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Monday  April 24, 2006

There was considerable mail of importance Sunday


Subject: Re: March Madness Never Stops

Speaking of evil, how about the proposed replacement for the DMCA?

+digital+copyright +bill/2100-1028_3-6064016.html

Kind of like the DMCA on steroids.

Robert Bruce Thompson

Something else to worry about. Thanks.


Subject: Wireless Bionic Arm Would Feel Real

Remember the recruiting sergeant in "Starship Troopers"? We might be closer to that than thought.


Work on artificial arms that would be controlled by the human mind is ramping up thanks to a helping financial hand from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

DARPA announced in February

that it would pour $55 million into a prosthetic arm research project to be led by Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory. The work will be spread among more than two dozen institutions.

Today, the University of Utah announced a $10 million contract, as part of the overall project, to develop a "peripheral nerve interface." The implanted device would relay nerve impulses wirelessly from what’s left of a limb to a computer worn on the person’s belt. From there, the signals would be routed to a bionic arm and back to the remainder of the amputated arm, where they would then flow naturally back to the brain.

"Imagine an artificial arm that moves naturally in response to your thoughts, that allows you to feel both the outside world and your own movements, and that is as strong and graceful as an intact, biological limb," said bioengineer Greg Clark, the University of Utah's principal investigator on the project. "That's what our researchers, teaming with others around the world, are setting out to achieve.”

Petronius The Arbiter Of Taste


Subject: Evaluating teachers and mobbing

It is interesting that JOHN GRAVOIS's article on mobbing concentrates on higher education. This kind of thing is rampant at all levels. In my own experience, I "retired' from teaching HS math when it was clear that I would be given the most "challenged" students with the clear intent of replacing me with a favored friend of the department head. Rather than fight, I left and started my own business. Vindictiveness is not conducive to a happy life, so forget it. Living well is the best revenge. The point, however, is that evaluating teachers by performance is resisted for precisely the reason that performance can be manipulated. Assigning effective calculus teachers to ninth grade general math classes is all too prevalent when administrators have hidden agendas. Not all bullying takes place on the playground.

David Connor


Subject: State-provided noodle salad

Dear Sir

A nice summary of the "No Adult Left Behind" economy in America:


KE --


From another conference:


This is a very powerful way of making the point. Thanks for posting this.


(Of course, I see group differences as the "pornography of public policy", so I am not sure I want this point made on prime-time TV.)


 Here is another review of Richard Lynn's new book. It is available in both pb and casebound (w/dust jacket) from the publisher. http://WSPublishers.com




Race differences in intelligence: An evolutionary analysis by Richard Lynn. Washington Summit Publishers, Augusta, Georgia, 2006. ISBN-13: 978-1-59368-021-3

Review by John Ray

Maverick academics such as Frank Ellis in Britain and Andrew Fraser in Australia have recently attracted some press with their public declarations that they believe that there are differences in average IQ between whites and blacks. So this book is a timely one.

The essential thing to note about this book is that it is NOT an expression of opinion. It is an attempt to do something far more difficult -- an attempt to gather together ALL the available scientific evidence on its topic. Let me give you a little personal anecdote to show you how hard that is.

Like Lynn, I am a psychometrician (specialist in psychological measurement) but my interest is in measuring attitudes and personality. And one of my interests is in how to measure ambition (what psychologists call achievement motivation). And roughly once a year somebody publishes a new set of questions designed to do that. But nobody ever seems to be aware of all the previous attempts in the same field. Typically, they seem to know of only two or three attempts to measure ambition in that way. On a couple of occasions, psychologists have published what they thought was a comprehensive survey of the literature in the field but the best of them could find (from memory) no more than 16 such articles in the academic literature. So a couple of years later I published a catalogue of such articles. And I found around 70 such!

How come? It is because the standard resources for searches of the academic literature are very imperfect. They miss heaps. You cannot instantly acquire a knowledge of the findings on a topic simply by doing a search. You have to be a specialist in the field who continually has an eye out for interesting findings and who systematically collects such findings over a period of many years. Richard Lynn is such a person in the field of IQ. Lynn's book is, in other words, about as authoritative as you can get. And in comparison with the measly 70 articles that I could find on my topic, Lynn records over 500 surveys of IQ.

So what the book tells us is not what Richard Lynn thinks. Lynn of course has his opinions and he does express them (he argues, for instance, that an evolutionary history of coping with cold winters selects for high intelligence) but that is not what the book is primarily about. What the book shows us is what the entire body of scientific research on the subject stretching back over the last 100 years or more has shown. And, as all psychometricians know, the findings are remarkably uniform. There is normally a huge gap between the average scores of African-origin populations and European-origin populations. Brilliant blacks do of course exist. The person whom I quote most on my blog is an African-American (Thomas Sowell). But brilliant (high IQ) people are simply much rarer in African-origin populations than in European ones. And all the studies of the genetics of IQ show its transmission to be overwhelmingly genetic.<snip>


On what may or may not be a related subject:

Most Human-chimp Differences Due To Gene Regulation http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/03/060309190112.htm 

Source: University of Chicago Medical Center Posted: March 10, 2006

The vast differences between humans and chimpanzees are due more to changes in gene regulation than differences in individual genes themselves, researchers from Yale, the University of Chicago, and the Hall Institute in Parkville, Victoria, Australia, argue in the 9 March 2006 issue of the journal Nature.

The scientists provide powerful new evidence for a 30-year-old theory, proposed in a classic paper from Mary-Claire King and Allan Wilson of Berkeley. That 1975 paper documented the 99-percent similarity of genes from humans and chimps and suggested that altered gene regulation, rather than changes in coding, might explain how so few genetic changes could produce the wide anatomic and behavioral differences between the two.

Using novel gene-array technology to measure the extent of gene expression in thousands of genes simultaneously, this study shows that as humans diverged from their ape ancestors in the last five million years, genes for transcription factors -- which control the expression of other genes -- were four times as likely to have changed their own expression patterns as the genes they regulate.<snip>


Maybe we aren't doing things that much differently than chimps. Brain size could have been 90% of the equation of human evolution -- not new mental modules, new ways of organizing everything -- just size. (Of course the other 10% is still important -- think Neanderthals.)



Opening a new debate?


Prison rape is "cruel and unusual punishment".




Blank Slate

Jailhouse Blues

Jeffrey Ian Ross 04.18.06, 6:00 PM ET

Keith DeBlasio was 28 when he was sentenced to five years in federal prison for passing $200,000 in forged cashiers' checks across state lines. He had never committed a violent crime. During his first two months of incarceration, he was repeatedly raped, and his cellmate threatened to stab him. He is now HIV positive. A similar fate befell Garrett Cunningham in 2000. While incarcerated at the Luther Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, he was repeatedly raped by a correctional officer.

American jails and prisons don't work.

Prisons are meant to protect the community, but incarcerating people has minimal effect on the crime rate. Violent offenders are released to make way for nonviolent first time offenders, and most people, if they survive the prison experience, are worse off when they get out. About two-thirds of all inmates released from prisons are rearrested within three years.

Prisons are meant to punish those who have committed a crime, but usually do so with excessive and unintended cruelty. Violence, including sexual assault, is rampant. The unsanitary living conditions, combined with the absence of adequate health and medical care, mean that prison inmates and workers are highly susceptible to life-threatening diseases like AIDS, hepatitis, TB and food poisoning. These problems frustrate inmates and often lead to anger, depression and more violence.<snip>

I am all for jailing violent offenders and career criminals; but is it really "fair" to insist that the non-violent white collar criminal be raped as part of his punishment? Because most of this came about through an insistence on "fairness" and "equality".

The prison system doesn't work. Does anything?

See below


Subject: NEWSWEEK: Duke rape victim's story tripped up by modern technology

The DNA does not match, and the defendant was on his cellphone during the alleged "rape".

> Chan Hall, 22, said, "It's the same old story.
> Duke up, Central down." Hall said he wanted to
> see the Duke students prosecuted "whether it
> happened or not. It would be justice for things
>that happened in the past."



I have not been following this closely. Do we have anyone who knows?

And see below


Subject: Immigration in Mexico

Hi Jerry,

As long as you published the one letter from an American working in Mexico, don't overlook Fred's latest column, which is about exactly this. An excerpt:

"I think the law entirely reasonable - provided that you realize that the Mexican government exists for the benefit of Mexicans, not gringos."


"Mexico is much less a police state, much less watched, tapped, bugged, cross-reference, data-based, regulatred, intimidated, regimented and politically correct than the US."

To which I can add, judging from my few visits to Mexico: there is the "Mexico" that once experiences as a tourist, and a completely different one when one gets away from the area where tourists (and especially Americans) are regularly encountered.

The latter comment deserves clarification: The USA is perceived as very domineering in Mexico, and American tourists are stereotypically rude and demanding. This has an inevitable effect on Mexican attitudes, and Americans are often treated less politely than other nationalities. I quickly learned to point out that I was from Switzerland...








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Tuesday,  April 25, 2006

Subject: living in Mexico

Dr. Pournelle,

I have never heard of anyone having so much trouble moving to/living in Mexico. I have read both the letter from Brad as well as Fred Reed's latest post on his column:


and I tend to agree a bit more with Fred. I've been to Mexico several times (for months at a time, not the tourist areas either) and while I myself have never gotten FM3 status, I know a few Americans who have. They did not have to go to anywhere near the trouble that Brad seems to have gone through.

Something to keep in mind is that in Mexico, government tends to be a slightly more entrepreneurial enterprise than in the States. I suspect that Brad went to the wrong law firm and paid too much Bakshesh to the wrong people. The impression I got is that the only things they really cared about were 1. You were not smuggling drugs or guns and 2. that you had a reasonably steady income and were going to contribute to the economy. The rest of the forms/documents that he had to provide were just an excuse for lining someone's pockets. They are avoidable if you do it right. I would be curious to hear Fred's opinion on this.

There is one key point on which I differ with Fred. He said:

"I think the law entirely reasonable - provided that you realize that the Mexican government exists for the benefit of Mexicans, not gringos."

I would change this to read; I think the law entirely reasonable - provided that you realize that the Mexican government exists for the benefit of the Mexican Government, not gringos.

In this way it is much more like the U.S. Government than we might think, except that in the states you have to pay the bakshesh a little bit higher up the ladder.

I hope this helps. take care

Matt Kirchner Kirkuk, Iraq

=Which ought to be enough on that subject. Thanks


Subject: Pournelle's Iron Law...


"I think Director [of National Intelligence John] Negroponte has battles to fight within the bureaucracy, and particularly with the Department of Defense. DOD is refusing to recognize that the director of national intelligence is in charge of the intelligence community."--Sen. Susan Collins"

"Unable to persuade the president from invading Iraq or to stop him from pushing for a more flexible military with an expanded role around the world, it seems the critics are now trying to throw sand in the gears of the military machine in the hope that it will grind to a halt. It's hard to see how this serves the national interest."


Charles Brumbelow

Today's LA Times had a story about how teacher unions tout some of the most fee-laden retirement plans in existence, because the vendors of those plans contribute to the union. Don't call that kick-backs... The Iron Law is intact.


Subject: Parallel Universes?

Both of these items appeared in today's "Washington Times Insider", Dr. Pournelle:


"Hundreds of Mexican nationals who wear government-issued uniforms, carry official identification cards and are authorized to use weapons are helping smugglers move tons of drugs into the United States, U.S. law-enforcement officials say."


"President Bush yesterday ruled out deporting the estimated 12 million illegal aliens in the United States and also praised a plan that offers a path to citizenship for many current illegal aliens."


Charles Brumbelow

I am shocked...


Subject: Private Navies

Dr. Pournelle,

More on Piracy and related subjects:


Is it not the job of a country's navy to protect it's shipping? Where is our Navy? No doubt many of the ships transiting this area are American. Why can we not deal with this problem? This is worth some debate. Also, in case you have not heard of it, the following site is an excellent resource on this and other related subjects.



Matt Kirchner Kirkuk, Iraq

See Below


Subject: The Duke Story

>Subject: NEWSWEEK: Duke rape victim's story

Living just a few miles down the road from Duke, I’ve been following the story with moderate interest. There’s certainly numerous reasons for skepticism. Among them:

1) A prosecutor up for reelection next month who seems to have latched on the case as a publicity bonanza. Most of the early news came from leaks and statements from the prosecutors office. As his allegations have shown exceedingly difficult to prove, he’s begun to clam up.

2) Defense attorneys striking back by leaking their own favorable ‘facts’ without actually disclosing anything germane

3) A history of antagonism between the privileged upper-class student body of Duke University embedded in a gritty and declining lower-middle class, heavily minority town, Durham

4) Allegations of unsavory conduct in the past by the so-far unidentified alleged assault victim

5) Allegations that the alleged victim has told several stories

6) Allegations that there is documentary evidence contradicting portions of the allegations

7) A great deal of automatic acceptance/rejection of the allegations/counter-allegations based on the predispositions of the observers rather than the facts (damn few) thus far revealed.

That having been said, the University and the Lacrosse team have hardly covered themselves in glory. The party held off-campus at a house rented by three members including a captain of the team was and had been apparently had been a site of much under-aged drinking and rowdy behavior. The team hired two strippers to perform at midnight on a weeknight during the playing season at a keg party? What would my old football coach have said?

The bottom line is that any judgment at this point is premature, no one outside the police and DA’s departments have any real knowledge of the facts, and all parties need to cool their jets and let the justice system prove (or not) what (if any) offenses were committed.

-- Cecil Rose alabama@earthlink.net

Apex, NC



Subject: Cracks in the Education Establishment


Well someone is learning to recognize that choice and testing can make a difference. An article today in the National Post discusses how the Edmonton School Board had changed after instituting a voucher system....Of course, they only expect that kids must learn to read by grade 3! Myself, I lasted all of four days in grade one. The teacher was shocked to discover that I had not just been looking at the pictures in the reader but had actually read to about page 25 while she was still on page one and "See Dick and Jane". The next week I was in a combined grade 2 & 3!

Entire article follows as it is behind a 'members only' wall...abstract as desired. I cannot seem to grab a link.



 Edmonton's public school system became one of the best in North America by taking a free-market approach that could offer lessons for Toronto, says a former superintendent of the Alberta board.

Angus McBeath said the Edmonton board decided in 2001 that parents could send their child to any school in the city, and publicized performance results to help them choose.

Now, 57% of students in Edmonton do not go to a school in their jurisdiction. The result: improved test scores.

Since 2001, the high school graduation rate has risen to 71% from 63%.

Mr. McBeath was in Toronto yesterday to show public school officials in the city how the Edmonton model works.

The stop is part of a North American tour with the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies and the Society for Quality Education, which is based in Toronto.

Ontario public schools are bleeding students to the private system -- the number of private schools has doubled to 1,000 in the past 10 years, by one estimate -- and Mr. McBeath said elements from Edmonton's method can be implemented anywhere.

According to Doretta Wilson, the executive director for the Society for Quality Education, there's a reason that private education in Ontario has been growing.

"It's a serious decision that parents don't make on a whim," Ms. Wilson said.

"Parents will choose private if they have that option or especially if they are frustrated with the system," Mr. McBeath said. "In Edmonton, hardly anyone goes to private school any more."<snip>

I continue to contend we ought to double a first grade teacher's pay if all -- 100% -- of the kids in the class can read at the end of the year, 50% bonus if all but one can read. But that won't happen.

Kids of normal intelligence who can't learn to read in first grade are very rare.


Subject: Prison system

The prison system is not broke. It is working exactly as purposed. The confusion stems from the purpose.

Most right-wingers, myself one of them, expect the purpose of prison to be punishment. 'Let the punishment fit the crime', or some such nonsense.

Most liberals expect the purpose of prison to be rehabilitation. 'It's societies fault, let us make up for the miserable life we have imposed on this poor victim of poverty in America, that a fault of the nasty right-wingers'.

The truth, unpublicized by those in charge of the prison systems, is that the purpose of prisons is to separate law breakers from society. Effectively, the US prison system is a collection of human warehouses organized similarly across state lines.

The statement on recidivism is overly generalized. Recidivism diminishes rapidly as convicts pass the age of 40. I guess you could conclude that most of these convicts finally grow tired of their first career (prison is a society unto itself), and go ahead and make a belated go of it on the outside.

No cited facts to back this up, only my observations from having dealt with the 'victim' system, the counterpart to the 'Justice' system, for 8 years earlier in my life.

Don't expect much more from our prison system than separation of law breakers (caught) from the rest of us (uncaught).

Rod Wittler

I am not convinced that embezzlers deserve a death sentence from AIDS or life on drug cocktails; and the drug cocktails probably cost more than the crime did. There needs to be some other way of working this problem.


Subject: Jane Jabobs RIP

 'Cities' Author Jane Jacobs Dies at 89

Notable if only for her influence on how we now live in cities, and for her feud with Mumford.

'Cities' Author Jane Jacobs Dies at 89

Jane Jacobs, an author and community activist of singular influence whose classic "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" transformed ideas about urban planning, died Tuesday, her publisher said. Jacobs, a longtime resident of Toronto, was 89.

Her impact transcended borders. Basing her findings on deep, eclectic reading and firsthand observation, Jacobs challenged assumptions she believed damaged modern cities — that neighborhoods should be isolated from each other, that an empty street was safer than a crowded one, that the car represented progress over the pedestrian.

One of her favorite phrases was "in the real world." She continued a long tradition of American pragmatism, from Benjamin Franklin to John Dewey and William James. She believed ideas should come from experience as opposed to the other way around.

"Death and Life" emerged from her reporting. Not only did it attack canonical beliefs in city planning, it attacked such canonical figures as Moses and historian Lewis Mumford.

She specifically criticized Mumford, author of "The Culture of Cities," for his misguided attachment to the anti-city philosophy, and Moses for his dogmatic attachment to the automobile.

Her arguments were clearly heard. Mumford, who had praised Jacobs' magazine work as "devastatingly just," dismissed her as a "sloppy novice." Moses told her publisher, Random House, that "Death and Life" was "intemperate and inaccurate, and also libelous."

Petronius The Arbiter Of Taste



It is an accepted role by Navies in general, that one of their jobs is to fight piracy. It is also the job of the RN and the USN to suppress the African Slave Trade.

But look at this problem from a matter of "whose" navy should be paying for the costs for piracy patrols.

How many US flagged vessels do you think are located more than 100 miles off the US coastline?

The only US flagged passenger ships are out in Hawaii (reason being only US flag ships can go directly between US ports). Similar reasons for freighters.

I was a Naval Officer back in the Stone Age, and even then it was hard to find a US commercial ship.

Let the Liberians, Panamanians, etc pay for security.





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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Jane Jacobs

Hi Jerry.

One of the things I hoped to do today was to get a hold of one or more of Jane Jacobs' books in preparation for a town information meeting on traffic flow on my street (I already own Dark Ages Ahead). The city is proposing changes, I'm not sure I agree with those changes, and I need to do some research. Given that Jane Jacobs was already in my thoughts, I was doubly surprised and troubled to glance at the front page of the Globe and Mail this morning to discover that she had died:


May she rest in peace, and may her writings continue to have positive influence on society. I only hope that it is enough influence.

Mike Casey

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada


Pictures from Harry Erwin

Subject: Zakros Pictures

I've put some of them up: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php 

-- Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland. <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw>

It is my belief that Zakros was the main naval base on Crete of the Minoan Empire. Thera was a center of naval power as well. I've been over the ground there, and also looked into the coastline prior to the Thera disaster. Of course all this was 30 years ago, but I don't think there has been a lot of excavation since then. Given Mediterranean weather, the Eastern end of Crete is the logical place for naval power; Knossos isn't very convenient for commerce.

But this is all from memory from a long time ago when I was plotting an Atlantis/Minoan novel.


Subject: Alex and Domain Names (Byte Item)

Alex didn't mention it, Dr. Pournelle, but something else of concern with expiring domain names is hostile squatting. We were formerly known by the call letters "WDCN" and "WDCN-TV". We changed out call letters to "WNPT" and let the domain names associated with the old call letters lapse. Those were grabbed by someone and repointed to porn sites. You can imagine how that went over with public television viewers! If memory serves, we negotiated the ransom down to about $500.

Charles Brumbelow, CFO Nashville Public Television

The ransom for ChaosManor.com would have been that I allow them to host my web site. I declined, and I still do not own that despite having used the Chaos Manor tag for my column for 20 years before the web. Ah well. It now seems to have vanished but I can't get the domain name. It was held by a bunch of writers in Iowa.


Subject: "green shirt" proposes ebola as a solution to the scourge of mankind

Dr. Pournelle,

Have you seen the article, "Meeting Doctor Doom," in The Citizen Scientist? It's no real surprise that radical greens hold the views described there, but that the person described recieved an award as 2006 Distinguished Texas Scientist from the Texas Academy of Science at the meeting where he gave the speech reminded me of the vast chasm that sometimes seems to lie between the current crop of "Academia Nuts" and most other folks...


"...But there was a gravely disturbing side to that otherwise scientifically significant meeting, for I watched in amazement as a few hundred members of the Texas Academy of Science rose to their feet and gave a standing ovation to a speech that enthusiastically advocated the elimination of 90 percent of Earth's population by airborne Ebola. The speech was given by Dr. Eric R. Pianka, the University of Texas evolutionary ecologist and lizard expert who the Academy named the 2006 Distinguished Texas Scientist...."

It occurs to me that the reception the proposed genocide recieved reminded me of the ' "Mobbing" Academic Opponents' info you had posted Sunday.

BTW, I first saw this referenced at http://www.tmhbaconbits.net/2006/04/25/beware-green-shirts/  where the poster drew an interesting analogy to fascists of another stripe from years past. *heh*

David Needham -- http://www.thirdworldcounty.us/

I have conflicting versions of what happened at that meeting, but most of it doesn't surprise me much. When the story first came out I waited for confirmation or at least some details, then trips and other work got in the way; and I suppose it was adequately covered in other places. I am not sure it's terribly important except as a source of bile.

"You must be an intellectual. No ordinary person would have said an outrageous thing like that," said George Orwell once; and it is a remark I can make fairly often.

But it is easy to see the origins of Leninism, and from thence Stalinism, and the appeal of such to intellectuals, and perhaps that is the lesson. I don't know the qualifications for election to the Texas Academy of Science.


Subject: What's Important? The NFL Draft of Course

For a change of pace, Dr. Pournelle...


"The NFL Draft 2005 attracted 34 million viewers over two days. This year, two cable networks will combine for more than 33 hours of coverage on Saturday and Sunday, plus new Internet programming and live updates on cell phones and other wireless devices."

"...there are roughly three times as many publications and Web sites devoted to draft prognostication -- nearly 700, according to some estimates -- as there are players chosen each year."

"Early on, there was this question of, why would you televise this, with some people calling it a nonevent," said John Wildhack, ESPN's senior vice president for programming acquisitions and strategy. "Now, it's established itself as the signature event of the springtime."

Enjoy -- and don't forget to tune in.

Charles Brumbelow


Subject: Geroges Sada


Wonder what you think of this, or if anyone can shed some light? On one hand I hear he is just a house organ for the Christian Right, on the other hand I hear he is shedding light on the WMD issue.

Brice Yokem

I have no data on the veracity of General Sada; I do wonder why there has been so little open discussion except in specialized places. He has been on radio interviews (probably TV as well but I haven't seen them), but he is also promoting a book. I have no idea whether the Agency takes him seriously; they certainly don't seem to have commented much.

It is clear to me that Saddam wanted his neighbors to believe he had WMD while hoping to convince the UN and the USA that he didn't have any. It is also clear to me that it hardly mattered: he was as deterred as any person could be. He should have been preserved as a balance to Iran ("Too bad both sides can't lose in the Iran/Iraq wars," said Henry Kissinger); but Bush Senior's silly career Foreign Service Ambassador wasn't up to explaining to Saddam that invading Kuwait was verboten. We should not have invaded Iraq the first time (as I said then), because it wasn't necessary to protect the real interests of the United States, and went a long way toward destroying the Republic.

The WMD debate is a chimera; we ought to be debating what are the vital national interests of the United States of America in the Middle East, and is relying on the Military a better way to stabilize energy supplies as opposed to relying on technology and hemispheric resources; and if using the military is the proper way to assure energy, are we going about it in the right way?

I continue to believe that technological approaches to energy supply and the use of the military to secure the United States are more important than planting democracy in a country that will vote to send us home at its first plebiscite.


Voodoo Dolls In China.


--- Roland Dobbins

Those who cease to believe in God will believe in anything, said Chesterton, and while there are obvious exceptions, it's something to consider.


Subject: Nano-Pen Writes in Tiny Letters 

The Most Amazing Thing I've Seen...This Week:


University of Arkansas researchers use a newly developed nano-manufacturing technique called Electronic Pen Lithography (EPS) to etch the letters “NSF” into a gold sheet. Each hole is only 10 nanometers in diameter; one nanometer is one billionth of a meter.

EPL uses a sharpened tip the size of a single atom to apply an electric charge through a thin film of oil molecules onto a target surface. Researchers think the long chain-like oil molecules are acting like “nano-wires” connecting the tool-tip and the target surface.

Researchers speculate that EPL could be used to create nanopores that can detect DNA, nanoscale bridges for use in electronic devices, molecular sieves for protein sorting and nanojets for fuel or drug delivery.

We live in amazing times, never doubt. Just Imagine! (with apologies to Fredric Brown)

Petronius The Arbiter Of Taste


Language of Prairie Dogs Includes Words for Humans


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ Prairie dogs, those little pups popping in and out of holes on vacant lots and rural rangeland, are talking up a storm. They have different "words'' for tall human in yellow shirt, short human in green shirt, coyote, deer, red-tailed hawk and many other creatures.

They can even coin new terms for things they've never seen before, independently coming up with the same calls or words, according to Con Slobodchikoff, a Northern Arizona University biology professor and prairie dog linguist.

Prairie dogs of the Gunnison's species, which Slobodchikoff has studied, speak different dialects in Grants and Taos, N.M.; Flagstaff, Ariz.; and Monarch Pass, Colo., but they would likely understand one another, the professor says.

"So far, I think we are showing the most sophisticated communication system that anyone has shown in animals,'' Slobodchikoff said.

Now if they start using tools, we can stop worrying about the "jobs Americans won't do", and use them as landscapers.

The nest time I trip on a prairie dog hole on a hile, I can swear in the local vernacular, if they publish a Prairie Dog Lexicon.

Petronius The Arbiter Of Taste

They should study Sable, who talks much of the time. I am convinced she believes she has a language that we are too stupid to learn, but she keeps trying.



CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Subject: Maybe that should have been run past the focus groups first.

Nintendo has today announced the official name of their new console, previously under the project name Revolution, will be called Wii. Rhymes with we.

That's right. By this time next year, Nintendo expect people of all ages to be asking their friends if they'd like to come over and play with their Wii.

Thus parts the Seventh Seal...




David comments:

Alternative English: Whee!
French: Oui
Portuguese: Uy (tr: Ugh)


And Eric adds:

Also 'good' in Japanese but in the US and UK, they got big problems. I imagine a press conference where a flustered executive demands that his translator explain what's so damn funny.

How many people going to a store asking for a Wii are going to be pointed towards the restrooms?


Now for a serious discussion about Linux and desktops. See reference in view for a start.

Begin with a Linux enthusiast who is, let us say, not high on Microsoft:

Enderle is a Microsoft shill. No one I know takes him seriously, including pro-Microsoft people. His articles, including this one, are always packed with mistakes, distortions, and flat-out lies.

He and with Laura DiDio are laughingstocks.

Which is conclusion, not argument.

re: the Enderle column mentioned in Wednesday's mail
( http://www.technewsworld.com/story/50091.html ), he mentions some reasons I take issue with.

(a) Microsoft's ability to pour co-op dollars onto the OEMs to support advertising, support, etc. This is something of a cart-and-horse issue; if MS hadn't had such a thorough stranglehold on the market over the last decade, using questionable marketing techniques, those funds wouldn't be available to grease the vendors with.

(b) the idea that "because Linux is different, customers tend to place more service calls -- at $85 a call" - how many people actually call the PC vendor, as opposed to calling the neighborhood teenage geek, checking online info, etc? And especially given the ghetto mentality of the non-Windows users (Mac OR Linux), how many of them just work through the problem on their own? This one in particular seems like a strawman argument.

The biggest holdup to my mind to wider adoption of Linux is simply inertia; the vendors could easily provide driver support to that platform if they saw a market there, and the "multiple versions" argument is arguable given the Linux Standard Base configuration that all the major players are subscribing to. Mr. Enderle's argument seems to boil down to the Linux vendors lacking the deep pockets to bribe the OEMs to load their software.

-- Bob Halloran
Jacksonville FL


Subject: Linux as a desktop OS

I read Rob Enderle's article; many of his comments are reasonable. However, I don't agree with his conclusion.

He starts off on weak ground: he simply asserts that OS/2 failed because IBM was not "willing to do what is necessary to win".

For a new product to replace an entrenched product, the new one cannot merely be an adequate replacement; it must be better, and better enough to overcome the inertia of the entrenched product. (If you run Windows, chances are you know someone else who is running Windows and can give you advice; that's the "network effect".)

While OS/2 had some technical advantages over Windows, most companies did not consider it a better product for the desktop. Windows ran well on the computers that companies actually had at the time, and Windows ran the companies' standard DOS applications well. OS/2 required shocking (at the time) amounts of RAM and all-new applications. The technical advantages of OS/2 did not offset the practical disadvantages. Thus, Windows won.

With Windows as entrenched as it is, businesses really don't care if they have to pay an extra $100 or so per computer for Windows. That's less than they pay an employee in a day.

But once a Linux desktop is set up, it just works. It's easy to keep it updated, it doesn't get worms and viruses and spyware, and sneaky web pages can't do things that could crash the whole computer. It takes a nontrivial amount of admin work to keep a Windows system clean and working correctly. If businesses come around to the opinion that Linux saves their employees time, they really won't care if they have to pay for support phone calls instead of getting them for free. (And both IBM and Novell would be happy to offer paid support.)

The fact that Linux is free certainly doesn't hurt. In the short term, it may not make much difference... but when any organization once standardizes on Linux, it will be difficult for any for-profit product to displace it again.

Mr. Enderle is, I think, correct that a fragmented Linux market hurts Linux and helps the entrenched product, i.e. Windows. However, I think the Linux market is already shaking out. There will always be ten thousand little random versions of Linux (some of them really interesting), but in the very near future there will just be three or four really big ones. (My picks for the winners: Red Hat, Ubuntu, and Novell. For home users, Ubuntu by a landslide.)

Mr. Enderle is correct again when he points out that shrill advocates are not an asset. (I recall that you have borne the brunt of displeased Mac fanatics in the past when you wrote something faintly negative about a Macintosh, and that didn't encourage you to write more about Macs.)

There are already a few companies who have standardized on Linux for desktops. They are currently odd and rare, but they are blazing the trail. Companies can contemplate doing what other companies have done. The day may yet come when Linux on the desktop is mainstream.

If Microsoft really wants to protect Windows from Linux, they should:

* Make sure that Vista is stable and secure. If both Windows and Linux are adequate on the desktop, that means Windows wins.

* Make sure that the upgrade from XP to Vista is easier and less expensive than an upgrade from XP to Linux.

* Try to convince customers to adopt Microsoft-proprietary technologies that are not available on Linux. (E.g. A company can lock itself into Windows for *years* by building a company application that requires Active X plugins to use.)

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

My experience with OS/2: I was an enthusiast, and I worked with some of IBM's really sharp technical people, but their executives were for the most part dumber than dirt, and their marketing decisions were appropriate to, well, I grew up saying saying things are now considered insensitive and not PC. Let's say they were not optimum. They did little outreach to the developer community while Microsoft worked its tail off to help developers, and the lack of drivers is what made using OS/2 more appropriate for hobbyists than serious computer users. I know. I tried. Believe me I tried. Recall that I wrote the lead column (back page column, actually) for OS/2 Professional magazine.

Technical merits were not the decision criterion for most who adopted Windows over OS/2. Had IBM chosen to put more resources into OS/2 and done some aggressive marketing with the developer community, we'd all be using OS/2 now.

Continued below


Subject: No Child Gets Ahead...Or Sand Down a Rathole

More for the education thread, Dr. Pournelle:


"Spending on public schools nationwide has skyrocketed to $536 billion as of the 2004 school year, or more than $10,000 per pupil. That's more than double per pupil what we spent three decades ago, adjusted for inflation--and more than we currently spend on national defense ($494 billion as of 2005). But the argument behind lawsuits in 45 states is that we don't spend nearly enough on schools. Spending is so low, these litigants claim, that it is in violation of state constitutional provisions requiring an "adequate" education. And in almost half the states, the courts have agreed."

"A firm led by two education professors, Lawrence Picus and Allan Odden, was paid $350,000 to put a price tag on what would be considered adequate [for Arkansas]. They...recommended policy changes, but the only thing that really mattered, at least as far as the court was concerned, was the bottom line--bringing the total to $4 billion, or $9,000 per pupil [from $7,000+]."

"One might think that relying on court-ordered experts would be more rational and responsible than leaving spending decisions to politicians. The exact opposite is the case. For all of their defects, legislators can be held responsible for wasting taxpayer dollars, while courts and the consultants they mandate generally cannot. This gives courts and consultants license to use pseudoscience to drive education spending higher, where legislators might be more skeptical and frugal."

"If spending more is the answer to inadequate education, it should be the case that schools that spend more per pupil, all else being equal, have higher student achievement.

"As it turns out, they don't. The vast majority of social science studies find no relationship between spending and student achievement. My [JAY P. GREENE's] own analysis of schools in Arkansas finds that schools with more money perform no better than schools with less once student and community background characteristics are controlled. And the fact that per pupil spending has doubled over the past three decades while student achievement has remained stagnant ought to give us a clue that simply spending more won't fix schools. The shortcomings of schools are not generally attributable to the lack of resources, but to a lack of incentives to use resources effectively."


Charles Brumbelow

Tarquin the Proud advised those who would set up a dictatorship to cut off the heads of the tallest poppies to make all equal except the king. Think of colleges of education and gatekeepers.


Subject: Orwell citation is in Notes on Nationalism

Dear Dr Pournelle,

With reference to '"You must be an intellectual. No ordinary person would have said an outrageous thing like that," said George Orwell once...' (in <http://www.jerrypournelle.com/mail/mail411.html#Green> ),

When someone asks you for the Orwell citation, be advised that it can be found in his essay "Notes on Nationalism". Orwell's actual words were: "One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool."

Here's the context; "... The average intellectual of the Left believed, for instance, that the war was lost in 1940, that the Germans were bound to overrun Egypt in 1942, that the Japanese would never be driven out of the lands they had conquered, and that the Anglo-American bombing offensive was making no impression on Germany.

He could believe these things because his hatred for the British ruling class forbade him to admit that British plans could succeed. There is no limit to the follies that can be swallowed if one is under the influence of feelings of this kind.

I have heard it confidently stated, for instance, that the American troops had been brought to Europe not to fight the Germans but to crush an English revolution.

One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool..."

That particular epigram is a favourite of mine too. Many know of it in some other form, usually something like "You have to be an intellectual to believe such nonsense. No ordinary person could be such a fool."

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole System Administrator, OU Physics

Thanks. As I understand it, Orwell liked this sentiment and used it more than once, which explains variants.


Subject: "Doctor Doom" or "The World Is All a Tom Clancy Novel"

Well, Dr. Pianka did speak at the Texas Academy of Sciences annual meeting a few weeks ago. He did mention the possibility of most of human life being wiped out by biological effects. Beyond that, things get murky.

As nearly as I can tell, on one hand you have Forrest Mims (one of the founders of MITS, who is also both a wide-ranging general scientist with a number of key research results and an Intelligent Design advocate). On the other, you have Eric Pianka, who appears to be a scientifically accomplished and only slightly eccentric biologist at the University of Texas. Dr. Pianka's personal website shows no evidence of wild-eyed murderous Green tendencies.


At any rate, according to Wikipedia, Pianka says he was not advocating anything; he was simply predicting what would happen if certain biological trends continue (basic Malthusianism). Wikipedia has some links to other sites on the topic.


The Texas Academy of Science (the people who gave the award) appear to say that Pianka's talk was severely misunderstood. However, the source for this information is itself a pro-evolution advocacy blog (some of the comments at the bottom of the next link are really vicious), the blogger claimed the email was forwarded to him, and he didn't bother to publish the email headers, so it's difficult to evaluate the veracity of the quote. The email is signed "David S. Marsh" and Dr. Marsh heads the Biological Sciences section of the Texas Academy of Sciences.


That site also has some links to other sites, of varying quality. Money quote from the email (if true):

"TAS neither condones nor vilifies Dr. Pianka’s statements. We would like to state, however, that many of Dr. Pianka’s statements have been severely misconstrued and sensationalized."

It sounds like Pianka's talk became a proxy for the war of words between the Intelligent Designers and the Evolutionists. It also is an object lesson in the ability of the Internet to obscure truth. I lean towards Pianka's side, but I would hate to defend either side in court if all I had available was the Internet evidence.

But if a scientist really did advocate killing 90% of humans with Ebola, then that's another thing Tom Clancy predicted along with planes hitting buildings. Maybe I'll go re-read "Rainbow Six" now, just to be ready...

Steve Setzer


Subject: Paging John Christian Falkenberg

Dear Sir:


When I first read your Falkenberg stories, I thought they were a thought experiment. Now they may really happen. Institution of the CD Laws of War is discussed, of course, with the usual implication: that they won't be enforced, because after all the whole reason they are hired in the first place is because the CD... oops, I mean the UN... won't intervene.

More discussion here: http://oxblog.blogspot.com/2006/04/humanitarian-mercenaries-rebecca.html 

The next steps are, of course, obvious. Ask Constantinople how well private military contractors helped them out in the Fourth Crusade.

I have libertarian correspondents who advocate complete privatization of the military. I point them to the Falkenberg books to let them find out why that's a bad idea.

And finally, a short plot question. The Chinese were notably absent from the CoDominium tales despite their prominence in 1970's Cold War politics. What gives? Did the US-Russian alliance subdue them?

--Catfish N. Cod

The first story of the CoDominium series was written in 1968. It was not unreasonable to assume that the US and USSR would divide China into spheres of influence. While that became less likely after Nixon went to China, it wasn't impossible; had Carter been reelected it would have been probable that the USSR would survive, and there was a lot of accomodationist sentiment in the US; even Kissinger thought the Cold War was lost and it was his job to ease the pain as we came to detente with the Soviets. The CoDominium has become alternate history now, of course, but it had a long run.


Subject: Enderle (see above)

Jerry: I've always considered Rob Enderle to be a self serving, steaming pile of Microsoft toady, but you asked for comments:

Rob's points:

* Clear OEM resources to match or exceed those currently provided by Microsoft. This would include R&D support and co-marketing dollars.

Rob is evidently confused by the fact that "Linux" is composed of lots of different software from lots of different sources. The end product is the responsibility of the "Distribution". There's lots of distributions, and all of them put together will never match MSs resources. R&D support, mostly for the kernel only, is through OSDL (open source development lab) which is mostly funded by IBM, Intel, and AMD (which means that they get their features in the kernel, typically biased towards server hardware).

* Embrace existing desktop requirements (roadmaps, application support, proprietary drivers, consistent patch releases schedules and documentation, clear escalation lines for support).

Again, "distribution" responsibilities. All of the major dists offer paid support. Most of them offer proprietary drivers. Applications? I run Debian (sarge), and there are ~16000 packages available from the Debian archive. In addition, there are many applications offered for Linux (such as VMWare) that aren't in the Debian archive. Debian, e.g., has vastly superior documentation to MS, it comes with the distribution, and it's free.

* Seek out reasonable advocates who will take direction from their executives and not from other advocates.

Does Rob want to be sought out? Is Rob saying he takes direction from MS executives?

* Make it profitable for the OEM.

Like MS? Force OEMs to buy a license for every computer they sell? Give discounts to favored (strong enough to be independent) OEMs like DELL, so they are economically advantaged over their competition? In other words, act like an abusive monopolist? I don't understand the point: Linux can be had for free, there are no license issues that require tracking. Standard images can be ghosted on as many computer hard drives as you want. There is a free software counterpart to Ghost, allowing network image installs, etc.. How can it not be "profitable" for an OEM? (always assuming you can sell the computers!)

Rob apparently wants Linux to become MS.


"The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can't get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time it is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods." H. L. Mencken


Subject: OS/2 vs. Windows

Here are the major reasons why OS/2 failed, as I see them.

* A forced choice

It was needlessly difficult to write applications that could be compiled equally well under Windows and OS/2. IBM insisted on an API for OS/2 that was incompatible with the Windows API. Thus, few applications were developed for both; and most of the companies that picked just one platform picked Windows. (You have already told the story of how IBM tried to charge for developer kits while Microsoft gave them away; that sure didn't help.)

* OS/2 revolutionary, Windows evolutionary

To adopt OS/2 meant buying new computers with lots of RAM, and all new applications.

Businesses that already had standardized on DOS applications were not happy with the way DOS apps ran in the OS/2 "compatibility box" (aka the "Chernobyl Box" because a badly behaved DOS app could crash the whole computer). This was fixed, eventually... but Windows 3.0 could run a bunch of DOS apps side by side with excellent performance, and the DOS apps were in protected virtual machines and couldn't take down the computer.

It might have been better to forget about OS/2 on the 286 and go straight to the 386; then OS/2 would have competed better with Windows. I believe IBM felt that they had promised customers that OS/2 would run on a 286, and they wanted to keep that promise, but it really cost them in the fight against Windows. The eventual 386 version of OS/2 was just too late.

I was going to list more reasons, but really those cover it. Businesses had to choose between the lightweight Windows, which ran their existing DOS apps well, or the heavyweight OS/2, and buying all new applications. -- Steve R. Hastings

IBM's "promise" of a multi-tasking OS for the 286 was certainly a factor. Gordon Letwin at Microsoft came up with a very clever kludge that allowed you to go in and out of protected mode on the 286 but it really was a kludge, and it was astonishing that it worked at all. I agree completely that IBM ought to have gone directly to the 386. On the other hand, recall that this was the company that called the PC division "entry level", and sold the deliberately crippled PC Junior. Many bought the Junior because it was IBM and then lost all confidence in IBM as a small computer source. My editor at Pocket Books was one of them. He'll never buy another IBM product again, even after all these years.

IBM didn't really believe in the PC market, and wasn't willing to put the resources into it because, after all, it really was just "entry level."

Gates had the vision of a PC in every office, in every home, and in every classroom. IBM did not have anything like that vision. That's really the reason that Gates won out.


Subject: Linux as a desktop OS

I'm always amused when IT oriented folks discuss the relative merits of Windows/Linux/OSX. Much discussion of technological innovation, stability, market share, better management of [fill in appropriate jargon], etc.

I suspect you will find that the biggest issue is this - the computer for most people is a tool. It is not a hobby. It is not a career. It is not an object of fascination. It is a means by which to get other things done. Nothing else is truly relevant for most. It either works or it does not. When it does not work and you cannot get it to work you start looking for a new tool.

For the longest time, Windows has been pretty much the only tool in the shed. Macs, while spiffy in many ways and very high on the "just works" scale, tended to be VERY pricey for the uses that most people wanted the tool. Therefore smaller market share.

Now in recent years, due in large part to the constant connectivity and broadband access in homes and businesses, Windows has been subject to many many things that cause it to work poorly or not work at all. Constant security patches. Anti-virus software. Firewalls. Anti-spyware software. Rootkits.

When a tool stops working well, people start looking for a new tool. People have heard about this thing called Linux. They give it a try, and the IT press goes nuts thinking that the general public is shifting away from windows and why it should/shouldn't.

...and most non-IT people that give Linux a try give up quickly and go back.

It all boils down to a very simple and basic fact: People want to use their computers. People do not want to administer their systems.

If you can understand the difference between those two statements, you may understand why people would not and will not switch to a "better" platform. Microsoft has understood that, or at least they used to. Apple did, but wouldn't let go of their business model. OS/2 did not. Linux has not.

For those of us that enjoy spending time fiddling with our machines - fine! It is our hobby/job/black-hole-of-time-and-money. For most other home and business users they don't care about the pricing strategy or technology or efficient memory management - they care that they can surf the web, get their email, and write their letters without having to reboot a few times.

So while all of the comments and analysis of the OS business are interesting, what the market eventually boils down to is "does it sell" and that only happens if the average user can and will use it.

Just my 2 cents.

Regards, Scott Cardinal

Well put. I have said much the same things, and of course my column in BYTE is subtitled "The User's Column." I originally got a computer to help with writing. I started writing about them because I like them, but using them is more important.


Subject: Enderle

Some of the judgments about this guy in e-mail seem a bit harsh, but I do now know this guy so he may have earned such enmity. I do know that he seems to have missed a rather telling point.

Microsoft is not '$100' per desktop. Here at least, it is more like $1,128.51 per desktop with our current number of users. That includes the right to have a Windows desktop, connect to Windows Servers, connect to and use the Exchange Server, and also the right to use a copy of Microsoft Office.

Now I admit, our environment is a little unusual - we have Linux loaded on almost all the desktop computers, and simply use a Citrix client to connect to a couple of terminal servers. We paid Microsoft for all the necessary CALS and software licenses and such 3.5 years ago.

Recently we decided to upgrade.

Not a one of those dratted CALS could be upgraded to Windows 2003 licenses -meaning we had to rebuy them all. To the tune of very close to a quarter of a million dollars.

That ain't bad for a big company you say? We have about 195 employees. Spending $200K+ every three years is not something we intend to do for a third time. While it is true that with both purchases, we purchased upgrade rights, those are only good for three years, and then you pretty much wind up buying them again. Even if you just renew the licenses and upgrade rights, it is close to the cost of buying the lics yet again.

We will definitely move away from Microsoft over the next three years. Maybe to Linux, maybe to something else. But away from Microsoft. They were great back in the 1980's and even in the Early 1990s. They are somewhat less than great now. Too Stupid To Describe is the phrase that comes to mind.



Very Interesting. Thanks!



CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday, April 28, 2006

Subject: On illegal immigration


I put together some numbers to describe the impact of the illegal immigrants.

From the "Mo' Mexicans" crowd, the illegals pay $30 Billion a year in taxes to government at all levels.

From the Immigration control folks, illegals cost us $50 Billion a year in services they don't pay for.

From the US Government, immigrants are sending $12 Billion a year to Mexico.

So they cost us $62 B a year, and benefit us $30 B. It sounds like we could replace the illegals at twice the wages, and still break even. Of course we need to send the illegals home.

Jim Dodd

LCDR Jim Dodd, USN (Ret.)

The impact is particularly heavy in Southern California, where the toll on hospital emergency rooms, schools, and social services is causing municipal bankruptcies.



Subject: Please ask Mr. Niven how it feels to be a prophet


Please ask Mr. Niven how it feels to be a prophet.



Illegal trade in bodies shakes loved ones Updated 4/28/2006 12:57 AM ET

By Stephanie Armour, USA TODAY When Eileen Currier died of lung cancer at age 72, her children had the ashes of the petite, soft-spoken Irish woman scattered in San Diego.

But in 2002, family members say, they learned that the ashes didn't belong to their mother. Instead, they were told that an unscrupulous crematorium owner secretly carved up her body — along with the bodies of hundreds of other newly deceased — and provided knees, elbows, heads and other parts to medical research organizations in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"I don't know what we scattered. ... I'll never know what happened to her," says Glynnis Hirsch, of El Cajon, Calif. She and her brother filed a lawsuit against the crematorium and last year shared in a $1.6 million jury award. It's now on appeal. Her mother's remains have not been identified. "The bottom line is, it's all about money," Hirsch says. "They're making money stealing our loved ones." <snip>


Subject: short story "The inspector general"

I’ve been racking my brain, there was a short story called ‘The Inspector General” about a group of technicians who had been abandoned on a planet and learned how to maintain items simply because they’d been doing it all those years ago and there was a space fighter that had malfunctions and ended up on the planet. The end of it had the technicians fixing the gear and the fighter pilot showing up as the inspector general.

It is a favorite story of mine and was wondering if you remembered it.

Thanks for any help you could provide.


The story is The Specter General by Ted Cogswell, and it's excellent, both as a story and as a rather interesting commentary on political history.


Subject: breaking Anatolian terraces


Could you sometime send me a date and pointer to some history on the "breaking of the Anatolian terraces" ?

Googling through various engines does not seem to turn it up.

Thanks, and look forward to your In Use Review pages - especially Mirra backup, now that SeaGate bought it.

Joe O'Laughlin

I believe Freya Stark mentions it in Alexander's Path, and it's certainly discussed in any economic history of the Byzantine Empire. Give me a few days, we are off today.

I am waiting for Seagate's revisions to Mirra; it particularly needs a timing restriction.


Subject: OS2 adoption - simpler than you think

Dr. Pournelle,

Sometimes the downfall of a particular approach comes down to a single application of theory.

In my case, OS2 Warp failed utterly when it came to their object-oriented approach to image viewing and editing. In windows or DOS, I could open an image editor and rapidly flip through, view, and edit image after image within a single instance of the image editor. In OS2 Warp, the default shipped image viewer/editor treated the viewer as a behavior of the image so every time you wanted to view or edit an image, an entire new instance of the image editor was launched.

This had obvious ramifications on memory usage, and consequently system performance. This single "feature" of OS2 Warp put me off of OS2 entirely. At the time my needs heavily leaned toward image manipulation, and although I had spent an enormous amount of money buying a rather high-end machine for the time, this operating system model was not conducive to what I needed from an operating system so I dumped it in favor of Slackware Linux and Windows 95.

OS2 never had a chance on my computer, simply because it's strict adherence to object oriented behavior made it unusable for the task I needed accomplished at time. 12 years later, I still prefer image manipulating software that enables me to quickly open, manipulate, and close images without the long load times associated with application launch. The abilty to quickly skim, sort, browse, manipulate data is far more important than adherence to a particular software design model, and for me personally, THAT is what killed OS2 Warp.

I even paid full retail price, and still tossed it out, for no reason other than it re-launched the entire image editor every time I opened a new image file for editing. And I majored in computer science in school...

Sean Long

There were a lot of small items like that, and the champion of OS/2 in IBM was a woman and the IBM executives did not like that, and -- you can toss in a lot of factors but it boils down to this: IBM did not have the vision, and management didn't commit the resources to what was, after all, the "Entry Systems Division."


Subject: What about fusion?

Dear Jerry,

I began to wonder about the future of fusion power when I read about Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore giving qualified support for building more fission power plants.

I have a Time/Life Science Library volume from the late 60's that shows a tokamak device for coaxing hyrdrogen atoms to fuse. Last year some time I saw a National Geographic or Smithsonian article detailing the research on the JET (Joint European Torus) in which 12.9 MW was output in a 1997 experiment, "but the Jet reactions are fleeting and consume more energy than they produce." It's been a half century, more or less, since research began on fusion power and, unless I've missed something in between, scientists are still hoping to get to the "break-even" point; that is, getting out as much energy as they pump in.

There's the European Iter fusion collaboration; but they say that "The running joke is that fusion has been 'just decades away' for several decades."

What's your view? To me it looks like commercial fusion power generation is about as likely to be achieved as cavorite paint or travel through Alderson points.


Steve Erbach

I was long a champion of fusion, but the bottom line is that it's still research and needs new science; to do fusion with engineering development is brute force and not economic. Fission is a known technology, used in Japan and France and other places, and it works; we know how it works; we know how to make it work. Research on fusion should  continue but it won't be on line for decades. Fission could produce kilowatts in two years if we didn't have the legal hassles and gave new plants a priority, four years without strain.

The War will last longer than it would take to build 200 1000 Megawatt fission plants. With that much energy, we could stop burning heating fuel, and make a dent in transportation energy requirements.

There's more, but the bottom line is, fusion is energy independence someday, fission is a major step to energy independence in a decade.

We need new wells, refineries, develop Alaskan and Canadian sources, and more off shore wells; the environmental costs are small compared to the environmental costs of WARRE. A key is new energy sources. We have the technology. It's engineering, not science.


On Fusion


A little to add to Mr. Erbach, but frankly not much. Even as a physicist, it is a specialty where I barely qualify as a knowledgeable amateur.

Sustained fusion still seems a long way away using tokamak-based designs. I heard a lot about the Z-pinch a few years ago, but nothing since; and I've heard favorable comments from the good Dr. Powell, who does know fusion, about the theta-pinch, but as far as I know nobody is pursuing that option. Similarly, I've heard nothing about Brussard's work with electrostatic confinement for fusion since the first articles hit, I guess five or six years ago. Muon-catalyzed fusion seems to have a lot of promise, if anyone can ever develop an effective method for sustained muon injection.

Despite the opinions of the esteemed Sir Arthur Clark and the efforts of the late and lamented Dr. Mallove, cold fusion seems likely to be constrained to being a laboratory curiosity rather than a practical method of generating energy in production quantities. And in the ten years since I met him, Dr. Mill's entry to that subject (www.blacklightpower.com ) is still generating a lot of conference papers touting how he has found the fundamental error in quantum mechanics, but not much heat and light of the electrically-powered variety (more smoke and mirrors, I'd say...).

At this point, I suspect that the best chances lie with inertial-confinement fusion (disclaimer: though I've not been personally involved, my new parent company has a strong presence in that field that I am learning more about). The approach certainly works (as first demonstrated by Dr. Teller and his associates some fifty years ago) but scaling to a practical energy production device leaves a lot to be desired as yet.

As you said, new science is required.



Subject: Redmond Magazine and Plasma

Dear Dr Pournelle,

On the subject of desktop alternatives to Windows, can I recommend a recent article in one of the major Windows magazines? Also I'd like to put in a Plug for Plasma.

Redmond magazine tried to interview the leading lights of Linux and got precisely nowhere. Not because it's a Windows-oriented magazine, but because they couldn't be bothered. They concluded the Linux movers and shakers weren't even trying. No-one in the Linux pantheon seems terribly interested in taking over from Windows on the desktop. They're all scratching their own itches, trying to make servers run better. But the desktop? Who cares?

One of their stringers (Doug Barney) finally got Red Hat on the phone. Their response?


"...I pestered the company seeking an interview with the CEO -- with no response. I've never seen such a PR black hole. Finally, after calling his office directly, Red Hat got back to me, and in no uncertain terms told me that Linux at this point is not an alternative to Windows clients, and it isn't competing with Microsoft in this space. Shocked? So was I! Linux is an alternative, if companies like Red Hat want it to be ... This is all pretty funny. Redmond magazine serves the Windows community, yet we're interested in presenting alternatives to Microsoft. But the alternatives aren't interested in presenting themselves!"

There's a fair amount of effort within the Linux development community on polishing desktop environments. Given time it'll mature, but someone like Apple will take it, patent it, and make money with it.

I heard both an authority from GNOME (Jeff Waugh) and Aaron Seigo (KDE) speaking about desktop technologies at the recent Linux Conference Australia, held in Dunedin in January this year. Progress is slow. Jeff Waugh did an excellent mea culpa on what they HADN'T done.

Aaron Seigo gave a fascinating discursion on the latest KDE desktop and the underlying technology - "Plasma" - which is dramatically better than any other Linux desktop flavours I've seen before, at least partly because of extensive use of formats like SVG; see <http://plasma.kde.org/> , and especially the manifesto at <http://plasma.kde.org/cms/1080> .

Yet it's all very low key; like "Yeah, we're going to make the best desktop in the world, but like, no stress eh?" They don't feel under pressure from anyone, not even Microsoft, and as for customers ... what customers? Oh, you mean the people who don't pay our salaries?

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole





This week:


read book now


Saturday, April 29, 2006

At beach. See VIEW for Lisabetta crisis and the reason for no mail today.





CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, April 30, 2006

Truth from Pravda.


- Roland Dobbins


Subj: Happy Camerone Day!


En outre, un monument fut élevé en 1892 sur l'emplacement du combat. Il porte l'inscription:


Depuis lors, lorsque les troupes mexicaines passent devant le monument, elles présentent les armes.


Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com


Subject: "No Place To Run"

Apologies if you've mentioned this already. The Civil Defense prescription sounds a lot like yours.


Tom Brosz


Subject: A country with no future destroys its past.

A country with no future destroys its past.


- Roland Dobbins

Almost invariably. And a country that learns no history effectively has no past either.


Subject: Paying qualified teachers: what a concept!

Dear Sir:


'New York City will offer housing subsidies of up to $14,600 to entice new math, science and special education teachers to work in the city's most challenging schools, in one of the most aggressive housing incentive programs in the nation to address a chronic shortage of qualified educators in these specialties.

'"What you are starting to see is a very different compensation structure for teachers in the City of New York, different from the traditional lockstep thinking on teacher pay and seniority," Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein said in an interview yesterday, "based on system need and performance."'

Obviously this is a completely unexpected and unpredicted development. No one could have thought that paying teachers for experience and results could possibly be a good idea.... and of course, this had to be negotiated extensively with the teachers' union.

--Catfish N. Cod

Good teachers seldom need a Union, and the Unions seldom do much for any but the less competent. So it goes.


Invoking Heinlein

Jerry, It had to happen sooner or later: Heinlein is now being invoked to support both sides of the Iraqi war.


Chuck Wingo

I am shocked...


Subject: temperature record

Hi Jerry,

High altitude animals may be the best "thermometer" record, insomuch where and how temps were measured in the past is kinda iffy.

I once had a marine biology teacher who wanted to do a base line study of tide pools all up and down the coast, but couldn't get funding. Tide pools are another thermometer.

Here's a good story...


Global warming stalks Yosemite Retracing the steps of a meticulous early 20th century biologist, researchers find that some of the park’s tiniest residents have moved a startling distance uphill

Michelle Nijhuis

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Lyell canyon is very pretty and an easy walk from Tioga Road.


Fairly short term, I would think? What was it like there when Greenland supported dairy farms?


Subject: Anarcho-tyrrany in action.


 Roland Dobbins

Another to add to the collection. There will be many more.


Inconstant c?


Roland Dobbins

And that may set the cat among the pigeons...


Illegal Immigrants and the Economy Undocumented Workers Reduce the Wages Of Low-Income Workers; But How Much? By TIM ANNETT WSJ, April 13, 2006 2:56 p.m. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB114477669441223067.html 

Economists broadly agree that illegal immigrants put pressure on the paychecks of lower-income U.S. workers with whom they compete for jobs. But the economists differ on the extent of the impact.

Nearly 80% of economists who responded to questions about immigration in the latest WSJ.com forecasting survey said they believe undocumented workers have an impact on the bottom rung of the wage ladder. Twenty percent believe the impact is significant, while 59% characterize the effect as slight. The remaining 22% said there is no impact.<snip>

On that subject I have this comment from another discussion:

Subject:  WSJ: Illegal Immigrants and the Economy

"On balance, nearly all of the economists '44 of the 46 who answered the question' believe that illegal immigration has been beneficial to the economy. Most believe the benefits to business of being able to fill jobs at wages many American workers won't accept outweigh the costs."

Economists tend to view "the economy" as a big machine, with labor as just one more resource for that machine.

Here, the benefits of economic "growth" are unevenly distributed. The costs are also unevenly distributed -- but in the exact opposite way. The rich are getting somewhat richer than the poor are getting poorer, while the people in the middle don't really notice anything except that the neighborhood has gone to shit.

That economists can't make any judgment on this except that "the economy has benefited" is telling about the state of their science.

Which is certainly one way to look at it. Rising tides float all boats, perhaps, but some of them have short anchor chains and go under.

Economics is fine, but for a man to love his country, his country ought to be lovely; loyalty works both ways, and those who do well in a nation need to think about the effects on all the population. One solution to unemployment is welfare, but is that a proper thing to wish for citizens? Would the nation not be better off if those on welfare were employed, even if it were economically more efficient to bribe them with bread and circuses? Citizens ought to feel useful, and that they have some importance other than through selling their votes to the highest bidders. Or have I missed something?
















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