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Subject: Two Stage to Orbit achieved?


Has a TSTO been sitting at Groom Lake this entire time? Is it now mothballed?

Of course our lovely subrosaphilic neocon administration will be loath to admit it; but if they have decided not to use it, as Aviation Week's staff apparently believes, the technology needs to be declassified NOW for commercial use. It would be tragic if the United States had this much of an advantage in space shipping and failed to use it because some eunuch mandarin decided to burn the ships. Lockheed officials need quizzing closely.

And this hypothesis would explain much: the sabotaging of other TSTO and SSTO projects; the massive expenditures that never seemed to go anywhere; the cancellation of spy planes without an obvious successor ("Aurora"); and, most important, a strategic decision never, ever, ever to hand America's access to space over to unreliable civilians.

Could it be that only the failures were allowed to be publicized, whereas successful technology was whisked away to the hallowed Area 51? It seems almost surreal, bordering on the rantings of well known net.kooks; but net.kooks are not among the staff of Aviation Week & Space Technology.

Finally, it may interest you personally that Thor (Rods From God) is believed to be a potential payload of the system.

--Catfish N. Cod

As some of you may know, I "invented" Thor a long time ago. I have no idea who decided to call it "Rods from God", but while I was in operations research back in the 1950's I developed the notion of "orbital telephone poles" made of tungsten, to be coupled with the Thoth Missile guidance systems we were developing at Boeing. Thoth was a ground control system to be used by a forward observer team. As GPS (pretty well put in place by Francis X. Kane, the "silent" co-author of Strategy of Technology, when Kane was at Systems Command) came into play, the Thor concept changed.

Space "cruisers" were part of the original High Frontier SDI concept. General Graham's team included Max Hunter, me, and a number of others. High Frontier was mostly interested in strategic defense, so my development of Thor was never part of that. It is still a useful capability that we ought to have.


Subject: Lucifer's Hammer

Dr. Pournelle:

I took my fiancee' camping this weekend. We went to Galveston and set up camp in Galveston Island State Park. I usually bring along some kind of reading material. This trip I brought my Christmas present, my autographed hardcover 1977 edition (both you and Niven) of Lucifer's Hammer.

I had gotten to Hammerfall just as the effects of the hot chocolate and Kahlua kicked in, so I turned out the lamp. Since part of the Hammer falls into the Gulf (of Mexico), I woke up more than once as the (20+mph) wind gusted. I dreamed I was somehow in the story and I found myself sitting bolt upright, listening for the roar of a tsunami! I'd go back to sleep a minute later. Fortunately, I'm going to marry a heavy sleeper :)

I believe that you should add some kind of warning to future printings of Lucifer's Hammer!! Something like this: "Warning: If you are a wuss, do not read this book while camping."

Best regards,

Bill Kelly Houston, TX

Hammer of God, it's gonna fall---


Subject: Letter from England

Last Friday, I heard that my grant proposal had been approved!


UK politics--Tessa Jowell marriage breaks up.

Totalitarianism in the UK (something you expressed some earlier interest in).

Political peerages being held up.

Lib-Dem policies

Church of England facing a fundamental rupture on the issue of homosexuality. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4775446.stm
 The behavioural and developmental research appears close to a breakthrough in this area. I suspect the mechanisms involve non- genetic inheritance and alternative reproductive strategies.

Bank theft update

Cocaine use in London

Number of UK electrical engineering graduates dwindles rapidly. Currently it's no more than 50 per year. http://news.independent.co.uk/business/news/article349235.ece  At my former US employer, we used to prefer EEs to computer science graduates for entry-level programmer/analyst positions, and while I haven't yet gotten around to becoming a member of the British Computing Society, I am a member of the IEEE and the IEE.

Baby euthanasia in Holland. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-2069963,00.html 

Chinese "justice". http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-2070005,00.html 

Da Vinci story.
 There is a lot of evidence in early canonical and non-canonical writings that Mary Magdalene was a pillar of the earliest church. There is also a at least a hint in Paul and some other sources that when Jesus sent out his disciples as pairs, it was as a male disciple and his "sister wife". We should probably not retroject what we know of the later church back to the earliest community during the 30s-50s, particularly as some of the material dating back to that period is quite weird.

I'll send this today, rather than waiting for the Monday newspapers.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her

Regarding the early Church, the Holy Blood advocates always said it was Mary of Bethany that Jesus married, and their issue survives and the current male heir is legitimate monarch of the Christian world. There is some evidence that at least some of the Templars believed this, as did Catarrhs, which is one reason the Albigensian Crusade was so unrelenting.

Magdelene would have been important in the early Church because she was a witness to the Resurrection.

And Paul is clear on one matter having to do with celibacy and the clergy: he explicitly lists among the qualifications of a bishop that he is "the husband of one wife." Celibate clergy seems to have developed as a part of feudalism where land ownership was political power.

Congratulations on the grant.








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Tuesday, March 7, 2006 

Subject: March 6, 2006 Chaos Manor Column


I just finished reading your latest column. I always like reading about your upgrades and building new systems. I was surprised to hear that you did not have to re-register Windows XP after changing your motherboard. I read that Microsoft said changing a motherboard meant you had a new system and that Windows XP had to be re-registered or a new copy had to be licensed. I find that bogus since the situation you just experienced is exactly the argument against their reasoning. Have you heard anything about this and were you surprised you did not have to re-register XP?


Mike Wirshup
UNISYS ClearPath MCP Support

I heard this early on, but when I asked Microsoft the answer was "probably won't make any difference." I have, over time, changed systems pretty thoroughly without having to reregister or buy a new copy. I've changed hard drives, mother boards, CPU -- but not all at once. I have yet to require new registration. Eric has had some of the same experiences, and a couple of times has had to telephone, but he does a lot of rebuilding. He's never had to buy a new copy.


Subject: planetary engineering?


There's an interesting story at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4762720.stm  about the possibilities of planetary engineering, space-based and surface, as a response to unwanted climate change. Some of the responses are amusing - one fellow said, after running models of a Teller-Wood planetary sunshade proposal, "Much to our chagrin, it worked really well."

Some are less so: "The knowledge that we maybe could engineer our way out of climate problems inevitably lessens the political will to begin reducing carbon dioxide emissions," observes David Keith from the University of Calgary in Canada. So, we shouldn't even talk about it lest Green oxen get gored? My. Interesting mindset revealed there.

Henry Vanderbilt

Chagrin. That too indicates a mind set. None of this is surprising.

Note that we are in for a solar storm, and with lots of sun spots there is increased insolation of the earth. But I have heard not one word about the possibility of increased global warming.

But if in fact global warming is due to increases in the solar constant, some kind of planetary engineering is the only way out: reducing CO2 will bankrupt us without solving the problem.


 Subject: Watch Out John Tyler, Here Comes Jimmy Carter

FYI, Dr. Pournelle...





"President Carter personally called Secretary of State Rice to try to convince her to reverse her U.N. ambassador's position on changes to the U.N. Human Rights Commission, the former president recalled yesterday in a talk," reports the New York Sun:

"Mr. Carter said he made a personal promise to ambassadors from Egypt, Pakistan, and Cuba on the U.N. change issue that was undermined by America's ambassador, John Bolton. "My hope is that when the vote is taken," he told the Council on Foreign Relations, "the other members will outvote the United States." . . .

"The story, as Mr. Carter recalled, began with a recent dinner for 17 he attended in New York, where the guests included the president of the U.N. General Assembly, Jan Eliasson; an unidentified American representative, and other U.N. ambassadors from "powerful" countries at Turtle Bay, of which he mentioned only three: Cuba, Egypt, and Pakistan. The topic was the ongoing negotiations on an attempt to replace the widely discredited Geneva-based Human Rights Commission with a more accountable Human Rights Council.

"One of the things I assured them of was that the United States was not going to dominate all the other nations of the world in the Human Rights Council," Mr. Carter said. However, on the next day, Mr. Carter said, Mr. Bolton publicly "demanded" that the five permanent members of the Security Council will have permanent seats on the new council as well, "which subverted exactly what I have promised them," Mr. Carter said.

"So I called Condoleezza Rice and told her about the problem, and she said that that statement by our representative was not going to be honored," he said. But despite Mr. Carter's assessment that there are "a lot of people" in Washington who oppose Mr. Bolton on the Human Rights Council, Mr. Bolton's opposition to the proposed new structure became American policy.

"Carter's working to subvert U.S. diplomacy is nothing new; but his apparent belief that he can speak on behalf of the country while doing so is rather stunning.

"It must drive him crazy to know that John Tyler was a member of the Confederate Congress when he died in 1862; that makes it hard for Carter to surpass Tyler as the most anti-American ex-president in history. But we doubt he'll ever stop trying."

Charles Brumbelow

But we are in an era of limits and afflicted with national malaise, and we must not infuriate the Soviets lest they bring down the world in one great Gotterdammerung. Some of us recall 15% inflation and huge unemployment and the Carter stagflation.


Subject: WWII in color

Hi Jerry.

Stumbled across some interesting WWII photography at this website:


Cheers, Mike Casey


ON BORON fuels and spaceplanes

Dr. Pournelle,

It seems to me that the most important point to come out of the article and subsequent discussion on this secret TSTO system is talk of a newer, more advanced rocket fuel made of a "Boron Gel". I have never heard that discussed before, but is this not the key point to the whole discussion? Building a mother ship/drop plane system is easy. We have been doing that since the 40s. But a fuel that gives you the "Bang for the Buck" necessary to get both the space plane and a useful payload into orbit.... That's something new. Forget about the ship itself. Rutan can probably make a better one. I want to know about the fuel it uses. To that end, I found this:


and these:



That's all a quick search turned up. Does anyone know anything about these types of propellants?

Matt Kirchner Houston, Texas

I know a little about spaceplanes. I was on the Boeing Dyna-Soar proposal team as well as being involved with WS-110a, a proposal that Boeing lost to North American. North American was a fighter company, and the idea that Sac's Factory would lost a major bomber to a fighter company was bizarre, but North American won fair and square. WS-110a became the B-70, which, alas, flew at a nearly optimal speed and altitude for being intercepted by the USSR. On the other hand, the existence of even a few B-70's required an enormous expense in interception forces. Strategy of technology in action, but that's a story for another time.

I sent a note to an expert on building rockets:
> Can you write a short answer to this for posting with the letter?
> I recall that the stuff was awful and dissolved the engines, but perhaps my
> memory is faulty. I think we went back to Jp4 because the engines couldn't
> handle the boronates.

With this reply:

This whole episode is discussed thoroughly, and well, in John Clark's book "Ignition!". As he says there, he wanted to title the chapter on boron "The Billion Buck Boron Boo-Boo". Boron looks good on paper, but in practice, use as a jet fuel proved to be problematic. Of course the compounds were horribly toxic -- Edwards is still cleaning some of the old boron test sites up. But the real killer was the properties of the oxides present after burning boron. When you burn a hydrocarbon, you get water, CO, and CO2, along with N2 and trace nitrogen oxides when burning it with air. All of this nicely leaves the turbine. When you burn boron, you get boron oxide (B2O3), which, at jet engine temperatures, is a very viscous liquid, which gummed up the turbines, and of course on shutdown it solidifies with very unpleasant results. If I recall correctly, combustion efficiency in rockets left something to be desired, but that is the kind of problem which can be overcome with sufficient effort. I don't have my reference copy of "Ignition!" handy to check.


There is more in Big Jim Oberg's report here:


We learned from NASP that you do not want to spend much time in hypersonic atmospheric flight. That is the problem with an air-breathing "mothership" approach, which at one time was seen as the best two stage to orbit system concept. It was used in an Arthur C. Clarke novel and in several of my early works, because it seems so logical: fly off a runway, get to as fast and as high as you can using air for oxidant, then launch the orbiter.

The problem is that to get to hypersonic speeds you have to fly at hypersonic speeds, and scooping in oxidants requires that the leading edges of the wings and the air scoops have to be made of Unobtanium. For the concept to work as originally conceived you need exotic fuels, and they are also a chimera.

This doesn't mean you can't use an airplane as a lower stage, but if you do, the goal is not to get speed, but altitude. Velocity can even be a negative factor since separation gets more complicated. Max Hunter convinced me that vertical takeoff and landing is better for SSTO ships, and you don't want wings on them; but there is a respectable alternate opinion involving a mothership, high altitude separations, and such like.

I would like to see X projects funded by USAF in both the best VTOL ship we can build (my SSX, a 600,000 pound GLOW ship with at least 12 engines; build the best one we can build, and fly it a lot) and the best Two Stages to Orbit mothership/orbiter we can build and fly that a lot, and see just where we are and where we need to go. My guess is that both concepts will work, and it will depend on the mission as to which one you want to use.


More on boron fuels:

The following is abstracted from "Ignition! An informal history of liquid rocket propellants", by John Clark, Rutgers University Press, 1972. Chapter 10, p. 120ff

-- excerpts follow --

Fifteen years ago people used to ask me "What *is* an exotic fuel anyway?" and I would answer "It's expensive, it's got boron in it, and it probably doesn't work" I had intended, originally, to entitle this chapter "The Billion Buck Boron Booboo" ...

Boranes are unpleasant beasts. Diborane and pentaborane ignite spontaneously in the atmosphere, and the fires are remarkably difficult to extinguish. ... Also, they not only are possessed of a peculiarly repulsive odor; they are extremely poisonous by just about any route....

The results, not to put too fine a point on it, did not encourage euphoria. The performance was dismally bad -- far below theoretical -- and solid glassy deposits appeared in the throat .. These consisted, apparently, mostly of B2O3, but appeared to contain some elemental boron as well. This was a sure indication of poor combustion, and was not encouraging...

.. And then the whole program was brought to a screeching halt. There were two reasons for this .. The second lay in the fact that the combustion product of boron is boron trioxide, B2O3, and that below about 1800 degrees this is either a solid or a glassy, very viscous liquid. And when you have a turbine spinning at some 4000 RPM, and the clearance between the blades is a few thousandths of an inch, and this sticky, viscous liquid deposits on the blades, the engine is likely to undergo what the British, with precision, call "catastrophic self-disassembly". All sorts of efforts were made to reduce the viscosity of the oxide, but to no avail. The [boron fuels] just could not be used in a jet engine. The plants were put on stand-by, and eventually sold for junk.





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Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Subject: Some ARE More Equal... (Or What's Wrong With This Picture?)

An interesting tidbit about double standards, Dr. Pournelle...




"A student's column in the Oregon State University campus newspaper has prompted protests by Muslim students, who say it is offensive to their faith.

"The piece headlined "The Islamic Double Standard" was written by OSU microbiology student Nathanael Blake and published in the Daily Barometer on Feb. 8.

"The column accused Muslims of expecting special treatment after a Danish newspaper published cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. Riots over the cartoons amounted to "savagery," Blake said. "Bluntly put, we expect Muslims to behave barbarously," his column said. . . .

"At the Daily Barometer, editors said e-mail and phone calls poured in. Senior editors have met with the Muslim Student Association.

"The pain that it caused . . . did not subside with time," said DD Bixby, the Barometer's editor-in-chief. "It kind of just festered."

"She said editors have been checking copy with Muslim students, and on Tuesday deleted one paragraph from a piece scheduled to be published the next day."

And the kicker from WSJ Opinion:

"So let's see if we have this straight: Muslims are upset over being accused of "expecting special treatment," and they respond by agitating for the newspaper to allow them to censor material they find offensive. What's wrong with this picture?"

Charles Brumbelow


Gary Brecher review is full of bull.

His knowledge of numbers used in the war that Rome waged against the Helvitii. Rome’s legions were not the large in number, at best less than 10,000 men. Usually around 6 to 7 thousand would catch their totals per legion. From that statement he’s full of bull so the rest of the story is to.


The Helvetii decided they'd make a move on Northeastern Gaul, grabbing the land and wiping out the Roman-vassal tribes occupying the land. The entire Helvetii tribe numbered about 370,000, and from that they could field about 110,000 fighting men-every male who could hold a spear. They smashed into the settled Gaul tribes easily, grabbed a swathe of territory and prepared to keep advancing until they had enough good land to support the whole tribe.

What the Helvetii hadn't factored into their big move was the Romans. Julius Caesar got a message from his Gaul vassals pleading for help against the Helvetii. At this point he had six legions under him in Gaul, almost 300,000 men. But he wanted more, because he had something a little more drastic in mind than just defeating the Helvetii. He was out to exterminate them. So he called up another two legions, which meant he had 400,000 trained soldiers against 110,000 part-time tribal warriors.

I hadn't read Brecher that closely, so this is the first time I looked at this. All my sources show the Republican legion at about 4200 men, and the Claudian legion at about 5500. Julius Caesar commanded late Republic legions, and even if they were augmented it is unlikely that a legion would consist of more than 5,000 men at full strength including officers, mechanics, quaestionarii, frumentarii, farriers, medics, engineers, and other specialists. Eight legions would thus be 40,000 men not all combatants. Add some cavalry not organic to the legions, and add supply troops and file closers and camp followers and I don't see how you could get to 100,000 men, and in fact about 40,000 total in eight legions is more likely. While Caesar mentions allies in the Helvetian campaign, it's unlikely that he would have wanted or allowed very large numbers of armed barbarians on campaign; certainly he wouldn't have allowed his Roman army to be outnumbered by allies. The notion of auxiliaries wasn't really well developed in Julius Caesar's time, at least on my reading of The Gallic Wars.

So I do wonder at the war nerd's (his term for himself) reading of the classical sources, and I have no idea where he got the numbers. I don't think Rome ever fielded an army of 400,000 trained soldiers at any time in her history, and the logistics of supplying an army that large in the terrain of the Helvetian campaign would seem to prohibit gathering that many troops.

Brecher describes a slaughter of the Helvetians, which is not my reading of Caesar; as I understand it, there was one clan that tried to escape after the defeat of the Helvetian army, and they were brought back and executed. The remaining Helvetii we sent back to rebuild their villages lest their former territory attract Germans to settle in the vacant lands. Allied tribes were told to feed the Helvetians until they restored their economy. I suspect Brecher has either read an historical fiction as history, or has confused his campaigns. At least in Caesar's account, the only general slaughter was of a defeated clan that tried to escape. Perhaps I am misreading?


Subject: Geopolitics of Sexual Frustration

The article on Missing Girls brought to mind a quote by Dr. Neil Postman, Head of Culture and Communication at New York University. He said:

"Single men should get married as soon as possible. Every culture has a problem dealing with the anti-social instincts of the single male. Men are useless to a culture until they're married. Single women don't have to get married. Women are more integrated, sensitive and whole than men are, and don't need marriage in order to be civilized human beings."

What do you think?


If it were not for women, men would be living in caves, scratching and grunting.


Subj: Copyright Office report on Orphan Works


=The Copyright Office has completed its study of problems related to “orphan works”—copyrighted works whose owners may be impossible to identify and locate. As requested by Senator Orrin Hatch and Senator Patrick Leahy, the Office submitted its Report on Orphan Works to the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 31, 2006. The Report is also available for download on this page ...=

Conclusions and Recommendations from the Executive Summary of the report:

== • The orphan works problem is real.

• The orphan works problem is elusive to quantify and describe comprehensively.

• Some orphan works situations may be addressed by existing copyright law, but many are not.

• Legislation is necessary to provide a meaningful solution to the orphan works problem as we know it today.

We recommend that the orphan works issue be addressed by an amendment to the Copyright Act’s remedies section. The specific language we recommend is provided the end of this Report. ==

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com

Orphan copyrights are a problem. Not only for anthologists, but for authors: they may be dead, but few want their works to vanish for lack of permission to republish. The old 28 years renewable in the 28th year solved that problem nicely: if the work wasn't renewed it was public domain. If it did get renewed and the author subsequently vanished, there was still an end to it after 56 years. Now if the author vanishes you don't know when he died...


 And Mike Flynn says

Another log on the fire "Mike Flynn first raised it in his contribution to Fallen Angels."

I'll have to credit an article by George Harper, "A Little More Pollution, Please!" in Analog (Oct 1986). He became iirc George Lutenist in the party/lecture scene.

The Great Famine was in 1316/17, due to torrential rains that started in 1315 and went almost nonstop for two years.


And thanks for the correction. For some reason I thought the year of the Great Rain was 1326; my memory is failing.


Subject: Antarctic Ice: The Cold Truth.


-- Roland Dobbins


CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


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Thursday, March 9, 2006

Preview of the new SAMSUNG Origami:

Subject: Origami




 Roland Dobbins


More on Origami.

I want something like this from Apple - or, failing that, I could deal with one of these running Linux, as a secondary device:


-- Roland Dobbins


Kiwa hirsuta.


- Roland Dobbins

And a furry lobster to you, too.






CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


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Friday,  March 10, 2006

Too much work to do. I'll catch up Monday.







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Saturday, March 11, 2006

A day devoured by locusts





CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Subject: University of Michigan 'study': Dr. Pournelle, you're not gonna *believe* this one

Apparently 'workaholics' should be taxed as are cigarette smokers, for behavior that damages society.


Best Regards,

Doug Hayden

Are you suggesting that experts at the University of Michigan do not know what is best, and their ethicists are not the final authorities on social justice? You will never do well in academia. We must all pretend that Professor Knows Best.


Latest cold fusion claims appear to be non-reproducible.

As we suspected:


-- Roland Dobbins



Subject: bell labs


I agree with you. Bell Labs was a resource we are not likely to see again for while. At NASA, whenever, we had a communications design problem the first place we went was to Bell Labs publications and if that did not provide the answer, then we went to Bell Labs. They were the best that's ever been - period.

We bought one of their 3B20D computers that they used to run their toll switches (the big guns in AT&T) so we could take it apart and study it for future launch processing system designs. These machines ran 24X7 and had down times measured in seconds a year!

Phil Tharp


Subject: algebra

Dear Jerry,

In regards to electricians needing or wanting to know algebra I was floored by your comments. You might as well have been endorsing astrology.

I entered the local 134( chicago) electrical apprenticeship at age 35. The minimum academic standard was a c in high school algebra. Over three years we spent three semesters in an 8hr a day classroom. It was much more demanding intellectually than the time i spent as an engineering student at Iowa State.Plus I spent a minimum of 3hrs a day of reading and math math and more math.Math to bend pipe,math to calculate loads under the National Electrical Code, math to solve series, and parrallell circuits, math to troubleshoot HVAC pressure, temp conditions in systems to see if they are overcharged, undercharged or you need to troubleshoot the electrical system. Boolean algebra to understand Programmable controls. Variable Frequency Drives. When you have the guy who cuts your hedges for you hang a cieling fan for you ,and he doesnt know algebra , here is what can happen. He breaks the neutral open which is the return for two hot circuits and he doubles the voltage what happens to x your amperage.Voltage = x(amperage) times r (resistance). A basic algebraic formula. The answer is he doubles the amps at your outlets. This will burn up your computer , new HDTV,stereo , and maybe burn your house down. Try getting your HVAC system fixed and youll probably pay 4 guys to fix it and then end up buying a new system before you can find someone that can do the basic math to troubleshoot the system and tell you the bare minimum that it is an electrical component or a mechanical component. I have seen this money waster happen alot. A good HVAC man is very rare. The kids are screaming and i cant type. More to come.Give me a call if you want .

Greg Hoover

I don't think I have ever seen an electrician calculate much of anything. The Codes sepcify the size of wire, the routing, and the rest of it. The ability to follow a code seems more useful than the ability to find x from x^2 -4x + 12 = 0, but perhaps I have missed something.

I would not myself care to have an electrician who doesn't know the codes, and I would have thought the code makes it pretty clear how many wires are needed to a ceiling fan. Nor would I think it requires a knowledge of algebra and the ability to factor complex expressions in order to hang a ceiling fan. Perhaps they do things differently in Chicago.


Has Washington Gone Insane?


--- Roland Dobbins

When was Washington sane?


RE: Thor, Blackstar etc.

I was led to the Aviation Week article by this item on Samizdata.


Some interesting observations and comments, and I'd be interested in your views on Thor effectiveness being debated in the comments section. Personally I don't want to be anywhere near a metal rod arriving from LEO. 'they lose too much energy when the hit the ground.'



Chuck Redman


Subject: poverty of language

Hello again Dr. Pournelle,

At your suggestion, I've been reading John Derbyshire. My Basic Training Company picked up a new cycle of recruits this weekend, and my presence is required in the event things get out of control. Since my Drill Sergeants are doing a fine job, I have time to catch up on my reading, and came across the following in NRO's Derbyshire Archive, I think from last November.

<<Thy neighbor's ass. Regardless of what you think of religion in general, or Christianity in particular, all those past centuries of widespread Bible reading were wonderfully enriching to our language. Now that is all slipping away, and our language is correspondingly poorer. I noticed this a few years ago, when I complained to my Wall Street boss, a lady with a degree from a good university and a six-digit salary, that in giving me a project to complete without the proper means to complete it, she was asking me to make bricks without straw. She stared at me uncomprehendingly. "Bricks? Straw? What on earth are you talking about, John?"

It happened again the other day. In conversation with some intelligent and well-educated Americans, I used the word "covet." Blank looks. Then, nervously (I am not a stranger to these people): "Er, John, do you mean... cover?" No, I said, I meant "covet," as in the Tenth Commandment. You know: Thou shalt not covet they neighbor's ox, nor his ass... Now they were looking at each other as if I had lapsed into Klingon. Where is Roy Moore when you need him?>>

I have encountered this phenomena myself, having more than once had to explain biblical expressions in my own speech to West Point educated officers, whose command of the language may be expected to be greater than that of a public school and community college educated Reserve Component NCO.

Apart from the bible, even exposure to the early works of Bill Cosby ought to have familiarized folks with the cubit, though I suspect most haven't used it to estimate the height of a Rappelling Tower. :-)

I believe that you have also noted this trend, as has Jeff Cooper, the Marine Corps veteran and long-time back page columnist for "Guns and Ammo" magazine. On the gripping hand, perhaps the power and mystery of my office is enhanced by "the damn First Sergeant's talking in riddles again." I think I'll order that the rate of speed for our next foot march be expressed in furlongs per fortnight.

Anyway, just six more weeks and my two year mobilization will end, and it's back to HVAC work in Detroit, if I can find a contractor who's hiring.


Regarding my previous post about John Derbyshire:

Thank you, Jerry.

I did not say, because I did not want to sound TOO snotty, that while those "three week sinologists" were being guided around Mao's China, I was living in Hong Kong, spending my days among old China hands and my evenings teaching English at a night school in a working-class district of Kowloon, with a high proportion of my students refugees from the People's Paradise. (Some were swimmers -- that is, they had swum the 4-8 miles from the mainland to Hong Kong.)

The latter group didn't know about the three week sinologists. The former did, but their opinions about them were unprintable.

I believe the term "three week sinologist" was coined by Dennis Bloodworth, the Observer's China watcher (from Singapore).







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IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature. In general, put the name you want at the end of the letter: if you put no address there none will be posted, but I do want some kind of name, or explicitly to say (name withheld).

Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name and address you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name and address (or no address) as you want them posted. Also, repeat the subject as the first line of the mail. That also saves me time.

I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too...  I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail. 

Monday -- Tuesday -- Wednesday -- Thursday -- Friday -- Saturday -- Sunday

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Entire Site Copyright, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

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