CHAOS MANOR MAIL
Mail 379 September 12 - 18, 2005
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Highlights this week:
September 12, 2005
Subject: Falls Creek/Katrina "dentention center"--refuted
As I suspected, the Falls Creek Baptist Assembly/Katrina "detention center" story was misreportage/overblown or agenda-driven. Yes, apparently there may have been some FEMA people there doing a little bureaucratic muscle-flexing, but it's NOT a FEMA site. I received several emails filling me in on the status of the situation, and one pointed me to this from http://www.bgco.org (there's a link on the front page to the article, "Governor Asks Falls Creek to Remain on Standby for at Least 5 More Days" dated September 8).
"...Falls Creek remains on standby, at the request of the Governor, for at least another 5 days. (Until at least Tuesday, September 13)
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol, medical personnel, Oklahoma Disaster Relief teams and other government agencies remain onsite at Falls Creek until further notice from Governor's office...."
So, over-reaction by the narrator of the account to all the government presence? One or two pushy low-level government employees? A combo of the two? It just didn't sound like something that could be done there, and fortunately that seems to be the case.
David W Needham
I wish I shared your confidence that it can't happen here, but I don't. I have all too often seen how government officials apply rules. Example:
For a long time the Los Angeles Police had discretion as to whether to bind people in chains when they were being arrested on matters such as unpaid traffic tickets and other misdemeanors. Some people do resist arrest or become distraught, but most don't. But then it turns out that more blacks were being handcuffed than whites. The rule came down that everyone had to be handcuffed. Children, old ladies, city officials, anyone who is being taken to police stations in arrest has to be handcuffed now. Stories of rabbis who had unpaid parking tickets being hauled off in chains after a routine traffic stop still get in the papers.
Rules rather than discretion: it seems like a great idea in principle. In practice it turns out to be the TSA. That may well be what happened here.
But I am overjoyed to find that the original story is not true.
More tonight. I must get down to the Convention Center for PDC.
Subject: Katrinadata web site explanation
I contacted the owner of the Katrinadata website and according to him:
1. He put the site up to fill a then-obvious need.
2. He found that several other high-profile sites were set up shortly after that provided the same and better data.
3. He didn't think anyone had particularly noticed his site.
4. Rather than clutter the web further (he saw an article that said more than 5,000 Katrina web sites had been set up) and getting in the way of search engine results for sites that were going to be more actively maintained, he took down the website and redirected it to the article on Annoy.com.
The owner said he would put the links back up for archival purposes, but had not done so at the time I sent you this email.
So we know that at least the site wasn't hacked.
Subject: Swift 12 September
Another busy day. We headed out to sea from Pensacola. We've been in and out of there so many times, I think it is our new home port. We were headed towards Mobile when we received a call that USNS Patuxent would be very late due to delays in her replenishment schedule. This was further complicated by the fact Mobile has a very long and narrow approach and a tanker was coming down it. We have another date with the Big Easy tomorrow so we changed our plans.
First we conducted a high speed fly by of USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75). After going around her at 40 knots we dropped to a complete stop in less than a minute. There is no other ship in the fleet that can match our speed, maneuverability and versatility.
USNS Patuxent was anchored nearby and we did another Rafting. This time the line up was our stern to her bow. Once again the Captain worked his magic and we were soon loading over 200 pallets of food, stores, parts, MRE's, water, etc. This was in addition to the food we took on in Pensacola. At the same time we took on fuel for ourselves.
Tomorrow, we head up to New Orleans and offload everything to United States Ships Iwo Jima, Tortuga and Shreveport. They in turn will use it for as their role as headquarters for the Katrina Task Force. Our last record on Saturday was five and a half hours down the river, twelve hours pier in New Orleans to pier in Pensacola. Given tomorrow is a work day, I suspect a lot of recovery efforts will be underway and we'll be transiting much more slowly and be careful of our wake.
Godspeed (and see below)
September 13, 2005
Subject: Letter from England
I just got back from an audiology conference, so please bear with me. Things are fairly quiet.
England beat Australia in cricket <http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/ cricket/england/4239254.stm>.
We've got some panic buying of gasolene going on <http:// news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4241162.stm> <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1777960,00.html> .
One of the speakers at the conference had something very interesting to say. He had been trying to tease out the mechanisms that lead to cell death if the cochlea is damaged very early in life, and he had come up with a nice theory involving a single gene. He was uncomfortable with the neatness, so he conducted some further studies, identifying the proteins that change in concentration when the cochlea is damaged at different times. He expected to see data supporting his theory for early damage and more data showing homeostasis for later damage, since that's what we seem to see. Instead, hundreds of proteins were involved--with different proteins for the two conditions. Oops... The point is that if we intend to understand life, we have to live with its incredible complexity. The major journals much prefer to publish the simple one-gene stories and resist publication of scientific papers that suggest the system is as complex as it appears to be experimentally.
-- "If they do that with marks and grades, should they be trusted with experimental data?" Harry Erwin, PhD
Thanks. I am at the Microsoft PDC. Comments later.
Tuesday, September 13th, 2005 2:52 pm Civil Unrest Apparently the civil unrest is continuing... just not here: http://www.khou.com/news/local/crime/stories/khou050913_mh_jonesfight.5342d5ac.html <http://www.khou.com/news/local/crime/stories/khou050913_mh_jonesfight.5342d5ac.html>
A fight broke out between Louisiana evacuees and Houston students at a southeast Houston high school Tuesday morning.
When it was over, three Jones High School students were in the hospital and five were in police custody.
The scene got even uglier when parents arrived
Douglas M. Colbary
Subject: Flooding Map and progress
New Orleans is rapidly being dewatered. This map has max flood depth and currant depth. I am not sure of how they do it.
September 14, 2005
We just completed a massive offload of cargo here in New Orleans. It started yesterday at 1400 (2 PM local) and didn't stop until 2300 (11 PM local). We restarted again this morning at 7 and finished up at 1045. We just offloaded over 200 pallets of frozen, fresh and dry food, MREs, parts and supplies for USS Iwo Jima, Tortuga and Shreveport. We are headed back to Pensacola. We don't have any further directions.
The level of press in New Orleans has dropped to local affiliates, the big network types are starting to leave. That may change tomorrow when the President arrives.
Attached are a couple pictures of us loading the stores onto LCM-8 (Mike eight) boats. Work went on into the night. The crew did a great job. We are getting a lot of people qualified on the cranes, forklifts and the bridge. We are going to call away the Sea and Anchor detail shortly. I'll write when I can.
September 16, 2005
I have been at PDC all week, will catch up tonight.
Subject: N.O. Shooting at Helicopters
FACT - People were sitting on bridges and roof tops watching the helicopters fly overhead.
It's been widely reported that some people fired guns into the air. Most reporters and pundits have concluded that people were shooting AT the helicopters.
There is also the possibility that they were trying to get the pilots attention - standard "lost in the woods" proceedure is to fire gun shots or flares and hope somebody hears you. I would assume that the "rules" probably state that you're not supposed to fire AT people of course,
I haven't seen any direct interviews with the pilots who were there and SAW shots being fired AT THEM.
And there's always the possibility that, after watching the chopper fly over my house 10 times without stopping or even acknowledging my presence somebody snapped and started shooting.
... everyone is so quick to jump to negative conclusions ...
Jim (live from Houston, in the thick of the relief effort working with some really nice people who are tired of nothing but negative stories)
============ Jim Coffey
Subject: Mourning: "The Man" Stomps on MD-Based "Pandora's Cube" -- Another Victory For Corporate Fascism
I personally loved Pandora's Cube. I proudly own several purchases. The store specialized in providing Japanese games and content.
The "chip" I know of allowed the X Boxes to play games from Japan/outside the U.S. and put U.S. games on the hard drive to avoid load times.
5 months in jail and $250,000 for that?
Screw you, ESA.
Thanks. Interesting that a good conservative lawyer like you has this sentiment... What think the rest of you?
Subject: What went right in New Orleans
The politicians screwed up but the competent people did their jobs. This ties in very well with what Phil has been reporting. http://realclearpolitics.com/Commentary/com-9_15_05_LD.html
re: Pandora's Cube owner stomped on
The key point seems to be sales of machines preloaded with pirated software, not the sales of the mod chips. Selling pirated software will always get you in trouble.
Mod chips are great - they make a gaming machine into a very useful accessory in the TV room. Everyone in our family uses the xbox - my wife and I can watch video sent from friends and family, or encoded DVDs and captured TV stored on a samba server, and the boys play games I've copied to the local hard disk. We own legitimate copies of everything, but avoiding having young guys loading and unloading disks saves on a lot of wear and tear. They can't read yet, but recognize the first few letters of their favourite games, which is enough to find them in the menu. Games stored on the hard disk do load significantly faster.
The article states that the store sold boxes with pirated games pre-installed on the hard drive. Either they were, or they weren't. If they were, then they were caught stealing.
If they were in fact merely modifying the X-Box to play games coming from outside the USA, and load games from the hard drive, that is another matter. I wish there were some fitting reward for companies that put nitwit restrictions on their products for marketing reasons.
My personal bugaboo is the DVD region codes; my wife is from Sweden. Our daughter is bilingual in part because she watches DVDs and videotapes in Swedish. Not only must we translate PAL video to NTSC, but the player must also disable the region encoding. I realize that the market for PAL videos is rather small in the USA, but the region codes are an extra, unnecessary irritant.
I don't know why games are region coded. DVDs are coded so movies and videos can be released in foreign markets later than in the USA. They do a silly technological "fix" for a marketing problem. Then, when the fix proves inadequate, they expect Uncle Sam to fix their broken business model with public money!
Code-free DVD players are very common in Europe. All the stores have them for a small extra charge. Universal players and TVs that can display either NTSC or PAL are also common.
Regards, Bob Wakefield
Long-established case law says that if I buy a product, I'm free to do with it as I please. That includes hacking an Xbox to run Linux, for example.
While I don't have the right to make unauthorized duplicates of games and distribute them, I do have the right, for example, to back up a game disc to my hard drive. If this guy was distributing illegal copies of games, fine, drop the big one on him. But if he wasn't doing that, the penalty was completely outrageous.
If Microsoft's business model involves selling hardware at below cost, and I choose to modify that hardware and/or use that hardware for a different purpose, well that's Microsoft's problem. The law doesn't, or shouldn't, guarantee Microsoft a profit. Of course, the DMCA comes into play, but that's arguably one of the worst laws that congress has ever passed.
-- Robert Bruce Thompson
I agree that selling preloads of pirate software is a bad thing, and earns you the attention of the authorities. Was that proven?
What I did on my Summer Vacation
Well, I don’t actually get vacations. I’m self-employed. I get myself to work by swearing I’ll fire myself if I catch myself goofing off again. Then sometimes I sneak away from my computer… This was a good summer.
Westercon was in Calgary, in Canada. There was the usual entertainment, panels and so forth, and— The best restaurant in town was just close enough: four blocks from the hotel, through a park to a little island, with benches all the way. Perfect for Marilyn: her new knees are good enough if she rests. We went twice, with the Dohertys and with the Browns.
Folk kept reminding me and Marilyn that we’re coming back in 06 as Guests of Honor.
I hadn’t seen Mom’s old house at Hermosa Beach in years: she no longer uses it. I saw it twice this summer. Once, nephew Tim borrowed it, and I went down for a swim and dinner. I don’t call it a summer unless I can ride a wave. Later I brought Steven Barnes and Jerry Pournelle there, the first time they’ve ever seen that part of my life. Our intent was to shape a sequel to the Heorot books—or else give up the idea—and for a wonder, we made it work, and smoothly too.
Marilyn had a Lacers Convention in Denver, a week of lessons in lacemaking, in conflict with the WorldCon in Glasgow, Scotland. One reason for missing it. Another was a hotel too far from the convention site, and Marilyn’s knees. Truth is, we never got our act together, never planned a reasonable trip. We hear it was wonderful, but you can’t get to everything.
I got my fill of filking as Toastmaster at ConChord. It’s a little filkers’ convention held just down Topanga Plaza from my home. At one point I listened to an hour of songs derived from my books. Egotist that I am, I love that. I’m not the world’s best Toastmaster, though, given my failure to remember names.
The Writers (and Illustrators) of the Future Awards Ceremony was in Seattle, and they wanted their judges. Marilyn’s not up to Tourist plane seats, so she didn’t go. I got them to send me up two days early. I took a puddle-jumper from SeaTac to my sister’s home in the San Juan Islands.
Their whole family was there: two sons, their wives and children. I stayed with Cynthia (sister) and Z (brother-in-law.) They have a wonderful house surrounded by woods and overlooking a drop to the ocean. Two mornings running, from their balcony, we watched orcas swim past a tiny island. They keep binoculars very handy. There’s a sculpture garden on the island: lots of wilderness with lots of paths, and sculpture in the widest sense, popping up with no predictability at all.
Then back to Seattle on a seaplane. We came in right above the Space Needle and Science Fiction Museum at its base.
That’s where the WOTF held their ceremony. It’s always a wonderful chance to see everyone you know in the business. The site was very well done, with an extensive backdrop built on site next door. We snatched several hours to troop through the Science Fiction Museum. It’s very nice,without excessive emphasis on media. What the hell, visual memories are the meat of any museum, and I was delighted at the old spacecraft, planets, skyscapes.
Dinner in the Space Needle, all of us in tuxedoes and fancy dresses, and a few minutes snatched for a view from the top. Then the ceremonies…which do always seem to drag on and on, but the winners love them…and a hell of a party upstairs.
I was back in Seattle two weeks later, with Marilyn, at NASFIC.
This was fun. Marilyn spent a lot of time in the main hall, sitting the table for next year’s Worldcon in LA. Friends found her there. I ran the marathon: two hotels and the Convention Center, and a very user-friendly shuttle van. In the CC there was a huge finned spacecraft built already wrecked. The creator is looking to sell it. The Kaffee Klatches didn’t include coffee, a situation that always ticks me off a little. Panels ran smoothly or almost, and they had me booked pretty solidly. We got to the Masquerade and enjoyed it very much.
Sunday, at the Heinlein Banquet, Jerry Pournelle and I were given the Robert A. Heinlein Award for fiction or technical writings intended to get our asses off the Earth.
The flight home: uneventful. That took us past Labor Day, and summer’s over.
Stories to judge for WOTF. They’re all retyped in the same typeface. “Do not blame typos on the author,” we’re told. Then I run into a character who waived his arm— Waived his arm. A startling sight. Must have been a lawyer. It disappeared right to the shoulder, leaving a pink blur for a stump.
But the stories are a good crop.
Three collaborations are all on track. My turn with the Bowl of Heaven (with Greg Benford.) Ed Lerner is ginning along. So is Steve Barnes. Jerry Pournelle and I need to start hiking again: we no longer have the excuse that it’s too hot.
And in fact I am catching up on mail while waiting for Larry to appear for a hike up the hill. (Which went well...)
September 17, 2005
A couple of things
First, there is an urban legend that has been floating around about the Swiffer. I got one version and checked it here:
(I know, snopes has an agenda. But in this case it seems well enough documented.)
Second, I continue to have great success in Outlook 2002 by offloading as much from outlook.pst as possible. I keep yearly subject pst files: Folks, Humor, Misc. and running pst files for special people. The pst files that I keep open show up on the folder list along with the Personal Folders file. The nice thing is that Outlook remembers which pst files you have open, so you don't have to open them each time.
I have been using this system since at least Outlook 98, so most of your readers could use it too.
The Swiffer legend worried me until I read the entire contents. Snopes has an agenda, but it's only an agenda; I haven't found them making anything up, and as you say, this refutation of the rumor seems well enough documented. I will continue to use my Swiffer. (I have a bit about using Swiffer in an upcoming column.)
I am not sure how you get Outlook to put things in what you are calling open files. I do try to keep my outlook.pst file down to size, but I can't really do it. Of course I get more mail than you, and have a far larger contacts list (as well as the subscriber list) than most people. I probably need to study more about outlook.pst management.
RE: DVD Region Codes
Just a note for fellow reader Mr. Wakefield (and any others that enjoy original language films): there are a number of (usually very economical, if not downright cheap) DVD Players which will play both North American (reg.1) and European DVDs (reg.2) without the slightest hitch, they just aren't usually advertised as such. I presume that since they do both without a hiccup, they would play the rest (Asia, ecc.) too, but don't have any of the other regions to test.
I moved to Italy (reg.2 PAL), so my daughters' grandparents and relatives tend to send DVDs without realizing there are problems.
I found two of my last three DVD players in the states on vacations, and they were amongst the most economical available. One was a Sam's Club Special (don't remember the brand/model, but maybe Daewoo), and another was a similar deal at another chain (Cyberhome 300 which is dual-voltage to boot, I don't even need the transformer).
I don't know if it's a general rule, but both were clearly indicated as being both PAL/NTSC compatible (meaning the girls watch Little House on the Prarie TV NTSC videos on our PAL TV) and Multilingual menus, and the second time the salesman was very helpful, informing me that many Polish immigrants to the area specifically bought that same model to watch their Polish DVDs.
I don't think either had the usually prominent "1" on a stylized world map printed on the box, but the second might have had it anyway (but the salesman's reassurance convinced me to buy it anyway - he wasn't on commission so what was it to him?).
While looking for these, I did read on the Internet that there are also many models that can have the RegionCode check disabled by a model-specific combination of commands/key presses given through the remote control and/or front panel buttons, but have been lucky enough to find models that didn't need even that.
I suspect that to cut corners, someone in engineering just didn't spec the inclusion of the RegionCode software/chip, which is why these models cost LESS than the others on display.
They don't seem to be particularly robust (the first conked out after a little less then two years, but with relatively high usage and on a voltage transformer), and every once in a while (particularly on older NTSC TV originals) if the disc is a little dirty it tends to skip/freeze or is identified as a Bad Disc. A quick blow to get off the dust and retrying usually does the trick. I don't think the video quality is exceptional either, but then we end up watching mostly children's stuff, so it isn't critical. But I figure what can you expect for $35 when other models sell for many times that?
I hope this information is useful to Mr. Wakefield and your other readers.
James Siddall jr
September 18, 2005
China grapples with
legacy of its missing girls.
Subject: 9/11 generated an efflorescence of bureaucracy
The FEMA response to Katrina illustrates the fact that a major effect of 9/11 was an efflorescence of bureaucracy in the new Department of Homeland Security. Example: Doctors coming to the New Orleans airport were not allowed to treat patients, because they weren't FEMA certified. The media have reported many such examples.
It seems to me that some burst of bureaucracy was inevitable, because there haven't been terrorist attacks within the homeland since 9/11, so the main occupation of the Department officials has had to be the creation and enforcement of regulations. Still I suppose it needn't have been as bad as it turned out to be.
Appointing an admiral for on-the-spot management was a good idea. At least he doesn't have a career in the Department of Homeland Security to protect. If he offends someone, he can go back to the Coast Guard.
Indeed. Why bureaucracy is the answer to everything in a once free nation is hard to fathom, but it is. Welcome to the future.
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