Mimsy Were the Borogoves

For the wisdom of the wise are the criterion of your madness.

Government Funding Disorder—Wednesday, April 11th, 2018
Shocked at government funding

The latest evidence that government dominance of research funding holds back useful progress is a complaint in a March 17, 2018, Science News article on postpartum depression.

Imagine that you are a grant-writer at a business, a college, a foundation, or some other institution that performs research, and you have the opportunity to recommend a funding request. Your choices are internet gaming disorder and postpartum depression. One has the potential to show how the Internet should be further regulated to keep people from harming themselves with Internet addiction; the other has the potential to help millions of women who suffer from a serious and sometimes deadly illness. Which do you recommend?

All other things being equal, it will probably depend on what your interests and your institution’s interests are. If they lie toward gaming or Internet issues, you may go with the first. If they lie toward maternity issues or medical sales, and you want to profit from your results, you might go with the second.

But what if all things aren’t equal? What if the majority of funds come from government bureaucracies? Then you have the real world, in which “more than four times as many [human brain imaging studies] have been conducted on a problem called ‘internet gaming disorder’” than on postpartum depression. And that compares, on one side, only five years of research, and on the other, decades.

This is a result that only makes sense in a world where government funding swamps private funding. It means government’s needs—justification for more laws—take precedence over the majority of people’s needs. It puts the desires of politicians—more opportunities to milk donations from rich industries—over the needs of everyone else.

In a sane world, we’d be complaining about the mad rush to profit off of women’s misery, not about ignoring that potential profit. The sheer numbers of potential customers for a solution to postpartum depression would turn our current disparity upside down and spike it.

Instead of pouring money and time into the latest fleeting infatuations of politicians and government bureaucracies, we’d be solving a problem that potentially affects half the population. That really sounds like government funding holding progress back.

The Radio Shack Postal Service—Wednesday, April 4th, 2018
80-Micro November 1981 cover

In August, 1981, IBM introduced the IBM Personal Computer, and begin shipping it in October. At the time, the market was dominated by Tandy (Radio Shack), Apple, and Commodore. I’ve been rebrowsing 80 microcomputing, and in the November 1981 issue Betty Thayer covered the introduction and Tandy’s reaction to it.

Thus far Tandy’s reaction to their new competition has been blase. “I don’t think we’re going to lose any business because of it,” says Jon Shirley, vice president of the Fort Worth, TX, firm’s computer division.

According to Thayer, “market analysts estimate [Tandy holds] about 25 percent of the personal computer market, with Apple of Cupertino, CA, garnering about 22 percent and Norristown, PA-based Commodore 20 percent.”

What’s amazing is not just how clueless Tandy leadership was, but also that experts in general were all over the map. The article itself tends to focus on the small business market, rather than the personal computer market.

These new machines “will not have an immediate effect,” says market analyst Al Hirsh of Datapro Research Corp., Delran, NJ. Hirsh feels that the new computers will have the swiftest impact on Tandy’s major accounts because their competitors have so many business contacts.

Other marketing people think the new computers—particularly the IBM personal computer—will affect Apple computer’s sales more than Tandy’s. “The IBM personal computer is aimed smack at Apple, “because its price and capabilities are similar,” says Gerald Hallaren of the Yankee Group, a Cambridge, MA, market consulting firm.

The very title of the article shows off the confusion: Xerox, IBM storm market, pull wraps off their micros.

Hirsch predicted of the IBM offering that “One million of them will be sold by 1985”. In fact, they hit a million sometime in 1982, and sold another million in 1983, another two million in 1984. By 1985 they were selling five million per year.

Radio Shack had their own sales outlets; the other computers of the time, including IBM, sold through third-party outlets such as Sears and ComputerLand.

How will Tandy’s distribution match up? With 2,000 dealers, 168 computer centers and 4,800 retail stores, they’ve pretty much got the field covered. They also have some direct accounts sales people, though this is certainly not their strongest point. Shirley of Tandy thinks their retail units are the key to escaping the influx of IBM and Xerox. “They’re selling them in stores where they sell Apples and PETs,” he says, theorizing those two producers will feel the brunt of the competition.

HDTV Antenna placement—Wednesday, March 28th, 2018
Tablo TV and Mohu Glide with amplifier

This is the signal strength report with an amplifier.

One of the greatest features of the Tablo TV box is that, if you have a smart phone or tablet, you can easily change the location of the antenna and re-run an antenna scan to check the signal strength of all available channels. And you can put the Tablo and its antenna anywhere, as long as it has power1 So the best place to put the television doesn’t have to be the best place to put an indoor antenna.

Before the Tablo, I had a Mohu Leaf 50 antenna downstairs plugged directly into the television set. Sometimes it worked better on the window; sometimes it worked better on top of a corner bookshelf at a weird angle. Sometimes it worked better after it fell on the floor, and then later it wouldn’t. When a car drove by, the signal often flickered.2

Moving the antenna upstairs improved reception for every station I watch but one. There’s a 24-hour weather channel that sometimes came in great downstairs, and sometimes didn’t come in at all; upstairs, it seems to come in all the time, but never comes in great. I suspect it’s direction-related, but I don’t know. In any case, I almost never watch that channel. It was mostly when channel flipping, which I’d stopped doing after I bought the Apple TV over a year ago.

Besides generally better reception, reception has also become more stable, which is also important. Time of day and weather seems to matter much less, if at all, now, except for one channel. And I was able to find a location that worked well for all of the stations I wanted to watch.

With the Mohu Leaf, that location turned out not to be the window. The whole process of antenna placement seems to be voodoo: even restricting antenna placement to the window, the best place turned out to be at the bottom of the glass doors, not at the top of them. But the best place was about two feet in from the window, tacked so that it was barely hanging from a wooden beam going down the center of the upstairs room’s peaked ceiling. This meant, also, that the antenna was perpendicular to the window, so directionality may have played part.

Buffalo, Texas: The Horse’s Mouth on Highway 79—Wednesday, March 21st, 2018
The Horse’s Mouth

A lot of fiction, a little science fiction, and some nice cookbooks.

If you’re traveling through Texas on Highway 79, and you find yourself in Buffalo, you could do a lot worse than stopping off at The Horse’s Mouth bookstore and coffeeshop. Besides coffee, they have a huge selection of ice cream flavors to turn into shakes, and, of even more importance when traveling, they have a nice selection of used books to walk around and browse. After several hours of driving, why stop at a coffeeshop that expects you to sit down?

While the book side has a relatively small selection of used books for a bookstore, it has a big selection for a coffeeshop/bookstore. I was on my way to Palestine—and another booksale—when I stopped here, and I even managed to find a book I’d been looking for, Brad Thor’s The Lions of Lucerne as well as a hardcover of Ken Follett’s On the Wings of Eagles. I read the latter in paperback form a long time ago and have been wanting to re-read it.

Lions of Lucerne is the first book in the Scot Harvath series; I read the tenth book, Full Black, a few years ago, and liked it enough I picked up another at random; it turned out to be the ninth in the series. I have a tendency to do this: randomly pick out a book that’s in the middle of a series, than read backwards. I decided this time to stop reading any more in the series until I could find the first. Now I have it, so I’ll be digging into a long thriller series.

They had a small selection of nice science fiction and fantasy, and also a shelf of very nice cookbooks. Again, not many, but what they had were good books. They had at least three of the Southern Living series from the seventies, which is one of my favorite series of cookbooks. I think they’re other people’s favorites as well, since they rarely show up in used bookstores. Alas, all of the ones here were ones I already own.

It looks like from their web page that they run a local writers conference, too, although I don’t see any information about it.

Civil rights vs. showboat killers—Wednesday, March 14th, 2018
Mass media ad for killers

“The above paragraph is not the formal policy of… much of the mainstream media, but it amounts to the de facto policy.”—Dave Kopel

Most of the gun laws continually recycled after a mass shooting require the insane belief that criminals would suddenly start obeying this law, even though they’re willing to commit mass murder. They make no sense. If anything, such laws would increase the numbers of mass murders by creating more areas where only criminals are allowed to carry firearms. Such laws would tear at the self-defense rights of the law-abiding, and do nothing to protect them.

Even the people who propose these gun bans eventually admit, if you press them, that their proposals wouldn’t have stopped the mass murder they’re using as justification.

But what if there were a civil right we could infringe on that would stop such mass murderers? What if there were a law we could force the law-abiding to follow that would mean no more Parklands?

It does exist. Psychologists and commentators across the political spectrum recognize that these particular kinds of mass murders are done because the killer wants recognition. They know they’re going to get media attention, and lots of it, if they (a) use a gun, and (b) kill lots of people.

That’s why the vast majority of these killings take place in places where only criminals are allowed to carry firearms, even though such places are a tiny minority of places where people gather in the United States. Because the killers don’t want to be stopped before they kill enough people to make the news, and they know that if they’re stopped because one of their potential victims has a self-defense weapon, they either won’t make the news or their fame will be brief.

Columbine was meant to be spectacular, and it has beckoned mass shooters ever since as an example, a template, and a challenge. They study it, and they try to top it in terms of either body count or showmanship. From suicidal ideation grows the delusion of grandeur; from the desire to kill yourself grows the desire to kill as many people as possible, with immortality on the line.

In many cases, the killers are explicitly trying to beat the body counts of previously-sensationalized killings. They know what sells.

Tablo TV without a subscription—Wednesday, March 7th, 2018
Tablo TV no record notification

Flame of Barbary Coast is set to record, but you can’t tell it from the grid.

I’m not a fan of monthly fees. One of the reasons I use over-the-air instead of cable for television is to reduce the number of monthly fees I have (I use cable for Internet only). The Tablo TV comes with one month free of a subscription to their database that knows what is playing over the next 14 days. This is very useful. It also allows watching your recordings, or even live broadcasts, remotely; I subscribed for one month following the free month because that was over the holidays and I was traveling. As it turned out, I never used that feature, but the subscription certainly makes it easier to schedule recordings. Instead of going through channel by channel on a site such as TV Guide, you can just go through a genre-by-genre list of movie and television titles.

After returning from my travels, I let the subscription lapse. I use TV Guide to decide what to record, and manually set the recording times.

Without the subscription, Tablo is definitely harder to use. However, it’s still easier than the videocassette recorder I owned long ago. That said, some of the things that not having a subscription make harder are a bit annoying. They seem to be less a feature of a subscription than an artificial inducement to getting a subscription.

For example, when you have a subscription and schedule a show, it over-records by a small amount, so as to ensure that you don’t miss the beginning or end of a show. This does not cause any conflicts when recording shows back-to-back because the Tablo is smart enough to copy the end of an early show to the beginning of a following show. This feature appears to be disabled when manually recording: the Tablo marks overlapping times from the same channel as conflicts if there are not enough receivers to record them separately.

More importantly, if you don’t have Internet, you can’t use the Tablo. You need to have more than just a local network between the Tablo and your smart box or smart television. If the Tablo box cannot connect to Tablo’s servers, it’s pretty much worthless.

Flying blind in Broward County—Wednesday, February 28th, 2018
Shielding criminals

We are beginning to see what went wrong in Parkland, and how badly. It is looking ugly, and incomprehensible, just how badly local and federal law enforcement screwed up. Last week I wrote about the parent who said:

It seems inconceivable that he was allowed to legally buy the gun and that he was able to get access to the school.

And it does seem inconceivable. We have a National Instant Criminal Background Check System specifically to stop exactly this kind of killer. The school had a deputy on campus specifically to keep this kind of killer off of school grounds. It seems even more inconceivable that Broward County had a program in place that specifically helped the killer bypass the NICS.

In Florida, one of the nation’s largest school districts has overhauled its discipline policies with a single purpose in mind — to reduce the number of children going into the juvenile justice system.

It’s a move away from so-called “zero tolerance” policies that require schools to refer even minor misdemeanors to the police. Critics call it a “school to prison pipeline.”

Civil rights and education activists say the policy can be a model for the nation.

Under a new program adopted by the Broward County School District, non-violent misdemeanors—even those that involve alcohol, marijuana or drug paraphernalia—will now be handled by the schools instead of the police.

The problem with this is that, of course, if the local police don’t know about it—or, more likely, know about it but let the school deal with it—other police in other locales can’t know about it; and since the crimes are never prosecuted, they are never entered into the NICS. The other problem is system creep. It seemed to rapidly evolve to keep even violent crimes hidden, to the point that the deputy on campus apparently not only didn’t stop the killer but refused to share information that would have put the killer in the NICS.

The Vicious Cycle of Mass Murders—Wednesday, February 21st, 2018
Facebook Ghouls Infinity War

It’s as if the Facebook ghouls are praying for mass murder.

Last week there was another mass shooting in an area where only criminals are allowed to carry firearms.1 Immediately, Facebook began filling up with attacks on the people who didn’t do it. This is a standard cycle, now. It’s so obvious that the Facebook ghouls who take part in it have tried to turn it around on people who offer sympathy to the victims while waiting for the facts about the murders. A few days after the Parkland murders, I saw a meme with these steps on it:

  • Mass shooting
  • Thoughts and prayers
  • Facebook debates
  • Everyone forgets
  • Congress does nothing
  • Crickets chirping

But of course, everyone doesn’t forget. After the facts come out, it turns out that there are real solutions that would have solved these crimes, but those solutions aren’t gun control so it’s only the Facebook ghouls who forget—or, worse, blame the people trying to pass real solutions.

The real cycle looks more like this:

  1. There’s a mass murder in an area where only criminals are allowed to carry firearms.
  2. Before they could possibly know what actually happened, an army of Facebook ghouls calls for disarming the people who didn’t do it, and blaming NRA members.2 They try to capitalize on mass murders so rapidly that they will call for more gun bans even when the murders weren’t committed with guns.
  3. Other people wait for the facts to come in, and offer prayers and sympathy to those hurt by the murderer. The Facebook ghouls berate them both for waiting for the facts and for offering prayers and sympathy.
  4. When the facts come in, it turns out the government wasn’t doing its job enforcing the laws we already have. More gun bans wouldn’t have made a difference when the government isn’t enforcing current laws.
  5. In some cases, when the facts come in it turns out that the gun bans the Facebook ghouls have been calling for would have disarmed the bystander who stopped the murderer’s killing spree.

This is what happened in Sutherland Springs, when it turned out the federal government wasn’t doing its job—the killer should have been in the NICS. First, the left called for banning all guns3 and then they went silent when it turned out the real solution was to make the federal government do its job—and especially that the laws they reflexively called for would have resulted in more murders in Sutherland Springs.

This is what happened at the Pulse in Florida, when it turned out that the federal government wasn’t doing its job—the killer had been investigated by the FBI, who verified that he had threatened a mass shooting, and then they took him off of the list that would have notified law enforcement when he went to buy any firearm at all.

This is what happened at Fort Hood in 2009, at Washington Navy Yard in 2013, and Fort Bragg last year.

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