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View 448 January 8 - 14, 2007

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Monday, January 8. 2007

I am on minus time getting the column done for tomorrow and getting the International Edition out to Tokyo and Istanbul and other points North, South, East, and West. CES is going great guns, but all my troops are so busy with the show that they haven't had a chance to send me any reports. This is the first year I didn't go. I usually have a preliminary show report including a photo-walk with commentary, but since I'm not in Las Vegas that isn't going to happen. I suppose there are dozens of such reports all over the web, so perhaps mine wasn't all that unique (if one can have degrees of uniqueness; I should have said 'unusual', but unique seems to be transmogrifying into a synonym of 'rare', and maybe it's time to get on board the trend? Even Samuel Johnson agreed that usage trumps 'correctness' after a new usage has been around long enough. On the other hand, Nero Wolfe burned dictionaries that did that...).

In any event, I am working on getting the column out. Most of my advisors are at CES so this one won't have as thorough a review as most. It should be up sometime tomorrow. The mailbag for the week is posted, and this week we also have a special report on upgrading to Vista by Alex Pournelle. Both are available at <http://www.chaosmanorreviews.com> for January 8, 2007.

Niven called this morning to say his computer was dead. Couldn't turn it on. And of course Eric and Dan who maintain his systems are in Las Vegas at CES. I told him to get his laptop out, charge it up, and bring it over. I can put the latest draft of Inferno 2 on it. A few minutes later he called back. False alarm. There had been windstorms and power failures in the area and Marilyn had simply switched off all the power in the house. Larry's UPS is a lot smaller than mine -- I may have to get him to buy an industrial strength Falcon UPS such as I use -- and his office is upstairs so he didn't hear it squawk. With the power back all is well. We're having high winds in much of the LA Basin this week. As I'll say in the column, all my systems are now protected by Falcon on-line UPS boxes, including a new industrial grade UPS in the cable/server room, so I'm safe enough. There are two morals to this story. One is that if your work is worth anything, it's worth protecting with a good UPS; the second is that it's also worth keeping your laptop networked and backing up important work from your desktop to that, just in case.

=========

The Los Angeles Times is running a "We Hate Bill and Melinda Gates" series. The thrust of it is that the Gates Foundation has a serious firewall between those who control bequests and donations, and those who control the investment of the $300 + billion dollars of the Foundation. (Surprise! They don't just put it in a checking account!)

The opening story of the series showed that Gates Foundation invests in Nigerian Oil Development, and actually said that the because of the new oil fields, there are many oil field workers and soldiers in the regions now. They have money and this attracts prostitutes, and that spreads AIDS, and this is an example of how the Foundation, which gives massive grants to AIDS prevention, works against itself. Another example shows that the Foundation had invested money in Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, which contribute to the housing construction bubble, and also in equity fund loan companies that end up swindling people out of their homes through high pressure sales of housing equity loans. While I can agree that many of the house loan funds including some of the very largest are scams, and I wouldn't invest in them -- we'll be putting some of those scam artists on the Ledge of the Usurers (Seventh Circle, Third Round) in the Inferno, surely the remedy is enforcement of the fraud laws, not trying to interfere in the market?

I have mixed emotions about the use of investment strategies to try to influence countries and companies. I particularly have cautions about the thrust of the Times articles, which seem to be that Foundations ought to take the advice of several for=profit and not=for=profit (but which pay healthy salaries to their executives) firms that 'advise' Foundations on 'ethical' investment. If ever there was a system designed for conflicts of interest!  One can have a great deal of sympathy for people who sign loan documents without reading them or without investing fifty or a hundred bucks in a consultation with a lawyer to inspect them before taking out loans that imperil their entire equity in their home (often their only investment), I am not sure there is much that investment strategies of Foundations can to to prevent that evil. Better, I would think, to offer a service that will advise people before they take out such loans that encumber their property -- and the Gates Foundation does support such services.

Investment strategies can't save the world, and I doubt they can do much to change it. Money is fungible. Someone is going to buy chocolate even if many cocoa bean plantations in Ivory Coast are apparently operated by enslaved children. The remedy to poverty is not simply to throw out money. Infrastructures have to change. People have to have some economic resources. Apparently it is all right for Muslim cultures to practice some of the enormities Joanne Dow so meticulously records, but not to put children to hard work in cocoa plantations. The remedy to slavery is, I would have though, a culture and religion that finds slavery repugnant. Christians have battled that scourge since the early Church -- see any text on Philemon's Problem -- and it was largely the efforts of committed Christians who ended slavery in the West. I doubt that investment strategies would have done the job. Money is fungible. If certain investments yield large returns, there will be money flowing to them.

Consider the Cashew Nut Dilemma. It may or may not still be the case, but for a long time cashew nuts were grown in a few regions where there was no other employment. But the cashew like the castor bean has poisons in its shell; harvesting and processing cashews shortens lives. But without the cashew there are no jobs and the people will starve. I used to tell this to people eating cashews at parties and see what they did.

I note that many have picked up on these stories and are using them to pummel Bill and Melinda Gates. There may or may not be token acknowledgment that the Foundation does good; but there is the shrill feigned horror that the investments are not politically correct, and that undoes everything else.

So it goes. Me, I'd rather earnings from some of these activities were plowed back into good works rather than held for investment in other ways to make money; and while I would have a different charitable strategy that Gates does -- I'd put up some big prizes for developing new technologies that would really change the world -- it's hard to question the good intentions and good results of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. After all, they could just keep their money.

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

I have a ton of mail, much of it interesting, but I won't get that up until the column is finished.

 

 

 

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Tuesday, January 9, 2007  

  The LA Times has a We Hate Gates series. Most of the press seems to have a similar crusade against Apple. One wonders if some press consortium has sold Apple stock short and is working to make it come true? Because whatever irregularities in the stock option of many years ago, Jobs has taken Apple from a struggling company to a major player, and the stockholders were rewarded with a 1200% stock value increase. Why regulations designed to protect minority stockholders are now being used to smear Jobs is a story someone with more resources than I have should dig into. I doubt it's really coincidence.

MacWorld Expo is going on now and we have Apple TV which looks pretty cool if you're involved in such things, and the new Apple cell phone which will be brought to you by Cingular. Over at CES there are other wonders. Makes me wonder why I didn't go to either show, but I have fiction to write. On which score I had better get at it.

 

 

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Well Vista pretty well sucks if you are trying to get work done with DOS programs that have to print. It also sucks if you are trying to get help and have an Internet Explorer window open. You can click on the help buttons all day and nothing will happen. It's all messed up.

I need to assign lpt1 to a printer. I can do that in Windows XP. I have a program, DOSPRINT, that did that in XP. Now when I try to assign lpt1, I get a message that access is denied. I am sure Vista is protecting me from something. Unfortunately what it is protecting me from is something I want to do, namely pay my bills. I can't print my checks.

Now I have moved the Vista machine to my work place, but it is taking the place of the XP system that was able to print to DOS. I can, of course, do all the setup for paying bills, then go to another machine that will let me assign lpt1, transfer the file, and print it. Since paying my taxes requires me to use my old DOS accounting program, this will be tedious, so unless I have solved the problem of how to assign lpt1 to a printer, I'll be moving the Vista machine back to a work bench and bringing my XP system back in here as the working system. I may like Vista, but not that much.

If anyone knows how to assign lpt to a printer in Vista please tell me.

Second problem. I can't install Adobe Acrobat. I get messages that Windows INstaller isn't working. It seems to foul up Firefox, too. I suppose at some point all this will be fixed.

=====

Today's LA Times had an article about how Deborah Voigt, having been dropped from the role of Ariadne at Naxos by the Covent Garden company because she was too fat to get into the costume, has triumphed over and humiliated Covent Garden because she has now lost enough weight to look good in the costume.

She has some pride in having got down to where she could sing Salome in an actual production rather than just in concert.

It's all part of the modern notion: it doesn't matter what the singer looks like, the audience must put up with it. I recall a Met production of Ariadne auf Naxos with Jessica Norman in the role. And another where she was the twin sister (and lover) of Sigmund. To say that she did not quite look the part would be an understatement. Certainly her voice was wonderful. Certainly she could have sung either part in concert without problems. Certainly had she not looked like an inflated cartoon she could have done Ariadne, who might have been black for all we know. But there isn't any way she could be believable as Siegfried Jerusalem's twin sister; at least not without some kind of whiteface makeup, and one supposes that would be right out.

Opera is supposed to be the epitome of performance art because it combines music with acting, the musical with the visual arts. It's already asking a lot of the audience to believe that when people are confronted with dramatic -- and often rather improbable -- conflicts, they burst into song. It's part learning how to enjoy opera, and when opera is done right one has no real problems with that. But when, as in the LA Opera production of Aida, the object of the tenor's affection simply doesn't have any visual appeal at all, while her rival looks a bit elderly but is clearly working at her appearance -- very much in character with the part of the long in the tooth heiress -- it's making the audience work too hard. If opera singers get grossly overweight they can still sing in concert, but they ought to stay off stage. Imagine Mary Poppins with a 275 pound Julie Andrews!

So: congratulations and kudos to Deborah Voigt, who did what it took to be able to sing Salome on stage as well as in concert, and who very much deserves going back to Covent Garden as Ariadne. Hurrah. But far from flipping Covent Garden the bird, she ought to be thanking them for sending her the unmistakable signal. She'd never have been able to play Salome on stage unless she'd been fired as Ariadne. People might put up with an Ariadne who leaves the audience with no doubt about why Theseus abandoned her on Naxos, but there's not an audience in the world that wouldn't break into titters and worse at a 275 pound Salome doing the dance of the seven veils -- or a Herod who watched that rather than fleeing for his life.

Done right, opera can be a wonderful experience; but one's willing suspension of disbelief shouldn't have to be hanged like Saddam Hussein.

===========

Subject: Vista DOS printing.

Hi Jerry, though I don't have not worked much with Vista, have you tried the following:

1) Disable User Account Control/Protection. It's done from the Vista Control panel. UAP is a flawed concept anyway. Instead have two user accounts - a standard retricted user for everyday work, and an adminstrator account for system work like creating shares and installing programs.

2) Share your printer.

3) Create printer redirection from LPT1 to shared printer. From the command line its done as:

NET USE LPT1 \\YOURCOMPUTERNAME\PrinterSharedName password /PERSISTENT:YES

You can add a specific username with the /USER:domain\username switch.

Regards

Bo Andersen

Which worked. Didn't need the password after disabling User Account Control/Protection, and password didn't work when that was turned on. UAP Protection  is worse than useless so far as I can tell.

Thanks.

 

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Thursday,  January 10, 2006

From a Navy source. 

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

Aren't you glad you don't live in New York?

 http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=
YzgzNDY3ZTg0YTc1OTAyZjdjNTkyOD
Y2YTY2ODE0YTk=

 Oh ! Oh ! Freedom,
Oh ! Oh ! Freedom over me
But before Id be a slave,
Ill be buried in my grave
And go home to my Lord and be free.
====== ====

Now go read Fred on Everything. Sometimes Fred is Very Right Indeed.

http://www.fredoneverything.net/WomenandAfAc.shtml

 

 

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Friday,  January 12, 2007

For anyone who missed it, the print DOS from Vista problem is solved.

==========

I finished a long and key scene in Inferno 2 last night, and then went to a LASFS meeting. The book is going very well.

======

Surging to Iraq

I am still trying to collect my thoughts on Bush's Iraq surge strategy. My first thought is that 20,000 new troops will not be enough, particularly with Congressional opposition to their use, and media attention to casualties.

In 1972-73 we had won the Viet Nam war. Since the North was continuously supplied by the USSR and would always invade the South when they accumulated enough war material, the only way the South could stay independent would be with US aid. Supplying the South cost us a lot less than supplying the North cost the USSR, and US air support when there was actual combat didn't produce more casualties than intensive training. Keeping the South independent would be a continuing obligation, but it could be done at low cost in blood and treasure. The civil war was long over; this was simple protection of an ally from out and out invasion.

The Congress would not commit to that, and in 1975 South Viet Nam accordingly fell.

My concern is that if we send in 20,000 more troops, and take the losses in blood and treasure, it won't matter how successful they are. Iran will still be there, organized and ready to invade (or "allow volunteers to enter Iraq"). And the US will be gone because Pelosi will see to that.

I don't know if 20,000 troops will be enough to pacify Iraq, but suppose they are? What then? Will the Democrats allow any continuing commitment? Unlikely. And without US commitment, how long can an Iraqi government endure against assaults like sovereign states?

Iran, Turkey, and Syria may partition Iraq; without US presence that's as likely as any other outcome. Jordan may even get a piece. Would it be realistic to seek that solution? That is certainly what the "bi-partisan" Iraq Study Group seemed to imply although no one had the courage to state it openly, hiding this under the heading of "negotiating cooperation" with the regional powers including Syria and Iran. Is it time openly to talk about partition of Iraq and having done with it.?

A realistic appraisal must take into account the historic reluctance of the American people to stay committed to anything that takes years. A realistic approach must take into account that the Democrats will control Congress for at least two years. And perhaps that is what the Republicans are thinking. Advocate sending 20,000 troops, let Congress sabotage that effort, bug out, and blame the Democrats? The two parties can then spend the next twenty years blaming each other.

========

I keep hearing "There is no military solution to Iraq." That may be true. But we heard that about Viet Nam, although by 1972 it was PURELY a military situation: North armed and ready to invade, South able to fight off invasions but needing help to do that. It was a military situation, no insurgency involved, but the Democrats, crying "there is no military solution" forced us to bug out, producing the memorable scenes of people on the roof of the embassy, helicopters being pushed into the sea, boat people and reeducation camps, and the Killing Fields of Cambodia.

If the Democrats will bug out when there is a military solution while crying "There is no military solution," you may be certain they will bug out when the situation is considerably more complex.

==

As to what to do about Iraq? The only thing I know to do is what I suggested from the beginning: recruit auxiliaries to use as constabulary in Iraq. It is late to be doing this, but there does remain one option: hire Gurkhas. Hire all those in service now, and pay the Brits to recruit and train ten more regiments. Send them in long term. Continue to pay them. Meanwhile, build an auxiliary army of constabulary to replace them.

It's not elegant but it might work.

=====

A recent email asks:

"The only thing I know to do is what I suggested from the beginning: recruit auxiliaries to use as constabulary in Iraq."

Isn't that what we're already trying to do with the Iraqi Army and Police Force?

and of course the answer is no. Our problem with Iraq native forces is that there is no Iraq. There are Turkmen, Assyrians, Arabs, Sunni, Shia, Kurds, and each of those groups are divided into tribes and clans. The number of actual Iraqi's is very small -- and nearly off of those were Baathists and part of Saddam Hussein's army. Saddam was closer to being an Iraqi nationalist than most of those on the current scene. It is barely possible that had we hired the Iraqi army back before the looting and total disruption, it might have been used as constabulary with our Legions standing as overwatch. Barely possible. But once that army was disbanded, that was no longer an option.

There are no Iraqis to recruit, now. We are recruiting regiments of tribal militiamen. I wish I had strong evidence to the contrary but almost everything I learn confirms that conclusion.

For more on the Iraq surge, see mail.

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

I see that Bill Gates has decided to take a personal hand in examining the investments of his Foundation. I suspect this isn't an optimum use of his time. There is a solution: there exist  Catholic investment funds. Let them handle the investments. The returns won't be as high, but there is considerable scrutiny of the effects of the investments.

 

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Saturday,  January 13, 2007

I am doing next week's column. I did a couple of thousand words of Inferno 2 last week, and they're good: it was a difficult scene and took a lot of work, but it's a good one.

There's a discussion of the Iraq surge in mail.

 

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Sunday, January 14, 2006

I am working on the column to be posted Tuesday. Meanwhile the world goes on. The Democrats came to Washington and were nearly indistinguishable from when the Republicans came to town under Gingrich, except that the Republicans pretended to be polite. Barney Franks was less so in his speech as incoming Chairman of whatever committee he's been given. It's politicians acting like politicians, and no one should be astonished.

Whether we can have a foreign policy arrived at through that kind of activity is another story. We should never have got into Iraq in the first place -- I think everyone except a few of the neocons now understands that -- but we are there. Jacobinism didn't work. We were not greeted as liberators by everyone. Chalabi wasn't welcomed to ascend the throne and start a new dynasty. Even some of those who did welcome us are having second thoughts now. Worse, none of us know what's happening: we don't know how close to the edge the insurgents are, and whether it's the expectation that our will is close to breaking that keeps them going, or they really are set for a long term battle.

There has been no serious debate of the consequences of bugging out. The Iraq Study Group didn't speculate on it. The Democrats are eager to get out and blame it all on Bush, and that may be good politics; but I have seen few realistic scenarios of what will happen when we run out. I haven't even seen a good picture of how we get out. Do we withdraw to Kuwait? What do we leave behind? Who comes out with us? Do we get a new cuisine in a dozen major cities and another addition to our cultural diversity? Will we welcome "refugees" with all that entails for bringing in rootless people who do not assimilate (have a look at conditions in second and third generation Indo-Chinese areas in America; some assimilated wonderfully, but in other places the neighborhoods have gang (tong?) wars. Will there be potential domestic insurgents among the refugees?

We are in Iraq. It seems obvious that when you are in a hole the first thing to do is stop digging, but in this case, is that true? Is defeat more costly than victory?

I have seen little discussion of this. The Democrats want to score immediate points by bringing the troops home, now. You may be sure that the neocons will document every disaster than can be attributed to this. Does it make sense to at least think about what happens after we cut and run? And if we are going to cut and run, how do we do it?

 

 

 

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