THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 551 December 29, 2008 - January 3, 2009
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December 29, 2008
I have set up arrangements for a trip to DC late next month, for a one-day conference. I won't have time for visits, alas. This will be a quick swing in, a full day of conferences, and a quick return. January is not my favorite time for going to DC anyway although I am told that just now it's warmer than we are here in Los Angeles.
I'm working on my year-end and first of year column. The following is repeated from last week's View:
And even more important mail. It's going to be a good week.
A nominee for the most underreported story of the year:
Which may explain why the climate is changing. And in which direction. It appears to be both real and long term. Worry.
I once wrote in favor of biomass as an energy source; but I was mostly talking about ways to get energy out of waste that would otherwise have to be processed at a net energy cost. There may be techniques for getting rid of the stuff we don't want and make a little -- not much -- money doing it. You don't do it for the energy but for economical waste disposal.
I was never in favor of burning food. See mail for a discussion of fundamental problems with biomass and energy efficiencies.
Well, Noory isn't on so I can't send him an email, but Coast to Coast has a chap who is either an idiot or mendacious. He says that it was a stroke of luck that 3 Mile Island didn't go off like Chernobyl. Since the designs were entirely different and the purposes of the plants were different it is clear that Mr. Matt Stein who has written a book called When Technology Fails is not particularly well qualified to write such a book. Now I am curious. Who published it?
I can't figure out the publisher but his web site says that Matt blogs regularly on the Huffington Post. Had I known that I would not have been surprised. He's supposed to be a survivalist, and perhaps he knows something of the subject; from my view anyone who doesn't know that Three Mile Island was a terribly expensive stress to destruction test of the safety systems is not someone I care to listen to about survival.
Pity, because technology can fail, and there are scenarios in which survival preparation and skills can be important. I used to be an editor of SURVIVE magazine, and while the big threat in those days was nuclear war, Dark Ages are still not at all impossible. Jane Jacobs' Dark Age Ahead is still very much worth your while. And Matt Stein has a bunch of gobbledegook about peak oil. As well as some sense mixed in. But the upshot is that we're all doomed.
As I said, survival preparation and skills can be important; but there's no need to make up scenarios. I guess it helps sell books, Maybe I ought to write a survival book?
His advice on preparation isn't bad. I suppose he simply feels that he has to scare the listeners?
On the other hand he has far more faith in the necessity for a colloidal silver generator than I do. Indeed, I don't have a colloidal silver generator and don't feel any need for one. As to water filters, I do point out that Coffee filters work pretty well to get gunk out of water; and bleach works to make it drinkable. I haven't seen the evidence that colloidal silver does this nor have I seen the evidence for Mr. Stein's claim that having one is equivalent to having an endless supply of antibiotics. I suspect that Leslie Fish's Blue Bread Mold would be at least as valuable. (Blue bread mold is penicilium, but the concentration is pretty low, and while most survivalist manuals mention blue mold as having possibly beneficial effects, there's not a lot of evidence that it does much good, and ingesting the stuff can make you sick. And of course some people are allergic to penicillin.
Maybe I really ought to write a book on survival in a Dark Age.
A Dark Age, by the way, isn't when we have forgotten how to do something. It's when we have forgotten that we ever could do it; as for instance we have forgotten that at one time there were essentially no children who had been through four grades of school who could not read, and by read I mean read every word in a newspaper or book especially including words they had never seen before. They might well not know the meaning of polymorph but they could sure read the word. And on that note, I suppose it's appropriate to say that in some ways we are already in a Dark Age.
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December 30, 2008
I am trying to get my act together to have Cafe Press do a line of t shirts and coffee mugs, but I haven't done it yet; I have had no correspondence with Cafe Press at all, which is my fault. A number of subscribers have asked me to set that up, and I intend to do it. I hadn't thought of the "Pournelle Axis T-shirt" although it does seem like a good idea.
A "Hail Jerry" coffee mug comes to mind instantly; I should ask Cafe Press if the jpg I have is good enough to make a coffee cup and/or T-shirt from. Another is the Iron Law but that's pretty wordy for either mug or T-shirt.
I am told that negotiation with Cafe Press is tedious but not intellectually challenging. I expect it's time to find out. Meanwhile, I know nothing about this Pournelle Axis T-shirt, but since this was part of my dissertation I should feel flattered that someone thought enough of the notion to make a T-shirt out of it. I may just pirate his design (haven't seen it yet).
Now that the TabletPC is working I should have no difficulty with furnishing hand drawn matter for them. I suspect that like most things I do now, it just seems daunting. I have noticed that since recovering from radiation treatment I am reluctant to start anything new, but that once I get started I don't have much trouble getting it done. That's material for the cancer recovery book, I suspect. Another project that I need to start.
It's not that I don't work, and I don't think my work quality has degraded much, but I don't seem to be as productive as I used to be. I expect that's a matter of organizing my efforts a bit better.
Israel isn't going to eject Hamas from Gaza, and the Israeli government hasn't a chance of making any key concession that Hamas will accept. Hamas would have extended their cease fire practically forever in return for some control over their own destiny -- such as Israel relaxing the blockade so that Gaza could import fuel oil directly rather than having to buy it from Israeli concessionaires who control both the amount and price of fuel. It would cost Israel to have customs houses that merely search imports for contraband (like rockets); but one wonders if that would not be cheaper than maintaining the blockade and thus leaving Hamas little to negotiate about. When Israel evacuated Gaza (and blew up the settlements rather than leave them for the Palestinians reclaiming the land the settlements occupied) they did not give sovereignty to Gaza, nor did they give Gaza much control over its territory. The blockade remained, and equally importantly the Israeli monopoly on fuel remained.
Hamas won't concede Israel a right to exist. The Koran forbids peace with the Infidels. The Koran does not, however, forbid truces -- a ceasefire. I am no expert on Hamas and the way its leaders think, but Pournelle's Iron Law applies to Hamas -- and to the Likud as well. Hamas can't concede actual peace to Israel without losing its reason for existence. The Israeli politicians can't concede anything meaningful -- like the right to import fuel without letting a whole string of people wet their beaks in the income stream from the fuel monopoly -- without appearing to be "soft on Hamas".
Much of this was inevitable once the Israelis failed in their invasion of Lebanon, and thus consolidated Hizbollah as a legitimate part of the Lebanese government (for a discussion of that, see my dialogue with Joel Rosenberg). (For an earlier discussion of the Israel situation, see Is Israel Finished.) The Lebanon excursion sent the message that there is a limit to the Israeli will; hard fighting, endurance, courage, and iron will can cause Israel to flinch. That wasn't the message intended by the Lebanon excursion, and certainly wasn't what Israel intended when they humiliated the Lebanese Army and pretty well castrated the Pinetree Revolution, but it does seem to be the major result.
Once again, Israeli politicians swear war to the knife against Hamas. I suspect the result of this confrontation will not be the demise of Hamas; and if Hamas survives it will emerge stronger no matter how many casualties the Israelis inflict. For every actual Hamas agent killed there will be several unintended victims; the world press will continue to headline those casualties as innocent victims; the famous teddy bear will appear on front pages showing dead children; and there will be new recruits to Hamas.
The Israeli blockade has not prevented Hamas from getting rockets to fire at Israel; but any concession on the blockade which might persuade Hamas to extend their truce will be political death for the Israeli politician who negotiates it.
I will ask Joel Rosenberg, whose opinions I respect and who follows events over there much more closely than I do, to comment on this.
And there's mail...
It has not been my best day. I got View and Mail done and spent the rest of the day until about 3 PM doing financial stuff including making up deposit slips and enrolling subscribers. Went out to the bank, and the Post Office, and stopped at Trader Joe's on the way home. I wish I hadn't.
While I was in Trader Joe's someone bashing in the left rear big glass window on my Explorer. No one saw it happen, and there was no reason I know of. My insurance company is one of the best and when I called them they told me to just go home, it would be pointless to call the police. I have a $250 deductible, so that's what it will cost. The glass people will come here Friday. I should of course count my blessings, but I can't say I have much kindness in my heart for whomever did this. I don't recall cutting anyone off, but I must have irritated someone with a short temper. It could have been a lot worse.
December 31, 2008
Happy New Year. I am behind again.
The discussion with Joel Rosenberg on the Hamas/Israeli confrontation continues in Mail, and I have also opened a new Reports page to which I have copied what has gone on so far, and I'll copy anything new and interesting on the subject over to that.
I have also watched a few minutes of Al Jazeera. Warning: if you go to Al Jazeera and do not have Real Player installed, and if you use Firefox, you can waste a lot of time trying to install it. It may or may not be possible to install Real Player (which is what Al Jazeera seems to require) with a Firefox browser, but I have been utterly unable to do that. Finally I closed all Firefox instances and went to Internet Explorer, found Real Player, and did the free download of that. It installed without problems and works in Firefox. I can also play the Carol of the Old Ones, which previously played; whether it's now playing in Real Player or in whatever plugin it used to use I didn't notice, but anyway things work now.
I don't really have time to watch Al Jazeera, of course. And I really have a lot of work to do. So of course Yoji Kondo called to remind me that my reminiscences of Robert Heinlein are due for his tribute/memorial book, so I'll have to do those; the year-end New Year column with the Orchid and Onion Parade is also due. And there's year end mail, and I am way behind on book reviews. It's a lot and there's only me, but I do keep plugging away at it. Of course Friday I'll have to be around to get my car window replaced.
Thanks to all of you who subscribed and to those who recently renewed your subscriptions. I quite literally could not do this without you, and that means all of you at whatever level you subscribe. I am very thankful to you all.
Happy New Year.
January 1, 2009
Happy New Year
I got up late and watched the Rose Parade. We have to go feed cats, so I'll be back later. Joel has more comments on the Hamas/IDF confrontation over in mail.
I am working on the year end/ year opening column.
There is a review of Inferno in the current SF Revue. Clearly it's favorable or I wouldn't point you to it. It does give away a minor plot point that most readers figure out before we reveal it, but it really is minor; you find something out that I'd prefer you didn't until you know a few more things, but that makes for a different, rather than a spoiled, experience. If you haven't read Inferno, or you haven't read it for a long time, this may persuade you to get it... As the man says, it's a good read, if I do say so myself. It wasn't written to be a boring philosophical treatise.
January 2, 2008
I am sitting here waiting for a phone call to tell me the glass people are on the way to fix my car. So far nothing and it's 1:30 PM.
I have a lot of work to get done, and it's time to get to it.
The car is fixed, and I am $250 lighter. On close examination it turns out my car was shot with a bb or pellet gun; there was a tiny hole and from that radiated the cracks that took out the entire window. It appears that one consequence of safety glass is that it won't survive even a tiny hole. This looked to be BB sized; I suppose some kid got a bb gun for Christmas and had to try it out. Or an anti-war enthusiast? I had a Commander's Club sticker from Disabled American Vets on that window of the Explorer. Or an enemy of SUV's? Only mine was the only one wounded in the Trader Joe's parking lot. Whatever it was, it's fixed. Now to get back to work.
January 3, 2008
.The astonishing part is that it is in the Huffington Post. Astonishing.
January 4, 2008
I am hearing that the IDF has young conscript NCO's, which makes an enormous difference. And in the Lebanon invasion, soldiers were texting their friends with things like "never saw one of our tanks burn before" and "they gave us Michilen maps". This time the officers confiscated all the cell phones before the IDF went in. The IDF is mostly conscripts, but if they want to have a real army they need professional sergeants as well as officers. Apparently they don't have very many. I don't know if that is from lack of volunteers or some attempt at saving money.
It's pretty clear that the IDF is better organized this time. They have divided Gaza into two parts, and they are systematically searching much of the northern part of Gaza. They will search for rockets; we'll probably begin seeing what they have found -- thousands of rockets -- on international TV tomorrow morning. That will be the justification for the incursion, and they'll push hell out of it. Expect to see a lot of captured weapons being blown up.
A second objective is to restore the shock and awe: restore fear of the IDF. The Lebanon incident did a lot of damage to that reputation of invincibility; it needs to be restored. They badly need that. Hamas is saying that Gaza will be the graveyard of the IDF. This needs to be shown as false. IDF captains were denouncing the government in 2006, and with good reason. The government needs to regain the confidence of the officer corps, just as the IDF has to restore its reputation as the best army in the Middle East. "In war, the moral is to the material as three is to one," said Napoleon Bonaparte, who ought to have known. The Israeli government forgot that in 2006. Now, I think, they remember it.
The third objective, as Joel has observed, is to foment conflict between Hamas and Fatah. This seems to be working and the more that Israel achieves its second objective, the more they will achieve this one, so long as the operation is done with care. Israel needs a reputation of cold calculating prowess, sheer ability, and determination to achieve its objectives; and it needs to get that without gaining a reputation for cruelty and brutality. This is never easy when fighting a barbarous enemy who does not hesitate to use civilians as shields. The US Army had this problem in Germany in 1945, and in Korea in 1950. (The Chinese fought under the Laws of War. The North Koreans did not. Neither did the SS.)
In 2006 Israel showed incompetence and plenty of it, then failure of will. This time they appear to be doing things right: including having their own You-Tube channel rather than trusting the western media. Of course the Israeli channel selects what it shows. So does Al Jazeera. At least we can now see what each side is saying.
My iMac 20 this morning had the screen saver frozen; since it shows the time as part of the saver, it was easy to see that it froze sometime last night. Nothing I could do with mouse of keyboard would give me any control of the Mac at all, so I used the power switch. When the Mac came back up all was well. Not sure what the problem was.
This week I get my Mac Book Pro running properly, both as Mac OS X and Windows; I have decided that I will cause it to dual boot under Boot Camp, as well as get Windows under OS X running. Perhaps not: I'll do the Windows under OS X first and see if I can do all the Windows stuff I need to do that way. If I can't, and I suspect I cannot, then I'll do the Boot Camp. This will all take a while, and make up a good part of my upcoming columns. Of course I ought to have done that last year, but for most of last year I was on automatic pilot. Getting the iPhone, iMac, and MacBook Air was a life saver, likely quite literally, as I had things to write about and ways to stay interested in computers while getting my Lump burned out.
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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