THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 521 June 2 - 8, 2008
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June 2, 2008
Yesterday and today were not good days. All I really wanted to do was sleep. I am just now getting to my desk. I will, though, get something done today. I have to, because if I don't I get really depressed -- not to mention the prospect of starvation should be plenty of motive (only it doesn't usually work that way with me. Harlan often can't write fiction unless the wolf is at the door, but my head doesn't work that way with fiction. I used to respond well to BYTE deadlines. Haven't been meeting self-imposed journalism deadlines lately. On the other hand I am doing as much monthly for Chaos Manor Reviews as I used to do for BYTE, and I guess that will have to do.)
My Mac network isn't working properly. I'm learning more about HDTV than I really wanted to know. And I want to sleep all the time. I can hope this is a better week.
The t42p went off to Atlanta and will come back, I hope, in pristine condition needing everything new installed (well I have some backup stuff, but I am not sure I don't just want to install it all from the beginning; there's a lot of clutter in there). I will probably do part of the column on what I am selecting, and particularly the version of Office I want on my laptop.
Usually it's fun to be me, but this weekend it really wasn't. I suppose that's a matter of attitude adjustment. Time to count blessings again.
One interesting point raised by yesterday's Jacobite was that Valley Forge is only 20 miles from Philadelphia; why did not Howe crush Washington's army our of hand? Surely it must be because Howe, the Whig, approved of concessions to the colonies -- including one supposes independence?
This is unlikely. The usual explanation is that Howe was afraid to close with Washington or any Colonial army, and had been since Bunker Hill, where his victory had been unbearably costly. Redcoats were expensive and hard to replace; and the colonials fought to the death. Then came Harlem Heights. Once again Howe hesitated to close with Washington, and lost the opportunity to finish off the Continental Army. This set things up for Washington's victory at Trenton.
In January 1777 Washington won another victory at Princeton, with heavy British losses and many new recruits to the Continental Army. That Fall Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne lost his army at Saratoga. All this preceded Valley Forge, and made it fairly certain that the Patriots would fight.
In retrospect, the proper British strategy would have been to harry Washington with relentless pursuit, bringing him to battle at every possible opportunity. The Continental Army was the soul of the Independent Colonies, and had it been destroyed, sentiments would have changed. Adams always said that about 1/3 of the nation were Patriots, another 1/3 Tory, and the rest just wished the war to come to an end. Had there not been a Continental Army, it's likely that the Patriot movement would have died away for lack of a rallying point.
Of course it wasn't so clear in those times, to Howe or to his political masters in England. Intelligence was meager. One thing was pretty certain. Attacking the Continental Army in Valley Forge would have required an assault against prepared positions, in horrible weather, against men who had proved they would fight desperately. It would have been terribly costly.
Of course I wasn't a sci-fi writer at the time I proposed Thor, but at least someone remembers...
|This week:||Tuesday, June
1130: up, finished the final draft of the June 1 Mailbag for Chaos Manor Reviews (should be up this evening). Off for lunch with our editor Bob Gleason of Tor.
1520: Well, nothing cures depression faster than having lunch with your editor when he wants formal proposals for new works, and also tells you they intend to push Inferno II very hard indeed.
Now all I have to do is make sure I have enough income to live until we can get contracts and advances on new books (and of course finish Mamelukes so that's out of the way). Finishing Mamelukes is about a month's work if I am not too distracted by other work. Getting the proposals together is less than a month's work on my part, but publishing being what it is, it will take months to get from proposal to contract, and there's usually a delay between contract and advance. (Unlike the movie business: Hollywood negotiates tough but the instant the contract is signed the checks are issued. Always.)
Anyway, I'm a bit tired, but it was a very cheerful lunch: Bob and Susan Gleason, Larry and Marilyn Niven, Roberta, and me. At the Sportsman's Lodge, where we often go for brunch on Sunday.
I have known Dyson (alas, not as well as I would like; after all we live a continent apart) for 30 years and more, and I do not think I have ever heard him say a foolish thing. We disagreed on some Cold War policies, but I never thought him foolish. Our disagreements were over unknowns such as how various political figures would react to different policies, and what was politically possible in the United States.
In any event, if you haven't read that review article, do so.
"We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK."
"That's not leadership," Obama declared. "That's not going to happen."
Now I would have thought that having enough to eat, good transportation, and comfortable homes was the goal of most of humanity through most of history; and if other nations, who depend on us for food and resources and technology don't like that, well, wealthy Republics have experienced envy throughout history; it's why wealthy Republics had to have armies and navies. See the discussion of the Republic of Venice during the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787.
Moreover, if the Environmentalists would let the US build nuclear power plants, and move toward space solar power satellites, there would be no reason for anyone to object to Americans having enough to eat, good transportation, and comfortable homes summer and winter. But, I suspect, "That's not going to happen."
It certainly will not happen under President Obama.
NASA watchdog: Politics influenced climate change info
WASHINGTON - NASA's press office "marginalized or mischaracterized" studies on global warming between 2004 and 2006, the agency's own internal watchdog concluded.
In a report released Monday, NASA's inspector general office called it "inappropriate political interference" by political appointees in the press office. It said that the agency's top management wasn't part of the censorship, nor were career officials.
This doesn't really need comment; that is, I've said it all, many times. Hansen forfeited the title of 'scientist' a long time ago. He dragged NASA's reputation with him. It will take quite a while for NASA to gain back a reputation for science rather than politics.
(See Freeman Dyson on the environmentalism religion, above)
June 4, 2008
Nothing much new. The t42p is back from IBM and needs to be set up again.
There is mail, and I am working on the June column.
June 5, 2008
Science based low cost energy?
BlackLight Power is a company seemingly run by competent scientists. They claim to have discovered a process for producing power that has none of the disadvantages of current techniques. For an overview go to:-
I never heard of this. It sounds interesting: too interesting not to have caused a blaze of publicity and enormous interest from the scientific community. There was a spatter of publicity for a while, then nothing.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2005/nov/04/energy.science was one such reaction to the announcement. Note the date. Here is an excerpt:
All of which sounds encouraging, and we certainly know that radical theories get short shrift with today's grant-supported science establishment: but once again, the report is so enthusiastic that it is hard to believe it has not dominated the energy debates since. Note that the date of Professor Rick Maas of UNC is dated September 2005.
A Google search on Rick Maas UNC yields:
and nothing else. Since Maas is the primary science qualified enthusiast for Blacklight this seems odd at best.
Snopes gives no hits on Blacklight or on hydrinos at all.
Supposedly Blacklight was building a demonstration unit. Since we have seen nothing about that in the last two years since the announcement, one does wonder what happened.
I would rejoice if someone got rich with this form of cold fusion (I know, that's not quite what is described here, but there are similarities). There are no hydrogen wells, but the "hydrino reaction" described here supposedly releases more energy than would be required to disassociate hydrogen from, say, sea water. If you could just get your money (well, energy) back from extracting hydrogen from sea water, you'd get rich: the resulting concentrated stuff in the residual bitterns is enormously valuable, containing gold, uranium, magnesium, and all kinds of good stuff. (See my stories about that: "Power to the People" was one of them. They were well researched and used nuclear energy to pump and evaporate sea water. The stories will be in Exile -- and Glory!, a collection which will come out from Baen http://www.amazon.com/Exile-Glory-Jerry-Pournelle/dp/1416555633/jerrypournellcha )
My conclusion is that the Blacklight process isn't workable. I sure wish it were, but nothing I can find causes me to believe that.
I suppose I should react to Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton's announcement (or reports of her coming announcement this Saturday) but given that this is the Clintons I will wait until the announcement is made. The Clintons are, after all, very much enamored of the theory that the horse might learn to sing...
An odd coincidence: I got messages of support from the widows of Van Vogt and Bob Forward, both today. I'm pleased to hear from them.
A good day. I got about 800 words of Mamelukes done, working upstairs in the monk's cell. I need to get into the habit of doing that.
The Longest Day
Remember the heroes who went ashore at Normandy
The UCI Moslem Student Union is very much in my mail today. See the first two letters, including one from the state assemblyman for the UCI district. This all began with Joanne Dow's letter, followed by a reply from a UCI Professor. I do not think we have heard the last of this.
On another front, a disastrous climate bill fails in the Senate. This time.
It has not been a great day; it was very difficult to get up and get moving. But I intend to get some work done on Mamelukes.
And it's time to get to work...
Except that for all week I have been putting June stuff into the Q3 folder, and it ain't Q3. I warned you my brains were scrambled. I have fixed all this and the atom feed ought to be working again. I hope.
The LA teachers did a strike to protest the "cuts" in their budget and demand new taxes. They did not mention that this year they are getting several millions more than they got last year (the "cut" is from what they wanted next year, not from what they got last year).
This is The Blob in action. It has long been proved that dumping more m0ney into the maw of The Blob does nothing to help the students; just as there is no positive relation between the number of teachers credentialed by The Blob and the performance of the students. This was shown more than thirty years ago.
If a hostile foreign government had imposed this system of education on the people of the United States, we would rightly consider that an act of war.
June 7, 2008
Much to do today, and there's the last opera tonight.
June 8, 2008
I finished the column and it's off being looked at. Over 7500 words. I have the copy edited ms. of Escape from Hell (Tor's title) and a short deadline on going over that.
My wife is watching the Lakers/Celtics game, but after the first quarter it was clear to me that the skills of the teams weren't as important as the officials in deciding the winner, and that's boring.
I think I give up for the evening. The column should be up tomorrow, certainly by Tuesday. I think I will take the rest of the day off.
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the weekly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 8,000 - 12,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here. This site is run on the "public radio" model; see below.
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