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Week of 17 November 2003

Latest Update : Friday, 21 November 2003 13:02 -0500


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Monday, 17 November 2003

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10:11 - Barbara decided to bathe the dogs Saturday. Because it was pretty chilly outside, she decided to give them their baths in the shower downstairs. The easiest way to do that is for Barbara to strip down and get into the shower with them. I hover around outside the shower to hand her things, rush completed dogs out to the unfinished area of the basement before they can shake, and so on.

While I was hovering, I decided I might as well document the process for posterity, so I grabbed my old Olympus D-400Z digital camera. So, for the first time ever, nekkid pictures of Barbara here and here. Heh, heh, heh.

That's Duncan in there with her, wearing his blue "bath-only" collar and standing on a bath mat. He and Malcolm were both very good about the whole process, once they'd resigned themselves to being bathed. They're not happy about it, but neither are they terrified. The first time or two we did it, we neglected the bath mat, which mean they slipped around constantly and were terrified. With something firm to stand on, they're pretty much okay with the whole thing. Barbara didn't even try to bathe Kerry. At age 16, he can barely stand up at the best of times, so trying to bathe him in the shower would have been disastrous.

I was thinking about writing an article about my infallible two-step secure hard-disk erasure method, but I'm afraid doing so might run afoul of the Heimatsicherheitshauptamt. Step One is no problem. I place the hard disk to be erased against a safe backstop and put a .44 bullet through it. It's Step Two that concerns me. I put the remains of the hard disk on a flat surface and place a brick of thermite on top of it. When I ignite the thermite, it produces a glob of molten iron that renders the remains of the platters unreadable even by the NSA. Even though thermite is not an explosive--it's merely a mixture of iron oxide (rust or iron scale) and aluminum powder--I'm afraid I might be charged with manufacturing explosives. So I'd better come up with a safer method to erase hard drives securely.

11:15 - Fred Reed just posted another excellent Fred on Everything column. I don't always agree with Fred--he's a bit too Politically Correct at times for my taste--but what he writes is generally worth reading. If you read one of his columns, I suspect you'll do as I did and go back to read them all starting with the first. Fred is a very bright guy, and he doesn't hesitate to speak the truth regardless of how unpalatable it might be. He's nominally a conservative but with strong libertarian tendencies, and he apparently owns a Border Collie, so I was predisposed to like him. I suspect many of my readers will as well.

12:26 - Pigs are flying and the residents of Hell are shopping for winter coats. Microsoft has announced that they are opening the Office 2003 file formats by offering royalty-free licenses for their XML reference schemata. Something tells me this isn't all it appears to be. I'll believe it when I see OpenOffice.org provide full support for Microsoft Office 2003 formats using Microsoft-provided XML schemata. Either Microsoft will somehow prohibit OSS from using the licensed schemata, or something won't work.

Pardon my suspicions. I am reminded of the famous poker player Amarillo Slim, who said, "When you sit down to play poker, look around the table. If you don't see a sucker, get up, because you're the sucker." I'm not sure what's going on here, but I do know that Microsoft isn't going to give away the crown jewels--file format lock-in--without a major battle. When Microsoft offers you a pawn, you'd better check because your queen is probably in danger.

 

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Tuesday, 18 November 2003

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9:26 - Jerry Pournelle has talked about it. Fred Reed has talked about it. I've talked about it. And now Eric S. Raymond kicks in with an article about IQ and race. This is, in my opinion, ultimately the most serious social issue we have to deal with, short-, medium-, and long-term. Where the Bell Curve falls on the x-axis by race isn't a meaningless statistical anomaly. Anyone who understands even the basics of statistics and human intelligence realizes that the positioning and overlap of the Bell Curves by race is a critical predictor of success, not just in school, but in life.

Put simply, the mean/mode/median IQ for the population as a whole is 100, with a standard deviation of 15 points. That means that the bulk of the population, about two thirds, falls within the IQ range of 85 to 115. American Blacks have a mean IQ of 85, which DSM-IV categorizes as only one point above Borderline Intellectual Functioning. African Blacks have a mean IQ of only 70, which DSM-IV categorizes as Mild Mental Retardation. Ashkenazi Jews have a mean IQ of 115, which puts the average Ashkenazi Jew on the dividing line between high-normal and gifted. Other population groups, including the Chinese and the Scots, also have mean IQs significantly higher than the norm.

But the average is less important than the extremes. The implication of Black IQs being skewed significantly to the left while those of Ashkenazi Jews, Chinese, and Scots are skewed significantly to the right is that Blacks are grossly over-represented at the low end relative to their percentage of the population, and grossly under-represented at the high end. Conversely, Ashkenazi Jews and the other bright subgroups are grossly under-represented at the low end of the IQ scale, and grossly over-represented at the high end. Low IQ correlates closely with criminal behavior (or, at least, being caught), which in turn means that Blacks are statistically much more likely to engage in criminal behavior and are accordingly over-represented in the prison population. Conversely, high IQ correlates closely with success in educational endeavors and in later life, so Ashkenazi Jews, Chinese, and Scots are much more likely to become scientists, physicians, philosophers, and Nobel Prize winners.

Note that none of this says anything about a particular person. It's possible for an African Black to have an IQ in the super-genius range, although statistically rare relative to the likelihood that a super-genius will be an Ashkenazi Jew. Conversely, it's possible for an Ashkenazi Jew or Chinese or Scot to have a room-temperature IQ, although again it's statistically rare relative to the likelihood of an American Black or African Black having a low IQ.

The upshot is that, in the absence of affirmative action or similar subsidy programs, American Blacks will languish in the competition for education and employment in fields that require high intelligence. We as a society can prop up Blacks only for so long before the underlying resentment among Whites and Asians boils over. Ultimately, we will have no choice but to allow everyone to compete on equal terms. To do otherwise is not just morally unforgivable, but impossible in practical terms. Alas, that will relegate the vast majority of Blacks to dead-end jobs and borderline poverty. But it's better than the alternative, which is race war.

6:45 - Barbara and I just returned from the vet. We had Kerry put down.

I am hoping history doesn't repeat itself. The last time I had a dog put down was on 8 June 1989. I had to take my parents' Border Collie, Bonnie, to be put down. That evening, a massive windstorm struck the area. It ripped our roof off, dropped two or three of the columns that supported the roof over the front porch--one column came through the library window--and did other assorted damage. During that storm, what really motivated me to head for the basement was a crawler on the TV screen. It announced that a tornado funnel cloud was on the ground on Witherow Road. We live on Witherow Road, and it's only three blocks long.

Barbara and I happened to have the local TV news turned on at dinner time, and they did something I'd never seen before. They were warning against a pair of storms that is to hit tonight around midnight and tomorrow morning around dawn. I've seen storm warnings before, of course, but they were really making a big deal out of this one. They're forecasting straight-line winds of 70 MPH, which is near hurricane force, as well as strong tornados. Barbara and I will sleep in the basement, near our shelter.

Kerry, incidentally, was Bonnie's replacement, so between them their lives spanned nearly 30 years. It's hard to believe I was only 20 years old when my parents brought Bonnie home, and only 34 when they brought Kerry home. I was going to write a eulogy for Kerry, but I can't really find the words. He was a wonderful dog. His determination never failed him. Alas, his body did.

It was the right thing to do, but that doesn't make it any easier. For the last month or more, I've been concerned that he would break his hips. Even if we were home at the time, it would have been agonizingly painful, and we wanted to spare him that. Kerry fought until the end. He never gave up. He was a true Border Collie.

I probably won't be posting much here until at least next week, and I may not be doing much about mail or the messageboards, either. 

 

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Wednesday, 19 November 2003

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Thursday, 20 November 2003

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Friday, 21 November 2003

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13:02 - Thanks to everyone who has expressed condolences for our loss of Kerry.

We're getting back to normal. I've mostly been working this week, and haven't paid much attention to email or the web. Barbara and I are going to take a break this weekend. It's a new moon weekend with clear weather forecast, so we hope to get some astronomical observing in.

I'll be back at work next Monday for a couple of days. We then have friends from California coming in for a long Thanksgiving visit, so I'll be off the air for several days then.

 

 

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Saturday, 22 November 2003

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Sunday, 23 November 2003

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