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THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR

View 345 January 17 - 23, 2005

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Monday January 17, 2005

We are both recovering, or at least we have decided to act as if we are recovering, from the colds that kept us from going to the Rene Fleming Concert Saturday night, and the Wagner Society meeting and concert Sunday. It was a weekend Roberta had looked forward to for a month, and we're sorry to have missed everything. Alex and Dana got the concert tickets. Ms. Fleming did her usual dazzling performance.

 

Over the weekend we had a pair of debates, on Climate Models and the use of DDT, with participation by some experts. I think the DDT discussion can be summarized simply: there are probably more effective pesticides than DDT, but the costs are unclear; for industrialized countries the costs differences appear to be trivial, but for desperately poor countries where a dime may be the difference between something to eat and hunger, what we see as trivial is not. I think what we uncovered is the lack of good economic and costing data: the scientists think the problem solved because they have something effective. The bottom line, though, is that more people die every year from malaria than were killed by the tsunami. More. Every year. Year after year.

The whole thing began with this letter:

<<Time for DDT: we're pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the relief effort, but the tsunami was only a blip in third-world mortality. Mosquitoes kill 20 times more people each year than the tsunami did>>

I suppose this accounts for my BOUNDLESS CYNICISM about the whole flipping sob fest over the tsunami victims. (Bizarre fact: I spent a week swimming every day far out into the water on Phuket's Chedi Beach, the subject of a huge Time photo of the wave destroying everything in its path, 28 days before the earthquake hit.) I'd like to scream, "Get a sense of perspective!" but human beings like responding to short, concise, sob-story drama ; it makes them feel like they've solved a problem. They haven't. The billions of dollars and the attitude and philosophical and cultural overhaul needed for the US public school system? Not discussed. Maybe if a big  tsunami hit ever US public school people would do something.

C

and my attempts to come up with some answers.

The climate debates began with a letter from a distinguished scientist, and continued with some dialog, but alas he became upset about something. The discussion continued.

The pair of debates generated a mini-essay from me on science and public policy.

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Sable is at the dog wash. Her favorite groomer was there. I still have to put a muzzle on her, though. She won't let anyone else put that thing on her, and she objects to being vigorously combed. There are Santa Ana winds, and the days are getting longer, so the annual shedding season is here. I wanted to get a bit of a head start.

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It's noted in another conference that Maureen Dowd is unhappy with men because she's ending her biological time and none of her boy-friends like Kirk Douglas Jr ever married her. Of course Kirk Douglas got Zeta-Jones. Life is just so unfair.

(Readers note I have the wrong scion of the Douglas family: it's Michael Douglas who is married to the charmingly accomplished Zeta-Jones and who at one time dated Maureen Dowd. I fear I don't follow the Hollywood scene much even though I have lived here most of my life. I don't even know if Douglas lives here or in New York. I used to get invitations to Hollywood social stuff, but not many given my politics and except for parties done by my agents I seldom went to the ones I was invited to. Some of them, I admit, were fun. A dozen years ago we met a charming young man about my height. It was several minutes before I realized I was talking to Arnold Swarzeneger. He was very pleasant, and later helped my wife pick out a present for me after meeting her in a Beverly Hills store. But since I got out of the political scene I haven't had a lot of reason to hang around with the Hollywood crowd.)

 

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From another conference, a reflection on Martin Luther King day:

2. Martin Luther King Day is the least popular federal holiday -- only 29 percent of employers give their workers the day off. Not many non-blacks care, upsetting African-Americans. Black comedian Chris Rock says, "You gotta be pretty racist to not want a day off from work."  The dead of winter, however, is the stupidest possible time to offer another holiday, especially after all the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year days off. To fix this, we should move Martin Luther King Day to the Friday before Labor Day to commemorate his "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963 and, to give Americans a summer-ending four-day weekend. (It's not as if a lot of business gets done on that day now). Do that and even the Grand Kleagle would be demanding Martin Luther King Day off from his foreman down at the hog rendering plant.
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Tuesday,  January 18, 2004  

  Let Maureen Dowd stand for a generic problem: a lot of very intelligent and somewhat powerful women find themselves in her situation, never married and approaching the end of reproductive life. Is this a problem for the species? I mean, breeding out smart aggressive women may not be such a good idea. I confess I have no remedies. It's hardly a new phenomenon. Dorothy Parker commented on this a long time ago. Dowd says men marry care-giving women rather than equals. She has a point. And of course we do not much value the skills of making a home.

When I was a young man in Memphis, back when the city was run by a city boss, the men did the commerce and held the public offices (although there were prominent women office holders including Judge Kelly of the Juvenile Court) but the women ran the city through various city commissions. They also ran the charities which did much of the work of the bureaucracy today. All this while being mothers and wives. But that was a long time ago.

I've been fortunate enough to have been able to live with my best friend for 45 years, and watch her develop what is still the best system I know of for teaching children to read. That has turned out well, but there does seem to be something broken about our present system of dating, marriage, and child breeding. See Mail

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A minorly disturbing exchange of letters on being a science fiction hack writer: see mail.

 

 

 

 

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Wednesday,  January 19, 2005

I note in the morning papers that most of the country now holds the views I have always held: we ought not have gone into Iraq in the first place, now that we are there we have to make the best of it, and while the President was wrong to do it, this was not an unforgivable sin.

I can hope that the entire nation learned a lesson here: you can't really remake the world unless you are prepared to become an empire. And I note with some joy that most of the country thinks imperialism too high a price.

The cost has been high but bearable. Perhaps wealthy republics must learn this lesson every few generations.

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Is Amazon Bankrupt or is Wells Fargo going bust?

I am sure the answer is "neither", but then why can't Wells Fargo find the Amazon account? I received a check from Amazon Associates for my finder's fee on books you bought through my web site. It's a couple of hundred dollars, not a lot, but not trivial either. I deposited it. Bank of America returned it marked "unable to find this account." This morning the branch manager of my local Bank of America explained that the check is drawn on a Wells Fargo account, and it's Wells Fargo that refuses to pay it on the grounds that they can't find the Amazon account.

This will require me to go to Wells Fargo. I didn't have time this morning because Niven is supposed to be over.

Banks charge customers for returned checks. I intend to ask Wells Fargo to pay me for the time required to collect my money.

Or perhaps Amazon is out of money? Or Wells Fargo is short of funds and is playing this game to delay payment? Whatever it is, I am out an hour or more of time, and I doubt it would occur to them to compensate me for it. Now true, I take a morning walk anyway, and this gives me something to write about, but it does raise the question: if you get charged by a business if you give them a bad check, why can't I do the same when Wells Fargo is unable to locate what must be, after all, one of their largest customers?

Well I went to Wells Fargo to see.

And see below.

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Thursday, January 20, 2004

Feast day of Bishop Henry of Upsalla, slain in Finland. His slayer is said to have been punished for this treacherous deed by being nibbled by mice until he threw himself into a lake and drowned. I'm not sure why I remember that. It's also the day on which Presidents of the United States take office and are sworn in.

The speech was noble, and my wife found it inspiring.

Ending tyranny in this world is a noble goal.

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

Maybe Wells Fargo isn't out of money, but they are short of Branch Managers with good manners and ingenuity.

I took my check from Amazon Associates PO Box 6485, Incline Village,  NV 89450, drawn on Wells Fargo Bank, 18100 Wedge Parkway, Reno Nevada, 89511, to the Studio City Branch of the Wells Fargo Bank. They informed me that since there was no account number on the check, they won't pay. Therefore, although this looks like an order from Amazon Associates to Wells Fargo Bank, duly signed, sealed and delivered, to pay me a bit more than a hundred dollars, it's not really: checks now have to have the account number on them, and if they don't, banks don't have to pay.

Part of the thrust of the late Arthur Hailey's novel HOTEL was that the eccentric elderly man staying in the hotel could and did write a check on a random piece of paper, for enough to cover the debts of the hotel; and it was paid, because, according to Hailey, the order to pay money on an account you hold with a bank is to be honored provided there's sufficient evidence that the account holder did issue the order.

The Wells Fargo Branch Manager, not very politely, informed me that was not the case. Given his accent and youth I would presume he not only never read that novel, he never heard of either it or Arthur Hailey, and he has grown up in the computer business and never heard that written documents have any validity: the only thing important is the numbers on the account. If you have them the check can be signed by George Washington; if you don't have the numbers, Wells Fargo doesn't have to pay, and doesn't have to be polite about it. It's my problem, not theirs, and it is up to me to get Amazon Associates to issue me a new check.

I have no idea how to go about doing that. Had I been the Branch Manager of the Studio City Wells Fargo I would have called the Reno Branch of Wells Fargo and asked about the Amazon Associates Account, which must account for a few million in cash flow to the Reno Branch of Wells Fargo, and probably is important to them. The Studio City Branch manager informed me in his very high status accent did not think it was his place to do that. Perhaps I could do it. He didn't offer me a telephone.

When I am done with this I will print a copy and send it by US mail to MANAGER, Wells Fargo Bank, 18100 Wedge Parkway, Reno Nevada and solicit his advice on what I ought to do with this Amazon Associates Check that Wells Fargo has declared to be worthless because they cannot locate the account; at least Studio City can't locate the account. Perhaps Reno can?

I suppose there is some way to inform Amazon Associates that they have issued a check declared worthless by the Studio City Branch of Wells Fargo Bank; since I don't know quite how to do that, I'll send copies to the Incline Village post office box and see what happens.

I suppose it is all a consequence of the Computer Revolution, and it's all my fault for pushing the Computer Revolution. That of course assumes an importance I don't have: the Revolution would have happened without me, and without BYTE for that matter, although we like to think we had a bit to do with both its rapidity and its direction; but this is not a direction I wanted it to go in. (It all turned out all right; see below)

Well, a day. It's Inaugural Day. I am working on the sequel to INFERNO and deep in the diaries and biographies of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, which are depressing enough subjects, and I suspect I am like most novelists looking for something to do other than write. On the other hand, it's going to be a pretty damned good book. Niven and I don't let our characters know they are part of an exposition of our views on Big Subjects like "who killed poetry" and the place of the arts in a world in tumult, but we will have things to say on those subjects, as we have things to say about social justice and other such matters in THE BURNING CITY and BURNING TOWER.

 

BURNING TOWER OUT

I have a copy.

Go buy one. Maybe Amazon Associates will pay me with a check I can actually cash. I am certain Simon and Schuster will. At least they will pay our agents, and her checks are on Chemical Bank which seems to pay promptly without hoohaw.

BURNING TOWER is a romance. My wife likes it. It's also heroic fantasy, but the kind we write with rivets and nuts and bolts. And it's a whacking good story if I do say so myself.

You can read BURNING TOWER without having read THE BURNING CITY, but you'll like both. We now end this commercial and take you back to the regularly scheduled Chaos Manor chaos.

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Friday, January 21, 2005

I continue to recover.

The Speech was Wilsonesque. It is not the speech I wanted him to give. At the same time, what else can he do?

We watch, we wait. Once the elections are done it will be time for sober truth. Until then, hope rules.

==========

Academia watch. The Summers affair.

You can't say certain things. Summers said them. Now comes Criticism and Self-Criticism, followed by reparations of some kind, in which a woman otherwise not qualified for a job will be given one. Jessie Jackson invented it but the art of extortion is easily learned. This is known as speaking truth to power, or something like that. I am sure we are all better off for it.

"...one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world."

-President George W. Bush, Second Inaugural Address, January 20, 2005
 

Maybe at Harvard University?

 

 

Fry's has some good advertisements for 64-bit Athlon chips and motherboards. I'll probably build one for the next column. It looks like a Good Year for AMD, nVIDIA, and ASUS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cleanup time.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sunday, January 23, 2005

Roberta went down to the beach house earlier in the week, Niven went to a convention, and I stayed home to clean off my desk, clean some of the clutter out of the Great Hall, and try to make order out of notes on the sequel to INFERNO. Roberta just called to say she is coming home. Still cluttered here. Also have to get the dancing girls out of the house. Sable and I already had our morning walk.

Johnny Carson didn't look old or ill the last time he appeared in public. Now he's gone at 79. That's a little disturbing...

There's an interesting report on transfer of big files from one USB external disk to another over in mail. The transfer didn't work.

 

 

 

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This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the monthly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 8,000 - 12,000 words, depending.  (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If  you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here. This site is run on the "public radio" model; see below.

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