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Mail 142 February 26 - March 4, 2001 

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Monday  February 26, 2001

Hi, Jerry

I noted your travails regarding audio/video equipment. Buried in the manuals for a DVD player (pretty much all of them) you will find that you CANNOT connect a DVD player through a VCR. There is some kind of attempted copy protection which completely upsets the VCR. You must connect it directly to your component TV video inputs. If you only have one set of them then you will need to buy a switch box (radio shack has those) to select. If your TV is a combination TV/VCR then it probably won't work at all. I don't have one of those. I have tried connecting a DVD through several different component VCRs and it didn't work for any of them. I fails to work at all - not just for recording.

Interestingly enough, I have a Toshiba laptop computer with DVD and Audio/Video output, presumably for use in doing presentations at a location that lacks a regular VGA computer projector. THAT works feeding the DVD signal into a VCR. I assume it works because the ouput from the computer is not just the DVD signal but rather the converted output from the video card itself.

Later Mike Detjen

I finally figured that out. Thanks.\

Hi Jerry,

I understand what you are going through. I got digital cable two years ago at a previous address. It was an interesting system. It had a lot of new features that were interesting and usefull. It was also more difficult to use and less flexible then the analog system it replaced. My specific complaint was that I could program the analog cable to change channels but I couldn't do that with the digital system. I look at it this way. Analog cable is a mature technology, 20+ years old. Digital cable is a new, more powerful technology (jet aircraft in 1940?). After a few years development, digital cable may completely suppplant analog. It could also be a complete dead end. I don't know. I ran my cable through a signal splitter and had two boxes on one television with the VCR hooked up too the old system. In my new place, I don't have a cable box. I don't get premium channels but I can tape one thing and watch another with one cable.

Good Luck, David Goldfeder 

Jerry -

Down here (the Keys) they send the digital and analog over the same wire, so putting the VCR first and feeding its signal to the cable box would allow me to record analog channels while watching something different, and digital, on the TV. Maybe it can work that way for you, if what you want to record is an analog program.

Like you I thought, silly me, that technology was supposed to make all this easier, not more complicated!

Good luck,

Tim Loeb ----- Original Message ----- From: Jerry Pournelle To: Tim Loeb Sent: Sunday, February 25, 2001 11:08 PM 

Subject: RE: Cable TV woes 

Not with the digitizer box. We now get a digital cable signal


-----Original Message----- From: Tim Loeb [] Sent: Sunday, February 25, 2001 3:20 PM To: 

Subject: Cable TV woes 


Dear Jerry:


Be advised I am no expert, and do not have digital cable myself, but my understanding is if you have a cable-ready TV (or VCR) you do not need the cable box at all.


How to tell if the TV (or VCR) is "cable ready?" Can you, with VCR and cable box off, tune in channel 99 - whether or not there is a signal? How about channel 128 or so? In other words if you punch these numbers in does the set accept them or does it default back to a much lower channel, like 9 for 99? If it accepts them then it is cable ready, and you can try taking the cable box out of the loop.


Logic says if the cable box is doing your tuning only that channel will be passed to the VCR, and that will all you can record. If you eliminate the cable box, all channels will be present at the VCR, and you SHOULD be able to record one channel while watching another.


Hope this helps... in the old days the cable box was used for TVs which didn't have all those channels built in - I have an old Sony which only goes up to channel 13. Digital is a wrinkle I'm not familiar with, but before packing everything to take back try taking the cable box out of the loop... with a modern VCR you shouldn't need it (maybe!).


All the best, let me know how it works out,


Tim Loeb


I am still experimenting with signal splitters and other such but my guess is that Adelphia went pure digital. So I was drawing dead. Now to figure out how to introduce DVD into the system. Bah.

Dr. Pournelle,

Hauppauge WinTV has a card called WinTV PVR which records television to a hard drive and will let you pause "live" tv similar to the Phillips TiVo without having to subscribe to their service. Then you can burn your own video cd or dvd-ram for permanent storage. I believe it can handle a digital signal.

Thanks for what you do. Can't wait for that next Falkenberg/Empire novel.

Ron Booker

That I need to look into. There's also an ATI All In Wonder that has TV, but whether it does a digital signal I don't know. Obviously one can take the output of the decoder box and feed that to anything.


What you're seeing here is the wonderful "Not Quite Bleeding Edge" of Technology effect. Things almost work, but not quite.

When we lived in the city we had analog cable service and could record one program while watching a different program. All with our "Cable Ready" TV and VCR.

When we moved to the country ( 20 miles from the nearest city - 40,000 souls - and 5 miles from the nearest town of 2,000. ), we signed up for a "Wireless Cable" service and a DirecTV dish. We can record the "Wireless Cable" with the old analog setup, but now we have a feed from the DirecTV box. This I routed into the Right &; Left Audio / Video RCA jacks on the BACK of our VCR. We could now watch / record from the DirecTV box by setting the VCR to it's Video 1 input. When I added a DVD Player last month I cabled it to the the RCA jacks on the FRONT of our VCR, this makes the DVD work thru the VCR's Video 2 input.

With this arraingment we can record from analog Cable, DirecTV, or DVD while watching another program on the analog Cable. It would be nice if everything was Digital, but that just hasn't happend yet. Sigh.

Mark Gosdin

And that ought to take care of the subject.



Re your statement: "Understand, regarding Ada, I am only half serious; it has too much code for exception handling." GNAT and, I believe, most other Ada compilers allow you to turn off the exception handling.

Regards, Bill Ghrist

Clearly. ADA had embedded in it a good language. Then the committees got there. I prefer Wirth's languages. My real point is that it is time to think about understandable computer languages. C is not one of them. Down with C. Down with it, I say.

Dear Jerry-

I believe we have lived with your digital box limitations for a number of years now, we have DirecTV over a small satellite dish due to living outside the cable system's coverage. Our daughter in San Francisco has digital cable, and ONLY the cable box knows how to decode the signal. I suspect this has mostly to do with security, since that is how they do or do not give the extra pay premium channels, etc.

With DirecTV you can get a second receiver for $5.00 more per month, and it gets everything the first one does. I don't know what a second cable box would cost you for the monthly fee. They require both be hooked up to the phone so you can't move one next door...

On my primary system I don't have a video switch, so I route the DSS receiver to the VCR, then to the TV. All audio goes to the Home Theater receiver, which does switch audio inputs. The DVD video goes to the component inputs on the TV while the VCR passes the DSS signal to the S-video input.

All this is simpler on my alternate unit because it can switch S-video from multiple inputs to the TV output. One of these days I'll get the home theater receivers swapped and reduce the need for juggling remotes a bit in the living room...

I hear Microsoft is working on Ultimate TV with a TiVo-like box that has two digital decoders. The blurb I heard suggests it can record two programs to hard disk while showing a third previously recorded program. I could not find anything about it on the MS web site, however.

Brian Dugle

Does anyone know more about this magic box? And can it be used in Adelphia monopoly areas?  I am a bit angry with Microsoft but at least I sort of understand things from them and they use the same language I do...

On that subject:

from Greg Goss 

 subject: embedded identification 

Your correspondent quoted: "What happens when companies such as Intel or Microsoft are found to have embedded unique identifiers in their hardware or software that pose potential privacy problems for Internet users? "

Sometimes, the publisher is shouted down. Sometimes the infraction is ignored. Microsoft embeds an identification number based on your network card into every Word97 or Excel97 document that you write. (If you don't have a net card, they make up a number that they expect to be unique). Given any word 97 or excel 97 document, you can uniquely identify the network card in the machine that wrote it.

There was no uproar over this, and nobody seems to care. I haven't seen any mention of this "feature" in office 2000, but I presume it would still be there. MS doesn't take big-brother features out unless someone has been complaining about them.

Comments welcome: I know that Office 2000 generates an ID number, but I don't think it is used for anything. I know that I have Office 2000 on two machines, both installed from the same installation package (I never use more than one at a time; one is a laptop) and I have updated both from the MSN website without problems.





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Tuesday,  February 27, 2001



I just read your article regarding Win95 installation. I'd tought I would mention vmware ( ). My experience with is with Linux, but it is also available for Windows 2000. It can emulate 4 plain vanilla PC-s simultaniously. To me it sounds like the perfect platform for testing old OS-es.

We use it at work to run PowerPoint presentations on a Linux machine, so we can run X-applications and Windows applications at the same time.

Best regards

Erik -- Erik Kaffehr e

I have about thirty letters t this effect, and I will be getting vmware to write about. Thanks.


As a long time reader I am waiting for your migration from dial-up to some form of "high speed" connection. Maybe your soon to follow disappointment, frustration and anger will have some effect on the shady business.

I have a favorite saying - "If ISP ran airlines, planes would be falling out of the sky every hour."

What other industry:

- chronically oversells to the point that services are overloaded and failing 
- deliveries as advertised an average of 10 % 
- has managed to structure themselves so that they always have the handy excuse that it is someone else's fault 
- always has a sales person available on the second ring but it takes an hour and a half wait to get technical support on the line

I use the internet for business and in the home. At the present time I connect using a 3 meg line of sight satelitte connection that is down often and almost never approaches advertised speed. My personal e-mail and business e-mail accounts are non operational for long periods of time. And this is not just a problem with my current provider. I have tried about six over the last few years and they all have let me down.

On the road (meaning all of North America) I use a different service after much trial and error. The time I have wasted in various cities trying to get connected and fighting to get my messages makes me sick. (I will not get into cell phone problems, here)

The bottom line is that these systems by any other industries standards are a failure and really do not deserve our support but what choice do we have? Can you imagine a car that would randomly not start on a daily bases or a fridge that allowed your food to melt once a week? I would be happy to pay more for better service but the same people are envolved and I suspect that the same problems would be there. The only difference would be that I would be a higher priced sucker.

As I said - looking forward to your adventures into "high speed" land.

Jim Potter

I was just about set to sign up with one when I went to SF for the AAAS meeting. Now I sort of start over.  But it will happen.





This week:



Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Ash Wednesday

Some thoughtful comments on health insurance:

I have read with interest your comments on health insurance and pre-existing conditions. As a former insurance agent/underwriter with 12 years experience, here are some of my thoughts:

Medicare consumes an enormous amount of medical resources. There is not profit incentive for medical providers to provide end of life care (I'm not referring to assisted suicide in this case, but hospice care). One result of this problem is that a significant portion of Medicare's funds are used in caring for people with a few weeks to live, or keeping unconscious stroke victims alive on feeding tubes for years (I have personal experience with this in my family. Public education regarding living wills would also alleviate this).

Many problems in the insurance/medical industry are caused by ignorance of the other parties specialty. A case in point is the rejection for insurance by many blacks in the 70's who carried the then recently discovered Sickle-Cell Anemia gene. Being a carrier does not mean that one will get the disease-but ignorance on the part of insurance underwriters resulted in many being unable to get coverage. This situation will not improve, as companies hire less and less experienced underwriters (sometimes right out of high school) using complex risk assessment software to make decisions.

I've seen cases where clueless medical providers will write things on patient's records that cause them to become uninsurable for at least 10 years, if not longer. Two examples come to mind. In one, a client was sick with intestinal distress for three days. The cause wasn't found, but he had just returned from backpacking using purification tablets that had decayed. The hospital lost some test results and was unable to do a proper stool test. The discharge papers read, "Symptoms indicate infection from contaminated water resulting in colitis." The word "colitis" resulted in the client from being uninsurable, despite letters to the contrary from two MD's and the hospital's department head. In another example, a patient with bursitis was given blood tests prior to surgery to rule out arthritic disease. A test positive for anti-nuclear antibodies resulted, and the MD wrote, "Tests positive for Lupus. Referred to rheumatologist to rule out disease prior to surgery." 5-10% of the general population tests positive for ANA without having lupus. This individual didn't have lupus, but the letter from the specialist indicating this was not enough to prevent her from being denied insurance. The individual, who was self employed, eventually was able to get insurance only after complaining to the insurance commissioner with the aid of an attorney. But the problems with this case do not stop. If this person ever is in a car accident an claims neck injury, the responsible party may claim that they had a pre-existing condition that caused the neck problems in the first place.

Recently, I read of a case in an underwriting journal about pre-birth genetic testing. A woman had an amnio test that indicated her child would have Down's Syndrome. The insurance company would pay for an abortion, but if she chose to have the child, insurance for the baby would be denied based on a pre-existing condition.

My point isn't that the government should provide insurance-Medicare has been a nightmare of runaway costs. But Congress does need to enact reasonable reforms to prevent all medicine from being socialized in the future. The Republicans have the opportunity to do this before something larger is forced upon us by necessity, and before a large portion of our population is completely uninsurable.

One principle of insurance is that a definitive risk is uninsurable. That is why companies put holds on home insurance in areas where a hurricane will hit within a few days. With genetic medicine and genetically tailored drugs, a company WILL know details about your genetic history. Reasonable reforms are needed now. I don't have the answers and these are tough issues, but I feel reforms now may divert more government interference later.

Tom please use email

Very sensible. Probably too much so. And see below.







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Thursday, March 1, 2001

Ever since I read the report debunking hereditary diseases: I've been alert for environmental causes of disease, especially the big modern killers: heart disease and cancer.

There's a new book that popularizes a large amount of research on circadian rhythyms: "Lights Out" by T.S. Wiley and Brent Formby It has about 60 pages of citations, most from refereed journals. It's written in an annoying diet-book style, but that doesn't make it wrong.

Briefly, the argument is that people's metabolisms are, like most mammals', tuned to seasons, sensed from light. The problem is said to be that we use artificial illumination so freely that we force our bodies into perpetual deep summer, deranging our circadian rhythyms, and the associated hormones.

It's said to potentiate obesity, diabetes, depression, cancer and heart disease by a number of plausible hormonal pathways. The solution is to sleep at least 9.5 hours in the winter, in a dark environment. Light leaks as little as 0.2 Lux, a candleflame, affect the crucial hormones.

The availabiliity of artifical light does seem to match the upswing of chronic diseases in time and geography.

I thought you'd all be interested.

Raymond Van De Walker

Reading through Alt.mail, I came across the discussion on self-government and of what it consists.

When researching the "Island in the Sea of Time" series, I did a fair bit of reading on the Town Meeting system, as traditionally practiced in New England -- something that goes back to the system established in the Danelaw in the old country, and in turn to the "thing" of ancient Scandinavia, the assembly of all the freemen of a district.

(The "Great Migration" to Massachusetts in the 1630's was largely from the eastern part of the country; East Anglia and Linconlshire, the old Five Boroughs of the Danes, were very prominent.)

In New England, Townships and their Town Meetings fullfilled most of the functions the County did elsewhere in the American colonies and later the US.

It's a surprisingly practical way of getting things done, on a local scale; issues get thrashed out at length, and by the time a majority agree, everyone is thoroughly familiar with them. In the old days it did everything from establishing what ear-croppings you used on your pig to appointing a fence-inspector, through admonishing husbands who drank too much and on to other stuff like encouraging millers to set up in the township. Sort of a combination of legislature and court, with the added duty of picking the executive committee to run affairs between meetings.

The system does, however, require a community with a fairly intense degree of consensus on basic issues and sense of communal solidarity; which, of course, the deliberately selective quality of the Puritan migrations which founded New England ensured for a long time. It also assumes a well-educated voter with a certain quality of flinty common sense. That's the only way a system like that could work among such stubborn, argumentative people.

It certainly produced a social matrix much more tightly governed than most of the US liked, judging how closely it's restricted to areas of heavy Yankee (in the strict sense) settlement. On the other hand, the political culture it established accomplished remarkable things -- certainly closer to the "peaceable kingdom" than most.

The Meeting wasn't as autocratic or self-selecting or aristocratic as a Virginia parish vestry, but it was also far more powerful when it chose to move on any given issue. Democracies can be.

Among other amusing things in doing the "Island" series, I tried to come up with the sort of Constitution a group of modern (but heavily old-stock) Yankee types removed from the contemporary world would produce, basing it on the Town Meeting setup they were familiar with and which is still very much alive on Nantucket.

A surprisingly high percentage of people there are really passionately involved with the Meeting, perhaps because it deals with stuff that affects their lives directly, like building regulations. They've got the most ferociously restrictive development code I've ever come across -- even voted to outlaw McDonalds, unless they agreed to delete the golden arches and make the building gray shingle with white trim.

Among other things, I quizzed actual Nantucket residents on the issue. (Surprising how ready people are to cooperate with writers, isn't it?)

There was a fair degree of unanimity on a lot of things. For example, pretty well everyone said that in that situation (their island the seed-core of a new Republic) what they'd want would be a confederation of autonomous Town Meetings with automatic provisions for "fissioning" when they reached a certain size, sending delegates to a central assembly, but retaining many powers.

The Swiss militia system also had a lot of support.

Yours, Steve Stirling

Interesting. I have put this over there as well as here.

what do you think of this?;rtmo=aCq5hWuJ&;atmo=99999999&;pg=/et/01/2/27/wgun27.html  


I know what this picture (current view, Tuesday) looks like, but c'mon, who is it really ? I recognize the one on the left, but the one on the right is supposed to have passed on in 1955. Though, I haven't seen a REALLY recent photo of you lately either.

I don't speak German (sheesh, I barely speak American, much less English) so I couldn't interpret the comments and infer anything there. I knew you ran in lofty circles, and were highly regarded and all that, but this could impress most people (unless it is one of the current products of digital photography, in which case it's only technically novel).

As usual, Thanks for listening.

Larry O'Neal Computer Associates 

Heh. Wie gehts?

Jerry :

Reading through the issues related to DSL, I think a note of caution about the technology is in order. If the uses of DSL are as "mission critical" as many are commenting, perhaps they shouldn't be using DSL, but perhaps other technology, such as a T1 line.

The technology is spreading, albeit slowly, to various places in the country. Even New Mexico is seeing the movement to better connections, and we're certainly not at the front of the list for such things.

I have DSL service in my office from Qwest, but I only took on "interruptable" service, where I get two hours at a clip and then a five minute cooling off period before resuming service again. While I did have some delays in service start-up for my location, the installation process was comprised of Qwest sending me an internal modem card with instructions. Qwest was pretty upfront about the delays, and continued to update me as we grew closer to the start date.

Installation took about thirty minutes, lengthened and complicated by what turned out to be a poor quality telephone cord (my own, not one sent by Qwest, I might add). I think that the overall installation could have taken as little as fifteen minutes except for the cord issue. My CD-RW hiccuped a bit with the new Intel card, but that, too, ended up being addressable with some patience.

Getting my office network connections under Win2000Pro to allow me to successfully and consistently share the connection actually took longer then getting the DSL service to function. Tinkering with some network protocols along with a few other tweaks was more annoying than difficult, to be frank and honest.

My DSL connection has been stalwart and dependable (so far), but then, I drop off service every two hours. I suppose if I had to have continuous service, I might not be as pleased, but then I don't _need_ continuous service on a 24/7 basis. The download and upload speed has been excellent, I typically see close to the theoretical maximum for the linkage, and I'm capable of tinkering with it if I want to try and stay on the "bleeding edge" (I don't really need to get that level of optimisation with all the committant upkeep, though).

I save money with this arrangement, as well!

As for dial-up services, Compuserve has served me in travels around the world. I don't always get the fastest connections in more rural areas, but I can get access with a high level of success. If I want to have incredible speed on the road, I'm out of luck, but I can plan to make the big downloads when I'm back in the office. CIS may not be perceived by some to be as sexy or exciting as some services, but I've had a longish time with the service, and it performs in a pretty good fashion overall.

My expectations for connections to the Internet/e-mail are coloured and tempered by some pretty practical considerations. I don't care to pay for a T1 line, I regularly travel to small towns or areas with limited telecommunications infrastructure, and I know that I can survive without a constant connection. I still hit times when I can't get online, certainly get briefly annoyed, but then move on to other matters until I can get access again.

What's probably gotten me through most of these things has been some level of patience, and a significant dose of humour. I know for a certainty that the Internet and all the ISPs do _not_ revolve around me, and I have proof of this!

Life's short, after all, and I can find something else to occupy my mind and spirit than just getting cranky <g>.

John P. 

This link takes readers to a write up on Beal Aerospace, Andrew Beal, and the closing of a commerical rocket company by politicians.

Beal was a real estate tycoon / banker /billionaire who _really_ wanted to be a spacer.

I am saddened by his defeat.

Thought you and your readers might be interested.

Rice/Powell, 2004

Thanks. Before his time...

Arguably you both worked all your lives for peace as best you could.

The gentleman said "Wie gehts?" to which I replied "Es geht mir gut, und Ihnen?" which seemed to non-plus him. Perhaps my HochDeutsch wasn't comprehensible to a Swiss? Ah well.

Try the HochDeutsch with Nikolas Wirth in Zurich.

"I know what this picture (current view, Tuesday) looks like, but c'mon, who is it really ? I recognize the one on the left, but the one on the right is supposed to have passed on in 1955."

Just to correct a fingerfehler although he was schooled from secondary school through Ph.D. in Switzerland Einstein was born in Ulm (scene of a battle with Napoleon and Austrians), and director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics in Berlin for 20 years until he left Germany for the United States. Good alt history story if Einstein had been Swiss and gone home, never to write a letter to Roosevelt.

I seem to recall that changing schools was the source of one urban legend about Einstein having poor grades in mathematics. At one point his grades did in fact reverse, as I recall, but that was because he changed schools and countries so the grading schemes reversed numbers - in one case higher was better in the other lower was better.


Ah. Yes, of course, I actually knew that Dr. Einstein had been born in Ulm. Which reminds me of a story. Mrs. Regina Possony, widow of my mentor and collaborator Stefan T. Possony, was a Berliner whose father was an enemy of the Nazis.  He fled to the USSR taking his family with him in the late 1930's. Stalin promptly put them all into a labor camp. Regina, then still a young girl (and thus in a less strict environment than her father) wrote a letter. She knew that when she was very young she had taken a trip to the US and her family had introduced her to a very famous man. She had no notion of his address so she wrote to Herr Doktor Albert Einstein, United States of America, and told him of her plight, beginning the letter "You will not remember me but I once met you at your home..."

He got the letter, wrote back to her, sent her some money and some soap and cookies and other items. The camp guards were afraid to steal these goodies for fear that she would tell her powerful friend who might call Stalin and tell him. She got very much better treatment after that, eventually got out, and managed to get her father out; they fled through China and ended up in the United States. Steve Possony had been part of the Schussnig government in Austria, fled to Czechoslovakia after the Anschluss, fled to France after Munich, fled to Oran in North Africa at the Fall of France, and from there to the United States where he was in intelligence work during and after the war. He had his Ph.D. from the University of Vienna and was taken on the faculty at Georgetown University and later became a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, which is where I met him in the 1950's. He met Regina in Washington just after WW II.

And a very good letter on NASA.


It's been posted on NASAWatch most of the day, but word has reached the NASA field centers that both X-33 and X-34 have been officially cancelled, probably effective March 31. Probably the X-38 Crew Recovery Vehicle will also be eliminated.

I shed no tears for the first two, which have been nothing more than corporate welfare for the last few years. However, the demise of the CRV would be unfortunate. It was a neat, in-house NASA research program - an adaptive control system that tugs on parachute shrouds to steer a lifting body shaped reentry vehicle to a soft landing based on GPS guidance. Lots of good basic engineering went into it, and it was a cost-effective project to boot. (And now the astronauts will be depending upon Soyuz capsules for escape vehicles. UGGH!)

I agree with you on cuts to the ISS. It seems that we in the space establishment don't know how to do anything cost-effectively. The Station was a complex task but its current implementation was specified by a committee, international at that. And if the last administration hadn't been fixated on involving the Russians, we would not be looking at the overruns we are seeing today.

NASA has too many people that don't know how to do anything useful, and too few that appreciate their position of trust with taxpayer dollars. We also have too incestuous a relationship with the major space hardware suppliers. I don't know the solution to this, except to form a new space agency and junk the old one. I doubt this would be politically feasible, but who knows? With a REAL MAN in the White House anything's possible.

Rgds (name withheld on request)

I have high hopes that we will get a new space program. SDI requires access to space on a routine basis. If we are to have SDI we will have to have new space vehicles. Crew Recovery is another good reason. I would not like to see the CRV program cancelled and I will see what I can do.

But X-33 became a shitepoke. In theory it was mine: a followon to DC/X. In practice it was a monster that ate reusable spacecraft. It WAS NOT AN X PROGRAM and that monster gave real X Programs a very bad name. X-34 might have been all right but it was hard wired to OSI over the objections of technical advisors who knew OSI would not be able to do it. Pure political influence. It deserves to die.

CRV is worth keeping. But NASA probably can't do that either. There was a time when we could do such things. I was proud to be part of that. But that was in another country and the old NASA died before Shuttle first flew. For more tirade from me see VIEW.

This was sent to me by a friend, a retired C-130 driver. I filed the serial numbers off, because I don't know if the guy who wrote it would want to have his name associated with it on a public service.

Subject: Food for Thought Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2001 08:49:46 -0800

On 18 February 2001, while racing for fame and fortune, Dale Earnhardt died in the last lap of the Daytona 500. It was surely a tragedy for his family, friends and fans. He was 49 years old with grown children, one, which was in the race.

I am new to the NASCAR culture so much of what I know has come from the newspaper and TV. He was a winner and earned everything he had. This included more than "$41 million in winnings and ten times that from endorsements and souvenir sales". He had a beautiful home and a private jet. He drove the most sophisticated cars allowed and every part was inspected and replaced as soon as there was any evidence of wear. This is normally fully funded by the car and team sponsors.

Today, there is no TV station that does not constantly remind us of his tragic end and the radio already has a song of tribute to this winning driver. Nothing should be taken away from this man, he was a professional and one of the best in his profession. He was in a very dangerous business but the rewards were great.

Two weeks ago seven U.S. Army soldiers died in a training accident when two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters collided during night maneuvers in Hawaii. The soldiers were all in their twenties, pilots, crewchiefs and infantrymen. Most of them lived in sub-standard housing. If you add their actual duty hours (in the field, deployed) they probably earn something close to minimum wage. The aircraft they were in were between 15 and 20 years old. Many times parts were not available to keep them in good shape due to funding. They were involved in the extremely dangerous business of flying in the Kuhuku mountains at night. It only gets worse when the weather moves in as it did that night. Most times no one is there with a yellow or red flag to slow things down when it gets critical.

Their children were mostly toddlers who will lose all memory of who "Daddy" was as they grow up. They died training to defend our freedom.

I take nothing away from Dale Earnhardt but ask you to perform this simple test. Ask any of your friends if they know who was the NASCAR driver killed on 18 February 2001. Then ask them if they can name one of the seven soldiers who died in Hawaii two weeks ago.

18 February 2001, Dale Earnhardt died driving for fame and glory at the Daytona 500. The nation mourns. Seven soldiers died training to protect our freedom. No one can remember their names and most don't even remember the incident.


From above: >My point isn't that the government should provide insurance-Medicare has >been a nightmare of runaway costs. But Congress does need to enact >reasonable reforms to prevent all medicine from being socialized in the >future. The Republicans have the opportunity to do this before something >larger is forced upon us by necessity, and before a large portion of our >population is completely uninsurable.

I don't know that the Republicans are any better (or worse) at this that the Democrats but we will indeed all be uninsurable. We all have some genes that increase risk for something.

Perhaps we need to go back to ignorance in the sense that we just don't use that information to determine eligibility for health insurance.

Notice that in Washington State paying medical bills for state employees is eating up the state budget and cutting into social services for the medically dependent population. I think to in Washington State much of Boeing's labor troubles are tied to open ended rising medical costs. The employees view anything but the historical full coverage as a takeback and the Boeing Company views a willingness to pay more and more as hardly a takeback but also thinks an unlimited and unknown and uninsurable future obligation is incompatible with sound business and greatly complicates the forecasting of expenses that goes with pricing airplanes for future delivery.

The HMO model was originally intended to level pay from patients to medical providers and give physicians a steady income with an incentive to practice preventive medicine. These incentives don't apply to insurance companies.







This week:



Friday, March 2, 2001


As a practicing physician whose is old enough to have seen many fads come and go, I have to say that we need to use a slightly more accurate term than "HMO" in our discussions on health. The original HMO was Kaiser-Permanente. HMO's have long-term patients. The HMO saves money by paying up front for preventive care. Most so-called HMO's these days are managed care organizations--MCO's. MCO's save money by denying care. MCO's make money by making sure they are first in the healthcare dollar food chain. Because their contracts shift from year to year, they have no incentive to fund preventive care.

Once MCO's have cherry-picked good-risk insured persons, once they have ratcheted down everyone's fee's, once they have cut the care authorized to the point where no further reduction will be tolerated, then everyone else gets those rates too. That is the point at which their management simply adds cost. Interestingly enough, one MCO has quit micromanaging care to save money.

In psychiatry we know all about MCO's. They were managing psychiatric care before they managed general medical care.

The problem for us all is that good care costs more. Competent providers want to be paid adequately, or they will choose other careers. This is not so much true for doctors as for nurses, technicians, etc. But it is beginning to happen for doctors too. We simply need more cost-effective care.

Ponder, instead of nursing homes, at-home care where nursing staff can meet the needs of patients using waldos (remotely operated arms and gadgets). After the up-front cost of the hardware, the subsequent care would be less labor-intensive and less capital-intensive (fewer nursing homes needed).

Actually, we are in a transition state. Healthcare costs will be a non-issue in 20-30 years: due to biological research, we will all be healthy. That's my take on what's going to occur.

In the meantime, it will be expensive. But then what would you rather have, your money or your health?

Edward Hume, M.D.

The sad part is I won't be around to see everyone healthy.  John W. Campbell said years ago that it would not be long before someone was born who, barring accidents, would live forever. We probably would not know when that child was born. Campbell thought he would live to see the child born, but it would be too late for him. He died about 30 years ago.

I expect that immortal child has been born.

Ed Hume also sends tnis:

As you got up this morning, I watched you, and hoped you would talk to me, even if it was just a few words, asking my opinion or thanking me for something good that happened in your life yesterday.

But I noticed you were too busy, trying to find the right outfit to wear. When you ran around the house getting ready, I knew there would be a few minutes for you to stop and say hello, but you were to busy. At one point you had to wait fifteen minutes with nothing to do except sit in a chair. Then I saw you spring to your feet. I thought you wanted to talk to me but you ran to the phone and called a friend to get the latest gossip instead.

I watched patiently all day long. With all our activities I guess you were too busy to say anything To me. I noticed that before lunch you looked around, maybe you felt embarrassed to talk to me, that is why you didn't bow your head. You glanced three or four tables over and you noticed some of your friends talking to me briefly before they ate, but you didn't. That's okay. There is still more time left, and I hope that you will talk to me yet.

You went home and it seems as if you had lots of things to do. After a few of them were done, you turned on the TV. I don't know if you like TV or not, just about anything goes there and you spend a lot of time each day in front of it not thinking about anything, just enjoying the show.

I waited patiently again as you watched the TV and ate your meal, but again you didn't talk to me. Bedtime I guess you felt too tired. After you said goodnight to your family you plopped into bed and fell asleep in no time. That's okay because you may not realize that I am always there for you.

I've got patience, more than you will ever know. I even want to teach you how to be patient with others as well.

I love you so much that I wait every day for a nod, prayer or thought or a thankful part of your heart.

It is hard to have a one-sided conversation.

Well, you are getting up once again. And once again I will wait, with nothing but love for you, hoping that today you will give me some time.

Have a nice day!

Your friend,


PS - Do you have enough time to send This to another person?




This week:



Saturday, March 3, 2001

In a CNN story on the directed beam weapon called Vehicle Mounted Active Denial System you mentioned, some bleeding heart liberals express concern about the technology.

One is quoted as saying:

"We have developed a non-lethal weapon which causes pain. What happens when someone continues to walk toward the source of the high-power microwave? What happens when panic ensues in a crowd as a result of high-power microwave? What happens when it's focused on someone's eye?"

Another is quoted as saying,

"It may fall into the (wrong) hands. It may be eventually sold to other countries to police forces, military forces that don't have the degree of accountability that you see in this country."

OK, say I, consider that this technology will be used by MILITARY forces. Would these morons prefer that instead of using a non-lethal technology with no lasting effects on these people, we just shoot them?

The complete story may be found at:

-- Cheers! - Lindy Sisk

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act out their dream with open eyes, to make it possible." -- T.E. Lawrence

At the moment we can shout at them or shoot them; not many other choices. People don't always think things through, particularly academic people.

Don't know if someone told you about this..

This is a rebuttal by Richard Stallman, to Microsoft's Steve Allchin comments about Open Source.,5859,2690949,00.html 

Regards, Al Hartman (Macintosh Emulation List Host) 

My Homepage 

Enlightenment means taking full responsibility for your life. - William Blake

I had not seen it. Thanks! I will read it. I believe Allchin has taken leave of his senses.


Hi Jerry,

Thought I'd add a couple of comments on my own recent experience with digital cable tv via Charter Communications.

I had digital cable installed as a trial -- they pay the first month, no installation charge, no charges or penalty for going back to analog after a month if I wanted. Since they were paying for the tab, I opted for the all-the-premium movie-channels option -- multiple HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, TMC, and others.

Installation was simple and apparently trouble free. they basically just swapped one cable box for another, though this one was called a digital receiver, and gave me a new remote.

Quality was strange. The picture was somewhat sharper on my 27" Sony than analog cable, but there were way too many digital artifacts -- areas of pixellation, areas that didn't refresh or got "stuck" from time to time, and an occasional black screen. When I had digital cable uninstalled this week, the uninstaller commented that one of the cables on the back of the box was the wrong type -- RG59 instead of RG56 (or was it the other way around?). He asked, unbidden, whether we'd had any problems with dropouts, black screens, or the like. When I said yes, he said it was because the cable to the receiver wasn't up to the job, that the digital installer was supposed to have replaced all the wiring that was substandard. 'Course, that guy was a subcontractor operating out of the trunk of his car, whereas the uninstaller was a cable company employee with cable company truck.

And what about all the expanded programming choices? Well, there were a couple of newly available channels that I was really glad to have -- notably Discovery Wings, Discovery Civilization, and History Channel International. But most of the extras were irrelevant to me, especially 45 channels of stereo music and a half-dozen music video channels. When I want music, I have better options already available to me. And their 45 classes of music didn't include one for "Folk." But mostly I found myself spending a lot of time with the new program guide and then watching the same old channels I'd always watched.

And that's part of the reason I had it taken out. (SWMBO was another big part of the reason, I admit.) The extra $10 a month -- Charter claimed that digital was only $6.95 extra, but the fact is my analog cable bill runs about $39/month, and the total was going to go to $49.95 -- wasn't worth it. I guess I had reached a threshold where that just seemed like too much money to pay for television service. Hell, for that price I can get a small dish and satellite reception with the same channels, even my local broadcast stations with but one exception.

Final score: Analog 1, Digital 0.

=== Russell Kay Sr. Reviews Editor Computerworld 

Thanks. I sure miss having the old BYTE editorial staff for backup...

I have found that Adelphia doesn't have cable modem here. I am looking at another DSL outfit that swears "this time for sure" but I am pretty sure it's T1 or nothing for me.

Which is odd since Studio City isn't a jungle...







This week:


read book now


Sunday, March 4, 2001

There is, of course, another possibility. Patriotism is the ultimate refuge of the scoundrel; it could be that Allchin's provocative statement isn't "sound planning," addressing some future worry proactively anticipated, but rather is "damage control," or more specifically the opening shot in an attempt to legislatively enforce damage control, in the wake of some crushing discovery which top Microsoft officials are now sweating bullets after making.

Back in 1991, Microsoft was caught in undeniable intellectual-property theft, that is, a blatant violation of Stac's software copyright, when Stac's own copyright notice for its "Stacker" disk compression software was found in the DoubleSpace code of MS-DOS 6.

Now just suppose, what if, somewhere along the way, one or more of Microsoft's city-sized revolving cast of low-wage benefitless fresh-out-of-school programmers did _already_, at some frantic moment in the last ten years, incorporate into some key piece of the Windows code base, a convenient GPL'ed code segment?

Would this not obligate Microsoft to publish the complete source, and to license henceforth forever under copyleft, the thus-built software, as well as all derivative works and adjuncts in the package in which it's included, up to and including perhaps even the entirety of the Windows 2000 distribution disk?

What would Microsoft now do, in the event it recently discovered this?

In short, could it be that Windows is already bound under the terms of the GPL "copyleft," and is abruptly trying to legislatively reverse reality?


Intriguing if unlikely. But stranger things have happened.





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