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Mail 158 June 18 - 24, 2001 

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Monday  June 18, 2001

Jerry--

I recently got DSL installed into my home office (after GTE/Verizon told me for years that I had no choice but to use ISDN). I found out a couple of things that *may* have bearing on your situation...

First of all, there's a required filter that blocks the DSL signal from getting into the phones. It comes in two flavors-- Either a filter on each and every phone, or a master filter at the tentry point and a special unfiltered line to the modem. I don't remember you mentioning either of these in your article, maybe the filters are missing? I found missing a filter on even *one* phone was enough to kill DSL...

I also found out that when they say a maximum of five devices on a line with DSL, they mean it. One day my wife told me the Internet connection wasn't working. Sure enough the light was out. She'd plugged one of the phones in my office back in (because it was unplugged to make DSL work!) Unplugging the wire and resetting the modem fixed the problem.

Ain't working with telco fun? :-\

==

I still remember your forum back in the days of Bix with a good deal of fondness. I haven't found anywhere since where there was such a thoughtful exchange of ideas at that level. I miss it. I learned a lot then and it still shapes some of my thinking.

Thank you for taking the time then! :-)

==

While I have your attention... There was a chart you had of political persuasion; quadrants with Conservative, Liberal, Libertarian and <????>. I don't remember the labeling of the axis. Do you have a picture of such a chart or could you describe it? I've wished to tell other people about it more than once and I haven't been able to reconstruct it to my satisfaction.

Thanks!

Paul Hanchett Senior Developer McAffee Associates

I will try looking at the line with NOTHING attached; but I think I did that already. The Phone Company keeps saying they will do DSL here then saying OOPS! No we Can't. Roland thinks I should order a new phone line; it might be routed differently.

The "chart" was part of my PhD dissertation in political science. I will see if I can find a simple representation.


Dr. Pournelle,

Here's an interesting page that discusses piracy and micropayments. It's in the form of a comic but the idea is real and in my opinion something that needs to happen sooner rather than later.

http://www.thecomicreader.com/html/icst/icst-6/icst-6.html 

Sean Long

Thanks


And three from Roland:

Subject: Sensible comments on smart tags:

http://librenix.com/?inode=1001 

and

http://librenix.com/?inode=1000

 Subject: Be Glad The Clipper Chip Project failed:

http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2001/5/14/203404.shtml 

Subject: Salon.com deleted from NASDAQ

http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/010616/sfsa002.html 

Roland Dobbins <mordant@gothik.org> 

Thanks.

 

 

 

 

 

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Tuesday,  June 19, 2001

This is an odd letter:

Dear Mr. Pournelle,

As a regular reader of your column in Byte, and a buyer of your books, it will sadden me greatly when you finally get a high-speed connection to the Internet.

For many months I've been delighted with your tales of blunders and mishaps on the part of the various so-called suppliers of broadband. You live in arguably the most high-tech state in the most powerful and wealthy nation on the face of the earth, in one of its more technologically advanced cities, and (I presume) you make a good income from your books, yet nothing you do enables you to overcome the indifference, incompetence, and stodginess of the phone company.

Reading about your tribulations has been like reading a serialized Greek tragedy. Here you are, a scientist and engineer who writes about advanced technology for a living, and you have to communicate through little beeps and squeals at (I'm guessing) around 40 K a second. Just as I do! True, I could easily get a cable modem connection, but I'm too cheap to pay the extra ten dollars or so a month.

I sense that your high speed quest is nearing fulfillment, so it is with a sad heart that I tell you I will miss it. Your battle with broadband suppliers has been one of the highlights of your column.

All the best, Donald Tyson

With luck there will be other and less unpleasant highlights...  I suspect that in a few years all this will be amusing: everyone will be connected with fairly high speed connections.  It's us pioneers who will remember. Why back in ought-one we didn't even have 53K reliably!

Then there are others who have a different vierw:

Paul Poey [paulpoey@singnet.com.sg]

Subject: Broad Band Internet

I have been reading your stories about getting broadband. Most of the time, I almost fell off the chair laughing. Is it so difficult trying to get broadband? I am trying very hard to understand what the big hooha was all about.

My experience of getting broadband installed three months back was very straight forward. All I did was to purchase an USB Alcatel Speed Touch Modem, signup to convert my existing 56K dialup plan to ADSL with my current ISP, wait for three weeks while the telecoms people get my existing phoneline linked up (suspected that they can do that much faster, just that they are buying time).

The rest was very straight forward, download the latest ADSL modem driver, install it, plug in the modem, configure the dialup access and viola!!! I got 3.4 Mbps on my next connection to the internet. It is that simple. Todate, no lost connectivity whatsoever.

I am sure glad you don't have problems.

 


From Clark Myers:

Sunday, June 17, 2001
Head Start, Some Say, Isn't Helping Kids Catch Up
Preschool: The Bush administration wants more focus on reading and writing,
less 'fluff.'

By RICHARD LEE COLVIN, Times Education Writer




YPSILANTI, Mich.--Minutes before children begin arriving, preschool
teacher Sue Gainsley writes the morning message on a white board. Instead of
words, she uses what appear to be hieroglyphics.
To show that two of the children--Dali and Bing--will be absent, she
superimposes the international symbol for no--a red circle with a line
through it--over a fish and a moon, the two students' assigned symbols.
"The 5-year-olds will be able to read this right away," says Gainsley,
a teacher at the High/Scope Demonstration Preschool here.
The use of symbols, often instead of words, is one of the
characteristic features of High/Scope, considered by many educators to be
the most influential preschool in America. The approach, embraced by many
Head Start programs nationwide, stems from the notion that words are too
abstract for young children and hurt their self-esteem if they can't read
them.
But this national model is under attack by President Bush, who thinks
the $6.2-billion Head Start program, which serves 1 million impoverished
children, isn't doing enough to help children catch up academically.
Bush and his advisors seek to put $75 million into training preschool
teachers as part of their education package, which was approved by the
Senate last week. They want a greater focus on teaching and less emphasis on
what they call "fluff"--even in preschool.
Bush's top advisors contend that Head Start's failings are one factor
in the widening achievement gap between children from affluent and poor
families.
Indeed, a recent evaluation of 1,600 Head Start children found that, on
average, they recognized only two letters--often fewer than they'd known
when beginning the program.
"A probable reason," researchers found, was that most teachers "do not
give children's acquisition of these skills a particularly high priority."
High/Scope defenders counter that too much teaching destroys children's
curiosity and can even make them antisocial later on. Teachers in the
program's demonstration preschool are loath to even ask children questions,
saying it will impose adult ideas on their explorations.

There is considerably more at:

http://www.latimes.com/news/state/20010617/t000050401.html

And I am not at all sure it needs a comment. Everyone loves Head Start. Unfortuntely no assessment program can show what if any good it does. We all WANT it to do good and help. I suspect that if they taught the kids to READ in Head Start it would be a real head start; but they don't, and one wonders what the Imperial Education Bureaucracy really and truly wants. We know what they GET, and we can predict that what they do will lead to what we have, so...


Jerry,

I lost the link, but it came from Drudge.

E 2215 Monday 18 June 2001

Scientist finds fungus that eats through compact discs By Robert Uhlig, Technology Correspondent

Superior Council for Scientific Research [in English]

Philips

FIRST there was the computer virus. Now scientists have found a fungus that eats compact discs. Victor Cardenes, of Spain's leading scientific research body, stumbled across the microscopic creature two years ago, while visiting Belize. Friends complained that in the hot and sticky Central American climate, a CD had stopped working and had developed an odd discoloration that left parts of it virtually transparent.

Dr Cardenes and colleagues at the Superior Council for Scientific Research in Madrid discovered a fungus was steadily eating through the supposedly indestructible disc. The fungus had burrowed into the CD from the outer edge, then devoured the thin aluminium layer and some of the data-storing polycarbonate resin.

Dr Cardenes said: "It completely destroys the aluminium. It leaves nothing behind." Biologists at the council had never seen this fungus, but concluded that it belonged to a common genus called geotrichum.

Philips, the Dutch electronics company that invented the compact disc, said it believed the Belize case was probably a freak incident caused by extreme weather conditions.

AScottLP @ aol.com

Aargh. But this is the first case I have heard of a CDROM being unreadable with time...


Dr P;

Just to let you know the resolution of my system backup problem.

The 30 sec prťcis: With HD size ever increasing, and the possibility of system and disk crashes ever looming, a reliable method of system back is still very, very important. With a 60 Gb drive, using 8 Mb tape even with compression only allows you to backup specific directories, or use multiple tapes to back up the entire drive. Using CD-ROM is still only 640 Mb and cannot be rewritten, still specifically targeted directories.

I found a vendor http://www.pacificdata.com/ , selling rebuilt Seagate (aka Archive) Python SCSI-2 DAT drives for $345 with 12 Ė 24 Gb capacity using DDS-3 tapes (1 yr warranty). I am able to back up 5.5 Gb in 1 hr 43 min without verification, using hardware compression. I can also backup any system on my home network without any fuss.

The killer was, 1 week after installing the DAT drive, my primary systemís hard drive DIED! Gone, zip, nada. Saving my sould was a simple matte of a trip to Fryís (OK going to Fryís is never simple, but what the heck), reinstalling the OS and backup software and a few hours later, I was back in business.

Canít get better than that.

Robert Grenader

rgrenader @earthlink.net.

Thanks for the story.

 

 

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Wednesday, June 20, 2001

We can begin with a real question although framed rather angrily:

Jerry,

In your viewpage, you make the statement: "BUT OF COURSE I HAVE A CACHING DISASTER to distract me from my work. If I go to http://www.jerrypournelle.com/index.html I get the page I uploaded this morning. If I just go to www.jerrypournelle.com I get an older page and NOTHING I CAN DO short of putting in that /index.html will get me what I just uploaded. Refresh, shift refresh, NOTHING. Since www.jerrypournelle.com is my home page this means I never see my latest work unless I think to put in the /index.html. I make no doubt this will be fixed but it's another reason why Aunt Minnie will never be a Linux user...."

How the heck do you get off blaming an IE caching problem on GNU/Linux?? That's like Gibson saying that MS is making things more insecure by complying with open standards. Huh?

Alex Kallum

Do You Yahoo!? Get personalized email addresses from Yahoo! Mail http://personal.mail.yahoo.com/

I didn't have it before the caching was turned on the the Linux box, and it went away when local caching in the Linux box was turned off. This makes it extremely unlikely that this is an IE problem. It makes it quite likely the problem was in Linux caching. Sorry if I didn't make that clear enough.

And my statement stands: the problem was easily fixed. I could probably have fixed it myself with enough study of the Linux books and on-line documents, or I could have asked Moshe Bar how to fix it; in fact Roland and Dan Spisak took care of it and are looking at caching in general; with luck I will have a few hundred words about the subject in the July column, and it will have been read and commented by people who know a very great deal about the subject and have experience with the practical side of things. But my point stands: Aunt Minnie isn't going to be a Linux user in the foreseeable future, which in this business is a few years.


I have got into more debate than I wanted over on the SFWA discussion newsgroup (closed except to members of SFWA) and wrote more than I ought to have about it; arguing with people in an unmoderated forum is bad for my health.

Jerry I just read the mail that included the quote from the article about Head Start by RICHARD LEE COLVIN, Times Education Writer that talks about the $6.2 billion and 1 million kids. That is $119 a week per kid. 

My exwife and I used to operate a large family daycare here in California and we made a nice living from less than that amount of money per kid. Every little full time preschooler we had easily picked up the alphabet, and let me say that some were wild little things and some were not too smart, but all of them loved to have us read to them. Some got it through 'this is capital A this is lowercase a' by looking at the white board. Some got it through outlineing the letters with beads, beans or rice. Some got it through hearing the ABC song only saying each letter instead of singing it while we pointed to the letters, sometimes tricking them into thinking we forgot what was next just for fun. 

Many of our kids were subsidized by charities, back to work programs, or welfare. All these kids learned the alphabet, learned their own name and how to write it, and how to sound out some words using phonics. My exwife was taking early childhood classes at our local junior college, I was a test engineer and an accountant. We just used common sense and tried several different early reading book series. The hardest part was learning phonics since both of us had been taught to read by sight and by memorization.

 Surely our teaching colleges are doing our country a great disservice turning out teachers who believe that self-esteem is something we are born with and and challenges just take it away. We thought self-esteem was developed by being challenged and succeeding. My exwife now teaches gymnastics and her motto is 'building patterns of success', is that not was self-esteem is? Anyway what I really wanted to say was what a great waste of money and even worse the waste of the opportunity to really help those little kids get a Head Start. I email my congress critter and talk to friends about this but what is there to really do about it? I truly find the education establishment a mystery.

Glenn Hansen gjhansen@earthlink.net

It's a bureaucracy. The purpose of a bureaucracy is to hire and pay bureaucrats, then secondarily to accomplish whatever it was set up to do provided that does not compromise the first goal.


Hi Jerry:

I live 30 km from the center of Canada's largest city, in a city/suburb sprawl of about 7 million persons. I can't get DSL either.

Yesterday, I read in some net newspaper (Wired?), that 96% of all fiber in the US was "dark". That is, it isn't being used. No demand. It occurred to me that we're all the victims of a giant telco conspiracy. The telcos will wait in deploying DSL until the fiber companies (Qwest et al) go broke or get acquired (by telcos) at $0.02/ $1. When the telcos (baby bells in the USA) own the fiber, then we'll see broadband deployed.

David Brown Oakville, Ontario

No data. Interesting speculation.


And a while bunch of good reading:

Dear Dr. Pournelle, Three things I came across today that you may be interested in. Reading the first two will require lots of that free time that you have so much of ;).

The National Resources Defense Council, a left wing environmentalist organization, has reconstructed the SIOP. The report is at http://www.nrdc.org/nuclear/warplan/index.asp.

 The executive summary calls for abandoning missile defense, on the grounds that it is destabilizing. Personally, having read the report, I think it bolsters the arguments in favor of developing missile defense. Especially the slide show showing fallout patterns. I find it interesting that they modeled US strikes against Russia, but not the reverse. Doing that, of course, would work towards convincing people to support missile defense, which the NRDC doesn't want to do.

Nature magazine is running an online debate at http://www.nature.com/nature/debates/e-access  about "the impact of the Web on the publishing of the results of original research". It includes papers from Richard Stallman, Tim Berners-Lee, and Tim O'Reilly.

>From the Washington Post comes "2 Boys, a Paper Gun And a Heap of Trouble" http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A21476-2001Jun19.html 

Some choice quotes from the article: "Violence in schools is a rare event."

I feel very sorry for what those two boys had to endure," said Andrea McElroy, Irvington's school board president. "They were children playing a child's game. Unfortunately for everyone, the wrong words were used."

At Augusta Street Elementary School ... five policies that substitute principal ... had to follow upon ... finding a weapon -- even a paper weapon -- in school.

"We're talking about 8 years old with a piece of notebook paper,"

Kit Case kitcase@home.com

When adults decide to act like little literalists the world is a very bad place. Adults ought to act, well, like adults...

Obviously US missile defenses and civil defense are acts of aggression against everyone from Switzerland to Swaziland, Russia and China and everyone else. Just think what we might do if we could defend ourselves.

 

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Thursday, June 21, 2001

Greetings Dr. Pournelle,

I use Quick View Plus and had not noticed the automatic ziping. Reason: I use Outlook Express. Quick View Plus does its' auto compression on Full Outlook, Exchange and Lotus Notes. This can be controlled (turned off): 

Goto View Menu 
Configure Quick View Plus
 On the Applications Tab select Microsoft Office 
Click Properties Select Options Tab 
At the bottom is a check box to compress attachments and a setting for at what size file to start auto compressing The default seems to be 100 KB

Probably turning it off is the best policy. I would rather have the choice popup when sending an attachment.

Enjoy Quentin Fox, Jr.

If I could have found that I would have done it; I probably didn't look hard enough. But to me the inexcusable parts were (1) it set up and did it without my knowledge or consent, and (2) it was INCONSISTENT, zipping or not zipping the same file at different times. 

Perhaps I'll install it again. We will see.

Jerry,

the zip program/compression system is perhaps (one of) the most useful utilit(y)ies being offered today. You can send and receive attachments with the security of them being opened in the Winzip Window, which (to my knowledge) never has been reported to infect the system/network/computer with tojans, viruses and/or worms. (As long as your operating system is set to display .extensions without exceptions so that you don't open a *.zip.vbs worm) And it's absolutely great for backups (more than 1000+ files in one makes your CD-R folder system happy).

Why don't you and Mr Niven use this for file tranfers by default? (I've never had a recipient -- most of them are M.D's -- not particularly computer literate) complain about attachments in the zip format).

Not in any way assiciated with winzip.com, just a happy user having paid their well deserved license fee for full use. (And, of course, do use the classic version -- the other is intended for the perceived computer illiterate)

Rune (reader of BYTE from the very beginning to the end)

Well, you don't know Niven very well. I could set his system up to do it automatically, and perhaps I should; but he makes Aunt Minnie look like a high tech wizard...

But I agree it's a useful option to have.


And :

Subject: ONLY in the UK

The UK Secretary of Transport, Stephen Byers, has never driven a car and doesn't have a drivers license. 

-- --- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior. <http://world.std.com/~herwin>

There'll always be an England...


I read the story of the prosecution of the notebook-paper gun wielders, but I still don't quite believe it.
"They have to realize they can't act like that anymore," says the prosecutor. But the "they" he is talking
about is 2nd grade boys! If my defects in realization at that age had been prosecuted, I'd still be in jail.

As for the decision to consider the paper gun a "weapon," is there a society of school administrators that
has adopted the motto "Stupidity is our profession?" That would explain this and a lot of other things....
-- Michael Juergens, mikejuer@home.com on 06/21/2001 at 3:45:27 PM

Believe it. But I share your incredulity. Lord what fools these mortals be...

 

Dear Dr. Pournelle: I have to disagree with you (though probably not too much) on the teaching of history. I believe that cause and effect should have priority over date/place/person memorization. Relative position in time is important, absolute position is much less so. 

For example, is it important to know that the French Revolution happened in 1789? Not really. What is crucial is to understand that because of high court overhead, an antiquated tax system that exempted many people from the tax rolls, and high expenditures on the War of the American Revolution, the French government collapsed. Which led to a period of instability giving a successful and politically adroit general named Bonaparte to seize power, and ultimately a crown. 

The importance lies not in the date, but in the causes and effects. Upon consideration, the situation in France in 1789 is remarkably similar to the United States in 2001 - a nation with high government expenditures, a large debt, and a substantial tax-exempt class trying to reorganize its financial house, but being unable to do so peacefully. And the situation in Russia is frighteningly similar to France around 1791 - democracy replaces monarchy, anarchy replaces democracy, and tyrrany replaces anarchy.

 It's my contention that this cause and effect needs to be stressed in history teaching instead of the orthodox person/place/event memorization.

V/R: Mike McDaniel

Until one knows WHAT happened and when, speculation on why is idle and no more than the rote memorization of the instructor's theories. A Marxist would love to teach history without dates and personalities.

I never thought that knowing dates was enough; indeed it's the ability to reason through when things must have happened that was the point.

And Two From St. Onge:

From: Stephen M. St. Onge saintonge@hotmail.com

Subject: Our tax dollars at work

Dear Jerry:

Thanks to Drudge, we find who wrote the Civil Rights Comm. 'study' about black disenfranchisement in Florida's last election : http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20010621-12853483.htm 

More anti-education follies: http://www.thenewrepublic.com/061801/cottle061801.html  on what's wrong with "special ed," and http://www.kausfiles.com/  tries to find a good side to the failure of Head Start.

But there is some actual good news: http://slate.msn.com/code/kausfiles/kausfiles.asp?Show=6/20/2001&idMessage=7879 

For a cynical laugh, see http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2001/6/20/202659.shtml

Best, Stephen

From: Stephen M. St. Onge saintonge@hotmail.com

Subject: miseducation, missile defense & history

Dear Jerry:

You're right about Head Start, I believe. They don't want kids to learn.

Read John Dewey and think about it as you go. It sounds awfully like "THOSE people don't need academic subjects of the sort we teach OUR kids in prep school. Lets make sure they get ready for the factories, where they belong."

Even more interesting is 'student government.' Lots of activity, designed to get kids used to voting and campaigning, but not actually getting any power. Power stays in the hands of the bureaucrats. Gee, what does that remind you of?

Kit Case's letter about missile defense reminds me of a slide show about the dangers of the nuclear war. It illustrated the potential disaster to us by specifying how much damage one Trident submarine's missiles could do to the U.S. Apparently, admitting that the nation whose submarines had missiles pointed our way had S.R. in its abbreviation as well would not have served the cause of peace.

Btw, what does $33,540.50 equal? Answer, according to Tom's inflation calculator, http://www.halfhill.com/inflation.html, it's the present day purchasing power of the 12 grand you borrowed to have Zeke built in 1978. Borjemoi!

As for learning dates in history: I was taught by W. C. Sellar, the author of 1066 AND ALL THAT , to concentrate on the essentials. For example, Britain was invaded by the Romans in 54 B.C., and by William the Conqueror in A.D. 1066, and those are the only dates in British history important enough to bother with. Similarly, before WWI, Britain was Top Nation, but after WWI the U.S.A. was, so one need not pay attention to British history since 1918. (Hmm, I will have to review though. I can't remember whether Henry VIII was a Good King or a Bad King, which is what you need to know about a monarch.)

The other two essential history books are Will Cuppy's THE DECLINE AND FALL OF PRACTICALLY EVERYBODY & Dave Barry's DAVE BARRY SLEPT HERE.

Best, Stephen

 Discussion continues 

 

 

 

 

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prepare for PCEXPO

 

 

 

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Saturday,

ON THE WAY to PCEXPO

 

 

 

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Sunday, June 24, 2001

Subject:

Home Servers and the High Price of Web Hosting

Guy T. Tate tateg@nc.rr.com 

Having read of your plight with broadband on your site I thought Iíd pass this ray of sunshine along.

About two years ago my wife and I started a business consulting home business which was primarily based on the internet. This required us to maintain a web presence that cost, at times, more than a $100 a month. I am a Master Sergeant in the Army Special Forces stationed at Ft Bragg so this was only a sideline and was barely paying for itself at the time so I was looking for another way of hosting my site cheaper than the current rates. I went from a full featured unlimited bandwidth site to the very limiting $19.95 el cheapo site you find everywhere and was very unsatisfied with the difference but I had to endure the limitations for the sake of the budget.

During this time period my local cable provider asked me to beta test the rollout of Road Runner here in NC, this was free access for the duration of the test so I agreed quickly. I found myself propelled from the world of 28.8 to the world of 2Mbits in a day. WOW, what a difference, and the uploads were 386k as well. During that test I received an invitation from M$ to beta test their latest offering in Network Operating Systems so I thought what better way to put their server version through itís paces than to run it on a broadband connection from my house. I assumed I could host my own site and mail and get unlimited bandwidth without paying for this service and save myself a bundle as well.

I was rapidly to find that I was half right. I saved some but I sure did get unlimited access and I got to configure my server any way I wanted.

My IP address was served by DHCP and wasnít permanent and RR wanted an arm and a leg for a fixed IP address. I had heard of services that would register an IP address dynamically or redirect to a dynamically changing IP address as it changes so that a web site or email server could be run so I started shopping. After researching several companies I found many of them wanted as much as my former hosting service did for each DNS entry.

Anyway to make a long story just about as long, I found a service called dyndns.com at www.dyndns.com who only asked $50 a year to create an A and an MX record. They provide a small client application that runs in the system tray which updates their DNS when the IP address changes. If you make improvements to their software they even offer service for free.

So, now I have been hosting my own web and mail servers for more than a year and itís considerably cheaper than paying someone to host it for me. (I currently have the web server offline but the mail server never goes offline) Itís also an interesting experience trying to keep it secure from the various hazards out there as well.

If you ever do get a broadband provider that you are satisfied with you might consider moving Chaos Manor to your own server. I would make an interesting story Iíd think not to mention itís a lot of fun to setup and maintain.

Sincerely,

Guy T. Tate

No if I get broadband I will still use a commercial service. But I will have a model page on the Penguin.

Thanks for the story.

A very interesting op-ed on global warming showing how far proponents of global warming are going to shade the truth.

Trent Telenko

----------------- Return to Global Warming

Source: NYPress Published: 6/24/01 Author: Alexander Cockburn

George Bush traveled to Europe and earned dogís abuse for his trust in space-based missile defense and his mistrust in the thesis that human generation of greenhouse gases is prompting the earth to heat up at an unacceptable rate. Lovely women in Gothenberg bared their rumps in protest. "Shield defense" is indeed an unworkable proposition. But (though doubtless for entirely misguided reasons) Bush is quite right to be mistrustful of the global warming thesis, as I discussed here back in March. Letís take another look. Global warming has become a matter of theological conviction on the liberal left. Dispute the thesis and they want to burn you at the stake. As a way of indicating my all-round lowness of moral character and intellect, Katha Pollitt sent a tremulous e-mail to my CounterPunch co-editor Jeffrey St. Clair not so long ago, squawking that "someone who denies the existence of global warming is not just mistaken about one little fact among millions of facts, but is seriously warped, disingenuous, etc." To the contrary, I do believe in global warming. I just donít believe itís caused by humans. The world may well be on a long-term warming curve, just as the weather folk thought in the late 1930s, and thus returning to "normalcy," as it enjoyed two million years ago. Or the apparent recent trend may reverse itself in another quarter century, as Robert Essenhigh, a mechanical engineer at Ohio State, argues in a recent issue of Chemical Innovation, published by the American Chemical Society.

Back in March there were headlines about a paper published in Nature that offered supposedly "the first direct evidence" (APís phrase) that so-called greenhouse gases are building up in Earthís atmosphere and allowing less heat to escape into space. Remember the central premise of the greenhouse gas model of global warming: During daylight hours the Earth gets its huge heat input in the form of short infrared rays from the sun. In close balance, our turning globe releases this heat in the form of longer waves in infrared radiation during the night hours. In the greenhouse model, allegedly malign gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane happen to absorb the long infrared radiation more strongly. Thus these allegedly malign gases let the short infrared rays in, but when heat tries to escape each night, they hold it in the atmosphere. The more CO2 we humans create, the more cows we put to pasture and in feedlots belching out methane, the more heat is trapped and the hotter the world gets.

A team at Londonís Imperial College compared satellite readings of infrared light from Earthís surface and found less was escaping into space in 1997, specifically in the wavelengths known to be absorbed by greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane and ozone.

"Weíre absolutely sure, thereís no ambiguity: This shows the greenhouse effect is operating and what we are seeing can only be due to the increase in the gases," John Harries, the Imperial teamís leader, said, carefully adding that the effect of clouds remains a huge ambiguity. The British study compared spectrometer readings from NASAís Nimbus 4 satellite taken from April 1970 to January 1971 and similar information collected from a Japanese satellite for about nine months in 1996-97. Only clear-sky readings of the atmosphere over the central Pacific were compared.

Weíve reproduced the crucial graph from that paper in Nature. It represents the "adjusted" temperature difference between observations in 1997 and 1970, based on measurements of the strength of the infrared energy radiating from the Central Pacific outward through the atmosphere and received at the spacecraft. It supposedly addresses exactly the core issue concerning so-called global warming: how much heat is being absorbed by greenhouse gases.

The numbers running vertically on the left are a Kelvin temperature scale (that is, a scale of infrared brightness) depicting the 1970 to 1997 difference in the heat escaping at each wavelength. So plus-5 means that there would be 5 degrees more heat emitted in 1997 than in 1970. Minus-5 would mean less heat was escaping in 1997 than in 1970, with this being ascribed by the Imperial College scientists to the dreaded man-made greenhouse gases. The claim these scientists make is that the extra heat being absorbed in 1997 by CO2 and methane is consistent with the independently measured increase in atmospheric CO2 and methane in the last 20 years.

The numbers along the bottom of the graph are points on an infrared spectrum, meaning wavelengths longer than what is visible: 800 represents far infrared, meaning the longest infrared waves, and therefore the farthest from visible. For example, if you look at coals on a barbecue, the actual radiant heat from the coals is invisible.

Going to the uppermost of the triplet of graphs, the scientists from Imperial College want us to focus on the regions of the spectrum containing the wavelengths where carbon dioxide and methane absorb heat. Readers will note that between 700 and 800 (the CO2 window) as well as between 1225 and 1325 (the methane window) there are downward spikes. The Imperial College gang take this to mean that more heat was absorbed and that therefore the global warming models are "confirmed."

Now we turn to my scientific advisor in these greenhouse and global warming matters, Pierre Sprey, a man knowledgeable about the often disastrous interface between environmental prediction and computer models.

Sprey: "All theyíve proved is that CO2 absorbs heat, and methane absorbs heat, something that could as easily have been demonstrated in a lab. Even worse, theyíre focusing only on the parts of the graph where carbon dioxide and methane absorb heat. Why the spikes they point to? Simply because emissions of carbon dioxide and methane were slightly higher in 1997 than 1970. But since CO2 and methane donít represent the bulk of the heat absorbed by the atmosphere those spikes cannot tell us whether the earth is cooling or warming. And in fact if you include the effect of water vapor, as shown in a different part of the graph, it appears that the earth was cooling over that period."

Again, remember that water is the single largest factor in the heating and cooling of the Earth. There is far more water in the atmosphere than CO2, and it absorbs a lot of infrared radiation. But from the computer modelerís point of view, atmospheric water in all its forms is very variable. Rain, they canít predict; clouds, they canít predict; humidity, they canít predict. All the greenhouse models fall down in this single inability to model the heating or cooling effects of water, whether in the form of humidity, clouds, ice, snow or ocean currents. The heart of the problem is that water is super complex. Take clouds. How much heat they absorb depends very much on the diameter of ice crystals, which no one knows very well. Clouds vary even more. Dark clouds absorb sunlight. White ones reflect it. So some clouds contribute to heating, some to cooling. Thatís why water is so maddening to modelers.

Now back to the graph. Sprey points out that if you look at the region in which water vapor absorbs heat, the most critical parts of the graph lie between 800 and 1000 and 1100 to 1200, precisely because these are the windows in which water does absorb heat. The reader will note that on the graph, both of those regions on the horizontal scale are positive, which means that in 1997 less heat was absorbed by the atmosphere than in 1970. Since the total positive area is much larger than in the total negative area in the CO2 and methane windows (those lunging but narrow downward spikes), the graph clearly shows that, overall, between 1970 and 1997 the atmosphereís water cooling effect was 2.5 times larger than the CO2-methane heating effect.

Ergo, the models have been disastrously contradicted.

Given the impossibility of modeling water, the Imperial College crew zealously avoided the inconvenient parts of the graph line. If they werenít so focused on the evil of justifying flimsy models, if they took all greenhouse gases into account, including water vapor, like Sprey they would have seen thereís more heat being emitted from Earth in 1997 than in 1970.

Sprey: "Water fucks up everything. Their graph doesnít mean Earth is cooling. It just means that their model is screwed up. It could be that 1997 happened to have been less humid than 1970, a fact which the modelers ignore along with all the other water difficulties. And there are plenty of other problems with these data. For example they generated their graph from two entirely different infrared sensors, ones incompatible enough that people careful with infrared measurements would never dream of comparing the two sets. The sensible scientific thing would have been to do a hell of a lot of worldwide measuring of clouds, rain, ice, snow and humidity to get a real handle on cooling and warming."

Just as Bush was embarking on his trip to Europe he got hit with a report on global warming from the National Academy of Sciences, which generated more headlines about this being the final, ultimate, irrefutable proof of global warming. The NAS report sounded like the work of a lot of beard-strokers and placemen busy trying to sound objective, reviewing the work of their good friends and colleagues Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (excoriated here in March). But even the IPCC panelís report had to concede what it admitted to be a "very low" level of scientific understanding of an "aerosol indirect effect," one that could cool the climate system at a whopping rate of 2.35 watts for each square meter.

Aerosols are particles so fine they float in air. They can directly save the Earth from the sunís heat (as happens when volcanoes spew forth dust, provoking bad winters), though by how much is hard to predict with models. Even more uncertain is the effect of the seeding of clouds by aerosols, which we know can cause rain. The more rain we have, the less water vapor in the form of clouds, hence the less heat trapped by this water vapor. In a burst of honesty, the recent NAS report admitted that "climate forcing by anthropogenic aerosols is a large source of uncertainty about future climate change. On the basis of estimates of past climate forcings, it seems likely that aerosols, on a global average, have caused a negative climate forcing (cooling) that has tended to offset much of the positive forcing by greenhouse gasses. Even though aerosol distributions tend to be regional in scale, the forced climate response is expected to occur on larger, even hemispheric and global scales... Climate models that incorporate the aerosol-cloud physics suggest that these effects may produce a negative global forcing on the order of 1 watt per square meter [i.e. very substantial] or larger. The great uncertainty about indirect aerosol climate forcing presents a severe handicap both for the interpretation of past climate change and for future assessments of climate changes."

In other words, itís arguable that the more sulfate particles you put in the air, the more rain you cause, and the more you cool the Earth. You really want to live by a model that installs the coal industry as the savior of "global warming"?

What we have here is very odd science. When you mix politics and science you get that. What we do not yet have is a real model.  We do not know if we are in for global warming or an Ice Age.  And the bureaucrats still want control, which means treaties and agreements and the rest in the absence of any real science in the matter.

And that is where we are.  And the regulatory scientists lie, the real scientists are careful because they don't know, and everyone has axes to grind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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