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Mail 134 January 1 - 7, 2001 

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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.

I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too...  I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail. 

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This week:



Monday  January 1, 2001

Happy New Milennium

Happy New Century

Happy New Year

Have a nice day

There is a great deal of mail on many topics and I'll see what I can do but it is a very lovely day outside and I want to enjoy it.






This week:



Tuesday,  January 2, 2001

We are working on the servers today. With luck we will finish and have no more point failure sources. None.  But that does mean mail doesn't go up today.




This week:



Wednesday, January 3, 2001

I should be getting some mail up shortly. Please stand by.

Begin with a perennial question:

Dear Sir,

Thanks for pointing out David Stove's "Anything Goes: Origins of the Cult of Scientific Irrationalism." As a grad student, many of the readings in my field refer to Popper's "World 3." When reading these "interestingly" worded arguments, I've always believed that there was something generally amiss, but didn't have the background with which to address the questions. However, should get a copy to me shortly and perhaps Stove can point me in a better direction, or at least provide me with a different set of tools with which to consider the questions.

More fundamentally, I find myself returning to an interesting question: What is on Jerry Pournelle's "Recommended Reading List?" By this, I suppose I mean, that should you be writing the "Harvard Guide to Reading for the Future" (or similar guide) what would you recommend?

Thanks again for keeping up Chaos Manor. I'll be renewing my subscription shortly.

-- Cheers,

Art Russell


"if you don't understand it and the laws under which it will be executed, then don't sign it! - no matter how much profit may appear to be in store. Too lazy and too eager can ruin a trader."

- Grandmother from Robert A. Heinlein's "Citizen of the Galaxy"

I have been asked this question over the years often enough that I have long intended to do an annotated reading list, but I never quite find the time to do it right, and done wrong it would not me much use. My incentive has lessened since the publication of Jacques Barzun, FROM DAWN TO DECADENCE, 1500 to the Present, (Harper Collins 2000) which is a far better work than I could have written; not only does it belong on the list of works every civilized person should have read, but it contains within it a guide a a great deal more. I can only rejoice that Barzun could turn out such a book at his age: it gives me hope for the future.

Get that book and then ask the question.

As to David Stove, anyone in the sciences ought to read at least one of his works: it's not necessary to understand the philosophical stuffing to DO science, but given the modern trend on our campuses, it sure helps to know the flaws in some of the attacks on scientific method.

As for me, I learned philosophy of science from Gustav Bergmann at Iowa and was influenced greatly by positivists and operational philosophy at a formative age; it seems to have stuck. Of course that was on a foundation of a pretty good classical education at the hands of the Christian Brothers; alas, that sort of thing doesn't seem to be offered anywhere in high schools now.


And for a little shameless self promotion:

Thank you for the New Year's message. I am very satisfied with my subscription. I actually subscribed because I felt that otherwise I was not entitled to send messages to your web site. 

Several months ago I was listening to Peter Schickele's radio program on National Public Radio. His radio program deals with music appreciation, as he sees it. You may know him as the inventor of P.D.Q. Bach, or the creator of the soundtrack for the 60's sf film "Silent Running". This particular program dealt with the history of the "Dies Irae". Mr. Schickele claimed that it was one of the oldest and most influential pieces of music in human history. 

He proceeded to prove that through the course of the program, giving examples of well-known composers who have incorporated it into their works. When he quoted a passage from it: "Day of wrath, and doom impending, David's words with Sybil's blending ..." I was transported to the funeral service on the Lenin, where Captain Rod Blaine wonders how old that particular song was. What I was wondering was, did you and Mr. Niven know how old the Dies Irae was when you wrote that scene? Or is this fact just a happy coincidence?

Carl Zeichner

That was me: I had a very old copy of the Day of Wrath, and the phrase "David's Words with Sybil's blending" struck me as they must have struck Captain Rod Blaine. Few churches use that old version now, and most don't even have those words in their updated and modern hymnals. 

And ABout TAPE

I saw the note about tape and i would say i agree mostly, except for ONE media that i've used extensively.

DLT. aka "Digital Linear Tape". This is *actually* a datacenter storage medium, however I've been able to find a number of drives for $300->$600 on eBAY. The DLT4000 drive I have at home now that i use for system backup on my NT server will put up to 20Gig on a tape (40Gig with compression). Thats about the size I need and I've *never* lost a backup on DLT. Compaq and DELL also sell the drives new (for around $1K I think). All the ones I've used at home have been used ones, all the ones I've used in datacenters have been new ones. I think Compaq owns the company that actually builds all the mechanisms (DEC used to and Compaq bought DEC). This stuff has been around for at least 10 years (in increasing capacities). The cartridges are also relatively small bigger than a box of 3.5 inch disketttes but not much.

Oh, and if you *still* need a Mac serial cable, I probably have one laying around i could send you... -jcp-

We found the cable only to discover that while the manual for the printer Roberta uses shows an Appletalk input, the one we have doesn't have one. We'll get that printer on the Internet, and then get the Apples onto it as well.

Part of the problem with tape is that the software needed to read files from tapes is among the first things lost when there is a crash. How do you restore from that which you cannot read until you restore?

Dear Mr. Pournelle,

My experience with Windows 2000 has been that the settings are kept locally in the "Documents and Settings" directory. The catch is that the name of the subdirectory depends on which host you have logged onto. Furthermore the naming convention for this subdirectory changed from beta to beta. I don't have access to my Windows 2000 system right now so the following is based on imperfect memory.

Typically the first host you ever logged onto would be under a subdirectory with a name of the form "name". The next host would be under "name.001" or "name[001]". Take a look under your "Documents and Settings" directory and see what is there. You can just copy from one directory to another.

I started a habit of keeping a empty folder on my desktop with the current host name as the folder name so that I can associate each "Documents and Settings/namexxx/desktop" with a host.

Good Luck Ron Lewis 

One of our problems was that systems upgraded from Windows NT workstation to Windows 2000 do not HAVE  a "Documents and settings" folder. There are other anomalies, mostly poorly documented.

Mr. Pournelle,

First off, I'm a long time reader of 'Computing at Chaos Manor', and many of your novels as well. That said, on to the heart of this e-mail.

Microsoft Outlook .pst files are a bad thing. The biggest reason that they are is because the corrupt quite easily. I've had users lose years of mail, even when they were being stored on a file server that was backed up regularly. Many times, the corruption is so slow and very gradual, so you are unaware that it is happening. Another reason is the file size limit of 2GB, which for all practical purposes is really 500MB. The final big reason is that .pst files cannot be cleaned of viruses. This is probably the absolute worst thing about them, but the corruption issue is pretty heinous itself.

However, having said all of this, I am making the assumption you are using Microsoft Exchange for your e-mail system. If you are not, and you simply use the POP protocol, with Outlook configured as an Internet Mail Client, then this is all moot. The real way to set up a system (if Exchange is at the heart of your e-mail system) is to use the Offline Storage Files, or .ost. If you have synchronized them while connected to your LAN, and you are prudent about which folders you synchronize in Outlook, then you have the ability to answer mail at your leisure, minimal worry about loss of mail, usage of Single Instance Storage which makes Exchange do all of the work when it comes to your e-mail, and a plethora of functionality that is lost by using .pst storage.

I've been working with Microsoft products since NT 3.51, and Exchange since version 4.0. I, for one, have had few problems that I could not trace back to either hardware or user errors.

Thank you for several years of enjoyable reading, and hopefully for several more. L. Dwayne Sudduth 

I agree that the huge unparsable .pst file is one of the worst features of Outlook. I back it up often, and all over the place...


I enjoy reading you column. I think your motto "we do stupid things so you don't have to" is very apt. In general, the more you use and do with computers the more problems you will come across. And you do so many things with the small number of computers you have that Chaos Manor is probably a better test bed than most companies with hundreds of computers.

Recently I've noticed that the strange things you are learning about (and sharing with us) are less general computer (hardware) problems and really almost 100% Microsoftisms. This should probably be expected since hardware has gotten so much more reliable while software has gotten so much more bloated and less documented.

If you switched to Linux from Microsoft things would pretty much stay the same. So you'd have Linux issues instead of Microsoft issues. Maybe you'd have a few less issues overall, but who knows. The big difference is that your column would be much more useful to people running or interested in trying Linux and somewhat less useful for people running Microsoft software. So the question is: what does your readership want: more Microsoft tips or information on how use Linux. I think the readership of Byte 10 years ago would vote for cutting edge, free, new software. Even if you think Microsoft might be better for Chaos Manor, remember your motto: "we do stupid things so you don't have to". To blaze the trail so other people avoid hazards, a scout must get ahead of the troops.

The biggest negative of switching to Linux would be the learning curve. For a newbie, the learning curve to switch to Linux is almost zero since they don't have a lot to relearn. The more experience someone has, the harder it is to switch since there is so much more to learn just to equal the productivity you had on the old familiar platform. The only positive: For a columnist, the whole point is learning, so the learning curve is really an opportunity for columns.

My wife has a small law office with about 10 computers, a server and a dsl connection to the internet. For a company such as hers, the cost of Microsoft software is significant: for w2k, and office all around with a w2k server and backoffice plus odds and ends can run $10k. Being able to cut that cost using Linux is a big win for her. Many small offices are in the same state. From too many years of experience everyone knows Microsoft software and is familiar with its problems. Yet another column loaded with Microsoft tips is not really very helpful. What a small office sysadmin needs is a column that shows how to save $10k and have a reliable system.

Remember the good old days of Byte and computers when problems were solvable? Its still that way with Linux. My advice: stop putting your toe in the water and dive in.

Martin <>

Well, I think you ought to write that column since mine is merely yet another and not useful.

But for me, the thing is to continue to get all my work done while looking at alternatives. I am glad your wife can run a law office with Linux and Word Perfect, but I am not sure I would yet recommend that law offices without 24/7 access to a guru try that just yet.

I am probably slower than I would have been 20 years ago. It took me a long while to convert from CP/M, which got my work done, to DOS and later Windows. But just at the moment I think it more useful to pound on Microsoft to get its act together.

I'm sorry you think this is merely an amusing yet another, but I'm glad there are a lot of readers who don't think that way. And I'll keep plugging.

I have brought the Penguin home, and the next thing is to see just how to integrate a big reliable Linux box into Chaos Manor...

Hi Jerry,

As always I enjoyed your Byte column, although I can imagine losing your PDC without a backup was somewhat less enjoyable for you.

I agree that a good RAID setup is the best solution, but IDE-RAID solutions have come a long way the last couple of years. RAID of course means Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks, but SCSI no longer is that Inexpensive.

IDE drives are generally a lot cheaper than their SCSI counterparts and I for one am using the very nice Abit KT7-RAID motherboard with integrated HighPoint RAID controller, which simply does everything it should. You need the latest drivers though :)

Maybe something to look into/compare in one of the upcoming columns? Some URL's below...

Anyway, keep up the good work, regards,

Frank Schaap.

Agreed entirely. For the moment we are using a simple mirror scheme to back up the main server. We'll move to other stuff later. An IDE "box of drives" as a backup system is a good idea; Alex did that month ago at the media labs, and it has served him well. I keep intending to do the same here.


Just a note to let you know that it is possible to switch the role of an NT 4.0 server between PDC, BDC, and Standalone.

You can't do it with NT by itself, but there is a great 3rd party utility called UPromote that allows you to do this without wiping out the existing installation.

Here's their link: 

Best Regards, -Don

I sure didn't know that!   Thanks!!

By all means, keep up the newsletter - well worth the read.

Oh, by the way, based on your column I decided to try one of the Intel 815 based boards with integrated sound/video - I'm building a system for my daughter to take back to college. You're correct, it is definitely Good Enough. Thanks - I probably would never have tried one without your review. It was pretty painless (like I really miss the days of plugging in 640k of individual memory chips and endless changes to jumpers to get it to boot!)

Thanks again, and Happy Holidays!

Joe Helminiak

Glad to be of help.


You wrote:

...I'd have chosen the collapse of the USSR. But now that the Seventy Years War is over, we've dismantled many of the teams that won it -- and doubled the numbers of bureaucratic parasites who lived off the war effort and who will not go away.

I do at times lament leaving the defense contracting industry. It was pretty exciting, we were doing very interesting forward thinking stuff, and made some great advances. I'm having a lot of fun now working for a software development company which doesn't do government contracts, but I do miss the people I worked with in the 70's and 80's , and am glad I did my part to help foment the collapse of the Soviet Union. Some of the people I worked with are still in the defense industry, or like me, have gone into the business environment.

The cold war may be over in one sense, but the vacuum left from it has been filled by several other groups and countries who prefer either chaos or totalitarian control over the citizens. Many people believe there is nothing to worry about from China or the many third world countries who detest the freedom of the west. I don't agree with the detractors, having been on the "inside" and having seen what these countries and groups are capable of.

For my views, I've been told many things, not the least of which that I wish the Soviet Union was still around so we'd have an enemy to hate. That's just not true, I advocate being aware of what reality is, having a world view and not sticking my head in the sand. I don't see aggressors behind every tree, but pretending that there are none out there is not rational.

Thought I'd get on my soapbox for a while. Thanks!

Tracy Walters

Wealthy Republics without strong defenses have not lasted long in history. Alas, those which devote too many resources to defense fall victim to the Allbright syndrome: What's the point of having that splendid army if we can't use it? (Either she is more Macciavellian than one supposes, or less than all bright; a remark like that is incomprehensible from a normal sane person).

Yes the US has enemies. One way to work on that is to focus on strategic defenses: they help us, develop technology, and threaten no one who does not intend us harm. As to Asia policy, it needs thinking about and hard. We owe Taiwan but how much and for how long? As to Korea, we won their battles for them: the notion that a bunch of starving North Koreans could invade a nation with the economy of South Korea is absurd; but of course if we continue to provide for their common defense, they don't need to. Why we should hasn't been explained to me, now that the Seventy Years War is done.

From Ed Hume:

President Clinton received a report that there were over 100,000 cattle guards in Colorado. Possibly because Colorado ranchers had protested his proposed changes in grazing policies, he ordered Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt to fire half of the guards immediately. Before Babbitt could respond (and presumably straighten him out), Colorado's congresswoman Pat Schroeder intervened with a request that before any were fired, they be given six months of retraining.

(Lest anyone think different, this is a JOKE. It seems to be listed as "urban legend" among the people who list that sort of thing, which makes me wonder if they are all crazy; how would anyone suppose it was anything BUT a joke? But in any event, I do not assert this as something that happened, nor does Dr. Hume.)

Also from Ed Hume:

Dear Jerry

First of all, happy new year.

On uniformitarianism vs. catastrophism, I have another example: Alfred Wegener. In 1915 he published the first edition of The Origin of Continents and Oceans, in which he examined geophysical data and concluded that continents must have drifted over time. Reading the fourth edition, I found the reasoning fairly convincing, even if he did not have a convincing explanation as to just why continents would drift.

But when I was educated in the 1950's, the uniform unchanging Earth was still dogma. Not until plate tectonics provided an explanation would his hypothesis be accepted. But now I never see his name attached to continental drift, which is a phenomenon which he essentially discovered. He just wasn't one of the in crowd, I guess.

Alfred Wegener died in 1930 on the Greenland glacier in 1930, collecting more data.


Dr. Hume also sends this reference. 

To view the entire article, go to 

Words fail me. Roland sends the following with the subject "Sigh", to which I can only say, "indeed." 

A big Word Problem:


I obtained Word 2000 as part of Works Suite 2000 and downloaded Service Release 1 from Microsoft.

About every second time I load the program, SR-1 reinstalls. This has happened now approximately 100 times.

If any of your readers have any thoughts, I would appreciate hearing from them.

One additional comment, a table formatted in Word Perfect Suite 7 imports perfectly into Word '97, but is total garbage when imported into Word 2000.

Thomas Cox

I have never had any such problems. And I fear I do now know Works Suite 2000; is REAL Word 2000 really part of that? I use 2000 for most of my work, and it works well although 97 did also.


I'm afraid I can't help with Mr. Cox's problem, because I have not loaded SR-1, nor do I know what it does, but, yes, as far as I can tell, the Word 2000 in Works Suite 2000 is the same as in Office 2000. This makes it a very cost-effective way of getting Word if you don't need any of the other Office stuff. This, in turn, is probably why Microsoft hasn't gone out of its way to publicize the fact that Works now contains Word as its word processor.

Regards, Bill Ghrist





This war gets very little coverage. I thought people might find this report intereresting -

Gregory Cochran

Desperate Battle Defines Congo's Warlike Peace Massive Government Attack Turns Into Bloody Retreat

A Congolese refugee boy at Kala camp in northern Zambia, following the flight of Congolese civilians from Rwandan and RDC rebel troops in early December. (Malcolm Linton - For The Washington Post)

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By Karl Vick Washington Post Foreign Service Tuesday, January 2, 2001; Page A01

PWETO, Congo -- At the southern extreme of a ragged front line that winds 1,400 miles across Congo lies a ferry, dirty pink and half-submerged in the muddy Luvua River. Facing it on a gravel ramp stand the burned-out husks of 33 military vehicles -- armored personnel carriers, trucks, an ambulance -- waiting in a line that never moved forward. Unopened syringes lie underfoot, amid charred tires and a trampled note that a fleeing Congolese junior officer left behind:

"Attaque," reads the neat cursive French.

But by the time Rwandan forces approached Pweto on Dec. 3, the Congolese government army was in no position to attack. It was in panicked retreat, leaving a tableau of ruin on the riverbank and opening a rare window on a war usually fought out of sight.

In two months of back-and-forth fighting here in the southeastern corner of Congo, all the elements that make this country's 21/2-year-old war such a dangerous puzzle came into play: foreign armies, ethnic militia groups, remote terrain and villages utterly emptied of civilians who, from the safety of refugee camps in a neighboring country, repeat matter-of-fact accounts of massacres. This is the "situation on the ground" that has kept the U.N. Security Council from dispatching 5,500 peacekeepers to monitor a cease-fire that appears to exist only on paper.

This lightly populated, mostly forested stretch between Lake Tanganyika and Lake Mweru had been one of the few corners of Congo where both sides had essentially honored a peace agreement signed 18 months ago. The Lusaka Accord, named for the Zambian capital where it was signed, was meant to arrest the cycle of advance and retreat that has marked a sprawling conflict that pits the Congolese army and allied troops from Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia against an assortment of rebel forces bolstered by Rwandan and Ugandan troops.

But Congolese President Laurent Kabila, who signed the Lusaka pact in a moment of military disadvantage, has swept it aside whenever he spied what looked like a military opening. Last spring, his forces pushed back rebels sponsored by Uganda in Congo's far northwest, only to lose the same ground months later. And on Oct. 15, Kabila's armies launched a massive assault on Rwandan-held positions in the southeast, striking 100 miles north of Pweto at the town of Pepa. Six weeks later, just as happened in the northwest, Kabila's forces once again lost far more than they gained.

Now the Rwandans have driven them out of Pweto, clambering onto captured armor as their commander pointed out the escape route by which the Congolese army chief of staff, Joseph Kabila, the president's son, fled the battlefield. "We have a cease-fire," Col. J.B. Mulisa said with a dry chuckle, "a forced cease-fire."

In a war that has been stalemated for so long -- Congo was broken into factional spheres of influence mere weeks after the war began, and so it remains -- such lightning gains might have finally given the Rwandans the upper hand. But senior Rwandan officials, when asked if they plan to push beyond Pweto farther into Congo, say they did not want to come even as far as they have. In fact, the forces occupying Pweto showed no sign of massing earlier this month.

Officials of Rwanda's Tutsi-led government say, rather, that their focus is on eradicating the Interahamwe, the ethnic Hutu militia that orchestrated the 1994 massacre of Tutsis in Rwanda and fled into neighboring Congo. The farther into the vast Congo the Rwandan troops go, the harder that becomes.

"We were really talking about withdrawing" 120 miles to an operational zone closer to Rwanda, said Col. Charles Kayonga, a defense adviser to Rwandan President Paul Kagame. "Kabila must have misread our position. He apparently thought we were weak."

Reversed Alliances

The battle began at Pepa, a town of neat stone houses in the center of a vast cattle ranch near the southern end of Lake Tanganyika. Rwandans had held the town since March 1999, nine months after launching the current war by encouraging a rebellion in the Congolese army's ranks, then pouring its own forces into Congo to topple Kabila -- the same leader Rwanda had installed barely a year earlier by backing a rebellion that drove dictator Mobutu Sese Seko from power.

At issue, according to Rwandan officials, was Kabila's support for the very forces Rwanda had put him in place to eradicate: the Interahamwe -- thousands of ethnic Hutu extremists who had fled into Congo in 1994 after leading an attempted genocide against Rwanda's minority Tutsi tribe that left more than a half-million dead.

The Interahamwe were now allied with Kabila, and more formidable as a result. What had been degenerating into a ragtag guerrilla force was receiving new weapons from the Congolese government and new training from the army of Zimbabwe, which also rushed to support Kabila against the Rwandan invasion.

But when shells began exploding behind the Rwandans' Pepa foxholes in the predawn hours of Oct. 15, the charge was led by yet another force. Hutu extremists from Burundi -- another tiny country divided by the Hutu-Tutsi chasm -- made up the brunt of the eight brigades that pushed across the rolling rangeland, according to Rwandan commanders. The Congolese infantry also advanced, reinforced by armored personnel carriers and British-made Hawker combat aircraft, both from Zimbabwe.

"They were coming in big numbers, really very big numbers," said Lt. Col. John Tibesigwa, the Rwandan commander at Pepa.

With a much smaller force on hand, the Rwandans slowly pulled out of Pepa, along with the Congolese rebels they sponsor, a force known as Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD). In fact, Rwandan commanders maintain that they were already pulling some units back when the attack came.

"While we were disengaging, they were massing troops," said Tibesigwa. "To keep them from coming back, we had to take Pweto."

The Rwandan counterattack began on Nov. 5 and raged for four days. Tibesigwa described the fighting as the most intense he had seen in Congo. At the Pepa hospital, Congolese nurse Justine Kaimba Puta said fighting that started 15 miles away moved steadily closer, bringing with it a stream of wounded that eventually covered the hospital floor. When the Rwandans were two miles away, government soldiers brought a warning to flee.

The town emptied promptly, but several Pepa residents interviewed in Zambia, where thousands have gathered in a U.N. refugee camp, said they feared more than the fighting. When Rwandan forces first took Pepa last year, local residents were punished for allegedly supporting the Congolese government troops, the residents said.

Two refugees described a massacre that year in Mazembe, a village near Pepa, in which dozens of residents were ordered into their huts, which soldiers then set afire. Both residents named people killed in the fire, including old men and small children. One described seeing the charred bodies.

The residents were uncertain whether the soldiers were Rwandan regulars or the RCD rebels they sponsor. Both have been accused by international human rights groups of similar atrocities in territory they occupy, but the charges surface most often against the rebels.

"With the RCD, there are some undisciplined elements," acknowledged Nicephore Kimpinde, the assistant district commissioner installed in Pepa by the rebels. "But you can't say the whole RCD is undisciplined."

Kabila's forces, too, slaughtered civilians when they occupied the area in October, he said. "We collected 10 civilian bodies and buried them," said Patrick Murlambui, another Pepa official. "They were accused of belonging to the RCD intelligence. They were innocent. There was no proof. Everybody who stayed in this region is looked at as an RCD sympathizer."

"It's a war on civilians," said Puta, the nurse.

'The Right Tactics'

The Rwandans and the rebels took the countryside as well, exploiting a degree of mobility that would prove decisive. The Rwandan army is essentially an all-infantry force that by a shrewd collusion of economy and design carries no weapon heavier than one man can handle.

Kabila's retreating forces, by contrast, were tethered to the road. Their armored vehicles required the Congolese alliance to move predictably, confined to a tree-lined track that runs across the handsome cattle estate like a country road through rural Belgium, its owners' ancestral home.

When open range gave way to elephant grass, the Rwandans attacked. The village of Mutoto Moija, a decrepit Interahamwe base whose name translates as "One Child," fell after six hours. "At midnight, we heard sounds like they were retreating," said Mulisa. "In the morning they were no longer there. We followed."

What ensued, according to Rwandan and Congolese soldiers alike, was a three-week running battle across the 100 miles between Pepa and Pweto. Weeks later, the road south toward Pweto remained speckled not only with green and white butterflies, but with corpses -- here the body of young man cut down clutching an AK-47, here a splayed green poncho topped by a skull.

But veterans of the battle said most of the fighting took place in the surrounding woods. The Congolese and their allies sought the high ground above the road. The Rwandans and RCD rebels moved through the woods behind them and caught them in crossfires.

"The Rwandans are very strong; they do flanking actions," said a Congolese soldier, Selester Mbanza, 30, from a hospital bed in Nchelenge, Zambia, where he was being treated for a bullet wound in the buttocks. "They get around behind people. That's how they fight. They used the right tactics. They came when we were resting, and we'd be distracted."

There was a major engagement at every village, half of which had been fortified by bunkers or other defenses that the Congolese in each case ended up abandoning. "We would pursue them very closely," said Mulisa, the Rwandan commander. "That's the secret. We don't give them any time."

Panic and Destruction

By Dec. 1, the Rwandan forces had Pweto nearly in sight, approaching the lakeside plain around the town of perhaps 50,000 on an abandoned road along an encircling ridge. By the evening of Dec. 3, when the Rwandans entered the town itself, the civilian population had pushed en masse down a muddy road into Zambia, and Kabila's forces were betraying something like panic.

The Mi-17 helicopter that had carried Joseph Kabila to Pweto was burned on the soccer field that doubled as a landing pad, apparently too unreliable to use but too valuable to leave to the Rwandans. The president's son escaped by water, taking a ferry named the Alliance with senior Zimbabwean commanders and Burundian Hutus to the far side of the Luvua River.

When the boat returned, a 40-ton, Soviet-made T-62 tank was loaded onto the port side. Dozens of soldiers scrambled to starboard. "It was imbalanced," said Mulisa, "and the ferry got drowned."

With the Rwandans' gunfire audible across town, the stranded troops splashed diesel fuel onto the line of 33 waiting vehicles and set them afire. Then they split up, some setting off along the riverbank deeper into Congo, others joining the throng of refugees fording the small stream that marks the Zambian border.

On the other side, Zambian soldiers collected arms and counted heads. At least 3,000 Congolese regulars were assembled in primary schools about 75 miles south of the border in Nchelenge, where last week they were still waiting for a lift back to Congo.

Zimbabwe sent a plane for several hundred of its troops, a return load lightened considerably by the sheer tonnage of armor left behind in Pweto. Two howitzers, two T-62 tanks and at least a half-dozen armored personnel carriers were left intact for the Rwandans, as well as three ammunition dumps and a weapons cache that includes 1,000 rifles.

The total does not include a tank submerged about 200 yards upstream from the ferry, its turret just visible in the middle of the river, which its desperate driver thought was shallow enough to ford.

2001 The Washington Post Company


Would this work? 

You would need to only use three shelves so your computers would fit.

I saw them tonight at Costco for $77.

Joel Upchurch

In fact the 36" units would work well indeed. I'll see if they exist anywhere near me. I like the big castors.


Your comments on the impact of the end of the cold war reminded me of a conversation I had shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union with a senior engineer from a U.S. defense firm.

I told him that it was great that we had won... but sad that the price seemed to be a heavily mortgaged country that had surrendered its economic standing to a rising Japan.

He paused, sipped his drink, and said, "For 40 years the Japanese and the rest of the world have been playing against the B team. Let's see how they like playing against the A team."

While I know that many other factors played a role in what happened to the U.S. economy in the 90s... I can't help but wonder if he hadn't hit on a key one.


- Mark

There is a lot to that. We sucked off the best and the brightest to the national labs and weapons research, and war industry. But we have also consolidated to the point of imbecility, added regulations to the point of absurdity and broken up the teams. Can the A team compete against not only the overseas copetitors but the US regulators?

Subject: Re: Invasion of the intelligent but naive futurologists!

What bothers me about the tendency to automatize is that it is almost entirely low IQ jobs that are being replaced. Libertarians (and I am one - or rather I am a neoliberealist to use Chris Brand's term) tell me that a free market will always find some valuable tasks for the displaced low IQ people to do. I just don't swallow that. Any task that can be done by someone with a limited capacity for complexity, seems susceptible to automatization. If I am right then there will be hordes of superfluous people quite soon. What political developments are likely? Revolution? Genocide? Something out of Brave New World or The Gee Pees? Any thoughts?


Garth Zietsman (Johannesburg - South Africa)

I have great concern over this. Half the population is below average, this not being Lake Woebegon. And those above average never meet those who are below, and don't think much about what they can do so long as they stay out of the way. We used to have honorable blue collar jobs for people. We now export them as quickly as possible. And then what?

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

First off, I'd like to say that I have enjoyed your work immensely for the past 20-odd years. The first thing I ever read from you was an anthology called "The Survival of Freedom". I have to say that I will remember that book as long as I live, because reading it opened my eyes in ways that few other books ever have. And yes, I mean politically. The fact is, that book, along with other anthologies you created later, turned me from being a whiny liberal to a rather angry conservative. Angry because the information you helped place before me showed just how much we have been lied to by the liberal/left government and media elites over the past 30 years. Your work in this area was very, very well done, in my estimation.

Also, even after all these years, I still say it was a crime against humanity that "The Mote in God's Eye" lost out to "The Dispossessed" for the Hugo and Nebula when it came out. I tried to read "Dispossessed", thinking that if it beat out "Mote", it must be really great. Bah. With all due respect to Ms. Le Guin, that book SUCKED. I got about halfway through it and then threw the damned thing out. And as anyone who knows me will tell you, I do not throw out books, even mediocre ones. But I could not take it any more. I've always assumed that it was pure politics that caused it to beat out "Mote".

But I digress...

Some years ago you and Larry Niven co-authored a book called "Lucifer's Hammer". Excellent book, BTW. In this book you put little quotations at the start of every chapter. If my memory serves (you know what they say, the memory is the first to go...or is it the second? I can't remember...:), one of those quotes started out something like,

"Trouble rather a Tiger in his lair, Than the Sage among his books..."

My copy of "Hammer" wore out years ago and I have not been able to find one since. I thought it might have been from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, but I could not find it there, either. If you happen to have the full quote fro m the book and could e-mail it to me, I would very much appreciate it.

Thank you very much.

Best regards,

Pat Myers Cypress, TX

I fear I was not as impressed by The Dispossessed as the Australian voters who the year it won had Ms. LeGuin as their Guest of Honor at the World SF Convention in Sydney; but they had not read MOTE. Mote's publisher sent 100 free copies of the hardbound to the Australian World SF Convention Committee to be given to the members so that some of them  might have been able to read Mote, it not at that time being in print in Australia; but the shipment was REFUSED by the Australians who later said they really wanted their Guest of Honor to win the Hugo. The crate came back to the US unopened. Probably all for the best. I suspect that made no difference in the voting anyway. 

As to that quote about the sage at his books, I first saw it in an old Gordon Dickson story, used as a chapter aphorism just as we used it, and I am not sure Gordy didn't make it up, because I have myself searched for the source for a long time. All SF fans seem to know it, but I don't know of anyone who knows a source other than Dickson...





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Thursday, January 4, 2000

Well this didn't take long:

A quick Internet search finds:

"Trouble rather the tiger in his lair than the sage amongst his books. For to you Kingdoms and armies are things mighty and enduring, but to him they are but toys of the moment, to be overturned by the flicking of a finger ..." -- Lessons: Anonymous


"Trouble rather the Tiger in his Lair, Than the Sage among his Books, For all the Empires and Kingdoms, The Armies and Works that you hold Dear, Are to him but the Playthings of the Moment, To be turned over with the Flick of a Finger, And the Turning of a Page"

--------Rudyard Kipling


"Trouble rather the tiger in his lair than the sage amongst his books. For to you Kingdoms and their armies are things mighty and enduring, but to him they are but toys of the moment, to be overturned by the flicking of a finger." Chinese proverb

Among many others.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

I might have known it was Kipling. In fact, on reflection I recall I once knew it was Kipling, and that it was taken from some old Chinese source. 

Dr. Pournelle, I think you'll find this fascinating. A report by the CIA, not in their often "breathtakingly mediocre" style, about the world in 2015.

"Global Trends 2015: A Dialogue About the Future With Nongovernment Experts" 

Some quotes from the report: Fifteen years ago, few predicted the profound impact of the revolution in information technology.

governments will have less and less control over flows of information, technology, diseases, migrants, arms, and financial transactions, whether licit or illicit, across their borders

Prospects will grow that more sophisticated weaponry, including weapons of mass destruction--indigenously produced or externally acquired--will get into the hands of state and nonstate belligerents, some hostile to the United States. The likelihood will increase over this period that WMD will be used either against the United States or its forces, facilities, and interests overseas.

Computer network operations today offer new options for attacking the United States within its traditional continental sanctuary--potentially anonymously and with selective effects.

The risk will increase that organized criminal groups will traffic in nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons.

Between now and 2015 terrorist tactics will become increasingly sophisticated and designed to achieve mass casualties. We expect the trend toward greater lethality in terrorist attacks to continue.

P'yongyang probably has one, possibly two, nuclear weapons.

The probability that a missile armed with WMD would be used against US forces or interests is higher today than during most of the Cold War and will continue to grow.

Other means to deliver WMD against the United States will emerge, some cheaper and more reliable and accurate than early-generation ICBMs. The likelihood of an attack by these means is greater than that of a WMD attack with an ICBM. End quotes.

Some notes (from me, not the report) WMD is Weapons of Mass Destruction. i.e. Nuclear, chemical, biological.

The CIA apparently believes in global warming, and feels it will have some effect, severity unknown but possibly (though not probably) major, by 2015. The report's authors also feel that the health affects of AIDS and TB (yes, TB, it's still here) will be severe. Negative population growth in countries with high birth rates.

Lots of little nuggets of information in there that haven't gotten much press, such as the North Korean nuclear force, and the threat being more from non-missile (thus not interfered with by missile defenses!) weapons than from ICBMs. Although, the threat from ICBMs being higher than during the cold war does demonstrate a need for missile defense. Pity ours only succeeds 25% of the time. In highly rigged tests.

Finally, the space race will probably resume. Not US v Russia but US v everyone else. Competition in space is just what's needed to give us the impetus to develop cheap reusable lift capabilities.

Sincerely, Kit Case 

I will have to look that up. A couple of points: global warming is certainly real; as I am fond of pointing out, the children's stories we used to read about skating on the brackish canals of Holland, and the historical fact that the siege of Leyden was relieved by skaters going across the Zuyder Zee in dead winter should tell us that: it don't freeze that hard over there now. Nor does the Hudson freeze hard enough to drag cannon across it, but Alexander Hamilton did that in 1776.

The question is whether anything can be DONE about global warming.

As to SDI and testing, your one line summary is highly misleading, but I haven't time this morning to do the corrections. Look into it and you will find things are not quite as grim as you think.

My people tell me the report is useful, but doesn't have much to say about what to do.







This week:



Friday, January 5, 2001

This sounds like a cattle guard to me :)

It is the duty of every Colorado state patrolman, sheriff, or other peace
officer to prefer charges against any person violating this section and take
custody of such livestock and place them on feed and water. Such livestock
may be placed by such officer in the custody of a responsible person who
shall care for the same pending disposition of any court action under this

Andrew Kowalczyk 


what next? 

American by Birth, Southern by the Grace of God!


Fascinating I must say.

Subject: Defective traits


I just finished reading your evolution debates, and while I can't pretend to add to that discussion, perhaps one of your readers can explain to me why defective traits, such as nearsightedness, were NOT bred out of the population. It can't have been a good thing for my early ancestors to stumble around as I do with 20/400 vision. Did we care for them out of altruism, or let them stay in the cave and grind grain? thanks

Guy Stella

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This email may be confidential, may be legally privileged, and is for the intended recipient only. Access, disclosure, copying, distribution, or reliance on any of it by anyone else is prohibited and may be a criminal offence. Please delete if obtained in error and email confirmation to the sender.

Surely it depends on the comparative disadvantage and the age of onset? And look at the baggage we pick up once we begin society. Or did you notice the closing paragraph...

"...those above average never meet those who are below..."

Perhaps this is true in Southern California, but it is FAR from true in NYC.

The "moron behind the counter" story is a staple of water cooler/cocktail party chatter, usually followed with the "idiot from Verizon" (local TelCo) reply.

The "displaced unskilled worker" concern has been a steady background soundtrack to the US economy as far back as economic history goes, I believe. Unregulated capitalism has thus far done well at finding employment for them.

The risks going forward are regulations burdening business (something you address often), taxes/bureaucracy driving business offshore, and most important, the horrific state of the public school system breeding generations of folks incapable of logic, ignorant of history and incapable of handling numbers.


------------------------ George R. Zachar 

I can't disagree with much you say, but it does seem to me the consequences are quite predictable.

= January 05th. 2001 =

Wow, Wow, wow, I don't beleive my eyes. ;)

Hello Jerry Pournelle,

Been quite awhile since I read Byte, then today I find Couldn't beleive my eyes. And there are you on the main page. ;) I'am still to excited to read much, mostly exploreing, hoping from here to there and off to yet more. :)

Was only May 99 that I finially got myself another computer since my Amiga went down in 95. I just didn't want to buy windows and was frustrated with the yearly updates and makeing last years obsolute, just didn't seem to be worth the trouble. But I finially relented and went looking for a computer, at a reasonable price, and lots of speed. Price wasn't so much my problem, as getting what I wanted at a reasonable price.

I finially had a Clone Store quote me a price for the list of pieces of hardware I wanted. Their price was most reasonable and I got the hardware I desired, unlike the store bought options, and then just haveing to go out and add upgrades anyways.

Can't wait to tell my friends at about and your site too. ;)) Cybertown is a 3D community and chat site. You need to download the free 3D software to go 3D, but the 2D community has pictures and a Java based chat. Just choose visitor at the login/join screen, need to scroll the first page up a wee bit. Visitors can't chat, except at the Beginners Club and the Sci Fi plaza - both in the Jumpgate just below the control panel, scroll it up, on the left. is a free 3D modeling engine, and they have a Game engine now as well. Interesting. It was started in the Linux community, but has now moved over to windows. this is a German site, with over 640 rendering engines listed, many with home pages, and features. Yaw, I surf the Web sites just for fun now, well the phoneline DSL helps.:)

Sincerely Shadow-Cat, meow, purrr

Thanks for takeing the time to read my gussy letter. ;) Well, take care J.P. ;)

Glad you found us!

Hello Dr.P,

I just don't get how this can keep popping up, but it does. Someone is calling Heinlein a Facist (at one point stating that- "If Hitler had written a movie it would look like Heinlein had done it") over here 

I'm at a loss when I see this kind of stupidity in people who claim to be in a group whose purpose is to "fight ignorance". It's like calling Barnes a wimp, it just shows a complete ignorance of the facts. I'm going to give this jackanapes something to chew on.

Rev. Chris Boatright

Go for it. It is very difficult to label Mr. Heinlein (who once ran for office on Upton Sinclair's "Ham and Eggs" ticket) but "fascist" certainly does not fit a man who said, often, and a nation that had to rely on conscription for defense didn't deserve to be defended.


1. I am delighted to hear that Warren James has an _Hour 25_ Web site at -- I loathed the central administration of Pacifica for cutting it from two hours to one, and thus nudging it towards nonexistence. I'd love to see what James is managing to do with the Web. But could you please provide his new site's URL? Thank you.

--Erich Schwarz 

Interestingly the Microsoft IE search engine couldn't find that, but when I went to and typed in "science fiction hour 25" that was the first item. Google is very much worth using.


This just in! The crisis is over. The fired cattle guards have received their retraining and will be taking new positions in the big city as storm sewer grates.

* * *

P.S. I'm a South Dakota boy myself, and know exactly what a cattle guard is, but it's likely this joke went right over the heads of your average city slickers.

P.P.S. I've never heard a real cowboy use the term "city slicker."

Tom Brosz

Glad to hear they didn't suffer.

Dear Jerry,

After many years of faithful service, both of my Northgate Omnikey Ultras finally started acting flaky. I had almost given up hope of finding a REAL replacement until a search turned up the Avant Stellar and the Ortec. I found both your articles reviewing these keyboards, and on your recommendation I purchased the Ortec. I got a good price and shipping was free, and I thought I was back in business.

I kept this keyboard for exactly one week and sent it back, paying the shipping, and ordered the Avant Stellar, which might have been my first choice had I not read your reviews.

IMHO there is no comparison. Although the Ortec is good, it isn't good enough. Little things - particularly the lack of an equals key on the number pad which I use a lot for Excel - drove me nuts very quickly. I don't need a whole bunch of programmable keys, which seems to be the big selling point for Ortek. By contrast, Avant even sent me the keycovers so that I could put the CTRL back where it belongs. I now have a keyboard which is close enough to my old Omnikey to make me a happy camper once more.

I wound up paying somewhat too much because of the return shipping, but such is life.

Now if I could only figure out what to do with the old keyboards. I hate to junk them, but fixing them seems to be out of the question.

Lest I sound too critical, you are one of the best and most knowledgeable writers in the field, and I have followed your articles faithfully for several years.

Thanks so much for all your contributions.

Dick Bellin Washington DC

They're both good. I like the programmable keys a lot, and thus I use the Ortek, and I have to say I never noticed there was no = key on the keypad; it's certainly not there, though. But I like both of those.  Thanks for the kind words

Dear Dr. Pournelle, You ask "Are people REALLY unable to foresee the consequences of their actions?" Some are unable, many are, but hope that the consequences won't happen until they are out of office. 15+ years ago massive cuts, by both the government (federal and states) and private industry, in the public health system began. Certainly President Reagan and Speaker Gingrich don't have to face the consequences of those cuts. Some consequences are the severe lack of slack in the hospital system, to where a severe flu epidemic will rapidly fill all the beds. Another is the difficulty, due to lack of funding and personnel, that the Public Health Service has tracking other epidemics. Not much of a reporting system left. That was turned over to the states, who didn't take it. The bio weapons attack in Oregon went undetected for a long time because of this. The United States is a juicy target for a bio-weapons attack, and the CDC is the lead agency in detecting an attack and co-ordinating a response to it. But they lack funding.

Not that the people who've been in power in the last 8 years have done any better. The military is still in better shape than it was in the 70's. For what that's worth, but more, and different, missions, with fewer people, is taking a serious toll.

<a>Living Terrors</a> by Osterholm (an epidemiologist) and Schwartz ( a reporter) is a small, but interesting book about biological warfare.

Sincerely, Kit Case -- When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

p.s. I'm trying out Kmail, any weird/annoying formatting in the message?

No, none at all. As to the health care problem, there's some question as to whose job this all is. Socialized medicine hasn't worked well elsewhere. In 1984 or so I wrote a long piece about the subject: there is an infinite demand for health services at low to zero cost. What do you do?

And I don't myself know, but I am pretty sure a big federal program won't do much. We have more immigrants in the US now than every before in our history, with a 40% increase since 1992; our system has to take care of all those newcomers as well as our natural increase. Perhaps this is proper but it will be expensive. One supposes it is an obligation on those born here to take care of those coming here. But opening up immigration had itself many consequences easily forseen...


You wrote:

"... global warming is certainly real; as I am fond of pointing out, the children's stories we used to read about skating on the brackish canals of Holland, and the historical fact that the siege of Leyden was relieved by skaters going across the Zuyder Zee in dead winter should tell us that: it don't freeze that hard over there now. Nor does the Hudson freeze hard enough to drag cannon across it, but Alexander Hamilton did that in 1776.

The question is whether anything can be DONE about global warming."

Yes, the climate is warmer now than during the 18th C. But it's colder than it was in the 13th C, which in turn was colder than 1100 BC. And that looks like a cooling trend since the surface temperature is still below the 3,000 year average according to a radiocarbon study of Sargasso Sea sediments.

As to what can be "done" about climate variation there would appear to be three main approaches. We can change the wobble in the earth's axis of rotation, we can change the relative motion of the planets to the sun, or we can do what we've always done in the past: put up with the fact that climate changes whether we like it or not.

Note that this is a separate argument to rising CO2 levels. The global climate models focus on this almost negligible greenhouse gas because the most important greenhouse gas, water vapour, is too difficult to model with today's supercomputers. More importantly, running the global climate models backwards fails to produce the known climatic changes that have occurred. To cope with this unfortunate fact, the IPCC has taken to referring to historical data such as you refer to as "merely anecdotal".

It's interesting to note that 2000, "potentially the warmest year of the century for the US" has been relegated to 13th place. The warmest year was 1932.

Jonathan Sturm 

I can very much recall when the big concern at AAAS meetings was "The Coming Ice Age". I am told this is the coldest winter since we started keeping records. Either way, I think we need better space access vehicles.

Dr. Pournelle:

You wrote:

"If you give up regulation of a vital resource; require that the distributors of that resource sell off their capacity to produce it; forbid them to build more, and make them buy from those who now own their former production capacities; give up all control over the prices charged to the distributors, but continue to control the prices the distributors can charge; and make it nearly impossible to bring more sources on line --- what the devil would you expect to happen?"

What really frosts me is that right now everyone is calling this government-mandated dog's breakfast "deregulation," and holding it up to show that it doesn't work.

Looking forward to more from you on this, and encourage you to publish it to as wide an audience as possible.

As you pointed out, if I had as much money in the bank as Ed Begley, Jr., I could make my house energy-independent too. Solar power might work in the deserts, but how to store it, or transmit it many miles to the places it's needed without the resistance losses of long-distance high-voltage lines?

Perhaps using the power to convert water to hydrogen and oxygen, keep the hydrogen, and do something else with the oxygen (dump it? Sell it?). Keep the hydrogen in underground pressure tanks for nighttime storage, and pipe the hydrogen where needed in natural-gas type pipelines (not much loss--hydrogen isn't nearly as leaky as helium). At the other end, make electricity in fuel cells using atmospheric oxygen, which would be much more efficient than burning the hydrogen to spin turbines. Would the water have to be pumped back to the desert? Maybe build your panels in Baja or some other seaside desert. It's as easy to crack seawater as it is fresh--maybe easier. More waste in your system, though.

Gas could be tapped off the line at any point using the same technologies as our natural-gas infrastructure, and used in small, single-home fuel cell units as well. Maybe this would end up working better than a central power plant.

Obviously this hydrogen-transmission idea is not original with me, but I think it may be workable. It may also be a solution for any type of power generation that may need to be in a place far from population centers (geothermal, nuclear, tidal).

There may be dozens of good reasons this would not work. I haven't researched it at all. For one thing, I don't know how big a hydrogen pipeline would have to be, or how fast the hydrogen would have to move, to transmit the energy equivalent of a high-tension electrical line. Maybe hydrogen losses across a thousand miles of pipe would be greater than the energy losses in a thousand-mile high-tension line. It seems to me that building underground high-pressure gas lines across a great distance would be more expensive than towers and wires, but I could be completely wrong. I know that the underground pipeline would look a lot better on the landscape.

If you know of a link to someone who has already worked this out in detail, let me know.

Tom Brosz

Well one article on "The Hydrogen Economy" was written by one Dr. Jerry Pournelle in American Legion Magazine in the 70's. Hydrogen is an interesting way to store energy. It's also harder to contain than you think, but it can be done. But since there are no hydrogen wells it has to be made, and we don't have the kilowatts to make it. It's a distribution system.

Desert solar has a horrible effect on desert ecology, but perhaps we don't care if Death Valley is covered with little blue cells. Space Solar on the other hand has almost no impact, the receiving antennae being smaller and simple dipoles -- cattle can graze under the receiving antenna. But that's for another story. I wrote that one too.






This week:




Roland here. Working on column stuff






This week:


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Sunday, January 7, 2000

This from an active duty officer who prefers not to be identified:

Training is underway. It involves tasks from the individual level on up. most of the tasks assigned to units normally are either removed or changed for peace-enforcement operations, and the requirements placed on key personnel change dramatically. For instance, I can't recall the last time our Brigade had to hold a meeting with the press. In our training, our company commanders expect to routinely speak with reporters. Incidents that wouldn't register as noticable in warfighting become dramatically important in peace-enforcement, as you _won't_ be a hundred kilometers away by morning, and you are in neither friendly nor hostile territory. You are in both, and neither. 

 It is possible in warfighting to commit warcrimes out of ignorance, but generally you'll know you are doing something wrong. In peace-enforcement, every soldier will find himself making policy decisions, from buck sergeants in charge of patrols on up, on a daily basis. 

 In warfighting, a legal officer simply has no important task at low level units, neither does the civil affairs officer. In peace-enforcement, they will be among the most busy people you have, and you will desire more. 

There's more but you get the idea.

And I said

>>What's the point of having that splendid army if we can't use it? (Either she is more Macciavellian than one supposes, or less than all bright; a remark like that is incomprehensible from a normal sane person).

A sea story for you: When the [then] Chairman of the JCS heard that, His reactions was much the same as yours, a variation on, "I can't believe my ears."

His reply, BTW, was, "Guilty as charged. I don't want to use military force unless we have to."

God bless 'im.

Rod McFadden Centreville, VA

I would like to debate the conduct of the Gulf War with General Powell; in my judgment we could have gone on two more days and disarmed the Republican Guard, to the benefit of both us and the Iraqi people; but I certainly agree with the General's general sentiment that the US Army is not something to be used to create a New World Order and to become the World Police; and I am glad to see someone at State who commands respect and holds his views. God bless 'im indeed.

I would suggest that anyone hoping to understand the First Dark Age would be well advised to look at the Second DA, which consisted of Western Rome being gradually overcome (and Eastern Rome being constricted) by Germanic (and other) attacks and invasions. We could postulate the possibility that the invaders were more rapidly and more thoroughly successful during the First DA, therefore the effects were greater.

In addition, I noticed no comments about Folk Tale, Fiction and Saga in the Homeric Epics, a series of lectures by Rhys Carpenter that pretty much answers ALL the questions about 'Homer' and the Trojan War, not to mention the story of Odysseus. I believe Carpenter also briefly discusses the possibility that the Trojans may have been the ancestors of the Etruscans; the Romans, as you may know, utilized much of Etruscan history in their own foundation tales.

Richard Donley

Well, Carpenter certainly makes a good case. His views have their ups and downs in scholarly support, but they are never dull.

Subject: Extremely Efficient Nuclear Fuel Could Take Man To Mars In Just Two Weeks 

But with Nasa as baggage, it would be unlikely to happen in our lifetimes. 

Paul D. Walker

I had not seen this before. Thank you. Very interesting.

Are people REALLY unable to foresee the consequences of their actions?


Wisdom is rare. My mother invested in the nuclear power industry, but she tried to avoid the old-line utilities that had no experience with the problems of nuclear power generation. It's the Peter Principle in action--leaders rising to the point where they can barely handle the problems they face. It's also the reason I don't trust governance by elites and why I consider peer review so necessary. When I was working with the USMC, a commander often explained a snafu by "It seemed like a good idea at the time." Everyone knew what he meant, and I also knew I was under the gun to make sure that he had the information he needed to avoid the fubar in the future.

We need nuclear power. Not only is it cleaner than fossil fuels (even in terms of radioactivity), it doesn't screw up the heat balance as bad. Sure, it can be mishandled, but the side-effects of mining for coal and other fossil fuels are worse. And then, people are irrational in assessing risk. The natural release of radioactivity in Colorado that we currently tolerate without a thought would not be acceptable as a side-effect of uranium mining.

-- --- Harry Erwin, PhD, Computational Neuroscientist (modeling bat behavior) and Senior SW Analyst and Security Engineer. Senior Lecturer in Computing at the University of Sunderland. Webpage: <>

Well, France and Japan seem to have done well with nuclear power; in Japan's case many of the reactors and power systems were built by American companies. And San Onofre has plugged along during the crisis. I would argue that Southern California Edison, a company I looked at closely years ago when I did my series on "America's Looming Energy Crisis", was quite well run. It was forced to divest itself of power sources as part of the imbecile action labeled "deregulation" and which has about the same relationship to deregulation as Zicam has to homeopathic medicine.

Power management is complex but it ain't that complex. We used to do it well.


For what I suspect is a kindred view on your comments in Friday's entry on the soon-to-be self-inflicted energy crisis in CA, you might want to check the following: 

It's some work by John McCarthy at Stanford on how dangerous it can be to do your own thinking and arithmetic in a world full of fuzzy-headed agendas. You might end up questioning the thinking skills, if not the motives, of many.

I continue to enjoy your writing as I have for years (although "Burning City" is still sitting on my shelf - but it's in good company). Regardless of the topic, I always learn something by watching "the relentless application of logic".

BTW, it occurs to me that my email address is new here. We changed the name of our company recently. You're likely to discover my information under Hope that doesn't present inordinate confusion.


Jim McGee DiamondCluster International 

Thanks. Anything John McCarthy says is likely to be intelligent and relevant. One of the sanest men I ever met.



Orchid for Text Cleanup

Text Cleanup is shareware that cleans up e-mail that has been sliced and diced by passage through various e-mail clients, especially jokes and stories that have been forwarded many times. It outputs nice clean paragraphs, with all of the unnecessary formatting stripped away. 

Edward Hume

I will look into it. Thanks.










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