Well, it’s time to toot Elizabeth’s horn. Jo Ann and I attended the science and math graduation ceremony here at the Tucson campus of the University of Arizona to watch our granddaughter Elizabeth graduate with dual degrees in Neuro & Cognitive Science and Molecular & Cellular Biology (easy for me to say). She was joined by her parents along with brother Lucas and sister Catherine, both still in school. The kids are pictured below.
Elizabeth finished her studies in three and a half years while working as a research assistant in her professors’ laboratories. The next step is to immediately enter grad school for an appropriate PhD. Applications have gone out and now the waiting begins. Tonight the celebration will continue with a very large meal that has virtually zero chance of being heart healthy. Another milestone in our family.
Progressives are the real opponents of change. Contrary to their desperate message over the years, their very mindset is sclerotic when it comes to the change that matters in areas like entrepreneurship, invention, technology, economics, individual empowerment, and, of course, personal liberties. Progressives' latest attempts to keep yesteryear in gear for everyone is their opposition to what has become known as the ‘sharing economy’. This is where individuals can fill demand by joining innovative jitney services, renting out unused rooms, or offering their talents for some-time housecleaning. Liberals from candidates, big labor, plaintiffs bar, … have mounted attacks on all these and similar initiatives by a free people offering part-time services with what they have or can do. Anything that changes their conception of a regulated and regimented workforce is verboten. (more here)
Most teachers are not corrigible. A big three-year study involving thousands of teachers who attended various teacher development courses and programs concluded that school districts don’t get much of anything for the dollars they spend in sending teachers to better themselves. 70% of teachers came back unimproved or worse in their teaching performance. “The report found that no particular approach to professional development consistently helped teachers get better. When individual teachers improved, their success didn’t appear to be linked to systemic efforts by the districts.” That result can easily be explained by the overall percentage of teachers that fall into the academic low grade ore category. (more here)
Recent reports of private drones being flown above active wildfires again makes me lose another dollop of faith in the brainpower of my fellow citizens. Why anyone would want to endanger the fire attack spotters and tankers fighting the fire is beyond me. So I started noodling on how to solve the problem. The easiest would be for either the OV-10 spotter or a ground-based unit to just zap the drone with directed EMP. That would fry enough of the drone’s electronics to bring it down.
From some back of the envelope calcs, such a ‘weapon’ would not be bigger than a small refrig to have a directional beamwidth sufficient to concentrate the EMP’s energy to an altitude of about one or two thousand feet above ground level. When a rogue drone is spotted, the incident commander is notifed and queried as to its legitimacy; and if illegitimate, it is zapped.
Then I googled ‘directed EMP’ and got a snootful. It’s not a surprise that a lot of people have been thinking about various versions of such a device. For example, here.
Now you would think that DARPA would already have put out a couple or three contracts to create such a portable, short range, directed EMP device for military purposes if nothing else. But as an old electronics engineer, it seems to me that such a gizmo could also be developed in your garage were you of a mind. Who knows, there might arise a lively market for the Mk1Mod2 Drone Zapper all across America as people begin to see unknown drones hovering around their properties. Think of all the legal ramifications if such drones start showing up missing. Can privacy be a legal justification for zapping a drone hovering outside your window or over your house? Is it legal to remove a bug you discover in your house, or a surreptitiously placed surveillance camera in your yard, or a hovering drone outside your window?
How about self-defense? ‘The damn thing came down at us at a threatening angle, we didn’t know what its intent was or what it would do, so we zapped it.’
Anyway, I think the DZ may be the coming thing at a fire house, police department, or at a neighbor with an attitude. Who knows, maybe someone has already built one, we know the Russians have. Rumors and reports abound as to how something that was probably a more powerful and less directed EMP weapon, mounted on a Russian Sukhoi fighter which then ‘attacked’ and compromised major electronics systems on a US destroyer in the Black Sea. I’d bet the ranch that the Pentagon is at least developing systems of equivalent or greater capability. Creating EMPs with a nuclear explosion is so yesterday.
Anyway, keep checking your Hammacher-Schlemmer (say that fast three times) catalog for a Christmas gift this year for that buddy who has everything.
Since its launch in 2007, RR has had an open, seldom mediated comments policy since I did not want this forum to become an echo chamber for near-conservatarian sentiments. The blog’s purpose was to record my thoughts and observations about these eventful and fin de siècle years for humanity on this planet, and given that this worldview is admittedly outrageous to many, I wanted my readers to see and offer compelling counter arguments. The prime audience for all this was intended to be the ideologically mid-road and undecided reader, of course with a considerable nod to my right-of-center compatriots who hopefully would bolster what I was able to stick into the dike against the progressive flood.
RR took off beyond my expectations, attracting readers and (online and email) commenters to compose quite an audience despite that, I have expended no effort to popularize its diverse subject matter. My intent was to attract only the well-read, or at least the well-reading visitors who would make up a cohort of intellectual peers. I have never wanted to write for ‘broad audiences’, and consequently have often been admonished for using a ‘$10 word’ instead of the accepted handful of more folksy, compact, and dictionary-optional $1 words. It is a weakness learned long ago when Buckley often drove me to my always open, unabridged codex of the English language. As Popeye famously said, ‘Iyam what Iyam.’
So I started writing posts that included my Union columns, and still include my KVMR commentaries, and people of all political stripe started commenting. And then some commenters from both sides became irked at what seemed to be obvious errors, misrepresentations, and even displays of moral turpitude from the other side. The subsequently returned punches began landing below belts. And from the stats, traffic grew as more people joined in the fray either as passive readers or as ‘in the pit’ commenters. Soon the comment streams were decorated with mudballs thrown at opposites for what also was clearly for the sheer fun of retorting outrage with greater outrage. But always between the mudball exchanges, commenters took time to write lengthy considered statements, commentaries, and even essays on the topic at hand. Providing such a forum, warts and all, became a raison d’etre for RR.
Of late things have gotten more than a bit out of hand, and readers and commenters in greater numbers are asking that I attempt to restore some decorum. So here goes.
Commenter Rules: To lower the temperature and foster focus on issues, I will do my best henceforth to enforce the following commenter rules –
1. Under topical posts, keep your comments obviously related to the topic(s) posted. Use the nearest RR Sandbox to introduce other topics and invite discussion.
2. Given the scope of comments that have become traditional on blogs, wordsmith your comments to be clear, concise, and complete. And please read them over before you hit ‘Post’.
3. Contend the presented ideas, interpretations, and opinions, and not their author. Maul the message, and not the messenger. If the messenger wraps himself in the message, then make your repartees as churchillian as possible. Junior high school mudballs prohibited.
4. Remember that RR is a long running blog that contains a growing body of thought, and is strongly ideological with multiple posts on a wide range of topics, including a separate ‘Conservatarian Credo’. Please refer to or reference these as necessary to contend/expand an issue – every issue does not have to start with ‘Hello World!’ Either use the RR embedded search function or Google (‘xx’, rebane’s ruminations) to find previous commentaries and comments on any given subject.
5. ‘Praise publicly and punish privately.’ Don’t launch personal attacks on other commenters or me. Most certainly don’t publish other people’s personal information that is unrelated to the posted topic(s).
6. Minimize the use of obscenities and profanities – i.e. do not use them in an obviously gratuitous manner.
7. I invite bylines from RR readers. If you have an extended thought on a topic you’d like to post on RR under your name, email it to me. I’ll make the final determination.
8. No spam or porn.
Not a requirement, but as a courtesy to other readers, please identify by name/timestamp the comment to which your comment pertains. My own format has been 'GeorgeR 153pm'. Other lengthier ones also will serve. Thanks.
We’ll see how these work out. I will do my best to enforce them ‘fairly’, but since that word has no uniformly accepted operational definition, you will almost certainly accuse me of being unfair. Your complaints are welcomed. I am reminded of the old coach who advised his players ‘Never seek justice, only mercy.’
Parting note – please compose and keep your lengthier comments in a Word (or other text editor) document until you see the comment ‘survive’ on RR. I will not take the time to ‘cleanse’ comments that violate the above rules, I’ll just unpublish them. In that case, if you wish, you can edit out the offending part yourself and repost. Note also that these rules are accessible under the upper right margin heading 'RR Fundamentals'.
Lowell Robinson RIP. A sad email from a friend this morning reported the passing last night of Lowell Robinson, one of the giants of our community. Lowell was the founder of what today we know as Robinson Enterprises, a multi-faceted business that has served Nevada County for decades. He also put his money where his mouth was as a prominent supporter of uncounted philanthropies, local educational programs, and political causes. We will miss his good humor, wisdom, and generosity.
IQ scores have been rising for decades. So we learn from the work of James Flynn, a social scientist at the University of Otago in New Zealand. Since IQ is a relative or a ‘normed measure’ of intelligence represented by the bell curve in which 100 is set so as to indicate the average or mean IQ, and every ten point difference from 100 is one standard deviation, your 80 or 120 IQ respectively says that about 2.5% of the population scores lower than you, or the same percentage scores higher. But Dr Flynn reports that IQ tests have had to be made tougher over the course of the last century in order to keep the mean at 100.
IQ scores shot up in the 1920s after WW1, then plateaued, and then shot up again after WW2. Scores plateaued again in the 1970s (coincident with when Great Society education started kicking in). After picking up for a quarter century, the recent rise has again slowed down. One of the several theories to account for this ‘Flynn Effect’ is that childhoods have become longer as countries became richer during the last hundred years or so.
Several people are beginning to notice Jonathan Rauch’s (Political Realism, 2015) development of what he has labeled “transactional politics”. The left-leaning political commentator sounds almost like a conservative when he defends ‘political machines’ as the grease that keeps the wheels of government turning, and not grinding to a halt as seems to be the current propensity of Washington. He observes that “American government may be less corrupt. But it also has more difficulty getting anything done.” One of his nostrums includes reinstatement of ‘earmarks’ as the currency which allowed (motivated?) politicians to wheel and deal and then compromise in getting major legislation through Congress. I’ll have more to say about Rauch’s thoughts in a future post on our government’s sclerotic corruption, a dysfunction that is now beyond the tipping point as also analyzed by Charles Murray (By the People, 2015).
We are here in Scottsdale again attending the annual conference of the Mercatus Center and Institute for Humane Studies. For the last several years it has been an annual event for us and friends to caravan down and enjoy a few days of exceedingly interesting presentations and workshops on economics and national issues. The conference attracts about three hundred attendees, most of whom are donors to the two organizations connected to George Mason University. What always amazes us is the number of well-read and informed people who also make this their annual pilgrimage for stimulating discussions and debates.
This year’s keynote speakers were PJ O’Rourke and economist Tyler Cowen. PJ was a last minute stand-in for syndicated columnist George Will who had to deal with a family emergency. And everyone got a chance to rub elbows and talk at length with the nationally prominent scholars who do the institutes’ research and present their work here, in scholarly publications, national news media, and in congressional hearings.
In the interval I have not been able to monitor the goings on hereabouts. Looking in on RR, I am more than a bit dismayed over the exchange that has been going on in ‘Sandbox – 11mar15’ during my absence. I notice that RR is again the tromping ground for Mr Jeff Pelline and some of his cohort. And the dialogues such attendance has given rise to are nothing to write home about, let alone memorialize for the ages on the web.
Mr Pelline’s contributions are the indelible derivatives of his nature delivered to raise him to the extent that he can successfully push down those he attacks. As usual, he brings no ideas to discuss or dissect, only ad hominem vituperation. But what continues to puzzle me is that RR readers take the man seriously enough to more than give him the time of day. These readers, who have already established their credentials in debating issues and ideas, actually are seen to engage with Mr Pelline at length and at his level. The resulting mudball fights bring nothing to the large number of this blogs regular, albeit silent, readers. But they do bring out the bitter angels that inhabit a select few of those who oppose Mr Pelline and all that he stands for. My question again is what end is justified by entering into such exchanges at his peerage. Are there not better ways to shorten his pointless visits here?
As I’ve said before, if Pelline’s attacks on RR readers are ignored, then I will delete them as I would flick away any pesky fly. But if his droppings solicit an exchange, then I must conclude that certain RR readers actually enjoy engaging the man. And according to the established sandbox rules (as they now stand), the dialogue can continue. But again, to what end??? Any thoughts on this?