Rochester Rag February 1996
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ROCHESTER RAG January 1996

(formerly the _News from Detroit_)

Motto: The surest way to get a reputation for being a trouble maker these days is to go about repeating the very phrases that the Founders used in the struggle for independance.

-- C.A. Beard


Steve Langer
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On last month's Fix;

the answer to last month's Fix,

  "Should the physics community in the US adopt professional birth control
   (to ease the employment shortage) as the AMA has done for medicine?"

Personally, I don't think so. I believe in free markets, even when it makes life more difficult for yours truly. But for some physics specialties, this is already occuring, and in a manner exactly analogous to what the AMA does. To explain: the AMA was instrumental in calling for medical practitioners to be licensed. For the public good of course. The tricky part is that the AMA had a LARGE hand in "helping" legislators draft the rules governing state licensure. This often requires that an MD undergo a residency and pass some board exam. But of course the AMA also accredits residency programs - for a specific number of residents. This happy "coincidence" means that the AMA controls how many residents exist, and thus home many potential competitors can practice medicine. Nice.

Medical physics is well started down the same path. Hospitals practicing mammography must have their equipment accredited by Board Certified Medical physicists. Since a prereq for taking the board is 2~3 years experience, one must already be a medical physicist or get in a training program (residency) to gain the experience. Since the AAPM (American Assoc of Medical Physicists) is the accrediting body for these residency programs (of which there are now about 15), there will soon be much less oppurtunity for physicists from other areas (say laid off SSC employees) to cross over.

No one seems to think that this system smacks of conflict of interest. And it certainly is true that reducing cross-over physicists should ease the dreary job climate in medical physics, but at the expense of reduced competition. That's the problem with today's professional birth control. It leads to tomorrow's in-breeding.

I would prefer no such controls, but rather honest advice to under grads contemplating grad school. Of course, sitting Profs would then probably not have slaves for 5~8 years to generate the papers which keep their labs funded. Yes. Far better to sign up for unemployment in your mid-30s, after a few post docs and having your best work used on someone else's grant application.

On the Rep. Primary

With Iowa within TV station range of where I sit, much of the caucus campaigning is seen on the nightly news. There is a very ugly thing happening. Dole and Gramm are berating Forbes for using his own money in the campaign. When Reps. beat up one of their own using lines straight from the Dem handbook, you've gotta say - it's over. Dole says the Forbes flat tax will benefit the rich. Gramm can quote the square footage of the Forbes yacht and says that Forbes doesn't care about the comman man. These guys will not have a leg to stand on when Clinton uses these same arguments on them. The best thing Clinton could do to be re-elected is simply stay out of the way until Oct., then play back the ads used by the Rep. challenger during the primary and say, "Well shucks, if you like him, then you'll really like me."

Guest Editorial:

from this month's American Spectator, a book review on "The Road Ahead"

Chipper Bore
reviewed by Joe Queenan

Throughout its history, America has given its heart to one fake populist after another. A list of rats who recently won America's affection includes Boone Pickens, Lee Iacocca, Donald Trump and Ross Perot. All rode a wave of popular acclaim to a brief moment of glory; all published unreadable, ghost written best sellers that are now as relevant as the 1956 Oshkosh Yellow Pages; all were unmasked as self serving mandarins who secretly loathe the hoi polloi.

The latest raging egomaniac to win America's affection by impersonating "jis plain folks" is Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft and the richest man in the US. The previously reclusive Gates has lately been appearing everywhere, in part to hype his overrated Windows 95, in part to sell copies of his book. Billed as Gates' personal vision of the future, The Road Ahead is basically 286 pages shilling for Microsoft. On the cover, standing on the edge of a highway that seems to stretch forever, hands in his pockets, wearing a sweater that comes from the House of Ozzie, is the Ubertwerp himself.

"Hey, I'm just like you", that sweater says. "I'm an average guy. I care. I want to make your future better. Now give me all your money." The photo is the work of Annie Leibovitz, Vanity Fair's Diane Arbus, who probably borrowed the sweater from Jimmy Carter. If you've got $14 Billion, you really should dress like it. Ditch the sweater and penny loafers and get a suit and tie. What are you, still in high school?

The Road Ahead is not a good book. In fact, it's not a book at all. It's a catalog describing products that Microsoft will be hawking in the near future. It has a Buck Rogers flavor. Say you're driving in a strange place in the year 2004 and want to know what Chinese restaurants are still open. Being the natural upscale operations that they are, Chinese restaurants will be listed in a computer database of every Chinese restaurant in the solar system. So you'll punch them up on your car computer. Now that's handy.

Or suppose you want to see a famous painting by Seurat, but don't feel like flying to Paris. With the aid of the art database that Gates already owns, you'll be able to call up the images, and maybe a few Rembrandts while you're at it.

This is typical Gates. Vicarious experience is better than reality because the vicarious experience involves Microsoft products, whereas reality involves market neutral entities like human beings. Of course, it is idiotic to suggest that looking at a computer screen bears any semblence to looking at the real thing. But that's the sort of world that Gates and his legions of megageeks are leading us to. Consider this Gates prediction:

  If you are watching the movie Top Gun and think Tom Cruise's aviator 
glasses look really cool, you'll be able to pause the movie and learn
about the glasses or even buy them on the spot ... If the movie has
a scene filmed at a resort hotel, you'll be able to find out where it
is and make reservations. If the star carrys a handsome leather 
briefcase, the Highway will let you browse the entire line of the
manufacturer's leather goods or direct you to a retailer. 
The technical term for this scenario is progress .

Though he would dearly like to call himself a visionary, Gates' talent is marketing, not technology. The genius of Microsoft has never been to out invent its competitors, but to convince its customers that it has. Witness the triumph of Windows over Apple's vastly superior operating system. Gates would like to be compared to Gutenberg or Edison, but he's really just a high tech Ray Kroc. He has one basic talent. He knows how to sell.

In this sense, the book is classic Gates: an unoriginal inferior product decked out with all kinds of bells and whistles to disguise the fact that it's a kludge. The most important bell is the CD-ROM that accompanies the book. It requires a 486 with gobs of RAM to be viewed, but many readers will not have such a recent computer and for them the CD-ROM will be useless. This is like including ham and cheese with a book and exhorting the reader to buy some bread if he wants a sandwich. Or die of hunger, you pathetic loser !

On the subject of utter self-infatuation and contempt for the public, the book also contains a chapter describing Gates' new house, complete with computer renderings of the view from across Lake Washington and from the staircase to the formal dining room. Not even Trump pushed it this far.

This book is a big tease. Reading this hype encyclopedia is like being trapped in a store where some cretin comes on the loudspeaker every 30 seconds to say "Attention Shoppers." It is a 286 page distraction away from the real question which is, how is the information highway going to make life easier for anyone other than the ones who already have easy lives?


1. NC STate Jeffy writes
From Thu Feb 22 17:28:06 1996

Hi Stevey,

> "Should the physics profession adopt professional birth control?"

This was an incredibly timely survey question.  I was walking back from
lunch today with a group of people that included a former physicist.
The research interests of this person with a Ph.D. in physics have
changed.  I may have his exact wording wrong but the message was clear.
On the walk back, he said something to the effect of "I can't understand why
anybody can be interested in studying anything but evolution."

I pretty much agree with his sentiment but would have slightly modified 
it to read:

"I can't understand why anybody can be interested in studying anything 
but evolution and/or genetics."

On another subject, who do you want to be our next president (yourself

I'm hoping it's not Pat Buchanan.  Here's my Pat Buchanan quote of the 
month (it came from an interview of Buchanan by Sam Donaldson) --

``Listen Sam, you may believe you are descended from
monkeys. I don't believe it. I think you're a creature of God.''

hope things are fine, Jeff
Ed: With Gramm gone and Forbes dying there is not one Rep. I feel good about so it comes to throwing away my vote for the Libertarian candidate again.

2. Doug Wilken writes:

From Thu Feb 22 18:59:25 1996

Dear Steve,

> "Should the physics profession adopt professional birth control?"

Yes.  There are at least 50% more doctoral programs than necessary
in this country.  Or more.

Or perhaps every doctoral candidate be required to learn how to
set up their own business when they are done.  One thing is for
sure, no one is guaranteed anything.  I'm sure our members have
noticed that in most circumstances, a doctorate is a bonified
handicap as far as employment is concerned.

How is your job search going?

Ed: Well, for about 40 CVs mailed I've had 4~5 phone interviews and one flight so far but no job yet. On the other hand, my office mate talked with 5 groups last August, got one interview and got the job. Timing may not be everything, but it's a lot.

3. Brian Donahue writes us;

From Thu Feb 22 20:25:15 1996

Certain specialties, like neurosurgery, have been very successful at 
controlling their own numbers. Anesthesiologists, however, have not. 
Until recently. Now it seems a nuclear bomb has wiped out almost all 
desire to do anesthesia, nearly overnight.
Ed: Of course Brian is right about this. As residency programs are set up by sub-specialty, some areas of medicine have maintained a tighter birth rate that others. And the explosion of nurse anesthesiologists can't have been a help.

4. From across the pond, out man in London writes:

From Fri Feb 23 11:28:23 1996

> "Should the physics profession adopt professional birth control?"

The real problem is that physicists needs to convince all the employers
that they need to hire physicists. Then there is not a problem.  Otherwise,
we should all go on strike!
   David H. Gay                               email:
   Royal Institution of Great Britain
   21 Albemarle Street                        Phone:  +44 (0)171-409-2992
   LONDON W1X 4BS, UK                         Fax:    +44 (0)171-629-3569
        "640K ought to be enough for anybody"
                -- Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft, 1981

        Current catalog of Microsoft applications that will run
        in less than 640K follows...

5. And Texas Tom pens;

From Fri Feb 23 11:31:30 1996
Date: Fri, 23 Feb 1996 11:31:54 -0500
Subject: Re: LastCall

>"Should the physics profession adopt professional birth control?"
They should work on space-time physics and invent retroactive birth control:
see who just isn't contributing anything to the world, time travel back, tell
his folks he or she is going to be a real bozo, and give them a day-after
abortion pill (RU-486 or the new, better "RU-Pentium").

Just a thought,

6. Jack Ryan writes:

From Sun Feb 25 20:42:09 1996


Greetings from inside the Beltway for one last time.  Your man in
Washington is relocating to the Lone Star State, and glad to be doing

> "Should the physics profession adopt professional birth control?"

That question brings back the "modified" old adage...

        Love is chemistry
        Sex is physics
        And really good sex is engineering

There are entirely too many pictures conjured up by my minds eye based on
that question.

As for humorous news from my area, todays Sunday Washington Post (2/25)
has an editorial SUPPORTING the extensions of the Whitewater investigation
commettees in Congress.  To quote,

"For an administration that professes to want a quick end to the Senate
Whitewater hearings before the electrion year gets into full swing, the
Clington White House seems to be doing everything in its power to keep
the probe alive."

It then talks about the differnt times that subpeonad documents keep
turning up, how documents are "mistakenly overlooked", etc.   They conclude

"Who knows where all this will lead?  The committee clearly needs time to
sift through these late-arriving papers as well as to interview witnesses
now unavailable because they are key figures in Whitewater-related
trials.  So like it or not, the Senare committee is unlikely to go off
into the sunset at month's end when its mandate expires.  Clinton
officials have done their share to extend the committee's life."

Interesting, no, from an organ of the liberal press, eh, Steve.

Personally, I think Whitewates is a load of smoke which was made worse by
an incomptetent attempts to hide the fact that the Clintons were just as
morally bankrupt in the 1980s as the Republicans they duly excoriated in
their 1992 electron campaign.  Criminal, most likely not.  Hypocrites, YES!

Until the next time,
Ed: Interesting only in that they cover it now, since it domininates the House's daily business. Even a Tory may gainsay the King if enough of his neighbors get hauled off to debtor's prison. At some point, it simply becomes too embarrasing to continue brown nosing. Of course, all this was known (and covered in this rag) in 1994.

Quotes(s) of the month:

``Listen Sam, you may believe you are descended from monkeys. I don't believe it. I think you're a creature of God.''

-- Pat Buchanin in an interview with Sam Donaldson, supplied by Jeff Thorne

Fix of the month:

"Will the recently signed Telecomm bill broaden data availability at the expense of censorship?"



1. Red Wing, Feb 17: A local law enforcment officer is having his hand rebuilt at St. Mary's hospital after an unsuccessful raid on suspected drug dealers in the river town an hour East of Rochester. Apparently a "harmless" flash/ bang grenade, used to disorient perps during a rapid entry, went off in the officer's hand.


1. Feb 28: Steve Forbe's victory provided a much needed boost to a campaign that was flagging in the wake of the New Hampshire primary. And Forbes won by not responding to Dole's negative adds, but by sticking to his economic points and debating Clinton. Other Reps. may want to note that.


1. Boca Raton, 10 Feb: A single engine plane lost power and made an emergency landing on the first fairway of the municipal golf course, swerving into a palm tree to avoid hitting golfers. "It would have made a perfect runway if the damn golfers had gotten out of the way," flight instructor Scott Slinko said after the 9:45 crash. 85 year old Irving Brown, one of the foursome, said, "I didn't hear any horn. How could we move?"

"Those guys didn't move an inch," said Slinko after he and his student crawled from the wreckage of the plane. The foursome continued play, although Brown said his concentration was rattled, "Jack Nicklaus says concentration is the name of the game you know."


1. Feb 22: Vladimir Jerinovsky, the ultra-nationalist attempting to win the Russian presidentail race against incumbant Boris Yeltsin, is quoted as congratulating Pat Buchanin on winning the New Hampshire primary, calling Buchanin his "soul mate".

Net News;

1. Beer and computer OSs have a lot in common.
Computerized Beer

  DOS Beer:
Requires you to use your own can opener, and requires you to read the
directions carefully before opening the can. Originally only came in an 8-oz.
can, but now comes in a 16-oz. can. However, the can is divided into 8
compartments of 2 oz. each, which have to be accessed separately.  Soon to be
discontinued, although a lot of people are going to keep drinking it after
it's no longer available.

  Mac Beer:
At first, came only a 16-oz. can, but now comes in a 32-oz. can.  Considered
by many to be a "light" beer. All the cans look identical. When you take one
from the fridge, it opens itself. The ingredients list is not on the can. If
you call to ask about the ingredients, you are told that "you don't need to
know." A notice on the side reminds you to drag your empties to the trashcan.

  Windows 3.1 Beer:
The world's most popular. Comes in a 16-oz. can that looks a lot like Mac
Beer's. Requires that you already own a DOS Beer. Claims that it allows you to
drink several DOS Beers simultaneously, but in reality you can only drink a
few of them, very slowly, especially slowly if you are drinking the Windows
Beer at the same time. Sometimes, for apparently no reason, a can of Windows
Beer will explode when you open it.

  OS/2 Beer:
Comes in a 32-oz can. Does allow you to drink several DOS Beers
simultaneously. Allows you to drink Windows 3.1 Beer simultaneously too, but
somewhat slower. Advertises that its cans won't explode when you open them,
even if you shake them up. You never really see anyone drinking OS/2 Beer, but
the manufacturer (International Beer Manufacturing) claims that 9 million
six-packs have been sold.

  Windows 95 Beer:
You can't buy it yet, but a lot of people have taste-tested it and claim it's
wonderful. The can looks a lot like Mac Beer's can, but tastes more like
Windows 3.1 Beer. It comes in 32-oz. cans, but when you look inside, the cans
only have 16 oz. of beer in them. Most people will probably keep drinking
Windows 3.1 Beer until their friends try Windows 95 Beer and say they like it.
The ingredients list, when you look at the small print, has some of the same
ingredients that come in DOS beer, even though the manufacturer claims that
this is an entirely new brew.

  Windows NT Beer:
Comes in 32-oz. cans, but you can only buy it by the truckload. This causes
most people to have to go out and buy bigger refrigerators. The can looks just
like Windows 3.1 Beer's, but the company promises to change the can to look
just like Windows 95 Beer's - after Windows 95 beer starts shipping. Touted as
an "industrial strength" beer, and suggested only for use in bars.

  Unix Beer:
Comes in several different brands, in cans ranging from 8 oz. to 64 oz.
Drinkers of Unix Beer display fierce brand loyalty, even though they claim
that all the different brands taste almost identical. Sometimes the pop-tops
break off when you try to open them, so you have to have your own can opener
around for those occasions, in which case you either need a complete set of
instructions or a friend who has been drinking Unix Beer for several years.

  AmigaDOS Beer:
The company has gone out of business, but their recipe has been picked up by
some weird German company, so now this beer will be an import. This beer never
really sold very well because the original manufacturer didn't understand
marketing. Like Unix Beer, AmigaDOS Beer fans are an extremely loyal and loud
group. It originally came in a 16-oz. can, but now comes in 32-oz. cans too.

2. Renee Redman sends the following;

>>> The heaviest element known to science was recently discovered
>>> by univeristy  physicists. The element, dubbed "administratium," has
>>> no protons or  electrons and thus has an atomic number of 0.
>>> However, it does have one  neutron, 15 assistant neutrons, 70 vice-
>>> neutrons, and 161 assistant vice-neutrons. This gives it an atomic
>>> mass of 247. These particles are  held together in the nucleus by a
>>> force mediated by the exchange of meson-like particles, called
>>> morons.
>>> Since it has no charged particles, administratium is chemically
>>> inert.
>>> However it can be detected experimentally by its property of impeding every
>>> chemical reaction it comes in contact with. Administratium has a half life
>>> of approximately three years, during which time it does not actually decay
>>> but instead undergoes a reorganization of particles, in which assistant
>>> neutrons, vice-neutrons, and assistant vice-neutrons exchange positions.
>>> Some investigators report that the atomic mass actually increases as a
>>> result of this process, but this apparent contradiction to the Law of
>>> Conservation of Mass is difficult to confirm, as administratium itself
>>> seems to interfere with the accuracy of mass spectrographs used to measure
>>> it.
>>> Administratium has been reported to occur naturally in the atmosphere,
>>> where it tends to concentrate in certain locations, such as government
>>> aencies, large corporations, and universities. It can usually be found in
>>> the newest, best appointed, and best maintained facilities. Toxicologists
>>> warn that administratium has been shown to be toxic and recommend plenty of
>>> fluids and bedrest after even brief, low-level exposure.

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