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THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR

View 342 December 27, 2004 - January 2, 2005

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Monday December 27, 2004

My fingers are stiff from cleaning out gutters. It's raining in Los Angeles and the neighbor's elm tree strikes again. Worse it's not a Dutch Elm so my attempt to infest it with Japanese Beetles is not likely to work. Ah well.

We have word from Sri Lanka that Sir Arthur Clarke is all right, but his diving company was destroyed by the tsunami and some of his employees were hurt, possibly killed.

The probability of being hit by an asteroid on Friday, April 13, 2029 is now 1/37 according to some estimates. This is a region killer not a planet killer. "Only" about 20,000 megatons. There are lots of articles on this.

==============

Whew! Saved after all:

http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/asteroid_update_B_041227.html

 

 

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Tuesday,  December 28, 2004

Holy Innocents  

  See mail on Susan Sontag

 

 

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Wednesday,  December 29, 2004

The apotheosis of Sontag continues today in all the newspapers.

She should be remembered for:

"the truth is that Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Marx, Balanchine ballets, et al., donít redeem what this particular civilization has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history; it is the white race and it alone ó its ideologies and inventions ó which eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, which has upset the ecological balance of the planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself."

And the rest of us should be remembered for being the generation who took such things seriously.

Now understand that our universities are filled with people who take such things seriously, and we are producing a generation taught to take such thoughts seriously; at least in some parts of the country.

How many really believe this racist nonsense? But of course it is not racist, although it appears to be on its face, because by definition people of her stripe cannot be racists. The hypocrisy of the intellectual classes knows no bounds.

Fortunately, most of those who pretend to be impressed with such nonsense do not actually take it seriously. Only the very wealthy intellectual classes can lead lives so sheltered from reality as to make themselves pretend that any of that paragraph makes sense: and of course they continue to act as intellectuals and enjoy the products of this poisonous civilization, sprinkled perhaps with a bit of multicultural seasoning.

Sontag died of leukemia, but she had not denied herself the latest in white racist medical technology.

Perhaps I am being too harsh? Should one passage define a life? There is no reason to believe she ever thought better of what she said. In her defense, perhaps, one might say that she didn't take her own words seriously. Certainly she never acted as if she did.

So. Let that passage be her epitaph, and under it inscribe, "But we all know I didn't really mean it."

Citation: Susan Sontag "Whatís Happening in America (1966)," in Partisan Review (New Brunswick, N.J., Winter 1967; reprinted in Styles of Radical Will, 1969).

And see mail
 

===============

At least one reader generously offered to put Strategy of Technology as found here on the site into pdf form; I seem to have lost that communication. If you're still willing please tell me again. It turns out there is a need for this work in several places.

====================

I have received a letter from Sir Arthur Clarke. After a couple of personal paragraphs assuring me he's all right, he says in a more general letter:

This is indeed a disaster of unprecedented magnitude for Sri Lanka, which lacks the resources and capacity to cope with the aftermath. We are encouraging concerned friends to contribute to the relief efforts launched by various national and international organisations. If you wish to join these efforts, I can recommend two options.

- Contribute to a Sri Lanka disaster relief fund launched by an internationally operating humanitarian charity, such as Care or Oxfam.

- Alternatively, considering supporting Sarvodaya, the largest development charity in Sri Lanka, which has a 45-year track record in reaching out and helping the poorest of the poor. Sarvodaya has mounted a well organised, countrywide relief effort using their countrywide network of offices and volunteers who work in all parts of the country, well above ethnic and other divisions. Their website, www.sarvodaya.lk  <http://www.sarvodaya.lk/> , provides bank account details for financial donations. They also welcome contributions in kind -- a list of urgently needed items is found at: http://www.sarvodaya.lk/Inside_Page/urgently%20needed.htm

There is much to be done in both short and long terms for Sri Lanka to raise its head from this blow from the seas. Among other things, the country needs to improve its technical and communications facilities so that effective early warnings can help minimise losses in future disasters.

 

I have sent a Paypal donation to krishna@itmin.net which appears to be the web site address for sarvodaya; this is an "unregistered" address, and it's not entirely clear what will happen. I'll let you know.

(The payment was returned by paypals. No further data.)

=================

 I have frequently mentioned that the late Professor George Mosse, who taught Western Civilization at the University of Iowa in the early 1950's when I attended that University, was one of the major influences of my life. Subsequently I received this mail:

Subject: Mosse Lectures Free Online

Re: Mosse lectures - your mention of his name and praise thereof sent me on a hunt and I found: http://mosseprogram.wisc.edu/mosse_audio.html 

Free via RealPlayer files.

lauranicholson2005@mindspring.com

I am listening to the first one now. It's him, and you have just cost me hours and hours of time. THANK YOU!

I also found this: http://www.aps-pub.com/proceedings/1452/Mosse.pdf

Listening to the lectures brings back old memories. He was one of the most remarkable speakers I have ever encountered, and I will never get over the experience of being in face to face dialogues with him at his home. A most remarkable man.

 

=================

Regarding Strategy of Technology: I have set the page so that it's easier to make a donation for reading it.

It turns out Mr. Charles Brumbelow has already converted Strategy of Technology to pdf and even sent me a copy which I managed to lose. I have not lost this one. Thank you, sir.

 

 

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Thursday, December 30, 2004

It's column time, plus I am getting ready for CES, plus recovering from holidays.

Regarding Strategy of Technology: The version Mr. Brumbelow sent has several problems. First, only the notes to Chapter two (and not all of those: the notes by Dr. Kane that weren't incorporated into the actual note system seem to have vanished) made it into the pdf document. Note markers in Chapter two point to notes in the pdf file; all the others point to my web site, meaning that to read this with its notes would require an open web browser and internet connections. It is not, in other words, a self-contained pdf document, and there are some other organization problems.

It appears I am going to have to get Acrobat (the editor) and do some of this myself, but that's going to take time I don't have much of right now. (Actually I have a copy of Acrobat editor, it's just not installed on this machine: it was on one that has been retired due to a failing hard drive.)

I do agree that making a good self-contained pdf is the right way to go. Once that is done I'll set things up so it can be bought for five dollars or so, and downloaded as a single file.

All this has become more urgent since a major university wants to use the book as a text in a course on international security matters, and it needs to be put into shape so that each student can get a copy easily without having to be on line while reading it. The book holds up well: the principles remain the same although most of the examples are from the Cold War era. Some of the inferences from the nature of the Soviet Union -- namely that it was ruled by the nomenklatura whose interests were different from both the national interest and the interests of the general population -- will no longer apply to all possible adversaries. On the other hand, many of our enemies and potential enemies are oligarchies with similar structures, and some of the strategic inferences most certainly do translate.

The book was put into HTML by one of Jim Baen's associates very early on before I had any real understanding of web pages or html in general. It was done rather well, but in a more complex manner than might be optimum for turning it into a pdf file; which is really to say that I haven't taken the time to really understand what was done and how it was accomplished. Because of this, simply taking all the files of the book and putting them into Linux Star Office, then saving as html doesn't seem to do the job in an acceptable manner. The version sent by Mr. Brumbelow is much better than that, and I think that if we could deal with the missing notes, something like that could do the job.

The problem is compounded by the fact that the book has many levels, with comments added in several revisions, mostly by interpolation. Those comments are coded by color, and that color coding is probably worth preserving. I'll have to pay attention to that, unless someone knows an easy way to make it all happen quickly.

This needs to be done reasonably soon, more's the pity. It certainly isn't going to get done this week.

-- I have a volunteer with expertise in Acrobat, so perhaps this will be done soon.

====================

An article on autism worth reading as a data point.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/29/education/
29autism.html?ex=1105397624&ei=1&en=7eb769fe28f95b7f

My observations, which are not systematic, is that I see children I would not think "autistic" at all being treated for this disorder; and reading some of the diagnostic literature convinces me that some antics normal to boys gets dumped into the diagnostic jargon bin. Medical students notoriously diagnose themselves with terrible disorders; I fear that this syndrome can slop over to educated parents of children who exhibit behavior that is perhaps not typical but certainly not abnormal, and can reinforce this by reacting in the wrong way.

I know for a fact that the diagnosis "dyslexia" is not only misused but is USUALLY misused, and that once that diagnosis sticks it is a self-fulfilling prophecy in that no one will work hard trying to teach a dyslexic kid to read, because the teacher is convinced that it can't be done and she'll just break her heart trying.

The article cited above is written by the parent of an autistic child.

==========

 

 

 

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Friday, December 31, 2004

George Mosse on Voltaire, the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. http://mosseprogram.wisc.edu/mosse_audio.html Lecture 2

"Is ill the gift of the creator of our kind?"

The Lisbon Earthquake and tsunami caused Voltaire to doubt the goodness of God. We open this century with a similar event, but in the last century we had other intimations that the world is in disarray. Augustine tried to deal with the same questions in The City of God, but few read that now. Much of this lecture is on Pascal.

Lecture 3 continues on Pascal and religion.

======================================

Subject: Required reading, all of it.

http://www.d-n-i.net/fcs/comments/c535.htm

-- Roland Dobbins

I agree that this ought to be widely read. I solicit comments.

For comments and discussion see below.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sunday, January 2, 2005

Frank Kelly Freas, a long time friend and associate and the dean of science fiction illustrators, died peacefully in his sleep at 4:36 PST last night. His daughter Jackie and his second wife Dr. Laura Brodian Freas, were with him. The funeral will be tomorrow, Monday, in Canoga Park.

I first met Kelly in about 1960. He was already a giant, responsible for many pictures and illustrations out in the mainstream, as well as science fiction illustrations. One of my favorites, the Mad Magazine parody of "Great Moments in Medicine" (Kelly's was "Presenting the Bill") nearly caused my flight surgeon to die of laughter, and it was years before I realized that painting was Kelly's. He could draw in many styles, and while the "Kelly Freas Style" is instantly recognizable, some of his best work is entirely different.

Like most science fiction friendships, our was largely confined to conventions, where I would meet Kelly and Polly several times a year, and we often ended up in the same late night parties. Polly died of cancer some years ago, and Kelly began to fade, until he met Dr. Laura Brodian. Their marriage gave him a new lease on life.

Kelly did the illustrations for my first published science fiction stories, both short fiction and my novel Spaceship For The King; indeed he did illustrations for that several times, both interior illustrations and the cover for Analog, then for the DAW books publication, for the British edition, and for a consolidated novel including other stories. He later showed me the sketches he had done for that book, and gave me a couple of them. The sketches showed just how closely he had read the novel. Kelly never did anything by halves. His interior illustration for "The Mercenary", the first of my Falkenberg stories, actually influenced the way I saw my own character; Kelly may have paid more attention to some of the details than I had.

Kelly also did the covers for the short-lived Laser Books novels. I had three of those, all put back in print after Laser's demise, each with a Frank Kelly Freas cover: and although he was doing four covers a month for that series, it was clear enough that he had read each novel, and each of the covers had details peculiar to the story. He was a professional and a craftsman as well as a gifted artist, and it all showed in his work.

 

If Kelly had an enemy I never knew it, although I suppose some of those he skewered with his illustrations might have felt a few twinges of rage. In person, though, he was so unfailingly pleasant that even when he was angry it was hard to detect that.

 Kelly was the "star" of a famous science fiction skit called "The Capture",  based on the premise that a World Science Fiction Convention was held on a cruise ship in the Bermuda Triangle, and the inevitable happened: all the passengers were taken aboard an alien spaceship. The skit was done as a series of reports by the alien expedition commander. Most of the reports received advice from headquarters that "Gremlins do not exist," although it was clear from what was going on with the detainees that perhaps there was a gremlin among them. It would be no favor to Robert Asprin and Phil Foglio who created this remarkable presentation to try to summarize it, and I don't suppose it was recorded, which is all our loss.

My wife reminds me that "pixie" might be a better description of Kelly than "gremlin" but both are apt; and of course Kelly's famous cover for Martians Go Home! was the definitive study of little green men. He created many other such lasting images.

Kelly was the founding Presiding Judge of the Artists of the Future Contest, which is an annual event  begun by L. Ron Hubbard and includes the Writers of the Future Contest of which Larry Niven and I, among many others, are judges. His kindness to aspiring young writers and illustrators was legendary.

Now that Ted Cogswell, Poul Anderson, Gordon Dickson, Frank Herbert, Cliff Simak, are no longer with us, what used to be known as "The Old Guard" has disappeared from science fiction conventions. Kelly was one of the last, and his room was often the scene of late night parties where we all drank too much and sang the old songs. That era ended some time ago, and perhaps better so. We all drank far too much in those days, and the old songs may not have been as good as we thought they were. Some were pretty good, though, and now there are few who remember them.

God Bless you, Kelly.

Fire and fleet and candlelight,
and Christ receive thy soul.

 

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