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Mail 150 Aprl 23- 29, 2001

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Wednesday, April 26, 2001

A lot of mail. I will get some up tomorrow.







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Thursday, April 26, 2001


I'm going to rant about your latest column.

>Meanwhile, the engineers who man the exhibits are themselves interested in >the presentations. And yes, some of them are women engineers, but "person >the exhibits" is an ugly affectation and tribute to a rather silly >self-consciousness. "Human the exhibits" is worse

Come on - never mind the existent, or non-existent sexism (where I agree that the whole political correctness thing has got to the silly stage) - the logic is rotten.

You're a writer - you know that if the words come out wrong one way, you put them another way. "The engineers on the exhibits", "The people at the booths are themselves the engineers", etc. In fact you don't even need a re-cast sentence. There is a perfectly good word in English - and I assume in American also - "the engineers who staff the exhibits."

By using the argument, "It's the old way or the silly way." you are contributing to the polarized attitudes to language which have landed us with this silliness. Let's have *good* language which offends no one. If a writer can't produce - and promote - better language, who can?


Philippa Sutton

I stand corrected: your point is well made, and I suppose "old ways or silly ways" is the wrong stand to take. In my defense I have been annoyed by people less coherent and polite than you, and I must confess a certain glee in ruffling their feathers. But thank you.


If you want to read an extraordinary story written by an extraordinary young woman, visit Kaycee Nicole's page ( ). She's 19 or 20 years old, and until a couple of years ago was just a normal teenage girl. She was diagnosed with leukemia a couple of years ago, and has since beaten cancer twice. She keeps an on-line daily journal page, and a couple of days ago she told her readers that there's a problem with her liver and it can't be fixed. I don't know how much longer she has to live, but it's not long. She's from Kansas and has always wanted to see the ocean, so a couple of days ago she and her mother packed up the car and headed for Florida on what she calls her "Journey to Home".

What's amazing is that after fighting cancer for two years, this kid keeps her sense of humor. I laughed out loud reading her journal entry this morning. Kaycee doesn't feel sorry for herself, which I think is incredible given her situation.

Many of us have been following her saga over the last months, cheering her on. Along with everyone else, I'm hoping for a miracle, but none of us, least of all Kaycee, are expecting one. There's nothing any of us can do to help Kaycee, but she does want people to read her story so many of us have put up links to her page on our own sites. In case you want to do the same, I'm attaching her logo graphic, which you can link to the URL above.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

This hardly needs comment beyond noting that the young lady writes well.

Hi Jerry and welcome back,

Thank you for the subscriber notice about your report from France. I'll be resubscribing when my annual time is up.

Now to something you have talked about in the past this is coming back to haunt us -

Remember how you have frequently warned that our country allowing (not using incentives to keep critical manufacturing infrastructure active and within this country) all of its industries to move to locations outside the country will one day be our undoing? Well, it seems like that has started to happen in an obvious way. I heard on the radio this morning that Germany and the Netherlands (I may be misremembering the second country) will not allow the U.S. to sell diesel submarines to Taiwan. I thought, how can they not allow this? Then the news report went on to say that the U.S. does not manufacture diesel submarines anymore and must rely on the two allied countries that do make them.

It is not too much of a leap from this situation to one in which the U.S. is at war with mainland China (or any other country, for that matter) and we need critical military hardware from our "allies" who are not at war with that country or see things differently and thus refuse to sell us the goods!

Given the gutting of our manufacturing capability, how long would it take us to ramp up to produce the required goods? Months or years probably! Enough time to loose the war.

This is a grave situation that our leaders should take very very seriously. You were right.

Imagine if we were in a similar situation before WWII (we were in a bad situation but our native manufacturing capability was still there). What if we relied on Germany, Japan, France, or any of numerous other countries that became hostile to us at that time our were quickly overtaken by countries hostile to us and we had no significant native manufacturing capability...

Not a pleasant thought,


I mentioned this in View. And Yes, it is a grave situation.

I do not intend endlessly to discuss the Athlon/Intel matter, but here are some people who disagree with me. I leave out the pure flames.


Mr. Pournelle, While the i815 chipsets are better than the i810 they replaced, they are still an increment away from the 440BX chipset of 3 years ago (like the one in my Linux box). While I have no dislike of integrated chipsets, I do expect better of Intel. Since the PIII is to be phased out soon, AMD may be the only alternative for those of us requiring both flexibility in configuration, good performance over all and the economy of acquisition the computer industry has afforded us so far. If Intel abandons the low end of the computer market - retail, AMD may yet get more market share. The P4 is hardly an alternative in this segment at all. This is a person who would consider a 750 MHz PIII a serious upgrade.

I am saving my pennies for an Iwill KK266 board for my second daughter to take to college. This will give me the flexibility to install whatever the market has available, perform well and be relatively "future proof" during her college career. --

Bob Taylor <> 

That may be the correct course, but I have had remarkable success with the D815EEAL board and anything from a 600 up P III chip; they tend to be trouble free for business and games up to Everquest although with Everquest you are better off with a Voodoo board.

I have never had problems with iWill boards.

April 25, 2001

Dear Jerry,

Since you devoted a full column to AMD vs. Intel, I thought I would write with my $0.02 worth (and I really wish that keyboard makers hadn't left out the old "cents" key when they migrated qwertyuiop from typers to computers).

I have both an Athlon and a Pentium system running in my house. The Athlon is a 600, pre-Thunderbird, which I built a year ago, and it is my main machine. The Pentium, a 233MMX, is my wife's.

If my wife did not object to such idiocy, I would name her computer Boris (because it is "Godunov" for her uses). She uses occasional business apps like word processing, and a certain amount of draw and paint software. She also uses the Internet from time to time. I dropped in the Pentium to reuse a collection of components that had plenty of service life left; the original CPU was a Cyrix 120 horror that I had put up with myself for over three years.

I needed a number-cruncher. When I built the Hot Rod Lincoln, the biggest floating-point bang there was for the buck comes from the AMD Athlon family, and I don't think this has changed much. The point I'd like to make is that there are other reasons besides the ones you stated to get a CPU that does floating-point fast. One that I have, but which I am not sure is common, is backyard science. Every so often, I download complete listings of orbital element sets for everything that is currently in orbit, and put the element sets through some processing to get, among other things, perigees, apogees, orbital periods, and local pass predictions. This kind of baloney brought the Cyrix to its knees.

The other big use I have for a number-cruncher is audio processing in general, and MP3 encoding in particular. I have a large collection of tapes and vinyl LP's, and am currently converting them to home-made CD's. As a by-product, I am also encoding the wav files as MP3's for future use and for archival purposes--if one of my home-made CD's gets trashed, I can reconstitute it from the MP3 without having to go back to the original vinyl or tape. If the satellite-orbit calculations were hard on the Cyrix, this audio business was even worse. Even without the MP3 encoding step, it was pretty rough, and then there were the all-too-frequent buffer underruns when burning the finished product.

In short, if you are doing an awful lot of floating-point calculation, for whatever reason (video authoring, high-end gaming, backyard science, audio processing, and I'm sure there are others), you need to at least consider an Athlon.

Something people also need to consider when purchasing an Intel 815EEAL or any other motherboard with a lot of built-in peripherals, is whether the mobo has enough expansion slots to handle replacements for all the built-ins. In my experience, video boards burn up before motherboards do, and the same goes for modems, sound boards, and NICs. If the all-in-one mobos are like traditional systems, one or more of the built-in peripherals will smoke itself, leaving the rest of the board usable. When that cussed event occurs, you want to be able to just replace the ailing part, rather than replacing the whole mobo. The 815EEAL has 5 PCI slots, which should be enough. Other boards may not have as many.

I agree with you re win-modems, or "lose-modems", as I call them. It's a good idea to find a real modem that will fit your available slot(s). If PCI is all you have, there are a few, but you have to be careful when shopping. US Robotics (or 3Com, or whatever) makes one. I think Zoom does as well. One way to ensure that you do have a real modem is to check on Linux compatibility, even if you have no use for Linux itself. If a modem will work under Linux, it is a real modem. When I built my Athlon system, I got burned on the modem. My supplier, an old pro, swore it was a real PCI modem. It ran under DOS! It even ran under DOS in his wife's computer. Alas, it was a lose-modem. It ran under DOS using a special driver. My friend, the old pro, was embarrassed. The USR real-modem replacement ran about 15-20% faster than the lose-modem, even though they were both "56K". Of course, another way to ensure that you have a real modem is to get an external modem. As far as I know, all external modems are real modems.

I hope you had a good trip to France, and I really hope Sasha has recovered completely.

Clear ether, "Sourdough" Jim Jackson

Thanks. Do note that I specifically spoke of the D815 as a default case motherboard.

Your point about floating point is good, and of course if you really need a lot of calculations you may need more than the 512 megs memory that the D815 will support.

Me, I wish we still had chip compatible motherboards but that is not to be.

After reading your most recent Byte Article I thought you might be interested in this:

Basically it is talking about a new batch of Athlon Thunderbird chips capable of 1.4 - 1.5+ ghz.

You don't seem to like Athlon boards based on the VIA KT133 chipset. Why this is so I have no idea. The Current crop of KT133A boards are fantastic. Most of the boards from the get-go have received very good marks for both speed and stability.

If you have people you trust telling you that the KT133 is bad, you have to go with that. I can tell you that I was hesitant to go with an AMD chip and VIA chipset at first. I bit the bullet and was so happy I bought another one!

My Abit KT-7 RAID with a Duron 650 ran rings around my brothers ABIT BX133 RAID with a Celeron 600. He was so disgusted he bought the same board with a TBird 850 (the 850 was under $120 2 months ago!)

I bought a Duron 800 a month ago for $67.00. A FIC AZ11E board for $90.00 with onboard sound. I can buy a decent 10/100 NIC for $20. A GeForce 2 MX for $95.00 everything else is the same. This box will run rings around any intel system you put together for the same amount.

At the moment(4/2001) AMD has the low end all over Intel. Most "experts" agree that this is so. The high end is another story depending on who you believe. (me or your own eyes...)

Even with the worldwide internet, there are times when I would trade it for membership to a resurrected BIX.

I do not want to make too much of the problems with the VIA chip set boards. Most people will probably not see the difficulties, which tend to be in the video bridge and in USB support. If they were common they would long ago have been fixed, of course.

And as I said many times, the differences are not large in any case; and I am very grateful for the AMD competition which keeps Intel prices lower.

One more on this theme and it is enough:

I have two topics to mention in response to your recent article on AMD versus Intel.

1. A lot of people say you won't see much difference between opening word on a 550 Mhz system versus a 1 Ghz system. Well that isn't always true! It depends on what else you have open with your machine. I know that on my system at work in a large corporation network, my 550 Mhz Pentium 3 is the least responsive computer I've had to deal with. If I have an mp3 player going on, just opening a webpage can cause the mp3 to stutter and the computer to go really slow until it's finished loading the page. So if you have multiple windows running, which is more and more likely as people use larger monitors, people will run into this. You would think that with 256MB of ram I wouldn't have these problems. I'm sure part of it is corporate monitoring programs like SMS. Other than that I can only assume there must be a memory leak in some programs I'm running. I would LOVE being upgraded to a 1 Ghz Athlon at work. For one thing Athlons are great at MP3 encoding. Check out the recent benchmarks at  where you'll see a 1.2 Ghz Athlon is a little better at MP3 encoding than a Pentium 4 1.7!! Of course it's hard to make a business case for an upgrade because MP3's put too much load on my computer, so I'll just have to suffer with this darn Pentium 3.

2. I used to be Intel only before the Athlon, but now I'm AMD only for personal machines. I've been very pleased with my Athlon computers, I have an 800 Mhz Athlon for my linux server that I bought and I'm building a 1.3 Ghz Athlon system. All of my geek friends only buy Athlons. Even the artists I know have only built or bought Athlon systems for PC computers. Of course some of them still buy Mac G4s. The artist still raves about how much of an improvement he saw when he bought an Athlon. It's pretty cool to see an artist rave about hardware. :) With the new P4 pricing, the days of Pentium 3 are numbered, as are the high gross margins at Intel. It's too bad that people don't realize that for most things a 1.3 Ghz Athlon is better than a 1.7 Ghz Pentium 4.


I routinely keep a LOT of windows open -- Eric has often remarked on it -- and I don't see a lot of difference with Athlon and Intel systems. I play Everquest on both interchangeably; the Athlon is a bit faster but it tends for reasons not known to me to be just a little less stable; or so I think, but it's hard to document because it's a fairly rare happening, so it could be chance.

Thank you for the data.

And one final as a sort of summary of many:

Subject: you

You have no Idea what your talking about.

mark []

Informative. Very.





And Mr. St Onge scours the news for us:

From: Stephen M. St. Onge

subject: news, grim and otherwise

Dear Jerry:

Over at , Kathleen Parker tells us why youth violence is likely to continue, or get worse -- illegitimacy plus day care.

John Mccaslin mentions that only half of the 'educational establishment workforce are teachers at .

Oh well, Roswell, Buffy and Angel were all good, and new this week.

Best, Stephen

Stephen M. St. Onge 

Thanks. Between you and Roland I tend to find out what's going on...

Also from Paul Walker:

Found these articles on a site called ""

Sign language found to be distruptive 

Don't try this at home 

School Violence Insanity Applies Only to Students

Town outlaws dancing 

It really makes one wonder at how dumb we can be as a group.

- Paul

And from Alex Pournelle

Ok, so this weekend we spent working like dogs to make a short video. Three more weeks, at least. Fun, silly, great practice, amusing, achievable--therefore desirable.

It was a giant pain in the hienie, involving much physical labor. Not, you would say, a lark, a way to relax, a recharging method appropriate to the weekend paradigm. It did have many Fun Things in it; fun, if you're a film nerd. We had to struggle with a lighting setup; try and try to kill the shadows, while the actor sat patiently, waiting. An hour to get one 20 second shot... not unusual for a 'real' film.

And this was with, mind, a tiny crew, a camera which doesn't need very much light, some nice lights, the germ of a good grip kit. The harder jobs, the bigger plans, the more complicated scripts await. (Waiting, particularly for lighting, will be the one constant of film- or video-making, at least the way I plan to do them. Dogme 95 isn't my style, right now.)

Oh, yes, there are lots of tedium, but occasionally you catch lightning in a bottle. There were certain moments, looking through the camera (with one eye. I don't squinch up the other one, either. Learned to turn one off ages ago), when something unexpected happened. More than once I had to bite back laughter at the physical humor in front of me; kind of stupid when the cinematographer blows a sound take, don't you think?

That moment, that glimpse of the unexpected, is at once so cliched and so unexplored, and it is the center of this little discussion. I would not trade it for anything.

* * *

I have this theory, that there is no single Great American Novel. Thank the Positive Role Model for that; if there were, it probably would have been written already. (Then where would we be, we would-be writers of same?)

There are, of course, paragons, touchstones, books which seem to stand the test of time. There are new chrome-plated supercharged literary works, gleaming with hard-fought plots and studded with intensely modern sentence constructions, sandwiched between raised-letter covers, with editors and designers and accountants acknowledged or even thanked, the current sausage-packaging which perpetrates paperbacks.

Even, occasionally, there's something worth reading.

(I will leave it to another time to discuss whether this path is generally upward; has Man improved over time? Simply stated, without edu-speak, the question would be: Has anyone written a better novel since "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer"? Papa Hemingway didn't think so. Discuss.)

* * *

It's that transcendence, that flash of the divine, glimpsing the live spark of creation--that's what it's about for me. That's the thing, the goal, the place to reach for.

I'm an intermittently gluttonous man, when it comes to life. I want everything, always, all the time, complete life lessons, to saturation and then some. I hold my friends by the pants cuffs and shake till the experiences fall from their pockets, to be gathered up and hoarded, to be sat upon like a dragon hoarding treasure. And I am, I find, pretty good at it, at coaxing the fine print of new thoughts from minds around me, of peering into an ear and finding... newness.

Then, I forget, 'go to sleep' metaphorically, somnambulistically wander through life, on auto-pilot from point B to D, straight ahead and level, boring (the exact word) through life.

It's my friends and family, and those remembered gems of experience, which wake me up again from this life-like-sleep, into wakefulness, into DOING SOMETHING, creating, spinning a new meaning or insight.

To which I can only say: Keep it up. Keep applying the wingtip gluteous kick-start, and keep me on course. I shall try to do the same for you.

And, if you have any ideas for more movies, longer ones, something of feature length we can make, be proud of together--I'm no longer so much of an iconoclast that I think I'm the only human being on the planet capable of writing. (See discussion of novels above.)

Yes, the procedure of writing is independent, solitary, a joy or a job. (Not all forms. Another discussion.) To have written is an accomplishment, to write is a chore. But, some expressions of writing are less solipsistic; they involve arguing and collaborating and external expressions of the internal idea, waiting and sipping coffee and burning your fingers on a too-hot PAR can and having six clothespins on your pants pocket (for clipping tough-spun to lights) and using the word "Sorcey" to mean the light's wrong and the rest of the deal. It's both sloppy and very exact; sloppy during principal, exact during post; the audience sees exactly what you show them, but it's only out of what you shot. A many-sided game, impossible to "win" yet always possible to improve. Not the only game in town, if the town is 'creativity', just the storefront I gaze into the most.

And that, I suppose, is why I like making movies.


I have put a copy of this on the reports page.





This week:



Friday, April 27, 2001

And on Intellectual Property:

I appreciate your position; certainly I would like to see writers paid fairly for their work and am happy to do so myself. However, there is another side to the issue as well.

Various organizations are seizing the opportuniy provided by new technology to impose all sorts of new limits on the ways customers can use their products. Thus, DVD players have a fast forward mechanism that can be disabled for certain sections of a disk, forcing you to watch the advertising. Digital music and television equipment is being designed so that you can only play recordings on one specific system (i.e. you'd have to buy two copies of the same music disc if you want to listen to it in your car as well as on your home stereo system). New televisions will let the station control which programs you can record, when you can play them back, how many times you can play them back, and so on. There is also the likelihood that recorded material will soon have an expiration date so that you have to keep paying in order to continue being able to use the recordings. (This sort of thing is already being done with electronic textbooks) This is all a load of bullshit designed to rip off the customer, and I refuse to buy any of the new digital entertainment equipment.

Another problem is media longevity. Any decent university library has books dating back to the 1800s and before that you can borrow and read. Yet I have floppy disks from only fifteen years ago that are no longer readable. I am unwilling to purchase written material in a form that will doom it to uselessness in a relatively short time. I object to closed, proprietary formats which become useless soon after the parent company goes out of business. If I am going to buy stories on a digital medium, I will only buy them in an open format that allows me to make as many back-up copies as I want, print the material out (reading books on a screen sucks), and reformat the work in any way that I find attractive and/or convenient. Thus, I do not do business with the Alexandria Digital Literature site.

Moreover, I resent the attempts by publishing companies to get legislation passed to force libraries to charge a per-use fee for borrowing electronic (or any other kind of) books and magazines. (Frankly, I think that publishing companies are an evil that is becoming unnecessary; I would rather have my money go directly to the writer than to be filtered through a bunch of parasitic middlemen.)

Certainly there must be a way to find a reasonable balance between the rights of the writers and the rights of the customers. It will not be possible to eliminate piracy completely without stepping on the customers' rights, but perhaps it can be kept down to a reasonable level. I have been wondering if the shareware model would work well for stories as well as software. Perhaps it would be worth trying. I have personally sent in money for a number of good shareware products such as 4DOS and PC-Write; I would do the same for books.

--- Brian McGuinness

Publishers and editors are more important than you think: authors are not publicists, and every author thinks his book is wonderful. I wrote all this in STEP FARTHER OUT many years ago and it is all coming true.

As to technology restrictions, I do not think they can be made to stick. There are too many smart people out there.

But as it stands I can find all my works in electronic form and I am getting nothing for them. Perhaps they get people to subscribe to this site, but if I had to live on the subscriptions here I would have to go get another job. Book residuals used to be the author's retirement, but no longer.

I will have a lot more on this another time. Let us see what readers say.

I note from the report bleow that the sapce tourism market may be on the verge of taking off. (If Goldin &; Co. would stop being a bunch supercilious snobs.) Comments? 

As it happens I know Denis Tito; we have been to parties at his house (which was used as a set in "Wag the Dog" and that may account for some of Washington's dislike of him). He's certainly as qualified as Glenn was, and he's paying his own way...

Jerry, the US media have been somewhat provincial about the latest rescue from Scott/Amunsen base in deep winter. This was sent me by a Canadian friend with ties to aerospace industry both in Canada and the USA.

Welcome back - Hal Frank

Here is an article about the rescue which actually mentions the pilots who under took this dangerous mission after the U.S. military decided it was to risky. It was interesting watching the American and Canadian news coverage on this event. The Canadian news cast talked about the plane and pilots and the dangers of the mission with the rescued Doctor as the sidebar while the American coverage didn't say anything about the Canadian crew and their flying this rescue after U.S. crews backed out, of course the Doctor was the focal point. Same story, different perspectives what a difference a border makes.


Thanks. Good work!

And Roland says:

I'm not sure what to make of this....

Given that it's the New York Times, I'm intensely suspicious . . . 

Nor I.

And now this:

Even if it's not true, it's a great story!

The article below allegedly ran in a Taiwanese paper last week. - - - - "In an heroic dogfight fought over International waters off the mainland-China coast, a 60's-era American-built Lockheed Electra propeller-airliner, with 24 US Navy passenger/observers aboard, chewed up one of China's finest state-of-the-art supersonic fighter aircraft. The Americans, utilizing the infrequently recorded combat tactic of straight and level flight, often accomplished by relying solely on autopilot, engaged the outmanned single-seat combat jet and knocked it out of the air using only one of its four formidable rotating air-mass propellers. After the action, the crew and passenger/observers diverted to nearby China's Hainan Island Resort for some much-deserved R&;R as guests of the Chinese government."*

- - - - Reprinted from the Taiwan Daily Gazette, by staff-writer Won Weng Lo.


Heh. He's also the source of:   Is back. The 'about' page says, "The New Criterion is also an articulate scourge of artistic mediocrity and intellectual mendacity wherever they are found: in the universities, the art galleries, the media, the concert halls, the theater, and elsewhere." Well, geez, no wonder Pournelle likes it; they certainly will never have a shortage of things to write about! 

Yours Aye, RGMcF

Indeed. Indeed.


You might find this interesting:  It is not very technical, but an interesting look at preparations for the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center's terascale computer that will be built up of 750 AlphaServers.

Regards, Bill Ghrist







This week:



Saturday, April 28, 2001

Much enjoyed your thoughts in the View for April 27. Only one comment...

You wrote: "...imagine Waco if the local sheriff were in charge."

I have imagined it, actually, and I think that if the sheriff had been in charge the Mt. Carmel center would still be standing and Koresh would still be preaching his admittedly curious doctrines.

BATF = "Burn All Toddlers First"

Mike Clark Olympia, WA


Featured Quote: "The strength of the Constitution lies entirely in the determination of each citizen to defend it. Only if every single citizen feels duty bound to do his share in this defense are the constitutional rights secure." --Albert Einstein


Some ideas to chew on current issues and future trends regarding the Internet: 

Clay Shirky presents well-organized opinions. The common theme I find in them is that the user is king.

Chris Pierik


And from Roland: 

And while I missed the anniversary:


    The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere
    by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 
     Listen my children and you shall hear
     Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
     On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
     Hardly a man is now alive
     Who remembers that famous day and year.
     He said to his friend, "If the British march
     By land or sea from the town to-night,
     Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
     Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
     One if by land, and two if by sea;
     And I on the opposite shore will be,
     Ready to ride and spread the alarm
     Through every Middlesex village and farm,
     For the country folk to be up and to arm."
     Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
     Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
     Just as the moon rose over the bay,
     Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
     The Somerset, British man-of-war;
       A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
     Across the moon like a prison bar,
     And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
     By its own reflection in the tide.
    Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
    Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
    Till in the silence around him he hears
    The muster of men at the barrack door,
    The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
    And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
    Marching down to their boats on the shore. 
    Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
    By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
    To the belfry chamber overhead,
    And startled the pigeons from their perch
    On the sombre rafters, that round him made
    Masses and moving shapes of shade,--
    By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
    To the highest window in the wall,
    Where he paused to listen and look down
    A moment on the roofs of the town
    And the moonlight flowing over all. 
    Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
    In their night encampment on the hill,
    Wrapped in silence so deep and still
    That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
    The watchful night-wind, as it went
    Creeping along from tent to tent,
    And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
    A moment only he feels the spell
    Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
    Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
    For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
    On a shadowy something far away,
    Where the river widens to meet the bay,--
    A line of black that bends and floats
    On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.
    Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
    Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
    On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
    Now he patted his horse's side,
    Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
    Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
    And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
    But mostly he watched with eager search
    The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
    As it rose above the graves on the hill,
    Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
    And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
    A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
    He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
    But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
    A second lamp in the belfry burns. 
    A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
    A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
    And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
    Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
    That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
    The fate of a nation was riding that night;
    And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
    Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
    He has left the village and mounted the steep,
    And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
    Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
    And under the alders that skirt its edge,
    Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
    Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.
    It was twelve by the village clock
    When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
    He heard the crowing of the cock,
    And the barking of the farmer's dog,
    And felt the damp of the river fog,
    That rises after the sun goes down. 
    It was one by the village clock,
    when he galloped into Lexington.
    he saw the gilded weathercock
    Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
    And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
    Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
    As if they already stood aghast
    At the bloody work they would look upon. 
    It was two by the village clock,
    When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
    he heard the bleating of the flock,
    And the twitter of birds among the trees,
    And felt the breath of the morning breeze
    Blowing over the meadow brown.
    And one was safe and asleep in his bed
    Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
    Who that day would be lying dead,
    Pierced by a British musket ball. 
    You know the rest. In the books you have read
    How the British Regulars fired and fled,---
    How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
    From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
    Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
    Then crossing the fields to emerge again
    Under the trees at the turn of the road,
    And only pausing to fire and load. 
    So through the night rode Paul Revere;
    And so through the night went his cry of alarm
    To every Middlesex village and farm,---
    A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
    A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
    And a word that shall echo for evermore!
    For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
    Through all our history, to the last,
    In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
    The people will waken and listen to hear
    The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
    And the midnight message of Paul Revere. 
"It is true that if you tell me what you read, I can tell
you who you are.  But I will know you better if you tell
me what you re-read." -- Francois Mauriac

There was a time when every school kid learned that poem and recited it. That sort of instruction doesn't happen any longer. I am not sure the change is for the better.  

Listen my children, and give some pause
as I tell you the tale of the Reverend Dawes...

But I doubt that means much now either, and certainly won't to those in today's schools. Alas.








This week:


read book now


Sunday, April 29, 2001

Opera stuff mostly.






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