credential shakedown racket that has turned what could have been a productive generation into indentured debt slaves, paying off worthless degrees.

On the (approximate) 500th anniversary of Luther’s 95 Theses, the 1517 Fund published “The New 95”: blows against the fraudulent academic empire.  Here are a few choice excerpts.

15. Harvard could admit ten times as many students, but it doesn’t. It could open ten more campuses in different regions, but it doesn’t. Elite schools are afraid of diluting brand equity. They’re not in the education business. They’re in the luxury watch business.

19. In 1987, the year Stephen Trachtenberg became president of George Washington University, students paid $27,000 (in 2017 dollars) in tuition, room, and board. When he retired twenty years later, they paid more than double — close to $60,000. Trachtenberg made GW the most expensive school in the nation without improving education at all. The degree “serves as a trophy, a symbol,” he said. “I’m not embarrassed by what we did.” There are buildings on campus named after this guy.

28. The problem in schooling is not that we have invested too little, but that we get so little for so much.

36. There’s no iron law of economics that says tuition should go up — and only up — year after year. By many measures, universities are the same or worse at teaching students as they were in the early 1980s. But now, students are paying four times as much as they did then. Imagine paying more every year for tickets on an airline whose planes flew slower and crashed more frequently, but that spent its revenue on one hell of a nice terminal and lounge instead. Would you put that sticker on your car’s back window?

48. The people who give exams or evaluate essays and the people who teach should not be one and the same. Creating the best content for people to learn and creating a system to certify that people have achieved some level of mastery are two different problems. By fusing them into one, universities curtail freedom of thought and spark grade inflation. Critical thinking is currently mistaken for finding out what the professor wants to hear and saying it.

57. Professors should be better than snowmen. Snowstorms cancelling class tend to bring more joy to students than learning new ideas. What a strange service! Higher education, root canals, rectal exams, and schooling are the only services that consumers rejoice in having cancelled.

78. Every academic and scientific journal should be open and free to the public. It is much easier to check results for reproducibility with a billion eyes.

84. Too much of school is about proving that you can show up every day on time, work, and get along with the people around you.

Read the whole thing.

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No Republicans Need Apply

This is article is stating what we already know. It takes in the political affiliations of 51 of the top 66 schools in US News top ranked institutions.

Democrats dominate most fields. In religion, Langbert’s survey found that the ratio of Democrats to Republicans is 70 to 1. In music, it is 33 to 1. In biology, it is 21 to 1. In philosophy, history and psychology, it is 17 to 1. In political science, it is 8 to 1.

The gap is narrower in science and engineering. In physics, economics and mathematics, the ratio is about 6 to 1. In chemistry, it is 5 to 1, and in engineering, it is just 1.6 to 1. Still, Lambert found no field in which Republicans are more numerous than Democrats.

These are institutions that are subsidized by government dollars. If that tax money is going disproportionately to one political party, isn’t that in effect a campaign donation?

This bad but if there is an education bubble and universities go under, it will be nice to know most Republicans are safe.

I hate to mention this but Blumroch was right about engineers being decided less liberal. Hopefully he will not read this.

Could a reason the GOPe who graduate from elite universities be so Prog-Right their good grades at Lib U?


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Stupid Is As Stupid Does

I had the dubious pleasure of spending a few hours at an office of California’s Department of Motor Vehicles to renew my driving license. Normally, I’d renew by mail but since California’s standard license does not meet the RealID requirements (dating from 2005) of Los Federales, it was necessary to appear in person. There’s a decision tree to help folks determine which documents they need to bring to obtain a RealID. While I was waiting for service, more than one person was heard to lament that his RealID application was rejected for failing to have the correct combination of documents. This put me in mind of Linda Gottfredson’s discussion of the challenges people face in daily life (from which the illustration is cribbed) and its relation to cognitive ability. She focuses on error rates relating to healthcare.

It turns out people are Stupider Than You Realize:

For example, in 1992 out of a random sample of US adults, 7% could not … find the expiration date on a driver’s license.

A more recent article expands on this using PISA (OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment) questions, which tests students at age 15. There are six levels of questions of increasing difficulty. Though only math questions are plotted, there are also problem-solving and financial literacy questions. You can try sample questions at the PISA site.

It’s not surprising that many people cannot handle everyday tasks such as assembling the correct set of documentation to obtain a RealID or to take proper care of their medical conditions. Imagine how much worse the situation is among populations with lower IQs, as illustrated in the table, selected portions of which are graphed below. The results are similar for the other question categories. One could argue that 15-year-olds still have time to learn more and catch up. This applies more to math questions than to problem-solving skills but the gaps might close somewhat. Nevertheless, the adults who can’t find an expiration date on a license or figure out how to take their medications aren’t going to be getting any smarter.

percentage of correct answers for each question level

There are implications of these data beyond filling out government forms and taking care of one’s health. Many tasks require a level problem-solving skill that sets a threshold for competence. The proportion of individuals capable of higher-level tasks falls to a negligible value for higher-level tasks. This is a property of the tail of any non-fat-tailed distribution function, which cognitive ability appears to be. The gap at for the higher-level questions is best illustrated by plotting the same data logarithmically. The gaps are at most factors of two or three for easy question, factors of 10 or more for hard ones. For Qatar and Colombia, the percent correct for harder questions cannot be plotted on this graph because they are indistinguishable from zero.

logarithmic plot of the data

In short, life is an IQ test.

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Modern Educayshun

For my last public *post* (do not yet rejoice : I’m not gone yet, I’ll comment and [dis]like too), I was thinking of a few quotes by one of the best kept secrets of clever intellectual reaction, Nicolas Gomez Davila, Reactionary Extraordinaire (I had the title : QILWOWPN, for Quotes I Like While Others Will Probably Not). But I realized this would probably not have been a great success, even with a recommendation from Ernst Jünger and Jean Raspail. For the principle, and in order to honor the idea, here’s a good site about him (and it’s in decent English, too !) :

https://don-colacho.blogspot.com/

Then, I had another idea and I did my homework using the “Advanced Search” feature : as I found no reference to the clip I had thought of, I may hope the thing is not already widely known to Ratizen. I’ll add the thing seems less and less entertaining with time, even considering the fact its director is *not* exactly on our side — which is weird. Enjoy (I hope) ! 😉


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Shameless Blog Self-promotion

Last month, Ray and I took a two-week cruise to Hawaii, round trip from San Francisco, with Hillsdale College.  Over at my personal blog, RushBabe49.com, I am documenting that trip with  pictures and commentary, in 1-2 day bites.  You are all invited to drop by and read my posts.  The latest describes our day in Lahaina, Maui (day 9 of the 15-day cruise).  Scroll down for earlier posts, starting with Day One when we left San Francisco.  Sea days were spent in lectures given by some people you are sure to be familiar with.  Each post starts with the image below.  Please visit and comment!


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Book Review “The Autodesk File”

A comment John made (#18) on a recent post by 10 cents (“Programming Question”), reminded me I had reviewed one of John’s books. The review was posted a while back on the legacy site. As this is one of the most worthwhile books I have ever read, I thought it should be posted it here.

A work of non-fiction is understood in a context. A great work actually articulates the context before anybody else gets it. A review of such a book may go seemingly far afield, if the book’s power can be construed to provoke and, indeed, license the inspired musings of its readers. Such is the case here, as “The Autodesk File”’s roots are deep in the intellectual, technological, economic, financial, and even spiritual soil of this, the spring garden of the information age.

When was the last time you couldn’t put down a book which had not a single murder, courtship, love or sex scene? OK, I’m not counting some ancillary trysts consisting of mergers and takeovers, which some might construe as sexy, or at least allude to being on the receiving end of a certain Anglo-Saxon gerund. This book contains no obscenities, save a rare mention of taurine spoor. That serves as a welcome reminder: important ideas and even emotions are amenable to description sans vulgarity.

Lest one think this a narrow commercial exposition, “The Autodesk File” is in the public domain in multiple formats. Neither is it a mere exposition of commerce. About half way through, amidst essays explaining the nature of businesses dealing in intellectual property (rather than capital-intensive equipment), the reader is treated to a short science fiction story whose theme is no less than a plausible tale of the origin of human life. Our bodily construction is, after all, prescribed in lines of code, albeit compressed into helixes wound around themselves then wrapped around histones. Like some of their software counterparts, they, too, must be unzipped before use.

Also punctuating this eclectic opus are quotes from Aristophanes. It is a tour de force, a truly awe-inspiring account of much more than the building and workings of one trailblazing company. It encapsulates the noblest of human aspirations, idealizations, creativity, ingenuity and critical self-examination; inescapable is the conclusion that voluntary cooperation and exchange of ideas, knowledge and capital is a great boon to the world at large. If a business is built to serve the needs of customers by creating products of the highest possible quality, greed is not a good; it is irrelevant. Also inescapable is the perhaps ironic conclusion that ongoing success requires continual vigilance, lest arrogance take hold. The fruition of critical self-examination can be seen in renewal of that same humility which was so essential in powering that first whiff of success.

Nonetheless, apart from arcane sections dealing with technical matters of computer hardware and programming (these, too, may be great for the cognoscenti; this writer simply knows too little), this book is a spellbinder. Readers may be surprised to be persuasively regaled with the fundamentals of various disciplines, including economics, finance, taxation, corporate law, engineering, computer science, thermodynamics, rocket science, quantum mechanics, cosmology and the nature of reality. That is, readers who don’t know John Walker. For those who do, none of this is surprising.

Have you ever had a million dollar idea? I have – lots of ‘em. Have I turned even one of those ideas into a product? Nope. Why not? Because I lacked the understanding, the talent, and the single-minded discipline to even get one idea off the ground. This book, edited by Ratburger’s own John Walker (himself author of most of the collected writings), is a chronicle of birth, growth, crises and maturation of Autodesk Inc., whose products helped unleash the creativity and productivity of millions of people. It did so beginning with a key insight: that the infant personal computer was a general tool and not a specific workstation. As a general tool, through the intelligent design of software, it would rapidly evolve in utility in virtually every field of endeavor, beginning with design. Design, in this line of thinking, is a logical first step down the path which aims, eventually, to capture all of reality in the box we call a computer. This stunning insight occurred while all the rest of us still went through our days typing on an IBM Selectric, without once even using the word “computer.” Way back then in 1980, virtually none of us thought about computers or any of the other words and things without which our lives today would be unimaginable. Historically speaking,1980 happened yesterday.

An additional insight guided Autodesk’s ethos: that personal computers would grow exponentially in processing power and become useful by ordinary people (with no computer or programming skills) to undertake virtually any task. Autodesk’s first product,  AutoCAD, moved design from a small number of dedicated, expensive CAD workstations operated by highly-trained people, to desks virtually everywhere where drawing might be needed. In the process of “squeezing too much code into too small a box,” Autodesk did not compete with previous generations of single-purpose CAD workstations which cost 10 – 50X as much. Instead, it created and increased a market for CAD by the same orders of magnitude, by bringing this tool to the 98% of designers and draftsmen who could not afford dedicated CAD workstations.

In less than one year, this new company had a hit product. Time to rest on one’s laurels? How about after the IPO? Time to coast? Not quite. Going into the CAD business – and that is the business, as opposed to the software business (read the book to learn why), is something like launching a rocket from Earth and hoping to land on a comet and send back data – all except that the precise trajectory of the comet cannot be known, and its surface material and contours are completely unknown. The difficulties were perhaps not unlike those encountered by the ESA’s $1.8 billion Rosetta/Philae spacecraft which did rendezvous and land on comet 67P. Philae’s tether harpoons failed to fire, so the probe bounced and wound up in a permanently-shaded spot (due to an unanticipated hard surface, they likely would not have worked anyway), preventing use of solar power. Batteries enabled an estimated 80% overall mission success. AutoCAD’s launch – with $59,000 in capital, mid-course hardware and software corrections and “landing” on users, by contrast, remains successful to this day.

“The Autodesk File” attributes success to the company’s understanding that it represented what it coined “The New Technological Corporation.” This is an an enterprise which does not conform to traditional capital-intensive business, as it can deploy intellectual, debt-free leverage. Such businesses embrace an unpredictable but essential element: “wild talent.” This talent is a necessary but not sufficient condition for success when it comes to creating software, which is unlike most all prior businesses. Rather than capital, such entities require a peculiar kind of talent – one which grasps the present desires of a market, knows what is possible with present hardware and the correctly plots the trajectories of both the market and evolving hardware. I believe it to be objectively true that the editor is faithfully and humbly describing the truly awe-inspiring talent he, himself, brought to Autodesk. Other such individuals, like Jobs or Gates, are known in the early computer and software businesses. Few, however, have operated as willing members of an extended team with humility, dedication to excellence and human decency. If nothing else, “The Autodesk File” shows how this can be accomplished. 

Attempts to find individuals with “wild talent” are most difficult, maybe impossible. “Wild talent” illustrates the essential difference between aggregate information, traditionally used by analysts to “value” companies which trade on public exchanges, and actual events which take place within any company. For instance, money spent on R&D is aggregate data which subsumes the activities of many employees of a given company. Whether it means the company will grow really depends on what individual employees accomplish. When it come to software, the outcome will be notably different for R&D teams which play it safe versus ones which continually push the envelope of what may be remotely possible. Intellectual leverage is such that the cost of failure of 8 out of 10 ideas is far outweighed by success in only 1 or 2 of them. The presence of such loyal individuals is also a bulwark against hostile takeovers. You can lead a programmer to the R&D department, but you can’t make him plink – at least not in the way which is essential to success.

Perhaps most revealing about this unusual book is the ongoing critical self-examination engaged in by the primary author. These analyses were distilled into the form of internal company communications as essays and information letters.  At many points in the journey, the author is able to adumbrate the – sometimes previously un-articulable – principles which guided his often momentous insights. These usually arose in chaotic circumstances with incomplete information. The essential humility of this approach is demonstrated at various points in the book. Repeatedly, the author makes clear the importance of open communication and understanding of the roles of all the other parts of the company. A programmer, for example, must understand management’s plan, what customers want, how a product will be marketed and shipped, what competitors are doing, etc. Only then can a “wild talent” be effective.

 “The Autodesk File” is a much-needed reminder that human beings are still capable of doing awe-inspiring, creative and even noble things; that they can voluntarily collaborate and, working in their own self-interest, set off endless waves of non-zero sum games in their wakes. This is also a success story, then, a chain of decisions, clearly rooted in the philosophy of Classical Liberalism – in some of its untidy and altogether messy human details. Without aiming to, this story affirms the primacy and value of the individual, both as producer and consumer; it convincingly shows that communication – positive and negative feedback – between individual, voluntary buyers and sellers – is the essence of what a market is. This is in contrast to statist dirigisme, where aggregate data and arrogance rule, in derogation of the value of the individual. 

Diametrically opposed to today’s received collectivist wisdom, “The Autodesk File” shows how individuals create markets where none previously existed, to the betterment of all. From those roots emerge timeless operating principles: 1. build the best products, period – with open architecture so as to invite developers to customize and find as yet undreamed uses (an essential form of feedback for software companies), thereby further expanding markets; 2. invite, quickly assess and respond to this feedback from customers in the form of improved new releases; 3. employ owners, not merely ‘investors’ – pay well for results – with ownership whenever possible. This is a story which demonstrates the huge difference between owners, whose time preference is long and investors focused only on the forecast for the next fiscal quarter. The tyranny of industry analysts, a form of economic lunacy where short time preference is brutally and pervasively enforced on behalf of “investors,” operates so as to threaten the short-term existence of sound public companies which actually attempt to pursue the best long-term business practices.

In a somewhat philosophic interview around the tenth anniversary of Autodesk, the author/editor describes the operation of a new “design cult” of engineering as a “form of creationism, which thinks its members are so omniscient that they have no need for market-driven evolution to perfect their efforts.” This view, coupled with the information letters, again displays an essential humility in the ethos of Autodesk. Management must lead toward explicit goals. Every part of the organization must understand and communicate with all others, particularly as it affects product development. This is not the typical hierarchical corporate ethos. Neither is it anarchy. Management must lead, but not without listening, understanding and explaining. 

It is difficult for this writer to refrain from drawing parallels to the author’s description of this “design cult” of engineering. Such an attitude is not surprising, given that we live in a society which increasingly and officially denies the existence of a supreme being, while at the same time acting – through a “cult” of increasingly centralized authoritarian government – as though it were omniscient and omnipotent; as though its policies have no unintended consequences; as though no cost is too high to accomplish its goals, whose only feedback is its own reverberating positive-feedback echo chamber. It is hard to know which cult is imitating which. In either case, the state-erected obstacles to starting and running a business, while not emphasized, are on display in this epic. This common ethos of the state and large corporations has inevitably given us today’s pernicious corporatism.

It may be that the most significant intellectual error of our time is the belief that society can be modeled and manipulated as well as physical reality now can be, thanks in large part to private companies like Autodesk. Unlike government, though, companies are forced to relearn their limits – i.e., lessons in humility are given, at least annually, and enforced as necessary by balance sheets and owners. The fear of going out of business would be a highly salutary fear for modern government to experience. Instead of a healthy humility, however, the state often displays antipathy toward private enterprise – ironically, the very source of its own financial power. The public relations nature of this attitude  likely represents either envy of private successes and/or virtue signaling in an effort to garner votes in the incessant lust for yet more power.

God is traditionally described as a jealous God. Do you suppose that our deity/government has its own version of the Ten Commandments, the first of which explains its animus toward private enterprise? “Thou shalt have no other Gods before Me…” …otherwise put, “Trust me. I’m from the government.” “I’m here to protect you from those big, bad, corporations.”

Thus, as you may see for this reader, the story of Autodesk led to much contemplation of human nature and the whole spectrum our interactions – both voluntary and coercive. It is an inspiring and epic tale of the utility and nobility of voluntary cooperation.

“The Autodesk File” is in the public domain. It is available in several downloadable versions. All formats are accessible here: http://www.fourmilab.ch/autofile/


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The End Of The World As We Know It And I Feel Fine…

All this talk of where we are headed, the clashes of the parties, the globalists and the populists, urban versus rural, deplorables against the social Justice warriors, reminds me that we are experiencing not an evolution, or a change but a tectonic perception shift of how our human universe works.

The BBC ran an excellent series called “The Day The Universe Changed quite long ago, which in a number of individual hours, with wit and incredible visuals coupled with story telling relayed how a series of events set in motion a completely new way of thinking about the things we believe to be true.

I do believe we are entering such a time, where the commonly accepted worldview of globalists, a belief in the institutions of media, higher education, and the guiding hand of an elite corps of wise ones who can guide global affairs in money, culture, peace, medicine, and welfare is burning like the Hindenburg at Lakehurst New Jersey. Oh the humanity.

Is it nostalgic for a nation to shut down the means of production in the age of robotics? When labor cost in the manufacture of goods is not the determining location factor? Does a nation concentrate and protect necessary skills for the future which include manipulation of physical objects as well as digital ones?

Can a constitutional republic exist in a world where only 10% of the citizenry is gainfully employed? I think not.

The global elitist worldview of sending manufacturing elsewhere, increasing the cost of higher education, high taxes, massive regulation, concentration of finance into a few large institutions, concentration of entertainment and news media to a handful of companies, opening borders to drive low skilled wages down, importing talent to drive high value wages down, engaging in wars without intent for victory, setting up permanent trade disadvantages for the USA has been rolling along since the 1970s. There was a brief break for the Reagan years where the Cold war was scrapped despite the efforts of the globalists to keep it going.

That era formed the thinking of several generations of people in influential circles.

Then a man from Queens comes down an escalator and the Universe Changed.

Despite the best efforts of the old guard, the new Universe is on display and people will not go back to the old mode of thinking.

The early adopters are the small business owners who can move fast, reposition wealth from the stock market to new assets in an afternoon.

Blue Collar employees see a different world for their future.

Well managed States are being rewarded with investment and new people fleeing the poorly managed states.

Academia has managed to let millions of students run up over a trillion dollars in debt (majority of them are female) and granted a large percentage of degrees with almost no useful skills attached.

I do expect this cannot be sustained.

I cannot recall an event where so many institutions have shown themselves to be beyond a shadow of any doubt incompetent, corrupt and unaffordable.

The universe did change and it will be interesting to see how people adapt to the new reality.


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TFW My Next Novel Writes Itself

Now it’s possible to despise math and virtue signal simultaneously… It turns out that learning mathematics can cause “collateral damage” to society by training students in “ethics-free thought.”

The nature of pure of mathematics itself leads to styles of thinking that can be damaging when applied beyond mathematics to social and human issues.

Check it out…


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