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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.

PLEASE DO NOT USE DEEP INDENTATION INCLUDING LAYERS OF BLOCK QUOTES IN MAIL. TABS in mail will also do deep indentations. Use with care or not at all.

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. 

If you want to send mail that will be published, you don't have to use the formatting instructions you will find when you click here but it will make my life simpler, and your chances of being published better..

This week:
Monday -- Tuesday -- Wednesday -- Thursday -- Friday -- Saturday -- Sunday

Last Week's Mail



Monday October 4, 1999

There are many more letters in the laptops on airplanes series, but they pretty well duplicate what was said already. This one makes a few other points as well:

Dr. Pournelle:

I read the mail regarding the use of computers during the flight process. There are a couple of items that you should be aware of. Electronics are turned off during landing and takeoff to avoid the items becoming missiles in case of problems. The period during takeoff and landing are the most likely times for mishaps and having things flying around the cabin would not be good.

Now to the electronics in the aircraft. They are heavily shielded against interference. Even though a computer generates broad sprectrum electomagnetic radiation (due to the square waves and multiple harmonics), the strength is very low. None of this will penetrate the aircraft electronics. If you think about it logically, the aircraft uses several computers, radios, etc. that also generate EMF. This EMF is much stronger than what the laptops generate. If the electronics were not shielded they would suffer from interference from the other electronics on the aircraft.

The use of a computer, CD player, etc. will not harm or interfere with the operation of the aircraft. Period.

Now as to cell phones. The reason that they are not allowed in flight has nothing to do with economics of the in-flight phones. The problem is that since cell phones are line of site, you run the risk of activating multiple cells at the same time. On the ground you get the cell you with the strongest signal. In the air you could be the same distance from multiple cells and activate multiple cells as the signal strength would be the same for multiple cells. You might also be activating the cells in rapid succession which the network would have difficulty handling.

Also cell phones are constantly transmitting to the cells. Such information as the serial number, and other internal codes, are being sent to the receivers. You can be tracked even without using the phone. The scanners that steal these codes can get your phone information without you even using the phone. Best bet on cell phones is to completely turn them off when you don't need them. But then you can't receive an incoming call. But at cell rates I don't want anyone calling me anyway, they can page me and I will decide whether to return the call. Anyone that I know that needs to contact me has my pager number, they don't need my cell number.

A lot of this paranoid fear comes from the unknowing, primarily consultants who get paid big bucks to come up with something, anything, just to justify their fee. Let me give you an example.

Consider the recent flack about computers stopping because the date is September 9, 1999. Consultants said that many computers used this as a stop code. Bullshit. A record of all 9' was typically used to indicate end of file (mainly IBM VSAM files), not a stop code. Also if you think about the way that a date was stored, MMDDYY, the date of September 9, 1999 would be stored as 090999. This is hardly all 9's that many programs used as an EOF marker. Classic example of the misinformed, informing the unknowing (the press), the unknowing spreading the incorrect.

Ray Thompson 

Precisely. With the Internet letting everyone talk to everyone, it's doubly true that it ain't what you don't know that that hurts, it's what you know for sure that ain't so. The only remedy is full discussion, in a place that actually cares about getting things right.

I am reliably informed that cell calls from private airplanes don't destroy the system, but there are many fewer and of course most of them are not as fast or as high. Anyway, thanks, and I do think that does bring the subject to a close.

Discussion of "the evil Fry's" continues...


First of all, Fry's is my least favorite place to spend money. I have found for "computer parts" PC Club is generally the place that I'll attempt to shop. They have matched the Fry's published prices in the LA Times. But, my favorite story about Fry's was published in Salon about their hiring polices: The president of Fry's understands that his customers generally have a better background on the products that are sold there than most of his staff, and because of that, hires at the bottom of the food chain. If a mistake is made, and a smart, intelligent employee is hired in error, Fry's upper staff don't go out of the way to promote that employee, because due to the pay scales, the employee will eventually leave.

 My own story happened last year: Getting ready for COMDEX, I needed some 1394 cables, so off to Fry's (as if I even had a choice) while waiting my turn, the sales guy was spinning some yarn about 1394.... I just had to stop it, and correct it. Well, the sales guy still thought he was right, so I asked the customer if he was going to COMDEX (One of the few places one can do that) I handed him my card and asked him to stop by the 1394 Trade Association suite, then asked the sales guy to stop by also so that perhaps he can learn something. Keep up the good work. 

Rick Fried, VP Sales and Marketing <> 3D CAM The Stereolithography leader

And of course you put your finger on it: it's hard to avoid the place for some things. But I am a lot more wary now that they have made it clear I have to jump through hoops to get the warranty honored. We'll see what happens when I call Intel about it. It's not worth a LOT of time.

I noted your experience with Fry's with great interest - I've gone to the Sunnyvale Fry's for years.

Yes, their paperwork procedures regarding warranty could be a bunch better, and requiring good, clear English wouldn't hurt either.

On the Gripping Hand - good prices, good selection, and when I've had to take something back (presuming I had the paperwork) I've never had the slightest difficulty.

My experience is that IF you know exactly what you're doing, and if you don't require knowledgeable salespersons, then you can get a great deal on most computer-related items. I've also found that if I insist on a fresh non-opened box, they will get one for me.

Ward Gerlach

Well, that was sort of my experience, but they have the record of my buying that chip, complete with serial number; but I don't have the BOX, so I can't get another. Now I presume they intend to take this KNOWN DEFECTIVE CHIP and put it in the BOX, and PUT IT OUT ON THE SHELVES AGAIN; what other use would they have for the BOX?  It is not the lack of paper work. They have their computer record, and they can see I bought that chip, and that the serial numbers match. But I DO NOT HAVE THE BOX.

Now a year or so ago I had a bad CPU (an AMD) and went out and swapped and was done in five minutes. No insistence on THE BOX.  But now they seem to have a new policy. I wish there were a way to make Fry's management aware that this isn't acceptable. What need have they for THE BOX? So they can sell it again to some other sucker? They didn't tell me. 



In a discussion on BIX Chuck Kuhlman commented on "lean and mean" vs. "lots of supervision" management systems:

I have seen both produce excellent results on-time and below budget.

I've also seen both methods produce disasters.

In both structures, if you get anyone who says 'do it that way because I said so", you'll have failures. In a 'lean and mean' organization, you don't often have a skilled manager who can smell that kind of ego-based engineering BS. In a fat management model, you will sometimes get a manager who is either incompetent or paranoid and feels that all info needs to sit on their desk or PC. Same result.

Technical project management is very very driven by maturity and personality. That is a commodity that has retired in droves the past 5-7 years. We don't teach it any more and there is damn little incentive to develop it.

The key is management training and project management. Knowing when to knock heads and fire people and when to cajole and when to say "Stop The BS, lets get to work!" both with your subordinates and with your colleagues.

Based on what I'm smelling out of LockMart, they have this figured out. I don't know if they can fix it (and don't give them good odds on the deal either), but they know. Boeing might have caught themselves before the 737 and 717 sucked them dry, but they have competition from Airbus to hurry them along. The 777 engineering and management team are retiring this year and a two deck 747 will need a lot of PM skills. Northrop may *not* have the critical mass needed to sustain long-term engineering management, but I think they still 'have it'.

NASA on the other hand is driven by civil service rules in both management and engineering. No competition or incentive. Nothing other than to split projects between ALL of the centers so that everyone has a 'fair share' of the work. No mention about sharing success or failure, just sharing the work.

The context was the disaster that X-33, which was originally supposed to be an X project, has become. It is clear that Lock-Mart doesn't have the foggiest notion of what an X project is, nor did they understand how to do the job they had contracted for.

The original notion of SSX -- an experimental Single Stage to Orbit (SSTO) spaceship -- came out of a meeting held at Chaos Manor in the 80's. In 1989 we sold then Vice President Quayle (in his capacity as Chairman of the National Space Council) on the idea. The result was the DC-X, a small unmanned Vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) scale model of an orbiter. CD/X demonstrated that the controls for VTOL rockets would work at low speed (almost at zero in the tests) and that you could safely take, land, refuel, and take off again.  It all worked, and after USAF flew it a bunch of times, NASA took it over and burned it up on the first flight. They weren't too concerned. SSTO is a threat to their Shuttle monopoly.

But incoming Administrator Goldin was persuaded -- we talked to him regularly in those days -- that X projects are a good idea, and an X project leading toward SSTO would be worth pursuing. The result was to be X-33. Alas, SSTO with small payloads, flexibility, and lots of cheap flights, is a terrible threat to the Great Big Rocket business. In any event, Lock-Mart bid in for X-33, throwing in their own money (at least in theory). They designed a monster, a SuperShuttle, which is never going to fly, and isn't worth a lot if it does.

That is not what we asked for. We wanted a small ship, about 600,000 pounds Gross LiftOff Weight (GLOW), with structure and payloads to be small. This ship might have a negative payload to orbit -- i.e. it won't get there even with zero payload -- but it will fly, and the notion is to fly it, discover where it is over-built, bore holes in the structure to lighten it, and in general nickel and dime your way to orbit, learning how to do it. The next ship would have a payload, and the SSTO era would change everything.

There is no SSX project. It is not impossible that a new Administration will get interested. This one certainly isn't.


Dear Jerry:

Sorry to keep filling up your mailbox, but...

I just read your BYTE column on build versus buy, and I have one more reason to add on the "build" side of the equation: you will know what you are buying, which is no longer necessarily the case when buying from some of the "big boys."

As a case in point a couple of months ago I bought a Dell Dimension XPS T500 - Pentium III, Diamond Viper video, Aureal Turtle Beach II sound, yadda yadda - for the express purpose of playing Descent 3, a noted resource hog (but GREAT shooter game) that will bring even a steroid-pumped PC to its knees.

At first I couldn't get the performance from the machine that I thought it should be capable of... in fact, after about 45 minutes of play the frame rate got so bad that I had to shut down the system and restart; just quitting the game and restarting it wouldn't clear up the problem.

Anyway, I vowed that "this shall not stand" and began to track down the problem(s). My first discovery was that the Diamond Viper V770 TNT2 video card in my machine was actually the "D" for Dell version, which had been purposely crippled by Dell to run at a refresh rate no faster than 85Hz, although the stock card is capable of much higher performance. The buzz, once I looked into it, is that Dell wanted to keep support calls (and thus costs) to a minimum, and so eliminated the overclockability of the card so that customers couldn't push it to the max.

I've got to say, going back to the sales info, that the "D" designation on the card was clear, even if its meaning was not. Not so with what I found about the sound card:

Further troubleshooting of the system led me to believe at least part of my problem was the sound drivers; those that came with the machine were 1998 vintage, and the Dell Web site listed nothing newer. Off I went to the Aureal Web site, where I found that the newer Turtle Beach II full installation driver set was marked, in multiple places "NOT for use with the Dell OEM version of this product." Whoops, I had ANOTHER "Dell version"?

Enough is enough, I thought, and ordered a Soundblaster Live! Value card to replace whatever Dell had sold me... but even that was not to be. It turns out that if you remove the Dell Turtle Beach card from the Dimension it will no longer boot: it fails the POST, you are greeted by some very unhappy beeps, and the machine never even gets to the Dell intro screen from where you can get into the system BIOS.

What had my "friends" at Dell done to this product?

Deep deep deep in the tech specs on the Dell Web site I found the answer: the Dell OEM card uses 4 megabytes of main system RAM instead of onboard memory, thus saving Dell a few bucks on each card from Aureal. My theory is the boot problem occurs because the system BIOS looks to the sound card to assign it that memory hole, and if it can't find the card it fails the POST.

Oh, boy, such fun! Nowhere in the Dell sales literature is it pointed out that their Aureal card is a crippled OEM version, and if there is a class-action lawyer out there who needs some work I'd think this little "gotcha" could put some big chickens in the pot.

Well, I'm not a lawyer, and all I wanted was to play Descent, so my solution was to download the latest D3D mini-driver from Aureal (which does work with the Dell OEM card), and to replace the Viper video card with a Matrox G400 MAX bought directly from Matrox. The result: problems solved! Matrox's Web site makes it clear that they want you to get maximum performance from their card, and they include such potentially tech-support-call-generating resources as third party game patches, including one for Descent 3, for their products. What a pleasant change from the Dell philosophy!

You should look hard at the Matrox card for your new machine, by the way: it's got the best 2D and 3D color saturation I've ever seen, the performance is outstanding, and the bump-mapping in hardware makes a huge visual difference in games that support it. I haven't used the dual-head two monitor feature yet, but it might be really valuable for you.

Anyway, I have a feeling that while Dell might be leading in the OEM-version crippling of the components in their systems to save money they won't long be unique, if they are today. By building your own machine and buying genuine name-brand cards, memory, and hard drives, etc. you can be sure of getting the performance you believe you have paid for.

My next machine will be home-rolled, not to save money but so I KNOW what's inside.

All the best--

Tim Loeb

Good points. I doubt this will be the last letter on this subject.



This appears to be my month for dog stories...

Those of us who have dogs already know this stuff... those considering = bringing a dog into their family can look forward to a splendid = education...

IF A DOG WERE YOUR TEACHER You would learn stuff like...

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.

Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure = ecstasy.

When it's in your best interest -- practice obedience.

Let others know when they've invaded your territory.

Take naps and stretch before rising.

Run, romp, and play daily.

Thrive on attention and let people touch you.

Avoid biting, when a simple growl will do.

On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.

On hot days, drink lots of water and lay under a shady tree.

When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

No matter how often you're scolded, don't buy into the guilt thing and = pout... run right back and make friends.

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

Eat with gusto and enthusiasm. Stop when you have had enough.

Be loyal.

Never pretend to be something you're not.

If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle = them gently.

... I don't know what else is left to know about life; but my dogs do. 

Don Hawthorne


I couldn't agree with Tim Loeb more: all my experiences with "bought" machines are pretty much like his. The one that switched me to building my own was a Gateway which wouldn't run a plain old SoundBlaster 32AWE card -- it would black-screen randomly, sometime between POST and the first several minutes of operation. It tended to last longest on a cold boot, then happen more frequently with each reboot, until it wouldn't complete POST; this sounds like a bad card, doesn't it? But Creative Labs sent me three or four different cards (some with minor chip changes, too), and Gateway sent me a new motherboard (complete with CPU), but nothing of significance changed.

A FIC motherboard and an AMD CPU now live in the carcass of that machine... the guts went into another case I had, then traded to someone who didn't demand a lot from a computer. And the Gateway was the last machine I bought, or expect to ever buy (notebooks excluded, of course... although if I could buy the parts, I'd build those, too!).

The $5 or $10 that you or I willingly spend means a something different to the manufacturer who must multiply it by many orders of magnitude each year.


Troy Loney

It depends on who you are and what you want, of course. I prefer to build my own, but I'm supposed to know what I am doing, too. And it depends on who you buy from. If I wanted a REALLY hot system, I'd probably go to SYS because they've tested what works with what a lot better than I could...







I roll my own for the same reasons that Tim Loeb does - so I KNOW what I'm getting (in my case, that's a Tyan motherboard, an IBM hard drive, a Netgear NIC, a Linux-compatible video card, and Win95 (I know where to buy licenses)).

I've done the math, and it seems to cost a bit less this way. That doesn't include whatever software might come with the factory model, but that software is usually useless at work anyway.


-- "... she was a calligraphy enthusiast, with a slight overbite, and hair the color of strained peaches. I'll never forget the very first thing she said to me. She said, "Hey, you've got weasels on your face." THAT'S when I knew it was true love!"

Well, if you don't count your own time, and the fact that you don't have any over-all system warranty. But yes, I prefer to roll my own when possible. If you CAN do it, it's probably worth doing. The alternative is to spend a few bucks more in the interest of saving time and get a system  from a reputable place that stands behind its products. Systems integration and testing out drivers can take time, including time to download new drivers because the video and sound boards were shipped with buggy driver software (almost inevitable if you're going for the latest and greatest) and such like. I have found, for instance, that the time involved in building a duplicate to my SYS Celeron system ( a great minimum system for office work) was enough that I wish I'd just bought another one, even though I didn't encounter any significant problems.

Your mileage may vary.




Wednesday October 6, 1999


Reference some of the discussion in alt mail on the citizen's place in our republic and the famous social compact, I would like to suggest that we now have a ruling class in America.

The easiest way to identify them is to look for the bodyguards.

jim dodd

The Greek definition of a tyrant was a ruler who needed bodyguards; there were stories of how rulers duped the people into voting them a guard, then used that to become tyrants. Psisitratus of Athens (I have spelled that wrong, but I don't have time to look it up) was one of them. Bill Gates has some security in place, particularly for his family and home, but he's still approachable, and if he travels with guards they are pretty well invisible. Clinton, on the other hand, shuts down most of the East Side of New York City when he goes to the UN (as someone pointed out, all he would really have to do is show up unannounced in an unmarked windows-blanked limousine as hundreds of others do). After Mr. Gingrich became Speaker he had a special detail of the Capitol Police and a van (I rode in it once); prior to that we walked around Washington and people clearly recognized him, a few shaking hands. Harry Truman walked the streets of Washington with a 4 man detail and did so the day after the Puerto Rican Independence movement shot up Blair House (where he was staying as they were rebuilding the White House). When one of the guards told Truman it was dangerous for him to walk with such a small escort he said "Comes with the job." 

Presidents for years refused to allow the Secret Service to close down Pennsylvania Avenue, but it's closed now.

Interesting observation. I'll have to think on it. Reminds me that alt.mail has been neglected...


Good morning,

I think you are a person interested in law, rights of the individual, and freedom. I am trying to generate public support from people like you regarding an internet domain dispute with rock musician Don Henley. We have the same name and he is trying, unfairly, to use a big law firm to take my domain name. They claim that since he is rich and famous, I have no right to my own name, even though I'm not even using it for any commercial purpose, not even in one unrelated to music.

If enough people read the facts of this matter - posted at  - and take the time to click on the link to send disapproving email to his lawyers - the pressure of public opinion may force them to abandon this unfair action. It would be a financial strain for me to be forced into litigation over this matter, even though I think, but am not sure, that I would eventually prevail.

Thank you for reading this message and if you would follow the above link to read the letter from the law firm, I would really be appreciative.

The non-musical Don Henley

Well, I looked at the site and the lawyer's letter, and I am not sure who done what when; but surely someone is entitled to his own name? It's annoying to me that is held by some people (who offered it to me for ransom in effect) but there's nothing legal I want to do about it.

 The country has gone insane on law suits; there was a bit in the paper this morning about "class action" suits settled out of court with agreements that give the "clients" some worthless coupons -- I got one of those -- good only if you buy something else, but give the lawyers for the "class" millions of dollars. In one case the agreement called for a payment of lawyer fees by the "clients", many of whom were unaware that they were part of a law suit or that they had "won" (but now had to pay real money and what they were to get was some coupon).

This looks to me like a law firm trying to justify its fees; one wonders if the singing Don Henley knows of any of this.  (I never heard of him or of the letter writer, but that just shows that I have my FM radio nailed up to KUSC Classical Music.) 

Well, a day.

Larry Niven got this mail and sent this answer:

In a message dated 10/1/99 4:55:50 AM Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

<< > But I've heard writers say that they were much more productive when they squeezed their brilliant novel in between a full-time job, and raising  a family; and now that they can afford to write full time, they, well,  don't. >> 

What happens is that the damn fools quit their jobs and spend the extra time writing. This cuts deep into their daydreaming time. In a year or three they've used up the backlog stored up by their wandering minds while they were selling shoes or interviewing tax defaulters. Now there's no more story; now they're robbing the stories written by their younger selves, writing endless "trilogies". Mid-rank editors do love a guaranteed sale, so they encourage this.... Some traps are damn near impossible to evade.

Larry Niven

Of course Niven never had a day job to begin with. But he did notice that a few years back I was using up all my daydreaming time on other things. He was right. Writing is NOT a full time job, even if it is your only job.






Subject: Don Henley


Dear Jerry,

 Don Henley first came to prominence as a member of a California band called the Eagles about twenty-five years ago. You can’t have avoided hearing them, even if you’ve managed to avoid hearing of them. When the band broke up he went on to a successful solo career, including some acting (he wrote a song for Miami Vice that became the basis of an episode he starred in).

Some of your readers might remember a song by Mojo Nixon, “Don Henley Must Die”, that suggested Mr. Henley was too whiny and self-important. J

 Bill Cavanaugh (

 Thanks. I think I watched one episode of Miami Vice many years ago, and none after that. I don't watch a lot of television to begin with, and very little of that kind of show. I may have heard the Eagles, but I fear know more about the Eagles Lodge (at least I know those exist; my wife's sister used to go to dances at the Eagles Lodge in Wallace, Idaho, when she was in high school) than the Eagles rock group. I suspect that makes me what we used to call a square, a term that itself dates me badly...

I am not a regular reader of Salon, but Paul Chisholm, who has been a Chaos Manor correspondent since CP/M days, points to a very interesting article.

Paul used to be at Bell Labs when it was still AT&;T's contribution to the Advanced Planning Department for the Human Race, but they were feeling their way toward putting out useful products so they could be a profit center. Those were the days when AT&;T was also trying to be in the personal computer business. They had UNIX boxes before anyone else, including UNIX boxes that were almost compatible with CP/M and IBM PC software. Technically it was all great stuff. Alas, their marketing wasn't up to what they were doing; once at a Chicago COMDEX I told their national vice president that if AT&;T bought Colonel Sanders they'd market "hot, dead, chicken" to which he replied "It's worse than that. We'd probably call it 'warm, dead, chicken.'"  They once sent me an email program in an old fashioned rural Mailbox about 3 feet long... None of which was Chisholm's fault.

I rather miss having AT&;T in the small computer race. They couldn't market, but their technical people listened, and they were doing innovative things.


Salon story:

Microsoft page in question:

Paul S R Chisholm <>

As to the ethics of obtaining a non-upgradable copy of Office 2000 for $99, you must let your conscience be your guide. I suspect most of us have alternate identities as CEO's or CTO's of big companies where we specify software as part of a scheme to fill our  real world mailboxes with yet more paper in the form of controlled circulation magazines we don't have time to read...

On a distantly related subject:

Jerry, I hope this isn't a timewaster for you, but this is something that your other readers will likely find of interest, and hopefully this will feed back to Microsoft as well.

A few years back, John Dvorak pointed out the existence of a Word document viewer from Microsoft. It's free, relatively small, and available for 16 bit and 32 bit Windows. It can only print and display, but it's fast, not a resource pig, and doesn't do macros, so its proof against macro viruses. (yes, I realize that Word has an option for 'macro virus protection', but nothing in the online docs says what that checkbox actually does)

During install, you can make it the default viewer for Word documents. Almost. Sure, if you doubleclick on a Word file in the Explorer, the Viewer pops open, but if you click open an attached Word document in Outlook Express, MS Word opens up. As if I want to edit every single Word document that lands in my inbox. I think I know enough to save out the attachment if I need to edit it.

All I want is truth in advertising. If I'm given the option of using the Viewer as my default program, that means it should be the default program.

Sorry for the rant, it's just too useful a thing to let pass...

Bruce Dykes

Actually, Wordpad makes a very good viewer for incoming documents, being too stupid to implement macros. Alas, I don't know how to make Outlook use it as the default viewer. Outlook seems to offer me several choices, but they are linked in screwy ways. What I would LIKE is to have Wordpad  as both my reply editor, and my editor for viewing opened mail, but if there's a way to do that I have not found it.

Then there is the mail people send that include highly active web pages with their links, so that what you see is flashing stuff complete with advertisements you didn't want...



From: Jim Dodd []

 Dear Jerry,

 I have been aware for some years of the story behind the story at Waco, including Delta Force participation, the false official statements on drugs, BATF shenanagans, and the FBI “erasure” strategy.

 From my military days I had Nuclear, Biological and Chemical training, or Bugs, Blast &; Gas as we called it. We considered CS to be a war agent.

 I have been appalled that federal agents would use a war agent against US citizens, especially women &; children. I believe that if these cowboys want to take on a military role, that we should put them under the Unified Code of Military Justice. Then anyone having knowledge of the offenses could bring charges.

Jim Dodd

I am not sure I understand how that would work. My military service was long enough ago that we were under the Articles of War, and I don't know the UCMJ at all; I had not realized there were provisions of the kind you imply here.

Jerry, Since you like gadgets. I just bought a Webgear 2.4 GHz wireless networking card (at Fry's in Woodland Hills). FYI, it is one of the best purchases which I have made recently. The speed is fine and now the laptop can be connected to the web anywhere in the house. I never appreciated how confining my computer room is.

Ken Elliott Thousand Oaks

I have ZOOM wireless, which I intend to install all over the place, particularly from Roberta's site; at the moment we use "decorator unfriendly" wires running up the stairs when I want to set up backups.

I think your current IC column [October 7: American's vanishing manufacturing class] is the most profound piece of yours that I've ever read. This issue is something that has been of great concern to me for years, and is one reason I became a writer. By definition, content creation cannot be automated, at least not until computer power increases by several orders of magnitude.

The same is not true of some of the "knowledge worker" skills you mention. We're seeing it happen now in networking. Things that used to be a black art, practiced only by gurus, are now done by less-skilled people. The shop that used to employ multiple CNEs and UNIX gurus is shifting towards Windows NT, which requires less expertise. We have many more "technical" people than we used to--CNEs and MCSEs galore--but they're less technical than they used to be. When I was young, technically inclined kids built rockets, experimented with chemistry sets, or became ham operators. Nowadays, they play with computers, which just isn't the same thing. Even ham operators today buy stuff instead of building it from parts.

You mention capital only in passing, but it seems to me that reluctance to risk capital is the only thing standing in the way of an onslaught of cheap labor. To the extent that a company can build a billion dollar plant in the Phillipines or other reasonably stable locations that have cheap labor, they'll obviously do that in preference to building that plant in the US. They hesitate to make major investments in the former Soviet Union or other places which are perceived as unstable, but how long can we count on that? I'm not sure we're doing ourselves any favors by attempting to stabilize countries that have vast pools of cheap labor. The former Soviet Union may be a special case, given their nukes, but each time the US attempts to stabilize a chaotic country, I think we may simply be making that country safe for capital flight.

In the past, the solution has been imperialism to assure cheap raw materials and captive markets for finished goods. With the US being the only remaining Superpower, it makes me wonder if our shift toward empire is the only way to stave off the inevitable for a bit longer. I'd hate to think that's true, but I'm afraid it may be.

Robert Bruce Thompson

And it's not just automation of repetitive jobs that worries me. I'm not in the class that's directly threatened by that, although being surrounded by unemployed unskilled workers is not an attractive prospect. But consider this: five years ago, I could install DNS, configure a DHCP server, install a router, and do the other tasks necessary to construct an IP network or internetwork. There weren't many people then who could do that. Today, a moderately technical person can open a shrink-wrapped copy of Microsoft Small Business Server and get a functional IP internetwork up by using Wizards. Well, maybe it's not quite that easy, but damned near.


Robert Bruce Thompson

All of which goes to the heart of just what this nation is all about. There was a time when a person of average intelligence and ability could land a good job which he would keep until retirement. There might be some ups and downs in the economy, but that kind of stability was considered more important than getting another dime off the price of underwear. No longer: there is no loyalty from the top down in our employers, which means of course that there is no loyalty from the bottom up.

Schumpeter pointed this out many years ago. He concluded that democracy as we know it is a sham because the middle class can't rule -- can't inspire the loyalty to keep a great nation together.

Nothing says we have to be a great nation. There is a sure fire formula for being a pretty good nation: we had it for a long time. It's called federalism, devolving "national" policies onto the states and allowing them to set rules people will live by. This pretty well prevents any great imperial ambitions, because there isn't going to be any imperial national policy, and "condemns" us to be a "nation of shopkeepers" and small manufacturers. Some states will welcome Walmart. Others will think it better that the small dry-goods store continue to exist. Which is "better"? I have no idea. I know which is more economically efficient, but efficiency isn't quite the same thing as happiness unless you truly believe that the price of consumer goods is the major factor in national satisfaction.

We are organized at the moment around the premise that cheaper is better, mass produced is better, mass marketed is better, efficient is better. That's pretty powerful, and it certainly does generate lots of goods. On the other hand, we in the US have shorter vacations, and work longer; our productivity climbs but our real wages don't (because we have to compete with overseas workers, and raising the minimum wage simply inflates the currency until the minimum is negated). "Service sector" jobs have this problem: they don't PRODUCE anything, as another reader points out:

John Adams said that in the United States we assume that each man is the best judge of his own interest. That means empowering each man, through devolving political and economic policy power down to fairly local levels; and that will certainly interfere with economic efficiency. At one time we had court decisions on what was and was not in Interstate Commerce that protected the States in enacting (possibly stupid, possibly wise) economic policies. Now we have, I fear, made everything "interstate commerce" meaning of national concern and subject to national pressures. Just as all economic competition becomes worldwide in a free trade nation, all political competition becomes national when we eliminate any real power in the States.

Well, we live in interesting times.


The UCMJ is quite rigid. You can show that most anything you need to is a crime, including "bringing discredit upon the service". If these cowboys who want to act like military people, then Congress could place them under the UCMJ ( vice the US Code). Once there, then any "official" with knowledge of the offenses could file the charges. There is no real equivalent of the grand jury.

Once the ball starts rolling charges can be dismissed, non-judicial punishment can be given or one of several forms of courts martial could be awarded.

Then they go to Leavenworth. ;)

jim dodd

Ah. You didn't mean that civilians could somehow be put under UCMJ or become part of the JAG office. But if US military personnel were in fact involved in Waco in contravention of the posse comitatus act, then either they have in had a valid Presidential Order allowing that, or they are ALREADY subject to prosecution, and any official could act. That hasn't happened; nor do I know of anyone showing a valid executive order excepting the military people at Waco from the posse comitatus act.

Incidentally, my solution to much of this is that Federal Officers should have no power of arrest: get the local authorities to do the arresting. In urgent cases and cases in which the local law enforcement officers are themselves the targets, then the order must be signed by a Constitutional Officer: one appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, who will be personally responsible for the operation, and who will stand responsible to the Congress for its consequences.

But that, I would think, is merely common sense. We don't do it, of course.

Do you mean "that Federal Officers should have no power of arrest: get the local authorities to do the arresting. " Or perhaps that Federal Officers should have only the power of "Citizen's arrest?" and nothing more? This has in fact been the case at some times and places, and should be enough to cover the Border Patrol and other obvious need for Federal Officers to act without local authorities present (unless you mean to make Customs and such a small S state prerogative)

Clark E. Myers e-mail at:

Actually, I wasn't thinking about the uniformed Federal services like Border Patrol and Customs, which have legitimate reasons to act like police; I had in mind the FBI, BATF, DEA, FDA, and all the other outfits, many of which have their own SWAT teams for no discernible reason other than that they can have them.

It is THOSE that ought to be required to work with local authorities (Waco would never have happened if BATF had simply gone to the sheriff, who would have knocked on the door), and if there really is a good reason to use Federal officers and a no-knock Surprise! raid, then it ought to be a Big Deal and require a Constitutional Officer's consent and if left to me physical presence; someone to stand RESPONSIBLE for what is going down.



We have an essay report from Joshua M. K. Masur <>  on Software Licensing and Copyright Law that is a bit long for Mail, and also of a longer term value; I have filed it as a "debate" for want of a better way of organizing it. It is well worth your time.




Friday October 8, 1999

Jerry, Jobs disappear. I agree. I must disagree with your assessment of the state of jobs in general though. I now teach metallurgy and welding at the University of Montana, and there are jobs out there for those who are willing to do them, good paying jobs that do not require degrees.

 Unfortunately, willing does not mean what it once did. Willing is not a state of mind now but a historical judgment. Can you calculate the length of a hypotenuse? You should have learned that in the eighth grade, but if you did not, then you cannot be a carpenter. Can you convert the size of a steel sheet to weight using density and volume? Volume is seventh grade; density is a small jump forward from that. If you cannot, you have no chance in modern fabrication shops. 

Ask Hewlett Packard what happened in Portland three or four years back when they tested basic skills for a new plant there. If you do not take school seriously (grade, middle and high) then you are a lost soul from the start of your adult life. Once, perhaps, the system made you take it seriously. Not anymore. When we moved to Washington state, my kids were seniors and sophomores in high school. The senior was told he did not have to even come, he had enough credits from the private school in Montana he attended to graduate. The sophomore was told she needed only a semester of so to have enough credits. The senior went anyway. He had to leave school at noon as a matter of policy. Only the special kids were allowed after that (special being the top and bottom 10%). If you come out of high school having taken “consumer math”, “survey of life sciences” and “current world problems” (reading three Newsweek articles per week, I kid you not), then how can you complain when the only job you can get is running a cash register that tells you how much change to give back?

 The jobs are there. I know because we train people here for them. The ability to do those jobs is not. Is it the schools fault? Is it the fault of companies who are too cheap to provide training, want instead just-in-time workers? Is it the governments’ fault for sending jobs south (or east or west or whatever)? 

No. It is our fault for not speaking up to any of the above mentioned. For evil to succeed needs only silence. We have been silent and now too bad for our children and grandchildren. Sorry this was so long, but you struck a chord.

 Bill Gleason

Well, I hardly disagree, but I thought I was saying at least part of that. But we are caught in a descending spiral: as the skills disappear, the job is exported because that is easier than fixing our broken education system. As the jobs are exported there is less pressure to fix things, and meanwhile that job has vanished. That means even less incentive to teach the skills needed to do that job.

If we had designed an education system to ensure a supply of burger flippers it would be hard to design it better -- for that purpose. Everyone insists that is not what is intended, but all efforts to fix things because the results are awful are deflected into monstrosities like "results oriented education" in which the one thing that isn't important is the result. And on, and meanwhile our taxes go up and the kids can't read.

Oriental scholarship budgeted about 7 years of schooling just to teach reading because the ideographic writing system was so difficult. In the US we used to expect kids to read at the end of first grade, with difficult cases being caught in second. That worked, as witness the literacy figures for conscripts right up through 1950 or so, when the number of conscripts who could not read and had finished fourth grade was miniscule to non-existent. After that the illiteracy rate began to rise even as the number who had never been to school vanished. The conclusion seems obvious to me.

If the kids can't read, they won't learn much else. If they can't read by the end of third grade, then the rest of their "education" is playing catch-up. When I was in a poor quality schools -- two grades to a room, 30 or so pupils to a grade -- 4th grade was when you began substantive education, and by 6th we were getting quite substantial subject matter and difficult books (mostly "literature" because Tennessee couldn't afford "text" books for English).

In my science fiction novels I have sometimes postulated a world in which Xerox and Westinghouse and General Electric operate school systems for children of company employees, beginning at kindergarten and continuing through University level. Those schools are genuinely "results" oriented, in that teachers who can't teach the kids are fired and replaced by those who can and do -- much as our 2-year Associate of Arts Normal School graduate teachers in rural Tennessee were treated. We couldn't afford 4-year college graduates, so we went with Teachers College (Normal School) grads, and my class of farmer's kids learned more than most of the small classroom one grade to a class schools nowadays all taught by 4 and 5 year college grads. As to distractions, I guarantee you that farm work is as good a way to soak up a kids' time as TV ever was, and kerosene lamps aren't conducive to doing much homework after dark. The point being that it is possible to demand educational success and get it: if the teachers you have can't do it, find some who can.  

But while my experiences were real, my remedies for the future are science fiction and seem less likely all the time. 

Then there's Higher Education by Charles Sheffield and Jerry Pournelle...

Anyway, thanks.

Dr. Pournelle,

I read your recent article about the "Vanishing Manufacturing Class" in IntellectualCapital.Com. I have some observations that may prove useful. Your title the vanishing manufacturing class is correct but not in the manner your article describes it. The large scale manufacturing industries of the early and middle twentieth are indeed have largely vanished from the american landscape. The jobs in those industries have seemed to have been exported to countries with lower labor costs. Not only the plants and the workers that directly work in them are effected but all the support industries in the local region. It seems to me that for a decade or two, after the shutdown the region's economy suffers horribly as it adjusts to the loss of the industry. But then what?

I am a programmer for a company that make metal cutting machine. Specifically X-Y Cutting tables that use plasma torches to cut the metal. (details see . The machines we make are general purpose tools to cut metal shapes out almost any kind of metal. We make a CAD/CAM software the allows our users to design and cut these metal parts. In addition we sells precanned metal shapes to the heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning industry. Our machines are sold through dealers to individual shops.

These shops are anywhere from five to over a hundred employees. We have sold our machines to the people that make the following; strainers (all sizes and shapes), snowplows, aftermarket auto parts, metal furniture maker, sign makers, manhole covers, chutes and hoppers for fruit (California mostly), artist that make sw indian art out of metal (Arizona), and more. I have trained in many of these shops and talked to many of their workers.

I have found that many of the older workers come from these "failed industries", typically the job they got wasn't as good at first but over time they managed to gain many of the same benefits. The jobs in all of these shops require all kinds of skills from none to advanced math. The wages I heard begin paid range from a cut above fast food ($7 to $10/ hour) to very good. The best indicator of how the people were being paid was how well the shop was doing. Plus many of these jobs had younger workers in there who were starting to rise through the ranks.

Also my hometown is Meadville located in North west PA. For years a source of pride was that the great depression never touched Meadville because of the Talon Zipper plant. The zipper was invented and first manufactured in Meadville and for years the Talon factory was the economic mainstay of Meadville. Because zippers required intricate machinery to make, a local tool and die industry sprung up around Meadville to service the needs of Talon.

Then by the late 60's early 70's, Talon closed their Meadville Plant and moved south. The effect on the economy of Meadville was devastating. But the Tool and Die shop remained. The best of them, began finding other customers to do jobs for and began to prosper again. Soon a cycle set in where a man apprenticed and worked at a Tool and die shop for a couple of years and then struck out out on his own to establish his own shop. Now not only we have a wide variety of tool and dies shops but shops that can do injection molding, edm wire cutting (I think this is for cutting carbide), and welding. The local economy isn't roaring but it continues to grow at a steady clip. The young people of Meadville have a job market that they can enter for good wages. We have so many of these shops, that the local chamber of commerce call Meadville the Tool and Die capital of the world because we have the highest per capita rate of tool and die shops.

However none of these shops are a prominent as Talon. None of them are the primary employers of the Meadville economy. Talon itself required a lot of skilled machinist both inside and outside of the company. When it left the number of skilled workers in Meadville declined as many moved away. But the ones that remained eventually found jobs and now there are more skilled workers than ever. It is more healthy economy because you have a lot of small shops targeting different areas of the economy. So when one area slumps not all the shops in Meadville are affected.

I feel this is what is happening to the country at large. When a large steel, or auto plant disappears it's workers are not all lost, many of them find similar jobs elsewhere in smaller companies. Because these companies are small they are not as visible, hence your "vanishing manufacturing class".

My company attends two trade shows a year, one is called Fabtech and the other is ASHRAE. The two cater to two different types of manufacturing industries and they grow larger year by year. The variety of different products and goods are astounding and most of them are American made. At FabTech you can find at least six different manufacturers of press brakes, four of them American, two of them foreign made. This is not just my industries as I check what other types of trade shows are held. There is one that revolves solely around sensors and it fills two halls of the Jacob Javits center in New York. Another revolves around plastics, it continually amazes the variety of industries this country has.

One of the greatest assets of the United States continues to be the sheer size of it's market. If you have a viable idea to make a machine of some sort I 99% sure you will be able to find all the suppliers you need for your parts in the United States (note this is not the as 100% manufactured). This goes down to silly little things like plastic caps to cover twisted wire electrical connections. I saw a catalog with a hundred variety of those in all colors and shapes. The only two areas with economies that can compete with our variety is Japan and Europe.

Last these companies are generally making high value added items. Parts that require specialized knowledge or quick local service. Both areas where many of our foreign competitors are weak in. In addition many of these shops have general purpose equipment. The company that make snowplows can use their equipment to make strainer and vice versa. The equipment they use are general metal forming machines. Not specialized stamps or presses with molds. Also the trend I have noticed that more firms are designing flexibility into their manufacturing lines. So that changes (or setup as they called) is quickly done and thus lower cost.

Rob Conley

Ok. Good examples, and well argued; and I often have written much the same, and there are times when I persuade myself to believe it. My problem comes when I look at the schools, and the quality of the jobs we seem to be creating lately. I freely confess that I don't know enough about the real data to be setting policy -- but then I am mostly trying to get people to think about the subject, just as in the 70's when Jimmy Carter was telling us the US was doomed and there would never again be a boom economy, I was telling people that was bushwah. My job is to get people to think about problems.

It may be that I am worried about nothing; but I can't quite get rid of the fear that I am not. I am particularly concerned about education, and about the bifurcation into castes, the "knowledge workers" and the "you want fries with that" classes; our public schools seem geared to produce the latter, while the private schools are set to turn out knowledge workers. Guess which class sends its kids where...  And I hope you are correct, that we retain the knowledge to set up shop and make things on short notice. I was discussing this with Niven today, and he points out that so long as the specifications for nearly everything are available, and we have tool-making tools, then Moore's Law and the great strides in robotics will save us from much of the consequences of having our supplies cut of.

And of course some people say we will never again have wars, since our exporting of jobs will stabilize all nations into liberal democracies and it will be too expensive to fight so we never will. (Alas, Immanuel Bloch had the same analysis about the economic consequences of war about 1905, and he was right, no war could be worth the money it would cost, but...)  On the other hand, all we need do is spend some of our service economy profits on a good Navy.

Niven and I, after all, export nothing and import hard currency in royalties, which we mostly spend here.

It may well be worrying for nothing. I hope you are correct. It is a bit odd, that one of the very few writers of the 60's and 70's to say that there was plenty of hope and plenty of future, is now considerably more pessimistic; I hope it is not merely a sign of my age. But I don't see as many signs for joy as I did, and I am very worried about the state of our education system.

Thanks. Good examples, and a good argument.



Saturday October 9, 1999


Configuration of Outlook's own (message editor) spellchecking is menu TOOLS > Options > Spelling tab.

Even after extensive spelunking and writing about all the many features and settings in Outlook for our book, I still need to walk the menus before I am sure of where any given setting is to be found. "Productivity" software indeed :(

You do have adaptive menus turned off, I hope. Otherwise it is ten times worse to find things...

/ Bo -- "Bo Leuf" <> Leuf fc3 Consultancy

Actshully, it doesn't work that way, unless you designate WORD as the reply editor: that is, there's a spell checking button, but it's a BATCH process, not on the fly as you type.  Now I suppose it's not all that bad to use Word with Macros disabled, but it's once again an annoyance and a failure of Microsoft's much vaunted integration: or lese it's a complete failure of documentation. 

I am almost certain that at one time I was able to have on the fly spell checking in document replies without having Word open to do it, but I am now wondering if my memory is all wrong. I can't find it in the documentation, but then the documentation is remarkably unhelpful. Thanks anyway...

Dear webmaster:

I attempted to follow a link from  to  only to get a message that the link does not exist. I then attempted to go to  as suggested on the web page, which also turns out to be a bad link. I can understand a bad link, but a suggestion you go to another bad link "before giving up" is a little much. I hope you will fix these.

Stephen M. St. Onge 

I get this kind of letter all the time. I put this one in largely in the hopes people will understand: I have no control over what is on other people's web pages, and links from here to outside here aren't anything I can guarantee. At one time that was a good link. I don't know who maintains it, nor what happened to it, and I fear there is very little I can do about it. I can fix my own broken links, sometimes, but I can't do a thing about other people's. 

Poor Mr. Onge, the letter begins:

Who actually did what he was told to do by the error message at the stite, as shown here

***** The URL does not exist. Please notify the webmaster of the site at that the page at has a bad link. Be sure to mention the URL at this site also.

We moved the department website on May 1st, 1998. Check out before giving up. *****

It would appear that Dr/Mr/Ms Smith no longer lives at that particular physics department, as the page also indicates the names of the physics people there, and Smith is not among them. Now had it been W.Smith, or A.Sheffield or even L.Long then I might have been able to instantly figure out what was going on... <grin>. Certainly there is more effort in tracking down Smith than any of us want to go to - however he did give you info that you could use to disable the link, rather than , wait, wait, and idea, one moment please...

I decided to follow up a hunch or two. First, looking at the original context in Mail27, I determined that indeed this was regarding some Perl script or another, so off to I go, where there are... 0 search results. One last try, at yielded this which is the new online home (we presume) for the information previously contained at that bad link. Bad, broke Jakob Nielsen's rules they did. Content to die without forwarding link they allowed. Weak in them the force is. Perhaps you could offer unredeemable, meaningless brownie points for people who not only identify bad links that you could remove, but also the new location of the data linked to... surely SOMEONE must have as much time to waste as I do <grin, again>

Hope all is well with you and Mrs. Pournelle. Interesting times.

-- regards, Brian Bilbrey

I hope I don't have to comment on that... Thanks! Did you use the JarJar program, or do you come by that naturally? :-)


I just checked the bad link you have up as an example of what you can't fix.

So sorry, but it tells us plainly that the webmaster at your place needs to stop sending people to it! is the link at your site, turning off this link will help!

Bill Grigg

Sure it will. I think you are about to persuade me to drop the whole damn thing. I cannot possibly police every link that goes in here. How can I? That was months ago. I have turned it off, and used half an hour on this that I don't have, and the obvious remedy is never to post another  foreign link again as long I live. Unless you have some better suggestion?

Anyway, OK, I have fixed it. Now they don't point to anything. I suppose I ought also to erase them entirely? Stuff included in mail to me: I guess what you are saying is make sure there are no links in any letters I post?


American Airlines now allows cellular phone and two way pager use at the gate. It was previously prohibited. Per a 1993 FAA Advisory Circular, the captain of a flight is allowed to authorize use of cell phones before the aircraft begins moving and during lengthy ground delays (e.g., following pushback, or before arrival at the gate). They may not be used while the aircraft is taxiing. For the news passed on by a US DOT employee and followup discussion see:

You could also take a look at the summary of voluntary reports to NASA's Aviation Safety Reporting System on Passenger Electronic Device interferance at:

You'll find the PED category eighth from the bottom in the list of topics on that page. One report in 98. Three in 97. Two in 96. To get fifty reports required going back as far as 1989. To get 50 reports of runway incursions required going back 18 months. To get 50 reports of controlled flight towards terrain took just 13 months. I'm a lot more worried by the latter two types of incident. I'll bet on the PED's being under reported more than the other two, but such a lack of reports about a high profile topic is interesting. There do seem to be some cases where any PED could be a problem, so I can understand the reluctance of some pilots.

The issue of cellular phone use on a plane in flight is restricted at the request of the FCC. A cellular phone aboard a flying aircraft has a far more distant horizon and will take bandwidth on far more cells than with the ten mile plus tower height extension horizon on the ground. The FCC believes it's a problem and apparently did it at the request of the cellular companies, who don't have a commercial interest in stopping people from using their phones. The systems intended for airborne use have far fewer and more widely spread cells and it's not a problem for them. No handy reference, though I could dig up a US DOT statement of this FCC ad FAA reasoning if you need it. Or you could ask Tim Kelly from the US DOT if you have a CompuServe account, which you need to reply to the messages in the links.

If you're interested in another airline rule to question, consider that there's no security ID requirement for a passenger not checking anything and that photo ID is more than the government requires for those who do. For a summary from the FAA's Office of Aviation Security, relayed by a US DOT representative, and related discussion see: 

James Day  

Thanks. That should be the bottom line on this...

My name is Don Walker and I am writing you regarding the film rights availability of "Little Fuzzy." I understand from information on the Web that you are the person to talk to regarding Mr. Piper's work. I am currently Co-Producing a project for Warner Bros. (my first producer credit) that has Real, CGI and Puppet cats and dogs as leading characters. I was going over my list of SciFi books I've read and "Little Fuzzy" caught my eye.

The technology is now available that will bring the fuzzies to life. I pulled out my copy and re-read it last week. I am excited by the story and the cover art. The compactness of the story lends itself easily to film and in my opinion the character design (on the cover) is at least 95% done (any info. on the cover artist would also be helpful). I find myself (not through any plan of my own) involved in large visual effects films and am in a position to pitch "Little Fuzzy" to the Studio. If WB is not interested for some reason my next move would be to go to Disney(these two studios are my best contacts). I know that these things have to eventually involve agents and lawyers but I like to go to the source. I prefer to know the people involved and to make use of any unique talents and insignts they may have. This should lead to a good personal working relationship that will last and prosper for all parties. Any information you can give me would be helpful. If this works I will want to talk to you about grendels and samlon. Thanks for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.

I don't normally publish requests like this, but this gives me an opportunity to say I am not in any legal sense H. Beam Piper's heir. Beam told several people that I was his best friend, which was in fact a surprise to me: he was almost twice my age when I met him, and he was already a very well established writer. A few years after Beam died -- he shot himself in a fit of depression -- Analog Science Fiction did a survey to determine the ten most popular Analog writers of all time. Beam and I were more or less tied at 4th and 5th place as I recall (Robert Heinlein was both First and Second, First as Robert Heinlein and second as Anson MacDonald), and many people called me Beam's literary heir; but legally that is not true.

I do have the right to writer stories in Beam's universes, something given to me by Beam Piper years ago in return for some research I did for him, and possibly after an overdose of Jim Beam Bourbon Whiskey; drunk of sober, I have the right, which was acknowledged by Ace Books.

Ace Books owns all rights to Beam Piper's literary estate. His widow sold those rights for $1000 flat, which in 1964 was loser than the advances Beam was getting on novels, and less than Analog was paying to serialize a novel. They offered so little because they thought they could get away with it, and they were right. She took the money because they had been separated for a year or more, and she was still very angry with him. Beam once said that she only married him to get an expensive Paris vacation, which was just plain wrong from beginning to end, and beneath him; selling his literary estate to a publisher (they had no children) for what she must have known was less than it was worth was perhaps her way of saying loudly and clearly that she didn't want his money and never had. As for the Paris trip, she paid for HIS ticket, which I suspect hurt Beam's pride quite a lot.

None of this is telling tales out of school: I didn't know any of it until after he was dead. We were a lot closer than our few meetings would indicate, his letters were a joy for me, and I still miss him after over 30 years. But alas, I have no right or interest in his movie rights. I agree that the Fuzzies would make a good movie, and that computer graphics are up to that task now.

I also get inquiries about what happened to the novels John Carr and Roland Green were doing in Beam's Lord Kalvan series. The last I heard, which was some years ago, they had finished the next book, but Ace Books didn't want it. Having seen the book I don't know why: far worse stories are published every month. But it is the right of Ace books, and of course they control the property rights to Beam's worlds, so they have the legal right to prevent the book form being published by anyone else. This is a pity, because I liked what they had done when I last saw it, and I have every reason to believe that the finished product (which I haven't seen) is quite good. But there's nothing I can do...

A silly Internet trick for your amusement.

1) Go to

2) Type: more evil than Satan

3) Click "I'm feeling lucky"

--- Rich Brown --- --- ---

I see. Hmm. Thanks.




Sunday October 10, 1999


If you care to fix's some editorial text with the correct link (plan and html) that you can insert into mail27 just after the letter with the now broken links.

Load this page:

search for this text:

Cannon, Michael []

Add this editorial note after Michael Cannons email address. --

[jep 11OCT99 The WetPerls links at above are no longer working. See the <a href="">CGI::WeT Reference </a> at for more information on this.] ...or some such.

Regards, Live long--


PS: You notice how it is assumed that there is someone working full time on you website? <grin>

OK, I have put a link to this letter in mail 27. If anyone wants to find this bad enough, they have only this to follow...

Thanks. And yes, I have noticed...

I can see why you're stuck with FP2000 (and THANKS for saving me from a miserable upgrade from FP98!), but I can't see why you stick with Earthlink given the number of times you've complained about it. Nobody's perfect, and had a bad week of email unreliability last spring; but most of the time, no problems, and Inverse and others seem to think they're consistently the best overall. Not much cost difference, either, unless you're online over 150 hours a month. (This network has been sold to AT&;T and was just renamed, but it will stay a whole separate network from the consumer "Worldnet" network.) I don't know if they have a local phone number where you are, but they have lots. Good luck!


Christopher Honeyman

Inertia, largely. I have an account, and I probably ought to use it more, but Earthlnk does work, most of the time. and it's problems are mostly related to its popularity.  But I keep hoping for DSL.

The US military continues to offer good career opportunities for kids coming out of high school. It is a hard life, but as long as you keep working at it you can have a 20 year career and come out the other end with a decent pension and skills/training for a second career.

They have the advantage over industry though. They can spend months (some times up to two years) training people for a job without worrying they'll quit as soon as the training program is over. I was a Naval officer for 5 years and I think my time in the Navy was more important to my professional success since then than the 4 years I spent in college.

It is unfortunate that more people don't consider this as an option.

Scott Kitterman

Well, I'll hardly disagree. The Army made a man out of me, a long time ago. But it's not the fashion now. For that matter, I don't understand why we permit teacher's colleges to control entry into teaching, requiring someone with, say, 20 years of military service, in many cases as an instructor, to take silly education theory courses that a sheep could pass in sleep; one presumes the notion is to use these courses the way Latin was once used in medicine, to weed out all but the very dedicated; to bore them out of education. I know a chap who taught math in the Air Force for 20 years and isn't "qualified" to teach math in a public high school. For that matter, neither am I... But we ought to give preference to a retired officer or non-com who wants to go into teaching.

If this nation goes over to Empire as we appear to be headed, we will need many more soldiers, and we will need to make that career more attractive.

I understand the reasons you have gone online . . . but REALLY miss the paper magazine. There was nothing like it on the market and there is nothing that has taken its' place. Even in a digital world, paper has it's place. Don't you think?

BYTE had long been my source of intelligent analysis and ideas in the IT sector. I'm in the new-media business, but online with a computer humming and a screen glowing is not the same as a quiet moment with a magazine. It's the smell of the ink . . . and the texture of the paper . . . and fun of a quick flick through the headlines and then the pleasure of delving into content that's pitched at exactly the right level of technical and intellectual complexity.

Sorry guys. Just a lament. Thanks for all the pleasure in the past . . . and I am trying to keep abreast of the world of ideas in IT online, but it is harder. Colder somehow.

Kind regards,

PETER SMITH Sydney, Australia

Well, I miss the print magazine too, and I particularly miss the big editorial staff with experts to check anything I do, and people to call on for advice. I miss that a lot.





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