October 2016

Viewing posts from October , 2016

A Little Calculation

Can I have a few seconds? Researchers have been videotaping classes, taking notes, making an estimate of how much time children are actually receiving instruction, as opposed to walking, listening to announcements, handing in or receiving papers, and so forth; it comes to 90 minutes of actual instruction per school day.

But even that tally is not quite accurate – some of that 90 minutes of instruction is of little value to particular students, since the material is already understood. “Did that already, about three times. Can we move on already?” And for others, the material is incomprehensible.

So, I did a back-of-envelope calculation and came to a figure which could be a little off, but I guesstimate that the average classroom, in one year, wastes (in total, for all 30 or so children), about a gigasecond of their time.

Oh, so sorry. Did you just spit out your coffee? Did I forget the leg-pulling warning? I must advise you to finish swallowing and put your drink or sandwich down. I’ll wait.

A gigasecond is one billion seconds.

A year is about 31.5 million seconds. We can be more exact: 60*60*24*365 = 31,536,000 seconds. Can twiddle this for leap years and leap seconds, but that’s close enough for an approximate  calculation.

Divvy that into a billion, and we have 31.79 years … you see where this is going, don’t you?

31 is roughly the number of students in a class … so, one year wasted per year per child.

Yes, it’s harsh. I sincerely apologize to every hard-working teacher who is trying to do something useful – and yes, some of you are very, very much appreciated from the bottom of my heart, and from many other students who are grateful for those of you who do stand out.

But … why did I have to explain any of this? It’s a simple calculation, and you have had twelve years of instruction in math, which most of you hate. What’s wrong with this picture?

A 30-something friend, with an impressive string of letters in STEM disciplines, shared a thought. He and his friends, some of the brightest people in Southern California, still wake up with nightmares about their K-12 school years.

If it’s that bad for the “good” students, the best and brightest, we might want to try something different. I’d go back to basics: if 90 minutes or less of instruction is all we have to work with, what if those 90 minutes were more efficient? What if, instead of five or ten useful minutes (from the perspective of the child), we find inexpensive (time-wise) methods to find out what is known and unknown for that particular student, and provide only that which is unknown?

A Bad Encounter

“Papa, up.” Robert stooped to lift his little girl. Biologically, his niece. Mama Traci, unawares, turned a corner. They were heading to a Sysadmin convention.

As she passed a dark alcove, an arm snaked out, encircling her neck. “Pretty girl,” a voice murmured.

Just as quickly, Traci ducked and twisted, and he spotted a pistol in her hand.

“Uh, I guess you’re not happy to see me.”

“Not the least bit.”

“Do you want to kill me?”

“No, I want you gone.”

He went.

Robert arrived just then. He had Alia in one arm, a pistol in the other hand. At the same moment, a conference attendee arrived. Seeing pistols, he put up his hands. “Are you all right, ma’am?”

“All good.” replied Traci. She returned her pistol to its hidden pocket. “Heading to the convention? May we buy you a coffee?”

Giovanni was visiting from France. He held a chair for Traci, and helped Robert and Alia settle. Introductions were made.

“Wait, you’re Robert and Traci Li? Of the backdoor paper? And the PIMASA distro?”

Robert nodded. “Part of the team, yes.”

Traci suckled Alia. She mindspoke a waiter, and a security firm, placing orders with the one, requesting surveillance from the other.

“I hate to be all fan-boyish, but I am in awe of you and your fellow authors. The PIMASA distro is super! May I ask, what does PIMASA stand for?”

Robert began, “An ancient Sanskrit word …”

Traci shooshed him. “My brother is a tease. If you request a Free Slap, I’d like to watch.”

“Uh, perhaps I’ll let that one go.” Giovanni was mystified, but courteous enough to leave some questions unasked. “Did you call the police?”

Traci replied. “The acronym is Peace Is Morally And Socially Acceptable. He’s being watched.”

“Should I worry about your weapons?”

“Only if you wish to do harm.”

“In that case, I feel very safe indeed.”


Encounter With LGBTQAI Protester

My family and I were walking through the Wallenberg Airport Mall. A middle-aged woman, wearing a shirt died in rainbow hues, held a sign: “Wallenberg Hostile To LGBTQAI rights.”

Curious, I introduced myself. “Hi, my name is Manus.”

“Hi, my name is Gloria.”

“How are you, Gloria? May I introduce my husband, Robert, and wife Traci? and this is little Alia.”

Gloria did a double take. “Thanks for your support.”

“I’m not sure what it is you think I might be supporting. I’m trying to find this alleged hostility.”

“Well, you have no anti-discrimination laws.”

“We have hardly any law at all. We don’t like to clutter the field.”

“But what if someone refuses to hire you?”

“I’d truly hate to work for someone who did not wish to associate with me.”

“But do you feel no solidarity with LGTBQAI folk?”

“I guess we might be at least a little bit LGBTQAI. Robert and I often do have sex, and he also has a pair of fully-functional milk-production units.” Robert began discreetly suckling Alia.

“We’d be delighted to share a cuppa tea with you. Could you tell me, is your sole objection to Wallenberg the mere lack of a law, or is there something more?”

“This is a serious issue, sir.”

“I’m sure. We have many serious people today. There is Felps, protesting the lack of laws against nudity, public sex, and gay sex. The gent next to him is protesting the lack of laws against drugs. Others are calling for regulation of education, firearms, and unattended children. We have a few 3D channels devoted to interviewing earnest protesters. These seem to be mainly of interest to folks who are curious about Wallenberg, or about protest culture. ”

“You allow firearms in this mall? That makes me feel terribly unsafe.”

My lovely wife Traci answered “My firearm improved my safety when a man attempted to rape me.”

“Did you shoot him?” Gloria’s lip curled in distaste.

“No need. It was enough to express my desire that he leave.”

“And he didn’t wrest your gun from you?”

“It isn’t so easy to disarm a lady, when you’re not Jackie Chan. The fellow left.”

“This place must be awfully violent.”

“Quite the opposite.”

Interview With The Advocate

Next was a young fellow from the Advocate. He too was a perky blonde, but rather more stylish.

“Could we talk about gay rights?”

“Could we not talk about rights at all?”

“Could you explain?”

“It seems any time people talk about rights, we get into a complicated discussion. Is this a right? Is that a right? I wonder if it isn’t better to look for simpler, neater approaches.”

“We have freedom. Freedom isn’t like a pie, something for people to divide and squabble over. We have a saying.” Jim pointed to the plaque:

“Peace is morally and socially acceptable.”

“What does that mean?”

“Whatever you wish to do, is it peaceful and honest? Alternatively, do you wish to rape, murder, steal, or otherwise do unjustifiable violence to someone? If the answer to the former is yes, and no to the latter, we’re good. Enjoy!”

“What do you think about gay marriage?”

“Are you aware that my son is happily married to a man? It was a lovely, very popular wedding.”

The lad brightened. Hadn’t he done his research?

“What about the ENDA?”

“Could you explain it to me like I’m not an American? Since I’m not.”

“Well, uh, that’s the Employment Non Discrimination Law. it …”

Jim raised a hand. “Please stop. May I show you the Constitution of the government of Wallenberg?”

The reporter perused the sheet. Twice. “This is it? No taxes? No laws?”

“No taxes. We have, by far, the tiniest government imaginable. Any smaller, you might lose it when pulling the drain plug. As for the laws, the people of Wallenberg have as many laws as they deem necessary. And I don’t recall any discrimination laws. But I could be wrong.”

“But aren’t you concerned about discrimination?”

“These issues don’t seem to matter here. I don’t have any idea what to say to you folks in America.”

“What about hate crimes?”

When Jim heard what that was, he was perplexed. “I don’t like to talk about freedom of X, can’t see the point of divvying up freedom like it was a prize. But don’t Americans have freedom of speech?”

“But don’t gays and lesbians suffer more from violent crime?”

“Not in Wallenberg. Let me show a surveillance clip.”

The reporter watched an altercation between a white guy and a mixed-race couple, resolved when Ted prevented the hateful criminal from tumbling over a railing. It concluded with a conversation.

“We need to talk.”

Ted squatted. Daryl followed. “I tried to boost a car today. The <bleep> owner kept the car, but bought me lunch. How am I supposed to live?”

“Kept the car, did he? Sucks to be you. Have you tried living peacefully?”

Ted left a card. It read “Fresh Start. Peace is morally and socially acceptable.”

The reporter from the Advocate was stunned.

“This guy,” Jim said, “was the leader of a group of three thieves who crossed the border. To the best of our knowledge, those three were the only violent criminals in all of Wallenberg so far, this year.”

“Why wasn’t the guy arrested?”

“For being stupid?”

“Why not report him to the police?”

“Would it shock you if I said we have no police?”

“Yes, it would. But … Only three criminals in the entire country? How does that happen?”

“We seem to have no vice laws at all. People care about rape, murder, theft, that sort of thing. Who sleeps with whom, who smokes what, not important.”

“You see this fellow, Ted? He’s from Nigeria, one of my best and brightest students. The girl Sarah arrived about the same time, from South Carolina. Ted works part time with the militia.”

“Anyhow, Ted and I chatted. He didn’t meet this guy by accident. It was their second meet. Ted’s objective, both times, was to keep the guy out of trouble.”

“Why didn’t Ted take the guy’s gun?”

“That would be theft. Ted doesn’t do theft.”

“But isn’t it risky?”

“It is. That’s why we’re keeping an eye on him. We hope to keep him out of trouble. Trouble that could get him killed.”

“Wow. Not what I expected. I got to go. Thank you very much, sir.”

“And thank you, sir.”


Interview With A Christian

Perhaps I should vet these reporters, thought Jim.

A perky blonde reporter from some religious birdcage-liner asked “Are you a man of faith, your Majesty?”

“Ma’am, I must apologize, but I never discuss such private matters.”

“But, are you a Christian?”

Jim said nothing.

“OK, moving along. Does Wallenberg have religious freedom?”

“We have freedom. Freedom isn’t like a pie, something for people to divide and squabble over. We have a saying, which sort of exemplifies my way of thinking, and it seems not unpopular. ”


Jim pointed to a plaque on his desk, which read Peace is morally and socially acceptable.

“What does that mean?”

Jim answered “Does your religion – whatever it may be – require you to use violence, for any other reason than legitimate defense? If not, your religion can be practiced peacefully. I’m good with that. Your Thomas Jefferson wrote this:”

The legitimate powers of government extend only to such acts as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

“Thank you, sir.”

“And thank you, Ma’am.”

Interview With A Christian

Perhaps I should vet these reporters, thought Jim.

A perky blonde reporter from some religious birdcage-liner asked “Are you a man of faith, your Majesty?”

“Ma’am, I must apologize, but I never discuss such private matters.”

“But, are you a Christian?”

Jim said nothing.

“OK, moving along. Does Wallenberg have religious freedom?”

“We have freedom. Freedom isn’t like a pie, something for people to divide and squabble over. We have a saying, which sort of exemplifies my way of thinking, and it seems not unpopular. ”


Jim pointed to a plaque on his desk, which read Peace is morally and socially acceptable.

“What does that mean?”

Jim answered “Does your religion – whatever it may be – require you to use violence, for any other reason than legitimate defense? If not, your religion can be practiced peacefully. I’m good with that. Your Thomas Jefferson wrote this:”

The legitimate powers of government extend only to such acts as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

“Thank you, sir.”

“And thank you, Ma’am.”

Protect Medical Marijuana: Vote Yes on Proposition 64

On Tuesday, November 8, Californians will vote on a proposal to legalize possession of marijuana for adults, and, finally, legalize production and sale of marijuana. Proposition 64, The Adult Use of Marijuana Act, will legalize possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and over; it also establishes a regulatory framework for the legal production, distribution and sale of marijuana and marijuana products.

Proposition 64 embeds in the California Constitution the rights of medical marijuana patients as established by Proposition 215 and Senate Bill 420. Proposition 64 states (Section 4.6,11362.3(f) that rights of medical marijuana users established by Proposition 215 and subsequent legislation will not be abridged. This includes the right of medical marijuana users to grow marijuana beyond the six plants allowed for recreational users. While medical marijuana users will have to pay the 15% tax on retail sales of marijuana, they are exempt from paying the 7.5% sales tax.

The Adult Use of Marijuana Act also embeds in the Constitution the privacy protections for registered medical marijuana users that were established by SB 420.

In 1996 California voters passed Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, allowing individuals arrested for possession of marijuana to invoke a “medical need” defense. The Compassionate Use act provided than anyone wanting to invoke a “medical need” defense would need a recommendation from a doctor licensed to practice in California. Individuals who did not have a doctor’s recommendation could not invoke the medical defense.

In 2003, the California legislature passed Senate Bill 420 to clarify the scope and the application of Proposition 215. SB 420 created a state-wide registry of medical marijuana users, and a California medical marijuana ID card. SB 420. Signing up for the registry and getting a medical id card is voluntary, but individuals who are not listed on the registry might not be able to invoke the medical defense that 215 established.

The Adult Use of Marijuana Act retains the California registry of medical users, and the medical id card, and embeds in the Constitution the privacy provisions set forth in D SB 420. But if Proposition 64 passes, an individual who uses marijuana for therapeutic purposes will not need a doctor’s recommendation or a medical id card to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, or to grow up to 6 plants. People who want to protect their privacy will appreciate this.

If Proposition 64 passes, an individual who does possess a doctor’s recommendation and a medical id card will be exempt from California Sales Tax when buying marijuana, and will be able to grow more than 6 plants. Signing up for the Medical Marijuana Registry and obtaining a medical id card will be completely voluntary, with the promise of added benefits not available to recreational users of marijuana.

Proposition 215 expressed support for the use of marijuana as medicine. SB 420 provided a means for medical marijuana users to guarantee their status, at the cost of being on a government list. The Adult Use of Marijuana Act guarantees the right of adults, 21 and over, to possess and use marijuana for recreational or therapeutic purposes. People who benefit from the health effects of marijuana will have access without needing a doctor’s recommendation, and without being on a government list. AUMA means for freedom for all marijuana users. Join Rep. Tom McClintock, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Rep. Tom Campbell (Ret) Judge Jim Gray (Ret) and me in voting YES on Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act.

Wallenberg Society of Vagrants

Gary had been on his last nickel for a long time, ever since the war. He carried his few belongings in a grimy duffel bag. His shoes were held together with duct tape. He sat on a sheet of cardboard, cup in hand, only half awake.

He heard the plink of a coin, looked up, and said “bless you, sir.”

“You’re welcome, bud. Can I offer you a bite to eat?”

“Can’t turn that down, sir. But I don’t do sex or nothin'”

“I want only two things, bud. First, you get a shower, and second, conversation.”

Gary was a bit confused. “Shower? What are you talking about?”

“Bud, my name’s Jason. I’m a vagrant myself. You’re new, let me show you around.”

“Name’s Gary.”

Jason steered Gary toward an auto-lavatory. It was clean, single-occupancy.

“I told you, no sex.”

“Gary, I’m going to step outside. Then, I want you to step into that shower, and push that button – the one that looks like a shower spray. And the one that looks like you’re putting laundry into a washer. Capiche?”

Gary nodded. Feeling foolish, he followed instructions. He saw an icon which looked like a barber at work, and pushed that too. A sort of foam arose, enveloping him, insinuating itself into his clothes, washing away grime. A kind of bushy fog engulfed his beard and hair. He learned later that it was something called a “bush robot” – each branch bifurcated, until the ends were tiny scissors, equipped with sensors, which did a fine job of trimming hair and beard.

When he stepped outside, Gary felt like a new man.

“Were you going for the buzz cut?” asked Jason.

“I didn’t know I had a choice,” replied Gary.

“You can speak to the SonicShower, and ask for a different look.”

The two sat down at an eatery, and ordered burgers, fries, and beer.

“Why are you so nice to me,” asked Gary.

“Karma. Somebody did the same for me. Every city is different, and it helps if somebody shows you around. First off, the showers are free at the Airport Mall. Why? It improves the atmosphere. It’s easier to give you a free shower and clean clothes and a hair cut, than to run you off.”

After they had finished, Gary was sleepy; he hadn’t had a meal in some while.

“Let me show you where to sleep,” said Jason. He flagged down an auto-cart, which looked much like a golf cart. “Take us to the Free Hostel, please.” The cart replied “Free Hostel” and accelerated. It went through an unmarked door, and down a long hallway, and stopped.

Jason spoke to a holo-teller. “A room for my friend Gary, please.”

Jason accepted a key, and tossed a dime into the donation slot. “You can get in free if you want, but most people pitch in a bit.”

Gary pitched in another dime. The two found Gary’s capsule. It was the lower of two enclosed beds, modeled after the kapuseru hoteru of Japan. There was room to sleep, to sit. A light permitted reading. A shelf held Gary’s bag. A door secured the contents.

“Auto-lavatories are down the hall. Take your key with you. The capsules let for 24 hours; your key will flash when it’s time to renew or vacate. If you forget, your bag will be stored for a week. You can ask for a longer lease, up to a week.”

“Who pays for this?”

“Former vagrants, mostly.”

The next morning, Gary found his way to the lobby of the hostel. He nibbled at a danish, and sipped coffee. He asked a neighbor where to find booze.

“Place on the main level sells the cheap stuff. The Booze Shop. Right next to a MediClinix.”

“How do I get there?”

“Just down the hall, see the yellow stanchions? Wait there, an autocart will come around.”

“Thanks, bud.”

Gary waited, flagged an AutoCab, asked for the Booze Shop. He had enough for a pint of rotgut.

He winced when he swallowed. His gut was bothering him.

“Heartburn, mate? The MediClinix will check you.”

Gary shuffled next door. The HoloNurse asked him to wait a moment, then showed him to a cubicle.

“Please remove your clothes and be seated.”

Gary did so. He would have panicked when the foam enveloped him, but it reminded him of the SonicShower, and a mild sedative caused him to relax. He felt twinges and tickles and pricks as blood was drawn, and heard odd noises.

The HoloNurse reappeared. Gary covered himself.

“You have an ulcer. A course of antibiotics will be injected. Your liver requires more extensive work; we can rejuvenate it for you. I can refer you to a specialist for the back injuries and arthritis.”

“What will this cost?”

“Our investigation shows that you have no financial resources. Your tab will be picked up by the charity of your choice.”

Gary looked at a list – several veterans organizations, of different nationality; several churches; the Socity of Vagrants of Wallenberg; other groups called Friends of so-and-so and Jolly Good Blokes and Atheists For Love.

“You will usually be contacted by the charity of your choice. You have no obligation.”

“What do people usually pick?”

“People usually pick somebody whose company they can stand. Some Veterans like to connect with other veterans; some do not. Some like to listen to preaching.”

“And what would I expect from Society of Vagrants?”

“An ear, and a bit of advice about how to get around. You have already been in contact with a member.”

Gary chose the Vagrants.

A day later, he was feeling much better. He stopped in at a local Veterans Hall. The conversation wasn’t to his taste; he wandered a bit, and found a pleasant garden, where people wandered, conversed, and smoked pleasant herbs.

A week later, Gary spied Jason, sitting alone at a table. “May I join you?” asked Gary.

“But of course! Will you have a bite? How are you?”

“Better. I’ve got a place to sleep, I’m getting enough to pay for meals, and my liver and gut are in much better shape. I’m starting to wonder, actually, if there’s any kind of work I’d be fit for.”

“What did you used to do?” asked Jason.

“Well, I was in combat, and I’m not wanting to do that again. I was a corpsman, and that’s OK, but I think you’ve got HoloNurses and AutoDocs doing most of that now. Mostly I just bum around, be nice to people, and hope they’ll put a few coins in my cup.”

“I have two ideas. One, you hear about how we organize our ‘first response’ teams?”

“Not really.”

“We call it Skill Sharing. You advertise a skill – such as corpsman – and you get a bit just for being available at a certain time and place; you get more when you actually use your skill.”

“Kind of like ride sharing.”


“But I’m rusty.”

“That’s no matter. Part of the deal is, you get an Interface.” Jason tapped his temple. “and up-to-date training. And if you’re in a crisis, an expert can talk you through it.”

“OK, what’s the second idea?”

“I’ve watched you. You’re actually a good conversationalist. You make people feel good.”

“Brings in the coins,” replied Gary.

“Let me show you to the Kinder Garten.”

The Kinder Garten wasn’t what Gary had expected. It was a large park/mall area, filled with people, mostly pre-teen.

“These young folks don’t yet have their own Interfaces. They like to hang out here. They mostly look out for themselves, but sometimes things get a bit too much. Say somebody falls out of a tree. There are autodocs here – see that gazebo? – but it helps to have an adult with some experience and maturity.”

“And what would I do, when there isn’t a crisis?”

“Converse with anybody who is interested. They’ll seek you out.”

“I get paid for that?”

“You get paid for making the place a bit safer and friendlier and more attractive. Do you like to read?”

“Used to. Need new glasses.”

“Get your eyes fixed, and park yourself there, by the library.”

Geezer Gary, as he was known, became a regular. He told stories of primitive times when people had to drive their own cars and dial their own cellphones. He read stories; he helped younger kids learn to piece together words; he helped expand the vocabulary of those who wanted to better understand the speech patterns and slang of retired veterans.

Catching Up

I had a spate of problems with my computers, and some health issues, and other problems. Anyhow, today I have finally reset the password on this account, and should be starting a string of blog posts soon.

The big news is that I am making progress on The Great Libertarian Sci Fi Novel, and hope to have at least a complete first draft by the end of 2016.

Updates will be posted.