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Monday July 3, 2006

WATCH THIS SPACE FOR AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT

There'll be news tomorrow.

 

The Wall Street Journal has published an article by Richard Lindzen of MIT. It's called "Don't believe the hype" and it's about Al Gore's book/movie/campaign.

Don't Believe the Hype Al Gore is wrong. There's no "consensus" on global warming.
BY RICHARD S. LINDZEN
Sunday, July 2, 2006 12:01 a.m. EDT

According to Al Gore's new film "An Inconvenient Truth," we're in for "a planetary emergency": melting ice sheets, huge increases in sea levels, more and stronger hurricanes, and invasions of tropical disease, among other cataclysms--unless we change the way we live now.

Bill Clinton has become the latest evangelist for Mr. Gore's gospel, proclaiming that current weather events show that he and Mr. Gore were right about global warming, and we are all suffering the consequences of President Bush's obtuseness on the matter. And why not? Mr. Gore assures us that "the debate in the scientific community is over."

That statement, which Mr. Gore made in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC, ought to have been followed by an asterisk. What exactly is this debate that Mr. Gore is referring to? Is there really a scientific community that is debating all these issues and then somehow agreeing in unison? Far from such a thing being over, it has never been clear to me what this "debate" actually is in the first place.

The media rarely help, of course. When Newsweek featured global warming in a 1988 issue, it was claimed that all scientists agreed. Periodically thereafter it was revealed that although there had been lingering doubts beforehand, now all scientists did indeed agree. Even Mr. Gore qualified his statement on ABC only a few minutes after he made it, clarifying things in an important way. When Mr. Stephanopoulos confronted Mr. Gore with the fact that the best estimates of rising sea levels are far less dire than he suggests in his movie, Mr. Gore defended his claims by noting that scientists "don't have any models that give them a high level of confidence" one way or the other and went on to claim--in his defense--that scientists "don't know. . . . They just don't know."

So, presumably, those scientists do not belong to the "consensus." Yet their research is forced, whether the evidence supports it or not, into Mr. Gore's preferred global-warming template--namely, shrill alarmism. <snip>

http://online.wsj.com/google_login.html?url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB115127582141890238.html%3Fmod%3Dgooglenews_wsj but it's restricted to subscribers.

http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110008220&mod=RSS_Opinion_Journal&ojrss=frontpage gives a shorter article by Sloan Professor Lindzen. Of course some say that since his chair in environmental science is named after a former General Motors President, it's all tainted.

Lindzen's point is that the "concensus" is not what the fearmongers say it is. We simply don't know what's happening with climate. Lindzen says:

Regardless, these items are clearly not issues over which debate is ended--at least not in terms of the actual science.

A clearer claim as to what debate has ended is provided by the environmental journalist Gregg Easterbrook. He concludes that the scientific community now agrees that significant warming is occurring, and that there is clear evidence of human influences on the climate system. This is still a most peculiar claim. At some level, it has never been widely contested. Most of the climate community has agreed since 1988 that global mean temperatures have increased on the order of one degree Fahrenheit over the past century, having risen significantly from about 1919 to 1940, decreased between 1940 and the early '70s, increased again until the '90s, and remaining essentially flat since 1998.

There is also little disagreement that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have risen from about 280 parts per million by volume in the 19th century to about 387 ppmv today. Finally, there has been no question whatever that carbon dioxide is an infrared absorber (i.e., a greenhouse gas--albeit a minor one), and its increase should theoretically contribute to warming. Indeed, if all else were kept equal, the increase in carbon dioxide should have led to somewhat more warming than has been observed, assuming that the small observed increase was in fact due to increasing carbon dioxide rather than a natural fluctuation in the climate system. Although no cause for alarm rests on this issue, there has been an intense effort to claim that the theoretically expected contribution from additional carbon dioxide has actually been detected.

In other words, there has been some warming, but it started long ago; CO2 ought to be a contributor so it's safe to say there has been a human contribution; and the contribution from CO2 we would expect is smaller than we have found. This is his latest conclusion. One presumes that someone of his stature is more familiar with the literature than I am.

None the less, Mr. Gore, now joined by Mr. Clinton, is out spreading the word.

===========

I am off to the Monk's Cell to write fiction. More later.

 

 

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Tuesday, July 4, 2006    

 

And an important announcement:

Chaos Manor Reviews is now on line. We begin with a new column.

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

Chaos Manor Reviews is the place to find reviews and Computing at Chaos Manor.

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

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence.

They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity.

We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

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

 

 

 

 

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Wednesday,  July 5, 2006

Chaos Manor Reviews is now on line.

On Subscriptions: your subscription to this page is also a subscription to Chaos Manor Reviews, and vice versa; that is, one subscription covers all. For the moment everything on Chaos Manor Reviews is in the open area, but that will probably change; when that happens, all current subscribers will be sent a user name and password.

I slept in until 10 this morning, and now there are errands. There was a lot of mail yesterday. I'll have more this afternoon after my writing session.

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

Ken Lay, RIP

I never met him, but I find it hard to believe he was the double-dyed villain he was made out to be. For one thing, what was the motive? He was wealthy and retired, and was enormously generous with his fortune. He came out of retirement to run a company I certainly didn't approve of and which engaged in practices that were deceptive to investors; when it got out that the books were cooked the value of the company was gone, and so were the pension funds that had been invested in the company.

How much Lay was involved in the book cooking, and for what purpose, isn't as clear to me as it seems to be to the media. In the general collapse of the dot boom, Arthur Anderson was ruined, and all its investors including employees whose pension funds had been invested collapsed, and it was later shown that most -- perhaps all, because no charges were ever brought -- of the accusations were without foundation. Those people were ruined by a media feeding frenzy but no one shouted for punishment for those who did it. Oops.

I don't know enough to have any real conclusions here, and I'm not in the business of defending Ken Lay and Enron; indeed, I have considerable distaste for hyped up companies that play stock manipulation games rather than working on production. I also know that there is now so much politics and regulation and generally legal manipulation in the world of big business that every business is guilty of something, any one of them can be ruined by indictments, and playing the political game is as much a part of business survival as productivity and general sales. The forest of regulations and reports has achieved the big business goal of making it very difficult for small businesses to start up and compete with them, and I have no reason to suppose that was not their purpose in the first place.

Adam Smith said that two capitalists never got together but what they conspired to get the government to restrict entry into their business and thus stifle competition. And I do know that Martha Stewart was jailed for saying she didn't do something that wasn't a crime if she had done it.

I recall when the world wasn't so complicated. I also recall when American companies made solid products and exported them.

Now I am off to buy dog food. That, at least, is made in America.

===

Go see http://www.rense.com/general72/size.htm. You'll be glad you did. (And see mail.)

=====

Now to go up to the monk's cell and write fiction. There's new mail today, and I'll have some thoughts later.

In Santa Barbara they are turning out for their annual Flag Burning, "not to protest but just because we can."  I expect it would be legal to stand outside a VA hospital and shout denunciations of the military as baby killers too, although I would not think it a good idea or even a prudent thing to do. The problem with calling people heartless barbarians is that there's the small probability that one of them may decide you're right. Most of those who think burning flags and denouncing the military also require the services of rough men to let them sleep peacefully at night, because few of the ones I have met who do that have much competence at self defense. Ah, well.

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

Subject: DC-X is back and in Private hands!

The Jeff Bezos-funded Blue Origin private spacecraft has been announced:

http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/060705_blue_origin.html

Charles Butler

Which is fascinating. If they start flying DC/X type vehicles, then depending on the size they can inch their way to orbit. Max Hunter always thought that kind of ship would become a Single Stage to Orbit ship with a Gross Liftoff Weight of 600 to 700 thousand pounds. It would take at least 8 engines and the plumbing and control system would have to be developed, but DC/X pretty well proved the concept, at least for sub-orbital, which is what Bezos intends here.

The announcement doesn't give the GLOW but if total thrust is 230,000 pounds then clearly the GLOW has to be in that range; and that's not enough to make orbit with any construction technology I know of. But this is a good start, and is apparently something like a 35% scale model of the 600,000 pound SSX we originally proposed to SDIO in 1988. We believed SSX wouldn't make orbit on early flights but as Max Hunter put it, we could nickel and dime it to full orbital capability.

I am no big fan of peroxide. It has both performance and operations limitations.

From a performance standpoint Hydrogen and LOX are great stuff, but working with hydrogen turns out to be an operational nightmare. It escapes easily (after all, that's one tiny molecule), the tanks have to be large, and it needs fairly extreme cryogenics. Max Hunter always thought propane and LOX would be what we'd finally settle on. There are many proponents for methane and LOX, which has similar characteristics and exhaust velocity. Operationally, methane and propane are considerably easier to work with, and you get some compensation for the lower exhaust velocities with the higher density of the fuel and the smaller tankage.

The Heinlein prize this year goes to Peter Dimandis for his X Prize work. When Bezos gets this flying, he will certainly qualify...

 

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Thursday, July 6, 2006

Subscribers have asked if their subscription to this site is also a subscription to Chaos Manor Reviews. That is true, and all subscribers will be getting email this week. One subscription fits all: if you're a subscriber here, you're also a subscriber to Chaos Manor Reviews.

Chaos Manor Reviews is an experiment. My column appeared in BYTE for more than twenty years. It will no longer be there. I've had offers from other publishers, but for the moment I've decided not to move the column to another publication. The column continues in overseas publications, but they buy only translation rights. The income from the overseas publications isn't enough to justify the work I have to put into the columns. On the other hand, if we can double the subscriptions, it is worth the effort to continue both here and abroad.

Computing at Chaos Manor is the longest running column in the computer industry, and one of the longest running columns in any field. Help keep it running. Subscribe today!

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

A couple of years ago I speculated that Israel could end most of the conflict by putting up barrier fences and withdrawing the settlements. Leave Palestine to itself. Get the settlers out, and unilaterally withdraw.

I still think that wasn't bad advice, but it clearly didn't work: for the past year there have been hundreds of rocket attacks coming from Gaza where there are no Israeli settlements. Rockets are pure destructive acts; there is no accuracy. They simply fire a rocket in the general direction of Israel and hope they kill someone. Some of the rockets are being fired at the Israeli power plant that supplies Gaza with its electricity. For the Palestinians this is literally smashing your own nose to spite your face.

When I wrote my analysis, I said that attacks from the Palestinian territory would require retaliation, but one would suppose that retaliation would make the attacks too costly to continue. Clearly I assumed more rationality on the part of the Palestinians than the evidence warrants.

There are also power struggles within Palestine, with factions not part of the Authority ordering attacks on Israel to induce the Israeli army to harm the Palestinian Authority, thus weakening it and making it possible for some other faction to overthrow it and take control. It is hardly a rational act to try to take control of an organization under attack by the Israeli army, but again rationality doesn't seem to enter here.

The goal of Hamas appears to be to push Israel into the sea. They haven't the power to do that. Israel certainly does have the power to push Gaza into the sea -- or simply blockade it and allow starvation to do its work. The Palestinians exist because of Israeli restraint -- a restraint that the Muslim conquerors have seldom shown throughout history. The Crusades, brutal as they were, were in response to the treatment of Christians in the Holy Land. Rome, Byzantium, Persia, Byzantium, Arabs, Muslim Persians, Crusaders, Kurds, Arabs, Turks, Brits, and now Israelis; the land has had many masters.

When I spoke with then President Weismann during our trip to Israel in 1998 I told him I didn't know how to run his country. I wasn't sure he did. He quickly agreed.

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

We're off to get the dog from the groomers. I have a new air conditioner in the Monk's Cell. It was weird: as soon as I decided it was time to write more fiction, first the monitor up there died, then the computer I had used for years, and then the air conditioner.

I have got the air conditioner replaced at considerable expense; it's worth it. I'll be carrying a laptop up and using the same keyboard and monitor as I had been using. Pictures and some information on this in next week's Chaos Manor Reviews, where I will also explain what caused Diana to require pressing the reset button every time I started her up. It's an interesting story, and thanks to Captain Ron Morse for telling me what was going on; the problem had defeated all of us including Bob Thompson, but Ron knew immediately.

And the Mexican election is interesting: will Civil War in Mexico have any effect on illegal immigration?

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

And apparently there is justice:

Subject: Final Harvard Fall-out

Booting Dr. Summers out did them lots of good.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/06/28/BUGN5JKN8T17.DTL <http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/06/28/BUGN5JKN8T17.DTL>  The Oracle Corp. founder and chief executive, the world's 15th-richest person, made headlines in 2005 when, in an interview with The Chronicle, he pledged to make a major donation to Harvard to study world health. But Ellison decided against the donation after Harvard President Lawrence Summers announced his resignation earlier this year. Summers will leave the university on Friday. <snip>

R

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Friday, July 7, 2006

I am putting together next week's installment of Computing at Chaos Manor, which will appear in Chaos Manor Reviews next Monday. In addition, there will be a mailbag: selected mail regarding the column, with comments by me and some of the associates.

There will be pictures. And over time we will be adding back issues of the column, starting first with this year.

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

I have gone into authorial mode, which involves spending time in the monk's cell. That's an upstairs bedroom (a different upstairs; the Great Hall is upstairs too, but the two upstairs don't connect. This is, after all, Chaos Manor). Actually it's Alex's room. There's nothing in it but old textbooks mostly high school, some reference works (for the moment a pile of books by and about Sylvia Plath, who appears as a major character in our next novel; and a good number of works about medieval Venice which figures in the next Janissaries novel); and a computer that has no games and no Internet connection. There is no telephone.

My first day or so was highly productive. Then came disasters. First the monitor, a ViewSonic 17" bottle I have had for a long time, showed no picture, merely a bright line across the middle of the screen. I replaced that with a 15" TFT that I've had around for a while. It will eventually be replaced by a ViewSonic either 17" or 19" flat screen. They're on sale now. But the smaller monitor worked just fine, and I got another thousand words done. Then the computer blew up. It's an older AMD, and it worked just fine, and then it didn't, failing in mid-paragraph. It was able to boot up one more time, long enough to recover all but the last two paragraphs I had been writing. Then it stopped booting up.

I'll have the story of how I am replacing the upstairs computer in next week's column. But no sooner had I solved that problem but the air conditioner, and elderly Goodman we have had for at least a decade, decided not to work. Alas, the machine was really old: modern window air conditioners have a metal shell into which the A/C unit itself is inserted. To replace the A/C you leave most of the mounting in place. Alas, my elderly Goodman wasn't built that way, and when we had the windows in the monk's cell replaced with double-pane windows the Goodman was built in, with well done carpentry. That all had to go. We now have a new (and larger) window A/C that does slide into a mounting shell. It has a ten year warranty.

With luck that string of three disasters will have ended the curse, and today will be uneventful.

When I go up to the monk's cell I leave everything behind but the fiction I am working on, and I alternate writing with doing a set of Tibetan "Rituals" that Steve Barnes found for us. This is a set of five -- I suppose you could call them exercises, but they are more elaborate than that -- which do a wonderful job of stretching things out and getting my back in shape. Then I write some more. The result has never been fewer than 700 words and often will be 2,000 or more in an afternoon. The interesting part is that once I get in that habit, I look forward to doing it, and if I can't go work I feel frustrated.

Writing for a living is largely the art of tricking yourself into actually sitting down and working. This gets complicated when you do a web site because you've BEEN writing; I've just done quite a few words. The monk's cell makes it clear which writing is what. I've tried working here in my regular office, and it does work, but not as well as going to the monk's cell.

Which is where I am headed just after lunch.

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

This from an exchange of letters with Niven. It involves Ken Lay; he being dead (you can't libel the dead), and we working on Inferno 2: a discussion was inevitable:

Lay is a complex situation. He probably meant well. He was retired, with the company successful. The dot bust hit, the CEO resigned, and everyone screamed for help. He came back to run the company. That didn't last long.

My guess is that to the extent he cooked the books, it was to try to keep the company from collapsing; there was a crisis in confidence. The company wasn't worth any more or less before it began to collapse. He was already out of it, and had sold most of his shares. And of course when he sold his shares he told the world it was a good buy: to do anything else would have finished the company off instantly, boom or bust. The stock market is always a con game, and anyone who "invests" in high flyers with high price to earnings ratios should either understand that or get the heck out.

When stocks are selling for 100 times earning it will take 100 years -- 100 years! -- to earn enough money to pay for that stock. Clearly it's being bought in hopes that it will continue to go up. When a boom ends no one expects stocks to go up by factors of 10 or even 2. The stock value plummets. Some outfits like AOL used their dot boom money to buy real companies like TIME/Warner; when the bust came Time/Warner and CNN were things of value. AOL was not worth its inflated P/E price, but because it owned Time/Warner...

If Lay had been able to buy General Motors or some outfit that had liquidatable assets for bankruptcy there would have been something left for the pensioners whose money was invested in Enron. Or if Enron hadn't collapsed -- if the book cooking had worked! -- so that people continued to have confidence, then no one would have lost a cent.

As I said, complicated. During a boom everyone plays the "my company is growing, growing, growing, and worth far more than the earnings statements indicate" game. Everyone. Some sell out and retire before the bubbles burst.

Lay was perhaps guilty of fraud but precisely who he defrauded, and for what motive, is not so clear...

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

I managed about 700 words in the monk's cell today. That's a few less than I aim for. Four pages is 1,000 words, and four pages a day is three books in a year (with time off for holidays and such). I told that to David Drake once. He thought about it for a moment, then went home and quit his day job. He's been a full time writer ever since.

I'm now doing the Chaos Manor Reviews mail bag for the week, and next week's installment of the column. Also, the January and February, 2006, Computing at Chaos Manor columns are up. New column installment Monday, including the explanation of why Diana wouldn't turn on unless I used the reset button...

 

 

 

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Saturday, July 8, 2006

Dvorak says this is the Golden Age of the Internet. It will never get any better. He also predicts that the open World Wide Web will be segmented, chopped up, by commercial and military interests.

Certainly there are trends in that direction; but there are counter trends and counter influences. More on this when I get caught up on some of my other work, but it's worth thinking about. Where is the Internet going?

Me, I trust technology. Some of the vast networking and instant communications may go away, but there are too many small nets, wireless connections, and such to stop universal communications. I think that genie won't go back in the bottle.

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

I got this anonymously today from several sources. I expect everyone will see it soon enough.

First they came for the big ISPs
and I did not speak out
because I used a little ISP and ran my own server.

Then they came for the telcos
and I did not speak out
because I used VoIP.

Then they came to my little ISP
and I did not speak out
because I could still encrypt some traffic and control my own firewall.

Then they came for my router
and there was no one left
to securely ping back to me.

(With a respectful nod to Pastor Martin Niem÷ller)

I am not sure the situation is that serious, but it does no harm to be aware. The real question is whether the technology will stay ahead of the regulators.

Possony and I were working on Strategy of Progress when he died. I suppose I ought to finish that and get it out. Our central thesis is that history shows that societies convert more and more of their output to structure as time goes on. (Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy is very much related to that, perhaps is a direct corollary.) From time to time technology races ahead so fast that the regulators cannot keep up. The discovery of the New World was one such. The Industrial Revolution was another, including a number of repeats, such as the invention of the quarter inch electric drill which moved use of energy and power tools from great centralized factories to small businesses. Each of those technological revolutions raced left the bureaucrats far behind, and the result was freedom and innovation.

The bureaucrats slowly caught up each time, of course.

The computer revolution raced far ahead, but alas, it gave Big Brother the tools to catch up much more quickly than before. While the small computer is in some ways equivalent to the Colt .45 as a Great Equalizer (small women became a match for big men, and a small left hander like William Bonney or a lunger like Doc Holliday were not at a great disadvantage just because they weren't skilled at fisticuffs and roughhousing) -- while the small computer was an equalizer giving the citizen the computing power hitherto reserved for government and big enterprises, it also made it simpler for the regulators to regulate and demand compliance.

One reason Possony and I were so enthusiastic about easy access to space is that the great expansion of the resource base that spacefaring would make possible would be the equivalent of another Discovery of the New World, and herald a new era of freedom.

I probably ought to stop and look hard at where we are now, and whether technology is able to stay ahead of the regulators; particularly with regard to the Open Internet and Dvorak's prediction of the passing of the Golden Age.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sunday, July 9, 2006

We took a flying trip up to Santa Barbara and back to scout out logistics associated with the impending wedding of our youngest son Richard and his frighteningly intelligent but charming fiancÚ Herrin. It was a pleasant enough drive up, but I regret to report that you can no longer get Date Milkshakes at the roadside stand on Padero Lane (later and more famously renamed Santa Claus Lane) at Carpenteria. The Candy Factory and other sources of Date Milkshakes have closed and the little train is gone, all victims of the freeway, even though that stretch of Old Highway 101 is only a few yards south of the freeway and there is very easy access to Santa Claus Lane and return to the freeway.

The milk shake stands were given a place in Steinbeck's Cannery Row (when Doc drives from Monterrey to Los Angeles) and have been a favorite stopping place for several generations of travelers.

Whizin's restaurant at Kanan Road is also gone. I suppose this is progress.

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Roberta reports that sales of her reading program have slowed. I remind you that if you have a child about to enter public school, or already in early grades in public school, the schools do not teach systematic phonics; and while many children learn to read without phonics instruction, without some systematic training in phonics they can find themselves in difficulty when encountering words they have never seen before, including place names like Zurichberg and scientific terms like trinitrotoluene, both of which are easy to read if you know how to read, and nearly impossible to read if you have only been given "whole word" training. Summers are a perfect time for a 1/2 hour a day lesson to impart systematic phonics to children of any age, but particularly those about to enter first grade, or who have completed one or more grades and can't read anything but controlled vocabulary books.

You can find out if your kids can read by giving them long but phonetic words and seeing what they do with them. Antidisestablishmentarianism is one example, but almost any unusual but phonetic words will do.

For more, and how to teach your kids to read, see Mrs. Pournelle's page. Sorry to bombard those who have no need of this message, but it is a matter of importance to me: if the kids can't read, how can they grow up to enjoy my books?

 

 

 

 

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