picture of me

Chaos Manor Home Page> Mail Home Page  > View Home Page > Current View > Chaos Manor Reviews Home Page


Mail 481 August 27 - September 2, 2007







BOOK Reviews

Chaos Manor Reviews

read book now

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

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

LAST WEEK                                  NEXT WEEK


Atom FEED from Chaos Manor

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun

Highlights this week:


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

line6.gif (917 bytes)

This week:


read book now


Monday  August 27, 2007

Harry Erwin's Letter from England

Sometimes a bureaucratic policy (1) seems to have a rational basis; sometimes it (2) reinforces and maintains class differences (social control); sometimes it's (3) self-serving; and sometimes it's (4) just plain arrogance: 'because we can do it.' In England, we tend to assume social control rather than self-interest because class relations are so fraught. (See Kate Fox, Watching the English, available at www.amazon.co.uk.) Here in Sunderland, the city is organising a family bicycle ride through the large park next to my house in September. There's only one problem--the new signs at the entrances informing you that it's illegal to ride bicycles in the park. (See
<http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php> <http://tinyurl.com/2xzz8k>.) So what do you think is motivating this? I suspect social control, given that most people within walking distance of the part are working class, living in terrace houses without gardens and walking their dogs in the park as a daily ritual. But I suppose one should never assume malice when stupidity is an adequate explanation (Napoleon). This is not unrelated to a story earlier in the week about forced adoptions (<http://society.guardian.co.uk/children/story/0,,2155805,00.html> <http://tinyurl.com/2r2xe9> <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/08/26/nbaby226.xml> <http://tinyurl.com/2s9m4l>) or the widespread use of ASBOs ( <http://society.guardian.co.uk/youthjustice/story/0,,2150794,00.html> <http://tinyurl.com/3x7kpv>) to discourage legal but uncultured behaviour.

Education stories:




Whither Russia? <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/
columnists/guest_contributors/article2327985.ece> <http://tinyurl.com/22bfl3>

"The difference between theory and practice is that, in theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is." (Tom Vogl)
Harry Erwin


Ain't it sweet? Sony uses sugar to run a bio battery

August 23, 2007 (IDG News Service) -- TOKYO -- A year ago it seemed Sony Corp. couldn't even get a laptop battery right. A massive recall of lithium-ion cells tainted its image and had the company scrambling, but today the company reported a sweet breakthrough in bio battery technology.


Bill Shields


Last week I said

My Viking ancestors were everywhere. Mostly, though, we raided Ireland for what we thought would be slave girls. Next thing we knew, they were wives. We never have figured that one out.



First you must remember that Celtic women were always considered equals. They said equal with who? My grandfather said one time that a man of Celtic heritage should never bow his head or bend his knee to any man, this stricture did not apply to women. Now the women of Ireland were used to ruling, and so after being captured they would necessarily assume they were captured because their captors lacked competent leadership and so would naturally resume their natural position in society, at its head.

Example from historical records.

Greek and Roman writers liked to enliven their works with accounts of what they perceived as licentious behavior among the Celts.

Often however, items written by the classical writers were supportive of the Celts. Dio Cassius, for example presented a rare Celtic point of view when he quoted the reply of a Celtic wife to a jeering accusation of promiscuity from a Roman matron:

“We fulfill the demands of nature in a much better way than do you Roman women,” the Celtic lady retorted disdainfully, “for we consort openly with the best of men, where as you let yourselves be debauched in secret by the vilest.”

Some classical writers, such as Strabo, gave their opinion on the more earthy qualities of Celtic women. After discussing the impressive size of various Celtic populations, he admiringly mentions “the excellence of their women in bearing and rearing children.” This, he wrote sagely, compelled the men to devote themselves to food production. No part of the Celtic land, he added, “was un-worked except for swamps and thickets.” It can be assumed that he would have included the Celtic women of Britain in this general description. 

It should be noted that the industrial revolution came about from the need of Celtic men to raise sufficient crops to keep their women content with them.

-- James Early
Long Beach, CA

 My lecture on civilization is mostly about the role of women in civilizing societies.


Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?

Personally, I think he probably died at Tora Bora in 2003.


-- Roland Dobbins


The Dangers of Wind Power.


-- Roland Dobbins

Nothing is absolutely safe, of course. Wind systems can also be deadly to birds and bats, if anyone worries about birds and bats. Loss of Blade Accidents are always something to worry about. Windmills make sense in some economies and conditions, but I think the total amount of wind generated electricity is still very small, and the cost per kw is high. Generating power in local areas does save on transmission losses and high tension line construction.

And see below


New YouTube Security Threat - Exploit Prevention Labs's Roger Thompson Available to Comment

Hi Jerry,

Your inbox and spam filters are probably clogged today with emails urging you to check out a YouTube video that you're starring in! If you click on what appears to be an innocent-looking YouTube address, you are routed to a different website that tries to hit you with the Q4Rollup package, an encrypted collection of about a dozen exploits (keylogger spyware, rootkits, etc). If your security patches are updated through April, you're okay. The site then prompts you to download software to view the video, in which you case you're hit with an exploit again.

Here's what's interesting: 1. The bad guys are preying upon the trust of YouTube users using tried and true social engineering. Most users think YouTube videos are safe (and they are. The only problem is you think you're clicking on a hyperlink to a YouTube video, but you're not). 2. The bad guys are using exploits to deliver their malware. There are numerous press reports out there that fail to mention the exploit connection with the Storm Botnet folks (the same folks who've been sending out the malicious ecards, which are also using exploits).

Users of Exploit Prevention Labs' LinkScanner software are immune to the exploits. If your readers aren't using either the paid or free version of the software, they can still check the safety of hyperlinks for free by pasting the hyperlink into XPL's free LinkScanner Online service at http://linkscanner.explabs.com/linkscanner/default.asp 

Roger Thompson has a short blurb on his blog from yesterday about the YouTube spam exploit at http://explabs.blogspot.com/  and I can also get him on the phone with you if you would like to learn more.

Let me know how I can help you.

Best regards, Bryan




This week:


read book now


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A few notes on wind power

Wind energy

is about 1% total world power output. But cars kill more birds than power lines, and power lines kill more birds than wind mills. And in the ten years I've lived in Mojave, I have never seen a loss of blade. One blade got bent around a pylon recently, but not one lost blade.

Aleta Jackson

I have to confess that "Loss of blade accident" is an injoke among nuclear power people. Years ago the "loss of coolant accident" obsessed the greens who hated nuclear power. They postulated all kinds of highly improbable to impossible scenarios (look up The China Syndrome) and used these in support of their favorites, wind and tide. Wind power isn't particularly dangerous -- I believe the most dangerous power source in terms of deaths & Injuries / kw is rooftop solar while the most dangerous in widespread use is coal -- and the largest objections (at least the noisiest) are aesthetic. I note that the Kennedy family is opposed to a windmill farm off shore from their compound; it would be ugly.

The Dangers of Wind Power

Jerry, I have also wondered about wind power. I knew about the physical risks but I don't think anyone has done any studies to see if taking large amounts of energy out of the global weather system has any adverse consequences. I doubt that these large wind farms are even considered in the dire predictions about global warming. It looks like we'll never know since we aren't allowed to even look at the algorithms.

Again, we sew the wind ... but we are getting some power from it.

Jim Brandvold

I do not believe I have ever seen an analysis of the effects of extracting wind energy on weather or climate, but I can't think it's large compared to the thermal effects of blacktop and rooftops.

I thought I had data on the cost/kw of wind power (the mills aren't cheap and they do take maintenance) but I don't seem to find it easily.

Wind is particularly useful in windy areas remote from other power sources since it does save transmission costs. It is not always reliable, and electricity storage is expensive: pumped water storage is about the most efficient, and that makes for unattractive environmental lakes. It is not going to add much to the baseline.

The answer to electricity needs is nuclear power and space solar power.

And see below


Now _that's_ scary!




Antigua vs US: Asymmetrical Trade Warfare at the WTO *corrected*

Because of incompetent composition by ... err ... me, ... my original message did not include the link to the place from which I quoted. Mea culpa!

That place also has additional interesting links and comments.

Subj: Antigua vs US: Asymmetrical Trade Warfare at the WTO


>>The Antigua story underscores how asymmetries operate in international trade and political relations. A regulatory regime is created, but that fact does not guarantee "fairness". The huge disparity in the size between Antigua and the United States makes the island's trade retaliatory power weak. And in a straight trade dispute the odds would weigh overwhelmingly in favor of the US. But lawyers are clever and the loophole cited by the New York Times makes it possible for Antigua to demand the right to pirate US intellectually property -- under the rules -- and "morally" too because a mechanism which allowed the US to use is preponderant economic power would be "unfair".<<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

I have been following this story. Apparently they get to pirate my books and make me pay because the US doesn't permit Internet gambling in the US. Onk?


: Round heads

Quote: _A long-standing mystery over the way men's skulls changed from long to round in medieval Europe has been deepened by discoveries at a Yorkshire village._

_left-handedness was much more common in medieval times, at 15% compared with 8% today._ Unquote

Obviously, the medievals were well rounded thinkers, which has sinister implications.

+ + +

The news story goes on to say _the unexplained blip between the 11th and 13th centuries_

and then cites speculation that the plague may have been a cause.

The plague was a 14th century et seq. phenomenon. How it would cause a blip 3 centuries earlier is indeed sinister. There may be a skiffy story in that.

Mike Flynn

 What's a century or two among scholars?


Unstructured Problems

I wonder what's on the reading list today?

"In 1982, he (Wass de Czege) was ordered to rewrite the Army's field manual on combat operations. At his own initiative, he read the classics of military strategy, Clausewitz's, On War, Sun Tzu's, Art of War, B. H. Liddell Hart's, Strategy, none of which had been on his reading list at West Point."

Ron Mullane


Guilty until proven innocent

From the Digg summary: "Does possession of more than $10,000 automatically make you a criminal? Anastasio Prieto was never charged with anything. He was fingerprinted, though, and deprived of $23,700. The government has said he can have his money back (in about a year) if he can prove it didn't come from drug trafficking. The ACLU is suing the DEA on his behalf."


I love how this gent is guilty until he can prove that the government can't pin drug trafficking on him. (The assumption of guilt is automatic, it is merely whether the evidence is sufficient to deny him his money in lieu of actually proving innocence.)


I keep hearing this story; I haven't followed it. It seems the very essence of tyranny, and I keep wondering if there's more here we don't know.


The Racial Engineering of San Francisco.


- Roland Dobbins

When I was a lad in the legally segregated South I was called a hopeless utopian radical because I said and believed that the law ought to be color blind. Now I am considered a hopeless reactionary because I say and believe that the law ought to be color blind. I do not believe it is the business of the government to collect racial statistics, and I believe it is unconstitutional for the government to ask me to reveal my race. I think there are significant correlations to race, but correlations are useless in dealing with individuals; and government must deal with individuals.

But that just shows how hopeless I am.


Subject: Wind energy.

Look at following detailed data on wind power economics: http://www.windpower.org/en/tour/econ/economic.htm 

There is also a lot of information about the technical aspects of wind power.

FAQ on windpower in Denmark: http://www.windpower.org/en/didyouknow.htm 


Bo Andersen

Nations with lots of wind and lots of islands have the opportunity to make one problem solve another...




This week:


read book now


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Plucking the yew

Hallo. I was doing some checking online regarding the Battle of Agincourt, and your “pluck yew” note came up in the search. Steve Barnes has always spoken well of you, so I hope you don’t mind a comment.

Sir, you’re too good a military historian to be subject to this myth, in my opinion. For one thing, as I understand it, the French removed both the index and middle fingers, when they didn’t kill the commoner outright, which was far more normal for them: you can still steer a plough with the remaining digits, but you’ll never pull a bow. However, as far as that detail goes, I admit I’m taking Doyle’s word for it – he describes the policy in _White Company_, and most of the history in it is pretty sound, I’ve discovered in the decades since I first read it.

But for another thing, on a more pragmatic note, you may take the word of a longbow archer that one doesn’t pluck a bowstring, anymore than one jerks the trigger of a firearm– and for the same reason. Not only that, but if one did pluck anything, it would be the string, not the wood. The idea of plucking yew definitely does not reflect not an archer’s thinking. I don’t know where this pre-urban myth got its start, but in the years since first I heard the unlikely thesis advanced, I’ve never seen any documentation to support it.

Add in the fact that, as I recall, the Oriflamme was raised at Agincourt, indicating that the French were in no humour for taking prisoners to begin with. (They should have read Sun Tsu’s advice on the “Golden Bridge” principle.)

No offense intended; and none, I hope, taken.

Blessings & good faring,


I may not have made myself clear on that page: I didn't suggest that I believe that story. I was merely collecting some folk etymology stories about obscene gestures. As a result of your letter I have mildly revised the page to make all that clearer.


We had a lot of mail on asset forfeiture:

You wondered if there were more to the story regarding the trucker who had his cash seized. There is, but not in the way I suspect you meant.

Asset forfeiture has become a lucrative business for government at all levels. The federal "take" can be viewed at the DOJ Asset Forfeiture web site, www.usdoj.gov/jmd/afp/ 

For the other side of the coin, you might want to check the FEAR website, http://www.fear.org/ ; and particularly this article, http://www.fear.org/124_700_article.html 

Most people are blissfully unaware of the highway robbery (and I use that description deliberately) that law enforcement agencies carry out on a daily basis. Jefferson was of the opinion that we would probably require another revolution every few generations. I believe he was right, but we are long overdue. Much like a forest where fires have been suppressed for a long time, when the inevitable comes it is much more destructive than the smaller fires (or revolutions) that were prevented would have been.


And we are so much safer


The case cited of the $23,000 is nothing new.

It has long been the practice of police and feds to seize the funds of people involved in travel.

The advantage is that if there is no criminal charge the forfeiture is against the property (money) and is a civil action - so you have to provide your own attorney. This is separate from criminal forfeiture where the fruit of the crime is seized after conviction.

Given that this is a case (as are most) away from your home, and the amounts seized will be less than legal costs to recover the money the authorities have a source of free money that is separate from appropriations from county commissioners etc. Helps to buy all sorts of nice toys.

Some local authorities are wise to this scam, and prohibit there local police from profiting from these seizures. What happens is that the locals turn the case over to the feds, who then provide a share of the proceeds in a round about transaction.

The court dockets are filled with cases with such revealing titles as US vs $250,000.

One of the biggest sources of a tip off had been airline employees , who notice individuals paying for tickets with case. A quick call to the local police at the airport results in favors owed. The fact that this is a man traveling to a heavy equipment auction that requires cash on delivery on Sunday is just a convenient excuse - he could be a secret drug dealer.


Sowing the wind


On reading lists for officer cadets

Reading Lists

For the record, I wouldn't put On War or the other classics of war strategy on the reading list at West Point. I'd concentrate on works like The Defense of Duffer's Drift, perhaps the modern version The Defense of Hill 781, Killer Angels, Prince of Sparta... I'd want works on leadership, books about small unit actions and things a platoon leader would find valuable. I'd totally ignore books on things colonels and generals would find valuable, because the officers will encounter them in reading lists later in their careers, as they go through required schools on the way up. Of course that's just me...

I'll also point out that while I may never have had a class on unstructured problems, I've been told to find out how the Bosnia border police worked, survey schools in a region, determine the threats to convoys in a region, secure a base, evaluate possible hostile leaders in a city who might be political opponents of our official efforts, run a warehouse distribution center, manage a database, run an office and a myriad of other tasks including evaluating hurricane projections. I've even been the one who tells the 19 year old privates to follow me. Would any of that count as unstructured problems?


I don't think any comment is needed. Thanks!


What a Civilian Reserve Corps Would Look Like


"As described by Robert Perito of the U.S. Institute of Peace's (USIP) Center for Post-Conflict Peace and Stability Operations

  , the CRS has developed a three-tiered plan to deploy critical civilian elements at the outset of a peace or stability operation.

The first tier, the Active Reserve Corps (ARC), would be composed of 100-150 personnel with diplomatic, police, justice, and other ROL skills who would deploy on 24-hour notice from their government jobs at a variety of agencies. The second tier, the Standby Reserve Corps (SRC), would be composed of over 1,000 new hires who would be trained and deployable within 60 days of assignment. While ARC officers would be assigned to military commands or embassies, SRC officers would man mobile or regional teams.

The third tier, the Civil Response Corps (CRC), would be composed of personnel from state and local governments and the private sector who would sign contingency agreements with the federal government. Like the Army Reserves, they could be activated by the appropriate authority for international service, at which point they would become federal employees. Over time the CRC, including its police aspect, would grow to about 4,000 people."

I think this scheme overlooks some potential issues with basing this under State, but it is certainly interesting to see they are still trying to make this work, and the opposition seems to be waning.




Dear Jerry,

>>I thought I had data on the cost/kw of wind power<<

The Germans are discovering other problems with wind power. This is the effect on the grid of hundreds and thousands of megawatts surging on and off in one district in response to the wind. This is not how the grid has historically been managed. I have seen capacity utilization factors cited for Germany as low as 15% of installed generator faceplate capacity. A "one megawatt" wind turbine never equals 1 Mw of 24/7 electricity. In the case of the EU their "48,000 MW" of wind turbine power capacity translates to 15,000 MW of power. And that's using a generous 31% capacity factor.

In contrast, one nuclear plant at Palo Verde, Arizona has a faceplate capacity of 3,825 MW with a realistic capacity utilization of 90%, or 3,442 MW. Four Palo Verde plants could replace the EU's entire current wind program, assuming the EU realizes an average 31% capacity utilization. This is questionable because of the many low German utilization numbers, down to 15% for their land based turbines.

To equal Palo Verde's output with wind power, and assuming 25% capacity utilization, one would need 13,768 MW of *installed* wind turbine capacity. Or 13,768 one MW wind turbine towers, each about 300' tall. We can reduce this a bit to 5,500 installations using 2.5 MW wind turbines set on 450' tall towers (fyi the Empire State Building is 1,250' tall at the roof). This leads to the next problem, which is siting. The best spots are off shore (see Teddy K's legerdemain opposing the Cape Wind project) or the sides and tops of mountains. Mountains require an extensive mountain service road building program to install and maintain.

On the above basis alone nuclear plants look like a better investment for our steel mill and civil engineering capacity. And they don't require bulldozing nearly as much countryside.

The most cost effective wind power installations - i.e. not requiring huge taxpayer subsidies or a delusionary mental state to turn into political policy - seem to be rural grid-tied units of 5 kw to 10 kw capacity. Even these need to be set on 100' poles. Costs are much lower, they are suitable for manufacture and installation by low capital local small businesses, and they can economically benefit tens of millions of American families through net metering.

Best Wishes,



China-free certificates?

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I am shocked to see how the public opinion is being manipulated. Don't get me wrong: I have no sympathy for today's China, a country that lacks political freedom, and is destroying the environment like there is no tomorrow. My guess is the American administration is beginning to stage some kind of conflict with China. Why? Because of dwindling natural resources. And if there is a war for natural resources, it will be the most stupid war ever, because whoever wins will only be buying a little more time.

I am no tree-hugger, and I love progress. I enjoy trading up my car, my computer or my digital camera as much as the next guy. Unfortunately, we just cannot keep increasing our industrial activity. And I agree with you: it's not entirely clear that global warming exists and it's due to human activity, but on the other hand it is plain evident we are wreaking havoc in so many ways, that perhaps global warming is just one problem among a long list. How many lakes do you know where you can safely swim or drink water from? How much land is free from toxic waste? What are we going to do after we've eaten all the mineral resources?

I think the biggest fear of all governments is recession. As long as the economic activity grows, all other problems seem manageable. However, our social structure just isn't prepared for recession. So, what all administrations do is just kick the real problem further ahead, buy more time.

What we really need to find is a way of slowing down all industrial activities without causing social chaos. I have no idea how this can be done, but I do believe that if we succeed, we will not only survive, but be happier too. Nobody can honestly feel well while knowing that in the long run we are negating our most basic drive, which is the continuation of the species. We humans have been cursed with the certainty of death. Our only weapon against it -besides religion- is the hope that our children and grandchildren will be able to carry the torch.

Sergio Gaustein

Actually, I have nothing against high growth in the US; it's the exporting jobs that bothers me. I can live with a reasonably static economy in which all the citizens feel useful and have employment.

Free Trade will maximize industrial growth; but the costs are very high.

 What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? (Matt.16:26)

That can be said for nations as well.


Making Science 'Easier' in the UK

How do you improve grades? Ask simpler questions on the tests....


"A document prepared by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), which represents awarding bodies across Britain, says that, from next year, exam papers should consist of 70 per cent “low-demand questions”, requiring simpler or multiple-choice answers. "

This bodes well.



CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, August 3, 2007

Presidential Candidates Call For Higher Consumer Food Prices

Dear Jerry,


"At a time when demand for the corn-based fuel is soaring, support for ethanol among candidates is nearly unanimous and has largely crowded out talk of other agriculture-related issues."

"Iowa has 28 ethanol refineries and 19 under construction or expanding. There also are a dozen plants that refine soybean-based biodiesel and three under construction, according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association."

"Because of the demand for ethanol and a resulting rise in corn prices, farmers have planted the largest corn crop in U.S. history. And the decision by so many farmers to grow corn has led to a drop in soybean planting and a resulting rise in that commodity's prices."

The rise in these two crops' prices is already surging into animal feed and food prices. Nor will it stop with corn and soybeans. Here in Florida some quick R&D adapted methods to distill citrus peels to ethanol. Which citrus peels were formerly also used for livestock feed.

Best Wishes,


ps As we determined earlier, this is a done deal so far as political policy goes. It's clear we're exiting a brief and atypical era in both U.S. and world history. This was a period when the majority of the population was not involved in growing subsistence food. It's back to the Victory Gardens now.


Food To Ethanol 

Dear Jerry,

I'm becoming resigned to this and am now looking for a silver lining. Setting up 500 - 1,000 of these plants will at least educate huge numbers of local politicians, businessmen and plain citizens to the fact that liquid hydrocarbon fuels can be made from things other than oil.

But the tuition is steep and it's grossly unjust to make young families pay it.

Best Wishes,


Has anyone done a CO2 budget on burning food? Fewer steers, perhaps, and corn eats CO2, but then gets burned again... I don't know the efficiencies. There was a time when I'd do the math, but I am sure there are many of you who can do it.


Ethanol Policy In Hell 

Is there any chance to work this into Inferno II? Perhaps a vignette with the current Iowa primary field in a group scene with corn stalks growing out of all their body orifices?


I think I will not include that scene, but it's tempting. But there are already places for Wasters and Violent Wasters. Perhaps among the harpies.




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  August 31, 2007

Wind Power

Background - I'm a 45 year old Chemical engineer who grew up in west texas where there is plenty of wind, lots of sun, and not much else.

Solar and Wind are great ways to charge a bank of batteries. For small locations that are very far from the grid it's an amazing solution. Big stuff needs base load power plants and nukes make the most sense for the long term.

As the cost of grid power goes up it makes more sense to start using solar and wind for my low load needs at home, but my homeowners association doesn't allow big windmills - for obvious reasons.

I'm waiting for a good inventor to provide me with a small rooftop mounted wind mill. It needs to look like the normal "whirlybird" attic wind turbine vent fans so as not to disturb the neighbors.

If you attach the whirlybird to a small generator and then to a batter bank you can run a set of lights without using grid power. I can install 10 of these on my house without bothering the neighbors.

Most of my neighbors are already using solar power to run their accent lights along their sidewalk and in the garden. Several are also using solar power to run pumps in the swimming pool and landscape waterfalls. Here in hurricane country the solar accent lights serve double duty as emergency lights if we must go without power for a week or two.

Several technologies are converging to make this a reality in the next few years.

1. Efficient lighting (LED and compact fluorescent)

2. Better batteries

3. low cost PLC controllers to manage the current load and keep the batteries topped off properly.

4. As the cost of grid power continues to go up the ROI for these units will improve.

5. Portable electronics all run on DC power which is great for batteries. TV, Laptop, etc.

6. Baby boomers (who have all the money) buy boats, RV's, lake houses, beach houses, and mountain cabins - all areas that tend to need "off grid" power. Increased demand yields lower cost components and innovative ideas.

Maybe we'll be able to "reap the wind" in my generation.

 Jim Coffey

My neighbor Ed Begley Jr has one of those rooftop mills. It's certainly not an eyesore. http://www.pe.com/reports/2007/futurepower/stories




Francis Hamit on Richard Jewell

A few words about Richard Jewell

Dear Jerry:

A few words about Richard Jewell and the Olympic Park Bombing. At the time I was a Contributing Editor for Security Technology and Design magazine and wrote a monthly column called "Security Counterpoint". Watching Jewell on television while he was being harassed and looking at the coverage on the Internet, where everyone was simply quoting each other and very little new information was offered, I quickly concluded that he had been wronged and unjustly accused. I wrote a column to this effect, but my Editor, who lived in Atlanta and had ties to local law enforcement, was convinced that he was indeed the guy responsible. We argued about this for several months and the column only ran after the U.S. Attorney there cleared him.

The Jewell case is now taught as a horrible example of what getting facts wrong can do to innocent lives. Here there were no real facts, just assumptions. The source of Jewell's problems with the FBI allegedly were the fault of Ray Cleere, the President of Piedmont College. Jewell had been a cop there. (Yes, he was a cop. POST Trained and Certified by the State of Georgia, who graduated in the top 25% of his class. Cleere who came to Piedmont after Jewell was hired there, was unclear on the concept of what he was dealing with with the officers on the campus force. Being cops and not so called "security guards" and sworn to uphold the law, they did not have the luxury of looking the other way when students there drank underage and/or drove while doing so. Cleere was the former Commissioner of Higher Education in Mississippi and left there under a cloud to take the job as President of Piedmont, which is a small college for those of Christian values. Preacher's kids. Cleere didn't want the little darlings arrested. Jewell, as he always did, did his job and was fired for it.

When Jewell got media attention for his heroism at the Olympic Park, Cleere allegedly took it upon himself to call the FBI and described Jewell's employment and character in most unflattering terms. This, it seems, was where the cop wantabee rap against Jewell came from. But Jewell was a cop and took the Olympic Park job as something in between police jobs. It was never a career move and lots of cops also work security between jobs or as a second job. What possessed Cleere to do this other than simple jealousy and meanness, has never been clear. I have been told that Piedmont, or rather its insurance company settled with Jewell for four million dollars, the limit under their policy. To my surprise the last time I checked, Cleere was still its President. There was a photo online of him and Jane Fonda, accepting some kind of award during her brief romance with that brand of Christianity.

So, anyway, this is where Jewell's troubles started. I discovered this trying to do a follow-up column but my Editor deemed it old news by that point. Talking to one of Piedmont's other cops I got the impression that Jewell was simply doing what the rest of them should have been doing and would have been doing had Cleere not fired Jewell for doing it. Jobs are not easy to come by there I gather.

But the real shame was the way that the media piled on. Jewell was more than a little Christian himself and he felt the accusations against him keenly. I read today that he never expressed any bitterness nor talked about the matter, but it undoubtedly helped shorten his life. There was one big name newsman who said "What if he didn't do it?" when Tom Brokaw was accusing him openly of just that on national television. Bob Costas, whose beat is sports.

I never did meet Richard Jewell. I would have liked to. I spent over 20 years at "Day Jobs" in the Security Industry and they have few cultural heroes. It seems that when one does do the right thing, as Jewell did and as Frank Wills did at Watergate, the long knives come out.

That's a pity. Jewell deserved better at our hands. May he be long remembered for the great soul he was.


Francis Hamit


Mr. Cleere is not dead, so I suppose I cannot add him to my book.


Subject: Global warming. No Consensus.


The paper is due to be formlly published in the journal Energy and Environment. The science blog DailyTech
article8641..htm>  has obtained a pre-publication copy which states:

Of 528 total papers on climate change, only 38 (7%) gave an explicit endorsement of the consensus. If one considers "implicit" endorsement (accepting the consensus without explicit statement), the figure rises to 45%. However, while only 32 papers (6%) reject the consensus outright, the largest category (48%) are neutral papers, refusing to either accept or reject the hypothesis. This is no "consensus."

Ho hum,

John Edwards


Water pours on your star system 



A torrent of water-ice cascading down on an embryonic star system may shed light on how a key ingredient for life makes its way into planets.


Gods, what I wouldn't give to live billions of years and spend part of that just watching star systems form.




No more ice age?

Jerry: The claim is that an ice age will be delayed up to 1/2 million years because of carbon dioxide already in the system.


  Dr Tyrrell’s team used a mathematical model to study what would happen to marine chemistry in a world with ever-increasing supplies of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. The world’s oceans absorb CO2 from the atmosphere but in doing so they are becoming more acidic. This in turn is dissolving the calcium carbonate in the shells produced by surface-dwelling marine organisms, adding even more carbon to the oceans. The outcome is elevated carbon dioxide for far longer than previously assumed. The plausibility of the phenomenon is supported by theoretical analysis.

and bio-piracy? When science is outlawed, only criminals will have science? Brazil is apparently awash in anti-scientific paranoia.


It takes a village to raze a mad scientist's laboratory.



Giant spider web

Jerry: Do you suppose that things like this:


are consequences of climatic change? If so, I could do without it.

"Time is the best teacher. Unfortunately, it kills all its students."-- Hector Berlioz


Given that West Nile is spreading in LA, maybe we could import the spiders...


Handling waste with plasma gasification

Convert anything (except nuclear waste) to glass, gas and electricity....


About two thirds of the power is siphoned off to run the converter; the rest can be used on-site for heating or electricity, or sold back to the utility grid.

Sounds intriguing. I'd like a way to generate electricity while simultaneously not filling landfills.


John Harlow


Cory Doctorow, Scribd, SFWA, and DMCA

Read your comments regarding Mr. Doctorow's comments re. the mass DMCA takedown at Scribd. I have to respectfully disagree with your stance on the matter, and I hope you'll soften that stance somewhat on further consideration.

The problem with the action, in my view, is NOT that the SFWA used the DMCA to get Scribd to remove material that infringed an author's copyright. In my view, it is an author's right to choose to do whatsoever he or she will with his or her own product... and any author who sees their content being distributed illegally has a right to act to take it down. Unlike some, I see no moral obligation for an author (or any artist) to provide work for free, though I will say that I choose to do so (I publish a comic on the web).

The problem in my eyes, is that there was content that was taken down via a DMCA declaration that the SFWA was in no position whatsoever to demand be taken down -- Mr. Doctorow himself has mentioned that he has published a book under an open license, free for any to distribute, that was taken down as a part of this action. In other words, there is at least one instance where a copyright holder found his material removed at the request of the SFWA, where they had no right or authority to remove it.

Now I believe from a legal standpoint the SFWA is ok -- I think the DMCA treats the first takedown request as a "no fault" situation for everyone involved (note that I'm not a lawyer and I can't vouch for whether this interpretation is true). And Mr. Doctorow should be able to contact Scribd and have his content restored (and if the SFWA should attempt to have it taken down again, they would be liable for that action in court). Be that as it may, I don't see anything laudible about the SFWA "righting some wrongs" at the expense of someone else's rights on *their* properties. I can understand why an author would want to keep pirated works off of a site, but I can't understand or endorse same author taking measures that affect the decisions other authors have made "just to be safe."

In situations like these precision is needed instead of carpet bombing. When the decision is made that collateral damage is OK then ultimately you weaken your own position where your rights on your work is concerned, because you are taking legal action that affects someone else's property against their will -- surely that can't be a good precedent to take?

I am a musician, a cartoonist (albeit a bad one) and a would-be author -- I don't endorse piracy. But I do support an artist's right to choose how his or her work is distributed and licensed, whatever that may be. And from that perspective it seems to me that the SFWA grossly overstepped itself in this situation.

Respectfully, Christopher B. Wright (wrightc@ubersoft.net)

The site in question uses other people's works to draw a crowd and thus fulfill their business model. I first learned of them when I found that just about everything I have ever written, alone or with others, was posted in full text. MOTE IN GOD'S EYE. HIGHER EDUCATION (which is STILL there). Many other works by me, Niven, Sheffield, Heinlein, and others.

Their response was a demand that I prove ownership of everything they had stolen; they insolently set up a set of hurdles for authors to get their works removed from this den of thieves.

SFWA acted on behalf of a number of actual writers. It was impossible to list each of the thousands of stolen items, so Dr. Burt used a computer generated list. That list may well have included some items to which the thieves had some rights of publication.

They could have ignored those, of course, and knew they could do so. But somehow we are supposed to have great sympathy for these people and for the authors who want their works displayed there because SFWA included some few dozen items legitimately posted on their site among the thousands of stolen items they posted.

If they can draw a crowd with the stuff they legitimately post, then let them do so; but their business model clearly intends something a bit different.

They know full well that SFWA can't and won't do anything about the stuff they post with permission of the authors or copyright holders; and yet all the focus is on these few legitimate items among the thousands of stolen goods they displayed for download. (And download you could; I got copies of some of my works from their site. They certainly had no permission from me.)

Why these pirates deserve sympathy and a writers association that tries to defend the rights of writers deserves obloquy in not clear to me. You say you endorse a writer's right to choose. Since that place still hasn't cleared all the pirated works, and is certainly under no obligation to remove items they have permission for including yours, I do not understand your point.

If you want to post your works with them, send them permissions. If they have the permissions they know they don't have any obligation to remove those. So please tell me, precisely, how an over inclusive demand to remove a few legitimately displayed works is morally evil, while putting up thousands of works without a scintilla of permission, and making it very difficult to request their withdrawal, is laudable?


Seitz on CO2 and Food 

Dear Jerry

In the discussion of ethanol fuel and higher food prices , you ask"

"Has anyone done a CO2 budget on burning food? Fewer steers, perhaps, and corn eats CO2, but then gets burned again... I don't know the efficiencies. There was a time when I'd do the math, but I am sure there are many of you who can do it. "

The counterintuitive answer has emerged from concern about the ostensibly high energy and CO2 cost of shipping food halfway around the world. Sometimes this can actually save a lot of CO2 emission, as when grass fed Kiwi lamb and Argentine beef displace corn fed feedlot products in the UK . In the winter, when normally grass fed dairy herds must be fed indoors in both new and Ol England, drinking milk becomes Hreenhouse intensive, because the methane coming out of the cows roughly doubles their radiative forcing impact.

I have taken the liberty of pursuing this one step further , and the analysis has taken a decidedly Hogarthian turn:


-- Russell Seitz






This week:


read book now


Saturday, September 1, 2007


Where climate is concerned, there is more to heat transport in Atlantic waters than the vagaries of tropical trade winds and the Gulf Stream's warm northward flow .

The need to understand it better has led to an ambitious initiative --instrumenting the ocean depths along the 26th parallel to measure the sum of the heat flow.

That means measuring masses of water- flows so large that they are reckoned in millions of tons per second. Reviewing this research in Science this week , Australian climate researcher John A. Church has laid another wild card on the high stakes climate policy table:

From the abyss to the surface , the mass and heat flow is anything but steady :


Russell Seitz



A bizarre result stems from Chandra X-ray observatory imaging of the galactic cluster Abel 520.

Paradoxically, more dark matter appears near the center of the cluster, where galaxies are few , while some areas where there are lots of galaxies show little dark matter.

This is antithetic to what theory predicts-


-- Russell Seitz


Subject: regarding immigration and Senator Craig,


Subject: A random on-line comment...

...regarding immigration and Senator Craig:

"If Americans are willing to be undercover cops in airport mens' rooms, I find it hard to believe there are ANY jobs Americans won't do."





CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday,  September 2, 2007     

A frightening lack of moral development

Dr. Pournelle,

The police raid the house of a thief. They confiscate 100 televisions. People accuse the police of overstepping their bounds because the thief had actually purchased one television and it was among those confiscated.

I see little difference between the above scenario and the current uproar over the SFWA take down notice. I have seen small children with a better developed sense of morality than this.

It is as if they are blind to the most likely outcome of their stance. If there is no reward for the production of intellectual property then the production ceases or is left in the hands of amateurs and hacks.


That's closer to my view than the ars technica view that SFWA was the bad guy here. Yours is an overstatement, perhaps: the analogy is more like a pawn shop that displays items for sale on commission without checking to see if the property is stolen. Much of it is stolen. Owners are allowed to come in and claim their property if they can prove ownership; but if an owner makes a mistake, then the owner is a thief.















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


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

IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature. In general, put the name you want at the end of the letter: if you put no address there none will be posted, but I do want some kind of name, or explicitly to say (name withheld).

Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name and address you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name and address (or no address) as you want them posted. Also, repeat the subject as the first line of the mail. That also saves me time.

I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too...  I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail. 

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

 Search engine:


or the freefind search

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

Boiler Plate:

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

If you subscribed:

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

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

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


Search: type in string and press return.


Strategy of Technology in pdf format:


Entire Site Copyright, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

birdline.gif (1428 bytes)