THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 314 June 14 - 20, 2004
Highlights this week:
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June 14, 2004
We got up at 0430 to get an 0530 transport to the Jacksonville airport, only to discover on arrival that our Continental flight was cancelled. Standing in long lines at two airlines got us booked on American leaving at 10:30. American does not have an Admiral's Club at Jacksonville, but Delta has a Crown Room (very nice, too). We decided that since we had three hours we would attempt to go to the Crown Room.
That or something caused TSA to select all three of us for what amounts to a strip search but they didn't tell us that. One of the TSA flunkies was both rude and insistent on being rude, but when I attempted to take his name and badge number I was told that it is against regulations to write down the badge number and if I did that I would not be allowed on the airplane.
A servant given power. And he must remain anonymous even though he is supposed to wear an identification badge. Those with good memories can circumvent this particular feature of our security services, all of which, I was told repeatedly, are to make us all safer although it wasn't explained precisely how or why we are all safer as a result of this madness.
Now as it happens I was able to memorize the name and badge number, but I didn't say that, since I was assured that if I wrote them down I wouldn't be permitted to fly today. This I was told by Sheila, the supervisor, who doesn't seem to have a last name. God knows what would happen if I admitted I had memorized the name.
Of course if I had to take a job like that, I'd want to be anonymous too, and probably tell my children I was in something more productive and honorable. You can think of your own preferred professions.
But we were born free.
Meanwhile we are in the Delta Crown Room but we will have to endure all this again going to our flight on American. Ain't freedom grand? We can all be proud of our heritage, and think, perhaps we can export this grand liberty to other nations as well. At least we will help them with their unemployment problems.
As it happens, Cory Doctorow was the other passenger (besides Roberta and Larry Niven) in the dawn ride to the airport. He explained again why Digital Rights Management is evil, and everything will come out all right because Wired Magazine has done well, but perhaps it was too early in the morning since neither Roberta nor I understood precisely how this would all work out. But, he says, computer output has become more difficult to read over the past decades, declining from Selectric Typewriter output (which was non-proportional, but he's far to young ever to have had a Diablo or a NEC Spinwriter) to the present quality on screen. He prefers, he says, the old green screens of the Televideo Terminals. I can only conclude that he has peculiar vision, since I certainly find this easier to read than the old mono-font non-proportional text on screens, and I searched as hard as I could to find the most readable setups back in the S-100 days.
My own view is that TabletPC actually does rival hardbound books in readability, but previous devices including hand-held did not. And now that we have formats that are actually convenient for using electronic books, and reading them on the road, we will have a real test of whether electronic media will displace actual books and harm book sales.
I don't know what this will do. Doctorow is certain that most people will pay because they want to even though they don't have to, and thus artists and writers will do fine. In an hour of conversation I detected no signs that he has any doubts at all about the soundness of his positions, even when I wasn't sure what his positions were; he is very good at presenting his facts, but of course he only presents those favorable to his case; a lawyer's view although to the best of my knowledge he isn't a lawyer.
A long time ago I wrote "The Voodoo Sciences", mostly about the "social sciences" which are neither sciences nor humanities and have yet to show much utility for anything, but in the course of that I pointed out that novelists need plausibility: we only have to make you believe that it's possible. Lawyers want evidence: they only have to present data favorable to their theory and view. Scientists need data, and are required to explain it all including facts that appear to be contrary to their own positions. If Doctorow is aware of any evidence against his positions I couldn't detect that, but this was at a very early hour, and I am amazed that he was both civil and coherent. I never promise to be either civil or coherent before 10 AM.
Home. After many adventures. And I have to go out to get dogfood.
|This week:||Tuesday, June
We are home, and once our tickets were switched to American and we got into the American lounge, past our second TSA strip search all was well. However, the TSA managed to scratch the lens of my camera, then insist that nothing they did could have done that. All I know is they took my brief case, I saw several of them looking at my camera (an Olympus digital) and later when it was returned not in my brief case the lens had a scratch. The supervisor said they didn't do anything that could have done that, so therefore they didn't do that.
This was at the concourse in Jacksonville which leads to American. There are three concourses at Jacksonville, each staffed with numerous TSA people. This makes for a lot of employment, and may explain why they choose people to be strip searched, so they can look busier. Perhaps not. I don't really expect logic. I do know that if the purpose of all this is to make enemies for the United States they are doing it pretty well.
My knee kept setting off their metal detector in their hand search. I had to sit there in an uncomfortable position with one leg raised while the man went over it again and again. It hurt a bit. By that time I wasn't going to say anything: over at the other concourse I had been told that if I took the badge number of the agent who was being repeatedly rude -- he clearly wanted the others to know what he was doing but he had trouble getting their attention -- I wouldn't be allowed on the airplane. I admit I was intimidated. But it is never comfortable to sit with one leg raised while someone keeps running a wand over it.
They all used that artificial polite mode they've been trained to use, and I suspect a couple of them understand the enormity of what they are doing, but for most they are only following orders.
In any event it was during the metal detector incident that I saw others with my camera. They took everything out of my brief case. One wondered why I had three sets of earphones in it. Since he didn't make that a direct question to me, I didn't say anything to him. I really didn't want to talk to them, for fear of being kept off the airplane. I did complain about the scratch on the lens, but when I was told it was impossible that they could have done that since they don't do that, I saw no point in continuing the conversation. Clearly it it's impossible that they could have done it, they hadn't done it.
My wife, watching them go through her carryon, later speculated about some of the unpleasant things she might have put into the bag. I suppose that's illegal, though.
For all the thoroughness of their pawing through both my brief case and the Number Nine rollaway (I could get away with only a shoulder bag, but that's heavy for long trips, so I generally put the computer shoulder bag in the Number Nine bag, which then serves as a rolling barrow for both itself and the brief case) -- for all the thoroughness, and their puzzlement at three sets of earphones, had I wanted to destroy the airplane and myself with it, it would have been no great trick to have carried aboard explosives and detonating equipment. I won't go into how, but I suspect most of you can figure that out, and I am quite certain any competent engineer can: and there are many engineer graduates among the upper ranks of the terrorist organizations. There really is no way that TSA can prevent someone determined to destroy the airplane and themselves with it from doing it.
Or, for that matter, without being killed as she destroys the airplane. When we got into the airplane we found we had bulkhead seats up front. The airplane was about half loaded, and at least half the seats behind us were filled. People milled about, there was baggage in the overhead compartments. Then there was an incident that so far as I know only we witnessed: a young lady, with a big backpack containing at least two bottles of water visible through netting, came from the back of the airplane and got off, explaining to the steward that she was on the wrong airplane. I watched all this very carefully, because of course if I wanted to destroy an airplane and not be on it, I would have got on, left something in the overhead luggage, then got off; and while her backpack apparently was full, it need not have been.
She left the airplane. I decided to say nothing, because it would have resulted in clearing the airplane (and the Dallas airport?) and there was nothing about the girl to warrant any suspicion that she was anything other than a bit confused; but after all the tender attentions we had from the TSA it would have been the cream of the jest had we then been blown up in the air by a time bomb...
The whole experience makes me regret that I have accepted another invitation to be guest at another convention next month. I was looking forward to going, and I will do it, but at this point I want never to be on an airplane again. If the purpose of the terrorists is to harm American business, then imposing the TSA on us to convert citizens into obedient subjects has certainly given them success.
Interrogators want to reduce prisoners to the status of dogs begging privileges, even their food and water, so that they can condition them to cooperate.
Is not the TSA accomplishing the same purpose with all the people of America?
But we were born free.
On my walk I have thought of some points to make in an essay on future of foreign policy. They were in part sparked by today's letter from an Army officer and my response to it.
"Microsoft announced the second release candidate (RC2) of Windows XP Service Pack 2 as it strives to meet its revised, end-of-summer delivery deadline."
....although the final release has slipped to the third quarter this year, due to compatibility testing issues.
I will get it and install it on a couple of machines and let you know. I have had few problems with RC-1, so I expect it to work well.
Reports when I know, but this is good news.
In order to install RC-2 you must REMOVE RC-1; this can be confusing. I'm doing that now on Sable, a machine not usually on the Internet, so effects should be minimal. I won't uninstall RC-1 on this machine until I am certain things work properly on Sable, then on Lisabetta the Tablet.
More when I know more, and of course more in the column. And see mail.
Uninstalled RC-1 from Sable. Requires restart. Logging on: it has been a minute that the system remains grey, having accepted the password and user name (I think) then locked on the grey screen. Nothing seems to be happening. I'll go to lunch and see if it ever logs on.
This system uses a Chaos Manor logon -- there's the music. Logon is done. Took a long time.
I am now headed for Microsoft Update to install the new RC.
More updates. No long delays in logging in after restart. All well so far.
Have cleaned up the system, and now RC-2 is downloading.
It takes half an hour or more, but it does install, and everything looks clean. Clearly it must reboot. Hmmm. There is a blue screen. Not the blue screen of death, but "Wait" then another -- now there is a Windows XP black screen. And Please Wait. And I am waiting...
I have the new DVD's of FIREFLY, but the machine I will watch them on is still saying to wait. Of course I wouldn't have time to see anything now anyway.
Aha. Now I am asked if I want to turn on Automatic updates, and there is my login screen.
Back to a blue screen with nothing on it, not even greyed out -- aha. Here we are. Music and I am on, and it looks all right.
We will now go to the update site and see if it need aught else...
But first it wants me to send info about my system to Microsoft. Sure. No problem. All my tray items seem to work OK.
There are no updates to install.
The machine, a 3.07 GHz Pentium 4 Northwood with a GB of memory, 533 MHz bus, and Hyperthreading, seems to be working just fine.
Regarding TSA, I am told that I was certainly within my rights to write down the badge number of King68427 at Jacksonville, Florida, about 9:30 AM at the Delta concourse Monday 14 June 2004; but Sheila, the Supervisor, told me that if I did I wouldn't be allowed to take my flight. I didn't get Sheila's number. She made me cross out King's but I had memorized it and wrote it later.
What happened: before we got anywhere near TSA some gate checker to the Delta corridor gave us these long yellow TSA things, about 18" by 4". They weren't explained, and I paid no attention. Each of us got one. I held mine with the tickets. American had stapled all three of our tickets together so I had them all, for all three of us.
When we got to the TSA belts our identification was demanded again, but not the tickets. Then I was told to start putting things in a tray, but then told not to do it, because my wife was in front of me, and she had to put all her stuff in first. I was told, rudely, that I couldn't start yet. This in harsh tones without even the artificial politeness that they sometimes feign. I said "This is insane." There was no reason why I couldn't be putting stuff in one basket while my wife put her stuff in another. There was no crowd. There were plenty of baskets.
Finally I was allowed to put things in baskets. I had the yellow thing in plain view, and also the tickets. No one was interested, so I put all that in my brief case which was sent through the machine. Another basket held shoes. Another held jacket and cell phone and wallets and pens. On the other side of the machine I started to collect my stuff. At this point several people started yelling.
"Who cleared this?" "Don't touch that!" And other such things. King shouted at me about my tickets. I took them and the yellow thing out of my brief case. The yellow thing apparently was the albatross that indicated to these crackerjack government agents that we were to be victims of their attentions. King explained to some other TSA man that I had "hidden" the yellow thing although he saw me put it in the brief case, but perhaps he was so busy yelling that I shouldn't put things in trays yet that he didn't pay attention to what he saw.
I said I had not hidden it, I had put it away with the tickets not knowing what else to do with it. He said something else I did not hear. I said "This is insane."
He began telling me that if I said that again he would call the police. He then called over another TSA agent and told that one that I had said this was insane and he had told me that if I said it again I would be arrested. He then said it to me again and demanded that I acknowledge that I had heard and understood. I said nothing. He called yet another over to tell him that he had told me I would be arrested if I said it again.
Eventually that storm ended because I refused to look at or talk to him.
Someone from down the line called out for Doctor Pournelle. Someone else said "Doctor?" Then we went through this undignified search, King68427 hovering in the background, with what looked to me like a smirk. I could have been mistaken. In any event he once again told someone I had "hidden" the yellow thing -- which had yet to be explained to me, apparently I should have known by instinct -- in my brief case. I said I had not hidden it, I put it away with the tickets because no one had told me what to do with it. When he started to say something I began writing his badge number. He stopped talking. Sheila the Supervisor rushed over to tell me I wasn't allowed to write down the badge number and watched as I scratched through it, looking to be sure that what I had written was illegible.
That is what happened.
It reminded me a bit of the test procedures we used to test candidates back a long time ago, making up rules on the spot and generally doing things to harass them to see if they would blow up or give themselves away; but of course I wasn't a volunteer here, I was just trying to catch an airplane. Actually I wasn't even trying to get an airplane, just use the Delta Crown Room since we had over 2 hours to wait for the American flight (in another concourse) and American has no Ambassador's Club in Jacksonville.
In fact when we went to the American concourse we were given more of those yellow things, so apparently our tickets were marked for special attention. This time we knew what to expect. Again they went through all our stuff by hand.
It was at the American concourse that I saw two TSA men looking at my camera and discussing it, but I do not know if it was there or at the Delta concourse that the lens got a scratch. I discovered the scratch on the second search. It seemed pointless to put in any kind of claim.
For a good picture of Uganda, see mail...
administrators and doctors across the nation, furious over what they see as
waves of frivolous lawsuits that have driven up malpractice insurance costs,
are striking back against lawyers with hardball tactics that, in some cases,
are raising ethical questions.
One reader from overseas is amazed.
June 16, 2004
Home and cleaning up. If you haven't bought a copy of The Burning City by Niven and Pournelle, do so: we're about to put in the outline for a third book, one following Burning Tower. I think Tower is a better book than Burning City and the third one will be better yet, but the publishers look at sales and not much else, and...
There's a lot of mail. The news from Iraq continues to be discouraging, as they can't keep the oil flowing. Of course that wasn't unexpected either: if you want safety and security in Iraq you must go to naked Imperialism with really vigorous repression. The Turks understood that. So did Saddam, and in fact we probably could have hired his thugs to do the work for us.
So it goes.
I keep saying this but no one listens: a good combat army is not a good occupation force, and ruling people against their will requires that you have an occupation force that believes in its right to rule, or else doesn't concern itself with such niceties. Neither fits a combat army which exists to win battles, break things, and kill people who get in the way of the mission.
Meanwhile, see what we are doing to ourselves:
Strict Sentences Meted in Va. Jihad Case Judge Angered by Rules Mandating Life Term for 1 Man, 85 Years for Another
By Jerry Markon Washington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, June 16, 2004; Page A06
A federal judge imposed a life prison sentence yesterday on one member of the alleged "Virginia jihad network" and an 85-year term on another. In an unusual criticism of her own ruling, she said she found it "appalling" but had no choice under strict sentencing guidelines.
U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema said the 85-year sentence she handed down to defendant Seifullah Chapman, 31, was "sticking in my craw.'' Chapman and co-defendants Masoud Khan, 32, and Hammad Abdur-Raheem, 36, were convicted by Brinkema in March of conspiring to aid a Muslim group fighting India that the government has deemed a terrorist organization.
"What Mr. Chapman has been found guilty of is a serious crime, but there are murderers who have served far less time," the judge told an Alexandria courtroom packed with supporters of the three men. "I have sentenced al Qaeda members who were planning attacks on these shores to far less time.'' <snip>
Khan read a long statement in which he likened
himself to other alleged victims of injustice, such as the Rev. Martin
Luther King Jr., and said he had never "intended to bring any harm on the
American people.'' He said that if he had been a "Zionist Jew or a
Christian" he would have never been prosecuted. Khan's voice then broke as
he thanked his family for its support.
The men were convicted of playing paint war games, and visiting Pakistan. No actual criminal act was proved. This reminds me of South Africa and the Bureau of State Security under Van Den Berg, where membership in the African National Congress, plus a visit overseas to a country harboring terrorist training camps, was sufficient to earn a prison sentence -- although not as long as in this case.
Now I make no doubt these men were guilty of the intention to make war on India (thoughtcrime) and engaged in paint war games in which they killed Indians in Kashmir in their fantasies, but the evidence that they planned any crime in the United States is a bit thin; and there was no charge that they committed any real crime in the US. The long sentences were due to FIREARMS CHARGES, which apparently paintball guns will trigger.
If you believe this will never apply to you, I hope you are right. If you believe that support of Israel will always be popular and thus Israel supporters will never find themselves facing such sentences, I hope you are right.
Note that the judge herself disagreed with the sentences, but it was her duty...
Stern Warning on Sex With Minors Pregnancies Spur Va. Campaign Aimed at Men
By Chris L. Jenkins Washington Post Staff Writer Tuesday, June 15, 2004; Page A01
RICHMOND, June 14 -- The blunt message will be pasted on billboards and barroom coasters across Virginia: "Isn't she a little young?" it will ask in bold pink and white lettering against a black backdrop. "Sex with a minor," the wording will continue. "Don't go there."
The Virginia Department of Health is launching a campaign in Northern Virginia, Richmond and Roanoke to stop men from engaging in sex with underage girls. Health officials say they hope their program will reduce the number of pregnancies that result from such illegal conduct.
The campaign, to begin this month with the distribution of hundreds of thousands of coasters, cocktail napkins and postcard-size messages in Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church, is one of the few such programs in the nation, public health officials and consultants said. <snip>
Which I suppose is a good idea, but it's a bit dismaying to see the necessity. Do they not have a public school system? Does it not tell kids about the law? But then the times, they are a-changing, and it's all for the best...
June 17, 2004
I have several letters from correspondents who don't understand my concern about life sentences for playing paint ball games. They point out that violations of the neutrality act have been in theory punishable for years (although they can't name anyone prosecuted under them in recent years), and the sentences are set by law, and--
These would be the same people who would have been unhappy with the convictions of Communists under the Smith Act, and who spend time denouncing Senator Joseph McCarthy although most are a bit young to have actually seen him. Yet McCarthy was after real conspirators connected to a foreign power that ultimately had over 20,000 nuclear warheads aimed at us, and the Smith Act martyrs were, as we now know, conscious agents of that foreign power, whining that they didn't get enough Moscow gold. No: this isn't going to be a defense of McCarthy, who gave anti-communism a bad name. If you want to understand McCarthy, Buckley's book The Red Hunter is more than worth your attention.
But sending a bunch of Muslim men, who didn't hate the United States at all, never dreamed of carrying out guerilla operations in the USA, but who did long to make believe they were champions of Islam in the Kashmir -- where, by God, they have some not bad arguments that justice is on their side, by the way -- and who "trained" by playing paint ball games -- sending them to jail for life is startling. Why not deport them instead?
But it is part of a trend. What AQ couldn't do to us, we are doing to ourselves.
We have imposed the TSA on ourselves. We send people to jail for life for playing war with paint balls. We tell our own children that if they play paint ball games and choose the wrong sides in those games, they may be liable for prosecution. The FBI goes insane over a partial fingerprint that the Spanish police knew was a wrong identification but were too polite to come flat out and say "You're flipping nuts, that's not a match," and jails a Portland lawyer who has never been to Spain. And they did it fast, because the evidence was evaporating. The FBI can't find who sent the anthrax, and the less evidence they find the harder they come down on Hatfill. The Atlanta case wasn't enough of a lesson. They want to keep doing it.
We lost 3,000 people on 911. This is grim, and deserved retaliation, and I keep coming back to my monuments (See Black September and What is to be done). Those may have been better suggestions than what we did: Patriot Act, TSA, jailing paintballers.
But 3,000 people is a few weekends of traffic fatalities. We do not shut down the highways because we kill 50,000 people a year on the highways. We are playing with fire with national Nanny State laws, but they help the car seat industry and employ law enforcement people so perhaps that is all right.
We send an enormous number of people to jail over drugs. This employs jailers and DEA agents and gets a bunch of blacks off the streets; whether it's consistent with a constitutional federal republic is another matter for another time. But even there we don't shut down imports, we don't search all the trucks coming from Mexico, we don't do any of the draconian things we all know would end such matters fairly quickly. (Marijuana isn't imported any longer because everyone knows how to grow better in a basement or out on the farm; can synthetic heroin and cocaine be far away? I mean how hard would it be to do hydroponic farming of cocoa plants or an algae genetically altered to contain the cocoa producing cells?) The war on drugs is a mess, but we all know how we could stop imports tomorrow. It would shut down all our overseas commerce but we could do it.
Yet for 911 we are giving ourselves the death of a thousand cuts. Why?
Neither party seems able to stop and think, what the hell are we doing to ourselves? Is this "security" worth the price?
Dave Winer discovers that no good deed goes unpunished...
I tried to send him a note of encouragement, but he doesn't seem to have a normal email address, and trying to send through the contact on his web site got me a note that my message was refused. So it goes. I can understand the urge not to have a public address. I spend far too much time going through mail that is perfectly legitimate, and under any normal rules of politeness deserves either an answer or consideration for posting here, but which can get overwhelming.
So I read subscriber mail first. Sorry about that, but it's one way to pare down on the amount of mail I have to deal with...
June 18, 2004
Subject: WE'RE A SPACEPORT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
First Inland Manned Reusable Launch Vehicle Spaceport in America, Launch Site Operator License # LSO 04 009 (17 June 2004)
Congratulations to Mojave Airport!
Adding this through Contribute 2 by Macromedia on the Mac. This is an experiment...
That worked. It looks ugly on the Mac in edit mode, but all right here. It's a lot less convenient than FrontPage. The Mac has Contribute 2 which isn't sophisticated enough, and Dreamweaver which is a bit complex for me at least. Not much in between.
There's probably something I don't know about.
June 19, 2004
I am cleaning up odds and ends before heading out to the desert for tomorrow's visits to Scaled and the Monday dawn launch.
Heading for the desert now...
June 20, 2004
I am at XCOR HQ in Mojave. Half the space aware world is headed out here. Mr. Rutan is in hiding and I don't blame him a bit. It's already a zoo and it isn't noon yet. The new luxury hotel in Boron has a shower constructed to contribute to the notion that more test pilots are killed falling in showers than by auguring in. It was a relief to get to XCOR where it looks like a rocket airplane hangar.
I managed to come away without the power supply for my Tablet PC so I am reliant on the MAC for this; we will see how that works. It's quite different from FrontPage.
I have some pictures, but I am not sure how to get them onto the web site with this rig, but I am sure I will find out.
Contribute edits a local copy of your web page, but it has failed to pull down the b ackground. If this looks very weird it is because the Mac doesn't seem to have a system like Front Page where what you see is what you get..
They had several press conferfences. I have pictures, but the Mac and Contribute aren't really as convenient for putting them up so I will wait until I have the Tablet set up to do that. Alas, I left the tablet power supply at home although I do not know how I managed to accomplish that result.
There were two things that came out at the press conference that I noticed that perhaps will not get into the general press report.
First, all the knowledge and technology that comes from "Space SHIP ONE: A Paul G. Allen Project" is proprietary and will not be published. It is the intellectual property of the Mojave Aerospace Corporation, of which Paul G. Allen is the supermajority stockholder, and Burt Rutan is in his words "a very minor participant".
Now I do not begrudge Paul Allen the intellectual property he has paid for, and I know that venture capitalists do this sort of thing all the time, but I am not entirely certain that all of us are better off having new space discoveries as proprietary knowledge. Rutan has built on the X-15 Program, which was a government funded X program; and X programs developed technology that was published and available to all. Without X-15 I doubt Spaceship One would fly.
Anyway, they will fly tomorrow. This is the actual culmination flight. The X-Prize stuff is important and a way to get back some of the $20 million ("upwards of $20 million", Paul Allen said) spent on Spaceship One and White Knight, but this flight will demonstrate the feathering re-entry techniques, which are the only technologies that might contribute to later orbital flight.
Spaceship One will start the barnstorming era. Perhaps. Rutan certainly hopes so. It is a significant event, and it is interesting that there was more press turnout for this than for the Aldridge Report. And it happens tomorrow morning. Stay tuned.
Left: Paul G. Allen and Burt Rutan at the press conference. Right, Peter Diamandis founder of the X Prize and President of the X Prize foundation.
Rutan designed the airframe of this XCOR EZ-Rocket possibly the first private rocket powered airplane. Engine is XCOR isopropyl alcohol-LOX, 400 lbs thrust / engine and there are two of them...
Flew fifteen times and is officially retired although if you want to pay they will negotiate.
Enough for tonight. I'll be on tomorrow after the flight.
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