Radically Inept
Saturday, August 07, 2004
  Gone swimming

I have been invited to spend the day with my brother, the Pacifier, Chocolate Morphine, and possibly even Rick Eddy will show up, for a day on the lake. I suspect that alcoholic beverages will be present. I'm sure we are mature enough not to get ourselves or innocent by-standers killed.

In all honesty, that really has less to do with anything on Rick Eddy's or my part, the Pacifier can be led astray, but my brother has metamorphed over the years from a young Alabama Red Neck, into a suburban Atlanta Yuppie. I know, thanks for your sympathies.

Oh, Chocolate Morphine? He can be counted on for his discretion, even to the point of ensuring witnesses...truly, rarely necessary.

We'll have fun inspite of my brother's new found fascist tendencies to obey the law and act civily. Of course, we maybe forced to waterboard him, but... 
  The politics of science

Via Inspector Lohmann via scratchings via Wealth Bondage, it dawns on me that the use of three 'via's makes order ambiguous, but the link is par excellence. And, though it is now published on several other blogs, it is deserving of yet one more post in light of what I think may be its importance,Interchange of letters between Prof. Daniel Amit and an American scientific journal:
"Dear Dr. Amit,

We have received your email with your decision not to review a paper for us in light of American actions in the middle east. We recognize that reviewing manuscripts is a voluntary activity, one that you perform as a service to the physics community, and we thank you for your efforts.

Given the voluntary nature of your participation we of course respect your decision to cease, and have made an indication in our database so that no further papers will be sent to you for review until you inform us otherwise.

We ask, however, that you consider the following in hopes that in the not too distant future you will decide to review for us again.

We regard science as an international enterprise and we do our best to put aside political disagreements in the interest of furthering the pursuit of scientific matters. We have never used other than scientific criteria in judging the acceptability of a paper for publication, without regard to the country of origin of the author."
Which expresses the sentiment that science has always prided itself on striving to achieve, though occasionally falling short.

The reply:
Dear Dr Blum

Thank you for you letter of April 8. I would have liked to be able to share the honorable sentiments you express in your letter as well as your optimism in the future role of science and the scientific community. To be frank, and with much sadness and pain, after 40 years of activity and collaboration, I find very little reason for such optimism.

What we are watching today, I believe, is a culmination of 10-15 years of mounting barbarism of the American culture the world over, crowned by the achievements of science and technology as a major weapon of mass destruction. We are witnessing man hunt and wanton killing of the type and scale not seen since the raids on American Indian populations, by a superior technological power of inferior culture and values. We see no corrective force to restore the insanity, the self-righteousness and the lack of respect for human life (civilian and military) of another race.

Science cannot stay neutral, especially after it has been so cynically used in the hands of the inspectors to disarm a country and prepare it for decimation by laser guided cluster bombs. No, science of the American variety has no recourse. I, personally, cannot see myself anymore sharing a common human community with American science. Unfortunately, I also belong to a culture of a similar spiritual deviation (Israel), and which seems to be equally incorrigible.

In desperation I cannot but turn my attention to other tragic periods in which major societies, some with claims to fundamental contributions to culture and science, have deviated so far as to be relegated to ostracism and quarantine. At this point I think American society should be considered in this category. I have no illusions of power, as to the scope and prospect of my attitude.
I hadn't made the similarity with our current policies and our past policies against the Native Americans, but I think it apt.

Further, some good may come of this. As our administration keeps suppressing science anyway, and firing scientists and replacing them with theologists, see "Another case of having to follow the money?" as an example, it may work in ways that Dr amid may or may not have considered. Since we seem in this country to be seeking a return to the Dark Ages in terms of actual thought and the pursuit of knowledge, it might work well for the rest of the world to cut off intellectual pursuits which we condemn anyway. Hell, do I even want this administration in control of the knowledge derived from stem cell research. No, I think they would only use it to find better way to turn the populace into drones and to make ever deadlier weapons.

So, sadly I find myself supporting Dr amid, and I even more sadly, hope that other scientists around the world follow his example. America, and as he states - Israel, appear to be bent on using science largely to the detriment of the human race.

I am really scared of what we might do should we achieve a major breakthrough in nanotechnology.

Friday, August 06, 2004
  Wow, I AM going straight to hell

Cause I'm going straight to hell
Just like my momma said
I'm going straight to hell
I'm going straight to hell
Just like my momma said
I'm going straight to hell

See if you'll get there first>
Hell Test

I have a feeling that very few of you will beat a score of 203, and I denied two that were actually true (I ain't tellin').
  A word of advice from a newbie blogger If you create a post, and then publish it, and then go back in to re-edit - do not use your back button to return to the editing page. You will lose all the corrections you've made.

Two hours down the drain.

And then don't be an idiot and lose 4 hrs of original work.

I wish I had some beer.
  Up Date on Job Status, and maybe some advice you can use

Just heard that the July Jobs Report was below expectations.

wow. what a surprise.

I could have told you that. If you really want to know where jobs are, just follow your Sunday want-ads. I've been following them, whether employed or not, since the late eighties. You do this for ten years, and you get a real sense of the economy, and where it's going. Just count the columns of ads by sector, and you can quit paying attention to high paid experts who don't know their ass from a hole in the ground. Management jobs in the AJC have been running two or less columns per week for the past couple of years, compared with 5,6 and even 7 full columns in the late nineties. Car sales jobs are way up. Also an indicator that things are bad. They don't hire for car sales when the economy is up, because the salesmen are making sales. When the economy goes down, new car sales people are hired to sell new cars to their friends and family members, and once they've finished that list, they can't make sales and quit. Social worker jobs go up (and are) when the economy sucks.

Also, if you actually read the ads, instead of just counting columns, you'll see the ads ask for higher qualifications, offer less in starting pay, and make more demands on prospects than when the economy is improving and the labor market tightens. Also, the number of 'scam' jobs goes up when the job market is down, because the assholes know more people are desperate. Well, anyway, you'll know where the job market is, and you can spot trends, about as early as the 'experts' when you get used to this method. At least, I'll argue that my prognoses based on this methodology is as valid and accurate as anyone else's.

Oh, an idea just occurred to me. If you are currently unemployed, and your finances are getting desperate, go apply to a car dealer. Look through the ads, find the one that guarantees three months of training or whatever, and during the interview, perhaps suggest that you are there to learn the business because you want to make sure your a family member (grandparents are great for this, because dealers know older retirees tend to have money and credit) isn't going to get cheated when they buy their next car. Or something to that affect. It could get you three months guaranteed income, some excellent sales training that you can always use, and hopefully keep creditors at bay for a little while longer. And, Hell, who knows, you might even sell a car or two.

On the admin basis, as I've posted earlier, real life has intruded on blogging this week, but at least something positive has come of it. I will be attending paid training next week for a company that trains/teaches high school students how to improve their SAT scores. I was a little dubious about it at first, especially since I found the opportunity in the want ads (I've had plenty of bad experiences based on want ads before), but I attended their orientation, interview and testing process on Wednesday evening, and came away believing that if nothing else, the company is on the up and up.

First of all, they offer a money back guarantee to the customer. 'If your test scores do not improve, you get your money back.' But also, if your scores to not improve by x amount, you get a prorated refund. I like a company that financially backs its product. The other thing I liked, was that they had screened the job applicants by resume prior to inviting prospective teachers/tutors, so that my fellow candidates were some very brilliant and experienced people. That's also a good sign. Than there was the remuneration they offered us. The ad had stated $25-35/hr, and in the past, that has often meant you might get to start at $25/hr, but we get to abuse you for a couple of years before you can get to $35/hr. In this case it was not true. Class room instruction pays $25/hr, and tutoring pays $35/hr. It turns out that the company feels that classroom teaching, because they have a highly developed lesson plan and teaching aides requires less work than tutoring, which has to be customized to the student, in both what is taught, but also requires the tutor to independently schedule times, and often travel. I was impressed with their reasoning.

Also, I liked the fact that they did not want you to come on board trying to teach five or six classes your first time out. Their position is, new teachers will make mistakes with the material the first time out. It's normal. They want new teacher/tutors to become competent with their process before they give newbies the opportunity to teach multiple classes. They don't want to have to give refunds to forty-five students, because the newbie makes the same mistakes in three classes.

And, lastly, I liked the fact that they did not ask prospective teachers to buy training materials or some other usual scam give away, in fact, I will be attending paid training next weekend (including lunch).

The other Interview I went to on Wednesday morning was also positive, but very different. It would be working for a major government contractor. But, they did not actually have any open positions, rather they had proposals out with slots for bodies that they would have to fill if they got the contract. Or someone would have to leave an existing position (not so likely in the current employment market). The guy I met with I already knew pretty well, since I had worked for/with him in the past at the Army Environmental Policy Institute. This could also be really fun, and interesting work, and the pay would be better. It could also pay better, and be less than intellectually stimulating work, depending on the specifics of the contract requirements, the project and the agency involved. It could also be in Iraq, Afghanistan,etc. Or anywhere in the continental US, Europe, basically, the job could be anywhere, any duration, and based on my experience and education, it could be in one of a variety of areas.

Oh, the teaching position has one other thing going for it. It works out that you are basically self-employed, can choose the days you work, how many students you're will to tutor. I've learned that I really like controlling my own time, and being 1099'd maybe a tax hassle, but if you know how to play that game, it can work out in your favor.

Well, enough about my search. I was also busy helping the Wife with her application for a promotion/better position in the agency she works with. And this is a good reminder of why government work is often such a chore to pursue. It's the damn paperwork they require. I mean, one of the questions on the form asks the applicant to provide a description of current duties, but your not allowed to use the Duty Description of the job you have??? This just seems like complete make work. The job has a Duty Description, but you must re-invent it. Why? What is the purpose? Your competence in the position is reflected in their version of a performance review, so if your reviews are good, you've already proven your competence and understanding. Is it to prove that she can say what they said in her own words? Again, why? She's not applying to write Job Descriptions, nor for a job to manage people in other positions, so what the hell is the purpose. We spent several hours trying to come up with an original, grammatically correct way, to say what was already said...By them!

God Damn government make work. Actually, that may not really be fair. A more accurate statement might be that the Human Resources department of any large organization tends to become more worthless and inept as the organization and grows. And as with any organization, the prime activity is to justify your budget at the expense of operational efficiency and employees. Now that I think about it, I saw the same thing at Terminix and UPS. Maybe Dilbert has it right, and The Wife has always referred to the Human Resources department XXXXXX Now she says she doesn't, but I thought her term was something like Useless Resources.

Done with this subject for now... 
Thursday, August 05, 2004
  Bush on voting (well, okay, not exactly Baby Bush, but...)

Here is exactly how I imagine filming a Baby Bush commercial is really like: Straight Talk! from the White House in Crawford Texas 
  Explaining Everything II

Note: Several things are still going on. Part of the lack of recent posts is due to the continuing effort to fix our printer problem, which appears to be resolvable only by buying a new printer. The decision would be easier if we had not so recently invested in new print cartridges for our current printer. Also, as usual I came home and got sucked into C-SPAN. This time it was a hearing on the 9/11 Commissions report. It was an excellent hearing that occurred today, though I caught in repeat, and if I understood their scheduling correctly, will be re-aired yet again starting at 0300 hrs 0330 hrs EST tonight. Catch it if you can.

Another factor, apparently due to a strange providence, is the fact that I found a copy of The Worldly Philosophers : The Lives, Times And Ideas Of The Great Economic Thinkers by Robert Heilbroner on my book shelf in the basement. I have no idea when and where I got this copy, but my guess is that it was in a book lot at an auction or estate sale based on the fact that it has a pencil mark of $1.50 on the front cover. I happened to have found a 1953 paper back addition, which appears to be an original printing. It is worn, but it looks like wear from years of shlepping, not reading. Though between the fact that the clue has tried out, and the binding is decomposing as I read, and that I'm underlining specific passages as I go, I doubt it will retain any resale value when I finish. I had no idea it was considered a classic, and am surprised to find it is still in print. On the other hand, it is an excellent book. It puts the 'great economists' in real historical context, and is a well balanced (so far) presentation. I don't know how many years I've had the copy, but I'm glad I decided to pick it up. A fascinating read, and really representative of it's time. I don't know the last time I've heard Africans and the Maori referred to as savages. Probably not since the 60s. It certainly represents its time, and is still just a wonderful read. Just the chapter on Adam Smith is worth whatever the price of the book currently lists for, though, you might want to check your local library. I'm about a third of the way through, and I don't think I've ever read a book on economics that I've found to be a page turner, and regret having to put down. That alone should tell you this is a great book.

I'd like to finish deports work on The Society of the Spectacle, but I hate reading from the monitor and am waiting to resolve the printer problem. I may take Bruce's, from The River, offer to loan me his copy. The two works offer a great contrast in outlooks.

I ended the previous post in this vein, Explaining Everything, with an attempt to define 'value', and while I liked the simple definition that I used
So, what is value? I don't know, but a lot has been written about it, but I'm not sure how adequate the explanations are, but for now, let's operate under the simple definition that "something's value is directly proportional to the effort I am willing to put into acquiring it." Let's add to this, that you may value something to a different degree than I value it - higher or lower.
there is more to explore. In fact, while I wouldn't call this series of posts a treatise in the sense of having a final outcome in mind, I might be willing to use the term with the idea of "A written composition on a particular subject, in which its principles are discussed or explained; a tract - --Chaucer" but only with caveat of "A treatise implies more form and method than an essay, but may fall short of the fullness and completeness of a systematic exposition." It is probably more in tune with the latter that I'm posting this.

So, back to the point of value. I wanted to present a premise here, that I think I may be able to develop further as I go along: Value is largely determined by an anticipation of future gain/profit. I may even be able to take out the caveat of 'largely', by the time I finish. But for right now, I'd like to explore the concept of value within the context of a news story I happened to hear on NPR yesterday. I didn't listen to all of the details, and just caught a few scraps while I was doing something else, but it did seem have real potential as a thought experiment to further my exploration of this topic.

All I heard of the story, and I am intentionally not following up on the details nor linking to it, is that in Paraguay yesterday, 410 people died in a department store fire, and that a security guard was quoted as saying he was told to lock the doors when the fire broke out. I decided that I would presume to make a few presumptions in relation to the event, and see were it would lead me in terms of further defining 'value(s).

Let's assume that the fire started small, and that in the first moments, none of the people involved understood how quickly the consequences would escalate and result in such a large loss of life.

So, in these imagined first moments, we have decisions being made based on the decision maker's values. And one of those decisions was to lock the doors/block the egress. I'd say there are probably two good candidates for that role here: 1) The 'owner' of the department store and 2) The department manager. Both might arrive at the same decision, but the decisions might be based on very different values.

Let's suppose that it was 'the owner' who made that decision. I am willing to bet that it was based on his fear that people would try to steal his products on the way out during the cover of the confusion. He valued his stock. Actually, I am willing to bet that it was not his stock that he valued, but the future gain in profits from the sale of the items. I doubt he valued the blanket or the doll or the flatware or...He valued it's potential monetary value. And, it might well by, that what he really valued was the ability that money would give him to provide for his family and mistresses (this is Latin America we are speaking of, afterall).

Let's take it even further, he valued what he, himself, could do with the money from the sale of the items in his stock. Money that hasn't left your pocket, has no value, except as potential. It is potential value vs. The kinetic value it assume when it is exchanged for something else. In fact, money spends most of it's time in the state of potential value, and very little time as kinetic value, except possibly in a casino, where it may well be in a kinetic state quite frequently. So, in effect, the stock has potential value to be exchanged for cash which then has potential value. And, the kinetic value of money, from the buyer's perspective, is converted to the potential value of whatever he receives in exchange.

The hypothetical manager's decision, probably has almost nothing to do with the value of the stock, except in relation to how it's loss would potentially affect his employment, and hence his ability to take care of his own family and mistresses.

And the security guard in the story, his decision was whether to or not to follow the orders given to him, and similarly to the manager, the decision probably involved his future employment.

And, I will argue that no one made the decision with the idea that 410 people would die. Their decisions, likely made in haste, did not take into account the potential resultant loss of life. No one said the value of department store's goods were worth 410 lives. Besides, the stock, and the building were lost as well as the lives. It was a case of insufficient thinking, foresight and/or knowledge of the consequences of the decision to lock the doors to the store.

For instance...

Note: I have not been able to come back to this post. I started it last night, but again, real life has intruded on blogging. Regardless, what I've written so far, is beginning to look an awful like an exploration of Game Theory, which is fine. I've always been intrigued by it, and working through it on a solo basis, may well give me greater insight in to its workings. I do think there may be truth to the idea that all transactions can ultimately by viewed to be based on potential. Hence, it may be true, that all 'value' is based on a temporal displacement to the future, and each time I think I've stumbled on to a contra argument, I seem to be able to rationalize it as in some manner to be based on an expected future pay off. I'm sure it's not a unique idea, but I am enjoying exploring the issue. If anyone has an obvious argument against it that I've overlooked, though please realize I haven't even had the opportunity to post the argument to the extent I've already developed it, but...

I've just finished the chapter on Marx in The Worldly Philosophers : The Lives, Times And Ideas Of The Great Economic Thinkers, and have moved on to a set of economists I've not ever heard of, and apparently are not much cited today. Let me state again, it is an excellent book. And rest assured I will be citing many passages from it in future posts. I do hope to post an "Explaining Everything III" tomorrow continuing where I left off on this one.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Okay, just wanted to get this info out. I'm in the midst of a couple of things, which happily include job interviews. Hopefully something will come from one of them, but if necessary, I can always go back to house painting, presuming there are enough people with expendable income to want their house painted.

First, I'd try to stick to interior work, where standing on ladders is far less necessary. Also, there is this great niche that many of the other pros are not interested in competing; specifically, coming out to your home to do a single bedroom wall, or other small job that isn't worth the pros time. It takes a little while to build a customer base, and it's not really worth investing heavily in tools at the beginning, but once you get into the bridge club/country club/church group circuit, you'll find there is a huge, pretty much un-met demand for this kind of work. The competition is often from people who won't bother to show up. In fact, in all of the service businesses I've worked in, the single thing you can do to set yourself apart from 99% of your competition, is to show up when you say you will, and do the work you agreed to do. It amazes me how many people blow off potential and active customers thinking the customer will have no where else to go. Dumb. It also helps to be personable, clean, and not smell of last night's drinking binge.

If you will show up when you say you will, and do the work you've agreed to do, you can command a premium on small jobs; at least $60 or more an hour, including travel time. Again, it's not worth the pro's time to move is van, equipment and crew to a small job; say, under $500 and even $500 is way too small for most. They're going to want, and in reality need, at least a couple of $k to cover their investments.

Second, I met Bruce from The River at Manuel's Tavern last night. He turns out to be a really great guy, which I sort of expected from the few times I've actually read his blog. And, I'll be adding him to my daily read list.

That is something, amongst a host of other topics, that we discussed last night. My thoughts are that it is better to provide the reader with a list of what I really try to read daily. He pointed out that it might be sort of like 'dissing' the others on the list, but I don't really think so. First of all, if I am going to try to really do some original work, I have to spend time doing original research, or following information trails that other bloggers are not necessarily following. And, I can't and don't want to out Atrios, Atrios, or out Fafblog, Fafblog!, or whomever. And that's not my goal. I'm not trying to displace someone who is doing well. I'm hoping that you readers will come come back here, not because I am legitimate alternative to Chris C Mooney, or Oliver Willis, but because I bring something unique to the table. If I don't, why should you come back? All of the blogs I've linked to on the right, are blogs that are good in their own right and not carbon copies of each other. Of course, this leaves the decision to you the reader in the face of your time constraints of where you will spend your valuable time. I'm hoping to provide something of value, but it is most certainly up to you to decide.

Third, some of you may have noticed that I've moved up in the bloggosphere rating system (slithering reptile), which at first I thought was really cool and a positive sign, but it turns out largely to be from an unexpected cause. Everytime I cross post to American Samizdat, the bloggosphere is crediting me with a unique link, which in affect means I'm driving my own ratings higher and it does not reflect increased popularity. I learned early on that I was having a similar problem of inflating my own 'hit ratings' until I found out that site meter allows me to ignore my own 'ISP address' when I visit. Until then, everytime I visited Radically Inept, Site Meter - Counter and Statistics Tracker - was registering it as a hit. So, now I have the system ignore my presence here. I'd like all of 'my numbers' to reflect a certain credibility level based on the fact that I am NOT trying to inflate my numbers, but rather the numbers reflect actual reader, and fellow blogger interest. So, if anyone knows how to avoid having the bloggosphere or which ever rating system, ignore my presence and activities in the area of cross-posting, please let me know.

I confess, I do want to increase my readership and 'ratings', but I want it based on the honest interest of visiters and not my own actions, other than working to present posts of a high enough merit that I EARN the ratings. Otherwise, it's too much like a marketing scam. And hopefully, you at least realize that if nothing else, I am not trying to 'scam' readers.

All of that said, I do hope you come back, and if you are a blogger, I hope you think I merit a link. Otherwise, I'd just as soon this be a 'private diary'. 
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
  Explaining everything

Note: 1706 hrs. I started this post at 6am this morning. I could not save the draft, nor publish the post by 1030 hrs, and basically gave up. I had errands to run, and our HP printer has decided it no longer likes the XP operating system, though we (the Wife and I, have spent somewhere around an accumulative 8 hrs trying to get it to work. It worked for two years. Anyway, I'm out the Door. I would normally link to all kinds of things, but now lack time. I also, normally would clean this post up, and at least do a spell check, but agin, time is no longer available. On the other hand, I did want to post something today, as I feel like I'm letting people down if I don't atleast publish something. The post below does not really count, as it's more of a link than a post. I will come back to this post tomorrow, or even possibly tonight, and clean it up. You might prefer to wait. I will be meeting Bruce from the River tonight at Manuel's, and it will be the first time I've met a fellow blogger, so I'm a little excited to share experiences. Again, I apoligize for the state of the post, but computers suck. If cars were as dependable as computers, there would be a huge market for horses.

This post may ramble somewhat, but I find the subject difficult to organize. It will hopefully be the post that I have been promising. We'll see.

So, where to start? Well, first of lot me confess here to seemingly always arriving to the party late. On my behalf, I get there with out knowing the address, location or having a map. For instance, I have been quuzzling over the society we live in, and have found that someone else has come to the same conclusions I have come to, but they did it in 1967. They also wrote down, and wrote it better than I probably could have.

I am specifically referring to "The Society of the Spectacle
by Guy-Ernest Debord"
. On the other hand, I may be able to present many of the same ideas here in a largely non-academic fashion, which may make for lighter reading. But first, with your indulgence, a little digression may be helpful in setting up the direction; sort of following the shaft of the arrow to the the point of the tip.

I remember growing up in North Carolina that a lot of my friends and neighbors would take the time and spend the money to make their cars and motorcycles louder. When I would ask what the purpose of this was, they would tell me it was a demonstration of 'power'. The idea supposedly was that louder was more powerful. But, these cars could not out perform the Mercedez Benz 450 SLs, or various Porches that I had seen around, and these cars were 'quiet'. The loud motorcycles did not out perform the BMWs, and late the Hondas, which were far quieter. But that didn't seem to matter, they'd pay the money and buy glass packed thrusters or other device just to increase the volume with no appeciable increase in performance - louder was cool. I thought it was stupid, noisy, and a waste of time and money, but I seemed to be the only one.

Then there was this time that I was playing football in middle school in Alabama. I had played youth league before, and liked playing. On the night of the first game, before the game even started, we had a team prayer. I was by then already an atheist, but the idea that both sides would ask god to help them win a stupid middle school football game bizaare. You would ask an omnipotent being to help you win a stupid game?! And, if both sides are doing it, do you actually expect this being to take sides? Well here was a stupidty level that really lowered my opinion of these adults in charge as teachers and coaches.

Then, we were losing, and at half time, one of the other players started crying and yelling at everybody, and appeared to be act like his life was at stake. And hell, for him it may have been. For all I know his dad beat him when he got home because we didn't win. Adults take children's sports pretty damn seriously down here. Too seriously for my tastes; it wasn't like I was getting paid, or that my family would go to prison if we lost or anything of serious consequence, at least to my mind. Besides, I had no dream of ever playing pro, so I knew I couldn't put up with this crap for four more year. That was my last football game.

The next thing that seems, somehow relevent, is when I was a brand spankin' new Butter Bar (2nd Lieutenant), and was given $1200 credit at the local post exchange. I bought some top of the line stereo speakers, Bose 901s stereo speakers, which at the time, set me back almost $1000. I was never happy with them, really. I should have saved myself $600 or $700 dollars and bought cheaper speakers. As it turns out, my hearing isn't good enough to be worth spending that kind of money on speakers. So the lesson I learned here was that spending top dollar, doesn't necessarily make you happy.

Later, when I left active duty, I gave away pretty much everything I owned. I'd gotten used to the idea that if it didn't fit in a duffle bag, it probably wasn't really worth having. In fact the more stuff I had accumulated, the more space I had to have to put it, and then I'd have to keep it clean; even if all it did was sit there, it got dirty. It was about a year later that I learned that there was a term for people like me - 'minimalist'. It had never occurred to me that there would be a term for people who just didn't like 'stuff'.

Then came another revelation. If memory serves, it was the year after the Atlanta Braves took the world series, that the baseball players went on strike. Now I had grown up a moderate baseball fan, but I had been caught up in the hype of the past two seasons, so when the strike occurred, I paid attention to the rhetoric more than I would have in the past. And it was when Tom Glavine, then the players' rep, made the statement that pro baseball was not a game but a business, that I pretty much gave up on baseball. But this was followed by a two year fling with fantasy football leagues. But that ended when I realized that I had to buy magazines every year to figure out who was on what team. There was no stability; players and even coaches changed so often, that it dawned on me that all the fans were rooting for was a jersy colour. It couldn't be rooting for the team, if almost the entire roster was different each season. But the revelation I referred too above, came when I put the two experiences together. Pro sports is a business, and why am I watching other people work. I don't pay UPS $30 dollars to watch them load trucks, and I wouldn't pay to watch a shift a Dell assemble computers, why would I pay to watch a business?

Well the answer I get when I ask people this question is 'entertainment'. Which at first seems like a fair answer, but when I delve deeper, it doesn't hold water for me. Why should I pay a fortune to be entertained? Besides, this is passive entertainment. It's fleeting, and it acheives nothing. Better to go out and play the game yourself, than sit around watching someone else play. Then I'm told that I don't adequately appreciate the beauty of the game heightened by the quality of the play and players. Well, you got me. I don't. It still seems like pointless, passive entertainment, and I don't see any reason for me to part with my time or money in it's pursuit. Especially if it's a 'business'.

Now interestingly, I think there does exist a 'strange' business/social reason for it. This is derived purely by the fact that so many other people devote so much of their lives to learning the game, memorizing statistics, specific plays of spcific games, and will spend so much of their time discussing it. If you haven't been paying attention to the specific sport in question, you are pretty much excluded from that discussion, and often, that can hurt your chances, or at least not aide your chances, of getting hired or making good business contacts. So this is how society pressures the individual into wasting their lives watching and spending money on passive entertainment; on an industry that really provides nothing of substantial value to society or the individual. Please feel free to disagree with me, many people do.

I even carry this arguement to most of the movies, music, programming put out by the entertainment industry. The exceptions I would make here are limited to that programming or music that does more than just entertain; if you actually learn something either factual, or about yourself, or it it gives you new ideas. But I believe that information, self exploration and ideas have value.

And this brings us to the topic of value - what is it? To be honest, I don't think I know, or possibly better stated, I know what I value, but I don't know that I can objectify it to the point where I can provide an adequate, defensible definition.

Yet another digression, with no promises as to its brevity. When I attended Auburn University for a year in the INDUSTRIAL DESIGN department, I learned a lot. I didn't to all that well, but I learned and retained a great deal of the information and concepts I was taught. I had a teacher named Professor Walter Schaer whose teachings have had a huge influence on me.

An example: I built this desk out of a single tree.

How much information is actually contained in that sentence? Really, not very much, and yet a great deal. For instance you know what a desk is. The concept of desk is clear to you, but you have no idea what kind of desk it is i.e., a stupid school style desk, a role top desk, a miniture desk for a doll house...But, the concept of desk is there none the less. The same information and lack there of, applies to the tree. Was it a palm tree, or an oak or pine? Was it a sapling? And of course, 'built' conceptually is easy, but I'd have to provide a lot more info for you to know whether I used clue, rope or screws, or whether I carved each of the pieces...There alot of other things I learned from him, but this is one that is applicable here for our purposes.

Back on track. So, what is value? I don't know, but a lot has been written about it, but I'm not sure how adequte the explanations are, but for now, let's operate under the simple definition that "something's value is directly in proportion to the effort I am willing to put into acquiring it." Let's add to this, that you may value something to a different degree than I value it - higher or lower.  
Monday, August 02, 2004
  Yet more cool 'space' photos br>
Here is a NASA site that has the Astronomy Picture of the Day, and here is the Astronomy Picture of the Day Archive going back to June 16, 1995. As the Wife pointed out, it's pretty neat how the quality of the photos has gotten steadily better over the nine intervening years.

Here's a few we both especially liked: APOD: 2004 August 2 - Spicules: Jets on the Sun, APOD: 2004 July 25 - A Solar Filament Lifts Off and APOD: March 26, 1998 - Galaxies Away
  Another case of having to follow the money?

Andrew Pollack in The New York Times > Science > Panel Sees No Unique Risk From Genetic Engineering reports that:
Genetically engineered crops do not pose health risks that cannot also arise from crops created by other techniques, including conventional breeding, the National Academy of Sciences said in a report issued yesterday.

The conclusion backs the basic approach now underlying government oversight of biotech foods, that special food safety regulations are not needed just because foods are genetically engineered.

Nevertheless, the report said that genetic engineering and other techniques used to create novel crops could result in unintended, harmful changes to the composition of food, and that scrutiny of such crops should be tightened before they go to market.

"The most important message from this report is that it's the product that matters, not the system you are using to produce it," Jennifer Hillard, a consumer advocate from Canada who was on the committee that wrote the report, said in a telephone news conference. Committee members said the genetically engineered foods already on the market are safe.

The study, "Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods: Approaches to Assessing Unintended Health Effects," is somewhat vague on how regulations should change, but rather deals more with the science needed to determine whether food from genetically engineered crops and animals might be harmful.

It does not, for instance, explicitly recommend mandatory reviews of new genetically engineered foods by the Food and Drug Administration. It says that assessments should be made on a case-by-case basis. Right now, companies that create such crops voluntarily consult with the F.D.A.

The report suggests that in some cases, surveillance might be needed after a food gets to the market to check for possible health effects, something not done now. It also calls for some information on the composition of genetically modified foods to be made public rather than kept proprietary.

Both sides in the polarized debate about genetically engineered foods found things to like and not like in the report.

"They've clearly identified that there are significant problems with our technological ability to both identify changes that might happen in G.E. crops as well as to evaluate what those changes might mean," said Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist at the Center for Food Safety in Washington, which opposes biotech crops.
All of which I could live with, except for the fact that the Baby Bush administration doesn't mind twisting the arms of scientifists to get the results they want, or just restaking the members on scientific committees to ensure they get the answer they want. That answer almost always favors big money, and when it doesn't, it represents the ignorant christian fundalmentalist wing of the republican party.

I mean how much can I trust anything coming out Washington today? Just check out stuff like this,Suspicious science: More scientists accuse Bush of manipulation:
"The distrust of Bush administration motives now runs so deep in the scientific community that the National Academy of Sciences has begun studying whether it's proper to consider politics and points of view in the appointment of scientists to federal advisory committees.

Perhaps scientists are obligated to frame such an inquiry with neutral language like 'whether it's proper.' Common sense suggests not only that it is grossly improper, but also that it could be very dangerous to allow any administration, Republican or Democrat, to manipulate the personnel or data associated with government research to make it support preconceived policy objectives.

A moment's clear thought is all it takes to recognize the danger. Scientists take great pains to avoid introducing anything into their research that could prejudice its outcome. It is precisely the ability of other independent scientists to replicate that outcome that sustains or refutes the original researcher's insights - and integrity.

Much more than partisan policy formulation is at stake here. The charges leveled against the Bush administration by scientists who have served on current advisory committees contain serious implications for the health, safety and environment of all Americans."
Or maybe this oneWhite House seen tampering with government advice, "White House seen tampering with government advice", By JEFF NESMITH,
The Bush administration has repeatedly imposed ideological and political litmus tests on people being considered for membership on hundreds of government advisory panels, witnesses told a committee of the National Academy of Sciences on Wednesday.

In a daylong hearing, the committee responsible for ensuring the best government science and technology heard charges repeated that crucial advice to government agencies is increasingly skewed because of White House selection of scientific advisers with supportive views on lightning-rod issues like birth control, stem cell research and climate change.

Two members of Congress, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Rep. Vernon J. Ehlers, R-Mich., testified with slightly different views, however.
'There should be no question that appointments should be made on the basis of scientific expertise and not politics,' said Waxman, a liberal California Democrat who maintains a Web page devoted to criticizing Bush administration science policies.

'There should be no role whatsoever for ideological or partisan litmus tests,' he added.

But Rep. Ehlers, a former research physicist, said members of the advisory committees do not serve in 'vacuums.'"

"Government officials must understand science, its methods and limits," he said. "Scientists must study the policy process and willingly participate."

He said this means scientists who serve on the advisory panels "must be in touch, even in tune, with the political realities around them."
Bet that's exactly what the catholic church told Copernicus and Galileo, "you must be in touch, even in tune, with the political realities around you" or die.

So, how much faith can I put in a report that has big business interests on one side, the Baby Bush adminstration on the otherside and scientists in the middle.

I can hear the scientists now, singing in a pub somewhere on M Street
Well I don't know why I came here tonight
I got the feeling that something ain't
I'm so scared in case I fall off my chair
And I'm wondering how I'll get down
the stairs
Clowns to the left of me
Jokers to the right
Here I am
Stuck in the middle with you

Yes I am stuck in the middle with you
And I'm wondering what it is I should
It's so hard to keep this smile from my
Losing control, Yeah I'm all over the place

Clowns to the left of me
Jokers to the right
Here I am
Stuck in the middle with you..."
by Gerry Rafferty 
  We Won! We won! The Brits gave us an award!!

Though probably one I'd rather we hadn't won. From Wired News: Stepping on Big Brother's Toes, via the KurzweilAI.net Newsletter, comes this:
These were some of the winners of Privacy International's sixth annual U.K. Big Brother Awards, announced Wednesday. The awards are an annual attempt to publicly name and shame the government and private-sector organizations that have done the most to invade personal privacy in Britain.

The winners of Worst Public Servant, Most Invasive Company, Most Appalling Project, Most Heinous Government Organization and Lifetime Menace were selected by a panel of experts consisting of lawyers, academics, consultants, journalists and civil rights activists.

Winners were chosen from roughly 300 people and organizations nominated by the public. They receive a lovely gold statue of a boot stamping on a human head, which is usually mailed to the winners, as none has never shown up to collect its award.

Big Brother Awards are now held as an annual event in 17 countries. Each event typically focuses on privacy violations in the host country.

But Privacy International opted to make an exception this year by including in the U.K. awards a U.S. initiative, US-Visit. This security program requires that most foreign visitors traveling to the United States on a visa have their index fingers digitally scanned and a digital photograph taken, so that immigration officers can verify their identity before the visitors are allowed entry into the United States.

"The scheme is offensive and invasive, and has been undertaken with little or no debate or scrutiny," said Simon Davies, director of Privacy International. "Nor has the requirement taken any account of the 'special relationship' between the U.K. and the U.S. The U.K. government has been silent about the program and has capitulated every step of the way."
But hell, we're in good company right?
British Gas was cited as the Most Invasive Company, after it declared that U.K. privacy rules prevented it from helping an elderly couple who were found dead of hypothermia in their home last winter, weeks after their gas service was cut off due to nonpayment of a 140-pound ($255) bill.

British Gas said the Data Protection Act, intended to ensure that personal information is protected, prohibited it from reporting the situation to social services agencies that could have helped the couple restore heating service.

Runner-up in this category was banking firm Lloyds TSB, which has been demanding that customers present themselves at their local branch office with proper photo ID or face having their bank accounts frozen. Lloyds describes the project as a way to stop terrorism and international money laundering.
Oh, and how about
Runner-up in the Most Appalling Project category was mobile-phone company Vodafone, which blocks customers from logging onto adult websites through their phone handsets in order, the company says, to protect mobile-phone-toting, porn-seeking children.

Customers can access adult websites by proving their age by providing their credit card details to the company online, over the phone or in person, and specifically requesting that adult-access blocks be dropped.
And here's a fun one:
The Department for Transport won runner-up for its electronic vehicle-identification program, currently under development. Known as the Spy in the Dashboard, the program will embed microprocessor chips into cars. The chips would automatically report any instances of speeding, illegal parking and other grievous offenses to authorities, who would follow up with a summons.
Let Freedom Ring! Just not for the individual.

  Want to go into space? Learn to kill people.

I confess. I'm on a fairly huge number of mailing lists, including several congressional and senate committee lists. I have become somewhat of an information junkie, and I like to watch what our government wants to do with the information. Well, it turns out the best thing for the future financing of our space program, is the ability to use it to kill people. I touched on this before in Science Monday, "Wonderful. When we get to Mars, DoD can destroy it.". And as I mentioned in that post one of the papers I did in the masters program was to look at how much military spending drives research and tech advances. As it turns out, improving the ability to kill people is probably the single best source for driving technological advances. In the US, the history goes back to our original efforts at improving canons and developing standardized rifles with interchangeable parts. Those efforts, from memory, took 30 to forty years and came to fruition somewhere in the 1830s.

I haven't done the specific research, but war also is the source of, I'll go out on limb here, most medical advances, especially in the fields of surgery, mental health and hygiene.

Anyway, from the Statement of Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Terry Everett, entitled "The Development of a Space Cadre":
The development of a Space Cadre was a major thrust in the findings of the Space Commission's 2001 report. The report emphasized the need to create and maintain a highly trained and experienced cadre of space professionals who could master highly complex technology, as well as develop new tactics and doctrines for space operations in the future. Slowly, the development of a space cadre has evolved.

In an effort to encourage the process, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 directed the Department to develop a strategic plan to coordinate and facilitate the development of space personnel career fields and integrate them into the larger personnel systems of each service. It also directed each service to develop and take a more proactive stance in the development of its individual space cadre.

The committee is concerned about the breadth and depth of the current Department of Defense plan. It seems to lack sufficient detail and structure for implementation.

Additionally, in the area of education and training as well as in addressing the role of academia and industry in the space cadre, the committee has concerns. The committee believes the accumulation of skills and the competencies of government, academia and industry represent a comprehensive view of the military space community for the United States. Each has valuable tools and expertise to contribute, and we all look forward to hearing the witnesses’ suggestions on how this talent and culture can best be cultivated and incorporated into the development of a space cadre in the military and of space professionals at large.
WASHINGTON - Congressman Terry Everett, Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces warned Friday that continued cost overruns associated with the military's Airborne Laser (ABL) Program may place the program in jeopardy. Everett returned Thursday from a personal inspection of two key missile defense programs including the ABL. Funding for both programs are pending the House/Senate conference of the FY05 Defense Authorization Act.
"I now have a better appreciation for the complexities of the ABL system, and what it is these people are trying to accomplish," Everett said upon returning from his trip. "However, I'm deeply concerned that program costs may spiral to unanticipated levels which will place ABL in serious danger of survival."
Everett inspected the Airborne Laser (ABL) Program at Edwards AFB, CA, where the contractor team headed by Boeing is assembling the chemical laser system into a highly-modified 747 aircraft to prove the technology. The ABL is a critical component of the layered missile defense system, designed to defeat a ballistic missile attack in the boost phase of the launch. Everett came away impressed with the challenging science and engineering tasks that must be accomplished to perform the mission, and the complexities of the laser itself. However, he remains concerned about the increasing costs and program delays, and will continue to closely monitor the management of the program by the Air Force and Boeing.
I guess my question here is, you say, 'The ABL is a critical component of the layered missile defense system', but what is it's offensive capability? How do I know it will just be used for defense? And if it can be used offensively, I can assure you it will be used offensively.

Than comes this section:
On the Space front, satellite programs, including Space Based Radar (SBR), SIBRS-High and STSS, as well as launch capabilities for these satellites are also of keen interest to Everett. At Vandenberg AFB, a Delta IV rocket was viewed in a near-launch state, preparing for a special payload launch in early 2005. The Delta IV rocket is manufactured by Boeing in Decatur, AL, and shipped via barge to the West Coast.

Congress has been divided on the need for the Spaced Based Radar program, with the interested congressional defense and intelligence committees differing in their views of the future capabilities of the system. Everett met with AF program officials and the contractor, Northrop Grumman, to receive the latest programmatic information on the system. Everett believes the truly unique capabilities that SBR will provide for the warfighter are necessary, but cautioned the program officials that Congress will not tolerate new satellite programs that continue to exceed cost estimates, with constant schedule slippages.
"Spaced Base Radar will provide a truly transformational capability to our warfighters, and we must incorporate lessons learned so we don't repeat the same acquisition mistakes that we experienced in SBRS-high and Future Imagery Architecture programs, that have led to billions of dollars in cost overruns," Everett added.
Sort of sad that human development and expansion into space will be driven by war. I mean, I have no reason to expect anything more out of mankind. And this is why I don't believe that man will ever get to some sort of 'utopian' society. It won't happen. For good or ill, but certainly to evolutionary advantage, man has an innate drive to compete. And apparently, the more deadly the competition, the more man pursues it.

I've been reading a lot on material on various ideas of achieving utopia, but they all seem to ignore competition, or say that competition won't be necessary once we achieve [your choice of imaginary ability here]...But you will not, short of a totalitarian government in line with Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World", where people are genetically modified and doped up, get rid of man's drive to compete. At the very least, man will always compete for mates, and that competition, and the jealousy that arises, will ensure that we remain the killers we've always been.

The counter arguments often point to the Aboriginal Culture, as an example of peaceful co-existence. But they also did not have agriculture and Animal Husbandry to allow for the accumulation of wealth and power. We do. And I don't see us putting it back in Pandora's Box.

The cruelest part, is we just keep taking more out of the box. 
Sunday, August 01, 2004
  TWA 800 and United Flight 93 - Two administrations, same lies?

I was hanging out over at the Pacifier's last night, and Chocolate Morphine came by. We didn't do anything except talk, and the conversation moved the hundreds of topics in the five or six hours we were together. At one point, and I have no idea how the subject came up, but we discussing terrorism, assassination and hijacking. The Pacifier made a point about how passengers today wouldn't stand for it, and cited the case of United Flight 93. And that's when Chocolate Morphine contradicted him, and said, "The passengers never made it to the cockpit, and besides, there's two separate debris fields." Well, we caught on fast, "Uh, so we shot it down?" It would appear so."

Well, a quick check on the web revealsCNEWS - World - War On Terrorism:
Flight 93 hijackers crashed plane before cockpit fight, panel concludes:
"Passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 fought back against the hijackers but never actually made it into the cockpit, the Sept. 11 commission concluded.

The assertion, included in the panel's dramatic summary of the harrowing flight, contradicts the firmly held belief by some victims' families that passengers breached the cockpit and fought with hijackers inside during their final moments. In phone calls from the plane, four passengers said they and others planned to fight the hijackers after learning of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York earlier that morning."
Interesting enough. But then I found this:
The Story Begins Here
"Eight miles away in New Baltimore, Melanie Hankinson said she found singed papers and other light debris from the crash, including pages from Hemispheres Magazine, United's in-flight magazine. Stoe said authorities initially insisted crash debris could not have traveled over a mountain ridge more than eight miles from the crash.
Comment: Secondary Debris floated miles away on this breeze? At the time of the crash? But it did not do that at the Pentagon Crash? Or other similar crashes?

The NTSB says it is not only plausible, but probable," said [FBI Agent] Crowley.
Followed by this:, United Flight 93 Secondary Debris Field:
"The secondary (and tertiary) debris fields:
The Pennsylvania state police said debris from the crash has shown up about 8 miles away in a residential area where local media quoted some residents as seeing flaming debris from the sky.

But investigators were unwilling to say whether the presence of debris in two separate places evinced an explosion.

Finding the flight data recorder had been the focus of investigators as they widened their search area today following the discoveries of more debris, including what appeared to be human remains, miles from the point of impact at a reclaimed coal mine.

Residents and workers at businesses outside Shanksville, Somerset County, reported discovering clothing, books, papers and what appeared to be human remains. Some residents said they collected bags-full of items to be turned over to investigators. Others reported what appeared to be crash debris floating in Indian Lake, nearly six miles from the immediate crash scene.

'John Fleegle, an Indian Lake Marina employee, said FBI agents were skeptical of his reports about debris in the lake until they traveled to the lake shore Wednesday afternoon.

By Wednesday morning, crash debris began washing ashore at the marina. Fleegle said there was something that looked like a rib bone amid pieces of seats, small chunks of melted plastic and checks.

He said FBI agents who spent the afternoon patrolling the lake in rented boats eventually carted away a large garbage bag full of debris.'

Comment: If the debris was somewhat continuous, as you'd expect if the debris all originated at the main crash site, the FBI wouldn't have been skeptical, and wait over 24 hours until the next afternoon to check it out. It's only 2.5 miles away to the lake. But when they got there they rented boats and bagged up a bunch of debris."
Interesting, no? Well it continues,
"Fleegle, marina owner Jim Brant and two of Brant's employees were among the dozens who witnessed the crash from Indian Lake. Fleegle had just returned to the marina to get fuel for a boat that had run out of gas when Carol Delasko called him into the drydock barn to watch news of the World Trade Center attack.

All of a sudden the lights flickered and we joked that maybe they were coming for us. Then we heard engines screaming close overhead. The building shook. We ran out, heard the explosion and saw a fireball mushroom," said Fleegle, pointing to a clearing on a ridge at the far end of the lake.

Delasko, who ran outside moments later, said she thought someone had blown up a boat on the lake. "It just looked like confetti raining down all over the air above the lake," she said. (archived at http://library.triblive.com - search Delasko from 9-10-01 to 9-20-01)

Comment: If debris was simply dropped from 5,000 feet - it would take a couple minutes just to fall straight down on the lake. They hopped in their cars right away - and still saw the debris fall BEFORE they left.

Witnesses say they heard the plane fly over, felt their building AT THE DOCK shake. The debris evidence also supports the plane flying over Indian Lake AND that plane was falling apart. This debris would have taken 15-20 minutes to float at 10mph and then descend on Indian Lake from the main crash crater. The testimony and evidence do not support the NTSB story that the debris floated from the main crash site.
Funny, wasn't that exactly what the witnesses to TWA flight 800 reported that they saw?Well, than Chocolate Morphine added that the FAA investigation into TWA Flight 800 was unable to prove their hypothesis of how the crash (explosion) happened. They could not recreate the 'accident'.

And the first site I get to?
The Associated Retired Aviation Professionals was formed in early 1997. Its members include former military, civilian, and aviation professionals who are committed to independently investigating the mysterious crash of TWA Flight 800 on July 17, 1996.

CDR. William S. Donaldson, USN (ret.), challenged the official NTSB position on the cause of the crash of TWA Flight 800 in a series of letters to James Hall, Chairman of the NTSB between April 1997 and December 2000. During those four years, CDR. Donaldson worked with other Retired Aviation Professionals, including some previous crash investigators as well as persons inside the NTSB investigation itself. CDR. Donaldson has extensive experience as a Naval crash investigator and he and others concluded that the NTSB's explanation of the Center Wing Tank explosion was not credible. With the help of these other concerned aviation professionals, CDR. Donaldson produced an extensive report on the cause of the crash. The initial Interim Report was delivered to the House Aviation Subcommittee on July 16th, 1998.

Information uncovered in early 1999 now shows that TWA Flight 800 could have been shot down by one or more shoulder-fired missiles. The FBI was briefed by military missile experts in the Fall of 1996 that Flight 800 was well within the range of a shoulder fired missile. The FBI conducted a covert dredging operation for stinger missile parts between November 1996 and April 1997. CDR. Donaldson brought this new evidence to the House Aviation Subcommittee in testimony on May 6, 1999. Unfortunately, the major media and the Congress are content to swallow the official line without question.

This website is dedicated to CDR Donaldson's memory and outstanding leadership in searching for the truth.
So, I'm pretty much clueless, as most of America appears to be, as to what actually occurred in either of these cases. But, I do find it interesting how our government let's the issue drop and fade from public view.

Oh, and I just found this,
An NTSB document obtained by the authors reveals that the FAA had picked up the telephone and alerted the "White House" immediately. Clarke is the man at the White House to whom this message would have been relayed. The FAA radar almost certainly prompted this emergency CSG meeting. There was no comparable meeting after the ValuJet crash two months earlier.

Clarke also deceives the reader about the altitude of TWA 800. The last altitude the FAA actually recorded was about 13,800 feet. This is easily verified and beyond debate. There is a reason here for Clarke's dissembling. He needs to lift the aircraft – even if just in the retelling – above the reach of a shoulder-fired missile.

Within weeks of the crash, the FBI would interview more than 700 eyewitnesses – 270 of whom saw lights streaking upwards towards the plane. Although they were not allowed near the best witnesses, Defense Department analysts also debriefed some of these witnesses. These analysts told the FBI that 34 of those interviewed described events "consistent with the characteristics of the flight of [anti-aircraft] missiles." There were also scores of witness drawings, some so accurate and vivid they could chill the blood.

About four weeks after the crash, Clarke reportedly met with the late FBI terrorist expert, John O'Neill, who told Clarke that the eyewitness interviews "were pointing to a missile attack, a Stinger." For the record, no eyewitness ever mentioned a "Stinger." No credible independent theorist insisted on a Stinger, nor did the Defense Department. Clarke sets up the relatively small, shoulder-fired Stinger missile as a straw man to discredit all terrorist or missile-related theories. In his book, he takes credit for doing the same.

"[TWA 800] was at 15,000 feet," he reportedly told O'Neill – who died at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 and can no longer correct the record. "No Stinger or any other missile like it can go that high." One would think that on so sensitive and contentious a point, Clarke would have made an effort to get the altitude of TWA 800 right or even consistently wrong. He does neither. The real altitude is not 15,000 feet or 17,000 feet, but 13,800 feet – an altitude at which the Stinger could be effective. In a book of this importance, such mistakes and omissions shock the knowing reader.

It should be noted too that no credible analyst – at least one not tasked with creating factually false propaganda – would limit the type of missile seen by so many excellent witnesses. All credible analysis would begin with short, medium and long-range anti-aircraft missiles. Existing evidence would be used to narrow the possibilities. Such simple, reasonable analysis was missing from the TWA 800 investigation.
I'm still clueless, but it sure looks like I am supposed to be clueless.

I'll post a couple of things later, including how hard it is to write science fiction, when science is rapidly destroying the fiction, and a piece on political philosophy (not mine).

  Jessica Lynch joins the Great Con Game

Well first of all, I should say up front that this post is not poking fun at Jessica Lynch, but rather American society and the motivational speaker circuit. I have always found it fascinating that people, and even companies, will pay good money to people like Zig Ziglar to hear them speak. And I've never done any research on the industry (though I was once asked if I wanted to get in the industry), but I wonder if there is any real value derived from it. I'm especially curious as to what the percentage increase in production is from employees that have attended such an event, and importantly, is there a long term benefit derived. I doubt it, but as I said, I haven't done any research on it.

But do a Google Search on productivity motivational speakers and the "Results 1 - 10 of about 24,500 for productivity motivational speakers. (0.32 seconds)".

And Google Search on - analysis of productivity from motivational speakers - turns up Results 1 - 10 of about 53,900 for analysis of productivity from motivational speakers". (0.42 seconds)

However, the same search with quotation marks around "analysis of productivity from motivational speakers" turns up no hits, as does "research on the productivity increases from motivational speakers".

Has anyone done any real research to see if there is more to this crap than charlatanism?

Well, I did find this:Google Answers: Motivational theories: "What are the theories that explain the dynamics of motivation?
Is there any research on motivational speakers?
Any statistics on the (lasting) value of Tony Robins'(or others)approach
to increasing motivation?" (I'd never heard of "Google Answers" before, but it looks pretty cool). Question posed by Qpet.

The best answer in the list of attempt to answer Qpet's question is:
Clarification of Answer by jbf777-ga on 24 Feb 2003 13:01 PST
Qpet -

It doesn't look like there are any hard numbers out there which are
accessible to the general public. I've scoured the net, as well as
having called 2 speaking associations. All I spoke to say they have
never heard of anything published. The more I think about it,
especially after having Frank Candy, an actual motivational speaker on
the subject, who is himself the president of a speaking association
[who also says there are no hard numbers, and if there were, he
wouldn't believe them; see more below], the reason there are no real
numbers on this is because it is extremely subjective and
individualized. How would one really measure whether or not he is
more motivated long term due to hearing a speaker? How could one
decipher if his motivation months and years down the road from a
speaking workshop is really the result of what he heard, or simply the
result of new circumstances in his life? New relationships? New job?
New stimulus?

Frank Candy, President of National Speakers Association and
motivational speaker:

"No one can really motivate anyone. Motivation is intrinsic, it's an
inside job. Now you can be inspired to be motivated... and that's
where the vleu of speakers, books tapes and CD's come in. Key factor:
you can choose your attitude. I believe the word 'Choice' is the most
powerful word in the english language. You can decide if you want to
be extremely motivated, or if you want to sit on the couch and watch
TV and play video games. Even that is a kind of motivation, because
you "chose to do that".

I can inspire someone to change their behavior. It depends on the
dynamics of THAT moment. Example: You can have an average meeting,
average food, average hotel with an incredible speaker, and people
coming away from that and going WOW.. same group w/ great motel,
great food, great meeting, music, etc.... bad speaker. People will
remember the closing bad speaker.

In general, there are long term effects. They are immeasurable. It's
all individualistic. There are no hard numbers. It's very

Motivation is like deoderant, everyone needs it...daily... in many
cases, some more than others.
type search for "GET MOTIVATED Seminar", the apparent name of this circus troupe gets you to: seminar marketing,seminar marketing promotion, which is all about how to make money setting up motivational seminars. How appropriate.

So, what does all this have to do with Jessica Lynch? Well it turns out she has joined, at least temporarily, the motivational speaker circuit, Jessica Lynch deals with fame one year after rescue in Iraq - The Daily Texan - State & Local:
"Lynch has made a few appearances since last year's book tour for Rick Bragg's biography, 'I Am a Soldier, Too.' The former POW won an award from Glamour magazine (where she met Spears); rode in the Gator Bowl parade; starred at Gov. Bob Wise's State of the State speech; hung out at parties after the Golden Globes (where she met DiCaprio); and took a three-day jaunt to the Bahamas after christening a cruise ship.

This month, Lynch will do the first of four events for Get Motivated, a company that hires figures such as Rudolph Giuliani and Mikhail Gorbachev to speak at business seminars. Her message will be: 'If I can do it, you can.'

'I was put in one of the worst situations there is out there. So if you're having problems with your boyfriend or whatever, you can get through it,' she said. She added with a laugh: 'I get nervous when I'm in a large group of people. I don't know how that'll work out.'"
which is just fine for what it's worth; I'm just questioning, "What is it Worth?"

What really got me started, however, was the little teaser below the Jessica's Photo in the AJC (I'd link, but the bastards want you to give them all kinds of personal info to get access, even though I subscribe to their hardcopy rag), which states:
Private Jessica Lynch astonished the world when she survived the unthinkable and was rescued from Iraqi capture. You will be amazed as she shares the key survival strategies that she used to survive and thrive in the most brutal of circumstances.
Oh man, what complete bogus bullshit. And anyone who has paid any attention knows that she was taken to an Iraqi Hospital, where Iraqi doctors did their best to help her, and even tried to return her to American authorities, and the "rescue" was a staged "wag the dog" event.

Why would I pay to see a motivational speaker who is being billed with lies?

I notice that she didn't say anything like that in any of the interviews I've found with her, so can't she at least get this company to bill her with some truth? I don't blame her, but this is one of the saddest commentaries I've seen on this industry, I mean besides Tony Robbins.

ON the otherhand, the other speakers include ex-prez Jimmy Carter and ex-mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

Oh. In fairness, emphasis added through out. 
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