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Mail 463 April 23 - 29, 2007







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Monday  April 23, 2007

Letter from England


Not a good solution to the NHS mess: <http://society.guardian.co.uk/health/story/0,,2062453,00.html>  <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/04/21/ndoctors21.xml>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6576079.stm>  <http://www.thes.co.uk/current_edition/story.aspx?story_id=2036275>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6580519.stm>  <http://www.guardian.co.uk/uklatest/story/0,,-6577421,00.html

Scottish independence: <http://www.thes.co.uk/current_edition/story.aspx?story_id=2036332

Card clone scam: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6578595.stm

Unwinding of the honours scandal: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6578551.stm>  <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?
xml=/news/2007/04/22/nhons22.xml>  <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article2472137.ece

French election: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article1687493.ece>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6580363.stm

CIA spies in China: <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_

The disappearance of freedom: <http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/article2469267.ece>  <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,2062788,00.html>  <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article1687269.ece

Miscellany: <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/
main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/04/22/ntroops22.xml>  <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/tyne/6579677.stm>  <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2062970,00.html

General pocket-picking: <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?
xml=/news/2007/04/22/nolym22.xml>  <http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2062910,00.html>  <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/health_medical/article2472144.ece>  <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article2472138.ece


Last week, we held a school conference to look at recruitment and retention. Over the last five years in the UK, recruitment of students into computing, engineering, and technology programs has crashed to about 20% of what it was in 2000. This has affected the teaching universities in particular, as they serve as insurance schools for many students. The main problem is not students responding to a perceived downturn in the job market, but rather appears to be uninteresting (to students) course content. The university is considering elimination of our programs in these three areas (math and statistics were similarly eliminated about ten years ago) as not economically viable, but the school has been given a reprieve to see if we can turn things around in the next year. My role is to expand and develop our offerings in security at the BSc level to take advantage of the general public interest in that area. Luckily, we have suitable material already in use that can be rapidly expanded and adapted for this purpose.

The other issue--retention--is even more interesting. The school is penalised by the UK Government for every student who leaves the university without graduating, which is usually due to failure of specific (hard) classes. On the other hand, if a student drops a class (to take it again later), it doesn't have the same knock-on effect on graduation and doesn't show up in the statistics monitored by the Government. When outcomes for hard classes in computing are studied statistically, marks currently appear to be bimodal--that is, current students seem to belong to two distinct cohorts, one with good marks and the other with marks clustering around the minimum pass level. Students in the poorer cohort can be characterized in a number of ways: they don't attend lectures and tutorials regularly, they don't do the assigned readings, and they fail much more frequently. That leads to a simple recommendation: take attendance and monitor engagement, and drop students not attending/engaging. Then those marginal students don't contribute to the statistics that the UK Government monitors to assess retention and don't use teaching resources that are short in supply.

This large distinct cohort of marginal students is something new for the UK and appears to reflect a policy that the Government initiated in 1997 to raise the percentage of the young people participating in higher education to at least 50%. The students added in response to the government policy don't appear to have a solid interest in earning a degree, but are rather trying to get by with minimum effort. There have been complaints from the private sector about the poor quality of recent UK graduates, and this suggests where the problem may lie.

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


Subject: Frogs and evolution in action, 


The frogs. They're evolving, I swear.

As you may recall, there has been a worldwide decimation of frog populations. See, for example, this: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/11/991119075426.htm.  Things were pretty quite around here in new Jersey, but over the past two years I have been hearing a return of the peepers.

The tree frogs, at least, seem to be returning. Which led me to think. Whatever was causing the frogs to decline may have killed off all the susceptible ones, leaving the frogs who are able to tolerate whatever-it-is to find each other and breed more whatever-it-is-resistant frogs.

I like to think of it as "Evolution in Action" (hmm; time to re-read Oath of Fealty, I think).


Actually we are bringing Oath of Fealty back out, with an introduction I am working on now (Niven having finished his pass through it.)


Ethanol and Acres

Dr. Pournelle,

I did some calculations on the acreage required to accomplish, inter alia, American energy independence WRT oil & natural gas imports, using sugarcane-derived ethanol & biodiesel from oil palms. I chose these crops because they have some of the highest fuel-per-acre yields - and hence the lowest land requirements - of all biomass crops. My results:



Amount of energy

Required acreage using...

Amount of energy Oil palms Sugarcane
US gasoline consumption 270,973,194 351,817,804
US transportation fuel 406,986,942 528,411,132
US oil imports 373,436,047 484,850,358
US oil consumption 602,457,373 782,199,992
US oil & natural gas imports 428,867,960 556,820,333
US oil & natural gas consumption 958,388,605 1,244,322,989
US fossil fuel electricity 409,904,411 532,199,026
US fossil fuel consumption 1,308,484,899 1,698,870,200
World - Gulf oil exports 622,815,277 808,631,659
World - total oil consumption 2,727,888,108 3,541,751,089


Sources: here <http://www.eia.doe.gov/neic/quickfacts/quickoil.html>  for US gasoline consumption; here <http://eed.llnl.gov/flow/02flow.php>  for other US stats; here <http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/index.html>  for Persian Gulf oil exports; here <http://www.eia.doe.gov/neic/quickfacts/quickoil.html>  for world oil consumption; here <http://bioenergy.ornl.gov/papers/misc/energy_conv.html>  for various conversion factors; here <http://www.earth-policy.org/Books/PB2/PB2ch2_ss5.htm>  for per-acre oil palms & sugarcane yield

[I realize that Lester Brown is of dubious reliability, but his numbers for per-acre yields track with what I've read elsewhere.]

Since the yield-per-acre of corn-derived ethanol is little over half that of sugarcane-derived ethanol, using corn instead of sugarcane would almost double our land-use requirements.

By way of comparison:

* US farmland area: 938 million acres * US cropland area: 434 million acres * US harvested acreage: 303 million acres

(See here <http://www.ers.usda.gov/StateFacts/US.htm>  for source)

Based on these numbers, it appears that we could just barely achieve energy independence using sugarcane, or oil palms, or sugar beets. Provided we devoted the vast majority of currently-idle farmland to biofuels production.

In some cases - e.g., ethanol production from sugarcane or sugar beets - the use of biofuels really does amount to burning foodstuffs. But even in the case of non-food crops - e.g., oil palms, switchgrass - every acre of land used to cultivate biofuels is an acre of land that's not being used for food cultivation. Although some might argue that cultivating of biofuels only on currently-idle agricultural land would prevent biofuels from competing with foodstuffs for land, but this only works if food and energy demands both remain constant. Of course, energy consumption correlates with a growing economy, and food consumption with a growing population, so unless we're going to permanently restrict either type of growth, reliance on biofuels will eventually force food & fuel to compete for land.

As I believe you've noted before, only in the very limited case of burning, gasifying, or otherwise converting agricultural wastes does the use of biomass not amount to burning foodstuffs in one way or another.

FWIW, I'd prefer to see America concentrate on nuclear & space solar power. If, for whatever reason, we insist on using some sort of biofuel, algae biodiesel <http://oakhavenpc.org/cultivating_algae.htm>  seems the least worst option given its high yield-per-acre.

But then, I'm just an engineer with pretensions. What do I know?

Respectfully submitted,

Matthew Ing

P.S. In case you're interested, I've attached a copy of the Excel file I used in those calculations.

My thanks to Bruce Lewis for reformatting the table.

We did a lot of research with green slime in the early days of the space program. It's sure useful for a Moon Colony.

I sure agree about nuclear power and space solar. And there is some utility in burning garbage, but it won't reduce CO2...


Subject: Ethanol byproduct as feed

Per your comment on the feed energy content of "mash": Actually distiller's grains contain more energy per lb (and higher quality nutrition) than corn as a dairy feed. Of course, conservation of energy holds: you get less than a lb of distiller's grains for every lb of corn converted to ethanol. In fact, you typically get only about 30% as much feed by weight. Dairymen I know who were ahead of the research curve were pretty happy about this common misconception until word got out and distiller's grains began commanding prices commensurate with its feed value.


I have no problem with improving the fungibility of energy (i.e. food, feed, and fuel). I have a serious problem with the lack of foresight involved in burning natural gas for the process heat to convert corn to ethanol.

Best, Ben A. Pedersen, P.E. and dairying dilletante

P.S. It isn't just the price of corn and corn-fed animal products which are affected by ethanol production. The acreage in corn this year in the U.S. is at an all-time high ... that means the acreage in other crops is down. Of course, the world is nowhere near full long-term ag production capacity.

Interesting. My only experience with this was personal: there was a still in the willow swamps that had been there for fifty years or more; the revenoors couldn't get in there (recall this is before helicopters) and every now and then would lose a bulldozer in the swamp; I'd make some money using the mules to pull their tractor out, while the sharecroppers stood around and laughed like hell. In theory the still was on our land but we couldn't get in there either (actually I could, but I never told anyone the path). The spent mash would appear mysteriously in our hog slop every now and then. The hogs loved it. We supplemented the slop with Purina Hog Chow, and I didn't keep careful enough records to say how much we saved by using spent mash.

We never bought any. So far as I know there are no legal distilleries in Shelby County, or weren't then.



Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Actually, RMSF s not much of a problem here, but Lyme Disease is. Fortunately we have a miniscule ally on our side, the Western Fence Lizard, aka Blue Belly. There is a component in the lizard’s blood that if bitten by a Tick, renders the insect incapable of passing Lyme disease bacteria for the rest of their lives.

See: http://www.downtowntomatoes.com/archives/2005/11/lyme_disease_an.html 

Nature’s grand plan.



Spiral Stairway To Heaven

After a generation , the Secret Of The Pyramid s may finally have been revealed by newfangled deconvolution software operating on subtle data gathered by gravity gradiometers in the 1980's

It looks like Cheop's architect saved a bundle of Pharaonic dimensions by literally cutting corners. A French engineer has worked out a plausible diagram of how the exterior of the rising stonepile functioned as a haulage spiral, allowing the recycling all the millions of blocks in the massive approach ramp into the uppermost- and final stages of construction -details and pictures at:


Russell Seitz



A stunning pic:


Those Romans knew their business.








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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Nuremburg Laws: Can they still be enforced?

Melissa Heads for Home.


- Roland Dobbins

German Courts are enforcing Hitler's decrees against home schooling, and the new Gestapo may kidnap Melissa again. One wonders if the European Union has much to say about this kind of child slavery? And what other Nazi laws can still be enforced?


Blood, Bullets, Bombs, and Bandwidth.

Long, but a must-read:


-- Roland Dobbins

You shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free. But getting access to the truth?


"I guess free money is free money."


 Roland Dobbins

Why am I not astonished?


"Very few people ask whether we could have prevented HIV."


 Roland Dobbins


RE: Heinlein and Ortega.

Doctor Pournelle,

Thought about:

1) Heinlein's an armed society is a polite society.

2) City councils, State & federal legislatures keep passing laws with an occasional & accumulative effect on guns. Islands of the disarmed, appear & grow, on the political map.

3) Ortega's mass man captured said councils & legislatures from the elites.
a) passing more laws rather than adjusting existing laws.
b) a persistence mob mentality within said bodies.

4) When I think of Ortega's elites, I think of Pareto's foxes & lions. My guess is the foxes are trying to disarm the masses. e.g. the unelected EU guiding the elected european governments.

5) I favor rolling laws back to when individual firearms were an undefined term. Such terms as "concealed carry" would be meaningless.

Scott Rich


Subject: Where Government-Provided Healthcare Takes Us

Simply for your interest.

Healthcare stories:

Pensioner 'must go blind to get NHS treatment' <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/health_medical/article2481020.ece

2007/04/23/ f055b47b-666c-49f6-9ed4-b0199c7fcce4.lpf





Terror stories:



Dangers to women cyclists in London--if you obey the law as a cyclist in London, it puts you at risk around lorries due to their blind spots. Men tend to violate the law at red lights, while women don't. My experience is that vehicles are a problem for bicyclists at round- abouts (where bicycles riding along the kerb usually surprise exiting drivers), intersections between bike trails and roads (when drivers don't think to check the traffic on the bike trail), and lorry/bus left turns (when the driver, sitting on the right, often fails to check his left mirror for bicycles in the blind spot). <http:// www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article1695668.ece>

BTW, I was staying at Palekastro when I scouted Zakros. Go ahead and write that story!

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


Subject: On education and immigration

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

What dragged me to your website in the first place was a quest for information on the Janissaries series. When you wrote the first two I was in university doing degrees in physics - in spite of a thirst for hard science fiction you will understand that working and doing degrees in physics means that such enjoyments must be put to one side for the nonce. It has taken me years to catch up, and I am pleased to see that the series is still alive and thriving. I look forward to getting my hands on the rest of it, I assure you it will be devoured voraciously.

But on to education and immigration. If you think the problem is bad in the US (I came out of east Los Angeles), try Canada. I had had enough of the Land of Liberty some ten years ago, quit a well-paying job as a research physicist in San Diego, and headed north to pursue another Master's and now a Ph.D. in astrophysics. Met my husband, married, and am now totally unemployable.

Canada has gone mad. My degrees are from the US. Employers in Canada don't know how to evaluate degrees from the US, and aren't so sure about the quality of education there (they may have a point, but that is another topic for another time). So, they are worthless. I have a high school diploma from the Los Angeles Unified School District, but it is worthless in Canada. I could go and get a GED, but if I were to get one in Alberta (say), it would not be recognized in (say) British Columbia because "Educational standards are different and we don't know how to evaluate a GED from a foreign (sic) province." I cannot work as an electrician (in my younger days I apprenticed to the IBEW) because this apprenticeship program is not recognized in Canada. Or more properly it is recognized, but I do not have the right piece of paper proving that I meet local standards. I cannot work at a MacDonald's because I do not have 40 semester hours of instruction in Food Safety 1, Food Safety 2, and Cuisine Arts 1 (not to mention the required certificate in proper cash register operation). Yet, there are complaints about the Great Alberta Labour Shortage. From my perspective it is not what you know or what you can do that is important, it is all about the pieces of paper you have in your portfolio, and where they come from. I believe the phrase I want is "overcredentialism".

Thus, in a land desperately crying for skilled workers from the rest of the world to come here, we have degreed engineers working as convenience store clerks, and Ph.Ds driving taxi cabs (if they can afford the 700 hours - yes, that's right, seven hundred hours - of instruction in how to properly operate a taxi cab).

Back to working at Mickey D's, it is not that employers do not wish to hire people without these documents - the labour shortage here is very real and getting worse - they CAN'T, by law. So we have the conundrum of highly qualified and skilled people desperate for work but not being able to find employment, and at the same time employers unable to find employable people. I should also mention (I have done some digging) that for a foreigner to recertify to Canadian standards is extremely difficult - the roadblocks abound, and this I am sure is not happenstance.

What can be said as to a society where they are desperately in need of qualified people, entice them to come here, and then deny them employment once they are here? You may dismiss this screed as sour grapes, but the problem is real.

With best regards, /s/ Anna Harding

An astonishing story. Thanks for telling us.

I will finish Mamelukes, the next part of the Janissaries story, sometime this summer.

And see mail.


Subject: Follow-up on Yale sword disarmament

Greetings, sir.

Thought you might like to see a follow-up comment from another site about the recent "security theater" (a literal use of the term, in this case) at Yale.


Tim Elliott

...Such foolery isn't limited to elementary and secondary schools. The Yale Daily News <http://www.yaledailynews.com/articles/view/20843>  reports that "in the wake of Monday's massacre at Virginia Tech in which a student killed 32 people, Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg has limited the use of stage weapons in theatrical productions":

According to students involved in the production, Trachtenberg has banned the use of some stage weapons in all of the University's theatrical productions. While shows will be permitted to use obviously fake plastic weapons, students said, those that hoped to stage more realistic scenes of stage violence have had to make changes to their props.

"Fub <http://volokh.com/posts/1177279409.shtml#209137>  ," a commenter on the Volokh Conspiracy, has a perceptive analysis:

What makes these ritual bannings of depictions or imitations of real weapons politically effective (among those for whom they are effective) is a very primitive human thought process: belief in sympathetic magic.

The actual object, the weapon, is imbued with magical power. Its very presence magically causes harm. It causes people to behave in evil ways. The rationale commonly offered is that the mere presence of a weapon makes people more prone to violence.

Sympathetic magic is the belief that what one does with an imitation of the thing with magical power will affect the actual thing. For example, in a magical religious context we see the image of a deity addressed, or given gifts or sacrifices. The magical deity is affected through the treatment of its image, and so performs its magic for the one who gives the image a gift.

In the imitation weapon banning context we have first the belief that the object, the actual weapon, is magic and causes those in its presence to behave in an evil manner. The sympathetic magical belief is that by banning the image or the imitation weapon, the magical power of real weapons to cause people to be violent will be lessened, or the real weapons will stay away from the presence of the faithful.

Betty Trachtenberg, do do that voodoo that you do so well!


Why am I not astonished? One has to believe in voodoo to believe in political correctness.


Subject: r.e. Matthew Ing's Acreage Calculations 

Dear Jerry,

My congratulations to Matthew Ing for his work.

>>reliance on biofuels will eventually force food & fuel to compete for land.<<

Chicago spot prices for corn say this is already happening. This pricing signal plus current $3+ gallon gasoline will spur on projected new projects and existing distillery expansions and utilization.

>>only in the very limited case of burning, gasifying, or otherwise converting agricultural wastes does the use of biomass not amount to burning foodstuffs in one way or another.<<

This case is not that limited, at least physically. See http://www.tpub.com/content/altfuels10/methanol/methanol0001.htm  This is a mid-1990s DoE assessment for waste biomass to methanol potential in the USA. Nearly all DoE support for biomass thermal conversion programs has since been terminated. The policy makers preferred burning food crops and betting on next decade's mirage of "cellulosic" ethanol from waste biomass. Similarly, instead of supporting "Ablative Fast Pyrolysis" to make bio-diesel from waste biomass, "Washington" prefers squeezing soybeans and rapeseeds to make 'bio-diesel".

>.Since the yield-per-acre of corn-derived ethanol is little over half that of sugarcane-derived ethanol, using corn instead of sugarcane would almost double our land-use requirements.<<

Since sugar cane and oil palms require sub-tropical and tropical climates, the corn and soybean numbers (plus potatoes in Idaho as is already being done) are what matter in the U.S.A. outside of Hawaii and Florida. All very interesting theoretical subjects. There are two practical points.

The first point is the USA's primary developed alternate fuels infrastructure (plant design, construction, operation, trained work forces) now runs exclusively on edible food. This industry is now growing by 20% to 30% each year. The flow of money is already so huge this interest group can buy all the filibusters and vetoes it needs to prevent any policy changes at this point. What happens when another CAT 5 hurricane barrels through the Gulf of Mexico? Perhaps the same year that (pick your OPEC area and scenario) collapses into regional chaos? Is this the moment it will be possible to restrict these plants' production to contain food prices?

The second point is, have Chaos Manor readers staked their claims for their Very Large Family Vegetable Garden plots? Have seeds in store? Know what to do? Started practicing on a small scale? There's no cavalry that'll come riding over the hill on this one.

Best Wishes,


Emphasis added by editor. You make me remember my days as an editor of SURVIVE Magazine. I am a bit old to reconstitute my survival company, but I do know how to make stone soup.


computer simulations

Hello Dr. Pournelle

Here is something that you may find interesting. A recent computer simulation shows that the island of Taiwan would win, if attacked by mainland China. The battle is predicted to last two weeks. So much for computer simulations; I don' t believe it for a second, and wonder if these are the same computers that they use to simulate climate, and predict global warming.

The problem with this simulation, as with any computer simulation, is that those setting up the simulation are allowed to make certain assumptions. In this case, it is assumed that Taiwan forces will have enough warning to take cover. This also assumes a certain strategy on the part of the invaders, and that enough is known about Chinese forces to accurately gauge their capabilities. Doubtless, many other assumptions are made, which are not mentioned in the article.

Computer simulations make great games, and can be useful for modeling certain systems, with a limited number of variables, and predictable behavior, when the systems are well understood. For situations with many variables, many unknowns, and very complex interactions between elements, they are little more than glorified guesswork.

Anyone who closely considers the relative strengths of these two nations, has to know that the conclusions of this simulation is questionable, at the very least. I doubt that many people really think that Taiwan could defeat Mainland China. Yet computer simulations, and the repeated pronouncements of those who run them, have bullied many people into the belief of man made global warming.

Is a two-week battle a less complicated system, than the climate of the entire Earth over decades? Does it contain fewer unknowns, random variables, and interacting systems? I suppose that the computer will become, if it is not already the case, the new god of the faithful, and tool of those initiates who know it’s secrets.

It is becoming rather like the old shamans, or the wizard of Oz. Do not question the pronouncements of God, and pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.


Neal Pritchett


Cybercriminals Look to Capitalize on Virginia Tech Tragedy

I think the usual caveats apply to what follows.

Malware attack poses as camera phone footage of Virginia Tech tragedy 19 Apr 07 Just a day after security researchers warned people to be alert for hackers and phishers

 exploiting the Virginia Tech tragedy, spam
defineterm.jhtml?term=spam&x=&y=>  promising images of the shootings have begun spreading around the globe.

The spam e-mails carry a photograph <http://www.sophos.com/pressoffice/news/articles/2007/04/virginia.html>  of gunman Cho Seung-hui, who killed more than 30 students and teachers at the Virginia school on Monday before killing himself. The e-mails claim to link to a Brazilian Web site  <http://www.techweb.com/encyclopedia/

  > carrying movie footage of the campus shootings, according to researchers at Sophos. However, clicking on the link <http://www.techweb.com/encyclopedia/
defineterm.jhtml?term=link&x=&y=>  downloads a malicious screensaver file, called Terror_em_Virginia.SCR, which installs a piece of spyware <http://www.techweb.com/encyclopedia/

 that acts as a banking Trojan, which can be used to steal passwords, user names and account numbers. The trojan seeks to steal passwords and usernames for online banking sites, opening up the possibility of identity theft and financial loss to any user infected with the program.



Anna Harding's tale of Canada

I would not "dismiss her screed as sour grapes" at all. My middle daughter elected to attend the University of Windsor, and every time we head across the border for a visit it is clear that at least some people in Canada would really like as many skilled workers as they can find.

On the other hand, I've been casually checking to see if there's a reasonable way to get my wife and I out to the Pacific Northwest for the last year or so. Our family related responsibilities in central Indiana are basically closed, and we've both decided that the scenery in 'Cascadia' would probably be quite nice for some number of years. There is a chance that I could finagle an internal transfer at my current firm - with no relo assistance, of course - so I've also kept an eye on other job postings in an arc running from Portland through Calgary. On the Canadian Immigration web site I 'pass' the qualification test somewhere above the 90% mark (read: Yep! We would certainly want you!).

Keep in mind I'm not desperately pounding pavement in an all-out job search, but.....

Number of callbacks/email chats/nibbles from U.S. cities in my search grid: A respectable handful.

Number from the Canadian side: Nada. Zero. Zip. Zilch.

Make of it what you will, but I understand what Ms. Harding is facing.



Subject: Better a Maiden Aunt than a Mommy...

Pretty Lady weighs in on the question of whether it's really a disaster that one-third of those college-educated women are not having children at:


>>providing college educations to all potential Fiends Incarnate is a grand filtering process for weeding out the psychos, and safely installing them in civil-service middle-management positions, where their sadism can find a relatively harmless outlet. Ultimately, this race of twisted pseudo-humans will die out, or morph into cool-ass Maiden Aunties, an archetype for which there is ample historical precedent.<<

Julie http://walkingprescott.blogspot.com

This I won't touch...


On Global Warming and CO2

I reread part of your Step Farher Out from mummbelty mumble years ago & saw your support of ocean thermal power generators which, by using water from the sea bottoms bring nutrients to the surface & stimulates plankton growth. I was struck by the similarity to the geritol solution of cutting CO2 by using iron solution to stimulate plankton growth.

Does this mean that we have a method of making power which is CO2 negative? Has there been either progress or serious glitches since then?

Neil Craig

There were tests near Hawaii. The system works, and ought to be tried; one problem is transport of the resulting energy. It's idea for islands, of course.

I really need to get A Step Farther Out back in print. There's a rough version of Two Steps Farther out as well. What I don't have is time.


Subject: Teach them well...


"From the weekly update Little Bookworm's teacher sends to parents:

This week for homework, your child is to read thirty minutes each night and record their [sic] reading.


The class looked very nice to day [sic] as they [sic] went to see the ballet preform [sic].

I think I'm going to be sick."



Subject: FYI: The 69th Carnival of Homeschooling is up - the Bee edition

Sprittibee has some beautiful pictures of bees, and a ton of information about bees as she works in the entries for this week's Carnival of Homeschooling:


Have a good day.

-- ---------- Henry Cate cate3@panix.com

 "Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you'll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others." -- Jacob M. Braude Our blog: http://whyhomeschool.blogspot.com/


Despotic Populism Is On the March.


 Roland Dobbins

Tyrants are always the friends of the people. Always. Now go read about adolescent societies.

The American Thinker web site seems to have been pirated: many people get a commercial advertisement rather than the article. I have the original cached, and since I cannot get to the article I presume no one else can:

The Adolescent Society

By Christopher Chantrill

Some people think that we have extended adolescence way too far into adulthood.

In rural society there is no such thing as adolescence. One day you are a child. The next day they conduct a coming-of-age ceremony and you are a man or a woman.

Not any more. Now you can live in the adolescent twilight zone between childhood and adulthood until way into your twenties. We talk, a generation after the liberating 1960s, about the responsibility of colleges in loco parentis for people who have already attained the age of majority. Today, college kids are treated more like children-except of course in their all-important "sexual life"-than back in the good old days when students had to keep one foot on the floor.

So when a crazed kid, sorry an adult adolescent complete with reversed baseball cap, kills 32 people in a gun-free zone of a college campus even the Wall Street Journal starts busily editorializing about what the college woulda coulda shoulda done to stop it.

But surely the pundits should be marveling at how well colleges prevent student violence.

Young men, science tells us, are wired for violence. We bombard them constantly with the message that violence never solves anything. But we titillate them with all kinds of virtual violence in movies, music, videos, and first-person shooter video games. Then we humiliate them in our compulsory schools run, for the most part, by women with the assistance of mood-altering drugs.

On top of that we have deliberately targeted young men of little or no color in the past generation with a deliberate program of discrimination to atone for the sins of their fathers. Everywhere you look the education system has a plan or a program to humiliate young men of little or no color.

So what do our young men do about all this? Are they erupting against daily indignity in an existential rage that will not be denied? Not at all. They just hunker down in front of their first-person shooter video games and vote with their feet against the schools and colleges that so humiliate them.

The astonishing thing is that, with all this barrage of instruction, titillation, and humiliation, only one middle-class boy misses the point, shorts out his social conditioning, and fires up his hard wiring. It's a testament to the effectiveness of our cultural conditioning system, or at least the tolerance of modern young people for rank, unapologetic oppression.

Of course, the system doesn't work so well among the lower orders.

The annual murder rate in the United States is about 6 murders per 100,000. It's a bit higher in places like New Orleans, according to Nicole Gelinas in City Journal, about ten times higher. That's understandable. There's nothing you can do about inner-city problems without solving the root-cause problems of poverty and discrimination. So that's different.

But in the world of higher education almost every kid seems to get the message. Except for one student at Virginia Tech last week.

Now we are engaged in the usual Monday-morning quarterbacking. Should the university have warned the students? Should authorities have removed the disturbed young man from school? Should there be more gun control? Should there be less gun control? Did the university make a mistake by declaring the campus a gun-free zone?

All these questions have only one answer: More research is needed.

But some people wonder whether we are asking the right questions.

They want to look at the bigger questions. They want to question the entire program of extended adolescence and endless education.

William W. Lewis in The Power of Productivity has found that the importance of education to a productive economy is overrated. You can train people for most jobs. And you can train very ordinary people to be the most productive in the world, as Wal-Mart has proved. Judith Rich Harris in The Nurture Assumption argues that adults have grossly overestimated their ability to control and influence children. Indeed she raises the question: Do we really know what we are doing by crowding children into our factory schools, given that children learn mostly from older children rather than from adults? And Robert Epstein in The Case Against Adolescence argues that we should do away with an arbitrary age of majority and emancipate children as soon as they can pass tests of responsibility.

It's an interesting question. Is all this extended education that is so central to our society really such a good thing-other than for the education industrial complex, of course?

Don't expect changes any time soon. Vast privileges and powers depend upon the existence of the Adolescent Society and the extended childhoods of our children.

Christopher Chantrill is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. See hiswebsites Road to the Middle Class and usgovernmentspending.com.

I will take this down when the web site returns tomorrow.





This week:


read book now


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hubberts Leak ?

Trying to get Houston or Dallas petroleum experts to come clean on the record about the Seven Sisters future production prospects is , well , like trying to squeeze oil from blacktop on a cold day. So oil information analyst Richard Nehring wennt offshore to apply some leverage . Here's the result

http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/04/hubberts_leak.html <http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/04/hubberts_leak.html

Russell Seitz


Re: Teach them well. > their [sic]...they [sic]

"They" is also a defined as a singular third-person gender-indefinite pronoun synonomous with "he." See definition 1b at http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/they <http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/they>  . My "Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage" is not in front of me, but if I recall correctly, this usage dates back to Chaucer.

Joel Franklin

I agree with that particular construction. The late Damon Knight coined "yeye" as the gender-neutral third person singular pronoun. I find that ugly. "They" works fairly well.


I guess it takes a study to demonstrate the obvious, these days.


 Roland Dobbins


'Hardship' case.


-- Roland Dobbins

Why are we not astonished? Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy at work again...


“Taxes are annoying.”


-- Roland Dobbins





CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Thar She Blows Alee of Mustique

Dear Jerry: If you think the geology of Central America is hairy ( Guatemala has 23 volcanoes, three presently erupting, and a fault that makes the San Andreas seem well behaved ) wait till you see the Other Side of the Caribbean plate. The first time I visited the Grenadines,( the part of the Spanish Main whose fame has been revived by its serving as the set for Pirates of the Caribbean ) , the underwater volcano called Kickem Jenny , had nearly a hundred fathoms of blue water safely atop it.

Now it's less than 200 feet short of surfacing and living up to its name : Kickem Jenny. Not good for Caribbean coastal property owners a decade out, but it means I get to go down and check it out on a nitox dive in June for the next edition of the Natural History guide I helped write a couple of years ago. A lot of people visit islands a day sail away, like St Lucia, and more adventurous readers might want to detour this year or next--by which time a newer but scarcely more elegant edition of the guide will be on island shelves - and maybe in some American museum shops as well. And I almost forgot --off Bequia, there is still whaler watching ,as well as very nervous whales.

http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/04/pyrites_of_the_.html <http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/04/pyrites_of_the_.html

Russell Seitz


Buckley: Superstitions of Democracy.


 Roland Dobbins




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  April 27, 2007

The Importance of Right Thinking.



According to the Chicago Sun-Times a student in a creative writing class has been arrested for writing a violent essay. Apparently the essay concerned murder followed by necrophilia. I don't suppose I would have enjoyed reading it but might have been obliged to commend the student for a good literary effort, if such it were. To have someone arrested for writing something, however distasteful I found it, is simply intolerable It also raises the issue of what law or distortion of law was held to have been broken in what was almost a private communication. I was opposed to legislation forbidding holocaust denial because it saved the deniers from making fools of themselves. I worked for two people who had been imprisoned in a concentration camp and have no doubt whatever that the holocaust took place.

What's next. King Lear? All Quiet on the Western Front? Comic Cuts?

John Edwards

And another comment on the same incident:


Sending the kid for some counseling, I could understand, but charging him twice! VT was horrible and we should do all we can to stop that kind of thing, but bad stuff happens in a free society. Freedom isn't free. That doesn't just mean you occasionally have to lose soldiers defending it. It sometimes means bad people get to do bad things, but no one reads Franklin, Jefferson, or Madison anymore. These guys aren't PC enough for today's educational crowd.

Careful what you write, Jerry. The thought police are getting bolder every day.

Braxton S. Cook


Pupils 'are urged to drop maths'.


--- Roland Dobbins

Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy in action



We have truly entered the Crazy Years:


What I want to know is how did Heinlein know?



Subject: Engineers write defence against aliens manual,


Some engineers have written a defense against aliens manual:


"Their book An Introduction to Planetary Defense: A Study of Modern Warfare Applied to Extra-Terrestrial Invasion is out now in paperback."

I still recall Footfall, with the foot-on-the-head ceremony.



Subject: Why We Need Fewer Lawyers, 


Lawyer's Price For Missing Pants: $65 Million

By Marc Fisher Thursday, April 26, 2007; B01

When the neighborhood dry cleaner misplaced Roy Pearson's pants, he took action. He complained. He demanded compensation. And then he sued. Man, did he sue.

Two years, thousands of pages of legal documents and many hundreds of hours of investigative work later, Pearson is seeking to make Custom Cleaners pay -- would you believe more than the payroll of the entire Washington Nationals roster?

He says he deserves millions for the damages he suffered by not getting his pants back, for his litigation costs, for "mental suffering, inconvenience and discomfort," for the value of the time he has spent on the lawsuit, for leasing a car every weekend for 10 years and for a replacement suit, according to court papers.

Pearson is demanding $65,462,500. The original alteration work on the pants cost $10.50.

By the way, Pearson is a lawyer. Okay, you probably figured that. But get this: He's a judge, too -- an administrative law judge for the District of Columbia.

I'm telling you, they need to start selling tickets down at the courthouse.

Oh, where to start: How about the car? Why should Ki, Jin and Soo Chung -- the family that owns Custom Cleaners on Bladensburg Road NE in the District's Fort Lincoln section -- pay Pearson $15,000 so he can rent a car every weekend for 10 years?<snip>


Dear Dr Pournelle,

I’m a subscriber to Chaos Manor for a number of years but this is my first posting to Chaos Manor Reviews. I’m wondering if any of your other readers has spotted the following problem:

Recently, when Microsoft Windows Update decides to download and install a patch, svchost.exe grabs 100% of the CPU resources and effectively locks up my PC while the patch or update is downloaded and installed. Furthermore, the download and install process takes ages – I can go away and have a meal while it finishes. Disabling automatic updates and getting them manually is no better – the Microsoft Update website takes ages to work out what updates are needed. In fact, doing it that way kicks off another runaway svchost.exe process that gobbles 100% of CPU time.

I currently have four systems at home, all running Windows XP SP2. I have an ancient Dell laptop with a Pentium II running at 233MHz. Frankly, it’s no surprise that that machine is very slow and it will be retired shortly. I also have a Compaq EXM with a 700 MHz Pentium III and a Dell Optiplex GX260 with a 1.7 GHz P4. The Dell is reasonably fast, given that it also has 2Gb of RAM. The last machine is a Dell Latitude D820 with a Centrino Duo T2600 – two 2.16GHz cores and 1Gb of RAM. Amazingly, as I write, the D820 has completely locked up to the extent that I’ll have to manually power it down. This happened during a Windows Update. You’d think with two cores that I’d be able to get it back under control but no such luck.

These problems have only become apparent in the last few weeks. Any observations from your other readers would be welcome as it’s driving me nuts.


Simon Woodworth.

I would look at whatever firewall software you are using.





This week:


read book now


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Subject: EU mucking up Turkey now 



Turkey’s Islamic-rooted government fires back Justice minister criticizes military for statement regarding elections

In a statement posted on its Web site late Friday, the powerful pro-secular military said it was monitoring the elections with concern and indicated it was willing to become more openly involved in the process. Analysts said the statement was an ultimatum to the government.

In a rare salvo against the military, Justice Minister Cemil Cicek, the government spokesman, said the government said any military warning to the government was “not acceptable in a democratic order.”


The European Union is pressuring Turkey to curb the influence of the military as part of its membership bid and on Saturday, said the election of a new president was a “test case” for the Turkish military’s respect for democracy.

“This is a clear test case whether the Turkish armed forces respect democratic secularization and democratic values,” said Olli Rehn, the EU expansion affairs commissioner.


Gods! The EU is no longer satisfied with mucking up their own countries, they have to muck up the only stable democracy in the Middle East. Cant' they see that it's the military that has kept that country a democracy for so many years? True democracy is mob rule. The only offset to this is an armed, informed citizenry that can get the mob to reconsider what it's doing. We do it by allowing most people to keep and bear arms. They do it with a military that truly believes one group should not muck up the works no matter how many votes they get.

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!" Benjamin Franklin

I wonder how Ol' Ben would view the U.S. as it is today and the Europe he so loved as it also is today?

Braxton S. Cook

Europe is lost. The US is sowing the wind. Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide.


Student Charged For Creative Writing Assignment 

Crazy years indeed, and very sad. My Creative Writing teacher was smart enough not to instruct 18 year old boys to write the most outrageous thing THEY could think of, but of course she's long since retired and the drones replacing her are decidedly on the left side of "The Bell Curve". Is "easily surprised" a charitable way of describing them?

I wonder if anyone has contacted the folks at South Park. They're probably looking for talent.

Robbie Walker Wilmington, NC


Subject : Is _Nature_ trying to drown debate about a message found in a bottle?

One atom of iron in sea water has been found to take 100, 000 of carbon out of circulation by stimulating plankton growth, but some people are unhappy enough about the ramifications for future CO2 policy to try to drown the result in political headlines

_Nature_ seems bent on downplaying the discovery


Why this cavalier rejection of the undefined art of Geo-engineering ?

Russell Seitz

We will continue this discussion Monday.











CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday, April 29, 2007      

This is a busy day for me. We will discuss iron and global warming Monday.








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