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Mail 272 August 25-31, 2003






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Monday August 25, 2003 

I understand there may have been a bad upload of last week's Mail. That should be fixed now




It seems that the California education establishment will need to work harder to catch up with New York’s new level of idiocy. Here (  ) is the story of a 15-year old girl who went straight from 8th grade to the Borough of Manhattan Community College and Fashion Institute of Technology, where she earned a 3.84 GPA. The college refuses to grant her a degree, although she has the required number of credits. Even better, the father is being investigated for child neglect because he did not make his daughter go to high school. On top of everything, the father’s suit to force the city controlled community college to grant a degree was thrown out because “A non-attorney parent may not bring an action on behalf of his or her child without representation by counsel” (a direct quote from the Summary Order of the appeals court, which you can find at  ).

One might think that given the state of public education in New York City and the case loads of child welfare workers, that they might have found more productive things to do than persecute the family of a very gifted child. However, as you have pointed out on many occasions, the first purpose of any bureaucracy is to survive and grow. Imagine what might happen if people thought they could get an education without going through the approved system. Chaos! Anarchy! Why, people might think that they could solve their own problems without the government. The horror!

Okay, enough sarcasm for one morning. Glad to hear that Burning Tower is nearly ready for the publisher. I just re-read Mote and Gripping Hand, so I am definitely looking forward to another Niven/Pournelle masterpiece.


John DeVries

My next Jupiter novel may be on this theme. Thanks.

On Mr. St. Onge:

Hi Jerry

> About the article you link to from the Sidney Morning > Herald: firstly, I sometimes read their stuff on the web, > and my impression is they are pretty anti-American.

Firstly, that would be "Sydney", not "Sidney". If I misspelt Washington, I suspect that some Americans might take offence.

Regarding the paper, the SMH is unfortunately a fairly poor quality paper - like virtually all Australian print media. It was not always so, but as consolidation has all but removed competition, the quality of journalism has fallen alarmingly.

I have not seen the SMH as anti-American, but they do readily echo American sources such as CNN and Fox that are more anti-Bush than anti-American. The contents of the article in question seem to be very similar to many pieces I've read in American press recently. I don't have any information to judge the accuracy of the piece. I have no faith in either US or Australian press to provide accurate coverage. I neither have any confidence in US or Australian political leaders to give an accurate "official" version.

Michael Smith

We thought the Internet would end "official stories" didn't we? Alas, human nature didn't change in this year of grace...

Subject: AP article about Ray Bradbury's birthday wish 

I second that wish! Gary Pavek

Me too. Ray has always been one of my favorite people.

From: Stephen M. St. Onge                                          
Date: Aug. 24, 2003                                                                 subject: Education and Buffy
Dear Jerry:
        There's an interesting article on the new President of Harvard here.  It's ground for faint, cautious optimism in re USAmerican education.
        And there's a pretty funny fan-fiction story here, about Buffy and Angel fans being forced to attend a university to learn how to write better fan fiction.

Thanks. I think we had an earlier reference to the fan fiction story. Neat.


And this may be important:

Dr. Pournelle,

Food for thought: A test by a Dutch outfit found that at least some CD-R disks were deteriorating quickly. Here is a link, I hope it works (I hope I got it right): 

Reading the comments under the short article was interesting; apparently, this phenomena is not uncommon. The consensus, from what I gathered, was that cheap disks are the culprit, and also those disks written at high speeds.

These days, with hard disks so cheap (and such high capacity available), the best backup may be a mirroring RAID.

--Mark Allums Somewhere in Texas

I have found that cleaning CD's helps. So far I don't know of any I have that became unreadable. Is there a correlation with the medium used? This could be frightening.

I suspect the next will start a lively discussion:

I just replaced a failed motherboard in a friends computer. It was running Win XP and Win XP wouldn't successfully boot even in safe mode with the new motherboard (different chipset). Luckily, I was able to recover without reformatting and reinstalling by using the "repair" option of WinXP setup. But once again it strikes me what a bad idea the windows registry is with the settings from the operating system mixed in with the settings from all the apps. I remember the time when you didn't need an installer but could just copy an applications directory under DOS and early Macintosh OS's.

In addition to being incredibly inconvienient, it also seems like a security hole to allow any app access to the settings for the OS and all other applications. Every Microsoft worm I read about seems to make some changes to the OS settings in the registry. Why should an application have access to the settings for the OS? How many times have I heard of people needing to reformat because of registry problems. Ok, enough griping.

Since you have spent much more time than me talking to Microsoft people, has any one of them ever argued a good reason for doing things that way that couldn't be accomplished if each app had a separate .ini file in its own directory under "program files" and the OS had its settings in an .ini file in the winnt directory? Is the entire purpose actually to make it hard to copy an application from one machine to another and require installer programs?

I've heard a quote that "if architects built buildings the way programmers built applications, the first woodpecker to come along would cause the end of civilization". To me it seems that Microsoft's policy of tight "integration" of everything goes directly against every bit of computer science wisdom to avoid global dependencies and modularize projects.

Why the heck does Microsoft mix application and OS settings together?

Martin Dempsey

Because they can?

Subject:  The Great SCO Rip off




Here is very good technical analysis of just why the SCO claims against Linux are groundless...

"Executive summary: There are three pieces of good news for SCO about the evidence they revealed on 18 August 2003. One is that the evidence does support a claim of code-copying; the second is that GPL is not in this case a usable defense; and the third is that BSD probably doesn't save us either. But the rest of the news is all bad for SCO: most of the supposedly infringing code was (a) released as open source by SCO/Caldera in 2002, (b) didn't come through IBM or Sequent, (c) isn't present in 90% of all running Linux distributions, and (d) was removed from Linux 2.5 in July 2003 on grounds of being too ugly to live. If this is representative of the quality of SCO's evidence, their case is dead on arrival."



And a somewhat older article that shows that Bill Gates is no fool!


"Watergate source Deep Throat was right: "Follow the money." The furor surrounding ownership of intellectual property in Unix and Linux is not about technology or even ideology. It's about the money—specifically, the business interests that are served by casting a shadow of doubt over the legitimacy of open-source platforms and services.",3959,1115134,00.asp



I still find Windows a fine desktop operating system.  It does everything I want and of course, lots that I don't.  The critical thing to me however, is not the desktop.  It is all about the server.  Worms and viruses are really making it tough for Microsoft in the glass house.  Gates has found a willing stooge in Darl McBride. 


I hope your trip is pleasant!



Also from Dave Hammond

The Brits have run afoul of Microsoft.

"Your Microsoft Word document can give readers more information about you than you might think. Even Alastair Campbell has fallen foul of the snippets of invisible data few of us realize our documents contain."


Dear Jerry,

Isn't everybody doing too much math on juror probability.

Having heard a case aren't they precluded from re-hearing the same case? They may go back in the pool and be assigned a different case, but their mames are not "in the hat" when the retrial jury is selected.

Dale Yarker

That was certainly my theory...

Just today I read that 4 or 5 of the victims in that big bus murder in Israel were Americans! Perhaps your monument idea should be implemented by US Marines starting just outside Arafat's compound in Ramallah. Just a thought, perhaps that is what the Israeli's are trying to do by destroying those buildings after killing that Hamas leader.

Glen Hansen

Well, no one seemed to like my idea of monuments...

-----Forwarded Message----- To: Subject: [CALUG List] [humor] Gee, SCO's at it again Date: Wed, 20 Aug 2003 20:02:48 -0800

In case your not sure, the article below is a parody. It is really hard to tell considering it is about SCO.


Monday, August 11 12:01 AM EDT

SCO Group to Shoot Babies By Jeff Heard

Lindon, UT - The SCO Group announced the launch of a campaign to shoot 1% of all babies born in the US.

"Statistically, 1% of all people are Linux users. Rather than have these young hoodlums grow up without any respect for our intellectual property, we have chosen to nip it in the bud, as it were," said SCO's CEO, Darl McBride.

In addition, during the campaign announcement, SCO said that individuals could pay $2,499 per child for immunity from execution. "The price goes up to $5,200 dollars after that family's firstborn reaches 18 months, so it is in their advantage to pony up now," McBride continued.

The announcement brought cheers from SCO's chief investors and supporters, including the Gartner Group, and the BSA (Blind and Shortsighted Alliance). The organizations hailed it as "A brave, innovative step in the fight against intellectual piracy."

An RIAA spokesperson that was also present said that they were taking serious looks at SCO's proposal for fighting piracy in the music industry. "I think this will be a great deterrent. It will force parents to talk to their kids about the evils of intellectual piracy. In a free economy, this kind of thing is a must."

SCO, which stands for "Satanic Cultists' Operation," changed its name from Caldera in 2002, when it was acquired by an obscure organization which exclusively employs 1200-year-old undead trial lawyers. They are now embroiled in an ongoing legal battle with IBM, Red Hat, and the Open Source community over alleged copyright infringements embedded inside Linux.

Speculation has been abound about what will happen if SCO wins the lawsuit. Some have suggested that Linux will disappear entirely from the market. Others have speculated that if SCO loses the lawsuit, it will use its connections with the Underworld to assemble a massive Army of the Dead, march on IBM headquarters, and crush it into a smoldering oblivion. When asked about the possibility of an undead Armageddon scenario, a senior IBM spokesperson said, speaking in stereophonic bass-tones, "This will not happen."

When booed during the announcement by a large rotten tomato-wielding crowd, McBride exhorted, "I am disappointed with your reaction to our announcement. I must say that your decision to throw tomatoes does not seem conducive to the long-term survivability of your firstborn children."

--------------End of forwarded message-------------------------


-- Brian Bilbrey


Subject: Computers in movies

1. Word processors never display a cursor.

2. You never have to use the spacebar when typing long sentences.

3. Movie character never make typing mistakes.

4. All monitors display inch-high letters.

5. High-tech computers, such as those used by NASA, the CIA, or some

such governmental institution, will have easy to understand

graphical interfaces. Those that don't, have incredibly powerful

text-bases command shells that can correctly understand and

execute commands typed in plain english.

6. Corollary: You can gain access to any information you want by

simply typing "ACCESS ALL OF THE SECRET FILES" on any keyboard.

7. Likewise, you can infect a computer with a destructive virus by

simply typing "UPLOAD VIRUS" (see "Fortress"

8. All computers are connected. You can access the information on the

villain's desktop computer, even if it's turned off.

9. Powerful computers beep whenever you press a key or whenever the

screen changes.

10. Some computers also slow down the output on the screen so that it

doesn't go faster than you can read. The *really* advanced ones

also emulate the sound of a dot-matrix printer.

11. All computer panels have thousands of volts and flash pots just

underneath the surface.

12. Malfunctions are indicated by a bright flash, a puff of smoke, a

shower of sparks, and an explosion that forces you backwards.

13. People typing away on a computer will turn it off without saving

the data.

14. A hacker can get into the most sensitive computer in the world

before intermission and guess the secret password in two tries.

15. Any PERMISSION DENIED has an OVERRIDE function (see "Demolition

Man" and countless others).

16. Complex calculations and loading of huge amounts of data will be

accomplished in under three seconds.

17. Movie modems usually appear to transmit data at the speed of two

gigabytes per second.

18. When the power plant/missile site/whatever overheats, all the

control panels will explode, as will the entire building.

19. If you display a file on the screen and someone deletes the file,

it also disappears from the screen (e.g. Clear and Present Danger).

20. If a disk has got encrypted files, you are automatically asked for

a password when you try to access it.

21. No matter what kind of computer disk it is, it'll be readable by

any system you put it into.

22. All application software is usable by all computer platforms.

23. The more high-tech the equipment, the more buttons it has

(Aliens). However, everyone must have been highly trained, because

the buttons aren't labeled.

24. Most computers, no matter how small, have reality-defying,

three-dimensional, active animation, photo-realistic graphics


25. Laptops, for some strange reason, always seem to have amazing

real-time video phone capabilities and the performance of a CRAY


26. Whenever a character looks at a VDU, the image is so bright that

it projects itself onto his/her face (see "Alien" "2001"

27. Searches on the internet will always return what you are looking

for no matter how vague your keywords are. (See "Mission

Impossible" Tom Cruise searches with keywords like "file" and

"computer" and 3 results are returned.)



Jerry, Jason seems to have a point. My initial reaction was "pishposh",
 but what are the real objections? Wasn't there an orbital rescue system that used a similar method?
        Hal Frank -- Chicago
From: "Jason Bontrager" <>
To: <>
> So what is the argument, if any, against using blimps as re-entry 
> vehicles?  Instead of just dropping like a rock, the astronauts gently
> down through the stratosphere, with the envelope of the balloon 
> growing in size as they descend into thicker air and more H2 or He is 
> injected.
> Can the entry not be controlled adequately to ensure a slow enough 
> injection to prevent rupture?  What if the balloon is deployed while 
> still in orbit?
> Jason B. (trying to think outside the box).

Re=entry speeds are very high because the ship was orbital. Rutan's ship will come in at low mach numbers because it never did anything but go up and back down.

Thermal Protection Systems (TPS) are needed if you are coming from orbit or the Moon unless you have enough delta-v to slow down to very low mach numbers. Which you won't, alas, have...

And see below


Hi Jerry,

Re: Windows mixing OS and Application settings

Let me say that I hate the registry just as much as the next guy, and I think it's a poor implementation of an idea that in it's concept, was good. There's two issues as I see it. First of all, why do we need the registry? And second, why mix application and OS settings? I'll give my comments in order:

1. As Windows got bigger by insulating applications from the hardware (anyone remember ... "Oh, that printer isn't supported."), the ini files got unmanageable. And the bigger they get, the slower it is to find things in them. So, it makes sens to store the settings in some kind of database, instead of flat files. Do I think the registry does this well? Not at all. It is way too sensitive, difficult to backup/restore, etc. But it's what we have. What we needs is something that is based on a robust DB engine.

2. Applications have always needed a way to update OS settings. This is not a Windows only issue, UNIX and Mac programs do this as well. The extent to which they need to do this depends on the type of program. Some programs (like anti-virus) need more intimate access with the OS than say a word processor. Moving applications was easy on early machines (especially DOS), because the OS did nothing but very low-level stuff (hence Disk Operating System). It was supposed to stay out of the way. But now we expect the OS to do much more. And so it needs to know more about the programs we are trying to run. As a correlation, my father used to fix his Volkwagon Beetle on the side of the road using the tools he carried with him. Now even a mechanic wouldn't consider working on a car outside of a well-stocked shop. Our cars have become very complex because of what we expect of them.

.............................................. Glenn Hunt







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Tuesday, August 26, 2003 

It has been a long trip...

Dear Mr. Pournelle,

I've been a long time fan of yours and I want to take this opportunity to thank you for the hours of enjoyment I've gotten from reading your all of your books. Are you every going to add another book to your saga of Sparta?

Now to the reason I'm writing you today.

Did you happen to watch the two hour "Failure is not an Option" television show on the History channel on Sunday night? If so, what did you think of it. (If not it's being broadcast again this Tuesday 8/26 at 8:00 pm.)

It is the story of the Nasa mission control engineers during the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs and it was absolutely riveting particularly since it is told by the engineers themselves. After watching the show I was in awe of the skill of the Nasa mission controllers.

The show is also quite sad though considering it's juxtaposition with the release of the Columbia report. It's tragic considering how good Nasa was then and how bad it has now become. How did Nasa fall so far so fast?

Best Regards

James G Marino Mesa Arziona

And there are lessons there on bureaucracies. But we generally fail to understand them.

The Windows registry is annoying and broken in several important ways. In other ways it is a good idea.

It's really bad that it's a funky, corruptable binary database, that you need special tools to inspect or edit. It's also really bad that applications weave tentacles all through the whole registry, so it's hard to save and restore all the settings for an application. I think this was, at least partly, on purpose: I don't think Microsoft *wants* users to be able to tree-copy an application from one computer to another and have the settings go with it.

UNIX systems, and more recently Linux systems, have traditionally used text files to store settings. Also traditionally all the settings for a user live in the user's home directory. If you want to set up a user on a new computer, a simple tree-copy of the user's home directory will bring along all the user's settings for all his applications. This is a big win compared to Windows.

However, a registry API is a good thing (rather than having apps open text files directly and tweak the settings). What happens if two applications want to update a file? Unless the second one re-reads the updated file and merges the changes, the second one will clobber the settings saved by the first one. It's nice if the OS can sort this out. Also, a callback to a running app, informing it that the settings changed, is a nice idea. So the GNOME desktop has implemented a registry API that is probably not unlike the Windows registry API.

The GNOME API is just a layer on text files, however. You can recover a crashed system with the traditional tools (such as a text editor); you don't need a special registry editing tool.

The trend is to use XML for the text files. Some people complain that XML is overkill and bloated. It may be overkill, but at least XML is standardized: you can easily check an XML file for validity, you can use standard XML libraries to read and write, etc. When apps directly edited text files, you might get weird results if you type a single-quote or double-quote inside a string, or a carriage return or a linefeed, or perhaps a backslash; with the XML library someone has already thought the tricky cases out and handled them, and it should just work.

Also note that a GNOME system has clean separation of the user's settings, stored in his home directory, and system-wide settings, generally stored in the /etc directory. While there are exotic special tools for moving a Windows application to a different computer, or moving a user, with a *NIX system or Linux you can just copy some directories and files and be done.

The an API for saving and loading settings is a good idea, and using robust XML text files to save those settings is also a good idea.

P.S. A Windows 98 computer would gradually become slower as the registry filled up with junk, and sometimes Windows would get unstable. Or the registry might simply get corrupted and leave Windows messed up. (This is humorously called "bit rot", as if a fungus had rotted away some of the bits inside your computer.) A traditional solution would be a clean re-install of Windows 98. *NIX and Linux don't suffer from bit rot; you should never need to re-install Linux due to settings getting corrupted. I hear that Windows 2000 and Windows XP are pretty stable; do they suffer from "bit rot" like Windows 98, or not? -- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"


Home at last


Hi Jerry, My two bits on the problem relates to having a network with a BDC and a PDC, both Win2k, along with a few hetergoneous boxes, because I test all kinds of stuff and am trying to finish off my certification process, not that I think that I ever will, since the OS mutates quicker than I can take the exams. 

The problem with my Win2k network arose because the keyboard area of one machine, the PDC, failed when I had switched off the machine gracefully, and then, a little while later restarted. Or, rather, never restarted. I have a BDC that can never be more than alone, with all kinds of strange things happening over the network, concerning "incorrect name errors" and other things. 

I have installed another domain name for my LAN, and the old BDC can read some machines and not others, even if it has the old Active Directory domain name. However, even though I placed the old, working hard drives in a newer machine, I could never recreate the old PDC. I had to reinstall, and hence the ongoing problems with the BDC. 

This machine has programmes that I do not want to have to reinstall, such as Exchange and SQL. And, I have searched all over the Microsoft and other sites to try to cure this AD fracas. To no avail. My view is that comments about separating, to some degree the OS from the application Medusas would work, or that the repair function should include an option to allow changes to the registry following the replacement of failed parts.

 What is wrong with an idea like that? After all, one can replace parts on cars, however complicated they are, including the computers they have included as a necessity. On another tack, perhaps cars should have more powerful computers after having watched the SUV in front of me today drive straight through a red light, and, when I caught the vehicle up, it had stopped in the middle of a junction on a green light. Freedom with another name? Regards, Paul

Paul Dickins, BSc MCP IT+

Non, je n'ai rien oublié - Lévis Bouliane Sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt - Virgil De gustibus non disputandum est - attrib Cicero Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds . . . - Shakespeare, Sonnet 116

Association Football: Information Technology: Ephemera:


What is the biggest cost item within a GM car?

I don't know if the following link is good for an extended term or just for the first day or so ...

It says that health care for retirees costs GM about $1,300 per vehicle. (I don't know if that's US$1300 or our dollars (US$940) -- the article was published in a Canadian source). This provides a good quantifying point for the free trade discussions. Does a car from Mexico or Korea include the cost of health care for EX-workers?

Greg Goss gossg (temporary address till my domain provider fixes my real one)


Subject: Murder will out.



Apparently the motive for Sobig viruses is commercial: 

The sad thing is that I recently received a virus-laden email-from myself! One of the messages came in using the first email address I ever Cut me to the quick, it did.

Ed Hume





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Wednesday, August 27, 2003

New Computers Not Worm-Proof


Check this out:

Seems that cranking up a new computer can be dangerous.

Ed Hume

And it goes without saying, do not open unexpected mail attachments...



The idea behind the registry is fairly simple. Have a hierarchal database that allows configuration information to be stored in a central location. It seems nobody recalls the fun of having so hunt down and modify INI files for each application. It also seems pretty silly to require a parser or XML interpreter be built into every application just so it can fetch its options. It only takes one program (ok two) to read and manipulate the registry, its not that hard. The issue of things being spread out all over the registry is a matter that needs to be taken up with the application authors, that is just sloppy programming and poor design.

With Active Directory many of the settings are now stored in text files but are well hidden from view. At the proper time these files are read and the results put into the registry. This is not a bad compromise as the text files can be examined by humans and the applications do not have to parse thousands of lines of text at startup.

As for moving complex applications between machines, well the complexity of any system can make that difficult. This gets more complex as you look at the dependencies of the system. For example an email system may need to have all of the domain and SMTP settings altered. This gets pretty complex. With Exchange and Active Directory it is very simple to put up a new server and migrate everything over. It is very difficult to pick up after a dead server. It all requires someone to research and document the process. Sometimes it also requires someone to write a good bit of code as well. This takes time and money, and adds more "bloat" to the code. Try moving a non-trivial system between two Unix systems, it can be done but it can be a nightmare. I have seen it done with Oracle and you are much better off running the install scripts.

-------- Al Lipscomb









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Thursday, August 28, 2003

Begin with a visit to a mortuary.

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

Just returned from a visit to sunny Florida; my wife and I visited the KENNEDY SPACE CENTER at Cape Canaveral. We took the more comprehensive (and expensive) bus tour which, from what I understand, in addition to the regular tour, shows you the outside of what are described as 'industrial buildings' and, although the goings-on inside these buildings are quite interesting, their bland exteriors are decidedly not. Therefore, if anyone does find themselves there anytime soon, the regular bus tour is quite sufficient.

A couple of items of interest:

At the end of the bus tour, we were let out at the Saturn V/Apollo museum. This museum alone is worth the price of admission. At the tail end of the Saturn V rocket suspended from the ceiling stood a gentleman patiently, if curtly, taking questions from tourists. His name is George 'Ted' Sassen, Chief Engineer of Spacecraft Operations, 1961 -- 1994.

I took the opportunity to ask him if the engineering plans to the Saturn V had been lost or damaged in the time since Apollo, and he, quite dismissively, told me that they are, in their entirety, in the LIBRARY of CONGRESS, and that I shouldn't believe everything I read... I then asked him what he thought about SSTO and said 'it looks nice on paper' but that it 'doesn't work'.

I spoke to our tour guide at the photo stop (they finally let us off the bus) at the camera station of the main shuttle launch pad. She mostly grouched about Congress' stingy funding and her opinion of the Chinese space program and their plans to go to the moon was that the Chinese were mainly interested in 'doing it only to snub us'... There is, of course, no plan to build another shuttle, but that funding will go to the next generation of spacecraft which she refused to characterize in any way...

I enlose a few snapshots; sorry, the photo of Ted Sassen is a bit blurry... the most intersting of the pics is the Saturn V gantry graveyard, the sections of the old gantry moldering away in an empty lot at the KSC... Ironically, the KSC is populated by thousands of turkey vultures which circle over almost everything there.

* * * * * * * * * * * * Michael Mittelman 

First, NASA took great care to be sure we would not built more Saturn rockets, then to prove we didn't want them, destroyed two man-rated working Saturns and the Skylab that could have flown on one of them to give us a working space station decades ago at essentially the operations cost. 

They wanted Shuttle.

And I am not astonished that Sassen says that nothing but Shuttle will work.

Understand, we don't know the payloads of a single stage system; we do know that reusable space ships as opposed to Shuttle which has to be rebuilt after each flight: operations driven designs rather than performance designs -- work for everything but space craft including airlines, and there is no reason other than people like Sassen that you can't build operations driven spacecraft.

Well you have seen the mortuary and one of the morticians. Interestingly enough, while his ilk were killing Saturn he thought he was in charge of a health center.


Dr. Pournelle,

You cite oil production costs of $5/bbl for Saudi crude. I thought I might add some information I came across during the "Oil Crisis" in the 1970's.

When I studied this (with others) at one of the US National Labs during the 70's "Oil Crisis" we found out a lot about production costs for oil. For example oil produced from Persian Gulf countries (Bahrain, Kuwait as examples) adjacent to the Gulf is produced as follows: oil in the ground is under immense pressure there, if one sinks a well and hooks up a pipeline to a tanker in the Gulf the costs for getting crude to the ship is as low as $0.02 (yes that is cents) per bbl. On the other hand the longer the pipeline the larger this cost will be for pipeline maintenance.

This puts the $20.00 bbl price (or whatever it is today) they charge into a different light does it not?

Another thing is that almost all the oil we produce in the western US (CA and Alaskan crude) is not sold in the US but is shipped to Japan and other countries in the Far East either refined (as is the oil in LA) or as crude (Alaskan crude) at a huge profit to the oil companies. It is not sold locally, at what could be a very low price to US consumers.

Sadly, the oil companies are also foisting another one on us about supplies. We, the US, buy a third or more of the Persian Gulf oil (the rest is bought by Europe or the Far East) which accounts for more than half of the oil we use in the US. The oil companies have a supply line set up which takes six months to get the oil from the Persian Gulf to the US. Therefore no oil supply problem can affect our incoming oil for 6 months, unless someone stops the tankers enroute (which would cut into the oil company profits so I am sure they would rather not stop them). So, the oil companies pretend there is a shortage when in fact there is not, at least short-term. They also know long beforehand when a shortage might happen because of this.

The results of the study mentioned above verified the DOE study that resulted in a fine of $12 billion for Conoco for refinery oil refining anomalies. Conoco, at the time as I remember, wrote a check to pay the fine and still had immense profits.

Ah well, carry on the good work. I am looking forward to your new book. -- Oliver Richter

Indeed. Thanks But see below


Not that I'm any strategist or tactician, but my thought in both Afghanistan and Iraq (particularly the latter after the experience of the former) is that we should have gone in with an even stronger deployment of ground forces and with the objective of verifyably taking out the opposing leadership.

Such an approach IMHO have done a lot to end the attrition we're encountering. But at a cost of probably at least 10x as many combat casualties.

Ignoring the issue of whether we should have gone in at all, it's hard to fault a strategy which IMHO has resulted in a fivefold overall reduction in American casualties. At least so far.

Jim Woosley

The biggest mistake we made was not getting together some kind of officials to represent the Iraqi government and having a formal surrender signing.

The second largest was not paying some kind of pension to Iraqi army troops, contingent on not only good behavior but calm. It is not too late to do that: pay every former officer $5 a day, former noncoms $3 a day, and privates $1 a day, but they are not paid for any week in which any US troopers are killed. The results would be beneficial and cheap at the price.


And a pair on the same subject, manufacturing:

On exporting manufacturing jobs 

===== Tiomoid M. of Angle JD MBA ----------------------------------------------------------- For forms of government, let fools contest; That which is best administered is best. -- Alexander Pope



My fellow policy geeks are not usually much fun to read. Believe me; all the charm of lawyers without the undercurrent of rapacity to give spice to the mix.

Bruce Bartlett, of NCPA, is an exception. And since you've been writing on this subject on your 'original blog', I thought you might find this interesting.... in your copious free time. v/r, RGMCF  <<OUTSOURCING JOBS IS NOT ALWAYS BEST OPTION.url>>

The Town Hall piece is predicable and doesn't address the problem I raised: what happens to the left half of the Bell Curve? Manufacturing is their traditional occupation: they are then valued members of the community and citizens, not subjects.

If machines do all the work what happens? Silly question: but the difference between exporting and automation is real. I will leave the rest of what's wrong with the Town Hall piece (other than its tone which seems determined to incite) to the readers.

Greetings Dr. Pournelle.

No doubt others have sent this link to you but sometimes you never can tell. Global warming debated in the US Senate, scientists slammed. 


Mike Ross

I hear the squeals of gored oxen. There are those who would rather have their stipends than solve problems.

Sallie is very careful, and her records are confirmed by most of recorded history. Anyone recall Hans Brinker and skating on the brackish canals of Holland? Frozen salt water? Ah well.

Understand: there used to be skating on Holland canals all the time. But that was in the Little Ice Age when the Hudson froze so solid that Col. Alexander Hamilton could bring the guns of Ticonderoga across the frozen Hudson to G. Washington in Haarlem Heights. In 1776.



Subject: Heh, heh.,39020390,39115920,00.htm

Roland Dobbins



Just a bit more on the DI-604. It passed the All Service Ports probe at except for port 113, which showed up as Closed rather than Stealth. After reading Gibson's info on 113, I set up the DI-604 to redirect to a non-existent computer, Black Hole, in the router's IP address range.

Result: full Stealth. I am now invisible to unsolicited traffic. Not bad for $20.




You have stated on more than one occasion that it is absolutely nessecary to get stable and competent government functioning in Iraq as soon as possible.

I agree and I would like to expand on that idea a little. One of the fears often expressed by pundits is that Iraq will break up into three separate countries based on ethnicity. That is why Iraq needs to be divided into smaller political subdivisions. Well, the good news, it is. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, he spoke of making it Iraq's 19th province. That means that Iraq is divided into 18 provinces with at least some history and tradition of existence.

Those provincial governments are the place that need to succeed. A city mayor can depend entirely on personal relationships, nepotisn, tribal loyalties and family connections to govern, but when things get bigger beyond a certain size, an executive cannot govern successfully without the political and management skills that are needed to run a country. One of the strengths of the United States is that we have a multi layered political system that resembles the baseball minor league system in allowing people to develop their skills in progressively more challenging circumstances and allowing candidates to prove their suitability for higher office by how well they handle their current jobs.

According to a lot of what I read, many parts of Iraq are pretty calm. Perhaps as many of half the the provincial governments hould hold elections within a month or two and elect legislatures and executives. As much responsibility as possible should be put in their hands. Those areas that continue to have problems can continue to be run by Paul Bremmer and USAID while in nearby provinces people get the experience of learning to hold elected officials responsible for making the machinery of government work. And the politicians in those self governing provinces get the experience of making mistakes that do not ruin the entire country while they learn to make the machinery of government work.

Mark Kelly Deer Park, TX


I just read this, and thought you'd be interested. The deep-sea sponge has better manufacturing know-how than we do!



Are we looking at this from the wrong perspective?

Looking at the mid-east, or perhaps that should be mud-east, or muddle-east, I'm inclined to wonder if we are putting our eggs in the wrong basket. It is clear that there is never going to be, at least in my lifetime or likely anytime in the next ten generations, anything recognizable as "peace" within a couple hundred miles of Israel.

Part of this problem is Sharom and his compatriots. Who really seem to feel that Hitler had the right basic idea, but simply the wrong target group. A problem which they seem to have have corrected to their satisfaction.

And part of this problem is Arafat, who claims to be popularly elected, but as best I remember was a raghead terrorist in charge of a group that also would have believed that Hitler had the right idea (had they ever heard of him) but again the wrong group. A problem they have corrected to their satisfaction.

As long as either of these people are alive and free in that area, there will not, and can not, be any concept of peace. It would be political death to either of them; and that is a death that is far worse to them then the deaths of any tens of thousands of civilians and/or supporters. So peace Will Not happen.

But, sitting here in America, I have to wonder. What is that to us? I read the Constitution again today. As best I can make out, it seems to imply that neither the People note the Federal Government are responsible for the behaviour of Other States. And it seems to fairly specifically suggest that the Various States themselves are denied this power. So why do we care?

Well, one reason that I care at the moment is the current world situation that seems to exist. For whatever reasons, there seem to be tens of thousands of people that claim the only way they can achieve Heaven is by killing me and anyone else residing in or associated wiht America. One of the reasons these sort of people seem to give for this belief is our support, or at least perceived (by them) support, for Israel.

A support which would seem to buy us very little, morally, financially, or otherwise. Indeed, it is costing me dollars from my pocket, as billions a year in US taxes are donated to Sharom to continue his war. It is potentially going to cost me or my neighbors our lives if someone with a backpack bomb walks up to us in the mall and blows us all up. And if that doesn't happen due to the goodness of Our Government, it will be largely because the final scraps of the Constitution have been burned on the alter of Security.

I also don't see how we gain morally by financing a decades-long war of attrition, which is carefully tailored to be below the birth rate on either side, and can thus be a never-ending war. Of course, we can claim to only be financing one side of the war, and that that side is "defending" itself. As the other side can claim, with at least equal justification.

Where is the benefit to the United States, or to the people of the US, to finance the dessolution of our own Constitution, and the active hatred of several million people (or perhaps it is, or will be, several hundred million people) who believe the only way to heaven is through our deaths? Wouldn't there be better uses for our tax dolars? Building power plants, for instance?

Of course, at this point simply removing funding from Israel would be of little use. It might result in Sharom and friends being pushed into the sea in a couple of decades. Or it might result in them deciding to nuke a ditch around the edge of the country and kill anyone within the borders that can't show German heritage. Which would only half-serve our interests: the taxes might (doubtfully) be slightly lower. But it would only encourage those millions of heaven-seekers to come blow us up; and would encourage the Government to finish eliminating the Constitution For The Duration.

As I see it, our clearest interest as Citizens would be served by finding a way to discourage, or perhaps dis-encourage, those that feel they need to kill us for supporting Israel. This would then in theory remove some of the need for zeal that the Government is seeking in its need to repeal the Constitution. I see both of these results as valuable.

I am personally rather unconcerned with the actual fate of a few million Israilis and Palestinians who seem to have no life ambitions other than death, as their goals are limited to the deaths of themselves and each other. Perhaps some bible school might like to send Missionaries to the heathen and change their goals over time. I do not see that it is the business of the US Government to be those Missionaries.

I wonder what actions we could be taking that might tend more to result in goals that would be useful to ourselves. It seems that our current policies are demonstrably very unuseful to ourselves, and of questionable benefit to much of anyone else.

Loren Wilton

From: Stephen M. St. Onge                                    
Date: Aug. 28th, 2003                                                       subject: Book recommendations
Dear Jerry:
        Elizabeth Moon's relatively new novel _The Speed of Dark_ (Ballantine) is one of the best sf novels I've read in the last few years.  I think you'd like it.
        You probably remember _Pandora's Planet_, the Christopher Anvil series about aliens who conquer earth and find out the natives are rather smarter than they are.  Eric Flint and K. D. Wentworth have done an interesting retake on the idea, entitled _The Course of Empire_ (Baen). 
        You ought, however, to stay away from the ongoing saga _A Series of Unfortunate Events,_ by Lemony Snickett (HarperCollins).  Only someone with a heart of stone could read these stories of the Baudelaires, a family of unlucky orphans, without becoming permanently depressed.  As it says on the back cover, "If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book."  In other words, they're perfect for children.



The letter from Oliver Richter is full of inaccuracies. A quick review of public data sources reveals a few facts. The total cost for producing oil from Middle Eastern reservoirs is around $5 per barrel when you factor in all the costs of drilling and equipping wells, building gathering systems, treating plants, pipelines, compression facilities for associated gas, etc. $0.02 per barrel is a pipe dream.

California and Alaska oil is refined and sold in the US. There was a time when some Alaska crude was sent to Japan, but the amount was small - 20,000 barrels per day if I remember correctly. Most Alaska crude is refined in West Coast refineries for sale in California, Nevada, Arizona, and the Pacific Northwest. California produces about 750,000 barrels per day of oil, Alaska about 900,000. Refining capacity in California is about 1.8 million barrels per day, so supply and demand are pretty well balanced, with shortfalls made up by imports. California oil is predominantly heavy and expensive to produce - as much as 9 or 10 dollars per barrel in some cases. That number may be higher as rising natural gas prices make steam generation more expensive.

The latest Energy Information Administration statistics show that US crude oil imports were about 10 million barrels per day, or approximately two thirds of US crude oil demand. Less than a third of that 10 million barrels per day appears to come from the Middle East, so the claim that half of our oil comes from the Middle East is incorrect. EIA data is available at .

The numbers I've seen for tanker trips indicate a trip time of about 40 days, not 6 months.

Conoco was never fined $12 billion. There aren't many companies that can write a check that big, other than Microsoft and maybe ExxonMobil. There have never even been civil damages of $12 billion.

Regards, Ross McMIcken

=And see below








This week:


read book now


Friday, August 29, 2003

This article,  is by a guy I usually regard as reasonably informed.

Seems to me in this article he ignores a fairly major point. That is that most IT projects fail (if the measurement of success is on-time, on-budget and solves the users problems effectively.)

No one seems to want to thread this obvious fact into these discussions.

There are numerous reasons why they fail, but I believe that the 2 most significant reasons are lack of meaningful involvement by the users and a lack of business understanding by the developers. Users can't get what they need (not want) if they aren't willing (able?) to work with the technical people to detail those needs.

Developers can't build software that solves the problem (no matter how good the actual code is) if they don't understand the problem they are solving.

Traditional waterfall programming projects (multiple millons of $ and years) will probably have similar (mediocre to bad) success rates using this model. Everyone already expects them to not really solve the pertinent business need, since the delivery often lags that need so significantly.

On the other hand the success rate for business needs that require more rapid and iterative development techniques to solve them a timely fashion are going to go from fairly bad to unbelievably awful.

Sadly, almost all business leaders (and most IT management) are not equipped/educated to understand this or to make the appropriate judgments. The going thing is now to outsource projects, so by God we will outsource them.

I predict sad times ahead for the IT industry and those in it. It will be interesting to see how (if) we recover from this several years down the road when our local ability to do this work is severely diminished.



-- John Harlow, President BravePoint Voice: (770)449-9696 Fax: (770) 449-9003 Progress,Web and Java Specialists

A mind is like a parachute; it works best when fully opened....


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So, perhaps, is this...

Lost in space

Aug 27th 2003 From The Economist Global Agenda

Those investigating the fate of Columbia say they know the causes of the accident. This will be no comfort to those wanting to improve human access to space 

However XCOR Aerospace, an experimental rocket-development company based in Mojave, California, begs to differ. The firm, according to its chief engineer, Dan DeLong, has designed and built four generations of reliable rocket engines for a vehicle that cost $500,000 to design and build. They are, he admits, very small, but the company's plan is to "make it cheap first, then make it more capable". According to Dr DeLong, one of NASA's problems is that its design philosophy is the wrong way round. First, it builds something huge and complex, such as the shuttle. Then it tries to make it cheaper.


On Wednesday, August 27th, Al Lipscomb commented that even on Unix it is a nightmare to move Oracle between two systems.

It is my daily experience that this is untrue. In our Unix environment, it is only necessary to set a few environment variables (PATH, LD_LIBRARY_PATH) and to confine all Oracle executables to one subtree, and all Oracle database data files to another subtree.

This makes it possible to "install" Oracle onto a server with a simple recursuve "cp" copy command, and also makes it possible to migrate an entire database from one server to another using either the "cp" copy command, or, in our case by using the capabilities of our SAN to move the Oracle datafile subtree from one server to another.

Were a Unix server to catch fire, it would be a simple two step process to "install" and "migrate" a customer's Oracle database from one server to another. This is only possible because of the modularity that is enforced by the basic design of the Unix operating system.

We frequently compare notes with our Windows admins about insanely difficult it is to reproduce one Windows server's configuration on another one, or to restore from a backup.; on behalf of; Bar Code []


Oliver Richter cited $0.02 per barrel and Ross McMicken did not believe the number. History supports the $0.02 per barrel as lifting costs (only direct operating expenses for the “marginal” barrel that does not support any other financial expenses) for oil produced in the late1960’s when the Saudi fields were much younger.


I can assure you that value was real THEN (in then current Dollars); I was negotiating “posted prices” (lifted and loaded Tax cost of crude oil for export) in the Middle East during the 1968 to 1970 period. A better value for “whole cost” crude from Saudi fields then was about $0.10 per barrel, and the selling price was around $1.30 per barrel (plus shipping). U.S. crude was selling around $2 per barrel.


Allan Smalley



Dr Pournelle,

I spent a significant part of my career working for Mobil (as it was then) in the Middle East, mostly Saudi Arabia.

The production price of oil in Saudi, and I'm certain all the other oil producing countries in the region, is the least of it. Whatever it may cost to produce and deliver oil to a tanker for delivery to the rest of the world is an internal concern for the producer country only. What matters to the rest of us is, what price will the producing country, or its agent 'national oil company' sell (export) the oil for? This export sale price is the $20 or $25 or whatever price quoted in the news media.

The difference between production price and export price is profit all right, but to Saudi Arabia, etc., and not ExxonMobil etc.

ExxonMobil etc. make a profit of course, but it is downstream from this.

Jim Mangles


Jerry :

Reading the posts of the last few days on petroleum costs, people's memories of the costs (some of them, but not the full set), and extremely limited comparisons (when has an incremental or marginal cost been the sole determining factor of the price of a commodity with such enormous capital costs?), I'm reminded of Twain's comments about statistics, but also a bit more of the idea that it's pretty difficult to debate a topic like this without established facts.

Fortunately, a source of reasonably objective costs and prices is available at :

This covers the field of the overall production issues with historical data for production through refining, and offers a timeline for some data that extends back to 1948. The numbers are there in excruciating and exacting detail for those people who need them.

Despite the allure of great conspiracy theories for negligible costs for oil production coupled with almost nonexistent costs for refining, the petroleum industry doesn't sell the material for the great multiples imagined by the unwashed masses. Would that they could, but in a competitive market, one producer/refiner megalith would crush the others by cutting their end-user price to some "reasonable" value above their net actual costs.

Wonder of wonder, that's _exactly_ what the market does do. The prices of petroleum products are determined by market forces, not vast amorphous conspiracies.

The real costs of gasoline in the United States are still relatively low in "real dollars" compared with the history of mass gasoline sales in the US. Yes, they've recently peaked, but shutting down much of the east coast's refining for days in an era of "just in time" deliveries has a real and tangible effect. Knocking out pipelines has, historically, seriously affected local distribution in the United States, and Arizona's current woes are not an exception.

What's really having an effect on energy in the United States, be it gasoline or electricity, is the relentless NIMBY approach within the country. There hasn't been a new grass-roots refinery built within the US in a quarter century, similar to nuclear power plants. There's intense resistance to building new petroleum product pipelines, similar to the opposition to building transmission lines for electricity. The NIMBY and the NIABYA (Not In Any BackYard Anywhere) folks are systematically blocking petroleum and natural gas production within the United States, hitting both gasoline and electricity production.

With production and refining being blocked at every turn, is it any surprise that shortages occur? It's not a conspiracy, it's just basic industrial economics - if you don't allow local production for a commodity, you can expect occasional spikes in price and dips in availability for the shipped materials. Electrical transmission has been complicated by letting the individual states hold spats with other states on supplies (viz. NY and CT with the cable under LI Sound) as well as the regulators holding the ROR on transmission below market returns for the last ten years, but the idea of local vs. distant suppliers still predominates.

Big surprise.

John P.


I don't think the NASA bureaucrats are really upset about the findings concerning the Shuttle accident. While the claim that they need to fix the culture at NASA so that managers will be more responsive to the safety concerns of engineers, the most likely response will be to add another layer of bureaucracy to address safety concerns. I imagine this will push the cost of shuttle launches up to $2 billion per flight. A real solution would be to eliminate several layers of beurocracy so that the top manager are themselves engineers who actually have some knowledge of the systems that they are in charge of. Such engineer/managers might even have the courage to revert back to the old CFC foam insulation that would be durable enough to minimize orbiter damage. Then again, the entire shuttle concept has to be reworked so it isn't so maintenance intensive. I still tend to think that the slim performance margins of any pure rocket SSTO vehicle are so slim that any system would be too complex and maintenance intensive to be economically viable. However, I think the time has come when private enterprise can develope and build multiple stage, completely reusable space launch systems that would be cost effective. Certainly not as cheap as airliner operations, but perhaps on par on a price per pound basis as the delivery of ordinance via B-1 bombers with tanker support.

On other news, Isreal really did screw up with their most recent attack on Hamas leaders. While it is difficult to condemn them for assisnating known terrorist leaders, missing their target and killing civilians is a human rights violation and a PR nightmare. They should have their helicopter pilots spend a bit more time on the shooting range. Better yet, these assignments should be given to snipers armed with .50 BMG Barretts which would be inherently more precise and wouldn't produce the kind of photogenic results that are so useful to the Palestinian PR machine.

James Crawford



the article on "Fixing NASA Culture" sounds to me like fighting a fire with a flamethrower.

Now they get an "independent Technical Engineering Authority" and an "Office of Safety and Mission Assurance". More people to do a job which already should be done by the people working at NASA now.

Maybe it would be best ( and cheapest ) to get rid of the bureaucrats ( and therefore the "culture" in which others have to work and do their best not to attract attention ).

With best regards - Andreas Reichl

"I don't care about people or groups of people any more, who try to save their faces - it's enaugh if they don't show more of their asses".

Shuttle is doomed. The design is wrong. Expendables are better but they won't be able to get costs down to airline costs. Whether it is single stage to orbit or two stages to orbit, operations driven designs will make America a space faring nation and nothing else will.



Just like a parachutist does when he jumps out at 5,000 feet... a large surface area.

Surely, as a re-entering body comes into the atmosphere, it *enters the atmosphere*! There is an aerodynamic drag associated with hitting the atmosphere. It is that drag which causes the heating which requires the special fragile panels...etc.

But (presuming that the length of time it will take is not a problem), why cannot a re-entering body slow down by spreading a parachute..Yes the atmosphere is very thin and the speed is very fast, but it is effectively the rate at which the density increases which causes the heat buildup. If the change in density is matched to the decrease in speed, there should be no excess heat.

The problem with the present re-entry methodology is that drag alone is used to slow the object after the de-orbit burn, but that necessarily means that the rate of change of density is so fast that drag heating ensues. The International Space Station slowly

SO: A large parachute, deployed into shape by an inflatable cross, or annular ring in the edge, possibly controlled by gas jets to ensure the proper position relative to the trajectory...Wait.... for a long time!...

Why won't this work? If the glib answer is that there will be too much heating, then my response is that the chute should be larger, until the heating effect is reduced. This may require a series of differently sized chutes.

IF (BIG if) the object had the fuel mass to radically alter its speed, and it could decelerate and de-orbit at, say, 1500 mph, it would I presume suffer no more heating than an F16 does at 1500 mph.. that is, some heating but not enough to cause structural problems for a properly designed metallic (titanium leading edge?) structure. If it could achieve a zero (relative) speed, it would fall straight down and be subject only to gravitationally achieved speeds...

What am I missing?


On Tue, 26 Aug 2003 22:41:19 -0700, Jerry Pournelle wrote:

>The speed has to be dissipated somehow. How will you do it?

I am out of time, but I'll put this up for another engineering type to answer. See below.


The report on Columbia reinforces one opinion I have asserted since Challenger. Every engineer should have, framed above his desk, "Take off your engineer's hats and put on your management hats," the statement that doomed the Challenger crew. When an engineer is told to take off his engineer's hat he should emplace that hat somewhere it will do the most good, and resign very publicly. An engineer must engineer, lest he/she be mistaken for a potted plant or some other trinket for management to play with.

Walter E. Wallis, P.E. Palo Alto




SCO, which stands for "Satanic Cultists' Operation," changed its name from Caldera in 2002, when it was acquired by an obscure organization which exclusively employs 1200-year-old undead trial lawyers. They are now embroiled in an ongoing legal battle with IBM, Red Hat, and the Open Source community over alleged copyright infringements embedded inside Linux.

Can you say 'Wolfram and Hart"?

Brice Yokem


Recently a correspondent sent you a collection of Hollywood computer myths. However, since that list was originally started circulating, one of its elements has become myth itself.

"25. Laptops, for some strange reason, always seem to have amazing real-time video phone capabilities and the performance of a CRAY Supercomputer."

Um, Hal? I was once told that a "Cray Supercomputer" was roughly equivalent to a Pentium II at 300 MHz. Do any of Jerry's correspondents use a laptop with less power than that?

Greg Goss


Subject: Smart-assed tools


This guy sounds a lot like you.

Tiomoid M. of Angle  JD MBA
For forms of government, let fools contest;
That which is best administered is best.
-- Alexander Pope







This week:


read book now


Saturday, August 30, 2003

>The second largest was not paying some kind of pension to Iraqi army troops, contingent on not only good behavior but calm. It is not too late to do that: pay every former officer $5 a day, former noncoms $3 a day, and privates $1 a day, but they are not paid for any week in which any US troopers are killed. The results would be beneficial and cheap at the price.

The original Jay Garner plan assumed that the Iraqi Army was not going to dissappear en masse, but was going to stand around with their hands out asking for cash. This was based on the assumption that by and large the only people getting paid in Iraq were the Army and the government Ministries.

The plan was that the Army, less the top officers, would be hired at $10/week (or maybe $10/month, I forget), which was projected to be about a 20% raise for most of them. They would then be put to use as facility guards, road crews, and general WPA-like maintanence people. This was viewed as short-term, as in 2-3 years total usage for them. It was assumed that after a few years the civilian economy would have recovered to the place where the soldiers could make more money working for private enterprise, so would want to leave the Army. Thus reducing its size to something more realistic for the country, and the remaining 20-30K or so would be the new Army.

Of course that didn't happen. Maybe that never happens; I don't know enough history of invasions to know if it should be expected or not.

The original Bremmer Plan, after he took over from Garner, was to throw the entire army out on their ear, as being obviously unnecessary parasites. Apparently he hadn't noticed that this was 60% of the income earners in the country. The rather predictably obvious results were about as you would expect - not good.

Fortunately while Bremmer appears to be quite Libertarian in his basic economic policies, he does listen to rational statements from advisors. (I'm in favor of many Libertarian concepts. But in general their concept of "economic transition policies" are laughably imaginary. The final state may be quite desirable. But the transition plan ends up with everyone dead before the desired end state is reached.)

The result is that the Army people, even though the Army has been disbanded, are being paid varying amounts between $60/month and $320/month as what amounts to a pension. Next month the base pay goes up to $80, and the other three pay grades also scale to some extent.

True, this pay isn't conditional on good behavior. Perhaps it should be. As you point out, it still isn't too late to change it. And I suspect Bremmer would consider it, no matter what some Sennytors might howl.



Subj: Ed Felten interview in Business Week

Felten is the Princeton professor whom the recording industry threatened to sue, to stop him publishing results of his research on flaws in copy-protection tech.

Q: What's the greatest threat to a tech recovery?

A: That people will forget where innovation comes from. It comes from small companies and people you haven't heard of. Innovation happens because there are people out there doing and trying a lot of different things.



Posted on Friday 8/29:


” Liberals are people who are afraid that someone, somewhere, is doing something without permission.”


Sounds a lot like the current US Attorney General. Or perhaps the correct statement is that it is not doing something without permission, it is doing something that is immoral (as defined by a narrow world view) and therefore must be prohibited. After all, you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.


Do you not agree that the current government, with regulations like the Patriot Act, the Transportation Security Agency, the current neocon climate is becoming far more intrusive in your daily life than any liberal administration ever was?


OBTW, I do not consider myself to be a liberal in the strict sense, more of a centrist with a strong belief in personal freedom and responsibility. Would this make me an enemy of the state as defined by Fox News and/or Ann Coulter?


Robert Grenader

3050 N Marengo Ave.

Altadena, CA 91001


Well, first I never said that liberals were the only exponents of the busybody state, but they seem much more inclined to a nanny state than my gang. Conservatives disapprove of a number of things that people do, but few of us want to make a federal case of them. And of course there are lots of people who call themselves conservative who don't seem to be.

Me, I like leaving things to as local a level as possible in the sure and certain knowledge that they will muck it up, sometimes badly, but they don't have the scope to blight that many lives. And the kind of self government I have always been in favor of is cheap, far too cheap to do much enforcement of "morality" laws. Take sodomy, as an example. I would not myself vote in favor of a local anti-sodomy law, but I grant the states and cities the right to have such laws. I also wouldn't spend much on enforcing such a thing, meaning that what people do in private isn't going to be interfered with unless they go out in the streets and scare the horses. 

If you make the local governments responsible, and also make them pay for enforcement, you will find by and large that most don't find the game worth the candle. Here and there will be bluebelly types who insist that everyone paint their belly button blue if they intend to appear in public on Sundays, and are willing to pay good money to enforce their whims. My solution to that is to move out of their town.

"Deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed" seems good enough for me. Just keep the jurisdiction small enough that those who don't consent have a way to get away from it. Federalizing everything will result in the Feds having jurisdiction over everything and what the Feds give the Feds can and do take away.

As to Homeland Security, I suspect you confuse intent with accomplishment, and almost certainly you confuse rumor with fact. Most of the expansions of the Patriot Act still involve warrants and court orders and are pretty mild compared to what we instituted in World War II. Whether such powers are necessary in this modern age is worth debating. 

Have you read Ann Coulter's book? The parts I read seemed mostly a justification of measures taken in the Cold War, many of which were nowhere as unreasonable as the modern accounts of them seem to make them. I lived through those times, and while I rushed about like many saying that you could get arrested for reading the Declaration of Independence, one day I realized I had been saying that for a year and no one, absolutely no one, had bothered even to interview me, much less arrest me...

The Transportation Security Act was silly and ought to be repealed, but it was also pretty popular. DO SOMETHING....

Me, I object to the Nanny State in all its aspects. At least Homeland Security pretends and probably believes itself to be concerned with real threats, not with managing people's lives.

And I repeat, Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for the West as it commits suicide. Fortunately it wasn't able to so cripple us that the USSR with its 26,000 warheads and a large armored army aimed at Western Europe didn't prevail, but you know, there was a time there when many, including President Carter with his "malaise" thought it really might do so... But we would  have felt good as we died.


This is a rant

MS just makes their software harder and harder to use. I just bought a lovely new Dell for one quarter the price of my first Dell, six years ago (If MS made software the way Dell makes computers, we'd all be much happier). The new machine came with Office XP/2002, and it replaces my machine that has Office 2000.

The problem is with Outlook 2002. I can't pull my Groups from the old machine. In my home network I can't get access to documents and settings, no matter what share settings I use (it's an MS network and the target machine is running Win XP, so of course it doesn't work right). So I copy the relevant files to a spot that I have access to. Got all my messages, all my contacts. Can't get my mailing groups.

Went to the net, found the relevant KB article (this is a common enough problem that there is a specific KB article, 284353), did what it said. Still no good. So I can't forward my jokes etc. until I find a fix. Recreate them? I send to G, PG, PG-13, and R lists, using five different flavors that automatically exclude the original sender, depending on who he/she is. That's a complicated mess that took me a long time to set up. I don't want to spend the many hours it would take to re-create this.

Of course, this is not my first problem with Outlook. Outlook 2000 changed the way Word edits RTF messages. It adds these attachments. For all I know, Outlook 2002 does the same. Outlook 98 was the optimal email client for me, but the really good antispam programs require OL2K or later.

Ah, well. I’ve had microcomputers for 21 years - - not as long as you, but a long time. The best DOS interface I ever saw was Quicken. That’s what made me opt for a new PC in 1993 rather than another Mac. One of the good Windows interfaces I’ve seen is the one we have in Quicken 2000 - - I tried it out and it was enough to get me out of Quicken for DOS. Would that MS could do as well.

End rant.


Have faith. I have pretty well converted to XP and while I didn't like it at first, I find I do now...


Mach 1 at sea level at 50 degrees Farhenheit is 746mph, call it 750mph.

With all due respect, one thing the poster is missing is that F16's _don't_ go 1500 mph! Not in sustained level flight.

It is limitied by it's fixed intake to Mach 1.5 (950 mph at sea-level) plus or minus a bit. At least according to what General Dynamics allowed to be published. And it probably doesn't even do that at altitudes below 30,000 feet due to ... wait for it ... airframe damage due to drag heating.

I think the last fighter jet that could do over Mach 1 at atltitudes below 30,000 feet was the F-111, and it paid a huge price in weight for that. Even so, it was also limited to maximum flight times at +Mach speeds due to ... airframe heating. The faster it went, the shorter the period of time it could do it before drag heat would begin to permanently damage the airframe.

You cannot beat the heat. If you have the speed, sooner or later the heat will win.

Jim Snover


Dear Dr Pournelle, It's not completely impossible to dissipate energy without high-temperature structural materials. In the movie 2010, the Leonov braked its way around Jupiter with the help of "ballutes". Balloons cum parachutes.

These things have several advantages over static plates for dissipating heat. One: they can be configured to assist with aerodynamic stability. NASA recognized this back in 1968? I think, but didn't install them in Apollo anyway - because it was too late in the design cycle to introduce new methods.

To my mind the biggest advantage though is this. Suppose a ballute develops a fault. It's possible in principle to patch it, or to jettison it and inflate a spare.

But that doesn't address the major problem with interplanetary or orbital vehicle design. It demands tremendous expenditure of energy to reach escape velocity, or to orbit at 18,000 mph and that energy has to be dissipated on return.

There's no easy solution in sight; but I can't help thinking that the early sixties aerodynamic programs like the X-15 and, for heaven's sake, the Dyna-Soar, should have been continued with energetic funding and development. We can see with Rutan's White Knight that a multistage aircraft has much more potential than traditional theory held. And who knows what we would have found possible.

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole SA, OU Maths & Stats ( PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand. Tel:64 3 4797739

I was on the Dyna-Soar design team, with special concern for pilot safety. Heat dissipation was a real problem, and thermal protection systems proposed included water transpiration.

Beating the heat is a big problem. Dyna-Soar was to skip in and out of the atmosphere and radiate a lot of energy to space; but there were those who questioned how well that would work.

White Knight never gets anything like orbital speed. It goes up and comes down. It's that velocity that produces MV^2 energy that one has to worry about.

And see below





After reading your article on ANTEC and Standard Systems, in the section on heat sinks, I recalled an article I had read over at Tom's Hardware on the very subject. (Check out  for a very interesting read and scary video).

These people did a test with AMD processors vs.. Intel processors, and it shows the lack of thermal protection in AMD's processors. Clearly, if AMD wants to aim their offerings at the general public, not just the PC enthusiast, then they should make their processors more robust. Granted, I suppose that any chip will fry it is over-clocked, and many people purchase AMD chips and motherboards for this reason, but a general user shouldn't have to worry about their system frying in front of their eyes.

AMD does have a counter claim against Tom's Hardware article and video that states that the Palomino processor does have thermal protection built in. (  ) The problem then lies though with the motherboard. The thermal protection will only work if the motherboard supports it, so clearly in many cases there is no protection at all because the system builder may purchase the new chip, thinking that the processor is protected, and put it into an unsupported motherboard, and effectively the CPU is still thermally unprotected.

On another subject. I remember an article that you wrote, quite awhile back, on an interesting product called World Builder from Animatek. Well because of your article I was ready to purchase it. A friend of mine, who is a writer and 3D-artist, did a video interview with the founders of Animatek over in Russia. She received a personal copy of 1.0, and rather than let me purchase the program, she let me borrow her own. I was definitely hooked. After a few years of using 1.0, I mustered up enough PC power since it is a CPU and memory hog, and purchased my own copy of version 2.2x. I am now running version 3.55xx, which is not only far superior than version 1.0, but it is now produced and fully supported in the USA by Digital Element, which is located Oakland, CA (

At any rate, I really enjoy your articles from over at Chaos Manner and I look forward to them weekly.

Best Regards,

John Citron








This week:


read book now


Sunday, August 31, 2003

Begin with this:

If this man is right, then the first human on Mars will speak Chinese.  I am profoundly fearful for my countries' future.

"Nobel Prize-winning physicist Douglas Osheroff, an investigation board member, insisted in the final editing that the accident report call for culture change in strong, direct language. The chapter listing the recommendations - none of which mentions the word "culture" - stresses at the beginning: "NASA's culture must change."

Is that likely? "If I were betting," Osheroff said, "I would probably bet no."

But, he noted: "There's one big difference right now. It is unquestionably true that if NASA loses another orbiter, we are out of human spaceflight for a long time. The stakes are really high." "

(emphasis added)

NASA culture will not change. Those who want no change are too powerfully organized. It is like education: there are plenty of good teachers but it is the teacher unions that control the political coffers and their spokespeople speak for education and control access to political levers. They want no changes. 

Same with NASA

Think it will happen?

Thanks for doing it all so we don't have to...



About the Orbital Space Plane proposals:

"Most critics have focused on the suspiciously low development costs, or the embarrassing gap between 2006 and 2010 in which no ISS lifeboat is planned. In fact, the basic concept of the program is so stupid that every knowledgeable person involved in it must be perfectly aware that it will never fly.

"The basic problem is that the OSP, as currently defined, must carry such heavy mass penalties in the form of wings, wheels, and various escape systems that its performance will not be much better than the Dyna-Soar design of 40 years ago." 

-- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"

If we had built Dyna-Soar back when it was proposed we'd be on Mars now.





Subj: Cray supercomputer: the moving target

Gregg Goss needs to update his definition of "Cray Supercomputer". 8-)  AMD's Opteron to power supercomputer | CNET

"The supercomputer, code-named Red Storm, will contain approximately 10,000 Opteron chips..."


Indeed. Incidentally, if Greg Goss is reading this, my mail to him is being returned as "this box does not accept mail".



This isn't earthshaking, but I liked it a lot:

As our business model has matured, competitors that scoffed and ridiculed the idea of Open Source development are now challenged by the growing number of customers deploying Open Source software.

It is ironic that the very transparency provided by Open Source software and its development process should now be used as a tool of innuendo. It is this very access to the code, the ability to review and inspect it, that provides the greatest long-term value to the computing industry. If you can't see the code, then you cannot know. Is it really yours?

Red Hat's position remains unchanged. We are not a party to any lawsuit over UNIX code. No one has established publicly or in court that any UNIX code has been infringed.

-- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est"


hi!!! i just happened upon this story from my old hometown newspaper, the minneapolis startribune.

its the diary of a young teacher. pretty sad. first of all, the behaviour problems she cites are in what is allegedly a MAGNET school!!! second, what person in their right mind would choose this working life??? third: MN is still regarded as a state with good schools, but the mlps. district is easily the worst and spends many times the state avg. to achieve this. yikes. 

thought you or your readers might enjoy it. well, not enjoy it... i never read tracy "soul of a new machine" kidder's book on a first year teacher... i wonder if things are worse now???

btw: i'm running the latest mozilla...i really have got addicted to tabbed browsing...especially for reading blogs with a lot of links.

have a great holiday!!!

===== ================================ Jay R. Larsen CNE, MCP, Sportsman, Tax Protester



Re-Entry Part X

Jerry: There have been some interesting comments regarding alternative reentry strategies that would minimize heating. Since I'm having another late night with the wife's new rodent, I mean puppy, I'm too groggy to do some serious math. However, I might have a few worth while comments.

As you have and Mr Snover have so accurately pointed out, any reentry strategy that depends on aerodynamic braking functions by converting the kinetic energy of the vehicle into heat and this heat can be severely damaging to any vehicle. Just keep in mind that unless the vehicle either has a vast heat sink or a store of ablative material, the only way it can dissipitate heat is via black body radiation. While the rate of heat transfer from black body radiation is proportion to the temperature raised to the forth power, temperatures of thousands of degrees can and often will be reached.

However, there are a lot of factors that can minimize the thermal loads on a vehicle. Obviously, reentry velocity is the first and foremost factor. The Apollo space craft returning from the moon had a reentry velocity that was very nearly escape velocity. The shuttle does a reentry burn which puts it in a mildly eliptical orbit and its reentry velocity is only slightly higher than the velocity for a circular, low earth orbit. Another important variable is reenty angle. A shallow reentry angle allows a vehicle or object to dissipitate kinetic energy and heat over a longer time period than a steep reentry angle and thus minimize peak thermal loads. As an example, the thermal heating on an ICBM warhead is far more severe than that experienced by the Apollo capsule and would not be survivable if it persisted for more than a dozen or so seconds. Another major factor which is often ignored is the drag to mass ratio of the vehicle. While the large Delta wing on the shuttle is intended to give it reasonable landing performance, it was also intended to increase the drag of the vehicle at high altitudes which allows the spacecraft to loose as much of its velocity as possible before reaching the denser layers of the atmosphere. As Mr Snover so accurately points out in his critic of the ballot or parachute reentry idea, altitude and air density are a major factor in determining the thermal loads on high speed aircraft. 

What you and Mr Snover have failed to appreciate is the profound effect that a high drag to mass ratio can have on reentry heating. If you take another look at the tape of the shuttle burn up, you will notice that the pieces that were coming off the shuttle were decelerating much more rapidly than the shuttle itself. An even more profound observation is that many of these pieces were able to decellerate from orbital velocity and fall to the ground without burning up even though they weren't particularly resistant to high heat loads. While it is likely that the peak acceleration experienced by these objects was far higher than would be tolerable for a manned spacecraft, they still prove that the concept can work.

It should be noted that Bert Rutan's Space Ship one uses a high drag reentry strategy to minimize thermal loads. You are quite right to point out that the vehicle never comes close to orbital velocity. However, it also has an extremely steep reentry angle which increases the thermal loads. You and Mr Snover would agree that the vehicle would burn up if it were to reenter with a low angle of attack. Perhaps Mr Rutan has already calculated what the drag and deceleration rates would be if SpaceShip One were to be boosted into orbit then allowed to deorbit with a very low reentry angle. Even if SpaceShip One isn't a viable reentry vehicle, you can rest assured that Rutan will use his planned barn strorming flights as a first stage to launch small scale test vehicles that will explore alternative reentry strategies. It is my prediction that within five years Rutan will come up with a relatively fragile vehicle which can survive reentry from orbital velocity by using a very long duration aerobraking manauver at very high altitude. These vehicles will no doubt be launched using low cost hybrid rocket motors.

Incidentally, I've doubled my money on the SpaceDev stock that I purchased and have a side bet with my broker that I'll have a 900% profit by Christmas. However, I wish the competing contractor for the hybrid rockets was also publicly traded so that I could hedge my bets. Yeah, I know I'm a heartless mercenary bastard, but remember, the old adage "No Bucks, no Buck Rogers." Perhaps I'll end up like Harriman in Heinlien's "The Man Who Sold the Moon."

James Crawford

I am no TPS engineer. My work on DynaSoar was restricted to measures to keep the pilot alive in a 400 degree F internal temperature over a fairly long period: that is what they thought would be the worst possible result.

But no one I know even hints the Rutan's ship could reenter at orbital speeds.






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