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Mail 362 May 23 - 29, 2005






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Monday  May 23, 2005

Subject: Outsourcing at Home.


 Roland Dobbins


Subject: Letter from England

Just a collection of the weird and wonderful in Sunday's English news, and a discussion of the English malaise.

Labour introduced anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) as a way to control behaviour that made life difficult for neighbours. The UK mental health safety net is, like most things involving health, underfunded, so we have this story: <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/politics/story/0,6903,1489614,00.html>  about the inappropriate application of ASBOs to people with serious psychological conditions.

Trafalgar day is not PC... See <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1622627,00.html> . The Trafalgar Day celebration here in Sunderland (a seaport with long memories of the wars against Napoleon) isn't making that mistake. The Royal Navy didn't want to participate until the French Navy indicated their interest.

Labour to 'finish off' hereditary peers: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1622947,00.html

A two-tier retirement system based on whether you went to university: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4570151.stm> <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1622625,00.html>.

College funding pressures leaving part-time students in the cold: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4567643.stm> . Something very noticeable to someone with experience teaching and learning in America is how few UK professionals continue their education--this won't help. See the following for comment.

Terry Pratchett is a popular fantasy author of the Diskworld series, and has been writing a series within the series in collaboration with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen on science. The latest volume is The Science of Discworld III: Darwin's Watch. It came out a bit later than originally planned, but it was worth waiting for. The book examines Darwin's life and work as it might appear to a man from Discworld. Towards the end, the authors go off on a short side trip to examine what in the Victorian period made such a difference for us in the next century, and also to try to understand the current English malaise.

Identification of just what the English malaise consists of varies from author to author. Pratchett, Stewart, and Cohen suggest, based on an idea of Owen Harry, that it is 'a lack of sergeants'. During the Victorian period there was a way for labourers to educate themselves in practical arts to become artisans. Today, this practical career path no longer exists (and industry is complaining loudly). The UK now lacks people with experience in organising the doing of things. In business, we call this middle management; in the army, we call these people sergeants (respectfully). Having middle management or sergeants isn't very efficient, but it is effective and very robust. Training middle management or sergeants didn't involve the universities, which then (and again today) specialised in non-technical and non-scientific subjects (which are cheaper to teach), but was the core of the UK's Victorian success in industry and commerce.

The UK malaise has a number of symptoms, including: 1. A Government where most of the ministers have never managed anything larger than a corner shop. They may have experience leading but none managing, and they have absolutely no understanding of how to make things happen. 2. A society where there are also very few trained 'generals'. Almost everyone is either a private or a non-technical specialist. 3. Industry and commerce which finds the product of the schools and universities a poor match for their manpower needs. 4. Universities with a greater commitment to keeping staff employed than to covering material of practical value. 5. Universities that are forced by government spending priorities to shut down technical and scientific courses. (Labs where you learn how to make things happen are expensive to run. This isn't limited to the physical sciences and engineering.)

My experience with this system is representative. I am a research neuroscientist trained to be a modelling resource in an interdisciplinary team. There is little call for my skills in the UK, but on the other hand, I'm usually working on three or four grant proposals, supervising a number of research students, and providing biological expertise for a collection of engineers working on biomimetic robotics. I make things happen, and as a result my teaching load is remarkable. I run the following modules (corresponding to US courses): 1. Advanced Object-Oriented Design, a core senior-level computing two-semester module where I emphasise entry-level programming skills. 2. E-Commerce, a pair of modules that teach information systems security management and e-commerce management. Emphasis: making things happen. 3. Cognitive Neuroscience, an MSc-level module for students in artificial intelligence--my real joy. 4. Intelligent Systems Programming, an MSc-level module to teach practical programming to students in artificial intelligence 5. Information Systems Security Engineering, an MSc-level module for students in Software and Network Engineering.

I am also currently organising an MSc course in Security Engineering. Few of the lecturers nominated for that programme have any security expertise. Note the pattern--I am overloaded with teaching practical course material on how to make things happen.

No sergeants... And no generals...

-- "The difference between theory and practice is that, in theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is." (Tom Vogl)

Harry Erwin


Subj: Hidden cameras on the battlefield


ELECTRONIC BATTLEFIELD: Hidden Cameras on the Battlefield

=May 22, 2005: One of the more cunning forms of electronic warfare has been the development of concealed surveillance cameras that use a wireless links to a base station. ...=

I wonder how long it'll be before they think of cameras lofted into the treetops by small balloons, connected by optical-fiber datalink to electronics packages on the ground? 8-)

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com


The Weekly Standard house blog. "Galley Slaves " is running an Ad of Influence :http://betoniraq.com/

The Galley Slaves are floggong that Mother of All bBoxtop Currencies, the Iraqi Dinar, five billion of which are on deposit with the US Treasury, and avilable to Weekly Standard blogistas --"\

"We have always, and continue to ship only crisp, uncirculated banknotes. "

25,000 Dinars $45
50,000 Dinars $80
100,000 Dinars $155
250,000 Dinars $325
500,000 Dinars $595
750,000 Dinars $825
1,000,000 Dinars $1060

: 2 million Dinars $2100 3 million Dinars $3135 4 million Dinars $4160 5 million Dinars $5175 over 5 million $5175 + $1030/ea additional million (no limit) "

I wonder if they take Confederate money ?

Russell Seitz


A Kingston Auction:

Subject: Kingston Auctions Off Rare HyperX for a Good Cause!

Hi Jerry,

Sometimes we get too wrapped up in what we are doing each day and forget to remember those in need. Because of this, Kingston is doing a special auction for those who are less fortunate than we are.

If you could kindly pass the word onto your readers and collegues I would certainly appreciate it.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

- Heather Skinner Kingston ==============================================

Here is your chance to get your hands on discontinued Kingston HyperX DDR400 KHX3200 modules while helping those in need. These 2.6V modules were built with coverted Winbond B die, which is no longer manufactured, and have latency timings of 2-2-2-6-1; they provide impressive headroom for system tweaking.

You can't buy these modules anymore, but we're auctioning four 512-MB kits (KHX3200K/512) and one 1-GB (KHX3200K2/1G) kit. One 512-MB kit will be auctioned each week for the first four weeks, and the 1-GB kit will be auctioned the final week.

All proceeds will be donated to Community Service Programs, Inc. CSP is comprised of six model programs assisting over 80,000 persons a year, including abused children, victims of crime, struggling families, acting out adolescents, and people in need of mediation services.

Please visit the auction site: http://www.kingston.com/hyperx/auction/  to place your bids today!

Feel free to pass it along to anyone you might think would be interested.

**Please note: open to US residents only. Auctions will run from May 23, 2005 - June 4, 2005


Subject: RE: Mac OS 10.4 / iCon


to respond to the mail that compared 10.4 to XP with confabulator and google search, while Spotlight and Dashboard are the most visible changes to the system, they are not the most important. There are significant changes to how the os works (the best review I have come across is http://arstechnica.com/reviews/os/macosx-10.4.ars  ), but if all you are doing is basic office stuff the functionality is basically the same. Nothing you own now will work any different than it does in 10.3. (Quicktime 7 is available for 10.3)

But hidden away in /developer directory is something called Core Image Funhouse. Find a machine with it installed and play with it. You will be either unimpressed, in which case stick with 10.3, or you will think core image is one of the coolest things ever.

And so what if Steve Jobs is an ass. It's not as if he has any real influence beyond the apple store. If he wants to make noise over a book, let him. I'd be bothered if he actually could stop a book from being published, but since he can't its just a sideshow. Any loss in sales will be made up for by the publicity generated by this controversy.

By the way, for those annoyed by needing to pay to upgrade to quicktime 7 pro if you already had QT 6 pro, the quicktime 6 player works with quicktime 7 (including the new codecs). and maintains the pro functionality.

Alex S








This week:


read book now


Tuesday,  May 24, 2005

Think of this as my first real day back...

Be sure to see Farm Wars (last week's mail)

A comment on this week's BYTE.COM column:

Subject: Extra cycles

So the question is what do we do with (a Lot) of extra cycles. The usual answer is HDTV. My answer is have Windows figure what's wrong by/with itself. If we have a Windows problem we're told to try A, B, probably down to Double Z, and after that do a clean install. But there must be Something wrong that could be fixed if there were enough cycles (and machine knowledge) to find it.

R Hunt


Subj: US Border Contol -- did the rednecks win a round in Arizona?


Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com

I see that the Federal government, rather than taking care that the laws be faithfully enforced, is going to use your tax dollars to compensate California emergency rooms for the costs of caring for illegal aliens; costs that have caused half the emergency rooms in the county to shut down, and threaten all of them, since the laws require they treat anyone and can't report illegals and the illegal alien community uses them as their private medical service.

I doubt anyone is a winner in this game. Certainly respect for rule of law isn't.


From the Chicago Tribune

NASA science uncovers texts of Trojan Wars, early gospel By Tom Hundley Tribune foreign correspondent

May 19, 2005

OXFORD, England -- The scholars at Oxford University are not sure how it works or why; all they know is that it does.

 A relatively new technology called multispectral imaging is turning a pile of ancient garbage into a gold mine of classical knowledge, bringing to light the lost texts of Sophocles and Euripides as well as some early Christian gospels that do not appear in the New Testament. Originally developed by NASA scientists and used to map the surface of Mars, multispectral imaging was successfully applied to some badly charred Roman manuscripts that were buried during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Examining those carbonized manuscripts under different wavelengths of light suddenly revealed writing that had been invisible to scholars for two centuries. Now scientists are shining the multispectral light on the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, an enormous collection of texts unearthed from the rubbish heaps of the vanished city of Oxyrhynchus, about 100 miles south of Cairo. First excavated by two Oxford archeologists in the late 19th Century, the hoard of papyrus from Oxyrhynchus has long been a source of fascination and frustration for scholars: Fascination because it holds some of the lost masterpieces of classical literature, frustration because much of it is in such poor condition it's impossible to read.

But the multispectral imaging has "produced miraculous results," according to Dirk Obbink, a lecturer in papyrology and Greek literature at Oxford who is directing the project. <snip>

Apologies: I don't seem to have the primary reference. I got this while overseas. It's fascinating.


On Twins and IQ

A great deal has been made of the argument that since identical twins raised apart seem to have similar IQ's that this must prove that genetics is the dominate factor. And therefore that consequently any difference in environment must not be that much of an influence. My point is that I am assuming that in most cases of these twins raised apart, they were placed in homes by adoption agencies. That is an unwed mother to be put her twin babies up for adoption, and the agency then eventually placed them in homes. Adoption agencies employ I am sure a selection process. For a white baby under the age of two I have heard that the demand greatly exceeds the supply, an assuming that since whites are the overwhelming majority of the population that they are well represented among this twin baby population. I would therefore think that the adoption agencies would be in a position to be very selective indeed. This process would I would think be biased in favor of married couples, college educated, emotionally stable, the very sort of criteria that those who think environment is important would tend to look at. The Question would be then are the environments of our twins raised apart really very different in the relevant factors? Its not as if the equivalent of painting one kid black sending him off the be raised by a 16 year old crack head mother with three other kids, painting the other kid white and sending him off to be raised by "DR John Smith and his college professor wife" are going to happen much in the real world. If it did I doubt if anyone really thinks that if we checked into them 18 years or so later that their IQ, SAT scores or grade point averages would agree very much. These types of extreme differences in environment do occur in reality, with blacks disproportionally concentrated in high poverty/high crime low intellectually stimulating environments The high correlation of IQ that we are told exists between the twins raised apart it seems to me only proves that given very similar environments and identical genetics, you would expect the results to closely agree.

That turns out not to be the case. The Minnesota Twin Study looked at many cases of identical twins separated during the depression and raised apart. There are others. It turns out that Socio-Economic factors in the home where the children were raised varied widely, but there ere eerie similarities in behavior and tasted: in one case a girl raised by iron miners had read the same books that her twin sister, raised in an intellectual household, had read; the difference was that the miner's daughter had to take the bus to the public library to get the books while her sister had them in the home; but they had astonishingly similar tastes and reading habits.

You have to read the studies, not just think about summaries of summaries of conclusions.


Subject: garbage conversion


I've done BOTE calculations on making crude out of garbage, and the $250/bbl is off by a couple orders of magnitude.

Carbon and its simple compounds, such as plastics, can be broken down by steam at 500 Celsius into hydrogen and carbon monoxide, plus impurities that can be scrubbed out. Europe gets its heating gas from doing this to brown coal.

Use the gases to reduce cellulose, which makes up most of the mass of garbage, and you get alkanes ranging from hexane to dodecane. High-octane gasoline.

I picture a petroleum-cracking plant going into the garbage business. Garbage goes into the only new structure necessary, where it is ground up, moistened, and squeezed, to get most of the air out; then it's cooked with reducing gases. The result is run through a standard distillation stack for gasoline, and the melted plastic on the bottom of the cooker is shoved into the steamer, to provide reducing gases for the next batch. Some of the unreacted gases are burned in pure oxygen to heat the steam for the next batch. Metals and ceramics are sold to foundries and cement&glass works.

I'd love to be able to patent this, but it's all 19th-Century technology.

Matthew Joseph Harrington

That sounds pretty close to what I came up with when I did the analysis for A Step Farther Out (my Galaxy SF non-fiction column) back in the 70's. The input numbers will have changed now, of course. Thanks.


Subject: Rocky Mountain News: Local

Dear Jerry:

The Army recruitment standdown came about because of a reporter for a high school newspaper. if this were not so tragic, it would be hilarious.



Francis Hamit

Tragedy is often farcical.


On Future Battlefields:

A friend of mine works in the field of micro-techonology. He and I were having an email discussion on the future of warfare - from which he's looking at it technologically. On a suggestion of mine he wrote to a more learned acquaintance to get his opinions. After reading my friends consolidation of our thoughts, I figured others might have some opinions. Therefore, I present this to you for your review and response.

s/f Couv

David Couvillon suggested a couple of weeks ago that I email you to get your opinion on a discussion that we've been having about the evolution of warfare in the next 20-50 years. The reason for the couple-of-weeks delay is that just as I was getting ready to distill our long email conversation, we started getting spectacular results in the lab, and I've been living down there since then.

So basically the discussion we had went something like this:

I proposed that what we're likely to see in the next few years is the development of the equivalent of UAV's for land warfare. Basically my arguments went: (1) We're wealthy enough, compared to our adversaries, that spending a lot of money is better politically than enduring casualties among our military men and women. And if you can make them so cheap that they can be thrown away, then there's very little in the way of effective counter (2) Actuators and high density power sources are just starting to cross over to the point where an unmanned land vehicle could be both more dexterous and more survivable than humans on the battlefield. (3) In an environment where we control the signals environment, there is no reason that all the decision-making and communication capabilities of a human cannot be provided by telepresence (assuming continued improvement in sensor technology and data transmission capabilities, which is reasonable for at least the 20 year timescale). Basically my conclusion from these thoughts was that it's likely that for situations like what's going on these days in and around Baghdad, where we control the signal space, ULV's (think Heinlein's Starship troopers minus the man in the suit, or even with the man in the suit perhaps, though I didn't raise that) could be a replacement for manned patrols.

His responses were very interesting. The most compelling (in my opinion!) were:

-Humans won't obey orders from a machine, even if it's by telepresence. This kind of force would be massively resented. -EMP weapons are now readily available and in use that can fry electronics in a several-hundred-yard radius

These two comments seemed to me to be more or less unanswerable - for an urban environment, where you're trying to conciliate goodwill from the population, I could certainly see the resentment that not putting people on the street would cause. And over reliance on electronics that can be cheaply neutralized would of course be a disaster.

Certainly in many science-fiction novels and movies, there are posited a set of circumstances where anything that required extensive electronic infrastructure was easily rendered obsolete. The combat unit was usually stuck with what they could carry on their backs - some of which was quite high tech - but anything electronic could not be relied upon to work when it mattered, even in highly asymmetric situations.

It seems to me that the world predicted may be, at least in part, coming true. While the back-end and supply-chain electronics and mechanics may become much more advanced, it seems like anything that can be destroyed by an EM pulse may in fact be unreliable on the battlefield. I'd be very interested in opinions on where all of this is going.

Also, in a more mundane vein, I would be very interested in what you regard as the places where there are opportunities for substantial gains in the effectiveness of our troops from the application of new technologies in the next few years, and over the last 50. Certainly there are gains to be had from the new exoskeleton technologies on the logistics side, for instance, even if they're not practical in combat. Lt. Col. Couvillon pointed out that after-action reports from World War II could easily be passed off as coming from a battlefield today - not much on the battlefield has changed from 50 years ago. Do you expect that the integration of more advanced electronics will result in a phase change in the way battles are fought?

I have a ton of thoughts on this, but I'll wait for comments.


On The Education Crisis

Subject: No child left behind

Dr. Pournelle: You may not have noticed, being in Rome the last week, but in Dallas, the American Federation of Teachers has started an ad campaign to raise support for changing the NCLB act. They complain that it does not work and refer people to their site (www.aft.org)  for information on how they would like to fix it.

At the site they have a four points where NCLB fails:

1. They say that the measure adequate yearly progress fails in that some good schools are rated as not making good progress. There is no mention of all the schools that do not teach children the three R's which are rated as good (there are several I know of in my city).

2. They complain that some teachers are substandard because the Department of Education does not require the states to to force "high, objective uniform state standard of evaluation" on the local districts. Nothing is said about getting rid of incompetent teachers.

3. <clip>The AFT believes that intervention is necessary to raise student achievement in struggling schools. But there is little evidence to suggest that NCLB's sanctions are effective. AFT's experience with school improvement has helped us identify proven strategies to raise student achievement.</clip> Of course this cannot be tried out as a pilot program in a few districts to show that it does in fact work. It must be done, immediately, by fiat, on a national level. AFT is of course a "union of Professionals". It even says so on their logo. They could not steer us wrong.

4. Finally, as a final point, the funding provided by the federal government is totally inadequate to do even what the fed wants now, let alone this new program. (You knew this was coming).

I am in that generation where American education started going down hill. I distinctly remember "the New Math". When people of your generation speak of the things they learned in school, I begin to realize some of what I missed, but when I see what my wife and I had to do to ensure that our children had some of what we learned, and what school has come to today, it brings home the failure of the education system now. Fortunately, my children know how to read and have the basics (and the desire) to educate themselves, and I can provide some help to others in my work with Boy Scouts but there is so little an individual can do even at the local level.

Patrick A. Hoage

I am no fan of teacher unions or or nationalization of education. If we went back to local school boards in control of both taxes and education in the schools (subsidiarity and fiscal responsibility as remedies to a Dark Age) we might recover. As it is we will not.

"Credentialism" is insane. I was once asked to be President of a local junior college to help get it back on an academic track. I thought I could do it, but it turns out I do not have an "administrative credential" and thus I am not qualified to be president of a junior college in California. I should thank God for that since it would have been a very bad thing for me to do, but the madness of the credential process remains. Air Force sergeants who have taught meteorology and math to young men and women for 20 years are not "qualified" to teach high school science, while imbeciles with no idea of science or teaching a "qualified" by sitting through some lamebrain courses that anyone could pass without attending the course.

But the only way to see that no child is left behind is to make sure none get ahead.

The education crisis is terrible, and getting worse; I will live to see us reap that whirlwind. It is probably the worst thing I have ever seen happen to this republic.


And for your amusement or terror: (Actually this is serious)

Hackers Holding Computer Files 'Hostage' - Yahoo! News h t t p : / / news .yahoo. com /s/ap/internet_ransom (spaces added to eliminate automatic hyperlink)



Yahoo! News

By TED BRIDIS, AP Technology Writer 1 hour, 32 minutes ago WASHINGTON - Computer users already anxious about viruses and identity theft have new reason to worry: Hackers have found a way to lock up the electronic documents on your computer and then demand $200 over the Internet to get them back.


Security researchers at San Diego-based Websense Inc. uncovered the unusual extortion plot when a corporate customer they would not identify fell victim to the infection, which encrypted files that included documents, photographs and spreadsheets. A ransom note left behind included an e-mail address, and the attacker using the address later demanded $200 for the digital keys to unlock the files. "This is equivalent to someone coming into your home, putting your valuables in a safe and not telling you the combination," said Oliver Friedrichs, a security manager for Symantec Corp. The FBI said the scheme, which appears isolated, was unlike other Internet extortion crimes. Leading security and antivirus firms this week were updating protective software for companies and consumers to guard against this type of attack, which experts dubbed "ransom-ware." <snip>


Dr. Pournelle:

I'm seeing reports about extortion attempts because a virus/worm has encrypted the user's files due to a vulnerability that was patched over a year ago.

If the user has not updated, all that is required for the attack is a visit to a web site that hosts the attack. Because the user's computer runs the attack code, the attacking site now can download and run programs on the user's computer. That program encodes (encrypts) the user's files on their C drive, and any attached network drive.

Then the user gets a message telling them that they will have to pay US$200 to get the program that will decode their files.

This remote control of computers is common to many worms that can turn your computer into a 'bot', or remotely controlled computer. Bots are often used for mail relaying (spamming), hosting phishing sites, keystroke logging, identity theft, and more.

It is vitally important that all users keep their operating systems current (no matter which OS you are using). Your readers are probably more aware than most, but they should actively help others to protect their computers.
Data backups are also encouraged (write them to a CD/DVD).

Sources: Internet Storm Center http://isc.sans.org/diary.php?date=2005-05-23

Glad you (and your luggage) got home safely.

Regards, Rick Hellewell




There is no working up anymore



We have sown the wind.

What doth it profit a man (or a nation)...


Capitol Hill in a Nutshell

A new book by a Monica Lewinsky wanna-be has captured the essence of the working life on Capitol Hill.


>>Then there's Capitol Hill, where "they're always hiring, just like
>>McDonald's." Precisely what people do there is anything except clear
>>-- "Maybe somebody somewhere was working hard, but I only knew what I saw:
>>lots of people with way too much free time on their hands" -- enabling
>>them to be "the biggest gossips I had ever encountered: It was junior
>>high with BlackBerries and Instant Messenger."<<

The book, titled The Washingtonienne, certainly confirms what I had heard from women who worked on the Hill when I lived in DC. Congress is one of the bastions of sexism, mostly because the women who work there allow it and encourage it by their actions and the way they dress (or not dress, as the case maybe).

While the book is supposedly fiction, reviewer Jonathan Yardley maintains that only the names have been changed to protect Hyperion from, what else, lawsuits.

Here's the essence of writer Jessica Cutler's story. She apparently changed her name to Turner.

>>In any case, you know the rest of the story. Cutler/Turner gets
>>involved with a guy named Fred, married and holding a fairly
>>influential position in the Bush administration, who hands her an
>>envelope containing $400 in cash after each amatory encounter; with
>>Phillip, a sixtyish but well-endowed lawyer who has a high-end house
>>in Georgetown; with Sean, a bicycle messenger who's got muscles to die
>>for; with Dan, a sleazy guy in the first Hill office where she's
 >>hired; and then with Marcus in her second office, who likes to spank
 >>and be spanked but is otherwise a real sweetie pie, the only one of them she likes.

She thinks of the money and other favors these men bestow on her as "compensation," or "financial assistance," as Fred puts it, and even though April tells her, "It's hooker money," she insists, "It's an allowance ." Not until late in the game, when Fred gets to her apartment at night and subjects her to a quickie, does she have second thoughts: "Fred had given me approximately $20,000 in cash since our arrangement started, but this was the first time I ever really felt like a whore. Up until tonight, I believed that I was just a very lucky girl who happened to be at the right place at the right time."<<

And we wonder why the country is in disarray?


Some of us don't wonder.




This week:


read book now


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Subject: Evolutionary Biology

Pratchett, Stewart, and Cohen, 2005, The Science of Diskworld III: Darwin's Watch, Ebury Press.

It has a very interesting discussion in lay terms of some recent results in evolutionary biology, specifically how the expression of mutations is controlled by the interaction between genes and environment. See pages 267ff. It seems that environmental change has a profound influence on which genes get expressed. In particular, in the absence of change, many mutations are hidden because the associated proteins are forced into standard shapes. Environmental change then allows the proteins to fold differently and so modify their function. So here's how you can have rapid directional 'genetic' change in a population without a corresponding selective process.

-- "The difference between theory and practice is that, in theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is." (Tom Vogl) Harry Erwin

Terry and Jack Cohen have been having a lot of fun teaching science from Diskworld and Roundworld.

It is certainly the case that we don't yet understand the interactions between heredity and environment. It's also the case that some don't want to.


Subject: Army base plagued by illegals' intrusions


Army base plagued by illegals' intrusions.


Isn't this where the Army trains its code-breakers?


It's certainly the home base of the Intelligence Corps but I don't know abut code breakers.


Futurologist predicts need for 'digital bubble'


The need for this, of course, has already been predicted by a science fiction writer: Neal Stephenson in The Diamond Age.



Subject:  awesome honking (a light diversion)

Apparently there is an organization for Trombone players called the International Trombone Association ( http://www.trombone.net  ). They have an annual convention/conference/festival, where trombone players from around the world gather to display their prowess, trade tips, look for jobs, and generally schmooze. (In fact as I write this the 2005 convention is starting in New Orleans.)

These get-togethers naturally include lots of performances, and the ITA has an archive of past festival videos on the Web. (I'm jealous, the International Trumpet Guild doesn't do that.) A few years back, one of the featured performers was a quartet of female trombonists from the UK who call themselves "Bones Apart." They played an arrangement of "Stars and Stripes" which has to be heard to be believed. The facial expressions of a bass trombonist playing Sousa's piccolo music are pretty amusing, even while one is being amazed by her technical facility. I guess nobody told her the trombone is a boy's instrument.

A directory of the video clips from the 2002 festival is at http://www.ita-web.org/festival/itf2002/video.asp . The first one in the list is the one I described. It's not Verdi, but it's worth a look.

Wade Scholine


Subject: Make Congress read the laws it passes - the Read The Bills Act of 2005

" We hold this truth to be self-evident, that those in Congress who vote on legislation they have not read, have not represented their constituents. They have misrepresented them. "

Sounds like a good idea to me - they're submitting it to all Congressional offices next Monday (5/23/05): http://www.downsizedc.org/read_the_laws.shtml

" - Each bill, and every amendment, must be read in its entirety before a quorum in both the House and Senate.

- Every member of the House and Senate must sign a sworn affidavit, under penalty of perjury, that he or she has attentively either personally read, or heard read, the complete bill to be voted on.

- Every old law coming up for renewal under the sunset provisions must also be read according to the same rules that apply to new bills.

- Every bill to be voted on must be published on the Internet at least 7 days before a vote, and Congress must give public notice of the date when a vote will be held on that bill.

- Passage of a bill that does not abide by these provisions will render the measure null and void, and establish grounds for the law to be challenged in court.

- Congress cannot waive these requirements. "

What do you think?

One concern - it would allow a representative or senator to (in effect) vote in favor of indefinitely delaying a bill, merely by being absent from the reading. On the other hand, maybe that's a good thing - "The government that governs least..." I presume their absence would be part of the public record, if the ploy was abused.

If this bill should catch the public's imagination, it might be hard to keep it from a vote, let alone vote against it. Congress might get away with watering it down, but even simply requiring a quorum present at a reading could be of some benefit.

Tom Craver Chandler, AZ

I think it's unenforceable and unlikely, but it would be a good idea if Congress actually knew what was in the laws they pass...


Subject: Cold War Chess.


---- Roland Dobbins


Message: Imperial overstretch.



Secret UK troops plan for Afghan crisis

DEFENCE chiefs are planning to rush thousands of British troops to Afghanistan in a bid to stop the country sliding towards civil war, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.

Full article: http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=559872005

I know nothing of this but I wouldn't be astonished.

"He who seeks to plant democracy in my country plows the sea." Simon Bolivar


European Union at work?

Subject: www.justiceinbelgium.com

 w <http://www.justiceinbelgium.com>  ww.justiceinbelgium.com

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The contents of this Site will show you step by step several procedures before the Belgian justice, some of the proceedings 12 years in course without any date of audience. In the contents you’re going to note in one of the recordings that the victim was well present at the hearing and the judge in the sentence says that he and his layer weren’t present, in another procedure, first the judge pronounces in favour of the victim, as he should, than with more proof in the file, he refuses to admit the evidences, in the contents exposed, you’re going to verify: "Corruption, Xenophobia, Discrimination", violations of Civil Rights, Article 1.382 of the Belgian Civil Code, the Penal Code and the Constitutionals Rights Arts. 10, 11 and 191, violation of Art. 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties of the 4 of November 1950 and violation of Art. 10 of the Universal Declaration of Humans Rights of the 10 of December 1948, etc….. the last time I was present at a hearing, the person that was before me, his affaire was 30 years old before the tribunals, I was stoned, 7 others persons died in that issue, he seems to come form an eastern European country, he also had to change three times lawyers, from what was read at the hearing, his old lawyers didn’t do their job properly, as always is the case, the Belgian judicial system has destroy that man’s personality and dignity, it’s impossible to arrived a such conclusions unless the judges give reason to those who pay the higher price, that’s how justice really works at the present time in Belgium.


Sunday, May 15, 2005 --snip-- It didn't. I seem doomed to sleep most of the day. Nearly everything is closed on Sundays anyway. Santa Maria de Trastevere was crowded for Pentecost. After Mass an elderly sextant in slacks and a white shirt without necktie went about blowing out candles. No altar boys or girls for that, and no ceremony to it. --snip--

I was just -- obnoxiously -- wondering: does this mean I can use sextons for star sights? Yours Aye, Rod McFadden Aging sailor.



Now for something completely different:

Subject: The Kensington Stone.


----- Roland Dobbins

I have always rather hoped the Stone was real. And perhaps it is after all.


And I did some things about this, but forgot to post the message:

Subject: Bob Sheckley ill in Ukraine hospital, in need of funds?


------ Roland Dobbins





CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, May 26, 2005

Origin of Species

Afternoon Jerry,

I've been following the Darwinism / Design messages here recently, and wanted to drop a couple of thoughts into the water. Disclaimer: I've been a believer in Darwinism (defined as the origin of species from evolution through natural selection) by entire life and have a degree in Anthropology, including primate and human paleontology, so I understand the mechanism and implications thoroughly.

About a month ago I ran across two interesting books (both of which are available from Amazon by clicking on the link on the left border of your page):

Darwin's Black Box, by Michael Behe Icons of Evolution, by Jonathon Wells

After reading them, and validating the research presented, I must conclude the following:

1) Evolution, as a theory, has serious (and perhaps critical) problems explaining the origin and development of molecular systems, and may have similar difficultly explaining macro-morphological traits as well. 2) Much of the classic evidence (which still appears in the textbooks!) for Darwinism is either misleading, disproved, or outright fraudulent. This has been known for decades. 3) Because Darwinists can point a finger at critics and cry 'young earth creationist', legitimate discourse on the theory has been completely stifled. 4) Micro-evolution does explain phenomena such as antibiotic resistance.

I find myself now in the curious position of revisiting my long held beliefs in the area with, for apparently the first time in my life, an open mind. I would highly encourage your readers to consider both sides (meaning pro-Darwin and anti-Darwin - which is not necessarily a creationist or similar position) rather than blindly accepting what they are being fed by the media. Those two books are a great start. I'm not necessarily prepared to make the leap from 'Darwinism fails' to 'Must be designed' as are some of the authors, yet the critique is no less valid because one may not agree with the presented alternative.

Much as you've mentioned in other areas, research that doesn't support the status quo isn't funded, reported, or considered legitimate.

Best Regards,






Subject: 11 steps to a better brain,


Eleven steps to a better brain. Courtesy of the New Scientist. Who could ask for more?





Hollowing out the US Defense Forces

You've probably seen this report, Dr. Pournalle:


To quote: Conclusion

While industrial and military self-sufficiency was U.S. policy for more than two centuries, that policy no longer exists. Instead, the U.S. Government has elected, through many uncoordinated decisions made over a number of years, to globalize the U.S. economy and its defense industrial base.

Consequently, the U.S. manufacturing sector is rapidly hollowing out. Basic and high technology industries are shifting their production, research and development, and now back office functions to other nations. A host of U.S. policies are encouraging these shifts.

One consequence of this policy shift and the economic hollowing out is that a large and growing portion of the manufactured goods used in both the U.S. economy and the U.S. defense sectors are coming from factories based in other nations. More significant, more than half of all merchandise imported into the United States, other than from Canada and Mexico, now comes from factories located in China and the nations that immediately surround it.

Another result is that as the U.S. military increases its reliance on readily available commercial technologies, it is also relying on suppliers located in other nations. Moreover, many of these components, particularly electronics are coming from China and the nations clustered around it. The two key policy questions this raises are: Would that long supply line across the Pacific be secure in time of war and are reliable alternatives available?

Today, the United States Government does not know the source of many key components used in its weapons systems. Without that knowledge, the Department of Defense cannot assure the reliability of supply during a time of prolonged warfare.

Nor can the United States be assured of the integrity of many items it is using in its vast system of electronic networks that underpin both the domestic and military economies. Increasingly, these networks rely on imported components that are vulnerable to sabotage or being modified to carry "Trojan horse" programs and viruses that could be used against the United States in an information war. Moreover, a number of sources claim that China's military doctrine is to make a first strike at an adversary's information system. This is the U.S. "Achilles heel."

Ultimately, the key concern identified in this study is less that of the transfer of high technology capacities to China, which is inevitable, but the hollowing of the US defense industrial base, which is not.


Resembles in some ways the Roman Empire trying to hold itself together with mercenaries....

Charles Brumbelow

Indeed. I've been saying this for a long time.


Subject: re: garbage conversion

Matthew Joseph Harrington suggests that it might be worthwhile to process garbage into oil. This is being tried now. The pilot plant was famous for using turkey guts as its input, but really the process could use other inputs (sewage, and the contents of garbage dumps, both are obvious candidates).


-- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est" steve@hastings.org http://www.blarg.net/~steveha


Subject: Turkey guts and geology of oil

Dr. Pournelle:

There is the conversion of "turkey guts" (slaughter house waste) into oil through a process involving pressure and perhaps certain catalysts, and there has been some debate on whether this can be cost effective.

There is also the abiotic oil theory, championed by Thomas Gold but originating in the former Soviet Union. I have found an interesting argument from J. F. Kenney and colleagues supporting the abiotic theory, or at least an unconventional deep-origins theory at http://www.gasresources.net/AlkaneGenesis.htm. It has a connection to turkey guts.

The conventional theory of oil is that you get anoxic sedimentation in a shallow sea or lake forming a carbon-rich sediment, this sediment gets buried to a depth a few miles down in what is called the "oil window" to form a source rock, the oil percolates into a porous reservoir rock such as a sandstone, which is in turn overlayed by an impermeable cap rock, and you have recoverable oil. The oil window is the range of depths where the temperature is such that the biological carbon compounds get turned into oil.

There is the question of how exactly do carbohydrates, i.e. plant or algae remains, get converted into hydrocarbons. It is assumed that high temperatures along with geologic time does the trick. Kenney argues that at atmospheric pressure, carbohydrates convert into methane plus elemental carbon or methane plus carbon dioxide (he calls this the "bean eater's reaction), and there isn't a way to convert methane into the higher hydrocarbons -- it is related to why you don't see diamonds in charcoal piles. But like the conditions that form diamonds, if you subject carbon or even carbonates to high enough pressure, you can get the constituents of crude oil. The pressure are huge as in 100 miles down kind of huge.

Even if the source of the oil is biological, which it could be with plate tectonics pushing crustal rock into the mantle, that oil forms at great depths throws the "oil window" out the window and would require some rethinking of how to look for oil. That the only way to convert carbohydrates, carbonates, or methane into gasoline is to subject them to the same pressures that form diamonds seems like a radical theory, but one that should be testable.

I am assuming that the "turkey guts" process involves pressure but nowhere near the pressures required for the people doing synthetic diamonds. Does this process involve a catalyst? Do they add hydrogen? Kenney argues that cracking carbohydrates produces methane and CO2 but there is not free hydrogen available. Does the "turkey guts" process produce a crude oil, or does it produce different compounds that are usable for fuel in the manner of biodiesel? If it produces a crude oil, do similar conditions and similar catalysts exist in the geologic oil window? If the "turkey guts" process works at the depths and temperatures of the "oil window", the provides strong support for the biological origins of petroleum, but if it doesn't, that suggests that Kenney is on to something.

Paul Milenkovic Madison, Wisconsin


Subject: Re: Garbage Conversion 

Dear Jerry,

There is a company applying thermal decomposition /cracking technologies to waste streams now.


While they do not explicitly give their $/bbl equivalent threshold for profitability, they do state the following:* *

*How much energy does the plant use to run?* For every 100 BTUs available in our feedstock, approximately 15-20 BTUs are needed to provide energy for the plant. The remaining BTUs will be available for sale in a converted state,


*Is CWT’s process cost-competitive with other means of producing oil?* Yes. Other “alternative” sources of energy produce fuels that are significantly more expensive than our oil and traditional crude. CWT’s bio-derived oil can be competitive with small exploration and production companies.

Most small E&P companies that I know are profitable at $20/bbl or less. CWT's input at their current operating site is by-product (offal) from a turkey processing plant; their output is light oil, methane, and solids. They claim that they can modify this technology to process garbage, old tires, sewage, etc.

Regards, Jerry Drake


I do not often get pre-written articles:

Subject: Four Big Lies About Offshoring


A lot is being said about offshoring these days, but is the truth being told? Some common misperceptions and opinions are dividing America.

But regardless of individual opinions, offshoring will play an increasingly crucial part in America’s, as well as in many other nations’ domestic and global economic strength. Below is “Four Big Lies About Offshoring,” an article in which Mark Wesker, who previously founded, took public and sold portal software company Sequoia Software to Citrix Systems and is founder and CEO of Artifact, an outsourcing project management solutions start-up, sets the record straight.

You are free to run this article in its entirety, in part or as a serialized column over a number of weeks. Please let me know if you are interested in more information or if you would like to speak with Mark.




Michelle Sabolich

Atomic Public Relations


Featurewire article below


Four Big Lies About Offshoring

Word Count: 943

Offshoring – it’s a hot issue – and everyone, from our late night talk show hosts to politicians in Washington, has something to say. But what do we really know about offshoring? Are American jobs at stake? Is the shift in economic power tilting towards China and India? How will it actually affect the American economy in the long run?

“There’s a global supply chain emerging beneath our feet, and there are a set of widely-held 'misconceptions' about offshoring that will hurt American business over the long run,” said Mark Wesker, who founded portal technology company Sequoia Software, now a part of Citrix Systems, and is now Chief Executive Officer of Artifact, which provides software outsourcing project management solutions.

“Once we better understand the offshoring opportunity and ways to bring visibility and control to projects taking place thousands of miles away, we’ll all benefit,” suggests Wesker. Here’s his take on four big lies about offshoring:

Lie Number One: Offshoring is a Threat to American Economic Prosperity

China, Russia and India may be gaining jobs, but is America losing out? The fact is that companies that have outsourced work abroad have created efficiencies that led them to hire twice as many workers here in America as their non-outsourcing counterparts. According to a recent Dartmouth study, outsourcers are job creators here in America. Since 1992, the U.S. lost 361 million jobs, but gained 380 million jobs back, for a net increase of 19 million jobs.

Offshoring is becoming an increasingly important part of competing in today’s global economy, and if start-up companies don’t have an offshoring strategy in their two year plan, there’s less chance that they’ll secure venture funding. Even if companies aren’t doing it now, META Group, now a part of market research firm Gartner, says that 88% of firms are moving to establish an enterprise-wide offshore strategy.

“There are strategic advantages to offshoring, perhaps the most important being the ability to offload less strategic tasks, and help American companies to focus where they shine – innovation,” notes Artifact CEO Wesker. “This makes us more competitive within the global economy.”

Lie Number Two: Offshoring is a Recent Phenomenon

Opportunistic politicians and naysayers have tried to make the American public believe that offshoring is a new practice. History tells us otherwise. The United Kingdom once outsourced it’s basket-weaving to India, when it was still a British colony. American companies have outsourced manufacturing for decades. And today, as many of the business processes of America’s companies are commoditized and easily delivered through technology, India and many other nations are again playing a supporting role, from customer service, to back-office support and even news-headline writing.

“As lower level functions in manufacturing, from cars to software, are commoditized, American companies must move from assembly to architecture, design, and general contracting of the global supply chain,” says Wesker.

Offshoring helps developing countries to build stronger economies, while consumption of less expensive products and services in more established markets continue to fuel global economic growth.

Lie Number Three: Offshoring is Only About Cost-Cutting and Compromises Quality

Some Americans are convinced that companies engaged in offshoring are just trying to save a few bucks instead of paying an American worker what he or she is worth. While there are industries where the primary driver is cost, and where working conditions should be thoroughly investigated for mistreatment of workers, this isn’t the case across the board.

In fact, some of the software supply chain’s greatest producers now reside in India and Russia, where the workforce is as highly educated, talented and motivated as American developers. In some cases, they’re better.

But today’s accelerated rate of offshoring has created a new business model that’s more complex in every way and at all levels. Big providers of offshore services, such as Bangalore’s Infosys Technologies Ltd., have the resources to create project management tools that bridge the gap created by this new reality. But for smaller customers and providers, the options for delivering world class projects and services haven’t kept up. This can translate into major cost, quality and time overruns that can kill a business.

However, “a new breed of solutions have been designed to help companies flourish,” according to Wesker, whose company offers a service that addresses these challenges. “What companies need is a greater level of visibility and control over their projects and service partners. Today, we can deliver services on-demand over the Internet that give customers a minute-by-minute view of where the projects stands, how its progressing on its stated goals and the ability to change course in real-time.”

Lie Number Four: Offshoring is Optional

Many people view offshoring as optional. Again, another myth. It’s a matter of survival. American firms need to outsource processes where they can’t compete, and to focus where they can – on innovation. Those businesses that do not – will face certain and aggressive price competition from domestic or foreign firms who can perform the commoditized tasks more cheaply.

Global sourcing creates greater opportunity for all parties and countries involved by allowing more developed economies to innovate, while allowing developing countries to get into the game and begin growing themselves. In essence, offshoring is essential for global business growth. And the U.S. steel industry is a good example of the fate awaiting U.S. companies that turn a blind eye.

“Outsourcing and offshoring aren’t optional, and they pose as many opportunities as they do risks,” says Wesker. “Innovative companies need to get over the fear factor and implement new processes to manage offshoring’s risks in order to stay competitive and prosper.”

# # #


Michelle Sabolich

Atomic Public Relations


It's a bit difficult to begin here, since there are a number of assumptions built into both the "lies" refuted here and the refutations themselves.

One assumption is that all industries are equally important: it makes no difference whether you keep a key defense industry or allow it to be exported. This is at least open to question.

A second is that jobs are equal. It is one thing to offshore basket weaving, another to offshore the ability to manufacture television screens and computer chips. It is one thing to send away the mind-stultifying jobs that ought to be automated anyway; it is quite another to send off the skilled manufacturing jobs and leave those who used to be factory workers to find some other position, quite possibly one of the menial jobs that can't be exported (how do you export gardening, or burger flipping?). This is not to say this is what is happening; but the "four big lies" approach doesn't give us any data, either.

The third point here is murky: why else would one export jobs except to save money? Moreover, one reason for export is to save money on health insurance costs: if you can buy your parts from workers in a country that doesn't require health insurance, or provides it as a government benefit, then you won't have to pay that for your workers, whom you can dismiss to find their own means of paying for health care. You can dismiss your handicapped workers hired under threat of lawsuit if the job is eliminated. You can dismiss the deaf programmer and the signer who sits in meetings to interpret for him, provided that the job has been eliminated and won't be filled by someone who can hear what's going on. You can dismiss the alcoholic tech support worker who hasn't been doing you much good but who can't be fired because he has a disability and allow someone in Bangalore to fill his place. Indeed, if you didn't have to live with OSHA and ADA and compulsory health care you might not be exporting the job at all.

Finally, the last point simply isn't true. If the rest of the world vanished tomorrow morning the US would still have a working economy; we could be self-sufficient. We would clearly not be as wealthy or as "efficient", and we'd have to hire for higher wages a bunch of people we've laid off to live off the safety net or who find the welfare programs more attractive than work; but we'd clearly manage. Offshoring is certainly optional if by optional you mean we would be unable to feed, clothe, and employ our people without it.

Now: the alternatives to offshoring: tariff, reducing regulations and taxes, and providing more incentive to work by reducing the benefits of not working. The Welfare Reform Act under Clinton milked much of the good out of that last item; the other two have not been tried. We know that big protective tariffs produce inefficient industries and really big ones produce grossly inefficient industries; that's one reason we opted in the free trade direction and allowed steel and automobile imports. Alas, we may have gone a bit far in that direction. The answer isn't 30% tariffs though; it's across the board tariffs calculated to compensate for some of the regulations (Americans with Disabilities Act, Worker's Compensation, Compulsory Health Care, Wage Hours Laws, OSHA, etc., etc.) that we want to keep. By my reckoning, a 15% across the board tariff would do a lot to compensate for those; and I think we ought to at least try 10%.

But I have been saying that a long time.

What I do know is that when PR firms begin sending this sort of thing to journalists it's interesting.

And see below


Subject: Untappable messages,


This is about messages where eavesdropping/tapping will not occur - perfectly secure messaging.



Holy Photons, Batman!


Jogging Separated Humans from Apes


I first saw this hypothesis forty years ago, in Analog. Since then David Brin and Larry Niven have made references to it.



Run! Run for your life!


Feeling safer already:

Dr. Pournelle,

I imagine you've seen this but just in case, since I couldn't find it in mail:


(re: removing weather data from the internet)

I especially enjoyed the following:

"But Barry Myers, AccuWeather's executive vice president, said the bill would improve public safety by making the weather service devote its efforts to hurricanes, tsunamis and other dangers, rather than duplicating products already available from the private sector."

Because when I'm trying to find the NOAA Terminal Advisory Forecast down here in Pensacola, so I can leave the apartment knowing what the flight's going to be like...don't they know that what I really want is the Lawn and Garden/Aches and Pains info from weather.com. "Careful, that ragweed up at 14000' might get you!"

Don't get me wrong, this is nothing to get "outraged" about but it's up there on the "silly items of the day" list. Topping this list, however, is the "procedure" by which an unnamed airline transported my pistol...which was, per TSA regs, locked in a box and accompanying me to the ticket counter should I need to prove its unloaded nature.

Instead, i'm standing there in Logan Airport, being asked to remove the weapon and show the chamber to the ticket attendant...who may or may not have known what six empty holes meant, but the reaction from the 100+ international bystanders in line was Priceless, as I walked away with a giant UNLOADED FIREARM ticket in day-glo orange. With the stipulation that the box would have to remain unlocked with the key in it, since the TSA screeners might want to see inside...I volunteered to have it searched, but was refused a screening!!

So there I am, asking the ticket lady how I'll know the box was locked up and not available to baggage handlers or whoever...and her answer was "no, sir, there's no way to ensure that." Makes me wonder if anyone on the flight line collects guns, or passes them up to the cabin. Sure enough, it took four managers to come up with an answer to "what do we do with this passenger, we've never seen a gun since 9/11"...they must have assumed I was a sky marshal. Air marshal. Whichever isn't the title of the supreme commander in Starship Troopers. And just for kicks, TSA never checked inside the box, but they did lock my bag with a lock I had no key for...

Feel free to edit for length, you get the picture...anyway, I subscribed, MOTE is a favorite (could we get Hollywood to design starships the right way?), and I wish A STEP FARTHER OUT were mandatory reading for newly elected members of well, any elected body. First things first though, my hometown has to protest the local wind farm project on the grounds that it might be visible from Hyannisport...

Ian McC. [military, please leave out last name]



CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  May 27, 2005

Subject: Airport screeners could see X-rated X-rays

This was used as a joke in the movie AIRPLANE II -- but now they want to do it for real.

Airport screeners could see X-rated X-rays By Joe Sharkey

Homeland Security plans to test machines at airport checkpoints that see through clothing and create a detailed body image.

Photos: Scanners search through clothing



Why am I not astonished?


Some letters on Bit Torrent:

Subject: Bittorrent

Dr. Pournelle:

Your understanding is correct.

If I want to share a file using bittorrent, I create a torrent file which describes the file in question, and breaks it down into logical chunks.

The file includes the address of a tracker (a web site which automaticlly coordinates the uploading and downloading of chunks between people.)

I then upload that torrent file to a site (like EliteTorrents), where others can download it.

The original file is still on my machine.

If you then download the torrent file and start bittorrent, you log onto the tracker, which coordinates the transfer of pieces (at random) from my machine to yours. If a third user logs on as well, she will also get random pieces from my machine, as well as pieces from your machine (those pieces which you have already received from my machine which she doesn't have). At the same time you will be receiving pieces from her machine that she received, that you haven't received from me.

Once I have uploaded a full copy I can disconnect and the transfer will continue (i.e. if you have the first half and she has the second half yu will each continue swapping pieces until you both have the complete file)

Since it scales well (to a point) the more downloaders the faster it goes. Especially when more than one person has a complete copy of the file.

The comparison to google is one the Bittorrent community has made many times -- and while the actions of the MPAA/FBI/etc may not be legal, most people do not have the financial ability to fight them, so the sites shut down out of fear.

The REAL question is why (or when) the movie/tv industry will take a proactive position and embrace the technology (either hosting their own copies, with advertising to cover the costs, or for a small fee.)

Also, it's doubtful if there is any real economic impact on the industry -- there is a small number of people involved (in the 10's of thousands worldwide at most).


-- If you want to build a ship, then don't drum up men to gather wood, give orders, and divide the work. Rather, teach them to yearn for the far and endless sea." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery


Re: Bit Torrent site takedowns

Many of the Bit Torrent oriented sites that are being pulled down have actually been running "trackers" as well. The Bit Torrent client needs to talk to a tracker in order to find the seeds and other peers that will share chunks of the file being downloaded. While a tracker isn't actually sharing any of the data, it is facilitating the data exchange.

The next step in the evolution of Bit Torrent is the development of "trackerless" torrents, in which each client effectively becomes a small tracker too, so that the information previously hosted by the tracker becomes distributed among the clients as well. This feature is in beta testing now.

Google and even BitTorrent.com searhc aren't providing tracker services for pirated material. They only provide an index of .torrent files, which carry the information needed to connect to the tracker.




The premise behind BT which distinguishes it from most of the other file-share networks such as Kazaa, etc., is that the members of the "swarm" need not have a complete copy themselves before starting to re-share information to other members. Once a threshold amount of the file is in place on the user's disk, the BT client will start offering it back out to the cluster. A "tracker" file, which is what most of the websites offer, simply points to the initial copy being offered. Clients are simultaneously servers to the swarm. Once a sufficient number of completed copies (seeds) have accumulated, the original can disconnect and the remaining members can continue to pass bits around, using their own copies of the tracker info.

I personally have found this most useful when pulling down Linux ISO images when a new release comes out from, say, Fedora. Duke University's Linux Users' Group ( torrent.dulug.duke.edu ) hosts torrents for Fedora releases, and their popularity means a huge swarm ends up building. I typically can drag down a full DVD-ROM worth of data in under 4 hours on my Comcast pipe (4 Mb/s).

While I acknowledge that there is a good deal of piracy going on, there is as well a huge amount of legitimate files flying around as well. I have used BT for fan-subtitled Japanese anime episodes for series unlikely to see this side of the Pacific; the impact to the Japanese studios is minimal. The MPAA's bleating about the availability of Sith just after release didn't seem to put much of a dent in the box office, now did it? I see downloads like this almost a measure of a film's relative popularity, and a yardstick to the studios of likely demand for the eventual video release. The folks who want it will go to the theater or buy the DVD when available; the marginal material will fall by the wayside by extended word-of-mouth.

Bob Halloran Jacksonville FL



You're understanding of Bittorrent is pretty spot on. You have a .torrent file which is really a file describing the hashes for the multiple pieces a file or set of files that has been sliced up into hundreds to thousands of parts. You then have a tracker listed in your .torrent file. This tracker is the server you connect to to find out what other users are in your files swarm that are serving up pieces of the file(s) described in the torrent. So while the server hosting the torrents has none of the actual files described in the torrent itself residing on it, the system that is acting as the tracker does have direct information pertaining to who is hosting parts of a torrent. A recent development has been the ability of Bittorrent clients to get torrents in a trackerless mode where it turns each client into a lightweight tracker as well. This development would make tracking down "sites" a shade more problematic and would likely end up forcing the likes of the RIAA and MPAA to suing individuals downloading the said torrents instead of just going after those who initially host or upload the torrents. This all being said, the FBI's raid this week to take down the Elite Torrents website is really a waste of taxpayer time and money for a variety of reasons.

1. By having articles in the LA Times and other traditional media outlets more people have been informed of a new method they can use to find copyrighted content for free and thus engage in copyright infringement.

2. This does not stop people utilizing trackerless versions of said copyrighted content

3. This does not stop torrent websites outside of the USA. A prime example of this is the site www.thepiratebay.org  which is located in Sweden. Numerous companies have tried legal action against this site as you can see by their postings at http://static.thepiratebay.org/legal/   . A good example of what people are up against is summarized in this particular response: http://static.thepiratebay.org/adv_response.txt  .

4. As was argued during the Napster times, the ability to try before you by has actually helped increase sales of content. This is a controversial point of course.

5. Proving loss of sale is a bit difficult I believe, in this case, I mean George Lucas made "only" 158.5 million dollars on opening weekend (Thurs-Sunday) and that was just domestic number, it didn't include the 144.7 million for the earlier release in the UK and elsewhere. (See: http://www.cfra.com/headlines/index.asp?cat=4&nid=28224   and http://www.zap2it.com/movies/news/story/0,1259,---25823,00.html )

However, that being said I was at a recent local cybersecurity conference that had a panel of industry experts along with an active agent from the FBI and according to what he said cybercrime is the FBI's #3 priority right behind counter intelligence and counter terrorism activities. There are currently 1000 cybercrime FBI agents in 56 field offices in 46 different countries out of the total 11,000 agents in the FBI. Of course all of these assets are working on not just copyright infringement activities but also do work regarding worms, viruses, identity theft, phishing scams, illegal network intrusions & attacks so the FBI really has its hands full in this regard I would say.

Those who wear tinfoil hats all the time would go so far as to say that the Revenge of the Sith movie workprint torrent was placed by the MPAA because the title would be release proof and allow the MPAA talking heads to moan about "piracy" and "theft". As far as myself goes I merely observe that movies are at the tipping point where a night out to the movies plus refreshments will cost me as much as waiting to get the movie on DVD, and I will get more content on the DVD than had I gone to the theater. Of course I'm still trying to figure out where to put the 70ft screen here at home so that is still a point in favor of the theater experience.

-Dan S.

Which probably say enough on the subject. Thanks all.


Subject: Intelligent Design


Intelligent Design seems to be just slickly repackaged Creationism. The lawyer in the hyperlink you cite does no more than what lawyers often do to science: reduce it to argumentum verecundiam and build a false edifice of plausibility from out-of-context quotes and factoids of dubious relevance. There does not appear to be any hypothesis other than "God created the heavens and the earth." Whatever the merits of this assertion, it is not a testable hypothesis. I would ordinarily dismiss this sort of thing with extreme prejudice but if Jerry Pournelle says there is something about Intelligent Design that is more than the usual creationist bunkum and balderdash, I'm willing to think further on it. So do you think there is something about Intelligent Design that merits serious attention? If so, what?


Steven Belknap, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

What I think is that the Darwinists have gone well beyond the evidence and have taken a leap of faith every whit as large as any religious person; and remain impervious to evidence at least as much so as any religious fanatic or Velikovsky adherent. That's not science; and by insisting that the schools refrain from teaching that there is any possible alternative to their theories they are purely destructive.

Religion may be no more than "the opiate of the people" but it is at least that; societies dispense with it in favor of some kind of ethical humanism at their peril; and in fact the hunger of humans for explanations of their lives and of the universe is such that when a state religion is destroyed in favor of "rationalism" the result is not rationalism at all. Very few are capable of living lives motivated by Epictetus and Stoic philosophy. Most turn to paganism. The results can be terrible, and if you don't believe that, you have not been reading the headlines or the history of the XXth Century Anno Domino. Liberation from religion does not lead to freedom of thought. It generally leads to race riots and criminal behavior and sometimes to pogroms (why not eliminate your biological adversaries?). Now none of this is an argument in favor of Intelligent Design; I argue here that if the materialist hypothesis be true, militant atheism makes damned little sense, since its successful propagation has a very large downside and little discernible upside (does a materialist universe CARE if people discover the "truth" and does "truth" have a real meaning in that context?).

Intelligent Design asks question of Darwinians that the Darwinians don't care to answer. In turn the militant Darwinians often resort to intellectual dishonesty and insult rather than addressing the questions. Yes, I know: there are theoretical models of equation systems in which really complex structures can evolve by chance and through natural selection; but oddly enough we don't see much of that actually happening, even when doing Monte Carlo simulations of the equations themselves. "The Game of Life" is fun to watch it doesn't lead to a lot. But serious discussions of the flaws in the Darwinian Faith usually lead to shouting matches and insults and I have grown weary of participation in them. I have no objection to the teaching of evolution in schools -- it explains much on the micro-evolutionary level, enough so that one is severely handicapped by not knowing it -- but I do object to its claims to have settled all the questions, to the point of demanding that children be taught there are no alternatives to the (still unproven) macro-evolution hypotheses.

Sir Fred Hoyle, who may have been off his head and may not have been, asked a number of questions about natural selection and eventually concluded that on Earth at least evolution was strongly influenced by interventions from space. A bizarre hypothesis, but troubling: as Sir Fred asked, how do you get from one mountain top to another if you must cross a valley of death? Which is to say, some evolutionary paths lead through periods of increased vulnerability and survival of those not fit at all, and getting from the one to the other is a complicated trick indeed.

As it happens, TCS today has an article http://www.techcentralstation.com/052605E.html on Intelligent Design that summarizes much about it.

It may be that my intellectual development was stunted in the 1940's when the Christian Brothers, defying the then laws of the State of Tennessee, taught evolution as well as the Augustinian notion of "creation in germinal causes" and Thomistic faith that Reason and Faith can be reconciled, but you may have to work to do it; but you should not compromise Reason to achieve that result. Still, it's what I have to live by. Thank you, Brother Fidelis, Brother I. Vincent, and Brother Robert....


Subject: Four Big Lies about Offshoring

The outsourcing phenomenon poses some interesting challenges for the US and Europe. Michelle Sabolich's posting is troubling.

The net job gain argument always goes back to 1992 ( the bottom of the recession that caused George Bush the reelection). The numbers change dramatically when compared from March 2001 to April 2005. The total employment gain is 780,000 from March 2001. The increase in Government hiring accounts for the net positive change. Private sector employment decreased by 22,000.

Recent job numbers show promise that the US is entering a phase of net job growth in the high end section.

As you pointed out, the other factor is whether all jobs are equal. The optimists point out that more American workers are starting their own businesses. Many of my associates that were in the high tech field went from earning high salaries (most over $100k) to being unemployed, to trying to get any job.

This complaint/concern may seem like sour grapes, but these are workers with over 20 years experience. They were entering their peak earning period, peak savings and investment period. Their children were finishing college, their mortgages paid off.

After four years of struggling, their savings and retirement funds are dwindling. Health insurance is a dream. Getting a job at Home Depot or WalMart is difficult. Most hiring staff assume that these workers will be gone if the economy improves.

The long term ramifications are troubling.

Regardless of the job situation, the loss of vital industries poses a long term security threat to the US.

Joe Wojnowski

Few economists include the "external" costs such as anomie, loss of hope, loss of the realistic expectation of being Middle Class although a blue collar worker, crime among the children of the alienated, even if, as they seldom do, they include worker compensation and increased welfare. And the social cost of citizens become welfare clients is seldom appreciated.


Could you point me to a resource to identify the author/title of the short story outlined below?

A spaceship's crew visit world whose sun is due to nova soon. After the nova, they discover evidence that entire population was evacuated in ark-ships headed to nearest compatible system. The world was Earth.

I read this many years ago, and would like to pass it on to my son.

Thanks for any info you or your readers may provide.

Thanks for the hours of reading enjoyment your work has provided me!

Larry Storey lstorey@tampabay.rr.com

I have forgotten, but I expect readers will know.

Subject: Story

That's an Arthur Clarke story, "Rescue Party," most recently anthologized in "The World Turned Upside Down" by Baen Books.

Christian Schulte

And thanks to all the others who replied.




This week:


read book now


Saturday, May 28, 2005

Re: On Future Battlefields

Dr. Pournelle,

The below paper discusses America's vulnerability to a devastating EMP attack and speculated that even "a Scud-type ballistic missile (using a nuclear weapon with only a low explosive yield) launched from a vessel in U.S. coastal waters and detonated at an altitude of 95 miles could degrade electronic systems across one-quarter of the United States."

Ron Mullane


EMP is a primary threat, and if I were a terrorist with an atom bomb that's how I'd use it: fewer direct casualties and a LOT of disruption.


"Power corrupts and PowerPoint corrupts absolutely."





CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, May 29, 2005

Spengler: The crescent and the conclave http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/GD19Aa01.html  5.4.19 

Now that everyone is talking about Europe's demographic death, it is time to point out that there exists a way out: convert European Muslims to Christianity. The reported front-runner at the Vatican conclave that began on Monday, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, is one of the few Church leaders unafraid to raise the subject.

 Hedonistic dissipation well may have condemned the existing Europeans to infecundity and extinction, but that does not prevent Europe from getting new ones. It has been done before. Europe in the 8th century was a depopulated ruin. The loss of half the Roman Empire's population by the 7th century left vast territories open to Islam, which rapidly absorbed the formerly Christian Levant, North Africa and Spain. By converting successive waves of invading pagans - Lombards, Magyars, Vikings, Celts, Saxons, Slavs - Christianity reinvented Europe, and held Islam at bay.

Now that John Paul II has been buried, Catholic voices are sounding the alarm about the coming Islamicization of Europe. In the future imagined by John Paul II's biographer George Weigel, "The muezzin summons the faithful to prayer from the central loggia of St Peter's in Rome, while Notre-Dame has been transformed into Hagia Sophia on the Seine - a great Christian church become an Islamic museum." <snip>


Our modern government is more likely to force Christians and Jews to "diversify" by converting to Islam.









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