Mail 708 Wednesday, January 11, 2012
On the Sunday, January 8th "This Week in Tech" podcast/show, John Dvorak mentioned the book "Trial And Error: A Key To The Secret Of Writing And Selling" by Jack Woodford, which you also agreed was very good. <http://twit.tv/show/this-week-in-tech/335>
You also mentioned another book "Techniques of…" by another author that you said was a very good, no-BS, book, but I didn’t catch the title or author’s name.
Could you help with the name of that book and author?
Thank you very much in advance.
The book I mentioned was by the late Dwight Swaine, Techniques of the Selling Writer. Dwight was a friend of many years, and sold more words for more money than almost anyone. He was also a good teacher. It is available in paperback but alas no eBook edition. http://www.amazon.com/Techniques-Selling-Writer-Dwight-Swain/dp/0806111917 If you are serious about writing as a profession this is an important book. Most books for writers are not much use – at least they were not to me – but Dwight’s book is worth your time.
There is also my essay on how to get my job. http://www.jerrypournelle.com/slowchange/myjob.html This was written back before the eBook revolution as was Dwight’s so some of it is out of date, but there is plenty there to be aware of. And of course the TWIT conversation began when John Dvorak brought up the late Jack Woodford, whose writing was a mixed bag, but who wrote several good books on getting started in writing.
Another Government Goof
The government just became conspiracy theorists. They are taxing for fuels that don’t exist!
When the companies that supply motor fuel close the books on 2011, they will pay about $6.8 million in penalties to the Treasury because they failed to mix a special type of biofuel into their gasoline and diesel as required by law.
But there was none to be had. Outside a handful of laboratories and workshops, the ingredient, cellulosic biofuel, does not exist.
HAHAHHAHAHAHAHA! WOW! I’m going to set conditions that you can’t possibly achieve and penalize you when you cannot achieve the same. HAHAHAHHAHAHA. Does this tell you how stupid enough people in this country are that this crap even happens at? Maybe not everyone is stupid, but we have more than enough stupid people.
Joshua Jordan, KSC
Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence, said Napoleon Bonaparte. I would add that if it’s a bureaucracy sheer stupidity coupled with the Iron Law of Bureaucracy is a more than sufficient explanation. Of course when the stupidity and incompetence are egregious enough, it’s hard to tell them from malice. Note that the President promised during his election campaign to go over every government expenditure with a laser like eye, looking for needless programs and waste to eliminate, line by line if need be. Note also that the Bunny Inspectors will all get a raise and their bureaucracy is still hiring. I believe the President took office in 2009. We are now in 2012. We will have Bunny Inspectors and regulators that require you to use additives that do not exist. Welcome to Hope and Change.
more iron law at NASA
Don’t build rockets or explore space, just focus on taking away Apollo veteran trinkets!
ethical obligations of health care
Dear Mr. Pournelle;
I’ve been thinking about your question:
"how did you get the legal obligation to pay for my health care? Is that also an ethical obligation or is it merely force majeure?"
In a political context, I’m more inclined to maintain this on the basis of prudence rather than ethics. I’m not confident that a solid ethical argument can be made apart from a belief commitment; and I don’t want to play Savonarola.
I draw on Luther’s Small Catechism, where he interprets "You shall not kill" as instructing "We are to fear and love God, so that we neither endanger nor harm the lives of our neighbors, but instead help and support them in all of life’s needs." Beyond that I’d refer to the Gospels; "Inasmuch as you have done it *not* to one of the least of these, you have done it *not* to me." I believe these claims are valid for all, including people who do not consent to them; but I am also convinced none of us (including me) can be trusted with theocracy. So, while my own faith commitments probably *alert* me to ethical concerns, I conceive it to be my responsibility within American life to argue for those concerns on the basis of whatever common ground is shared apart from my faith commitment.
Where in fact the varying strains of our common life converge on shared ethical assumptions, I’m delighted to appeal to them. But this doesn’t seem to be such a case. I rather think that an internally consistent Nietzschean or Social Darwinist ethic could be constructed, for example; I just wouldn’t accept its premises. But neither could I assume that its adherents would instead accept mine.
So in this case I would rather argue from prudence. Our health care system costs too much, and while it provides excellent results for people with deep pockets or good insurance, it is leaving gaps where people can’t afford health care. In its least damaging implications, I believe this is a drag on our economic life; sick people can’t do good work. Beyond that, the possibility of pandemics or antibiotic-resistant infections developing in "underclass" enclaves is scary. I don’t believe our civilization can risk letting that slide by.
Thank you again for your courtesy; and I’ll try not to abuse it.
Allan E. Johnson
I can accept an obligation from religion, but the United States Constitution as interpreted by the courts does not; indeed it does not even allow the display of the Ten Commandments in a court house!
As to the argument from economics, I doubt that you can prove an economic advantage to me in paying for expensive health care for the aged, disabled, incompetent, and useless. I believe you will need some other source of obligation for that.
God wills it is a powerful argument, but only when directed to those who believe in God, and believe that you have some creditable means of discerning His will.
Good government is a miracle. Nations that agree on the social obligations of the populace, and on the means for settling government, have been blessed. See Burnham on that; there is little better rational argument for settling disputes by counting uneducated noses and organized voters than there is for saying “this man inherited the Middle Justice, he has spent his life studying how to do this job that he inherited, and it is his decision. Obey.”
Disturbing if true. As are all the new Homeland Security powers.
And then there’s this
: Assault on privacy
The road to you-know-where is paved with good intentions. Who doesn’t want people to voluntarily be able to connect with lost relatives? Who doesn’t want a cold murder case solved?
On the other hand, who wants to be thrown under suspicion of murder simply by being a male descendant of somebody who came over on the Mayflower?
Check CNN’s story "DNA links 1991 killing to Colonial-era family."
Fitzpatrick said the DNA she used came from one of several major collections of genetic profiles, a practice she said was "really hot these days for genealogy." She said the people who donated DNA profiles to the database had either done their genealogy or had their DNA tested to trace their connections.
"It allows you to connect with relatives you can’t trace through traditional documentation
Cela pourrait se produire ici!
Nature ‘s current editorial leader commends the French nuclear industry’s
efforts to get real in the aftermath of Fukushima:
As the French reactors tend to be sited high and dry , one wonders if our
NRC , with more coastal exposure, has produced a comparable post-tsunami
I note that this all happened as part of the worst earthquake and tsunami in Japan in a thousand years, and a lot of people were killed, others displaced, land ruined; but of those dead because of the nuclear plant, all died inside the plant. It’s a bit like worrying about someone killed by a faulty electric house wiring on the outskirts of Hiroshima on That Day. It’s a tragedy, the wiring should have been fixed, but perhaps that wasn’t the real news of That Day.
the current issue of Fortune, on future tech, apparently has an article and editorial discussing Solar Power Satellites.
I have not changed my views: solar power satellites and putting polluting industries in space makes sense, if you develop a spacefaring reuable fleet.
The Chump Effect
"Lots of cultural writing these days, in books and magazines and newspapers, relies on the so-called Chump Effect. The Effect is defined by its discoverer, me, as the eagerness of laymen and journalists to swallow whole the claims made by social scientists.
Entire journalistic enterprises, whole books from cover to cover, would simply collapse into dust if even a smidgen of skepticism were summoned whenever we read that “scientists say” or “a new study finds”
or “research shows” or “data suggest.” Most such claims of social science, we would soon find, fall into one of three categories: the trivial, the dubious, or the flatly untrue. "
I can’t remember the last time I saw a report on some new and interesting discovery by social scientists and thought about how interesting it was and how it increased my knowledge of humans.
Instead, I look at it and wonder how it’ll be used to show I’m a bad person or how I should be forced to do something the media likes. I remember doing those surveys in college and seeing clumsy attempts to ask the same question in different ways. They were clumsy because the different ways of asking the same question changed the meaning of the question, and often I’d answer them differently because of that truthful streak, knowing it would simply get my answer sheet thrown out. This does not encourage me to trust the results I see in the media.
Agreed. And do recall my essay on The Voodoo Sciences. http://www.jerrypournelle.com/science/voodoo.html
Another phonetics exercise
Class this as another phonetics exercise, or perhaps an exercise in what NOT to do with chemistry:
Formidable! It’s about the best list of non-phonetic English words I have ever seen.
Actually, that is the wrong mail for that comment. I had intended this one:
SUBJ: English Pronunciation test
If you can pronounce correctly every word in this poem, you will be speaking English better than 90% of the native English speakers in the world.
After trying the verses, a Frenchman said he’d prefer six months of hard labor to reading six lines aloud.
"English Pronunciation" by G. Nolst Trenité
Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak; Cloven, oven, how and low, Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Fe0ffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation (think of Psyche!)
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight, Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!
Of course many of those words are perfectly phonetic, and obey the rules of phonics. It’s just that the rules, which are easily learned, are not taught in first and second grade, when they are easily learned. “I before e except after c or pronounced with an a as in neighbor and weigh” – is that still taught? I learned it in first grade. English is over 90% phonetic. For those who want to be sure their children learn all the rules, Mrs. Pournelle’s Reading Program, which is old and hokey but which works quite well teaches it all at first grade level in seventy half hour lessons. Some pupils may have to repeat a lesson or two, and that works just fine too. Half an hour a day and about seventy lessons, and you can be sure of knowing how to read nearly every word in the English language including long compound scientific words like multihydroxyltrinitrotoluene, although it may be a few years before you know what it means or if has a meaning. But you can read it. The program is available here: http://www.readingtlc.com It works.
Ice Age Deferred
Carbon emissions ‘will defer Ice Age’
Fire and Ice – again
Dr. Pournelle -
So we have another potential wrinkle in the "debate" about climate change.
Carbon emissions ‘will defer Ice Age’
"Researchers used data on the Earth’s orbit and other things to find the historical warm interglacial period that looks most like the current one.
In the journal Nature Geoscience, they write that the next Ice Age would begin within 1,500 years – but emissions have been so high that it will not."
"Dr Skinner’s group – which also included scientists from University College London, the University of Florida and Norway’s Bergen University – calculates that the atmospheric concentration of CO2 would have to fall below about 240 parts per million (ppm) before the glaciation could begin.
The current level is around 390ppm."
"He [Lawrence Mysak, emeritus professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at McGill University] suggested that the value of 240ppm CO2 needed to trigger the next glaciation might however be too low – other studies suggested the value could be 20 or even 30ppm higher."
According to some, getting atmospheric CO2 levels to pre-industrial levels, as some seek, would take them to the area of 270 ppm – much of it depends upon when you define the start of the industrial revolution. While I grew up with the date of 1769, I’ve seen as early as 1735 to as late as 1810.
It just gets more interesting all the time. Perhaps I should read Fallen Angels again.
AGW and the next ice age
A new paper suggests that man-made global warming is the only thing stopping the next ice age. Where have I heard that before?
Holding off the Ice Age
Yet more confirmation of “Fallen Angels” here:
“Human CO2 holding off the Ice Age.” At some point, they really should name that idea after you.
Catastrophic Warming V Catastrophic Cooling – New Scare Same as the Old Scare
I’m probably not the only one to send you this. http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2012/01/09/global-warming-to-save-the-planet/
"could Fallen Angels <http://www.amazon.com/Fallen-Angels-Larry-Niven/dp/0743471814> , the dystopian novel about the consequences of a new Ice Age by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Michael Flynn be more science than fiction?…
sometime in the next 1500 years a devastating new Ice Age will descend on Planet Earth. As in past Ice Ages, glaciers would cover much of the northern hemisphere, many species would face extinction and the productivity of the biosphere would diminish as fertile farmlands went under the ice.
But, the scientists say, that won’t happen now, thanks to man’s new best friend: greenhouse gasses. Rising levels of CO2 will offset the natural forces leading to a new Ice Age, saving civilization from its greatest test yet…."
We told it all in Fallen Angels….
The Zen of Firefly and Serenity …
The Zen of Firefly and Serenity …
"… I aim to misbehave."
Herewith a report that the Bunny Inspectorate has an office at the FAA.
It just gets worse and worse.
‘Whooping cranes plane’ runs afoul of FAA
Question over whether pilot needs to have commercial license
Description: Image: Aircraft guides whooping cranes
Operationmigration.org <http://operationmigration.org/> via AP
By JOAN LOWY, updated 1/6/2012 7:47:31 PM ET
WASHINGTON <http://www.bing.com/maps/?v=2&where1=WASHINGTON&sty=h&form=msdate> — Ten young whooping cranes and the bird-like plane they think is their mother had flown more than halfway to their winter home in Florida when federal regulators stepped in.
Now the birds and the plane are grounded in Alabama while the Federal Aviation Administration investigates whether the journey violates regulations because the pilot was being paid by a conservation group to lead the cranes on their first migration instead of working for free.
FAA regulations say only pilots with commercial pilot licenses can fly for hire. The pilots of Operation Migration’s plane are instead licensed to fly sport aircraft because that’s the category of aircraft that the group’s small, open plane with its rear propeller and bird-like wings falls under. FAA regulations also prohibit sport aircraft — which are sometimes of exotic design — from being flown to benefit a business or charity.
The rules are aimed, in part, at preventing businesses or charities from taking passengers for joyrides in sometimes risky planes.
"That’s a valid rule. They shouldn’t be hired to do that. But it wasn’t written, I believe, to stop a wildlife reintroduction," Joe Duff, an Operation Migration co-founder and one of its pilots, said. The conservation group has agreed voluntarily to stop flying and has applied to FAA for a waiver.
"We’re considering that waiver," FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said. He said he didn’t know when a decision would be made or whether it would be made before spring, when the birds would return to Wisconsin.
"The same regulations that we’re applying to these pilots we’re applying to everybody who holds that type of (pilot) certificate," Lundsford said. "The regulations are very clear and anyone who is a pilot holding that certificate is expected to know what the duties, privileges and limitations are."
Operation Migration is part of a U.S.-Canadian partnership of government and private organizations trying to re-establish migrating flocks of whooping cranes. The cranes nearly became extinct, dwindling to only 15 birds in 1941. One flyway has already been re-established, but that flock of over 100 birds is vulnerable to extinction should a disaster strike, Duff said.
The grounded birds are part of the organization’s 10-year effort to re-establish an Eastern flyway that disappeared in the late 1800s when the last whooping cranes flying that route died off, he said. Since there were no birds still flying the route, conservationists had to teach young cranes how to make the journey.
The birds are bred and hatched at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. A small group of conservationists in baggy bird suits that conceal their human features are the first thing the birds see when they begin pecking their way out of their shells. The conservationists also give the birds their first nourishment, thus imprinting themselves as "parent." The first thing they hear is a recording of a crane’s brood call combined with the purr of the small plane’s engine.
The birds are later transferred to a wildlife refuge in Wisconsin, where they are conditioned to follow the baggy-suited humans and purring plane. By fall, they are ready to begin a 1,285 journey from Wisconsin to two wildlife refuges in Florida. The cranes glide behind the plane, surfing on the wake created by its wings. The pilots are dressed in the same baggy white suits and have a fake bird beak attached to one arm, adding to the illusion that the plane is a bird.
It’s a slow trip, primarily because of the plane’s limitations. No flying on windy or rainy days. This year, one young whooping crane took a wrong turn and wound up spending a few days with some sandhill cranes in wetlands before being herded back to the flock. Rain kept the flock on the ground 16 days in Illinois.
Then, just before Christmas, FAA officials told Operation Migration that they had opened an investigation of possible violations. The birds are now safely penned in Franklin County, Ala., while conservationists await a decision on their waiver request.
If the waiver doesn’t come through, "the only option we can think of as a contingency would be to transport them by ground to release sites in Alabama or in Florida," said Peter Fasbender, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field supervisor in Green Bay, Wis., which is part of the partnership to re-establish the cranes.
But Fasbender says he’s confident the young cranes will make it back to Wisconsin in the spring. Once they meet up with other cranes making the journey, he said, they usually don’t have a problem.
The Iron Law in Action