Saturday, 12 May 2012

By on May 12th, 2012 in writing

07:27 – I finished the second lab session in the forgery group yesterday, on analysis of inks by chromatography, and started the third and final lab session in that group, on analysis of papers. There are 20 days left until deadline, and I have every one of those allocated.

90 Comments and discussion on "Saturday, 12 May 2012"

  1. Chuck Waggoner says:

    Facebook co-founder drops US citizenship.

    Says he did not renounce his US citizenship for financial or tax reasons. Right. Does seem to imply that he will no longer be subject to US taxes, having paid an “exit tax”. He was not a native US citizen. Very interesting.

  2. SteveF says:

    RBT, I’m impressed by your productivity. What’s your technique, just turn off the phones and work head-down for hours at a time? Something else?

    I’d been meaning to ask this for some time, but had been waiting for you to mention a break in workload. That seems never to happen, so I guess I might as well ask now.

  3. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I work pretty hard. Normally, 6 to 6.5 days a week, but 7 full days when I go into overdrive on a deadline or something. On most weekdays, I’m at my desk before Barbara leaves for work at 8:00. I work straight through until she gets home at 5:30 (or 6:30 on gym nights), with the exception of short breaks for walking Colin and generally a longer break, 30 minutes to an hour, sometime during the day when I read or take a nap. Call it an average of 60 hours a week of actual heads-down work time, roughly 50 hours on weekdays and 10 hours over the weekends. When I’m in crunch mode, that sometimes goes to a total of 75 to 80 hours a week. I used to be able to do 14-hour days every day for weeks or even months on end, but I can’t do that any more. After about 10 or 11 hours in a day, I’m just no longer productive.

  4. OFD says:

    LOL, I can do maybe one or possibly two 10-11-hour days in a row and then I am NFG and need at least 24 hours total rest. Of course I’m not working for myself right now in my own business or that would change in a hurry and I’d do whatever I had to in order to make, still, at most, ten hour-days, six days a week viable. I take Sundays off, period. Decades ago in military, cops, and factory work I pulled all kinds of crazy-ass shifts, mostly nights, and sometimes rotating, which are the worst. No more. That shit messed me up for a long time, that and the continuous substance abuse; actually “abuse” is too weak a word for it; in the great Flashman novels by the late George MacDonald Fraser, he and his pals speak of “punishing the wine” or whatever beverage on a given evening’s debauch, and I sure as hell punished the hell out of a lot of stuff over forty years.

    Robert, do you get outta the house for anything besides the dog walks and Costco runs, maybe the astronomy? Practicing the .45? Anything?

  5. SteveF says:

    Why on earth would anyone need to leave the house to practice pistol shooting? There are always plenty of targets coming right up to the door: revenooers, political candidates, gossipy neighbors, busybodies both official and private. If you’re careful about shot placement, you can get half a dozen shots before they collapse, and all but the first will be moving. (Flailing, most likely.) And then chuck them in the crocodile pit (or compost stack, if you don’t have a crocodile) and get back to work.

  6. BGrigg says:

    Distance shooting, SteveF, just about anyone can blow away the baddies at the door. But what about at the far back of your lot?

  7. Chuck Waggoner says:

    Only people who come to the door in Tiny Town are church proselytizers and the UPS guy. Since the UPS guy gave me his cell phone number so I can text him when I am working in Indy and not at home for a delivery, he gets protection, not attacked. Those church people are driving me crazy, though.

  8. OFD says:

    Chuck, send those church people up my way; and this goes for all you irritated atheists and agnostics who get exercised over all the in-your-face Xtian sales hucksters and carny barkers from whatever denomination. I love to argue with these people. I specialize in fundie Prods but will happily take on the cults, like the Witnesses and Mormons and Branch Davidians for the extra kick they give me. It also squicks them out when they find that I don’t drink, smoke, dope, dance, sing or go to the movies.

    Nobody comes to our door for this anymore. No fun for OFD, so give the buggers train fare and send ’em on up to northern Vermont.

  9. Raymond Thompson says:

    Just spent the day working on my son’s recently purchased house. Another long day.

    Four weeks ago I was going to install ceiling fans in the bedrooms that the previous owner took with them (it was known they would). Discovered no proper ceiling fan mounts and the wiring contained no ground and the connections were exposed. So installed ceiling fan mounts, junction boxes, and wires for a proper ground. Spent about 6 hours in the attic by the time I did 5 ceiling fans. The two fans the previous owners left in the den and kitchen had the same issues as the bedroom. Also installed gutter downspout extensions to the get the water runoff further away from the foundation.

    Two weeks ago spent the weekend painting the entire inside of the house and replacing a section of sheetrook in the ceiling that was moldy. Also added some missing insulation in the ceiling. Then we decided after looking at a couple of outlets to replace all the outlets and switches in the house. The existing outlets were old and were brittle but the biggest issue was they were back-stab outlets which I despise. New outlets are cheap as are the switches. Did not finish all the outlets and switches. But I did install a GFCI in the garage which will also protect the downstream outlets. Not having GFCI in the garage was dangerous. Also replaced the sink faucet, twice. First replacement faucet leaked at the spray hose connection and there was no way to fix it.

    Went back today to finish the outlets. Previous owner had two cable systems, satellite and Comcast. Son does not want Comcast. Also the cable connections were just cables coming through the floor. Tacky, stupid and lazy. New carpeting was being installed today so we did not want to deal with the issues of the cable. So we cut them off. I spent a large part of the day in the crawl space on my stomach running new cable, drilling holes underneath the walls, punching holes in the sheetrook to install low voltage plate holders. Then snaking the cable through the hole into the new locations on the wall with proper termination plates. Replaced all the cables because old cable was RG59 and RG6 is better. I used compression fittings rather than crimp fittings. Then finished up the rest of the outlets and the switches except for one three that is not wired properl and has to be resolved.

    Back next weekend to move him from his apartment into his house. He has four friends that are young and can do the heavy lifting. I think I will just supervise the loading and unloading of the rental truck.

    The mortgage payment on his house will be $5.00 less than the rent on the apartment. He gets twice the space, quietness (no noisy neighbors sharing a common wall) and a yard. Seems like a no-brainer.

  10. OFD says:

    Good to know, Ray. If and when we buy a house we’re looking at now, we will send for you to come up and take care of all that stuff. We’ll buy you a cone at Ben & Jerry’s down the road and let you sit on our porch and enjoy the sun going down over Lake Champlain.

    Thanks, man.

  11. Miles_Teg says:

    Chuck wrote:

    “Those church people are driving me crazy, though.”

    They just don’t want you to spend eternity with Hitler, Stalin, Bundy and OBL.

  12. Miles_Teg says:

    OFD wrote:

    “I specialize in fundie Prods…”

    I’m not busy at the moment, so specialise away… 🙂

    “…but will happily take on the cults, like the Witnesses and Mormons and Branch Davidians”

    I loathe the JWs, I’d be more likely just to set my vicious cat eating dogs on them. I kinda like Mormons, even though they’re even more heretical than Catholics. Now, the Branch Davidians, are you sure you have enough firepower to deal with them?

  13. Miles_Teg says:

    *with Hitler, Stalin, Bundy and OBL.

    I meant to say “with Hitler, Stalin, Ayn Rand, Bundy and OBL.”

  14. Miles_Teg says:

    Ray wrote:

    “The existing outlets were old and were brittle but the biggest issue was they were back-stab outlets which I despise.”

    Okay, forgive me for being too lazy to Google it, but what is a back-stab outlet?

    “He gets twice the space, quietness (no noisy neighbors sharing a common wall) and a yard.”

    Yeah, I know what you mean. Twice I’ve been in hotels and have been able to hear the people in the next room, ah, getting some exercise. As a believer in privacy I’d rather not hear that sort of stuff.

  15. Raymond Thompson says:

    Okay, forgive me for being too lazy to Google it, but what is a back-stab outlet?

    You just strip the wire and stick it into a hole on the back of the switch or outlet. There is a small spring clamp that keeps the wire from pulling out unless you release it with tiny screwdriver. There is no screw securing the wire. Cheap and fast for home builders but also not as reliable as screw connections.

    What I replaced them with are switches and outlets from Leviton that still uses straight wires but they wires go under a small metal plate that is tightened down with a screw. Very secure connection. Almost as fast as back-stab as you don’t have to curl the wire around the screw terminals (you always have to screw down the ground screw).

    The cheap outlets can be had for less than a $1.50. The Leviton outlets purchased in groups of 10 are about $2.50 each. When you consider that we did 25 outlets and 15 switches the cost differential is less than $100.00 to get good quality switches.

    I also wrap each switch and outlet around the screw terminals with black electrical tape for an additional level of protection. I also put tape around all the wire nut connections. A general contractor would not do that as it is too time consuming and time is money.

    Now I just have to go back and figure out a three-way switch that is not wired correctly and the wires were not properly recoded, especially the traveler wires. Takes a multi-meter and some research to get it figured out.

    Oh, and one of those non-contact voltage detectors are worth their weight in gold. Well worth the less than $20.00 cost. I always test every wire before I touch it. Learned that from experience.

  16. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Robert, do you get outta the house for anything besides the dog walks and Costco runs, maybe the astronomy? Practicing the .45? Anything?

    Nope. That’s pretty much it. Well, Barbara and I do go out to dinner once in a while. I used to go to the library pretty frequently, but I haven’t been there since I got my Kindle.

  17. eristicist says:

    I second Ray on the voltage detector. A few months ago, we did some electrical work in a Spanish house where we were assured nothing was live. Of course, when we ran a detector over the fittings, it lit up like a Christmas tree. Good to know.

  18. BGrigg says:

    I am updating my house’s switches and outlets. Some are original to the house (1972) and some of the outlets don’t have enough strength to hold onto a plug anymore. All have been attached by bending the wire around the securing screw and some of those have broken off! I’m afraid Ray won’t approve, but I’m using the back stabs, as the stupid electrician didn’t leave enough wire in the box to properly attach with screw terminals, and the plate and post require me to be able to screw through the studs. I echo Ray’s preference for the plate and post connecters. I just wish I could use them without making the wiring even more below code.

    And voltage detectors are simply a life saver. I have two of them, one is the contact kind and fits in my shirt pocket. I don’t touch wiring without it. The other is non-contact and is much bigger, and I tend not to use it as often. Guess I’m old school.

    I’m seriously thinking about dropping some of the ceiling in the basement (the only part that isn’t a dropped ceiling) and rewiring the whole house, but simply can’t afford it right now. When a previous owner finished the basement, he didn’t use a proper electrician and a lot of the lights have power “borrowed” from upstairs. I have one (#10) breaker that is unmarked, and I DO NOT KNOW WHAT IT POWERS! One (#13) is only listed as “lights”, but what lights? Almost ALL of them! It had better be lucky 13! It’s that one connection that is making me consider rewiring the house. I’ve been building a map of the connections and listing what breaker controls what on the inside of the outlet covers. The map will be attached to the door that covers the panel.

  19. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Yeah, but Europe uses manly 230/240 VAC while in the US we use girlish 115/120 VAC.

    When I work on electrical switches and receptacles around the house, I usually just work very carefully. If I’m being particularly cautious, I turn off the breaker by shorting hot and ground with a screwdriver. That way, there’s no question that the breaker is off.

    Back when I was kid, my dad and a neighbor were replacing a receptacle. The neighbor threw the breaker (actually, back then, I think he probably unscrewed the fuse) and tested the receptacle by plugging a lamp into it. Either the bulb was dead or half the receptacle was dead (I’ve seen that happen), because the lamp didn’t light up. He went to work on the receptacle, but learned the hard way that he’d unscrewed the wrong fuse.

  20. Miles_Teg says:

    The stupidest thing I ever did with electricity was when I was about ten. Took the back off a 240-12V model train transformer and started playing around inside.

    While it was plugged in and powered. I got a good jolt, not enough to throw me across the room but it taught me to be a bit more careful.

  21. BGrigg says:

    I got zapped when I discovered that one duplex switch in the basement was fed from two different breakers. Who does that?

  22. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Well, I know you guys all think I have no social conscience, but I do. Here’s proof.

    Back 15 years or so ago, we had an ice storm that caused a power failure that lasted for several days. The horse having already escaped the barn, after power returned we immediately (a) had natural gas logs installed in the upstairs fireplace, and (b) bought a generator.

    I was about to connect the generator to our home wiring, using a backfeed cable I was going to make from 50 feet of #4 copper cable I bought at Home Depot. I planned to plug one end of it into the 240V receptacle on the generator and the other into the power receptacle for our clothes dryer. All I’d have to do if the power failed was throw the main breaker to off to disconnect the house from the utility power, fire up the generator, and connect the cable to the generator and dryer receptacle.

    Fortunately, I tested first. As it turned out, throwing the main breaker does *not* disconnect our house from the utility. If I’d connected up that backfeed cable, I’d have been connecting 240V to the transformer on the pole outside our house, which would have boosted that 240V to whatever voltage they run on the main cables. Some poor power company linesman might have touched what should have been the cold end of a break and found that it was very hot indeed.

    So I called an electrician and asked for a quote on installing a real cut-off switch. He said to be within code, he’d have to install a big old knife-switch between the utility and our breaker box. The quote to do that was $900, which seemed a bit much for installing a simple knife-switch in a weatherproof outdoor box. So now if we have a power failure, we just run extension cords from the generator to the freezer and other stuff that really has to have power.

  23. SteveF says:

    Well, I know you guys all think I have no social conscience

    Eh? I never thought that. I mean, you haven’t given us instructions for preparing undetectable poison, not even once. I might say you’re no fun, but never that you have no social conscience.

  24. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    True. That’s one thing I won’t talk about. Information is available on the Internet, but it’s unlikely that anyone who doesn’t have a serious understanding of toxicology could make any sense out of it.

  25. SteveF says:

    As for disconnecting the house from the street, same here. The price seemed a bit high, but I chalked it up to government interference: it’s illegal for me to do the work myself, meaning I have to hire a licensed electrician, meaning I pay whatever the cartel wants or do without. I chose to do without and, like you, will simply run an extension cord to whatever needs it. PITA, but acceptable for the few times I expect to need the generator.

  26. BGrigg says:

    You’ve always given fair warning to Santa by telling us of your current scheme to terminate his jolly red ass. I’d say that qualifies as a social conscience.

  27. SteveF says:

    Even if a non-chemist were to stumble across accurate and clearly-written instructions for making poison (or explosives or LSD, or anything complex and dangerous), there’d be no way for the average Joe to distinguish these instructions from the overwhelming mountain of nonsense and outright lies out there. I’m minded of The Anarchist’s Cookbook, which apparently was approximately 99 44/100% pure crap. What I recall of the section on silent kills, which I know a bit about, was about useless — not wrong, exactly, but incomplete or difficult to put into practice. And I’ve been assured that the recipes for explosives are more likely to kill the maker than to accomplish anything useful. (Well, killing off idiots is always useful, but that’s not the intended use.)

  28. OFD says:

    I would put forth the proposition that, based on over forty years of experience, LSD is nowhere near as dangerous as booze. Just sayin.

    Hey, same old, same old, up here in northern VT: March showers bring April showers bring May showers bring…June flowers??? We don’t know yet. Two gorgeous days and now back to intermittent rain, showers, drizzle, etc. for the next few, supposedly. And back to the plantation again tomorrow…

  29. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Even if a non-chemist were to stumble across accurate and clearly-written instructions for making poison (or explosives or LSD, or anything complex and dangerous), there’d be no way for the average Joe to distinguish these instructions from the overwhelming mountain of nonsense and outright lies out there. I’m minded of The Anarchist’s Cookbook, which apparently was approximately 99 44/100% pure crap. What I recall of the section on silent kills, which I know a bit about, was about useless — not wrong, exactly, but incomplete or difficult to put into practice. And I’ve been assured that the recipes for explosives are more likely to kill the maker than to accomplish anything useful. (Well, killing off idiots is always useful, but that’s not the intended use.)

    I actually met Powell and Saxon/Cisco a time or two. I suspect they both actually knew what they were talking about, but The Anarchist’s Cookbook was almost entirely garbage. I always wondered if it was a government-funded attempt to get would-be terrorists to commit suicide unintentionally. I still have an original 1971 edition floating around here somewhere.

    TAC was actually uproariously funny, albeit unintentionally. I think my favorite was the thing on how to convert a 12-gauge shotgun to a rifle-grenade launcher. You were supposed to connect a flat disc of wood to a broomstick, mount a Molotov cocktail on the wood disc, slide the broomstick down the barrel, load a 12-gauge shell that had been emptied of shot, brace the butt of the shotgun on the ground, and pull the trigger.

    I giggled when I read that one, imagining the results. Faced with an obstructed barrel, the powder charge in the shell blows out the barrel, shredding the shooter. But it does provide a significant impetus to the broomstick, which promptly causes the bottle to break, drenching the shredded shooter in gasoline, which then ignites, burning the shooter to death.

    Military field manuals on unconventional warfare are a much, much better source of information. I have a slew of those around, too, not that I need them.

  30. Raymond Thompson says:

    the stupid electrician didn’t leave enough wire in the box to properly attach with screw terminals

    The Leviton Preferred brand of outlets use the same wire length as the back-stab outlets but are much more secure as there is a plate and a physical screw that you use to tighten the plate against the wire.

  31. SteveF says:

    Yah, if there’s enough slack in the wire that you can manipulate it. A couple of times I’ve had to use the back-stab holes when replacing an outlet because the wire was too short to let me use the screw-downs. In fact, I had to hold the outlet just barely outside the box and weasel the wire in with needle-nosed pliers. The only thing I can think of is that the previous electrician had attached the outlets and then pulled the wire snug from the basement or whatever so that there would be no excess wire inside the box.

  32. Raymond Thompson says:

    In fact, I had to hold the outlet just barely outside the box and weasel the wire in with needle-nosed pliers.

    I see. So you would have had no access to the screw on the outlet. What I would have done is put a pig tail on the wire if there was enough room in the box. A short length of the proper color wire if possible.

  33. SteveF says:

    What I would have done is put a pig tail on the wire

    That certainly sounds reasonable. I don’t know why I didn’t. Most likely the boxes were the shallow kind, with no spare room, but we can’t rule out plumb idiocy on my part. (I’m tolerably bright, if I do say so myself, and normally do things in a reasonably intelligent and sensible manner. But sometimes, whoo. You’d think I was competing for the Moron of the Year award.)

  34. Chuck Waggoner says:

    Around here in Tiny Town, there is enough unemployment that you can get a licensed electrician to do almost anything you want, at a reasonable price. My dad thought Y2k was going to be the end of civilization as we know it, and had Tiny House completely re-wired for generator power. Instead of the knife switch, he had one of those whopping huge double-fuses that you pull out of its holder to disconnect everything from the mains. The physical energy to pull that darned thing out of its holder is enough to throw you across the room without ever being touched by electricity.

    Never dreaming that I would ever actually be living in Tiny House, I sold the generator to the contractor who did most of the work rebuilding Tiny House when my parents retired to it in the early ’90’s. The generator had never been started after testing the installation, and would not start. If you have a generator, better test it regularly. The test on Tiny House went fine, but it blew out the garage door opener, apparently because it could not hold to 60 cycle tolerance close enough.

  35. BGrigg says:

    And I’ve added pigtails where I can, and had to do the needle nose wiggle and stab like SteveF. Most of the time I shudder, replace the switch as fast as possible and then go and check my fire extinguisher. Then spend a sleepless night wondering if I should just rewire.

    I’ve added a LOT of pigtails for grounds. The previous switches and outlets were the ungrounded type.

    My only consolation is that, overall, the electrical isn’t as bad as the plumbing!

  36. Raymond Thompson says:

    the electrical isn’t as bad as the plumbing!

    You know when electrical leaks, plumbing can have a tiny tiny drip that you may not catch for days. There is no small electrical leak.

  37. Chuck Waggoner says:

    Fireman across the street (who is the city’s chief investigator determining fire causes) says most fires are started by smoking; second is electrical faults—although purposely setting fires ranks right up there with them.

    I described here the near disaster I had about a year ago. A circuit breaker would blow at seemingly random times. I had thought it might be the dishwasher, but the breaker would blow in the middle of the night when the dishwasher had quit hours ago, and I always air-dry the dishes, so the dishwasher was definitely off during those periods (it is totally shut down if the door is open).

    Turns out it was the dishwasher wiring at the outlet behind the dishwasher. Dishwasher quit altogether, so I pulled the it out and both the plug, socket, and wall were black. The plug was one of those old types that were the big round metal ‘wire it yourself’ types that I had not seen since my childhood. I did not even know they still made them. The only reason the house did not burn down, is because it was completely rewired when my folks retired to it, and all outlets and switches had metal boxes sunk into the wall to hold them. Had that not been in there, I am pretty sure the lathe would have been set on fire, and I would not have this house to sell.

    Getting electrical up-to-date with code is worth every penny, IMO.

  38. Lynn McGuire says:

    I usually just touch all the wires to the ground wire and make sure everything is dead.

    When I use to work for the power company, we use to work on 120V and 480V hot. The 120V was OK if you had leather boots with or without rubber soles AND you put one of your hands in your back pocket. It was just kinda tingly. I try to follow the hand in your back pocket rule today but always forget.

    The 480V three phase was scary. We had to connect two power plants together and it was July (no three day outages allowed). We threw one inch thick rubber blankets everywhere and the guy doing the bolting of the leads wore a massive leather apron with leather gloves up to his armpits. He was nervous. We were nervous. But it worked OK. 480V is bad because it causes your muscles to clamp down rather than open up. Forgot to mention that we had ropes tied to his legs so that we could pull him off the 480V switchgear if necessary.

  39. Don Armstrong says:

    “I am pretty sure the lathe would have been set on fire”

    Chuck, I’ve seen this a bit lately, and it’s grated on me because it’s not the spelling I’m used to. Maybe you can clarify it for me, and my spelling instincts will be pacified.
    I’m used to a lathe being something that spins things – wood or metal – and produces (naturally) turned articles.
    For me, the thin wooden slats they put in walls or behind plaster are “lath” with no “e”.
    Is your use of “lathe” where I’d use “lath” a typo, or a genuine difference between the USenglishen dialect and English English?

    Thanks, Don.

  40. Don Armstrong says:

    On the subject of electrical supplies: Australia uses (nominally) 240V 50 Hz. That’s pretty heavy stuff, but we’re a big country, and it’s needed to push the power to the end of some awfully long lines. We derived it from the UK, where they use it for pretty much the same reasons, but just pushing it a long way without having to put in major transformers for every little valley and village.

    Anyway, another side of supply is variance. I worked for Texas Instruments in their Digital Systems Division, hired on computers but there was a lot of spill-over into any DSD gear. This was way back in the days when their “Silent700” typewriter terminals with built-in 300 bps acoustic couplers (modems) were a viable solution for a lot of the market’s needs. “Silent”, because of non-impact thermal printing on horrible slimy-feeling light grey thermal paper. Call HQ, shoehorn handset into cups on terminal, sign-on and start typing. Sounds cheesy, but if a salesman way out there the back of Bourke could sit in the clients office, grab the phone, connect to HQ, check stock, and enter the clients order for a $100,000 piece of agricultural equipment (and this was back in the 1970’s), then that was a way to close a lot of significant business.

    Unless the terminal died. A lot of them were dying in our biggest state of all – Western Australia (big enough to swallow Alaska, Texas, and most of California all in one bite). Turned out a lot of those were grey-market. We were selling into the market, but the customers were also importing from 220V Europe. Our equipment was engineered for a voltage variance of +/-10%. That worked okay in our smaller eastern states, but in WA they stretched the limits. There, nominal 240V would start out being 265V to push it over a thousand miles or so of lines, then the equipment was a bit shaky so variance could be +/-15%. 265V+15% goes way past 300V, where grey-market 220V+10%=242V. Sum total = fried terminal. As usual, TI gear was over-engineered way to hell and gone, but there are are limits.

    So – look at limits and variances as well. I ran into this as well, more than once, when plugging gear into computer chassis. The gear would draw Yay much power on such-and-such (say 12V), but if the chassis was getting old it might not deliver as much as it should, the equipment would draw more than nominal, and BING = unstable.

    And this from a software honk. Nominally. Really, I guess I was just a support “guru” (it’s been said), with an “omni” attitude. I’d go looking to soak up every bit of information surrounding what I did. Damn, I hated it when the sales weasels beat the marketing guys out surrounding that job. I didn’t lose by much – within a year the whole division had been sold off to HP and Acer.

  41. BGrigg says:

    Lynn wrote about 120V: “It was just kinda tingly.”

    Yeah, that’s the feeling I had when I found that a duplex outlet box was being fed from two breakers. Not a very nice tingly either. Rather a decided this isn’t nice at all tingly.

    When I found a couple of broken hot wires in a switch I was replacing for decorative reasons, I started thinking about all the static shocks I used to get from other switches, and realized that maybe perhaps they weren’t static shocks, at all. Hence the push to swap out all the electrical outlets and switches.

  42. Roy Harvey says:

    This was way back in the days when their “Silent700″ typewriter terminals with built-in 300 bps acoustic couplers (modems) were a viable solution for a lot of the market’s needs.

    Those things saved me a lot of driving to work in the middle of the night.

  43. Chuck Waggoner says:

    Don, you are right, of course. I do know the difference, but it just came out wrong. I was referring to “lath”, the lattice-work of wood that holds the horsehair plaster to the walls in Tiny House.

    Actually, my spelling is getting worse over time. For some reason I have recently been typing “s” for “a” quite frequently. Same with the word “an”; I often type “and” for it. Jeri noticed my English spelling was getting worse while we were in Germany. So was my recall of English words. We called it “losing my English”. Our son over there was the worst, though. He swore that using the present tense instead of the future progressive was okay in English—“I go to the store. Do you want anything?” Of course, that is how many European languages say it, but he convinced himself it was also correct English.

  44. OFD says:

    Remedial treatment is called for here, Herr Waggoner, severely remedial. My prescription is to read *lots* of fiction and nonfiction in English, on a daily basis, and the preference is for works emanating from Yon Scepter’d Isle, Perfidious Albion, to our own. For nonfiction look to the 18th-C guys like Dr. Johnson and our own Founding Fathers; for modern nonfiction look at Churchill and Orwell. Dunno what your taste might be in fiction, but I’ve always enjoyed Kipling and for super boffo laffs, the late, great Kingsley Amis. Try also the late, great George MacDonald Fraser.

    It is a most pleasant cure for those who’ve begun to lose their grasp on the Master Language of the Universe.

  45. Dave B. says:

    For nonfiction look to the 18th-C guys like Dr. Johnson and our own Founding Fathers; for modern nonfiction look at Churchill and Orwell.

    Forgive me for showing my lack of a Liberal Arts background, but I thought Orwell wrote fiction, and that he’d been dead for over 60 years?

  46. BGrigg says:

    I used to think that, too. Then I realize that he was writing a dire warning, and no-0ne listened. Now that we have governments that lie casually, have us under constant surveillance, and at perpetual war, he should be moved across the library to non-fiction.

    Modern is pretty much anything written in the last century.

  47. OFD says:

    I forgive ya, Dave B. What Greg said about modern fiction, i.e. pretty much anything over the past century. And Orwell, a.k.a. Eric Blair, wrote plenty of nonfiction as well, which was why I recommended him; take a look at his collected essays sometime; some of the more famous ones have been used for many years in college English programs. For example, “Politics and the English Language.”

    It wasn’t so much the year 1984 that we saw a lot of things he wrote about come true, but more so nowadays, as Mr. Grigg points out. I second the motion that “1984” and “Animal Farm” be moved to the nonfiction shelves at libraries and bookstores, alongside Ray Bradbury’s “Farenheit 451” and mos def *not* the flick of the same title by that pompous fugly hypocrite librul millionaire, Michael Moore.

  48. OFD says:

    And I meant Mr. Grigg for the quote about modern fiction’s chronology, too, not Greg in Oz; I really, really do not like the inability to edit posts before firing them off here, but the same deal obtains on SpaceBook.

  49. Chuck Waggoner says:

    Firing off email to the wrong people is my greatest fear and problem. I told the software guys over in Berlin that I taught, that I thought a routine which—just before I sent the email—would pop up a dialog and say “this email is going to ‘X’; is that correct?” should be the A#1 priority of every email program. I cannot tell you how many super-embarrassing situations I have caused by sending an email to a party I was discussing, who was NOT the intended recipient. Usually caused by that person being in the To: or CC: field.

    Their solution was that I should write that routine myself. “It wouldn’t be that hard,” they said. “There is no demand we know of, for such a routine.”

    As for reading more fiction—that is not likely to happen. I listen to audio books these days, specifically so I won’t have to read more—thus I won’t learn anything about spelling. I do a ton of reading on the computer in a typical day already; not likely that I will increase that. One of the really bad things about the Internet, is that it really does encourage bad spelling. Once I see it incorrectly, it is game for me to misspell—even if I knew it before. Actually, the Rivendell radio automation forum is one of the worst. Americans just CANNOT spell. The Brits, Aussies, and Kiwi’s all get it right, but Americans are no longer taught to spell properly. I blame it on the switch away from phonetics to the ‘look-say’ method. Our brilliant American educators maintain that English is not a phonetic language, therefore phonetics is not only irrelevant, but bad. We can see the results of that.

    I am not going to take 100% heat for my earlier misstep. I DID properly spell the word I used incorrectly; it was just the wrong word. I should have known better what the correct word is, because my grandfather who built Tiny House along with his brother, used the correct word frequently as I was growing up, as he was a fulltime carpenter and lumber yard mill man, before drywall became common. Oh, and I should mention to Don that any use of “lathe” to mean “lath” is not an American thing; it is a misuse of the proper word. Meanings are the same in American English and the Queen’s English.

    I have read many of the authors OFDave mentioned in my pre-kids-of-my-own youth. But I am able to accomplish less in a day than I used to, so unnecessary diversions have to be held to a minimum, in order to keep life under control. That is not going to change until I stop working for money—which is not going to be in the foreseeable future.

  50. SteveF says:

    the switch away from phonetics to the ‘look-say’ method

    Grr. When my wife and I were looking for reading instruction books a year or two ago, we found one phonics book and probably two dozen “sight words” books. It was a bit of effort for me to convince my wife the latter are bad — she’s Chinese, so memorizing a few thousand words is what she’s used to and that’s what she did when learning English. In fact, she learned to sound out words along with our daughter. Fortunately, the peewee* is reading for real now and no longer needs reading instruction books, just more and more age-appropriate books** for practice.

    * “The peewee” meaning the four-year-old daughter, not the five-feet-tall-if-her-hair-is-puffed-up wife.

    ** With “age appropriate” meaning targeted at several years above her chronological age. She’s able to read them, with assistance on the aggressively non-phonetic words, because no one has told her they’re too hard for her.

  51. Don Armstrong says:

    “She’s able to read them, with assistance on the aggressively non-phonetic words, because no one has told her they’re too hard for her.”

    Hmmm. Were it I, at that age, and someone told me the right way that it was SUPPOSED TO BE beyond me, that would just about guarantee I’d dive in, master it, and progress from there. You know, in your daughter’s case, something like “You know, darling, there’s a lot of people who can’t read very well, and they’d say this was too hard for you. Now, I don’t think ANYTHING is too hard for you, darling, if you want to try. These aren’t even really hard for someone as bright as you are, and they are interesting stories if you can read them.”

    Of course, the people who think it’s too hard are probably right – if they’ve crippled a child by denying them phonics, and insisting on limiting them to only what they’ve seen before. This attitude of “You can know what you’ve seen, but if it’s new then it will forever remain a mystery” has a few conceptual gaps, as far as I can see. QUITE a few.

  52. SteveF says:

    Yah, that’s sorta the way I went about it. Rather than tell her up front that the book was too hard for a lot of kids, I gave it to her, helped as needed, and then, after she’d finished it, told her that a lot of kids, even five-year-olds, couldn’t read it and that she’s so smart. And here’s another book.

    Not to say she doesn’t need occasional help. Tough/through/trough/though/thought and similarly aggressively non-phonetic words have to be memorized, not figured out.

  53. Dave B. says:

    When my wife and I were looking for reading instruction books a year or two ago, we found one phonics book and probably two dozen “sight words” books.

    Was the one phonics book good enough to recommend? If so, do you recall the title and author? Not that my daughter will be needing it for another year or so.

  54. SteveF says:

    Yes, it was good enough to recommend. And, no, I don’t recall the author or title, but I know who I gave it to and can ask.

    If I remember. Which I won’t, because I’m a burnout.

    … But that’s what the internet is for.

    The book was called Phonics Readers, by Sue Graves. She has a bunch more phonics books on Amazon.

  55. OFD says:

    Gut hurts from laughing here.

    SteveF tells us he’s a burnout.

    Has SteveF seen my bio info yet?

  56. SteveF says:

    Heh. I occasionally get in trouble (or at least, people try to cause me trouble) because I always say I’m a burnout. But I come by my burnoutitude honestly, through constant interruptions and lack of sleep.

    As for drugs, funny but true story: A couple times in college I tried marijuana when offered by housemates or whoever. I wasn’t a cigarette smoker and no one told me you were supposed to inhale the smoke into your lungs, so I just sucked some into my mouth and then exhaled. “This shit don’t work,” quoth I, and didn’t try it again. Just as well. Between school workload and paying for room and board workload, I had no spare time and no spare money. Oh, and someone gave me LSD one time, without bothering to tell me, but I broke both his arms after I came down, so it worked out ok.

  57. OFD says:

    I tripped on acid over a hundred times from age 15 to 21 or so, including time in the service. We took an extremely dim view of anyone who deliberately caused someone to trip without their knowledge or permission. Extremely dim. Your breaking of arms was about right, but we might have added blinding and castration.

    We used to smoke joints to ‘mellow’ the edge on our trips, and as we ‘came down,’ we drank beer and/or wine to speed us along and eventually get to sleep. Strychnine was used in some acid to speed up the initial trip, but it gave us rather uncomfortable stomach cramps for a half hour or so until we forgot all about it.

    Genuine peyote, mescaline and shrooms would usually cause nausea and vomiting in the first half hour, but then ‘nirvana,’ LOL. I took my last little trip shortly after my return to The World and it was a real bad one, totally stupid of me, and never since.

    Burnout was me about two-and-half years ago, at the tail end of a tailspin into the Cheap-Ass Vodka Vortex. Again, extremely stupid.

    All is good now, but not a day goes by that I don’t remember what a fucking asshole I was for so long.

    And now Mrs. OFD tells me I would make a wonderful deacon in Holy Mother Church. After I pick myself up off the floor, she goes away and doesn’t mention it again for a few months. Uses the very late Bishop of Hippo as an example of youthful waste brought to glorious fruition. I point out that that dude was a freaking genius, number one, and that he also was a genuine saint and utterly fearless.

    Not gonna happen.

  58. Chuck Waggoner says:

    I don’t see the book we used with our kids in the Amazon phonetics list. It had some basic phonetics in it. Our son wanted to learn to read at about 4 years old, but could not bear more than 5 minutes of working on it. Ultimately, he taught himself to read at 5, when we gave him a Nintendo, and he was desperate to read the “tips” book. He would sound out words and occasionally ask me what some word was, but before he entered first grade, he could read at second grade level, and by the end of first grade could read at fourth grade level. He spent a year working in the UK and Ireland, and can keep the spellings straight, actually preferring the UK spellings.

    My phonics training was in the second grade. The teacher had a list of every combination of consonants and vowels imaginable, written on the blackboard in the back of the room. Several times a week we stood and faced that blackboard and went one by one through each student, going down the list and making the sound of a letter combination, and giving a word it was used in. I suspect there were between 50 and 100 on the board. If you got it wrong, you had to sit down and watch the others go through the list. I and one other girl never had to sit. She cheated though. Her dad came and took a picture of that blackboard and practiced at home. I never had the advantage of that practice, but I sure have wished I had that list—especially when I was teaching English in Berlin.

    My brother was a year behind me, and even though he tested with a higher IQ than I, he could never spell or read as well as I could. I credit that phonics training. My teacher retired after my year in second grade, and he never got that practice. Actually, he was terrible at spelling. Had to have my mom proof all his high school and college term papers.

  59. Miles_Teg says:

    All this is a bit familiar. I was going through primary (=grade) school in the mid-late Sixties, finishing in 1970. I couldn’t spell very well, my mum blamed it on the headmaster, who didn’t emphasise spelling or phonetics. My sister, who has over 40 years teaching experience, also said that we (South Australia) imported the American spelling fads just as the Yanks realised that they were wrong.

    As to the combinations of vowels and (one or more) consonants, I’m going through that at the moment in introductory Sanskrit. Consonants generally have a short “a” appended to them, but that can be changed by various squiggles into various short or long vowels. Consonants can be combined, and there are quite a few of them, and the combined consonant isn’t always obvious from its constituents. But I’d rather be learning Sanskrit or Hindi than Chinese or Japanese.

    Yeah, in the days before desktop computers my mum (or my sister, if she was in a very good mood, which wasn’t often) would proof read my essays.

  60. Miles_Teg says:

    About your IQ Chuck…

    I’ve always been a bit skeptical about IQ. The IQ evangelists seem to squash it into a single dimension, whereas intelligence is really made up of a number of (somewhat) independent axes, which makes comparing IQs somewhat problematic. Three, and possibly all four of my sister’s kids are smarter than both their parents, in some cases very significantly. IQ testing is a somewhat useful tool so long as you don’t take the evangelists claims too seriously.

  61. Don Armstrong says:

    Do you know, I was a country kid? Fairly early, when I started high-school, I made some enemies. They didn’t know nuffin, dumb as posts, but they’d tried to hammer me, and it happened I was quite a bit brighter than they were. Anyway, one Saturday I was ploughing, tractor towing disc plough, and these Dumbo yahoos pulled up with .22 semi-auto rifles, and started yelling and shouting and shooting at me. They’d walked out a ways into the paddock, and I’d about had it with them. I started the tractor, headed straight for them, and thought “though the the tough cough and hiccough, plough him through, thought I”. They got away, but it sure wasn’t clean away, as I could see while they ran/waddled.

    Well, it’s a story.

  62. BGrigg says:

    Don A,

    Love the story, and you’ve taught me a sentence that uses all seven “OUGH” sounds in one line! Why haven’t I heard that before?

  63. Chuck Waggoner says:

    The only value of IQ is to predict how well students will do grade-wise in university. Other uses of it have mostly been found to be unsatisfactory—except for testing military and police recruits. Ball State Teachers College (predecessor to the current Ball State University), funded by the Ball canning jar family, was an instrumental part of constructing the tests to determine IQ after WWII. Since my parents got their Masters in the area of guidance and counseling in education, they were part of that project. Every young kid in the family and every kid that my parents knew or could get their hands on, was tested for IQ as a part of that work of constructing the tests. (It is actually harder than one would think, because the IQ of the test creator was instrumental in being able to construct accurate tests.) Then my parents refused to tell me and my brother what our IQ was. Years later, I weaseled out of my mom, the information that we were both at least 2 standard deviations above average/normal, and my brother was slightly higher than me. He couldn’t spell worth a damn, though—and apparently, neither can I anymore.

  64. Chuck Waggoner says:

    I should add that the IQ test failed miserably in predicting my university performance. I only got a degree at the insistence of my parents, who were very well educated with multiple degrees. I already had a job in TV while going through school, and I saw university as interfering with what I really wanted to do in life. I only got A’s in my major subject (Radio & TV) and business courses related to broadcasting work. Oh, and Physics, which I had aced in high school. The liberal arts stuff I couldn’t care less about, and my grades showed that. So much for IQ tests.

  65. Miles_Teg says:

    I was probably IQ tested several times in school, can’t say I remember my results.

    A few years ago my sister got me a book on testing one’s own IQ, emotional intelligence, and so on. I simply disagreed with some of the answers in some of the non-intelligence tests, such as the following, paraphrased:

    “You’re at the supermarket, and someone unobtrusively joins the line ahead of you. What do you do?

    A) Loudly demand that the person join the line behind you.

    B) Quietly ask that the person join the line behind you.

    C) Do and say nothing.”

    My answer was B, the “correct” answer was C, so I stopped taking the Emotional intelligence test seriously at that point.

    To cut a long story short my self-tested result in IQ was 118, which I didn’t find very flattering. I became skeptical when my sister said that her younger son, who is probably the least academically inclined of the kids, had tested at 120 when he was about six. Assuming IQ remains constant that would make him smarter than me, which he wasn’t. So either it wasn’t a good test, or I was having a bad day, or some other explanation. My IQ should have been a fair bit higher than his, but it was reported as a bit lower.

    Anyway, he’s 23.5 years old now and has a teaching job at one of the best private schools in Adelaide, so we’re all proud of him. And the smartest of my sister’s kids has been quite a disappointment.

    A like to compare people with high IQ to greyhounds. Yes, they’re fast, but also delicate, fragile, whatever. My sister, who has been a teacher for over 40 years, says that middle of the road kids are highly over-represented in the “successful” category at class reunions. Some of the bright kids have gone on to be professors and so on, but many have flunked out completely.

  66. brad says:

    “the switch away from phonetics to the ‘look-say’ method”

    Both of our kids could read at least a little before they went to kindergarden. Both of them attended the same kindergarden and primary school and had the same teachers, who taught phonics.

    Interestingly, although both are voracious readers, they read totally differently. The younger son reads at a pretty average rate, maybe 300 words per minute. His spelling is essentially perfect. The older son reads (and has always done so, even as a small child) well over 700 words per minute (probably more by now. His spelling is an absolute disaster, and his pronunciation of never-spoken-before words is, shall we say, “fanciful”.

    My theory is that our fast-reader somehow caught onto the “look-say” method – recognizing the shapes of words and entire phrases, but not the letters that make them up. He is not dyslexic, but it is a huge effort for him to slow down and look at how a word is spelled.

    That may not be an adequate explanation, since kids deliberately taught “look-and-say” usually wind up poorer-than-average readers. But there is clearly something very different in the way my two kids read, and that may be part of the explanation.

  67. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Yes, they’re fast, but also delicate, fragile, whatever.

    I know many people whose IQs are off the charts, and not a one of them is what I’d consider delicate, fragile, or whatever.

    Actually, I agree with Pournelle that IQ values greater than four sigmas above the mean are pretty meaningless. Genius simply is. Attempting to quantify it by tests is a losing proposition. The only realistic measure of IQs above about 160 (on an SD-15 scale) is subjective; put a bunch of geniuses together. If most of them agree that “that guy is scary-smart”, you can safely assume that that guy is on a different level, one above genius.

  68. SteveF says:

    People are very sensitive about intelligence and IQ issues, even as they deny the importance of intelligence, the meaningfulness of IQ tests, or the existence of statistical variation by race or other factors. I conclude that people instinctively realize that intelligence is very important but they don’t like the consequences of that importance or else they fear they don’t measure up.

    Here’s a (thoroughly non-scientific) experiment I conducted in the late 1980s: I made various comparisons between myself and the person I was talking to, just slipping them into casual conversation. I didn’t make many comparisons in the same conversation, just one or two, but if I could I made a bunch of comparisons against the same person over the course of months, doing the same comparison several times if I could work it in smoothly. All of this was done in the US and all of the “subjects” were Americans or at least Americanized enough that I didn’t realize they weren’t. Note in particular that The Bell Curve hadn’t come out yet. Intelligence was occasionally brought up in the news and such, but it wasn’t a hugely contentious issue.

    “My hair is darker (or lighter) than yours”: No objection. Any disagreements were simply on the facts, or perceived facts. No feelings of annoyance or distress were evident.

    “My skin is lighter than yours”: Ditto, except for a few black or hispanic people who weren’t sure if I was making a racist remark or pointing out racism in society.

    “I’m taller than you”: Generally no argument because at 6’3″ I’m taller than most, though men above 6′ sometimes got in pecker contests about it and short men often got annoyed that I brought it up.

    “I’m stronger than you”: Increasing resistance from both men and women. Young men almost always took it as a challenge. A fair number of men would say, “Yah, but I can still kick your ass.” A fair number of women would say something along the lines of, “That’s why men are supposed to serve women.” A fair number of both men and women would say, “But I can kill you with one bullet just like anyone else” or similar.

    “I’m smarter than you”: Total resistance. 100.0% of the subjects objected in one way or another. “IQ tests don’t count for anything.” “Yah, but I can still kick your ass.” “Book learning doesn’t matter in the real world.” “Doesn’t matter. I have more money than you.” And on and on.

  69. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Intelligence is not just important. Ultimately, it’s the only thing that matters for the progress of our species, and IQ is by far the best quantification of intelligence. The history of our species is the 99.99% coasting on the achievements of the 0.01%. Without that 0.01%, we’d have nothing. With them, we have all of the infrastructure that allowed us to build and maintain civilization. And those 0.01% are disproportionately our scientists and engineers.

    None of this is to say that non-geniuses can’t be productive, useful members of society. But without that 0.01%, nothing would happen. The 0.01% provides the spark that drives everything. Which is not to say that everyone in the 0.01% contributes. But is to say that without that 0.01% we’d still be living in a state of nature.

  70. SteveF says:

    I’m inclined to agree, though I’ll note my own bias: my measured IQ blows the top off the tests and so I get to boost my ego by saying IQ/intelligence is important.

    That’s often used as an attack against the importance of intelligence and related issues: Well, of course you would think IQ is important. While it’s a valid consideration, it’s seldom used as an meaningful objection. It’s simply an ad hominem attempt to shut down the discussion by finding a reason to ignore someone who’s saying something you don’t want to hear.

  71. Miles_Teg says:

    I don’t mind admitting that there are plenty of people around who are smarter than me, but IQ is only part of the story. The boy I sat next to in Year 11 was heaps, heaps, smarter than me. Four years later I ran into him. I was at university, he’d been to jail. Lots of smart kids I knew had done nothing with their lives, got degrees in useless subjects, and so on. I may have been dumb but at least I got a degree in a useful subject and paid some taxes with a good job.

  72. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Yeah, but chances are you haven’t invented anything like how to smelt copper or synthesize antibiotics, or discovered anything like the laws of planetary motion. As I said, non-geniuses can be productive, useful members of society. They just don’t come up with many useful ideas or inventions.

    Incidentally, the whole argument about dysfunctional geniuses is bogus. Very bright people are in fact much less likely to suffer from mental (or physical) illness. They live longer and are on average happier than less-bright people. They are more successful in life, and better adjusted. Those are just facts, as much as most people want to deny them.

  73. Miles_Teg says:

    “I know many people whose IQs are off the charts, and not a one of them is what I’d consider delicate, fragile, or whatever.”

    That’s because you live a sheltered lifestyle. You work at home and don’t have to associate with people you don’t want to. Out here in the real world the rest of us don’t have that luxury.

  74. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Eh? That’s a non-sequitur, unless I’m missing something. What does my lifestyle have to with the fact that I know many, many brilliant people, none of whom is strange in any way other than having an exceptionally high IQ?

  75. SteveF says:

    The people with the exceptionally high IQs are the one-in-a-million, not the everyday “he’s really bright, his IQ is over 130” people. Odds are, you’ve never interacted with enough of them to have a sound basis for an opinion.

    I believe RBT’s assertion about the lower incidence of mental frailty amongst the super-bright is correct, though I’ll add a codecil: The very bright are often perceived as “having something wrong with them” because they view the world differently than the “normal” man with his limited ability to perceive and comprehend the world, his monkey prejudices and superstitions. The very bright devise their own solutions to life’s little problems rather than doing things the “common sense” way that “everybody” does them. There is also the problem that “everyone knows” that geniuses are flaky and have no common sense, so the genius’s words and actions are often viewed through that filter. The net effect is something like confirmation bias, though this can also involve ignoring or misinterpreting data which doesn’t fit the preconceived notion.

  76. SteveF says:

    My 13:35 comment was a reply to Miles_Teg, not to RBT. Thanks to a constant stream of interruptions, it took me over twenty minutes to write two paragraphs. Periods of concentration? Yep, in periods lasting up to ten seconds sometimes. Productivity? Yep, I remember what that was.

  77. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Yes. The vast majority of people have never had any significant interactions with true geniuses, those with IQs four or more sigmas above the mean. Sure, they may stand in line with one at the supermarket or have a casual conversation about nothing much, but in terms of real interactions, few people understand just how smart really smart people are.

    Over my life, I’ve had the good fortune to interact significantly with a very large number of geniuses. Probably around 3% to 5% of them were girls and women, about the percentage one would expect given the difference in IQ SD between men and women. And, yes, most of them are considered odd by most people. They often don’t care much, if at all, about things that are important to average people; conversely, they often care very much about things that average people have never even thought about. That, by definition, makes them odd. But it in no way makes them less able to function than average people. Just the converse, in fact.

  78. MrAtoz says:

    My advisor/mentor during my masters program (ORSA) was definitely a genius. Although he was worth considerably money from patents/inventions, he could easily take a year sabbatical and make millions. But, his passions were research and teaching. He was like Bob (whom I consider extremely intelligent, plus that memory, but not a genius). Material things meant little to him. A car is just a way to get around. A house is where you sleep, etc. Why do anything else till you die.

  79. MrAtoz says:

    Did I use “whom” correctly in my above post? I alway screw that up.

  80. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    He was like Bob (whom I consider extremely intelligent, plus that memory, but not a genius).

    Slap! Take that! Slap!


  81. SteveF says:

    Mr Atoz, whom are you asking?

  82. OFD says:

    “A car is just a way to get around. A house is where you sleep, etc.”

    And? Your point?

  83. Chuck Waggoner says:

    I think it is highly unlikely that most people ever come into contact with a person who is more than around 2 SD above average, and my guess is even that likelihood decreases with age. By the point of reaching 2, one is talking about a group smaller than 1% of the population. Unless one is in a profession where high IQ people collect, the chance of running into one is practically nil, and recognizing it through a short conversation of pleasantries is really impossible—even for smart people.

    Those I have known who were for sure in that category were either in certain areas of education, inventive environments like the former Bell Labs, or aerospace. They certainly were not in my chosen field, until I reached Chicago.

    Agreed that high IQ people I have known are not at all fragile. Some do not seem to have the capacity—or perhaps it is more the desire—to know how to fully exploit the knowledge in their areas of interest. For instance, I don’t think anyone today would know the name Steve Wozniak, had it not been for Steve Jobs.

    But there are personality differences in them, just as there are in more average people. Some are more animated than others, while some are very quiet. One in particular that I met and still have some contact with, is just plain overbearing, and has told people they are stupid and no match for him, with no manners at all. Unfortunately, asshole that he is, he is right.

  84. OFD says:

    I have always liked Woz a WHOLE lot better than the Jobs character. May he live long and prosper.

    And though he is kind of a jerk at times, maybe light a joss stick or something for Richard Stallman, who is not in the greatest health and just had a little episode again.

  85. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I once pleaded justifiable arrogance.

  86. Miles_Teg says:

    Only once?

  87. brad says:

    A couple of comments on the intelligence issue.

    First, as I recall, there have been plenty of studies that show that intelligence is strongly correlated with career success – completely independent of the field of endeavor. A physicist with a higher IQ will, on average, be more successful than a physicist with lower IQ. And the same for plumbers, lawyers, mechanics, or whatever.

    That said, speaking from my personal experience, the second factor that IQ does not directly measure is social competence. This manifests itself (in terms of career success) as the ability to network successfully.

    Depending on the career choice, this may be more important than intelligence. For example, I recall an article from years ago that pointed out that security guards, police officers, and the like should not be too intelligent – else they get bored – but need have a high social competence.

    On the subject of the chances of meeting really smart people, I remember a story from a guy at Bell Labs. He wrote that he was top of his high-school class. He knew he was one of the best graduating from college. He felt smarter than most of the people in his graduate program. Yep, he was about average at his postdoc. By the time he got his position at Bell Labs, he was one of the dumber ones.

    My experience was pretty similar. Through graduate school I was certainly one of the smarter ones. When I did a post-doc at the University of Edinburgh, I did just fine on a “mechanic” level – writing software to implement and test the mathematical ideas of the top researchers there. But actually do research on that level? Create the same new ideas that they were creating? Forget it, I just work here…

  88. Miles_Teg says:

    Chuck wrote:

    “I think it is highly unlikely that most people ever come into contact with a person who is more than around 2 SD above average…”

    I think you, and I, and most people here come into contact with people 2 SD above average all the time. After all, that’s only an IQ of about 130-135 isn’t it. One of my nephews (not the “dumb” IQ 120 one) said his IQ was 140+, and tons of the STEM faculty at uni would be well above that.

    SteveF wrote:

    “My 13:35 comment was a reply to Miles_Teg, not to RBT. ”

    Yes, that was obvious from the context.

    I doubt if I’ve met very many people with IQ above 160, but plenty in the 130+ (is that 2 SD?). I mean, at least half my class in Year 11 was probably 140+. And I probably wouldn’t be able easily to distinguish someone with IQ 130-140 from someone 160-180.

    RBT wrote:

    “Incidentally, the whole argument about dysfunctional geniuses is bogus.”

    I didn’t say geniuses, I said “A like to compare people with high IQ to greyhounds. ”

    Obviously you and I have different ideas about what high IQ means. It was obvious from the context that I was talking about kids with IQs of 130-150, or more in a few cases, you are talking about 190+.

    It remains that I have seen many many cases of kids with much higher IQ than me make a complete mess of their lives, and be unproductive. One of my sister’s nieces spent six years at university and emerged without a degree. Last I heard she was working in a bakery. I don’t know her IQ but it was far far higher than mine. My sister has remarked that at class reunions it’s the middle of the road kids, who she thought were complete no-hoppers, who usually have made the most of life, while some of the smartest have screwed up.

    My friend from Year 11, Richard, got very much better grades than me yet he ended up in jail for stealing cars. Others didn’t make that mistake but didn’t do well because they thought they could get a good job on the back of a degree in English Lit. I’d rather be smart than dumb, I’d rather have an IQ of 150, or 180, that 120, but IQ is only part of the story. If you don’t believe that just ask the Unabomber and his like.

  89. Chuck Waggoner says:

    SD on IQ tests appears to have changed over the years from 15 to 16, so two SD runs to about 150, and much of 2 is *significantly* less than 1% of the population, close to 0.50%, in fact. I can assure you that with the local high school receiving an F on student test performance and consequently the state threatening to take it over, I do not run into 2 SD people in Tiny Town—ever. Actually, I don’t even think most of the people in the legal profession that I work around are as high as 2 SD.

    My info on the application of IQ to various life tasks is terrifically out-of-date, as it came from my parents who were involved in that effort of constructing and testing the tests at Ball State Teachers College back in the 1950’s. But my parents always told me that there was no statistically significant correlation of IQ scores related to anything but expected academic performance. However, even that did not work for me, because I took a fulltime load of classes, worked 25 hours a week in TV and another 15 hours at a work scholarship, ordered my classwork in the order of my interest in it, and just did not get to some of it—not even the reading assignments,—although I never failed any course, even when I did not do the classwork. That changed when I moved midstream to the big university. Aside from being too busy at the private university, I was also not happy with my social life there. Small towns and small schools are not conducive to people with above average intelligence, IMO.

  90. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    SD hasn’t “changed”, Chuck. You can make the SD anything you want to, depending on how you design and score the test. For example, Stanford-Binet uses a mean of 100 and an SD of 16, while Wechsler uses a mean of 100 and an SD of 15. So, one sigma above the mean is IQ 116 on S-B and IQ 115 on Wechsler. That’s why I usually state sigmas rather than IQ numbers.

    Plus or minus one sigma is considered average. That’s the range of 84 to 116 on S-B or 85 to 115 on Wechsler. About 6,827 of every 10,000 people fall into this range. Two SDs (68 to 132 or 70 to 130) encompass about 9,545 of those 10,000 people. Three SDs (52 to 148 or 55 to 145) encompass about 9,973 of those 10,000 people. In other words, in a population of 10,000 people, about 13.5 can be expected to have an IQ higher than 148/145, or about one in 740 people. That’s uncommon, but not extraordinarily so.

    Some people consider “genius” to begin at 3 SDs above the mean. I don’t. I consider 4 SDs to be the threshold. At that level, we’ll have to bump up the population a bit. Four SDs encompass 999,937 out of 1,000,000 people, so in that population of one million, we’d expect to find about 31.5 people with IQs above 164/160, or about one in 31,746 people.

    In my experience, people out on the right at 3 SDs are very bright, but some things are simply beyond their abilities. They simply don’t make the “intuitive leaps” that true geniuses do, or at least they don’t do so nearly as often. Conversely, those at 4 SDs or more are capable of doing anything they set their minds to. It may take them a while to get there, but get there they will.

    Your parents were absolutely wrong about the applicability of IQ to life. IQ scores correlate better with just about every desirable outcome more closely than any other metric. That’s known to be true now, and was certainly known to be true at the time they were telling you it wasn’t.

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