CHAOS MANOR MAIL
Mail 202 April 21 - 27, 2002
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Highlights this week:
IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature. In general, put the name you want at the end of the letter: if you put no address there none will be posted, but I do want some kind of name, or explicitly to say (name withheld).
Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name and address you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name and address (or no address) as you want them posted.
I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too... I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail.
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April 22, 2002
Flew Brisbane to Adelaide Sunday evening
The helm of the Dragons Abreast Team was refused permission to pass security because she wore a metal coaches pea-whistle.
Her luggage had to be received from the plane hold and the whistle placed in baggage.
I have yet to hear of anyone being stabbed with a pea whistle!!
Regards Peter Carr
I am pleased to see that we are not the only ones who have gone mad, although I suspect you have yet to blow up a pair of heated shoes.
And some good news:
Subj: Whoopers return to Wisconsin
Remember the Whooping Cranes that followed the ultralight aircraft from Wisconsin to Florida last Fall?
Well, they migrated back to Wisconsin on their own:
I guess the next milestone on the path to establishing a new migrating flock of Whoopers is laying eggs. 8-)
Rod Montgomery == firstname.lastname@example.org
Let's hope they learn.
From: Stephen M. St. Onge email@example.com
Subject: The politics of airport insecurity
In his salon article, Malcolm Gladwell says "What I mind is a security system that doesn't make flying more secure." Well, maybe, but if I were in the administration, I'd be skeptical.
Remember the Bash-the-GOP-over-Social-Security Game? A Democratic politician suggests that Social Security is in financial difficulty. He asks Republican politicians for suggestions. At least one Republican complies. Necessarily, the suggested solution had to be some version of 'spend less and/or tax more.' At this point, all Democratic politicians, in unison, claim that the evil Republicans wish to 'destroy Social Security.' Voters get frightened, and support Democrats -- which was the goal of the game. The only way the GOP could win was by refusing to play.
Same thing with airport security. Mr. Gladwell's main suggestion is to look for terrorists, not weapons. Any successful strategy to do that will result in looking at non-'whites' a lot more than 'whites'. Then the Democrats cry that the evil Republicans are a bunch of racists, and more people vote Democratic -- which I suspect is the point of this exercise.
"Democracy is the theory that the people know what they want, and deserve to get it, good and hard." If I were Bush, I wouldn't be taking effective measures against hijacking either.
So long as political correctness trumps objective truth we will have problems, whether it is with airline security or the environment.
I don't know if you've read Eric Flint's current essay regarding the Baen Free Library and its apparent effect on printed book sales. He cites hard numbers and has an interesting perspective that is definitely at odds with Harlan Ellison's views. I mention the article only because you have the link to the SFWA site and have been promising us an essay of your own (real soon now, please) regarding the issue of copyright and copyright infringement. While I hope to see your essay, please don't let it interfere with writing your next novel. It's much more important that we get the next installment in the series (hint, hint!)
The home page has the reason that he and Jim Baen started the library. He doesn't defend online piracy; in fact, he agrees that it is definitely immoral as well as being illegal. He just believes that the practical effect is the opposite of what is being claimed by groups such as the SFWA. He put his money where his mouth is (figuratively speaking) and persuaded a publisher and other writers to do the same. Now, he apparently has hard facts to support it.
"The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all." - H. L. Mencken
It is almost certain that up to now most of us have done better through electronic piracy than worse: that is the number of people who have bought books as a result of being exposed to the story on line is larger than the number who would have bought a book and didn't because they could get it on line.
But that's now with past and present technology. The technology is improving, and this needs to be thought about. And I haven't time to do more than say this.
I thought it interesting that the same week that you put the banner for the sfwa.org e-piracy link, I also was made aware of this link: http://www.baen.com/library/palaver6.htm
I'm sure you have probably received a number of emails regarding this issue, I'm just wondering how you feel about this issue? I for one either borrow books from the library, or buy them, I have never sat down and read a book electronically, but I'm sure the day will come when that will be the preferred medium. It will make it easier for me to find my place when I fall asleep on the couch and the book slams shut... :)
Well, I have to say I put up the SFWA link largely on whim. I have completely mixed emotions on this stuff. But piracy ought to be discouraged on moral grounds.
And for your information:
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
Some of your readers comment on dealing with Saudi Arabia. They are either ignorant of conditions there, or choose to ignore them. I lived there and prospered on a one-year contract, supporting the Saudi Arabian armed forces on a project still classified. There are some things any non-resident should know before going there.
1. The only religion allowed there is Islam. Some Christians in isolated locations may have weekly discussion groups, but they keep a very low profile.
2. There are no tourists. You must be in Saudi Arabia on business with a Saudi Arabian sponsor or a religious pilgrim. Religious pilgrims are tightly controlled. All visitors must surrender their passports on entry for keeping by the sponsor. It will be returned when leaving the country.
3. Business visitors: Men in single status are common. Professional men with families are welcome, and living accomodations are nice, with special provisions for female family members, who must conduct themselves according to most Islamic traditions. Veils are not required. The shopping bargains available without taxes or duties make "shop until you drop" a favorite activity, but all women are acutely aware that women's restrooms are quite rare, and they must plan carefully. Modest (neck to ankle length) dress is required, and a black long robe (abaya) is strongly recommended. Women in single status work as nurses, teachers, and stewardesses. They live in tightly controlled dormitories, and even a hint of improper behavior will be subject to brutal treatment. Housemaids have their passports held, and sometimes are not allowed the ID necessary to travel outside the house. The male sponsor rules. There are abuses at all levels, but they are rare. All foreigners are in Saudi Arabia as servants to the native population, and are treated that way.
4. Alcohol is forbidden, but can be found inside some compounds. Drugs bring the death penalty. Prostitution has a penalty of death by stoning. The sexes do not mix in Saudi Arabian society, and all restaurants have walled-off family areas. Single men are allowed there only by expressed invitation. There is no night life, movies, plays, dancing, opera, etc. One thing the male visitor must know before arrival: DO NOT SPEAK TO A SAUDI WOMAN without the clearly expressed consent of her or her male escort under any circumstances. It implies that she is a prostitute and deserves death by stoning. This will not make friends for the visitor.
5. Visitors break the rules all of the time, but they do it carefully, and must be ready to accept the penalties. Men get a lecture and deportation, but really have to work at it to get jail time. Women are routinely beaten, jailed, have their heads shaved, and get "Prostitute" stamped in their passports. The religious police (mutawa) can beat on anyone with a half-meter stick for misbehaving at any time. They are infamous for beating "immodest" women with little provocation. They cannot do anything else unless permitted by a Saudi Arabian policeman. If the policeman is present, he will allow them to do whatever they want. They are noted for closing down stores and restaurants at prayer time, forcing non-Muslims to wait outside during the five daily prayer calls. Be aware that the mutawa can come in any building at any time if they feel that a sin is being committed. Foreign compound guards have elaborate alarm systems for this eventuality. Also, no one is allowed to leave if there is any trace of alcohol on their breath. Men cannot jog unless clad from neck to knee, unless they are in a closed compound. Women cannot swim, run, ride bicycles, drive any vehicle, or ride animals outside of compound walls. Women in shorts are not tolerated. Some compounds are quite large. Foreign men and women do meet (cautiously) and the Hash House Harriers have runs and beer kegs in the desert. The Saudi Arabians are not amused.
6. Any discussion of war with the Saudi Arabians must recognize that the military reserves there are Bedouins. Bedouins have considerable power here. Where most traffic on the freeway system travels well over 100 MPH, the Bedouins drive their Toyota pickups, all with identical paint jobs, at about 50 MPH. Nobody in his right mind will mess with them. They prosper in a desert, the Empty Quarter, where the temperatures are normally over 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime, and can drop below freezing at night. attempts to post the regular army in the Empty Quarter have all failed. They cannot take the heat, barren land, or lack of water. Bedouins have wells, usually brackish. The Bedouins volunteer as reservists because every reservist is given a submachine gun when he goes on active duty. No Bedouin goes anywhere without one.
7. The law here is strictly Islamic. Saudi Arabians get precedence. Other Arabians follow. Europeans are next, with Muslims getting precedence. Third world countries follow, again with Muslims getting precedence. Yemenis were automatically guilty when I was there, but this might change. Israelis do not exist, even in Palestine. There is no Israel.
8. The royal family is a special case. They are about 4000 strong, all wives or direct descendants of Abdul Azziz Ibn Rahman Al Saud, known in the United States as Ibn Saud. They have distinctive license plates, reserved seats on all aircraft, and rule the country through the one they decide is the current king. Faisal is the current king, but too infirm to rule. Abdullah actually rules now. A king who will not step down on demand is killed. This has happened. All relief work in the country is done by, or supervised by, the royal family. Widows with no sons to take them in, or no surviving family to support them and their daughters, must go weekly to a royal family home for subsistence. There is no other legal means. The royal family does support them.
9. I met some men there who were in Iran and Kuwait when trouble broke out. They had already arranged hiding places and stocked them for indefinite stays. Survival is not a game to these men. The income in Arabia and the side benefits of low prices, free housing, and no taxes are a powerful draw, but survival when law breaks down is not pretty or fun.
10. I dealt with several Saudi Arabians and many imported workers while there. The Saudi Arabians are devout, polite, and ask only that you honor their religion and customs. They have surrendered their lives to God's will, which is identical to the will of the male head of the family and the will of the King of Saudi Arabia. To a Muslim, there is no difference. The only person I upset was an elderly man that expected me to speak Arabic. The barber quickly stepped in to help out and the situation ended.
regards, William L. Jones firstname.lastname@example.org
And that's the way it is...
And from Roland:
And if you want something to read while I am gone
will do nicely.
|This week:||Tuesday, April
We are on an airplane to Rome.
April 24, 2002
April 25, 2002
April 27, 2002
April 28, 2002
In Rome. We return next week.