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Mail 511 March 24 - 30, 2008
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|This week:||Monday March
Subject: Letter from England
I had been writing facetiously about English food on rec.arts.sf.composition, and was taken to task by some Northern English. To be honest, I like it here, but the local expatriate community (including immigrants from other parts of the UK) likes to share stories about how gob-smacked they are by some of the things they see. Sunderland is a working class town, which means that if you don't have working class tastes, you'll be constantly finding things out of stock. This morning's shopping found us coming up short on spring lamb, eggplant, and artichokes.
Gales and snow outside as I write this.
The Man For All Seasons dies:
"It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world ... but for Wales, Richard?" (More speaking to Richard Rich, who had just perjured himself to convict More.)
"More: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! "Roper: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! "More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? "Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! "More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast -- man's laws, not God's -- and if you cut them down -- and you're just the man to do it -- do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake."
More quotes at <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060665/quotes>
BT comes clean about its Phorm experiments: <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/03/17/bt_phorm_lies/>
Security in Montana: <http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2008/03/security_in_mon.html>
Airport security: <http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2008/03/wacky_airplane.html>
I'm reading and enjoying The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It's about living in a world where the unexpected can sneak up on you. I manage some of my money following (what would be) his recommendations, and do very well with it.
-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw> Weblog at: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>
Greetings and Happy Easter to you, sir.
Thank you for keeping us posted on the zapping. Hope it helps to know how many of your friends, neighbors, readers, and fans are rooting for you.
Thought you might be amused by this exchange today on the instapundit board:
with me for, um, beach reading as part of my reread-old-John Varley project, and I was struck by this passage, which I had forgotten:
"There's something else," he went on. "We know there are aliens out there. We know interstellar travel is possible. The next time we meet aliens they could be even worse than the Invaders. They might want to exterminate us, rather than just evict us. I think we ought to keep some fighting skills alive in case we meet some disagreeable critters we can fight."
Brenda sat up, wide-eyed. "You're a Heinleiner!" she said.
It was MacDonald's turn to shrug. "I don't attend services, but I agree with a lot of what they say."
UPDATE: Yeah, it's not in print -- I had to buy a used one. Hope they reissue it soon. It's good. Meanwhile, reader Robert Evans asks if I'm a Heinleiner. Well, you know, I don't attend services, but . . . .
"Today you can go to Haiti and buy a 9-year-old girl to use as a sexual and domestic slave for $50."
- Roland Dobbins
Were they better off with Papa Doc and the Tonton Macoute?
Climate facts to warm to - --
Christopher Pearson | March 22, 2008
CATASTROPHIC predictions of global warming usually conjure with the notion of a tipping point, a point of no return. Last Monday - on ABC Radio National, of all places - there was a tipping point of a different kind in the debate on climate change. It was a remarkable interview involving the co-host of Counterpoint, Michael Duffy and Jennifer Marohasy, a biologist and senior fellow of Melbourne-based think tank the Institute of Public Affairs. Anyone in public life who takes a position on the greenhouse gas hypothesis will ignore it at their peril.
Duffy asked Marohasy: "Is the Earth stillwarming?"
She replied: "No, actually, there has been cooling, if you take 1998 as your point of reference. If you take 2002 as your point of reference, then temperatures have plateaued. This is certainly not what you'd expect if carbon dioxide is driving temperature because carbon dioxide levels have been increasing but temperatures have actually been coming down over the last 10 years."
Free Skool! --
WRT MIT, Hahvahd, Yale, et al opting to provide free tuition for the poor folks making under a hundred grand a year or thereabouts, I can foresee a very interesting if unintended consequence.
They are fiddling with ONE variable in a dynamic system -- apparently in the belief that OTHER variables will behave as constants.
What *I* expect is that the new regime will result in a massive *increase* in applications to these schools, because the previous tuition levels acted as a self-limiting mechanism. In other words, scads of students who *would* have applied -- and qualified -- did NOT apply, because they knew they could not afford the tuition, so why bother applying in the first place?
Now, though, with *that* out of the way, they will be buried in applications -- and the only way they'll be able to deal with this is via triage.
The only question is what they will use as triage criteria. I suspect they will be uber-PC about it, and amp-up the quotas -- "privileged classes" will be given "preferences" and "non-minority" students will be confronted by aa spectacular raising of the height-bar.
The first graduating class under this new system ought to be... interesting. A small number of VERY qualified graduates, and a LOT of "eased-through the system" kids who will expect to *continue* the "preferential ride" in the real world. (Of course, given current events, the "real world" will not likely be of a mind -- or ability -- to provide a "nurturing environment" to those who've become accustomed to it. Yes, interesting. That's the word for it. Interesting.)
March 25, 2008
Subject: UN IPCC in 'Panic Mode' as Earth Fails to Warm, Scientist says
Below is by Paleoclimate scientist Dr. Bob Carter of
Australia's James Cook University and former chairman of the earth science
panel of the Australian Research Council, who has published numerous
peer-reviewed papers and is featured in Senate Report of nearly 500
prominent scientists (and growing daily) disputing man-made global warming
fears. [ Note: The 500 dissenting scientists in Senate Report are nearly 10
times the number (52) of UN IPCC scientists who wrote the Summary for
Policymakers. Senate Report here:
In addition, the growing skeptics of man-made climate
fears and the abundance of peer-reviewed studies debunking rising CO2 fears
may explain why promoters of climate crisis are continuing to attack
skeptical scientists with “anonymous” smears. See: 'ABC’s World News' Rips
Scientist to Shreds for Being Global Warming 'Skeptic' <http://www.businessandmedia.org/articles/
= = = =
Dr. Bob Carter is a Research Professor at James Cook University, Queensland, Australia, who studies ancient environments and climate, and whose website is at <http://members.iinet.net.au/~glrmc/new_page_1.htm>
Posted 03/25 at 09:08 AM Email
This piece is in Category: Global Warming <http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/categories/C19>
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) Inhofe Staff
Subject: Cheap meat, no food, merrily, merrily, merrily...
Today I really went to town (to the doctor, the thrift shop, and the grocery store).
Noted that inventory at the thrift shop seemed thinner than usual. More people "shopping price" lately?
Noted an abundance of meat and poultry at the grocery store. Wider than usual variety, much lower than usual prices. Looks like that stuff about the farmers being unable to afford to feed their livestock -- and thus, sending it to the slaughterhouse -- are true.
Looks like this is a good time to fill your freezer.
Looks like soon it'll be a good time to *lock* your freezer.
I expect that next month -- and the next, and the next, and the next, meat will become more expensive, with lower quantity, quite possibly poorer selection, lower quality, and all that goes with that.
I won't be surprised if before too long it won't be uncommon to hear people talking about "the last time we had meat for dinner..."
Apparently not *everyone* is entirely gung-ho on the Let's Burn Our Food! bandwagon. Read on:
Top scientists warn against rush to biofuel
Brown plans to resist EU plans for increased quotas as doubts multiply:
"If one started to use biofuels ... and in reality that policy led to an increase in greenhouse gases rather than a decrease, that would obviously be insane," Watson said. "It would certainly be a perverse outcome."
But scientists have increasingly questioned the sustainability of biofuels, warning that by increasing deforestation the energy source may be contributing to global warming.
demand for biofuels from the US had delivered a "major shock" to world agriculture, which was raising food prices globally.
Burning food. Why not?
USAF vs. OSD.
Gates should take all the Predators away and give them to the Army and Marine Corp, stat:
-- Roland Dobbins
Subject: Citizens vs. Taxpayers -
All we need is to formalize the Welfare Islands:
-- Stephen Fleming |
THE OLDEST SIGHT YET SEEN
NASA's Swift gamma ray satellite was struck last week by a blast of gamma rays from an event half as old as the observable universe.
So phenomenally violent was the event that had it occurred in the center of our galaxy, the milky Way would have lit up brighter than the noonday sun.
Alerted by Swift, the Very Large Telescope in Chile swung to focus on the burst coordinates and captured a spectrum - the peak luminosity was such that the event was probably visible to the naked eye , making it the oldest sight so far seen by man
Consider it a gesture of solidarity, Jerry-- we all caught some extra x-rays wlast wek.
March 26, 2008
-- Roland Dobbins
Remarkable! An astonishing discovery in 1250 or so. (But see below)
Subject: Citizens vs. Taxpayers -
All we need is to formalize the Welfare Islands:
-- Stephen Fleming | Chief Commercialization Officer | Georgia Tech
When my sister was attending MIT my office was next door to the local Harvard rep who did the evaluations. We would have long conversations about the process of how selection is done and how the finance process is determined. My parents couldn't afford to send her there and I was curious as to how the process worked.
The summary of his view of the process was that if in his opinion the student was worthwhile he would find some way for them to afford to go. Now that student may have to live in an alumni's basement and mop floors in the kitchen to make ends meet but they will not leave the school with material debts.
This was how the situation was explained to me in the early 90's. Our experience matched what he said.
I read the changes as merely leveling what has been the practice all along. Perhaps it would have been better to leave some discretion to reps as in the past but I don't view this as a dramatic change in the practice of these schools.
Harvard inundated with applications
“What *I* expect is that the new regime will result in a massive *increase* in applications to these schools, because the previous tuition levels acted as a self-limiting mechanism. In other words, scads of students who *would* have applied -- and qualified -- did NOT apply, because they knew they could not afford the tuition, so why bother applying in the first place?
Now, though, with *that* out of the way, they will be buried in applications -- and the only way they'll be able to deal with this is via triage. “
Harvard inundated with applications? This is a feature, not a bug. The elite schools compete on the percentage of applicants they can reject. The more applicants, the more rejections, the better.
MacBook Air and TSA
First, know prayers continue for your health and recovery. You've done us all a great service with your willingness to share your battle.
Welcome to the Mac camp. Although Windows puts food on my family's table (the church can't afford a full-time pastor's salary yet), I use only Macs at home. As you prepare to take your MacBook Air with you, know that the TSA is working diligently on your behalf to insure their capable staff understand the Air's a legitimate computer and grants you permission to take it with you on a plane.
"Bob's conclusion is that the MacBook Air does, in fact, have a different X-ray profile than other laptops."
A society where the simple many obey the few seers can live; a society where all were seers could live even more fully. But a society where the mass is still simple and the seers are no longer attended to can achieve only superficiality, baseness, ugliness, and in the end extinction. On or back we must go: to stay here is death. � C.S. Lewis, _Miracles_
Spirit on Mars being ignored due to NASA Budget Cuts
For only $4M a year ... sigh!
<http://www.physorg.com/news125598958.html> "NASA Cut Means No Roving for Mars Rover By ALICIA CHANG, AP Science Writer
(AP) -- Scientists plan to put one of the twin Mars rovers to sleep and limit the activities of the other robot to fulfill a NASA order to cut $4 million from the program's budget, mission team members said Monday. The news comes amid belt-tightening at NASA headquarters, which is under pressure to juggle Mars exploration and projects to study the rest of the solar system....."
Charles Adams, Bellevue, NE
In a three trillion dollar budget. LA paid a fireman more to eat dogfood.
Darlimple on The Uses of Corruption
Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy + Honesty = Economic and Cultural Catastrophe?
"An uncorrupt leviathan state is, in fact, more to be feared than a corrupt one"
Subject: Udo of Aachen
Dr. Pournelle, Perhaps you are aware of this, but "The Mandelbrot Monk" is an old April Fool's joke. Details at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Udo_of_Aachen and Slashdot http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=01/03/22/1655256
Good luck with the brain zapping! Perhaps it (or the radiation sickness) will be a plot point in your next "Smack the Earth with a Large Object" novel? Lemons, lemonade, etc.
No, I had never heard of any of this before. Interesting. I do not spend much time with hoaxes, which I rather detest as waste of time, and I generally do not play along with that game.
I also pay little attention to Slashdot, which seems to me a cacophony in search of idle minds...
Apologies. (and see below)
Xcopy, CP, Rsync
I read the View from Tuesday 3/25
I disagree with Kevin Crisp, cp with the -u (update) option doesn't exist in OS X. I don't know why, but I wasted days trying to find it.
I agree with Andy. I use rsync to do daily backups. My frustration was with finding rsync and learning how to use it. Couldn't they call the command "backup" or something like that?
-- Dwayne Phillips
March 27, 2008
Subject: Interesting Comparison...
"The American government has come to resemble the characters in The Wizard of Oz <http://www.amazon.com/Wizard-Oz-Tor-Classics/dp/0812523350/lewrockwell/> . We have the Cowardly Congress, a president without a brain, and a foreign-policy establishment without a heart."
"We are like all empires in their final stages. We have grown soft. We like our comforts. We don't wish to be inconvenienced. We like poor Mexicans to do our stoop work and poor Americans to do our fighting, provided they do it far away so we won't be disturbed by explosions and screams."
"As for trying to understand the world, we are just too busy being amused and following the adventures of Britney Spears and other celebrities. We like to let the TV and the politicians do our thinking for us. It saves energy. They tell us whom to hate."
Perhaps a bit harsh, but understandably so.
Regarding the Mandelbrot Monk:
Subject: It fooled me too
I know a bit about Mandelbrot Sets and so on, the history thereof, and the Udo "Mandelbrot Monk" Story fooled even me at first.
Upon some quiet thought, I began to wonder about the veracity of a tale involving a monk named Theloniius (Udo's supposed assistant calculator), since Monk Thelonious sort of hints at something fishy (assuming the reader is familiar with the jazz pianist Thelonious Monk, which is not exactly a household name).
I agree, some people have simply too much time on their hands.
Have you considered converting your journal entries on The Zaps, et. al. into book form for publication? I recall Norman Cousin's did something like that ("Anatomy Of An Illness") and got a best seller for his trouble. Lemons to lemonade?. I'd buy a copy!
It certainly fooled me. Ah well. As to doing the experience into a book, it depends on whether or not we get a happy ending...
Re: Spirit and budget cuts
Personally, I think this just rope-a-dope in the ongoing budget fight; remember when they were going to cancel Hubble because of budget problems? This is just NASA threatening to cancel a high-profile project in order to get a bump in next year's budget.
Which, y'know...in a time when people are bitching from soup to nuts about the Great American Brain Drain, how we have so few graduates going into science and engineering...it's pretty damn sad that the country's foremost public R&D organization has to resort to stupid PR stunts and political games in order to secure its operating budget.
-- Mike T. Powers
We can hope so. A three trillion dollar budget that cannot afford a few million for Spirit. The City of LA paid the lawyers for the fireman who ate dog food more than that.
Subject: The Egg Came First
From a White House planner
Pournelle advocated "security and the Rule of Law first" from before we ever went in. It seems the success of the "surge" in Iraq is probably due as much as anything to throwing out neocon (Jacobin) ideas of the magic of democracy and focusing on realism, in the political sense. An excerpt of the article follows.
Security, Rule of Law, and local control over land ownership; but of course the outrageous Bremmer, never thought of doing any such things. The sheer incompetence of our attempted rule in Iraq takes one's breath away.
while I'm reading about you're iPhone Report where you just say how good it is, though many things are just out of reach, like video and voice recording, and GPS. Well, those are pretty standard features in current so called smartphones like Nokia N95 and many HTC products. While iPhone shows a neat design and a cool interface, it falls quite short in terms of features vs. typical smartphones sold in Europe, and I believe they're available in US as well. They all include WiFi and UMTS, which is a 3G cell phone standard in Europe, quite faster then EDGE, which is the best that iPhone can stand. A GPS antenna is often included, as well as an FM tuner, cameras with 5 MPixels are common and 8 Mpixels are expected in a matter of days. They generally accept memory cards but some, like the Nokia N95, may come with 8GB of basic memory!
OS may range from Symbian to Windows Mobile 6.1 with planty of applications, to clearly state that smartphone are full featured portable computers.
So, that's my thought that there is no need to wait for improvements on iPhone, since many devices out there have it all.
Siro Mancin Italy
PS just hoping you're sorting out the problem in your head and wish you a prompt recovery ;)
"If I had a business that half the product we turned out was defective or you couldn't put into the marketplace, I would shut that business down."
--- Roland Dobbins
But the Democratic Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the joint venture of the US Education Establishment and the Trial Lawyers. Given that, reform is impossible. Have a nice century.
"If I had a business that..."
Our school system fails because parents, citizens and teachers all tell themselves foolish things.
Teachers use methods that they know won't work, and assign textbooks that they know stink, because it's easier than doing the right thing.
Education professors proclaim that there are no differences between children, when teachers' lying eyes tell them differently.
Parents expect teachers to teach, but they don't expect their children to work.
And nobody wants to offend or challenge the little darlings; why, it might hurt their self-esteem!
It's worth re-reading _Little Town on the Prairie_ to see what American schools once did. Laura's performance at the School Exhibition would be considered freakishly remarkable today (6 digit division with no calculator or pencil, reciting American history from Columbus to John Quincy Adams with no written notes). But it was just expected in the Dakota Territory circa 1880.
And of course, the idea of having a School Exhibition at the local church would give activists the vapors today...
It hardly matters. The Education Lobby are now aristocrats who dictate what will be done with the tax payers money. The Iron Law of Bureaucracy has taken its toll, and decent teachers understand there is nothing that can be done, just as we will never have tort reform in the legal system. We now have rule without the consent of the governed; bureaucracies are in the saddle and ride the taxpayers.
Look at California where despite a 30% increase in revenue the State Assembly says it will not go home without more taxes. The taxpayers need not bother to reply. Just send money.
Technically we converted from Republic to Democracy; but that always means transferring control to party organizers and bosses; those are responsive to bureaucracies like prison guars unions, public service employee unions, education unions, and lawyer associations. The result is clear. We have public schools that are worse than useless and attempts to keep children out of that boring maw are met with legal coercion to bring them in or make the parents join the educrat unions.
Have I overstated the case? Perhaps, but by how much?
More on self publishing (Todays' Amazon Shorts boards post)
I am looking at fulfillment right now. If you have hundreds of copies you have to manage them and store them and your garage is not really the place to do that. There are companies that will do this for you, but the fees can really eat into your profits. You could even end up losing money. There's a guy where I live that self-published a guidebook and most of them are still in his garage, but he was depending on bookstore orders which didn't materialize. I'm looking at a slow build on my novel. First of all you can't sell it if you don't have it so you have to have your POD deal in place and then your big run in a fulfillment warehouse someplace. Any novel is a niche market. As individual writers and self-publishers we are fighting several forces; one is the prejudice against self-published work as a "vanity" production which is poorly done. Secondly, are the conventions of the book trade and the reluctance to truck with unbranded, unknown products when there are so many other (from their point of view) choices. Even if you can get your books into the brick and mortar world, keeping them there could be a major problem. Everything is on consignment and anything that does not sell quickly gets pulled and returned. Big publishers can absorb this. We can't.
My novel exists in a niche which encourages hand selling and I did that with my last book. Signed copies through the mail at full retail for collectors and at arranged events such as speeches for special interest groups (I already have two of those lined up.) Cash flow is also important. It may make more sense to pay a higher per copy price and make less if you don't have to tie up a lot of money and incur ongoing costs. I'm pretty confident I can sell a lot of copies because Amazon Shorts allowed me to get exposure and some five star reviews outside the system and I have plenty of little niche market to sell to. Most people are not in that position, nor can they afford to put out thousands of dollars up front the way I can. I can take the hit if I'm wrong and I gamble.
The real appeal of POD schemes is the low cost of entry. Amazon does enjoy many advantages in this regard. But there is always a way and trying to create a "best seller" may not be it for most fiction. Overnight success is newsworthy because it is so rare. The kid who wrote that best selling fantasy novel at 17 had great family support and started selling them at county fairs. That was ten years ago. Now he has a movie coming out. Any conventionally plotted piece of fiction has film and television potential. This is about building an audience and a brand for most writers, but we have to make money. Ideally , given our probable distribution pattern, our breakeven point should be low, perhaps a thousand copies sold. Getting publicity is also a major problem. The local big city newspaper here wants NO stories about self published books, regardless of their worth, because they get hassled by all the people they already turned down for coverage.
Or so I was told yesterday by their local stringer. I was a freelance reporter for many years, so I understand this. You can't get anything in unless an editor wants it. It's like pushing a piece of string.
I've done book signings in book stores where no one showed up and others where two copies got sold. Arranging events gets you people who WANT the book. And pay full price in cash. (You need a sales tax license for these. The Governor always gets his cut). Maybe you sell ten copies. The price of gas being what it is, you have to consider such events simply a way to spread the word about your work and to meet people. The publishing industry and the book trade tend to take the short view. They want quick results.
One of the luxuries of the self-publishing approach is that you can take your time and build a brand and a business. Somehow, in the midst of all this business, you have to get your next book out.
Subject: AT&T complaint about the quality of education!
Thanks for keeping us updated on your medical progress, our prayers & hopes are with you.
While I tend to agree that the current state of public education in the United States is appalling, and has been so for most of my life, one of the things I have noticed is there is less & less corporate sponsorship of the programs needed to build the workforce they claim to need. As an example, in the mid 70's when I was a 15 & attending Newark High School in Delaware, Dupont & Chrysler had just dropped their program of sponsoring the metal shop classes from which they had drawn several skilled workers in the past. I can only presume they had crunched the numbers and reached the conclusion that it was cheaper to move to CNC processes, & with re-training their current workforce could double their productivity until retirement making it less cost effective to train new recruits they wouldn't have the head count to hire.
We are in fact reaping what was sown as the education system has moved to a useless unguided curriculum that any intelligent teenager will recognize as pure bureaucracy with little actual street value upon graduation. I know that in my case dropping out was the only sensible thing to do, it didn't stop me from going to college, and hasn't hurt my employment over the years. If AT&T really wants a US workforce, they need to partner with the High Schools in their community and invest in building a workforce they can hire and get the job done instead of complaining about the quality of Public Educational Product.
Corporate America, should stop whining & do something about their problem, unless of course all they are looking for is an excuse to go offshore.
"I'm afraid you'll have to overlook it Fred, you knew the job was dangerous when you took it!"
Super Chicken (Henry Cabot Henhouse III)
Subject: AT&T can't find enough skilled workers.
So AT&T wants to bring jobs back from India to the US, and says they are having trouble finding qualified staff, possibly due to our crappy educational system. ( http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080327/tc_nm/att_workforce_dc )
Won't quibble about there being problems with our educational system, but I do wonder what kind of salaries they are paying. If they insist on sticking with Indian wage rates, I imagine they would have problems hiring....
Subject: Alert: Media Hype on ‘Melting’ Antarctic Ignores Record Ice Growth
March 27, 2008
Posted By Marc Morano – 4:25 PM ET – Marc_Morano@EPW.Senate.Gov <mailto:Marc_Morano@EPW.Senate.Gov>
Media Hype on ‘Melting’ Antarctic Ignores Record Ice Growth
The media is once again hyping an allegedly dire
consequence of man-made global warming. This time the media is promoting the
ice loss of one tiny fraction of the giant ice-covered continent and
completely ignoring the current record ice growth on Antarctica. Contrary to
media hype, the vast majority of Antarctica has cooled over the past 50
years and ice coverage has grown to record levels since Satellite monitoring
began in the 1970s, according to peer-reviewed studies and scientists who
study the area. (LINK <http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/
Former Weather Channel Meteorologist Joe D’Aleo
rejected the hype surrounding the recent Wilkins Ice Shelf collapse in
Western Antarctica. “The shattered part of the Wilkins ice sheet was 160
square miles in area, which is just 0.01% of the total current Antarctic ice
cover, like an icicle falling from a snow and ice covered roof,” D’Aleo
wrote on March 25. (LINK <http://icecap.us/images/uploads/MISLEADING
March 28, 2008
NEO News (03/20/08) News from Science (pdf) & Wall Street Journal
Keeping the Earth Asteroid-Free Takes Science, Soft Touch by Lee Gomes, Wall Street Journal, March 19, 2008; Page B1
Ex-astronaut Rusty Schweickart wants to save the world from an incoming asteroid -- the multimegaton variety blamed for killing the dinosaurs -- and he thinks that the only sure-fire way to keep them away is by using, of all things, diplomacy. Mr. Schweickart was on the Apollo 9 mission that circled the earth testing the lunar lander, and had a successful post-NASA career in business. Now 72, he is spending his retirement trying to alert the world to the problem of Near Earth Objects, or NEOs. Most of the time, he conducts the campaign sitting at a laptop computer in the study of his home in the Sonoma County wine country of Northern California. The Web connects him to a global network of other ex-astronauts, astronomers, government scientists, space buffs and more. Many of them are members of the B612 Foundation, which Mr. Schweickart helped to found to research the problem.
Asteroids have been studied for centuries. But there are still so many gaps in our understanding of them that Mr. Schweickart says he has had to pioneer a lot of asteroidology himself. He tells me, "You are looking at the world's expert in deflecting asteroids, and that is just inexcusable."
The basics of the problem are familiar to Discovery Channel viewers. Now and then, one of the millions of chunks in the Asteroid Belt gets knocked into a different orbit, one that might one day lead to a collision with Earth. The best place online to follow all this is at neo.jpl.nasa.gov, where Mr. Schweickart himself checks in several times a day. It's a kind of Facebook for asteroids, each one having its own home page, along with a cool Java applet showing its orbits.
When it comes to actually dealing with an asteroid, the Hollywood option, of nuking it to smithereens, is the least useful, says Mr. Schweickart, largely because you can't control the debris. Serious students of the topic prefer the idea of crashing a spacecraft into the asteroid, thus nudging it into a new orbit. In fact, merely orbiting a spacecraft nearby might do the same trick, on account of the craft's gravitational pull.
Because asteroids have these sorts of easily imagined happy endings, it's a more pleasant apocalypse to contemplate than, say, global warming, for which there is no such easy solution.
Deadly asteroids also have something else going for them: They can be dealt with for a relatively small amount of money. Spending $100 million or $200 million a year for a decade will put in place all the telescopes necessary to have a complete census of all of the NEOs that threaten Earth. (Current efforts, of which there are several, tell us about only a fraction of them.) Such a tracking program would likely give us a warning time of decades ahead of any possible collision.
The hard part of asteroids, says Mr. Schweickart, and the part he is spending nearly all of his time on right now, involves finding a way to reach a global agreement on how the planet would respond should an asteroid head our way. This is where the astronaut starts to think like a diplomat. Indeed, several of the messages in his inbox last week involved a meeting he's hoping to have in the fall with the secretary-general of the United Nations.
Mr. Schweickart knows what you're probably thinking at this point: That eliminating an asteroid is a job for Bruce Willis, not for a bunch of diplomats. Hence, a short lesson from Mr. Schweickart, him with an MIT degree, in orbital mechanics.
When an object like an asteroid is known to be heading toward Earth, its exact splashdown point can't be calculated with any certainty. Instead, scientists know only that it will fall someplace on a thin line along the Earth's surface. These are the sorts of trajectories that make news when wayward satellites drop back to terra firma.
Now suppose the impact line for an asteroid begins over Country A, extends through Country B and ends at Country C. To nudge the asteroid so that it misses Earth completely, you first have to push it in one direction or another -- in effect, toward either A or C. That means that residents of either A or C will bear a slightly greater risk if the rescue effort doesn't push the asteroid quite hard enough. Naturally, the citizens of A and C, and their political leaders, will be screaming for the asteroid to be pushed in the other country's direction and out of their backyard. Mr. Schweickart says the only fair way to proceed is to have a decision-making formula drawn up well in advance, thus unaffected by the political heat of an actual crisis.
Another reason to involve the U.N., says Mr. Schweickart, is to overcome global suspicion that a unilateral American antiasteroid effort would be a ruse to militarize space. Mr. Schweickart says he also is concerned about the issue. Many in Washington, he says, seem almost exclusively interested in the nuclear option.
Mr. Schweickart has been working on NEOs since 2001, and says he will spend another year on the project before turning the reins over to someone else. In the meantime, he's talking to everyone he can. "Let's face it," he says, "being an ex-astronaut opens a lot of doors for you." -- = = =
NEO News (now in its fourteenth year of distribution) is an informal compilation of news and opinion dealing with Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and their impacts. These opinions are the responsibility of the individual authors and do not represent the positions of NASA, Ames Research Center, the International Astronomical Union, or any other organization. To subscribe (or unsubscribe) contact email@example.com. For additional information, please see the website http://impact.arc.nasa.gov. If anyone wishes to copy or redistribute original material from these notes, fully or in part, please include this disclaimer.
BREAKING: Oceans Cooling! Scientists puzzled by 'mystery of global warming's missing heat' (NPR)
Excerpt: Some 3,000 scientific robots that are plying the ocean have sent home a puzzling message. These diving instruments suggest that the oceans have not warmed up at all over the past four or five years. That could mean global warming has taken a breather. Or it could mean scientists aren't quite understanding what their robots are telling them. […] The buoys can dive 3,000 feet down and measure ocean temperature. Since the system was fully deployed in 2003, it has recorded no warming of the global oceans. "There has been a very slight cooling, but not anything really significant," Willis says. So the buildup of heat on Earth may be on a brief hiatus. "Global warming doesn't mean every year will be warmer than the last. And it may be that we are in a period of less rapid warming."
The Mystery of Global Warming's Missing Heat
by Richard Harris <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=2100631>
Morning Edition <http://www.npr.org/templates/rundowns/rundown.php?prgId=3> , March 19, 2008 • Some 3,000 scientific robots that are plying the ocean have sent home a puzzling message. These diving instruments suggest that the oceans have not warmed up at all over the past four or five years. That could mean global warming has taken a breather. Or it could mean scientists aren't quite understanding what their robots are telling them.
This is puzzling in part because here on the surface of the Earth, the years since 2003 have been some of the hottest on record. But Josh Willis at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory says the oceans are what really matter when it comes to global warming.
In fact, 80 percent to 90 percent of global warming involves heating up ocean waters. They hold much more heat than the atmosphere can. So Willis has been studying the ocean with a fleet of robotic instruments called the Argo system. The buoys can dive 3,000 feet down and measure ocean temperature. Since the system was fully deployed in 2003, it has recorded no warming of the global oceans.<snip>
Subject: what I would like to see you write about
When you have recovered, and have more time and energy for writing, I would like you to write more about your general principles that are relevant to understanding society, government, the economy and so on. Although you have written explicitly about general principles (your law of bureaucracy, for example), most of what I have read of yours is addressed to particular issues. It is clear from reading these writings of yours that there is an underlying consistency of analysis across a wide variety of issues. I would appreciate a more extended, more theoretical and general, exposition of your fundamental principles. I suppose I’m asking for something like a statement of what your understanding of a conservative approach to public policy issues is, as I take it that your underlying approach could be called a conservative one.
Perhaps you’ve already written such a piece, and I’ve just missed it?
With prayers for your recovery,
Good suggestion, and I will put that into my list; but you are of course suggesting a book. My principles are derived from Burk, Kirk, and Possony, not necessarily in that order; Kirk and Possony were mentors and friends, and had a great hand in my reading and education. I met both of them when I was in graduate school in the 1950's, and the association continued until their deaths. I also learned a lot from Karl Wittfogel, another friend and mentor. I never studied formally with any of them; of those who I did have as formal professors, Kenneth Cole of the University of Washington (co founder with Kirk of Modern Age) was the most influential in political science, Dean Edwin Ray Guthrie taught me more about psychology and human behavior than anyone else, and Aaron Paul Horst about the application of mathematics to prediction including in social science. And I must not forget Herman Kahn, who was hired by Boeing to work with the Systems Analysis group and was kind enough to give me some sound advice on learning how to become an Operations Research / Systems Analysis professional.
Enough reminiscence. I agree: it's worth trying to make some principles explicit.
Start with The Map Is Not The Territory...
A Plan for the Subprime Crisis
John McCain made a speech yesterday addressing the subprime mess. Hmmm, almost universal disapproval resulted, from Lou Dobbs to the Democrats to the Republicans to others who are invincibly ignorant. That means that it must be a good plan!
In fact, it is one of the few good ideas Mr. McCain has had, even if (or “since”) it was borne out of his ignorance (God save us from his ideas in areas where he is not ignorant). The government, i.e., we taxpayers, should stay the hell out of the mess.
I owe the tenants nothing; I owe the owners of derivatives nothing. Neither do you.
Here is my private sector offering that should be considered, eliminating all the distortions that would be caused by government and the Fed, thus causing other problems that can only be “solved” by...you guessed it...the government and the Fed!
I am certainly not an unfettered free-market apostle any more–I am persuaded by you, among others, that without some regulation, we will have slave markets and body parts auctions on street corners. There is just no stopping the unregulated, amoral “capitalist”. There is always someone who will do anything for a buck.
Having said that, the penalties as well as the rewards of the free-market should apply. Here are the proposals for each group in the mess.
The borrower who is in trouble may have overbought, but that is not my concern. Most are first-time homeowners who were not credit-worthy. They were renters prior to being given the loan; when they “lose” their “home”, they will go back to being renters. So how are they hurt by foreclosure?
The holders of derivatives are, frankly, people who did not do due diligence or they let their stockbrokers do it for them. I have yet to meet a stockbroker who does not like to sell financial instruments, so the holders of the derivatives who got hoodwinked have only themselves to blame. If that fact was not recognized, well...perhaps a financial loss is deserved.
The mortgage salesmen are in a class by themselves–but there is a market for their “services”, so who is the evil party? The salesman or the purchaser of the derivative instruments? Both. I have no solution for the salesmen, however, except that when an outraged public rises up, the salesmen should be made into jerky, their houses burned, their children sentenced to having to attend public schools, etc. On second thought, perhaps the Eastwood "Unforgiven" punishment is a little too severe! But you get the tongue-in-cheek point.
We regular people who are making house payments as we lease property from local government (we do not own property if government can take it) are going to be hurt, no matter what. It’s past time to recognize that and attempt to minimize the pain. The line that cannot be crossed is: no money from my pocket, directly or through inflation, to bail out anyone.
Harsh? Only if one thinks that resistance to out-and-out thievery is harsh.
Derivative holders should be “encouraged” to enter an agreement with the defaulting borrower. That agreement should include:
1. A rental contract (which the borrower will have anyway, no matter where) for the property should be executed. The contract should stipulate that the payment will be the payment prior to any escalation of payment through ARM.
2. The interest that would have been paid from payment escalation should be credited to the renter’s account–absorbed by the derivative holder.
3. At a certain specified time in the future, the renter should have the option of continuing the mortgage at the higher interest rate or of selling the home.
A derivative holder who does not want to participate should not have to; however, the holder will have to face the loss of all value of the instrument and, a likely result, will have to face legal challenges personally and corporately for negligence to shareholders. Perhaps an added incentive to participate might be that derivative holders be formally immunized from civil action in cases where they do participate.
This way, everyone except the taxpayer will “contribute.” The derivative holder who made the horrendous investment will be penalized, but will not lose everything, certainly not the legal fees, depreciation on a vacant home, or other costs of foreclosure. The penalty that is realized is perfectly appropriate.
The renter/borrower may lose the house anyway, but has a chance to recover from an unfortunate purchasing decision. He/she is no worse off renting the same house than if there had been a foreclosure and an apartment is rented.
Others in the neighborhood will not have to cope with vacant or crack-houses in the neighborhood. Housing values will continue to decline, but not as precipitously. Most importantly, money will not be stolen from me and from you to subsidize a feckless business organization.
I take it as a principle that Republics cannot exist without a middle class. Aristotle defines democracy as Rule by the Middle Class, and the Middle Class as "those who posess the goods of fortunate in moderation." That folds into the notion of independence: a class of voters on whom the government depends, and which does not depend on the government in order to survive. (Note: of course we all depend on government for survival in that we do not all stand armed to defend our homesteads against mobs and all comers; I mean here economic survival.)
The middle class in the US has been required to bear enormous burdens and pay for a growing class of those who contribute little to the nation.
This latest crisis adds more burdens. Yes: many made awful decisions, jumping into the bubble with intention of flipping houses, in hopes of one big deal that would give, not financial independence, but at least a step toward that. I understand the temptation, when the State Legislature is demanding more and more from the Middle Class in order to spend more and more on the Public "Service" and Education aristocratic classes who must be paid before anything else -- and who demand more every year, even as state revenue rises. It cannot keep up with those demands.
So I have more sympathy with those who made bad decisions.
The worst of it is that government now has no resources but the printing presses to affect the outcome; and anything the government does will be inflationary, possibly wildly so, which means a tax on savings and fixed incomes.
All these matters must be taken into account in trying to devise a way out of the situation.
Predators & other threats
Defense Secretary Gates wants more unmanned Predator aircraft in Iraq. But the Air Force worries about the long-term viability of the spy plane program.
Nooo... the Air Force is worried about its (officer) pilots losing the elitism of being a fighter pilot. (See past injustices done on th A-10 community). Notice that the USAF will insist that PILOTS have to control the UAVs - and it's really driving them wild to have to pull a stint with a UAV unit, deploy then return to a fixed-wing unit and deploy again. Whoohoo!... I'd wager I can attend an X-box Tournament and recruit or hire 100 18-20 somethings, give em 2 weeks training and have 'em flying any UAV in the inventory - anywhere in the world.
Nope, its about loss of stature and nothing to do with inventory, training, or any other red flying fish they can come up with.
Hang tough, guy.
Colonel, I am on record as wanting the abolition of USAF and DOD, and a return to a Department of War (Senior Department) and Department of the Navy to include USMC, with each having its own Air Service.
I've written about that before, and I'll get back to it another time. In my judgment DOD has failed in both theory and practice; and combining the services into DOD has made for some constitutional problems as well. Again a story for another time.
As to USAF, a "service" that despises close support of the field army (but will not give up that mission) and is run by fighter pilots is not anything like optimum. Indeed, it's silly on the face of it.
Hope to see you soon. Meanwhile, you've made a specialized news entry. For the whole Blog Post you can see it on Schneier.com.
Here's the best bits:
Pournelle is, in my opinion, a decent spec fiction writer; he gets the military right, build his worlds in a craftsman-like fashion and his characters clearly live in their universe.
He is a reasonably good tech writer - at the very least he is entertaining which you can't say about many in that field. When he writes on topics I know about, he's never wrong. Again, not something you can say about many in that field.
About his other hobbies, interests and professions I am not qualified to judge.
= = =
To amplify, A General principle of Cyber-Information Strategy would seemto be this:
In a distributed system that has been breached, one needs to defeat the intruder in the most dangerous and most asymmetric ways an intruder can attack the system, or can shunt resource and information flow within the system.
People who can construct whole, not-yet-experienced worlds in functional detail in their minds, and then unleash characters to act independently, avariciously, immorally, or aggressively, or deceptively, against the designed functioning of that system, these are the sort of people you might want to hear suggestions from.
The first real security threat, beyond his comprehension, I recall was Kevin Mitnick.
Foreign criminally minded establishments - secret intelligence agencies - do not share their discoveries of our vulnerabilities with us, like teen hackers and open source practitioners do.
= = =
Reminds me of
"Fiction Writers offer MI-5 and MI-6 advice on Espionage":
Like Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Malcom Muggeridge, T.E. Lawrence, Colin Wilson, the younger, and those other Coventry Boffins advising the "real" spy-masters on how to run notional agents under Double XX Committee, - not to mention Peter and Ian Fleming, William Hood, Jean LeCarre, James MacQuarrie, Stella Rimington, and Frederick Forsythe.
Mostly I am sad to say this confirms why I pay little attention to other blogs, and never allow people to post here. I read through that thread with growing amazement that anyone would bother.
The facts are wrong -- I do not believe I ever wrote for Creative Computing. I did write the lead column for BYTE for 25 years, and I was paid well to do so: anonymous thinks my column was repetitious and boring, but apparently most BYTE readers did not, and Japan, Istanbul, Riyadh, Sao Paulo, and other places paid BYTE for translation rights and took the trouble to translate my columns into their languages, so perhaps I did something right? In any event I was about the highest paid columnist in the industry.
I did write the lead column for BYTE's sister publication POPULAR Computing, and perhaps the courageous commentators were confused? I don't know. As to Footfall, it was Number One on the NYT best seller list, so again, perhaps we did something right; and Lucifer's Hammer was #2 for 14 weeks, second to The Thornbirds.
As to my qualifications, I was a senior scientist in the aerospace business, and Acting Director of Operations Research for North American Space Division before going to Pepperdine, so perhaps I have some right to comment on high technology and its impact on social life. But apparently the commentators over there know better; although I looked in vain for any positive contributions from them.
I do thank Mr. Dunbar for his comments.
But once again I find the whole thread a very good confirmation of my principle not to allow others to make contributions to this site without my approval. If people want to read the random and unfiltered observations of everyone with lots of time on their hands, there are plenty of places to find them; they won't find them here.
March 29, 2008
CLAIRE DE LUNE
Two spectacular new views of satellites reveal rich interactions between the giant outer planets vast magnetospheres , which gather in the solar wind like spinnakers , and their moons, concentrating protons into radiation belts that dwarf the earth's . Our Van Allen belts deliver enough radiation to keep astronauts from lingering - but the vortices of charged particles whirling around Jupiter and Saturn and their moons would strike a human dead in a matter of hours.
Yet they may also contribute to the possibility of life in the ocean lurking beneath the frozen face of Enceladus
-- Russell Seitz
re: Book Material
I would beg to differ with you about a happy ending being essential to the commercial success of a book, although it definitely is unquestionably better for both the author and his public in this case.
That being said, I have found that any sequel by you (or in cowriting) has been as enjoyable, and often more than the original (still waiting to see if Inferno II continues the trend, but from the anticipations no reason to expect not), so I, for one, wouldn't complain a bit to get your adventures spread out over two books, the first ending as a "cliffhanger" (maybe "The Mask on the Wall") and not getting the "Happily Ever After" until vol.II.
Best of luck for a quick "garbage collection" effected by your various internal systems, though if I have to be honest, the fact you have been writing at all odd hours (I assume you would just as much have liked to sleep were that possible) has been a continuous source of pleasant surprise. Still, rather have you healthy and whole, but you have managed to turn your difficulties and adversities into quite a good run of "lemonade" for your readers.
Best regards, and best wishes for your rapid recovery,
James Siddall jr
Thanks. Of course from my view, doing one book with a happy ending would be better. And thank you, I am feeling better already: just not having those zaps hanging over my head is a great relief. Hmm. The Mask on the Wall. Hmm.
Subject: Memory errors
"Memory errors are rare, but when they happen the trouble shooting is really difficult: horrible is not too strong a word."
This is life in the "why bother with the parity bit?" era.
I *think* you can still buy memory with the "extra-but-not-really" parity bit for a little more, but not all BIOSes will support it -- and for more than a little more you can get error-*correcting* memory (an expensive solution to the uber-rare memory error).
IMO *most* memory errors are "repaired" by reseating the modules. (Money saved by not including the parity bit, more money solved by not using, what, the "best" gold on the contacts? Who knows. Someone knows, that much is certain. Most likely the guys building the sockets and motherboards.)
The "shave-a-nickel" beancounter-driven epoch is giving us death by a thousand cuts (hardly any reason to fix *one* of them -- or for that matter, not to *implement* one of them. The ugly beauty of incremental savings. False economy with a productivity award). The same "it saves money"-think that gives us the wholesale export of our industrial and manufacturing infrastructure to our avowed enemy has also given us high priced consumer gear that has zero tolerance for anything going wrong -- and, just to make life interesting, the stuff is predisposed to having stuff *go* wrong.
As to "horrible is not too strong a word" (regarding memory errors), *insane* would not be too strong a word. (I cannot think of too strong a word -- at least, not one suited for polite company.) I recall working on a very nice computer that we picked up for a pittance -- it was sitting there in the local thrift shop with what I will term a "token price" (i.e., if *anything* in the setup was usable, the price was a bargain). Brought it home, plugged it in, it started to boot, and then halted with the most obscure error I had ever seen, related to some driver or .vxd or whatever -- something I'd never heard of before.
Was looking forward to either mass quantities of quality time wading hip-deep through the registry, or, a total wipe (which I am constitutionally not suited to embrace).
I did some web searches and discovered that lots of people had that same error -- with no clue as to how to figure it out. Then, I found a *couple* of people who assured that the fix consisted of "reseat the memory." It was like the "give him an enema" joke (for a guest who died of a massive coronary at the opera). Such *confidence*! Why, reseat the memory, of course. Sure, it has NO bearing on the error -- but just do it.
So, I just did it -- and the machine sprang to life when I turned it back on.
I miss the parity error bit days, when you'd know *exactly* what went wrong, and where it was, when a bit failed. Nowadays, I suspect many if not *most* "random Window's bugs" are nothing more than a random flipped bit in some critical executable code.
And, what happens when that random flipped bit happens in some DATA? Oh, nothing much -- just a typo, easily corrected. Or, a number in a spreadsheet or database, resulting in one's finances going to places one would not wish on one's worst enemy -- and leaving NO footprints along the way!
Actually, reseating using Stabilant 22 is even better; but I have had errors with cheap memory -- often supplied with a review machine sent to me -- which were maddening, to the point that at the first sign of any problem at all with a test system I put in Kingston memory. Premium memory is the cheapest insurance I know.
Subject: X-Corp and Spirit Lives
Jerry, I thought you might like this http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23808892/
And who says that publicity doesn't help?
Though this did bother me "NASA has no plans to turn off either of the healthy twin Mars rovers to make up for cost overruns faced by a big new rover slated to fly to the Red Planet next year..." Either the new program was mis-managed, or woefully under estimated. If the latter, decisions should have come well before this. Thoughts and prayers are with you.,
Thanks. XCOR has the right approach, I think.
* * * * * There are only 10 kinds of people in the world . . . those who understand binary, and those who don't.
Subject: UAV control and ownership
Did I read that correctly, that it's being suggested that we turn over control of UAVs from our "healthiest" service to one that is struggling badly in almost every area?
There are plenty of people shouting "give them to me because I want more support than you're providing", but not one has a better operational plan, not one has the ability to integrate them with the air operations center, not one has the manpower, not one has the budget, to do it any better. They are pissed that they're not getting more of a scarce resource, and they think they can do it better without any proof they can do it or the infrastructure to both handle it and integrate it into our joint warfare doctrine.
Thank goodness the senior leadership isn't flailing around transferring critical air assets between services, and thank goodness Secretary Gates is pushing the USAF to "do better" instead of simply chopping an ISR resource that is fully integrated into our joint doctrine out of the very joint doctrine that makes us better than anyone else and handing it over to the Army.
We have enough trouble deconflicting airspace for army artillery missions... I find it tough to believe that we wouldn't run planes or helos into UAVs if UAV missions were not fully integrated into AOC operations.
And keep in mind that this would turn into another attempt for the Army to extend their control of airspace farther back from the front lines. They already pretty much own the airspace from the front lines back into bad guy land as far as they can shoot artillery, but if you hand them UAVs they'll ask for another 50 miles, and then you'll see the Army creating their own AOCs to handle the thousands of airspace deconfliction and mission requests for access to their airspace.
Maybe I should have said it up front, but the command and control portion of UAVs that go higher than 500 ft is probably the long pole in the tent. The USAF already has that pole, and it's called an AOC. We will not give the tent, let alone the pole, to the Army so if they get UAVs that fly into air component managed airspace, they'll need to pretty much duplicate the entire air component's command and control structure. That is not cheap and it's certainly not easy even if you have all the manpower you could possibly want. Which the Army decidedly does not.
Joint and combined warfare WORKS. There will always be competition for scarce resources. Who does that LtC who complained about his UAV getting taken away think his UAV went to go support? It was probably a higher priority mission, likely another Army unit, re-tasked by the AOC which is fully integrated into the combined forces (joint!!!) command structure. The AOC executes it's mission based on priorities given to it by the guy who gives orders to the air component commander. So the USAF merely directs missions based on the priorities given to it by whoever owns the theater. Which is not a USAF general.
The point is that the fact that people are complaining about resource scarcity does not mean that the scarce resource should be re-assigned to a service that simply does not have the command and control structure to efficiently or effectively operate it in joint airspace. The AOC has an entire section manned by Army, USMC, and Navy liasons. When those liasons start complaining that the AOC commander is disregarding the orders of the combined forces commander, then we have a problem. But that's not the case, is it?
Our problem is that USAF does not want to support the Field Army. WW II would have been over in 1944 or earlier had USAAF not insisted on strategic bombing and the Douhet theories of air warfare. USAF does not want the close support and battlefield interdiction missions (which would have won WW II earlier had the resources needed including pilots and crews not gone to heavy bombers instead of something like the P-47) but will not allow anyone else to have that mission. The P-47 and train busting ended organized resistance in Europe -- but by then he heavy bombers had ended civilization through much of Germany including Bavaria and Austria.
The "Independent Air Force" experiment gained us some knowledge; but it also cost far too much for us to learn it.
USAF ought to be abolished as should DOD. We need a Department of War and a Department of the Navy with most of the Air Force in War Department, and the Marines and their air operations as part of the Navy. The President owns the Navy, the Congress owns the Army, and interservice rivalry is settled where it should be, in the White House.
Subject: Meat prices
An observation from Ron, cited in Tuesday's mail:
Noted an abundance of meat and poultry at the grocery store. Wider than usual variety, much lower than usual prices. Looks like that stuff about the farmers being unable to afford to feed their livestock -- and thus, sending it to the slaughterhouse -- are true.
Right observation, wrong root cause. The price of hay is the culprit. The drought in the Southeastern US (no doubt global-warming related) resulted in little hay being produced, forcing cattle raisers to either get it hauled in from far away (the freight costs further compounding the economics from low supply) or to destock. My typical costs for hay to feed for the Winter exceeds the amount I pay for supplemental feed (including corn products) for the rest of the year.
The high price of corn has hurt, because the cost of finishing cattle, balanced against a stagnant retail price (from increased supply) has caused the prices paid for calves to plummet. Some cattle raisers have adjusted by holding cattle off the market until the public eats the excess. Given the recent trends in prices, falling supplies and the aforementioned increased finishing costs should raise calf prices (good for me) and retail meat prices (not so good news for those that lack a freezer full of self-produced beef).
<* Wes *>
My daughter keeps horses in South Carolina and notes that hay prices are awful.
Subject: The next bubble
There is a thought provoking article in Harper's Magazine in which the author argues that "bubble cycles" have replaced the "business cycle" in our present economy: http://www.harpers.org/archive/2008/02/0081908
He suggests that conditions may be setting up for the creation of a new asset bubble, this time in the area of alternative energy. If the cycle plays out the way he projects, that new bubble ought to hit a peak around 2014, with the deflationary phase coming in 2014-2016. Coincidentally, 2016 is the projected year when Social Security will need to start drawing down on the 'phantom' assets residing in the Social Security trust fund. That, in turn, means soaring government deficits or soaring taxes or signficant benefit cuts, or some combination of all three.
I have heard other financial commentators speculate that the Fed's efforts to bail out the economy from the housing bust might ultimately lead to the creation of yet another bubble. This is the first time I've seen anyone predict where that bubble might be.
According to the Harper's article, this third asset bubble is likely to be bigger (and therefore riskier) than the housing bubble, which was bigger and riskier than the stock bubble that kicked everything off. Of course, at some point you run out of assets to inflate, and that would be when the final economic collapse occurs. The confluence of the turning point in Social Security cash flows, and the collapse of a third, even larger asset bubble could make for very interesting (i.e., terrifying) economic times!
Subject: Darlimple on The Uses of Corruption
Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy + Honesty = Economic and Cultural Catastrophe?
This will be long; of interest if you are interested in Africa
Subject: Wounded Nation You do not get such articles in the SA press. By the way the rest of Africa can disappear and not affect the world except for the Congo) but SA cont. its strategic location and strategic minerals mean that there will be great power participation. Probably the ANC will start bringing Chinese to replace the whites and set an new round of canonicalization and scramble for (South) Africa
|This week:||Sunday, March
For Chaos Manor
Dr. Pournelle –
When I was a TTY agent with Communication Services for the Deaf, I encountered a lot of Ghana and Nigeria phone scams, so I was not surprised at all about all the Nigerian scam-o-grams flying across the Internet.
I am surprised, however, to be getting spam written in Arabic. This is totally surprising, because I have no idea how my Internet habits could even remotely signal an ability, let alone an interest, to read Arabic. It may be a fluke, but it would be mildly amusing as much as it would be puzzling to see a flood of Arabic spam letters sent to baffled Americans who cannot read them nor have the inclination to try. And I thought e-marketing was supposed to use data-mining to make spam relevant to the recipient.
Major backlash against Network Solutions' heavy-handed censorship:
130+ comments, many of which are quite irate. It's as if people are seeing the handwriting on the wall, and realizing they're helpless to do anything about it.
Skullphone hijacks L.A. digital Comcast billboards.
--- Roland Dobbins
The Inevitable Effects of Unfettered Globalization
A bad time to be on the port side of the Bell Curve:
"WASHINGTON — The steady loss of "good jobs" by less-educated workers has left them more vulnerable to recession than at any time in nearly 30 years, and signs are mounting that a recession is either already here or coming soon.
High-school dropouts and even high-school graduates who lack specialized job training have seen their already limited employment prospects steadily decline during America's decades-long shift from a manufacturing-based economy to a service economy.
Not long ago, Americans who were unable to attend college could count on finding local factory jobs after high school. The lucky ones landed in muscular industries such as aviation, steel and automobiles, while others found work on assembly lines building durable goods..."
Don -- Donald W. McArthur
"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." - Karl Popper http://donmcarthur.com
Dealing with side effects of Radiation treatment:
Gastric symptoms helped by Proton Pump Inhibitor - Zoton: http://www.virtualgastrocentre.com/drugs.asp?drugid=71
Your "treatment diary" is a worthwhile contribution.
"spam written in Arabic"
Not to sound *too* cloak-and-daggerish, but mass quantities of "spam" (note the scare-quotes) sent to numerous addresses, *could* be someone's idea of tradecraft. Include the intended recipients among a few million random victims, and... spam is spam, and no one would be the wiser. (Can't very well use "received that email" as "probable cause" unless several million "suspects" are something the system can handle effectively.)
Somewhat reminiscent of the mysterious Usenet "cocaine pile" posts from the late '90s. (Do a google usenet query for "cocaine pile" to see lots of head-scratching from back then.)
Another example (different medium) would be the short wave "numbers stations."
Why *not* use Usenet? I can think of a few reasons off the top of my head.
First, Usenet has become increasinly swamped in *real* spam, and intense ongoing DoS attacks, which take real posts, chop them up, and repost them, under the original cover. Sometimes the original are deleted via forged cancels -- so, most -- but not all -- news servers ignore cancels. And, while the "Dave the Resurrector" bot merrily *un*-cancels the bogo-cancels, reposting stuff that was deleted, so that no *real* loss of content occurs, the net result is a sea of noise: Real posts, reposted duplicates of real posts, fraudulently shuffled copies of real posts, etc., etc., etc.
Second, in large part due to the massive abuse, news administrators tend to be real particular as to where they'll accept feeds from -- and, they've gotten pretty good at parsing out spoofed Path headers -- meaning that whoever *does* inject something like that is apt to get nailed.
Third, unlike spam email, which hits us of its own accord, Usenet access requires the active participation of the viewer.
It would be childsplay for the "Son of TIA" to home in on everyone who sought out and downloaded the posts in question.
See this (if you haven't already seen it):
NSA's Domestic Spying Grows As Agency Sweeps Up Data
The net result (ha ha, he said "net") is that it would be MUCH "safer" for the bad guys to use email "spam" -- and MUCH more reliable. Ironically, using "spam-like" email would give the *best* signal-to-noise ratio! Their operatives would need do nothing to draw attention to themselves in order to have their instructions delivered directly to them -- and, they'd be impossible to pick out of the millions of *other* recipients, for whom it would be "how stupid, spam in a language I could *never* understand"!
Maybe I'm worried about nothing. It might just be a "Rule 1" proof ("Rule 1: Spammers are stupid"), but, it could just as easily be *using* a Rule 1 *assumption* as cover. Our enemies are evil, but not *all* of them are stupid.
Ron, needing sleep, worrying (hopefully needlessly)
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IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature. In general, put the name you want at the end of the letter: if you put no address there none will be posted, but I do want some kind of name, or explicitly to say (name withheld).
Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name and address you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name and address (or no address) as you want them posted. Also, repeat the subject as the first line of the mail. That also saves me time.
I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too... I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail.
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