THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 368 June 27 - July 3, 2005
Highlights this week:
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June 27, 2005
Sussex: It's 4:40 AM, and I can't sleep. This may be bad. But I got a good 6 hours of sleep so it may not be too bad. We will see. The guest info book says I should talk to the front desk about telephone codes, but that won't do so I tried 9 then various numbers. It turns out that 011 followed by my home number worked. I am going to spend the time until breakfast making a power point presentation. There is a good electric tea pot on too short a cord so I am in danger of scalding myself when using it but I'll survive. I hope.
There are no retired bee keepers in view, but Sussex is large and there are cattle and horses and sheep so I keep hoping. We are in a small Inn for the night. It has a pub attached called the Snooty Fox. Now that fox hunting is outlawed they poison the foxes as vermin. This is known as humanitarianism.
A few pictures. The Inn where they put us for Sunday because Wilton Park isn't open; we'll be moved to lodgings there later today. Vernor Vinge and Allen Steele in the garden, where we had a pleasant afternoon. Ariadne the Mac is ready for action with the English power connector attached to the power supply. As it happens it's easier to put the US power connector on it and plug that into a 3 foot extension cord I carry; the cord then goes into a plug adapter and I can plug in several US connector devices that have no problems with 220 Volt current. And finally Lisabetta, the TapletPC, set up as a laptop and ready to make a PowerPoint presentation. I love that little machine. I also like the Apple with its larger screen but on the airplane it wasn't possible to use it because there wasn't room on the table; Lisabetta as usual was usable for work and editing on the whole trip. Small can be beautiful. And you can use a Tablet and Pen when you can't use them anywhere else.
I note there is a shot of my morning pills in the Mac shot. Hadn't intended that but it does no harm to leave it.
They have promised us high speed wireless at Wilton Park later this morning. If you see this on time you will know we have it.
I see in the Weekly Standard that the neo=Jacobins are at it again. The US should investigate the dictatorial anti-democratic repressions in Uzbekstan. Exactly why that is our business other than that we intend to end history by spreading liberal democracy everywhere is not so clear. But spreading democracy is costly == and what if we find that democratic governments are not liberal, and vote in regimes more repressive than before? Is genocide OK if half the country votes to slaughter the other half? But Kristol and Boot are certain this won't happen. Or I suppose they are.
Arrived at Wilton Park which is a baronial mansion that has me quoting Kipling. Pictures when I get a chance. This appears to be an interesting conference. We'll see.
June 28, 2005
Very interesting sessions today. Wil McCarthy overwhelmed some of the diplomats, I think. We have an interesting mix of senior civil servants accustomed to international conferences, SF writers like McCarthy and myself who know something of what to expect, and some people who are first timers. Wilton Park was founded by Churchill to work on the problems of Europe and some of the conferences that have been held here are quite famous.
My presentation was Monday afternoon: there were two sessions, Scott Card and myself. The topic is the Future of Weapons of Mass Destruction. The audience is senior military and civil service personnel who have a professional interest in the subject and include military, biological, police, and legal (including military legal and compliance officers) officers. The discussion is free form and open and nothing is said for attribution so I cannot quote from the proceedings. There will be a conference report written by Dr. Latter the chairman. I confess I await it with some interest.
My own presentation from from a Power Point Presentation I made the day before from log notes, and would do you little good as I use PP to prepare outlines and reminders, and the briefing is not self-contained. I would have to add notes to each slide to make it make sense, and I haven't done that. One day perhaps. That might be an interesting way to make up a publication: as a PPP with notes. I could probably do that in 2 or 3 hours since I spoke for 45 minutes from the presentation. Perhaps I will do that.
I have good pictures but it has been a strenuous day, and during the break at lunchtime we took a hike of about 5 miles up to ridge above Sussex Downs, perhaps 900 foot climb in addition to the 5 mile round trip. Good for me but I am a bit tired. The wireless connection works in the library but not in my room so I will have to do some of this tonight upstairs off line.
I am very glad I came. More later.
Some views of Wilton Park. This conference center and series was established by Winston Churchill to deal with European problems. Left is the first view of the manor house; it's impressive. Middle is from the very extensive grounds. There is an ancient church and churchyard. The living of the church is at the disposal of the lord of the manor. The lord has leased the manor to the government but retains some of the rights of ownership. Right pictures are the Great Hall which is now the dining hall and the ceiling. The Great Hall is said to be one of the largest in England
Our hike took us to a ridge overlooking Sussex Downs:
At the top of the walk is a tree circle. There was a Briton hilltop fort there, then a Roman fort. The tree circle was significant to the Druids. This area is old, and I felt Kiplingesque..
And it's late and I have to be up in the morning.
Junbe 29, 2005
Query: How much interchange is there between Antarctic and Arctic water flows and salinity? Is a large change in salinity near Antarctica likely to have rapid effect, and if so how, and how solid is the information?
Alan Steele's presentation this morning. Usual results. We were told to think outside the box, but sometimes that can be a bit overwhelming -- particularly if SF writers who always think outside the box are talking to people who seldom do that.
Long day. Side trip to Arundel Castle. I'm exhausted. More tomorrow or see mail. Good night...
(Dawn Thursday; it's still Wednesday in most of the States)
Wil McCarthy and me in Arundel Castle. Allen Steele at the battlements. Then back to the conference. Scott Card was kind enough to take the picture with me in it.
June 30, 2005
This morning I put up some pictures yesterday, and if that's confusing scroll up to yesterday's View and you'll see. Last day. It's dawn outside. British radio is waking me up with endless repetitions of people saying "I love Crisps" or maybe it is "I love Chris" in every conceivable intonation, at least 100 iterations to the point of excruciating boredom. I do not understand British humor.
For some reason my computers run on British current but they are not charging; it's sufficient to keep them running but not to charge the batteries. I am told that others are having this problem. Apparently it is the universal converters we are using, but whatever it is, it can be a real problem. Fair warning, if you are coming here, you might want a power supply just for that: the 110-220 power converters for both HP and other brands seem to be delivering enough power to keep the systems running, but the batteries are discharging at all times. My battery is down to about 1 minute left if I unplug mains power. I am told by others that this isn't unique to me.
Another disconcerting thing: Outlook is a pig and when it wants to download email it will attempt to eat every resource your system has. Aha, thought I: since I can't get wireless in my room, I'll shut down Outlook entirely before going down the the Great Library where we get connections. I'll then be able to upload my pictures and so forth, THEN start up Outlook.
Doesn't work unless you not merely exit Outlook but restart the machine. Hibernation won't do it. Outlook terminates and stays resident and stays running when you exit. It may look as if it is gone but it is still there, still frantically trying to connect, and when the wireless connects up, Outlook finds it and even though the program is not officially running it's still trying to grab mail and eating resources as it does. Why Microsoft chose to do that is a mystery. I'll have to ask.
On the power problem: I have an HP line lump that takes 90 - 220 V. It is plugged through adapters into the British mains. It powers the laptop. For reasons not clear to me, the computer does NOT charge the battery although it does run. The battery is shown as 2% and discharging and nothing I can do seems to rectify this. I have never had this problem before. At least one other guest here has much the same complaint and we wonder if it could be something to do with the quality of power in Sussex although I cannot imagine how that would do it. All I know is that the computer does not see the need to charge the battery although the battery is discharged. Thus I have to be plugged in for this to work. Don't understand why.
Thanks to Richard Micko the Outlook problem is mitigated. There are settings in there I wasn't aware of.
Experiments demonstrate that the problem is indeed the HP power supply which delivers a "non charging" voltage when on 220 50 cycle power. I have remedied it by using another supply to charge my batteries. Interesting.
Incidentally the Mac does not seem to have that problem, nor does the regular HP laptop power supply. It is only the special travel power supply of the tablet that has a "non-charging" output voltage; at least the regular power supply did not do that to me in Italy. I didn't bring it this trip so I do not know for sure.
For those who subscribe to the BYTE Column I beg your pardon: this story will go into the column as well as here since it is one of general interest.
July 1, 2005
0600: I leave for Heathrow in about an hour. I will be home in the evening Los Angeles time. I do not know what facilities I will have in the American lounge at Heathrow. See last View entry last night for the story on power supplies.
This has been a very interesting week. The House Rules allow some commentary about what was said but not who said it, and I have not time this AM to tease that all out; perhaps on the airplane but probably not until I am home. I don't quite know what I learned about the future of weapons of mass destruction but I can tell you that British, Egyptian, Danish, Belorus, US, Swedish, and other officials are thinking quite seriously about the problem, and they know a good bit more than the public might suppose they do at both the diplomatic and the counter-intelligence levels. Whatever our other problems may be, not being aware of the threats is not really one of them.
It is interesting that Steele, McCarthy, Card, Vinge, and I were all here, and participated as equals with senior civil servants, academics, and military people in a very open conference. My old Citizens Advisory Council made no distinction between writers like Poul Anderson and Robert Heinlein, astronauts (Aldrin, Pete Conrad), program managers (Merrick), and space scientists (Hunter) and the reports were all the better for it. It depends on the science fiction writer, I suppose, but adding us to the mix when looking at problems of the future seems to produce good results.
I'll now go down to the library were the wireless Internet connection works (there are a number of stone walls between me and the library; I am in a high up bedroom suite in another part of this mansion/palace, and more on that later). After that it's off to Heathrow. And the sheep are making a racket outside my window. I'll post a picture of that later.
On the airplane: while in The Admiral's club lounge I found that The Power supply has a button that allows me to change to "charging" output. That will charge up the system. Precisely why this was Never Explained in the documentation is Not clear. There were eleven pages of imbecile instructions demanded by Lawyers, curse them, but even the existence of Two output voltages and a control button is not in The Instructions at all. So it goes.
it's a Long flight and tiring &I will be glad to get home. Of Course Roberta is not there, but my dog will be. I expect she will be glad to see me. Holding off a wolf is Not always easy when she is eager to greet you.
Home and all is well. The entry was efficient and courteous. The taxi service was good even in rush hours. And I am glad to be back. Sable is glad to have me here. Much to clean up.
July 2, 2005
Home and back from my morning walk. Over in mail there is considerable controversy over some notes from another conference; this is in mail, and I do want to warn you, rhetorical restraint is not characteristic of that conference, nor is restraint in the use of irony and metaphor. Perhaps I should have said that earlier, but I thought it obvious. Clearly not everyone did. But when a civilized executive of a high tech outfit speaks of mass slaughter of political opponents, it's a pretty good bet he is being ironic not literal. I doubt many of you needed to know that, but apparently some do.
There is a column to do, and this place needs a bit of work. I put up a good bit of mail on the airplane, most under Short Shrift rules.
I should note: in my business we have a technical term for people who believe that every letter we put up contains material we agree with unless we comment on it. It is not a flattering term. Clearly, sometimes, we just post notes that we need not comment on. As an example, if an otherwise intelligent man speaks of shooting all his political enemies, it is not impossible that he means it, but the likelihood is high that he is indulging in exaggerations for ironic effect or at least thinks he is. Indeed, that is the most likely and certainly the most charitable interpretation, and I for one do not think it required that every such instance be deconstructed by the editor who posted the letter. If that rule is unacceptable, then I have no remedy for I have neither the time nor the energy to comment on every letter I post.
You may take it as a rule: I seldom find everything in a letter I post to be a statement I could agree with entirely; and I do not always comment or minute my disagreement. If that rule is unacceptable, I have no remedy; I do not propose to change it.
That brings me to another point: we purport to believe in free speech in the US, but we all know that is not true: we all know what you cannot say and who you cannot say it about, and on some subjects no rational discussion is possible because to bring up the subject at all earns you a permanent label, and in some countries, a jail sentence. Some taboos are absolute. I try here to have as few of those as possible, but no one can escape them all.
On the subject of Dark Age Coming:
PASSING IT ALONG: School officials in Victoria, Australia, say it's too hard for students to calculate equations using the constant 9.8 meters/second/second -- the acceleration of gravity at Earth's surface -- so it's changing the Year 12 physics exam for the Victorian Certificate of Education to use a rounded-off figure of 10 m/s/s. Close enough? No: "The difference could cause a parachutist or bungie jumper to plummet into the ground, or the launching of a rocket to fail," say people who actually understand physics. After hearing the criticism the Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority announced that it would not penalize students who used the correct figure. (Melbourne Herald Sun, Australia) ...No penalty for wrong answers, no penalty for the right ones -- modern education in a nutshell.
The impending retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor is likely to dominate things for a while in the near future. I doubt I have anything to say on this that others have not said.
I prefer strict interpretation of the Constitution. That would instantly void Roe vs. Wade, and leave the matter to the states where it ought to be left. It would leave many other matters to the states. My view is not likely to prevail and I believe you and I and everyone else will live to regret that. A nation of States cannot become an Empire. By definition leaving matters to the States will result in some people being very unhappy about what is going on in some places. It still comes closer to rule by consent of the governed than most. And yes, I am aware that the States allowed slavery. We have the Civil War Amendments as a result, and Congress has the explicit power to enforce them. The Courts, absent action by Congress, do not.
RETRACTION/CORRECTION The Apple power supply performed perfectly on English power, charging the system without any modification using the World Wide adaptor. (I erroneously reported earlier that it would not accept 220; that was incorrect.) Alternatively you could use the US input plug and an external adapter. It all worked fine. There is, however, no airplane current input adapter for the Apple World Wide travel kit. Otherwise the kit and power supply work as advertised. Recommended.
The Wilton Park SF Writers in the Great Hall: Oliver Morton of The Economist; Wil McCarthy; Allen Steele; Jerry Pournelle; Vernor Vinge; Orson Scott Card.
Brazilians Streaming Into U.S. Through Mexican Border http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/30/international/americas/30brazil.html
By LARRY ROHTER
BRAŚNAS, Brazil - For years, Jaider de Andrade, a 35-year-old farm worker, talked about going to the United States to look for work, and early in March he finally agreed to a trafficker's offer to fly him to Mexico and have him guided across the border there. By month's end, though, he was back home here again, in a coffin.
"His dream had always been for us to have a little house of our own, but he never could make enough here to get ahead," his widow, Nilce Aparecida Moreira da Silva, said at the couple's homestead. "He knew there was some risk, but he wasn't nervous, because he saw that so many other people from around here had gone and done well in the United States."
Encouraged by highly organized groups of smugglers offering relatively cheap packages, Brazilians recently have been migrating in record numbers to the United States.
With direct entry to the United States tougher than in the past, more often than not their route of choice is through Mexico, which in recent years has stopped requiring entry visas of Brazilians. <snip>
And GOOD News:
- By WILLIAM McCALL, Associated Press Writer Wednesday, June 29, 2005
(06-29) 14:04 PDT Portland, Ore. (AP) --
After nearly a decade of court battles, scientists plan to begin studying the 9,300-year-old skeleton known as Kennewick Man next week.
A team of scientists plans to examine the bones at the University of Washington's Burke Museum in Seattle beginning July 6, according to their attorney, Allen Schneider.
Four Northwest Indian tribes had opposed the study, claiming the skeleton could be an ancestor who should be buried. The Interior Department and the Army Corps of Engineers had sided with the tribes.
But a federal judge in Portland, backed by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled that the researchers could study the bones to determine how the man died and to find clues to prehistoric life in North America.
"What they're getting is absolutely essential baseline information that has never been obtained for this skeleton," Schneider said Tuesday. <snip>
July 3, 2005
There is a lot of mail, beginning Friday and continuing through today. Meanwhile I am getting the column done.
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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