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Mail 137 January 22 - 28, 2001

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Monday, January 22, 2001  

From Ed Hume regarding the school matters from last week.


The recent items on tyranny at school fit into a larger pattern I see in our society. Seeking to find a way to do their jobs without having to explain the particulars of each case, bureaucrats resort to absolutism. Treating a student's adolescent verbal expression as a criminal act gets a lousy teacher off the hook for his inappropriate behavior toward the student; it allows a principal to strike a pose to make himself look good; it presents an opportunity for the cops to show how diligent they are.

Treating a medallion as a gun allows a school administration to browbeat a student body while hiding behind sanctimonious pronouncements.

Treating a slap on the butt as a sexual assault allows the cops to trivialize the whole concept of sexual assault. Cops don't want these cases. In most cities they still ignore them when they can. By coming down hard on inappropriate cases in the name of equality, they begin to wear down the legitimacy of the fight against real sexual assault so that eventually they can go back to ignoring it. If a school lacks authority to deal with a slap on the butt, it needs to get that authority. This is part of a pattern that many males-and their female collaborators-use to put girls in their place so that they will grow up to be submissive women who will not cry out when they are abused. It is part of a cultural fabric of oppression that needs to be addressed firmly. But making it a police matter means that it will not be addressed as a moral failing. Until they internalize a different set of values, these guys will simply learn to buttslap in circumstances where they will not get caught.

To cast a wider net, let's look at racial profiling. Does anybody remember those mid-60's cases when Earl Warren was chief justice, where the cops were told they could no longer pull someone over because they looked "suspicious?" In many cases cops know who the criminals are by just looking at them. I am reminded of a criminal mentally ill person who had left a Washington, D.C. forensic program while on a pass. The cops stopped him at a pay phone in Arizona and checked him out. Why? The guy just plain looked like a criminal. This approach works well for whites, but cops do a real lousy job on discriminating between criminal and non-criminal African Americans. So they stopped a lot of people for "driving while black." This led to the mid-60's search-and-seizure, stop-and-frisk cases. Since those cases, cops have to have an explicit justification for stopping someone.

Well, it took them a while, but the cops came up with profiling. This gives them an explicit justification to detain the people they want to detain. It just so happens that these profiles are quite racist in their effect, no matter how accurate they are. Although it may be constitutional for Customs to use profiles to select which entrants to the US they are going to focus on (they have the authority to do a thorough search of everyone that comes into our country), profiles are simply not what our founders had in mind when they broke away from England (in England today the government is planning to assemble a DNA database of all of its subjects in order to more easily capture those who commit crimes). But notice that when the cops were stymied they took a bureaucratic strategy of ostensive "equal treatment" before the law. The Supreme Court's attack on the discrimination method of the day did not put an end to racially-biased stops. Nor will getting rid of racial profiling put an end to stops for Driving While Black. They'll keep figuring out ways to do what they want to do; they need to make an adjustment to what they want to do by internalizing some values.

Orders of protection deter only people who can be deterred by a piece of paper. The real spouse abusers don't pay attention to them. When estranged wives need to transfer the custody of children, they have to go to great lengths to avoid contact with the subjects of these orders to avoid "voiding the warranty" with personal interaction. The real reason cops like orders of protection is that it is easier to make violation of an order stick than a charge of assault.

Today, people get more time from their possession of a gun while committing a crime than they do for committing the underlying crime. Again, it's easier to make that stick.

As a society we are going down the gurgler with our equality rights fully protected, but what we really want-freedom from violence and the threat of violence so that we can go about our daily lives-not protected by our governments (I live under four layers of government). We are simply more productive when we don't have to spend a goodly portion of our time worrying about threats.

But instead of peace, we get government intrusion, government bureaucratizing and "equal" treatment of serious and non-serious cases.

And I wish I knew what to do about it.


What to do? Well I hate to say it, but it is simple. Stop trying to make things perfect. Leave local matters to local control. People who hate the situation will try to change it, and they will have a far better chance of making changes if there is local control; or they will be unable to stand it and will MOVE. But if you try to make everything perfect from sea to shining sea you will end up with imbecilities. Every time. In spades. With Big Casino. The pursuit of the millennium leads to disaster, and always has. The best you can hope for is a set of compromises, and those will be different in different places.

Live isn't perfect and there are "problems" that government can't "solve", particularly with a new policy. Policy wonks can't understand that of course.


I was rearranging some old paperback books and found one with your essays on "Arming the Incomplete Enchanter". Reading them caused me to pull my United States regulation issue saber (1912 Model, known as the "General Patton Sword") out of its scabbard. This sword is modeled after the British 1907 pattern sword, although I think, from review of photographs, the American saber is a little heavier. Anyway, the weapon is beautifully balanced, enabling me to practice the old fencing passes I learned in college P.E., and at the same time seems heavy enough to be a real combat weapon and not a dress sword. (Indeed, I understand it was the last combat sword to be adopted by the United States Army.)

Well, anyway, the essays and the sword caused me to think about your work in progress in the Janissaries series. A friend got me the Model 1912 saber (mine was actually manufactured in 1918), so they are not hard to obtain. It might be easy for Les to bring one in on his Shalnukksi vessel. Certainly the sword could be copied by armorers on Tran, and would complement the emerging technology being introduced nicely.

Well, just a thought. Bob Arrington

Interesting. In fact I have one of those Patton designed swords (he held the title of Master of the Sword when he was either a captain or a lieutenant) and it is in fact about the best such weapon I have. Of course the steel will be better than what they make on Tran.


First: Thank you the leap of faith is leaping into of the current experiments in online books.

Second: Have you looked into Fictionwise? ( ) They sell electronic versions of short stories and novels, primary science fiction and fantasy. The interesting part is that the books are unprotected in any way. I'd be interested to know how well they (and the authors) are doing. I've found it very handy to, for example, buy and download a short story a two into my Palm on short notice, when I know I'm going to be sitting in a lineup, or a waiting room, or whatever late in the day.

Third: With all the fuss over Napster, much was made of how little of the price of a CD makes it back to the artists. I'd be interested in getting an idea of what percentage of a book price makes it back to the author (or the publisher, for that matter), and how much goes to distributors, retailers, actual production costs, etc. I'd probably buy more than I do now, if I knew the bulk of a lower price was going to the author(s). Here in Canada most paperback novels *start* at about $8-9 mark, and many are higher - the 1997 paperback edition of Footfall, for example, shows up as $16.95 from Chapters, our biggest book chain. It's hard to buy many new books at those prices, let alone when they're just out in hardcover...

Regards, Steve

Authors get about 10% of the cover price of a book. First, though, there is an advance; this is an advance against royalties, and if the book doesn't sell enough then the author may get more than 10% of cover of total sales because the book did not "earn out."

Publishers get about 40% of the cover price, out of which they pay the author his 10%, and pay their overhead and production costs. In theory author and publisher ought to make about the same "profit" on a book, and the advance ought to equal about 1 to 2 years of royalties. Since no one can really predict sales this is theory, and in practice many other things can happen. 

Advances on first novels now run about $15,000, with some "B" list authors getting considerably less than that for a book, while those with a track record get more. Hillary Clinton is said to have got $8 million advance. Newt Gingrich would have got considerably less, if they had allowed him to keep it, but apparently the ethics situation works differently for him as opposed to Hillary. I am unsure why. Her book is unlikely to earn out, but S&;S will probably make a profit on it, and having her book in their inventory will probably help their distribution.

Some books stay in print a long time and earn royalties year after year. MOTE IN GOD'S EYE is in about the 45th printing and continues to sell. LUCIFER'S HAMMER is another that sells year after year.

Science fiction tends to stay in print; at least good science fiction does. It is far more likely that a novel which won a science fiction award will be in print after 20 years than that a book which won a National Book Award or a Pulitzer Prize will stay in print.


You mentioned this morning that you want to write an essay on the subject soon. I'd be very interested to read that article. The issue is very relevant in Canada this week, with last week's decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the 10 year mandatory minimum conviction of Robert Latimer who killed his severely handicapped child. Canadian opinion seems to be pretty much split down the middle that the sentence is unreasonably harsh, but the Supreme Court decision was unanimous.

What really upsets people is that whether they believe Latimer acted out of compassion (misplaced or not), a woman named Karla Homolka, convicted for her active role in the much publicized kidnapping, sex torture, and murder of two teenage girls, will serve less time. This because her crime was one for which there was no minimum sentence whereas Latimer's crime was subject to a mandatory minimum.

Which leads to another interesting topic, the censorship of the original trial of Homolka and Paul Bernardo. US web sites were reporting on the trial but all Canadian media was blocked from reporting it. The trial would likely have been as sensational as OJ had it occurred in the US with no restrictions on the media.

- Robert

Mandatory minimum sentences are usually imposed by legislatures because they feel the judges have been too lenient.  Of course if judges are NOT lenient they find themselves pounded on by civil rights groups.

The quest for absolute equality in the US has poisoned nearly everything it has touched. There is probably no end of that in sight. We now have little old ladies handcuffed for traffic offenses because the police can no longer use discretion: if you chain anyone you must chain everyone. This is of course silly and undermines all possible respect for the law and for those who carry it out: if grown people are seen to be doing stupid things in the name of the law, who will respect the law?  But this isn't the promised essay.



This week:



Tuesday,  January 23, 2000

On used and out of print books: I found a good edition of Acton on: and I have this mail:


I know you make a living by doing-stupid-things-so-you-don't-have-to, but I think extending this to buying used books through Amazon seems a bit much. I have been much happier with .

Roy Harvey Beacon Falls, CT

One problem is memory: there is a good used book store my BYTE.COM editor Paul Schindler recommended and which I used to get a couple of out of print books by Robert Benchley. (Paul has a complete collection of Benchley. Complete. I lust.) But I have forgotten what store it is. But that abebooks site worked nicely for a copy of Acton.

Try Bibliofind:  Its database covers many small used book stores, and some only available on the web. It includes Powell's Books in Portland, and stores all over the world. If you don't find it there, try Alibris:  Which is it's own out-of-print/used store, but they tend to be pricier than Bibliofind. I've purchased books many time through bibliofind (from different bookstores), with no problems.

Powell's was indeed the one I got the Benchley from. I would have gone straight there if I had been able to remember the name. Bibliofind sounds good if I can remember THAT name...


from Greg Goss ( ) subject Buying on the web, and used books on the web.

I have had success with most of my attempts to buy on the web. I have had surprisingly good (to my expectations) experiences with buying scrap-class computer stuff on eBay, plus success there on a few current-product purchases, as well as a couple of low-end antique items.

I have had good luck with computer hardware purchases mediated by . I may just have been lucky. Pricewatch is an ad-sorting service, and I never quite take the cheapest entry in the category I'm looking at. Several of those companies are on my "favorites" list, but not on this computer. More often I use Pricewatch as a reference to negotiate with my neighborhood dealer. With cross-border differences it is a clear win if a local dealer will match California (or wherever).

I have looked up many books on , but have bought none. This, again, is an ad-sorting service.

Amazon used to be 25% higher than some of the other entries on bestbookbuys, but now sorts in very close to (but not quite at) the best. Amazon does lots of analysis before giving you a price. They may choose a different price if you come at them through a sorting service than if you come at them through a "business partner" web link like yours. I have never done the comparisons, so my "information" on their pricing is primarily rumour.

The best price on bestbookbuys is often . This is a commercial front-end to many small vendors selling used books out of their collection. The prices look good, but I haven't ordered anything because of the per-package service charge I pay at my USA mailing address drop-box. Someday I may rent a mailbox instead. I didn't find anything useful when I tried looking for your book, but your title on the View may not be precise. Did you try them?

Tried almost nothing I didn't report. Understand that saving a dollar is not my primary concern. Convenience is. Amazon I like because usually they make it painless to buy from them. What I do not need to do is spend hours filling in forms, only to have someone like that Treasure Chest outfit tell me they will send something, send it way way late and charge me for rapid shipping long after I have already got the item elsewhere and forgot they were even going to send it. The $30 for a $12 slocket is not a lot of money but I won't buy from THEM again.\


I can't vouch for their ordering process, but Saitek USA has an online shopping page at their site:  Their warehouse is in Torrance, so transit time should not be a big issue for you.

On the bigger issue of online shopping, I've almost never run into unexpected trouble/delays/etc during my 100s of online purchases over the last 3 years; I suspect that my *strong* inclination to shop online only at sites that are (or at least look) professional and competent (not just something like "Joebob's Bait &; PCs") may help account for this. I've been pleased with Amazon, but find that I now make the bulk of my online purchases at -- if they've got an item, I've always found it to be cheaper than Amazon's price. My requests to cancel an order were accomplished without problem, and, best of all, your order is always accessable online at the site, along with info for each item on shipping status and *single-click* current tracking info. The other site that's impressed me very favorably with their service is; all their prices also include next-day shipping, although they're often somewhat pricier than the other vendors.

For those of us without a Fry's or equivalent mega-discounter in range (I've lived in Boston and Seattle), internet shopping for electronics/computers/new books/etc. is a lot faster and cheaper than the local options. For the uncommoner items such as the used book you mentioned, you might try sites like  or  -- they serve as clearinghouses for the myriad of dealers out there. For my personal hobby of collecting antique maps, I've found that shopping online has made the limited number and individual small scale of dealers worldwide into an accessable community -- I never would have been able to correspond and deal with dealers from Argentina to the Netherlands (so far) without it!

Thanks for your always-interesting writing and good luck avoiding the blackouts! Armand MacMurray 

Well the Saiko site worked just fine. I had been there before but I never saw the "Order now" boxes; apparently you have to go through the other outfit to get to a place where they offer to sell to you. What I don't understand is why if you go to SAIKO you can't find -- or I did not find -- an offer to sell me the thing. I was offered lots of software downloads which I will take advantage of. Anyway I have ordered it. We will see. And thanks.




Then I get mail like this:

Deay\r Sir I purchased one of your hard drives 40 MB with a 50.00 rebate 3 months ago and still havenb't received my rate bate Please advise Roy Woodrum

which is addressed to me and no one else. I can't think why I got it.

And from Ed Hume:

The Purloined Letter

 Incoming staffers of the Bush White House are apparently victims of a practical joke perpetrated by their predecessors. Bush aides settling into the Old Executive Office Building have discovered that many computer keyboards in their work spaces are missing the W key -- as in President Bush's middle initial. 

"There are dozens, if not hundreds, of keyboards with these missing keys," a White House aide told us yesterday, speaking on condition of anonymity to confirm reports from two Republican sources. "In some cases the W is marked out, but the most prevalent example is the key being removed. In some cases the W keys have been taped on top of the doorways, which are 12 feet tall. In other cases the key is just damaged, with the spring broken or removed." The Bush aide added that the damaged keyboards are being found "in any number of different offices and divisions at the Old EOB. It has the technical and computer support people very busy. They already have quite a lot to do. I don't believe they expected to be coping with this as well. I think they're working to repair or replace the equipment, whatever they can do."

 Our efforts to reach former staffers of Al Gore and Bill Clinton were mostly unsuccessful yesterday, but Gore campaign press secretary Chris Lehane, tongue in cheek, fielded our request for an explanation: "My guess is that the White House did not have many reasons to use the letter W over the last couple of years. It's possible they just fell off because of sheer atrophy." Lehane added: "I think the missing W's can be explained by the vast left-wing conspiracy now at work."

I saw this in my morning paper as well. I suppose I ought not be surprised. It depends on what the meaning of the words "willful destruction of government property" mean. Or see "childishness as an excuse for criminal activity." I would think prying off a key and taping it above a doorway a joke. Destroying the keyboard is another story. 





This week:



Wednesday, January 24, 2001

Much mail about internet commerce. Lots of good advice. I'll put up a representative sample.

Dear Jerry:

I have had nothing but success buying stuff online, but then I limit my vendors to those I know &; trust. I checked PC Connection, my favorite computer place, but they don't stock the joystick you want. If they did and you ordered it by 2 am EST it would be at your door that day, at least 80% of the time. PC Connection has never screwed up on me, but here in the Keys Airborne routes things to Key West when they should go to Fort Lauderdale about 20% of the time. Full no hassle return policy, they even have their own 800 number for tech support. Not the very cheapest, but among the best.

I've bought computers from Dell, Micron, and Gateway online with no troubles, I buy camera stuff from Focus Camera in New York with ease, and even Constantine's lumber and cabinet maker's supply has a great Web site, and painless Web ordering.

I don't know what to tell you except don't give up - there are a lot of good Web merchants out there, some with truly great pricing and service, keep looking!!

All the best--

Tim Loeb

>Then there's the experience of trying to BUY something. Roland recommends >a Saitek X-36 joystick.

Do you know about the mySimon [  ] search bot? It's usually my first stop in looking for online merchandise. It shows two vendors selling the Saitek X-36, with Programmers Paradise [;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.programme t%3DH%26category%3DG%26subsectionid%3DG15 ] cheapest at $84.18.

>The brotherhood of book borrowers got my classics library copy of >Acton's Essays on Freedom and Power, and I thought I would get another.

Try Albris [  ]. A search there on "Essays on Freedom and Power" yields 14 matches, including 1948, 1955, and 1962 editions priced from $6.00 to $33.50.

Sturgeon's Law [  ] applies in spades to the internet. Some of us are just better at finding the 90% that's crud. (grin)

Al Somerville


Dr. Pournelle, I have had very good luck purchasing things on the Internet. In fact I buy 90% of everything there. YOu can buy the Saitek X36 right off their web site $99:  They also sell a reconditioned one for $40. 

I did not see the x-36 on my 3 fav comp hardware sites but they usually are good to deal with.  [shows many small retailers sorted by price offered]

For software/dvd's I like:  or 

Thanks, Robert Quimbey

===== Robert Quimbey, MCSE+Internet Software Test Engineer 


Jerry, Some of this has already been covered in mail, but I'd like to add my two cents worth and a few details about how things work. By and large you don't want to buy used books from Amazon, as they usually only act as a middleman. Far better is to go to one of the online bookseller listing services. I buy and deal on Going to their search page: 

shows up 23 copies Essays on Freedom and Power. And all of these are from independent dealers, so you can deal with a real person on the other end (at least if you choose the "email your order directly to this bookseller" option). And many of these are the same copies (through an affiliate program) that show up on and Going through lets you hook up directly with the bookseller and cut out the middlemen. Plus you can do comparison shopping for price, search by publisher, first edition, hardback or paperback, etc. Anyway, I've bought several hundred items from other booksellers on and I've never been ripped off (and very rarely had to return something). Some of the other bookseller listing services are probably just as good (if not as large), but Alibris is not among them. Generally Alibris will markup the exact same copy of a book that a bookseller has listed on another service some 20% on Alibris. (Some Alibris stock has already been bought from dealers and is sitting in their warehouse, but a great deal comes from the same dealers who are on ABEbooks, Bookfinder, etc.)

In any case, I suspect you will find the experience of shopping on  considerably less frustrating than your other online experiences. FYI, doing an author search there on "Jerry Pournelle" turns up 3905 hits. Cheers! --

Lawrence Person 

Nova Express Web Site:  Lame Excuse Books inventory now online: Books for Auction at:;userid=lawrenceperson  Why I'll never buy anything at NTB (National Tire &; Battery) Ever Again: 

I can vouch for I've purchased several books from them and all went fine in each case. One very nice feature is that they post a "mySimon" window that shows the price of the book you're looking for on various sites, allowing you to see how much you're saving, quite often more than half (the concept from which they get their name).

Another vendor from whom I've bought much via the Web is PC Connection. In fact, I've been buying from them since 1984 (remember their cute/clever racoon ads in PC Magazine from back then?) and have never had a problem or complaint. They usually get anything they have in stock to me the next day. *Highly* recommended.

Hubert E. Wiggins III 





Hey Jerry,

You made mention of having to run your old dos program in a win 98 machine, having to keep one specifically for that.

Have you tried VMware (  )? It allows you to run virtual machines inside windows 2000. It runs dos, windows, win98, win nt, win2000, Linux, etc.. about anything. You can use it to play with new OS's to without compromising a whole computer. I have found it very useful to experiment with different Os's.

Perhaps it would allow you to run your dos program from one of your win2k machines and get rid of the print problem.

Take care and keep up the good work.


I will have to look into this. Thanks.









This week:


read book now


Thursday, January 25, 2001

I am not sure you will believe this one:

From Jim Warren (Founder of West Coast Computer Faire among other notable accomplishments):

Let no one ever-again doubt the bizarre extremes to which the US guv'ment will go, to help corporations pursue monopoly-based profits. --jim


Michigan Live 20 Jan 2001 By Crystal Harmon

Last summer, the folks at Albie's Foods here started making crust-free peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches for their customers. Just before Christmas, a executive with an Ohio food company ordered Albie's to bag 'em.

Robert V. Vickers wrote to Albie's explaining that his company, Menusaver Inc., holds the patent for crustless PBJ and plans to preserve its exclusive rights to the lunchtime staple. Now, Albie's has asked U.S. District Court in Bay City to resolve the legal jam.

Albie's, a food manufacturer and restaurant, is best known for its tasty pasties, with stores in Gaylord and Grayling. Company officials say they hope the federal sandwich case can be resolved in a jiffy.

In December 1999, the Orrville, Ohio,-based food company Menusaver obtained the patent for the "sealed crustless sandwich." The product is the invention of Len C. Kirtchman of Fergus Falls, Minn., and David Geske of Fargo, N.D., according to the patent on file with the U.S. Patent &; Trademark Office.

"The sandwich includes a lower bread portion, an upper bread portion, an upper filling and a lower filling between the lower and upper bread portions, a center filling sealed between the upper and lower fillings and a crimped edge along an outer perimeter of the bread portions for sealing the fillings therebetween," states Patent No. 6,004,596.

Creamy or crunchy? Strawberry or grape? The patent doesn't get that specific. But:

"The upper and lower fillings are preferably comprised of peanut butter and the center filling is comprised of at least jelly," the patent declares. "The center filling is prevented from radiating outwardly and into and through the bread portions from the surrounding peanut butter."

Albie's co-owner Regan Quaal, contacted by The Times, said he would prefer to smooth out the controversy privately and not spread it around in the press.


United States Patent 6,004,596 Sealed crustless sandwich Abstract A sealed crustless sandwich for providing a convenient sandwich without an outer crust which can be stored for long periods of time without a central filling from leaking outwardly. The sandwich includes a lower bread portion, an upper bread portion, an upper filling and a lower filling between the lower and upper bread portions, a center filling sealed between the upper and lower fillings, and a crimped edge along an outer perimeter of the bread portions for sealing the fillings therebetween. The upper and lower fillings are preferably comprised of peanut butter and the center filling is comprised of at least jelly. The center filling is prevented from radiating outwardly into and through the bread portions from the surrounding peanut butter.

Inventors: Kretchman; Len C. (Fergus Falls, MN); Geske; David (Fargo, ND) Assignee: Menusaver, Inc. (Orrville, OH) Filed: December 8, 1997

U.S. Patent Documents 3083651 3690898 3767823 3769035 3862344 4382768 5853778

Other References "50 Great Sandwiches", Carole Handslip, pp. 81-84,86,95, 1994.

Amazing. Simply amazing.









This week:



Friday, January 26, 2001

Begin with an amusement:

Jerry -

Had to share this with you...

Today I was looking for more information on my employer's health plan. I went to the web site of my PPO provider. Attempting to get to the appropriate page that contains their drug formulary, I was faced with these two Javascript pop-up windows, jpeg copies are attached if you'd like to put them up on your web page.

I can't believe either of these notifications are necessary. The only possible reason for their existence is the involvent of lawyers in the web design process.

I fear that more of this is in our future...

Roger Weeks

I don't think much comment is needed...


And now for as good a brief analysis of the California problem as any I have seen. From

Depending on which plan you're talking about, it's not necessarily that bad. Hertzburg's plan is 10 year bonds to pay off the debts that PG&;E and SoCal Edison have racked up in the last year. In return, the utilities sign over around $5B of generating assets, mostly hydro. (Diablo Canyon isn't on the list -- wonder why ;) ). The utilities go off and sign up long term contracts and get a rate that keeps them solvent based on those contracts.

There are basically four alternatives for restoring financial balance:

1. Let them go bankrupt and some Superior Court judge decides what to do, subject to his appelate court and the state supremes deciding whether it's a good idea or not. (If they decide not, it goes back to Superior Court to figure out a new solution). This is the only sure way to stick the generating companies without their cooperation.

2. Lift the restrictions on what the utilities can charge their customers, and let them charge a high enough rate so they can pay down their debt. PG&;E proposed this in December and it went down in flames. It would take *major* political fortitude to get something like that to go.

3. Some sort of deal where the producers get a price they can live with and agree to forgive most of what the utilities owe for last year, then raise rates so that the utilities get their costs covered.

4. A major State bailout. This has to be debt based, because between them PG&;E and SoCal Ed owe something on the order of $25B, and Davis and friends don't want to take that out of the General Fund all at once. Remember, they're expecting to spend at least $10B on interim energy buying until this gets sorted out.

Hertzberg's plan is basicly #4; Davis is trying for #3 with the price as close to $5.50/MWh as he can manage. #1 is the scary scenario that keeps everybody talking to Davis and his friends (interesting WSJ article today on that score). #2 is right up there with eliminating Medicare as a political minefield.

Whatever happens, the result has to be a rules change so that producers aren't rewarded for holding back capacity. Interesting numbers noted in today's WSJ article (and apparent to anyone with enough stack to remember the details from last spring): When we had the rolling blackouts in June, the ISO was dealing with 45GW (45000 MW) of supply. The problem was localized because there wasn't enough transmission line capacity to feed the SFBA requirements. The rest of the state was at Level 1. Since mid October, the ISO has been juggling 30GW of supply: A 33% reduction. Now some of that is because of legitimate maintenance, and some more is because the hydro system has gotten pretty low. But there's a lot of evidence that the generating companies have figured out how to game the system and inflate prices artificially. The goofy rules need to be made un-goofy so that doesn't happen anymore. That's the hard part.

Quite well said. And of course eventually the previous debts have to be paid. Fortunately the left has made California far more powerful than it should be, but then it didn't go for Bush so he owes us nothing; I suspect all that will sort of cancel, and I won't be stuck with too large a tax bill to pay for this state's odd notion that water never reaches bottom as it runs downhill.

Dr. Pournelle:

Here's a pretty wild book you may enjoy:

_Saddam's Bombmaker_, Khidhir Hamza. New York: Scribner's, 2000.

Dr. Hamza had the dubious privilege of being the Iraqi "oppenheimer." Almost made it, too.

I have a list of book that I call "history that reads like science fiction." This one would come under the heading, "history that reads like Tom Clancy."



Roland sends this with the note "sure we were all just paranoid..."  -- 


Dear Dr. Pournelle:

I was looking over your Hall of Shame page, and a thought struck me: your average spammer cannot claim to be of rocket science calibre, so consider replying them and sending along attachments named "myOrder.exe", the program being a short executable that wipes out C:\*.*, for example. Send out 20 of these and surely you'll have cleaned out more than a few spammers' hard drives as some of these idiots won't be able to resist executing the attachment.

Just a thought. This assumes some spam have valid email addresses one can reply to, especially those with the "Reply to remove yourself from our list" notices which are really tests to see if your address was valid in the first place....

Cheers Francois Kupo Ottawa

Why -- what a narsty thing to do to an innocent spammer....

From Ray Van De Walker 

Nanotech just got a really big boost. Once you can touch and hold things, building with them is much more possible. 

From John Ringo:

Iraq to the US:

"If you don't pull out of the Persian Gulf and lift the sanctions immediately, we will nuke Paris."

Bush to Saddam:

"Can you hang on a couple of days while we arrange a film festival???"


A Hymn Before Battle:  

UK universities are paranoid about faculty taking consulting gigs and fight it ferociously. To me, it doesn't look like there's a 'brain drain'--just inefficient utilization of valuable resources. What it means in the end is that American researchers put in an extra 1000 hours per year in consulting and UK researchers spend the same time in non-economic activities. I think you can work out the consequences of the difference in productivity.


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

Now for an important if long but involved announcement. Read carefully, because it's not clear at first what this is about:

--- Declan McCullagh <> wrote:
> Date: Fri, 26 Jan 2001 12:20:02 -0500
> From: Declan McCullagh <>
> To:
> Subject: FC: Apparent spam scam using Paypal --
> watch out for mystery links
> Reply-to:
> I've left some of the message headers intact, so we
> can see that this
> apparent spam scam originates overseas; not much the
> FTC could do.
> Moral of this story: Be wary of mystery links, like
> you get via email. Don't give your account info
> unless you're sure it's
> legit.
> -Declan
> *********
> Received: from
> ( []) by
> (8.7.5/8.7.3) with SMTP id JAA09804 for
> <>; Thu, 25 Jan 2001 09:12:57
> -0800 (PST)
> Received: by id AA27525; Fri,
> 26 Jan 2001 01:15:23 +0800
> Message-Id:
> <>
> Subject: Betty HilI has just sent you $200.00 with
> PayPal
> From: Betty Hill <>
> Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2001 09:17:12 +0800
> Betty Hill has just sent you money with PayPal.
> Amount: $200.00
> Simply click <a
> and complete the one-page registration form to claim
> your money. For a
> limited time, if you sign up and activate your
> account, you will
> receive a $5 New Account Bonus.
> You may withdraw your money at any time by
> requesting a check or
> making a direct deposit to your bank account. You
> can also send the
> money to your friends.
> PayPal lets users send money to anyone with an email
> address. Use
> to settle restaurant tabs with
> colleagues, pay friends for
> movie tickets, or buy a baseball card at an online
> auction. You can
> also send personalized money requests to your
> friends for a group
> event or party.
>'s backers include Nokia Ventures, Madison
> Dearborn Partners,
> Qualcomm, Sequoia Capital, Deutsche Bank, idealab
> Capital Partners and
> Goldman Sachs. Our state-of-the-art encryption
> provides the highest
> level of security.
> For more information about PayPal, check out <a
> Welcome to PayPal!
> Note: If you already have a PayPal account, be sure
> to log in at <a
> and add
> this email address in the Profile subtab under My
> Account to collect
> your money.
> ----------------------------------------------
> Best of the Web
> - Forbes
> Using the service is actually safer than a check or
> money order.
> - Wall Street Journal
> "The beauty is that you can send money -- real
> money, not one of
> those gimmicky Internet currencies -- to anyone with
> an email address."
> - New York Times
> "PayPal can play a major role in your life. You can
> use it to pay
> for stuff at auction sites, settle dinner debts with
> friends or nudge
> your cousin to repay that $50 he borrowed at the
> family reunion."
> - Time
> "This is truly one of the easiest services to use.
> Setting up an
> e-mail account at Yahoo! takes longer!"
> -
> *********
> Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2001 01:17:36 -0800
> To:
> From: Bill Stewart <>
> Subject: Spam attempting Paypal scam
> The cypherpunks and coderpunks lists just received
> spam from
> "Betty Hill" saying you've just been sent $200.
> Simply click
> <a
> and complete the one-page registration form to
> claim your money.
> is a free URL redirection service - it would
> have pointed off
> to somewhere (presumably a moving target) to snarf
> up some Paypal
> account information and any other data it could.
> The anonymizer couldn't display it, either because
> it's closed down
> or just one of those things that the Anonymizer
> can't grok,
> but it is an interesting scam.
> Thanks!
> Bill
> Bill Stewart,
> PGP Fingerprint D454 E202 CBC8 40BF 3C85 B884 0ABE
> 4639
> ***********
> Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2001 00:53:23 -0800 (PST)
> From: "Alex B. Shepardsen" <>
> X-Sender:
> To:
> Subject: Re: CDR: Betty HilI has just sent you
> $200.00 with PayPal
> On Thu, 25 Jan 2001, Betty Hill wrote:
> > Simply click <a
> >
> Interesting scam. I wonder how many people are
> falling for this.
> Alex
> ***********
> POLITECH -- Declan McCullagh's politics and
> technology mailing list
> You may redistribute this message freely if it
> remains intact.
> To subscribe, visit
> This message is archived at

The moral of the story is clear. Paypals is good stuff, but you still have to watch out for what you are doing.

The following is, of course, a joke, and no one would really think of doing this:

Tired of getting all those pre-approved letters in the mail for everything from credit cards to 2nd Mortgages, and junk like that?

As you know, most, if not all of those letters come with a postage "PREPAID" envelope. Why not get rid of some of your other junk mail and put it in these cool little envelopes!

If you didn't get anything else that day, just send them their application back! Just make sure your name isn't on anything you send them. Heck, you can send it back empty if you want. Keep 'em guessing that way.

Let's turn this into a chain letter! Eventually, the banks will begin getting all their crap back. Let's let them know what it's like to get junk mail, and best of all . . .THEY'RE paying for it . . . . Twice!

WAIT!!!!! HERE'S THE BEST PART... You already know that the USPS has increased postage rates again, starting the first week of January 2001. Now if all of us start mailing back all the junk mail we receive to other junk mailers in their 'postage paid' envelopes....we just might delay the next rate hike from the USPS for years and years!!


The list you had today with the four options was interesting. I have no idea whats happening in other states, but up here in Washington the Governor has notified the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) to not sell any power to the power companies in California unless is its paid for. This is because WA, OR and ID are on the hook to the BPA if the bills aren't paid.

I imagine letting the power companies go bankrupt would result in large lawsuits against the state of California for those amounts. WA legislators have gone on record that they are investigating suing California for damages based on the rate increases we've incurred because of California's alleged mismanagement of their power system.

So the external side effects could get pretty expensive and drag on for years.


Very Interesting...

Then I got this:

I'm trying to find one copy, preferrably two of Beyond Crysalis by Patricia Sereno. It was published in Calgary by Blue Iris Press(which I cannot locate) in 1998 ISBN 0-963738-0-1. Do you have a copy or two or can you give me any leads on how to locate the author or get copies of the book. If you take requests would you please put me on your list. Thanks for your time and help.

-- Regina Ternus 5-2, 1515 Blanshard Street Victoria BC V8W 3C8 E-mail


Including telephone numbers. What in the world have I done NOW to make it look like I run a used book service?

Dr. Pournelle,

You may remember "black ice" in Gibson's sci-fi novel "Neuromancer", the anti-intrusion software that could kill. In anticipation of Super Bowl XXXV DirecTV used its satellites to send a signal to destroy pirate hardware decoders! Here's a link to the story:

Don McArthur










This week:



Saturday, January 27, 2001

Roland says they're shocked, shocked:,1038,500304147-500487090-503368549-0,00.html  -------- Roland Dobbins 

And Trent Telenko tells us:

Human Events has another report on how badly the White House and the old executive office building (OEOB) was trashed out by the Clinton-Gore staffers at: 

The most telling paragraph from the report shows a fundimental disrespect for the people's house:

"Spite and reckless moving cannot account for all of the filth-much of the mess indicated a pervading lifestyle of squalor and disrespect for the beautiful, hallowed halls of the OEOB. Half-eaten sandwiches and old pizza boxes that appeared to date back many weeks greeted the Bush employees in the OEOB, as did irreparably filthy carpets. Some of the old wooden desks had writing scrawled across them."

I suppose we mustn't be surprised that there was no adult supervision in the White House. Still, it's sad.


Yet another column on trashing the White house by Tony Snow.


Which apparently sheds some light on the pardons. Pardons are an absolute prerogative and can't be recalled or questioned nor need be accounted for: except of course political accountability.

And Roland brings our attention this with a reminder of the Alar scare. So now they eat the zoo animals...  ---------------------------- Roland Dobbins 







This week:


read book now









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