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View 441 November 20 - 26, 2006

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Monday,  November 20, 2006   

This week is a sort of vacation, what with the holidays and things. I will try to get the Chaos Manor Reviews pages up and running with mailbag, but I am not promising.

I have been utterly whelmed. Inferno is going great guns and keeping me up at night. Computers are dying around me and it's all very mysterious as to why. I haven't solved that and I probably won't; I am about to convert the systems here.

One symptom: machines that see all the older machines, but the two newest ones, although they can connect with everything else, cannot connect to each other. Microsoft networking: installing and uninstalling the client doesn't help. They can connect to the servers, to other machines and laptops, but not t0 each other. Of course these are my two main machines which have to talk to each other, so this isn't a Good Thing. It may be that Active Directory isn't seeing them properly but then why would they be able to connect to everything else? Ditto with Microsoft Live OneCare. The machines work just fine, they just will not talk to each other. If either ceased to exist the other would be thought to be working perfectly. Understand they SEE each other. I just can't access either from the other. Windows networking isn't much fun any more. It has stopped being simple. And the Delayed Write Error is enough to drive me mad. It seems more frequent now when I try to write to external machines.

I am taking a leisurely time to either solve the problems or obviate them by updating and rebuilding systems. It's time to get an Intel Mac so I will have things that just work if Windows continues to do mad things, and the hardware continues to do mad things. I'll explain it all another time. But just now my mood is to write fiction and get the books done. I am not abandoning either this page or the Reviews, I'll catch up on mail when I solve the machine problems, and except for wasting time doing silly things I hope you will never have to do I'm in pretty good shape.

There were times today when I was toward the end of my rope, but the final failures with odd messages have taken me past there to the point of saying to heck with it. It just isn't worth it trying to keep some of this old stuff going. An upcoming column will have a number of things to say about simplifying your life... But just at the moment I am in no mood to write this adventure up. Especially since it does not have a happy ending.

Anyway, I'm here, and there's enough stuff working that I'll be able to catch up; but I am running short of time.

And since I hardly slept last night at all, it's time to go to bed. I'll have mail, reviews, essays, more mail, and good cheer shortly, but consider me on vacation for this week.

 

 

 

 

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006   

  Chaos Manor Reviews remains delayed for the week. I have to work on Inferno this afternoon. I also hope to take a quick pass at Mamelukes, but that book requires some plotting work, and that means taking some quiet time off to go do it. I bought myself the Olympus WS-100 mentioned in last week's Reviews and it is just perfect for taking notes while hiking; and it's small enough that I can actually carry it. I'm still looking into Inspector Agzaral's head.

Thanks to those who have sent me notes on the Mamelukes plot; I can't read them unless there's a RELEASE and QUITCLAIM at the top of the letter. While I like discussing future plots with people who have done extensive reading of my works, the laws are funny, and I just don't read things that don't start by saying "If you can use any of this you are welcome; I release all rights to the ideas in here." I realize that's silly, but there have been cases of entrapment where people have sent ideas and such to authors with the hopes of being able to sue later. I don't need any of that.

I am doing some drastic restructuring of this place, with some major changes in systems and subsystems I will recommend.

On the local front, the Mayor has vetoed the City Council settlement of the $2.7 million "damages" to be paid to the fireman who was fed dogfood. The fireman, who calls himself Big Dog, had taken part in some really humiliating hazing stunts at the firehouse  (which included forcible shaving of intimate areas of a colleague), and didn't seem to have felt all that humiliated at the time of the dogfood incident. Since I used to mix Kalcan Horsement Chunks into the spaghetti sauce I made back in the days when that was about the only way to get any meat into my spaghetti because not only wasn't there discretionary income but the "eating money" was pretty sparse, I find Big Dog's discovery of humiliation after he talked with his lawyers a bit, uh, well, not surprising I guess. I'm still not certain why eating dogfood is worth $2.7 million, and if anyone wants to humiliate me for money my price is negotiable. I'll generally eat anything normally considered edible that isn't trying to eat me...

And now it's back to work. Didn't get my morning walk yet, and Sable is reminding me of that. It's her job to get keep these humans exercising.

 

 

 

 

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Wednesday,  November 22, 2006

Still rebuilding. This time it's going to be permanent. Got another thousand words of Inferno done yesterday.

 An Inconvenient Truth

There's more on global warming in all the papers, and reviews of Al Gore's pretentious movie as well. Inconvenient Truth.

The inconvenient truth is that we don't know what the hell is going on. The Earth is probably getting warmer. Probably, but even that's not certain; there's evidence in both directions. Still, I would guess that the preponderance of evidence indicates a warming trend.

And it is way certain that CO2 levels have risen a lot, and much of that is due to human activity.

And that's all we know. The rest is guesses, some of them enhanced with computer models. We don't know whether the (probable but not certain) warming is due to increased CO2; we can be pretty certain that not all of it is. We don't know if the whole solar system is warming, although there's evidence to show that it's warming up on other planets.

We don't know what the temperature of the Earth is supposed to be. By "supposed to be" I mean what it would have been if humanity had had the good grace to die and leave the Earth to termites and cockroaches and spotted owls and polar bears.

We don't know if we are returning to the conditions of the Medieval Warm period. Not long ago we were concerned that we were headed back to an Ice Age. For a while there in the 70's it looked pretty certain that we were, so that a number of the global warming alarmists were writing about what we ought to do to avoid freezing in the dark. Then opinion began to tip the other way, and grants depended on whether or not you believed in global warming, and now you can't get a grant to study the possibility of a coming ice age, nor even to study some of the assumptions of the global warming hypothesis. You can publish nonsensical hockey stick analogies in peer reviewed journals even though your algorithms are proprietary, and keep getting grants so long as you're on the consensus side of the matter; but it's hard to get grants to look for what's really happening. In general the only way to get any money to look at non-consensus theories is to go to private funding, which generally means energy companies, and once you take energy company money we all know you are bought and paid for and we don't have to pay any attention to your work. As opposed to those who take consensus theory money: they're so correct they don't even have to publish their methodology so others can try to duplicate their work.

And that's the Inconvenient Truth: that science has failed us. Science has become so dependent on money allocated by peer review that there's not much chance for real science not approved by the CoDominum BuScience.  I made that last one up; it's from one of my novels. Surely nothing like that can happen?

It's easy to state the problem. It's not so easy to come up with a solution. One possibility is political allocation of research funds: a certain amount earmarked for contrarian research. The problem there is which contrarians? Once you abandon the consensus view on a matter like climatology, there will be a number of dissenters, most all with a few truths inconvenient for the consensus and favoring their own views, and a few way out there in the fever swamps. People like Ignatz Philipe  Semmelweis who thought that doctors were spreading the dreaded childbed fever that killed women in childbirth; people like Alfred Wegener who thought the continents were drifting; people like Hans HŲrbiger with his Cosmic Ice Theory. In all three cases the giggle factor among the well learned was about the same.

I am not sure how to allocate research grant funds to ensure that only the sound wild ideas get funded while the others are not. I am quite sure that once a silly theory is funded the political pressure on those who made the grant will be enormous, there will be charges of collusion and senility, and the careers of those who argued for funding the obnoxious idea will be hounded from public life. Look at the President of Harvard who dared speculate that one explanation for the discrepancy between numbers of men and women in science might be physiological differences between the sexes.  (And I expect that not one in a hundred readers knows what was actually said, which was rather long, rather dull, rather mild, but very much in keeping with what we used to think of as a spirit of free inquiry.)

One MIT biologist collapsed from the vapors from the very suggestion.

Nancy Hopkins, a biologist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, walked out on Summers' talk, saying later that if she hadn't left, ''I would've either blacked out or thrown up." Five other participants reached by the Globe, including Denice D. Denton, chancellor designate of the University of California, Santa Cruz, also said they were deeply offended, while four other attendees said they were not.

Note that Nancy Hopkins was not fired or disciplined or even reprimanded for being about as unscientific as you can get; but Summers got it good and hard. Yet, dare I say it, there's considerable evidence that Summers was right, there is a biological factor here. It might even be worth studying. If, as Summers assumed, we need more women in science because we need more scientists and we have to mobilize all the human resources we have, then it makes a lot of sense to see just why there are more men than women in various scientific fields. Who knows, a well planned research project might discover that it's not physiology at all, or maybe it's a difference in teen age diets, or maybe it really is all cultural; but we'll never know.

And that one is mild compared to the amounts of money at stake in the global warming issue.

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

I am told that my assumptions about the amount of power needed to get us nearly free of imported petroleum are spot on, off by a fair amount, ridiculous and absurd. That's quite a range. The right way to resolve this is to do the numbers, and when I get things set up here again I'll do me a good spread sheet. Meanwhile, if any of you have sources for the energy input-output (source-disposition) figures for energy in the US, I'd appreciate a pointer.

The assumption I have made is that if we wanted to, we could build 100 1000 Megawatt nuclear reactors for about $100 billion. The first one would cost quite a lot more than the last, because the first would be subject to a lot of design reviews; but once a safe design was adopted the rest would be more or less identical to it, and the learning curve would apply. I also assume that given the determination to do this, we could have most of those on line in five years.

I confess that I haven't looked at the actual energy budget of the US since I was science editor of Galaxy, and that's more than 25 years ago, so I could be a fair distance off on these guesses. I have to go for a walk now. More later.

Back: I need to collect the data to make a good spread sheet input output chart of US power generation and consumption, and figure how much electricity is really needed to make a significant impact on domestic oil consumption.

As to fossil fuels, I said about 30 years ago that they are so valuable as feed stocks for industrial processes that it's a crying shame to set fire to them.

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

RE: But A Lot Of Ice Is Melting, Isn't It?

Jerry,

To be the devilís advocate for a minute: All the popular accounts I see indicate significant ice melting. Such observations donít depend on any algorithm or indeed any assumptions. If there is significant ice melting, this can be easily substantiated, can it not? And if so, something is going on, isnít it?

On the other hand: I did hear on NPR a few months ago about someone researching whether fine soot resting on ice surfaces could accelerate melting; this researcher thought it did. If this was a mechanism (and it would seem to be very plausible) then better control of the release of fine soot from man-made sources could make a significant difference, and would seem to be actually possible to do without massive economic destruction.

Mike Cheek

Tallahassee

Well, yes: pretty soon the Greenland glaciers may be back where they were when Leif the Lucky started dairy ( Da Iry?) farms in Greenland.

And we have some evidence that the total amount of ice in Antarctica is growing. Perhaps it would be well to establish that before we begin building dikes?

I am all for DOING SOMETHING if something has to be done, but it helps to have some details on just what is the problem you are trying to solve.

=======

 

 

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Thursday,  November 23, 2006

A National Day of Thanksgiving

Of course it is no longer politically correct to speak of Thanksgiving to God, or Divine Providence, as Presidents and Governors and Mayors were wont to do in the old days. Given the mess we have put ourselves in, perhaps we would do well to accept responsibility for our own decisions, and after all, what has Divine Providence done for us lately anyway?

(Those who want to answer 'quite a bit' may form a long line over to the right.)

 

 

 

 

 

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Friday,  November 24, 2006

Black Friday

I'm off to LosCon

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By now you all know the drill with eARCs: Scream and Leap for your mouse! so you can get the real stuff, still raw and twitching, MONTHS before ordinary customers get their filthy eye tracks all over it! Be thou not snerked by snerkers. Walk in the light of the eARC; In ďBuilding the Mote in Godís Eye" you will learn the inner secrets of Motie civilization, and how it was defeated by the Empire of Man.
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óJim Baen

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Saturday,  November 25, 2006

Went down to LOSCON yesterday to be part of the memorial to Jack Williamson, then have dinner with Phil Klass (William Tenn), Fruma Klass, Tim and Serena Powers, Karen Anderson, the Nivens, and John Goodwin and Joanie of Writers of the future.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sunday,  November 26, 2006

Got the mailbag and the column done today. All going well. Still writing fiction. Column goes up Tuesday, mailbag on Monday.

 

 

 

 

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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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