picture of me


Mail 345 January 17 - 23, 2005






BOOK Reviews

read book now

emailblimp.gif (23130 bytes)mailto:jerryp@jerrypournelle.com

CLICK ON THE BLIMP TO SEND MAIL TO ME. Mail sent to me may be published.

LAST WEEK                Current Mail               NEXT WEEK


Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun

Highlights this week:


  If you send mail, it may be published. See below. For boiler plate, instructions, and how to pay for this place, see below.

line6.gif (917 bytes)

This week:


read book now


Monday  January 17, 2005

This probably belongs at the end of last week's discussions.

Willow Global Warming Kyoto

A few bits of information for you:

Several years ago The Economist did an analysis of both global warming and Kyoto from an economic standpoint. The assumption made was that the CO2/global warming link was valid. The question was what would be mankind's living conditions in the future if nothing was done versus initiating the Kyoto treaty.

IIRC in every critieria they examined, including quality of life, mankind would be worse off under Kyoto. This was across the board for all nations, both rich and poor. A brief summary of the reason why is that the increased poverty and wealth growth limitations more than offset the negatives of global warming.

Bjorn Lomborg, from a speech he gave at Rice University last year, reached the same conclusions independently. Using all of the doomsday environmental predictions he then modelled what would the the effect on mankind. A brief summary was that there would be severe disruptions as climates shifted between regions, but this disruption would be less than the poverty Kyoto would incurr. Also that there are some benefits to global warming. The main one being that the net overall food production would increase. Yes, there would be breadbasket areas lost but there would also be new areas formed, and the new areas and increased yield would more than offset the areas lost.

Gene Horr

We can also add this reference from Mike Flynn, professional statistician:

Here's a cute graph:


One does wonder, looking at that, just what real trends are happening.


Subject: I don't have much time for this

George C. Reid's paper on the sun-climate connection was published by the AGU in 1995. Work has been done since then, see, for example, the references in this paper:

http://www.envirotruth.org/docs/Veizer-Shaviv.pdf <http://www.envirotruth.org/docs/Veizer-Shaviv.pdf> (Atmospheric levels of CO2 are commonly assumed to be a main driver of global climate. Independent empirical evidence suggests that the galactic cosmic ray flux (CRF) is linked to climate variability...)

But nothing is "settled".

As for the climate models:

"It seems improbable that results from satellites (MSU), NCAR/NCEP reanalysis (NNR), and Radiosondes, which agree with each other, would all be wrong. Therefore, it seems more likely that both the models and observed surface trends are problematic. Their apparent agreement may be a coincidence or perhaps reflect a “tuning” of the models to the surface temperature trends. " (Douglas et al., 2004. Altitude dependence of atmospheric temperature trends: Climate models versus observation. Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 31, L13208)

With respect to surface temperatures trends, Crichton's book discusses some of the problems associated with interpreting surface temperature data bog. However, there is something new on this subject too:

"Our results point to near-surface processes in the tropical regions as a leading cause in the observed disparity between surface and lower tropospheric temperature trends. As most of the tropical region is dominated by ocean areas, it is possible that ocean/atmosphere interactions are a primary driver of the observed trend differences and that sea surface temperatures are not reliable indicators of the overlying near surface air temperatures" (Douglas et al, 2004. Disparity of tropospheric and surface temperature trends: New evidence. Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 31, L13207)

As for how well the climate models fit past data, Fred Singer wrote (9/2/04):

"The centerpiece of the federal USCCSP report is a (not yet published) research paper by NCAR scientists. It suggests that the temperature history of the 20th century can be fully explained by models that incorporate both natural climate forcings (from solar effects and volcanoes) and from anthropogenic effects (greenhouse gas increases, aerosols from sulfur emissions, and human-caused ozone changes).

But is this claimed agreement between observations and models just an illusion - a curve-fitting exercise? Three major objections can be raised:

1. The model calculation involves the use of several adjustable parameters, at least one for each of the five forcing. To give one such example, it is known that different models produce values of "climate sensitivity" ranging from a temperature rise of 2.0 to about 5.4 deg C for a doubling of GH-gas concentration. By judicious choice of the parameters it is not difficult to fit any observed curve - in this case the IPCC's global mean temperature of the Earth surface from 1900 to 2000. The true test would be to check if the same choice of parameters - i.e., the same models - can reproduce the zonal mean temperatures -- or even just the Northern and Southern hemispheres separately. But this cannot be demonstrated.

2. The claimed agreement between models and surface observations ignores the well-known disparity between model results and tropospheric data from microwave sensors in satellites and balloon-borne [Douglass et al 2004a,b]. Contrary to the models, these independent data sets show no significant warming during the past quarter century. It is more than likely that the surface data are contaminated and their supposed agreement with the models is spurious.

3. Finally, the models include only the five forcings that can be quantified - albeit with large uncertainties - but completely ignore other forcings, known to exist and admitted to be very much larger than the five forcings used. Examples are the indirect effects of aerosols or the cosmic-ray effects of the solar wind -- both of which affect cloudiness. A point of logic: It stands to reason that if the known forcings can reproduce the observed temperatures, then including these additional and much larger forcings will most likely produce a quite different temperature curve and thus cancel the claimed agreement with observations.

For these reasons, and because of the many arbitrary assumptions, approximations, and parameterizations that enter into the construction of current climate models, we should not consider the claimed "agreement" with observations to be a true validation."

For the layman, perhaps the best overview of the issues (with references to recent papers) is the comment that CEI (Competitive Enterprise Institute) submitted to CARB (California Air Resources Board) on CARB's "Rulemaking on the Proposed Regulations to Control Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Motor Vehicles". ( http://www.cei.org/pdf/4218.pdf <http://www.cei.org/pdf/4218.pdf> )

Joe Hennessey

To drive the point home:

Jerry P:

Again your writers have brought forth good material. I am referring to the Reid article, "

The sun-climate question: Is there a real connection?"

He makes the point, which atmospheric scientists seem to forget, "Since the earth's climate is dominated by the oceans . . ." This seems to be more important than is given credit for. While surface winds do move surface layers of water, probably over longer time cycles than reported, the earth is a water planet and as discussed in the article, the oceans have an inertial effect on the long term climate, while other factors, exclusive to the lithosphere produce annual variations. These can affect the overall economies of countries and must not be ignored, but they should not be considered above what the oceans are doing. We do need more research, and largely into the oceans and their long term indications for the climate.

Charles Simkins

I have asked Professor Schmidt to respond. I believe we have a decent summary of what is known and what is not known. This may be enough on this subject.


Subject: Re Autism

Dr. Pournelle:

First, may I take a moment to thank you for your work through the years. You have entertained, educated, and caused me to think, and I thank you for all of these.

In scanning your site recently I saw a reference to autism and thought I would offer you a heads up regarding someone I have only recently heard of. While listening to Terry Gross’ interview program, Fresh Air, on NPR, I heard an interview with Temple Grandin. She is an autistic person who has learned to function to the point of writing two books, becoming a university professor, and also working to design humane methods to handle animals in slaughterhouses.

I confess that I was skeptical. My mental picture of autism did not allow for the possibility of such a high functioning person. The discussion of her new book, “Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior” was fascinating. Link to the sound file here:


I understand that your time is at a premium, but this was a wonderful interview should you have the inclination to pursue it.

Again, thank you for your various works of fiction and nonfiction. I have voted with my wallet many times, and wanted to take time to offer up a more personal form of thanks.


Michael Gray

Irondale, Al.

Autism was so rare that I think we spent perhaps two days on the subject when I took graduate abnormal psychology back in the 1950's. My view, which is a little better than a Wild Ass Guess but not a lot so, is that this became a popular diagnosis and a lot of cases appeared; but whether all those have similar causes, similar defects, or even represent truly abnormal symptoms, is open to question. Psychology has always suffered from the problem of misdiagnosis: it's impossible to determine causes of a disorder if you are looking at a bunch of different problems and trying to find some common ground when there isn't one because many of your subjects don't belong in the study pool.

In the old days, a diagnosis of schizophrenia didn't get questioned much, and once that diagnosis was on the record, there was little attempt at therapy because by definition schizophrenia -- a fancy new name for what was once called dementia praecox or early onset senile dementia (i.e. early onset Alzheimer's only they didn't call it Alzheimer's then) -- by definition schizophrenia was incurable so treatment was a waste of time. The medical psychiatrists went and found some drugs that control this, and things changed a lot; but they also found that many schizophrenics didn't need the drugs or didn't respond to then, showing that the pool "schizophrenia" contained more than one type. Apparently some schizophrenics really do have dementia praecox and nothing can be done: at least nothing is known that can be done.

My observations about autism are in part due to observing some kids diagnosed with it when it seems to me there are other explanations of what's going on; and I do have a certain cynicism about use of drugs, because there's a lot of profit in that, and the incentive to misdiagnosis is high. I suspect I would have been drugged as a teenager had I gone to today's public schools. I certainly had moody periods in which I didn't want to talk to anyone while I read books and engaged in solitary vices.

Anyway I will look into this, and thanks for the reference as well as the kind words.


Subject: Portrait of a literate American


Fred's got it.


Fred often gets it right. I taught all four of our boys to read using Seuss's highly phonetic HOP ON POP to start.

Ed Hume also sends

Subject: Beating up on Gurkhas


I think this is not something these guys want to continue doing.


January 15, 2005: [In Nepal] Maoists kidnapped 14 Gurkha soldiers, who were home on leave from their service in the Indian army. Gurkhas, one of the many tribal minorities in Nepal, have supplied Britain with mercenary troops for nearly two centuries, and India as well, since India became independent in 1947. For the last two years, Maoists have been attacking and extorting retired Gurkha soldiers, who are often the wealthiest men in their villages, because of their pensions. There are about 100,000 retired Gurkha soldiers, most of them from the Indian army (only about 3,600 currently serve in the British army, ten times that number serve in India.) Few of the Gurkhas are pro-Maoist, and many are actively anti-Maoist.

January 16, 2005: The Maoists said they would free the Gurkha soldiers they kidnapped yesterday, as they mistakenly thought the men belonged to the Nepalese army.


Talk about really poor ideas! I would not care to have a few thousand retired Gurkhas angry with me.

I have an idea. If the Brits don't want so many of them any more, maybe we can hire them? Along with some British officers to help run the training camps. If we need a Foreign Legion this seems ideal: Gurkhas don't want to live in the US, they want to serve out their terms and go home with good pensions and marry and raise more fighting men...






This week:


read book now


TuesdayJanuary 18, 2005


If you haven't read them "Bugles and a Tiger" and "The Road Past Mandalay", by John Masters, are very worth it. These autobiographical works detail his experiences as a young officer in India and in Southeast Asia during WW II. I read these when I was about 15 and recently took the trouble (alibris.com is your friend) to find copies of these out of print books. Lots of amazing Gurkha stories. I would never, ever pick a fight with the Gurkhas!

Chuck Bouldin

I have read those works and some others, and I agree entirely.


Subject: Climate Modeling


I followed the discussion of climate modeling with interest, as I have done some work in this area myself. Unfortunately I don't have the experience of the first writer, so my comments are tempered by my lack of experience. I've worked on a climate model of Mars with the hope of coming from first principles and not making any assumptions. This is very difficult to do, and to the best of my knowledge isn't done with regularity.

In fact, when I was doing my initial research, not one paper had a first principles, no assumptions type model. Modelers have a tendency to put their assumptions into their mathematical model. For example, Mars models do not handle the polar ice caps very well. Granted these are mostly 2-D models and aren't Global Circulation Models (GCM), but there are serious computation concerns with respect to GCM's. The vast majority of climate models that I have seen are 2-D models (that is, the planet being modeled is divided up into latitudinal zones). Artificial pinning of the temperature and pressure due to the polar caps is not sufficient to answer climate questions. Unfortunately, this is even done in Earth based models.

There are people who are doing good work. I've read some of Dr. Schmidt's papers. They are very well written. I know that there are people who would be considered "Snake Oil sellers" in another period, but that is not the majority of this field. As in most cases, the loudest members of a group are usually the least reputable. The actions and abilities of some cannot affect the majority. Just might be something to think about in the future.

Erik Carlstrom

===== "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny...' - Isaac Asimov "

My concerns are not with the integrity of most scientists, but with their unwillingness to step up and say "Wait a minute" when the snake oil salesmen proclaim as "established consensus" theories that aren't all that consensual and certainly aren't all that well established.  Tub thumping for one's own branch of research in an era of grants is inevitable, although we might want to rethink a system of resource allocation that rewards that kind of thing; but when that all leads to political monstrosities like the Kyoto accords, and the visible product of it all is highly expensive conference in Rio and Kyoto to be paid for by tax money, may I be permitted some doubts?

The models aren't very good yet; not good enough to base highly expensive "remedies" on. We need to know more. I'd be way in favor of more money for data gathering. Meteorology was transformed by knowing more about the weather: satellites, but also simple linkage of data gathering systems. More thermometers and wind gauges all linked together and computer nets to assimilate all that. I dare say climatology could benefit from a lot more data and fewer policy predictions.

Subject: perspective of a climate scientist

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

Although the climate discussion is winding down, I thought it would be useful to offer my perspective as a working climate scientist ( http://meteora.ucsd.edu/~jnorris ). I'll try to keep it short, or at least shorter than what I otherwise could say.

One limitation of doing research on climate is that it is not an experimental science, i.e., we can't test hypotheses by controlled and reproducible experiments because the Earth is too large and the time scales are too long. Instead we must rely on observations and theory (I consider climate models to fall under "theory"). Concerning observations, it is important to keep in mind that very few of the observing systems from which we obtain our climate records were actually designed for monitoring climate (this is true both for surface and satellite measurements). Many changes in instrumentation, sampling times and locations, etc., have introduced discontinuities into these records, and while this does not mean they are useless, it does mean careful processing is required, and even with that, the interpretation of climate records can be ambiguous.

My particular area of research is cloudiness, and I am currently working with satellite and surface cloud data to determine how cloud properties have changed over the past several decades. I have more confidence where I find agreement between independent data, but that does not completely exclude the possibility of coincidental errors. I've also found areas of disagreement that could indicate problems in one or more cloud datasets, but since the surface and satellite systems are not measuring the exact same thing, disagreement could also indicate something more complex is going on. As you can see, it's an inexact science.

Progress is often slow in deterring which climate records are accurate and what they actually mean, and there will never be complete, perfect, and obvious agreement about climate change.

 Someone who believes global warming will be catastrophic will always be able to cite some climate record that supports his or her view, and someone who believes global warming is a fraud will always be able to cite some different record. Thus, there will always be room for doubt.

If you ask me what I think of global warming, all I can do is offer my professional judgment with some necessary caveats. While I understand your apprehension about the "I'm the expert" argument, it's not clear to me how a person such as I can avoid arguing from expertise. The "consensus view" is simply the average professional judgment of the majority of scientists. In the area of weather prediction, the "consensus" forecast is almost always better in the long run than individual forecasts, but even the "consensus" forecast has big failures sometimes. Perhaps that can be a lesson for how to approach the issue of global warming.

Well there's much more I can say on this topic, especially concerning climate models, but I'll leave it at this.

Joel Norris

And my point, which everyone seems determined to miss, is purely Bayesian: given the uncertainty of the predictions, and the huge costs of the remedies, a simple Bayesian analysis indicates that we are better off spending money now to reduce uncertainties rather than spending money now on remedies. That's all I have been saying for a long time.

There are uncertainties in the predictions. The models are a lot less than perfect. The data we have are ambiguous. While there is evidence for some warming, there isn't as much as predicted, and the causes of what we see aren't uniquely determined. We have a very good idea of the economic costs of Kyoto, and very little idea of the climatic benefits if any.

Yet "the scientists" yammer away for Kyoto, or, at most, simply keep quiet. The few scientists like Baliunas and Singer who say that it's too damned early to choose policies are denounced as idiots. Scientists step up to endorse Kerry in the name of science because Bush rejected Kyoto (as Clinton did but Clinton didn't do it openly, he just ignored it).

If science wants to be heard as scientists, the scientists have a duty to step forward and say, loudly and clearly, "We think there is a potential problem. We are not sure. We don't know enough to prescribe remedies. Here is a consensus position on what data we ought to be gathering that we are not gathering, and what we ought to be doing to reduce the uncertainties."  I haven't heard much of that lately.



Feeling safer already:


a recent mailer noted that perhaps the airlines should shoulder more of the blame, as they use out-dated criteria for "flagging" customers. I can report that this is certainly true.

I am an active duty Lieutenant Colonel, but I currently work for the Department of Justice on detail. My duties require me to fly often, and usually on late notice. I also have to change my tickets frequently as requirements change. Each of these events triggers scrutiny...no, that's the wrong way to put it. Each of these events causes me to be flagged. If they simply triggered scrutiny, I'd be ok, as a cursory glance would show that my ticket was purchased by the US government travel agency for official travel. The result is that on each leg of my flights I have to be taken to the special area for a hand pat-down, and wand waving.

Originally, the new rules called for an exemption for military travelers on either orders OR leave. While I've had security and airline personnel acknowledge this, each alleges that the other is in charge of such things and that I must raise the issue elsewhere. So, at the counter I point to my orders, and they say "Show TSA at the gate." At the gate, when pulled aside, TSA says, "We just follow the code on your boarding pass, raise it with the airlines." None seem the least bit worried that they are searching someone who is traveling FOR THE ARMY! Do they search the pilots the same way? Do they not see that some people can be excluded based on set criteria the same way some should be included?


We are only following orders. Your papers, please. Remove your jacket, please. Ordnung!

Colonel, you must know that requiring original thought from the kind of people who would take those jobs is a bit much.


I've been thinking about the debate on the site regarding the tsunami victims and the outpouring of support vs. doing virtually nothing about the threat of insect-borne disease and the consequent much higher death toll.

While I agree totally that more can be done with mosquitos, you should not understate the effects of the tsunami. In addition to those directly killed (I think the current official total is 162,000, with some estimates that the final death toll in Sumatra could push the total over 250,000), there is a population of an estimated 5,000,000 people who have been stripped of their homes and livelihood and face an immediate threat of starvation, hygenic diseases (cholera, disentry, and, yes, malaria, among others), and other threats to their lives and livelihood.

So while we shouldn't forget the 2 million a year who are threatened by preventable disease, the aid that is being sent is not for the 200,000 who have died, but the 5 million who have survived and require succor. But also compare them all to the 140 million a year (approximate) who dies of all causes, preventable and not preventable, war and peace, natural causes or disaster.

God help them all and bless their souls.

Jim Woosley

And say Amen...

Subject: Grammar and Writing


As writers I guess this will make sense to you. -- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior. http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her

Looks more like politics than science or education to me. I can't make sense of why they say this, but perhaps I didn't read it closely enough. Looks like opinion from people with a view.


Here is an odd series of letters:

Subject: Educational background

I have looked at your website and, perhaps I missed it, but what is your curriculum vitae?

Thanks, Mark Schaffer (University of Nevada)

My reply was brief: "Why?"

To find out if you are something other than a hack science fiction writer.

 Mark Schaffer

Presumably the implication was that if I didn't have certain credentials, I shouldn't be talking. Or something. So I sent a sort of rambling reply, with the note that since 1970 I have made my living as a writer, and asked the pointed question of why credentials were important to a journalist, which is all I claim to be at this time; to which I got this reply:

Subject: RE: Educational background

What was your Ph.D. in and when was the last time you were published in a peer review journal? Was that also before 1970?

Mark Schaffer

At which point I weary of the conversation. Apparently he believes I am applying for a tenure track position at his university, or perhaps that I need to justify my existence to him. Google reveals someone with that name in the computer department:

CCS - Computing & Network Services
... Facilities Management. Mark Schaffer, 54944, schaffer@ccmail.nevada.edu. Foundation,
Joseph Sly, 52846, joseph.sly@ccmail.nevada.edu. Fine Arts. ...
ccs.unlv.edu/cns/support/contacts.asp - 21k - Cached - Similar pages

and as the author of a paper

Filling a number field from right to left
Subject: Filling a number field from right to left. Category: Database Design, Version:
Access 2.0. Author: Mark Schaffer, Date: Monday, 9/15/1997 8:35 AM PDT. ...
domino3.nevada.edu/acsuport.nsf/ 0/4eda01115374da078825651300559e5c?OpenDocument - 5k - Cached - Similar pages

but not much else.

For the record: the only credentials that matter for what I do now are that I did have experience in operations research which is a great background for journalism, and that I have made a pretty good living selling words from 1970 on. I have been very careful not to claim expertise in fields where I have none, and to give what I think is  relevant background information where my experience may be of value in forming judgments.

My computer columns are based mostly on personal experience: "I do these silly things so you don't have to." I think I explained my views on journalism, public policy, and science in the essay last week. I don't think people need credentials to question public policies, or to ask for explanations of the science involved when the public policies, particularly expensive ones like Kyoto, are to be justified by supposed scientific conclusions. As to the last time I was published in a peer reviewed journal, that would have to be about 1958 when I wrote on selection criteria for choosing astronauts. After that I was employed by industry and my papers on temperature tolerance and space suit design were "published" as company documents, some of them proprietary. Then I went to Aerospace where everything I wrote was classified. Strategy of Technology wasn't classified, and was used as a text in the service academies, but that's not "peer review". Most of my articles on science and policy have been in publications that pay me money, not places where I have to pay page fees.

I don't claim to be part of academic science, and I don't feel like trotting out my credentials for every Information Technology professor who demands my "peer reviewed" publication list. My "peers" have been my editors who pay me to write, and my readers who pay to read my writing. While I was President of Pepperdine Research Institute I did in fact win a number of contracts and get some grants for my colleagues, including nsf grants (I gather that Professor Schaffer would approve since it appears he participated in an nsf funded study) but I wasn't the PI (Principal Investigator) for any of those. I was PI for a strategic policy study for the Air Council, but that wasn't "peer reviewed", that resulted in a series of briefings for senior USAF officers. The SDI documents I wrote for President Reagan were not "peer reviewed" but they were read by the National Security Advisor and by the President.

I don't know why this minor exchange of unpleasantries has upset me, except that I don't much like our new credential society in which a person's worth is not judged by accomplishments, but by certificates and credentials often awarded by people too incompetent to make a living at anything other than doling out credentials. If Professor Schaffer didn't intend to convey the impression that unless I have the proper credentials I am a "hack science fiction writer" then my apologies for misreading him.

Yeah, Mr. Schaffer, I'm a hack writer. I hack out words and people pay me for them. I don't get grants from Nati0nal Science Foundation, so I suppose I ought to be ashamed of myself and just go away?

Mr. Schaffer replies:

Subject: RE: Educational background

Wow! Still content free.

Mark Schaffer

Which ends the conversation. You will note that his only criterion for "content" is that I present credentials.  I hadn't known I owed him either credentials or content. So it goes.


And from Roland:

Subject: The wages of credentialism.


---- Roland Dobbins

and on another subject:

On Maureen Dowd

Dr. Pournelle:

Let Maureen Dowd stand for a generic problem: a lot of very intelligent and somewhat powerful women find themselves in her situation, never married and approaching the end of reproductive life.

I think a much simpler answer to her problem of finding a mate is just that she's Maureen Dowd. I can think of a long list of intelligent and powerful women who have husbands and families.

Tom Brosz







This week:


read book now


Wednesday, January 19, 2005

I hadn't intended to continue that theme, but we had a lot of mail on the Mark Schaffer incident, for which much thanks. Let this one stand for much of it:

Subject: Mark Schaffer exchange...

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

As a former assistant professor of information systems and the author of award winning peer reviewed publications (--as well as twenty five popular textbooks), I would like to point out that the snobbery apparent in Dr. Schaffer’s emails is endemic to academia. What makes it pathetic (and simultaneously hilarious) is that most “peer reviewed” publications are so trivial in content, as to be entirely irrelevant.

For proof of this assertion, I would recommend a book called “Imposters in the Temple: A Blueprint for Improving Higher Education in America,” be Martin Anderson (--former White House economic policy adviser to Presidents Nixon and Reagan and a member of the academic world for more than three decades). Dr. Anderson skillfully documents how “peer reviewed” publishing in almost every academic field amounts to little more than an incestuous vehicle for gaining tenure.



Don Barker, Senior Editor

PC AI Magazine

Email: don@donbarker.com

Thank you.


Ed Hume sends:

Subject: the bass line for a symphony of destruction,


Worth attention.


Subject: Apple And Their Marketing Philosophy

I read your comments regarding the Mac and Apple staying a niche player. One of the things that will keep them there is the philosophy of not being backward compatible. My wife is a Principal in a school that uses Macs for all student work. As the school adds new Macs to the inventory, the new Macs come with the latest versions of Apple's software AppleWorks. My wife has found that files created on the old versions do not move up well to the new versions. She has also found that the new version files do not go back at all to the old versions, and she claims there is no Save As…

When the students pile into the computer lab to work on assignments, the students need to remember whether they worked on a new, intermediate or old Mac the previous time. Elementary students do not remember well. The result is that the teachers try to use new Macs only and the old Macs get left to collect dust.

The old Macs are "good enough" but do not get used because Apple doesn't build in backward compatibility. The school tries to find money to buy more new Macs.

=============================== Success comes from a passion for your work and a love for your job. :-) Glenn P. Davies Network Integrity - Voice TELUS Communications Inc ====> <http://www.telus.com/


Subject: Byte Column, Bookmark4


Great column, keep it up.

I have used several generations of IBM Thinkpads at work. I found the screen picked up oil from fingertips on the screen. The only real ‘design fault’ I have found with them.

As an amateur photographer, a ‘misty optic’ drives me mad, so does a marked computer screen! I have used a sheet of lint-free cloth for years now, on the keyboard, whenever the lid is closed. No greasy spots or wear marks on the screen and when the cloth gets dirty, wash it in soap flakes (not detergent) restores it for re-use (I use the same method for cloths used for cleaning coated lens glasses).


Roger Peggram

Bracknell, UK


The following is an unpaid ANNOUNCEMENT:

Dear DDJ.com Basic Member,

We’ve made some improvements to the way you can interact with DDJ.com!

Your Basic membership with DDJ.com now enables you to access content from the following publications' Web sites—FOR FREE!

* BYTE.com

* SDMagazine.com

* DDJ.com

* CUJ.com

* Windevnet.com

* TPJ.com

The new CMP Developer Network Basic membership pass is an improvement to your current access to DDJ.com and enables you to tap into any/all of CMP Media’s publications devoted to the art, science and business of application development.

To continue your existing access to DDJ.com, as well as activate your CMP Developer Network Basic membership, simply go to the URL below to re-register. The keycode field will already be populated for you.

Take advantage of our special, limited time offer and register for a 12-month ALL ACCESS pass to all current issues and archives on all five sites for just $14.95! (regularly $19.95)

In addition to complete access to current content and archives on the CMP Developer Network, you will also have access to the following:

* Complete access to BYTE.com ($19.95 value)

* Complete access to BYTE Digest ($18.00 value)

* PDF E-zines and archives from Dr. Dobb's Journal, The Perl Journal and more ($19.95 value)

* Topical CD-ROM ISO Downloads ($19.95 value)

* Michael Abrash's Graphics Programming Black Book, 101 Perl Articles Virtual CD-ROM, and more! ($29.95 value)

Click here to activate your ALL ACCESS Membership!


We’re excited to make content across the CMP Developer Network available to you! Thank you for your support and we hope you enjoy your CMP Developer Network membership. Register today!


CMP Media Dr. Dobb's Journal 600 Harrison Street San Francisco, CA 94107


And a question from Hairy Redd:

Subject: Ice Sheet Melt

This is kind of a question.

I keep hearing the phrase "Irreversible Ice Sheet Melt" in connection with Global Warming.

As I recall, there were no ice sheets back in the age of the Dinosaurs, and at times over various periods tending towards recent times.

For one, consider Great Mammoths and Mastodons flash frozen with fresh grass in their mouths and stomachs.

As far as I can see, ice sheets have come and gone over periods of time without the aid of man... Indeed, without man at all being around at all.

Comments please?

Frank Gasperik


CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, January 20, 2005

Subject: FW: The truth about the cop-killing Marine


Below is the link to the actual website posting the excerpt from below. I included the email so you could see that it is being passed around by Marines.


Tracy Walters


Subject:  Education Measurement


One problem I have noticed in the education debates is the lack of meaningful measurement. You have commented on it yourself. Parents bemoan the poor state of education, but think *their* school is doing a good job.

The Just for the Kids organization is doing something about it. You can get statistics for your schools and compare them to those of the best comparable schools in your state.


As an example:

California http://just4kids.org/jftk/index.cfm?st=California&loc=School%20Search 

Studio City http://just4kids.org/jftk/index.cfm?st=California

Notice that the chart bars have two colors; those who pass the test, and those who show real proficiency. Not every child who passes the test shows true mastery. (surprise, surprise!) I have only looked at Texas and California, but the statistics for other states may also include both numbers. You can compare Texas schools not only to comparable schools, but to the best performing schools in the state. I do not see how to do that for California.

I hope your other readers find this useful.

Regards, Bob Wakefield

I haven't looked yet. I do note that educational policy assessment is a very difficult job. Charles Murray has broken his heart trying. But comparisons are often useful.


Subject: On marrying a smart woman...


I was back to school for my second degree when I met a lovely pre-med.. and married her. I made a promise to her that I would see her through medical school whatever the cost. I should have known.

Turns out she's *very* good at what she does, and it took a long time to 'see her through', what with residency, a fellowship in Europe (OK, that was fun), another fellowship in Detroit (all apologies to my friends in Detroit, but...) and then children folded themselves into the equation.

I'm bright, but I judged that my career and professional potential didn't match hers, so I pulled out a very sharp sword and slashed what was left of my career into jagged little pieces.

So. The Computer Sciences looses a bright jewel, the world gets a truly world-class gastroenterologist, and my wife and I together are preparing two absolutely lovely and (in the mold of Heinlein's strong female characters) utterly devastating professional women.

I am not applying for a medal. Sometimes not having a professional standing sucks. And no, being free to attend my daughter's mid-afternoon basketball game does not really compensate. But these are the choices adults make. I intend to keep simulating such behavior until they graduate. After that, don't count on seeing me wearing shoes.



Subject: The Crazy Years?

Saw this link, and it reminded me of some of the one-off 'news' headlines that RAH used to populate some of his Future History stories....



Doug Hayden

p.s. Of course, he predicted slidewalks and waterbeds, too. *chuckle*




-Subject: Old Home 

Jerry, Drove into Memphis yesterday for a business meeting downtown (the Holiday Inn across from the Peabody). Thought of you as I drove past Christian Brothers (albeit on the interstate). A good meeting and hopefully will lead to more work for me -- and my Memphis partners.


I think the Christian Brothers you drove past would be the new high school campus. CBC was located at Central and East Parkway, where it still is, but in those days although it was a college, it was more high school than college (both institutions being on the same campus; but the high school was perhaps 75 per class, the college perhaps 20)


Subject: WA election fiasco summary

I agree with former governor Dan Evans who said "If this election does not need a re-vote, what election ever will?"

Here is a summary of the messy Governor's election in Washington state. Dino Rossi (R) versus Christine Gregoire (D):

* Election initially so close, no one wants to call it.

* With counting nearly over, Rossi pulls ahead.

* Democrat operatives request and are given a list of voters whose absentee ballots were not counted due to missing or non-matching signatures; they go out and collect signatures, and get hundreds of absentee ballots counted after all. This is an unprecedented change in the rules after election day. Republicans protest, but at the same time send Republican operatives to do the same thing with Republican absentee voters, and when the protest fails, Republicans submit their collected signatures to try to balance out the Democrat ones.

* King County discovers 10,000 misplaced ballots and counts them.

* Rossi wins by 261 votes. State law triggers automatic recount (using the counting machines again).

* GOP files suit against King County for "enhancing" ballots illegally. The judge refuses the emergency stay and the "enhancing" continues. Six percent of all ballots in King County are ultimately enhanced (estimated 55,000 ballots).

* Rossi wins by 42 votes. Gregoire says this is "literally" a tie.

* Anyone who pays for it can ask for another recount, by hand. Democrats ask for it. Republicans express grave doubts as to the accuracy of a hand recount, and fear that all the errors will be in Gregoire's favor in heavily Democratic (and densely populated) King County.

* King County discovers over 300 misplaced ballots.

* Democrats want the state to re-examine every rejected ballot and consider each one to possibly be counted. Republicans point out that the last time the state Attorney General's office was asked about this, the AG's office said that rejected ballots are never recounted... and Gregoire was the Attorney General at the time that ruling was issued, which makes it disingenuous that Gregoire was going along with this. Some Democrats argue that the AG's office issued the ruling, not the AG herself, and that Gregoire never believed this idea. When it goes before the state Supreme Court, this idea is instantly and unanimously shot down. Rejected ballots will not be re-examined or counted.

* King County discovers hundreds more misplaced ballots.

* King County discovers even more misplaced ballots.

* State Supreme Court allows King County to count 710 ballots that King County says it rejected by mistake. (Rejected ballots will not be re-examined or counted, but if a county rejected them by mistake it is permitted to reverse the mistake during a recount.)

* Gregoire wins by 129 votes. Democrats immediately call upon Rossi to concede.

* Republican partisans, including private citizens with no formal connection to the GOP, begin probing. Building Industry Association of Washington gets lists of registered voters and lists of convicted felons, begins comparing the lists, and finds dozens of convicted felons who voted. They also find dead voters, voters who voted twice, etc.

* It turns out that there were at least 1,800 more votes in King County than voters signed in to vote. King County elections department has no explanation.

* It turns out that 348 provisional ballots were illegally fed directly into vote-counting machines. As provisional ballots are simply ballots in a special envelope, there is no way to separate these out again.

* It turns out that according to state law, an election should not be certified if there were more votes than voters. But this election was certified anyway.

* King County had claimed that it mailed the absentee ballots for soldiers in time, but it turns out that the bulk mail permit was not used on the date King County claimed, but actually later. It is not known exactly how many soldiers were denied their vote because the absentee ballot arrived after the election, but it's at least dozens. (And the rules weren't changed after the election to allow soldiers to submit votes late, even though other rules were changed.)

* Dino Rossi and the Republicans sue in Chelan County (not King County!) asking that the election be thrown out and a "re-vote" election held to settle who won. Gregoire, Democrats, and newspapers all agree that there is no reason to do this.

I'm waiting to find out what the court will rule.

A full timeline, with links to news stories and weblog postings, is in this weblog:


Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal article about this:


-- Steve R. Hastings "Vita est" steve@hastings.org http://www.blarg.net/~steveha







CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  January 21, 2005

Subject: Peggy Noonan on the speech.


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: La Noonan Is the New Hugenberg -- or Pappen?


Only NOW she sees this. Pathetic.

Nothing deserves contempt more than surprised recognition in enablers.



Dear Dr. Pournelle:

I don't know who "Dave" is (obviously he isn't me), but you should be embarrassed for putting the above comment on your site:

1. Peggy Noonan is a (retired) speechwriter and essayist. Hugenberg and von Papen (corrected spelling, ennobling particle added) were political leaders. To compare a speechwriter--who didn't even have a formal role in the campaign of the politician involved--to heavyweight leaders of important political factions suggests a profound unseriousness on the part of the person making the comparison.

2. Hugenberg and von Papen were "enablers" of one of the most vile regimes ever to blemish the face of the earth. Regardless of what one may think of GWB and his policies, to make the implied comparison "Bush = Hitler" (a comparison--alas!--all too commonplace nowadays among left-wingers) is--again--indicative of a profound unseriousness. Do *you* think "Bush = Hitler"? No, I didn't think so either.

As to the gravamen of Peggy Noonan's argument, I suspect that her discomfort is as much cultural as anything else: GWB's inaugural relies heavily on the cadences and usages of the evangelical and charismatic world, and a devout Roman Catholic like Peggy Noonan may recoil at what appears to be an inappropriate level of intimacy with the Divine: I know that--as a "cradle Episcopalian" who was re-introduced to the Christian faith by evangelical and charismatic friends--it's taken me a long time to "get comfortable" with their way of expressing themselves...and even now I am not altogether so.

Both the speech and her response are under extensive discussion in the blogosphere: it may be of interest to you to follow the discussion.

Very respectfully,

David G.D. Hecht

1. I am thoroughly aware of who Papen and Hugenberg were, Weimar officials who thought they were doing well for their country. Of course so did Hindenberg, who thought he might be able to restore the Kaiser.

2. Perhaps more apt examples could be found, but the picture of political technicians who thought they were doing well only to be dismayed by the result is important; what that result was is less so; at least in the reasoning of this very serious (and very well informed) young Washington insider whose letter I have posted. He no more equates Bush with Hitler than you do, nor are the consequences to the Republic likely to be as severe; but pushing the United States from Adams to Wilson is a very serious thing indeed, or so he thought.

3. We in the journalistic profession have a technical term for people who believe that because we quote someone, even in a selective forum, we agree with all they said. We call people who believe such things "idiots". None of my best friends are idiots.

4. Peggy Noonan is becoming aware that our national ambitions may exceed our national abilities. Bush made a speech in ringing defense of freedom, but there have been other such efforts. Our troops in Iraq endured hardships. So did those at Valley Forge. There is sometimes a need for perspective.

5. There is likely to be a civil war in the Republican Party. I have friends on both sides, and I'd like to sit this one out. In 1989 G H  W Bush fired every friend I had in the White House and tried to root every Reaganite out of every position in Washington. He couldn't get them all, but he tried. I didn't much care for the result of that civil war among Republicans. I doubt I will much like the coming one. But I won't refuse to put up views from many of those I count as friends.

6. Niven once taught me a very useful phrase. "I don't insist that my friends like each other." It has stood me in good stead. I'd prefer to keep the friendship of both Daves....




Haier on sex differences in the brain

Not that it matters, PC trumps truth.

Louis Andrews Stalking the Wild Taboo http://lrainc.com/swtaboo/ 

MSNBC.com Genders really do think differently Men use more gray matter, women use more white

By Bjorn Carey Updated: 9:17 p.m. ET Jan. 20, 2005

Men and women do think differently, at least where the anatomy of the brain is concerned, according to a new study.

The brain is made primarily of two different types of tissue, called gray matter and white matter. This new research reveals that men think more with their gray matter, and women think more with white. Researchers stressed that just because the two sexes think differently, this does not affect intellectual performance.

Psychology professor Richard Haier of the University of California, Irvine led the research along with colleagues from the University of New Mexico. Their findings show that in general, men have nearly 6.5 times the amount of gray matter related to general intelligence compared with women, whereas women have nearly 10 times the amount of white matter related to intelligence compared to men.

"These findings suggest that human evolution has created two different types of brains designed for equally intelligent behavior," said Haier, adding that, "by pinpointing these gender-based intelligence areas, the study has the potential to aid research on dementia and other cognitive-impairment diseases in the brain."

The results are detailed in the online version of the journal NeuroImage.

Speaking truth to power is often a very poor idea. Summers learned that. So did St. Thomas More.

Intelligence in men and women is a gray and white matter

Men and women use different brain areas to achieve similar IQ results, UCI study finds

Irvine, Calif. , January 20, 2005 While there are essentially no disparities in general intelligence between the sexes, a UC Irvine study has found significant differences in brain areas where males and females manifest their intelligence. The study shows women having more white matter and men more gray matter related to intellectual skill, revealing that no single neuroanatomical structure determines general intelligence and that different types of brain designs are capable of producing equivalent intellectual performance. “These findings suggest that human evolution has created two different types of brains designed for equally intelligent behavior,” said Richard Haier, professor of psychology in the Department of Pediatrics and longtime human intelligence researcher, who led the study with colleagues at UCI and the University of New Mexico. “In addition, by pinpointing these gender-based intelligence areas, the study has the potential to aid research on dementia and other cognitive-impairment diseases in the brain.” Study results appear on the online version of NeuroImage.

Well, there goes Irvine... I wonder what atonement will have to be made for that study? And who will be hired in Wymmin's Studies as reparation?

Subject: Sex Differences in Cognition

Well, they are there. In particular, they're part of what differentiates most men from most women. The wiring also develops differently. Most girls have higher connectivity among the areas involved in social cognition than most boys, and most boys have higher connectivity among the areas involved in hunting mammoths than most girls. The wiring differences can be seen in hi-res EEG until after the individuals reach about 30-35. The grey versus white matter issue is not quite as clear-cut. White matter is basically myelinated axons, while grey matter is cell bodies and dendritic trees, and the gross amount of each is likely to reflect body size and experience. On the other hand, I'm a bit concerned about the lack of care taken defining what differences are significant and why. Sure, more brilliant mathematicians are male than female, but I'm not convinced mathematical brilliance is selectively advantageous.

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Computational neuroscientist modeling bat bioacoustics and behavior. http://osiris.sunderland.ac.uk/~cs0her

Now you are in trouble. Be prepared to hire two wymmen mathematicians very soon.





This week:


read book now


Saturday, January 22, 2005

Subject: Harvard flunks security.


- Roland Dobbins

Published on Friday, January 21, 2005 Drug Records, Confidential Data Vulnerable Harvard ID numbers, PharmaCare loophole provide wide-ranging access to private data


THE CRIMSON STAFF FROM STEPHEN TO ZITHROMAX (STEP 1/3, next for more) Starting with nothing more than a consenting undergraduate's first name, The Crimson generated, in 10 minutes, a list of all prescription drugs he had ever purchased at University Health Services Pharmacy.

Total Pictures: 3 >

Article Options Email this article to a friend Send a letter to the editor Print this article

The confidential drug purchase histories of many Harvard students and employees have been available for months to any internet user, as have the e-mail addresses of high-profile undergraduates whose contact information the University legally must conceal, a Crimson investigation has found. <snip>


But they have a very politically correct President. Well, at least he is now...



CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, January 23, 2005

Subject: Johnny Carson, RIP.


--- Roland Dobbins

I for one will miss him.


Subject: England no more.


-- Roland Dobbins


Subject: England is dead

"Happy slaps": http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2-2005032257,00.html 

And here, we see the perpetrators discussing things in a manner suited to their mental level:


It's only been 60 years since they beat the Nazis. What happened over there?

===== Kent Peterson urquan@rocketmail.com

"... there was always a minority afraid of something, and a great majority afraid of the dark, afraid of the future, afraid of the past ..." - Ray Bradbury, _The Martian Chronicles_

I hope you're wrong.


Subject: Do not resuscitate.


- Roland Dobbins

Just who has a right to what here?


Hi Jerry:

My son and I just found an interesting problem with an external USB drive. We were testing data transfer speeds on a LaCIE 500GB USB Hard disc. We found that if you have two USB drives hooked to the same PCI USB card and try to transfer directly from drive to drive straight through the USB board (Adaptec 2-Port USB 2.0 PCI Card) to the other, Windows produces a file write error: "{Delayed Write Failed} Windows was unable to save all the data for the file . The data has been lost. This error may be caused by a failure of your computer hardware or network connection. Please try to save this file elsewhere."

The transfer was a "full monty" backup of all word processing, image, and pdf files related to our work here, so it was a very large transfer including hundreds of folders and thousands of files. The error resulted on different files and different folders each time and we were never able to make the transfer work. We even tried an xcopy command from a command prompt with the same result about 3/4's of the way through. We next tested the system by transferring the same directory structure to the internal SCSI drive from one of the USB drives and then transferring from the SCSI to the new LaCIE drive and it worked perfectly. The size of the directory was 4.75 GB.

We thought that you might want to know this, thanks for reading.

Sincerely, Scott and Hudson Gardner

-- +-< >< >< >< >< >< >< >< >< >< >< >< ><><><><><><><><-+

Scott Lyell Gardner, Ph.D. Director, Harold W. Manter Laboratory of Parasitology University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Very Interesting. I wonder what happens if you try that with LINUX? BUT THERE IS A FIX>


Subject: Not the same at the bit level but the USB transfer sounds a lot like burning a coaster from a hard drive when the Drive Control Master and Slave arrangement had bad juju

Not the same at the bit level but the USB transfer sounds a lot like burning a coaster from a hard drive when the Drive Control Master and Slave arrangement had bad juju - I'd sooner expect issues at this stage of the technology than be confident of success.


 I wouldn't spam filter you

Continued next week



The current page will always have the name currentmail.html and may be bookmarked. For previous weeks, go to the MAIL HOME PAGE.


If you are not paying for this place, click here...

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. Also, repeat the subject as the first line of the mail. That also saves me time.

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. 

Monday -- Tuesday -- Wednesday -- Thursday -- Friday -- Saturday -- Sunday

 Search engine:


or the freefind search

   Search this site or the web        powered by FreeFind
  Site search Web search

Boiler Plate:

If you want to PAY FOR THIS PLACE I keep the latest information HERE.  MY THANKS to all of you who sent money.  Some of you went to a lot of trouble to send money from overseas. Thank you! There are also some new payment methods. I am preparing a special (electronic) mailing to all those who paid: there will be a couple of these. I have thought about a subscriber section of the page. LET ME KNOW your thoughts.

If you subscribed:

atom.gif (1053 bytes) CLICK HERE for a Special Request.

If you didn't and haven't, why not?

If this seems a lot about paying think of it as the Subscription Drive Nag. You'll see more.


Search: type in string and press return.





Entire Site Copyright, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

birdline.gif (1428 bytes)