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Monday November 12, 2007

Today is Remembrance Sunday.

I'm headed off to China on Friday for a conference, so it is likely there will be no letter next week.

The price of food is rising rapidly here in Europe. The word on the street is that the growth of ethanol production in America is reducing the availability of staple foods and raising their worldwide prices.

As the son of a farmer, I can't complain, but we're all in this together.

Status of the military in the UK--



My forensics students are currently studying 'volume crime'--


Because these crimes are not investigated, people are deterred from reporting them (to avoid increasing their insurance rates).

Tidal surge continues to threaten the lands around the lower North Sea




Resurgence of spying




Concern with English secondary education being dumbed down.




Religion in the UK--



Endgame in Pakistan?


De Menezes story puts Labour under pressure--


NSA monitoring all web traffic?


Germany implements data retention policies


Bacteria to blame for global warming?


Green tax on cars


Botmaster admits to controlling 250,000 computers


Muslim tension in the UK. (Members of other religions are also feeling some of this--most Government spokesmen seem to be aggressively secular. BTW, Tony Blair is converting to Catholicism.)



Sniper operations in Iraq--


Free soup for the homeless to be stopped because "it poses a threat to public order." (I used to do volunteer work with the homeless in



Mad King Ludwig murdered?



Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland.


Weblog at: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>

Thanks. Be sure to pack your face mask. I was going to spend a quarter lecturing at the University in Peking some years ago, but as we were negotiating there were the big student protests in the big square, and I didn't think I wanted to go where they'd shoot the students I was teaching.


Enlistment Bonuses for Truck Drivers

As an old transportation guy, I would have never thought to see this.

October 13, 2007: The U.S. Army has found that large signing bonuses are an effective way to attract specific recruits it needs. So the army has increased the bonuses for those new recruits. Any recruit who agrees to show up for basic training within 30 days of signing on, gets $5,000. But through the end of the year, recruits can get $20,000 for going to basic within 30 days of signing up. Additional bonuses, for a maximum total of $40,000, can also be obtained, depending on what job the recruit is signing on for. Truck drivers, for example, are now harder to recruit because this has become a combat job. Truck convoys are a major target for roadside bombs. So a recruit singing up for six years as a truck driver, and reporting within 30 days, gets the maximum signing bonus. The full bonus is not paid immediately. You get half when you complete basic training, and the rest when you complete your enlistment. Many young troops see this as good way to save money for school, a house or car after they leave the military. http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htatrit/articles/20071013.aspx 

John Monahan

When you need paid soldiers, you must pay them. The warriors and patriots join for their own reasons. They benefit from the higher pay that the others demand.


Subject: re Brazilian oil

So they've found 8 gigabarrels of oil at 'ultradeep' levels. It's enough to put Brazil in the black, and as a result give it some independence from IMF - and USA.

Ultradeep? This confirms the oil-peaker's theory; that it's going to get harder and harder to get the crude. Thus price will rise, and alternates become competitive.

I see this irony: as ultradeep drilling becomes more common, the price will fall, making deep geothermal competitive. One virtue of deep geothermal is that it works about everywhere on Earth. Thus again the oil industry prepares for its successor.

I'd think it confirms what Norton Simon always said.


A global warning for UN chief from the ice floes at the foot of the world - Times Online

More on Global Warming:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article2852908.ece  ---

The polar experts, studying the effects of global warming on the icy continent that is devoted to science, fear a repeat of the 2002 collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf. The 12,000-year-old shelf was 220 metres (720ft) thick and almost the size of Yorkshire.

"I was told by scientists that the entire Western Antarctica is now floating. That is a fifth of the continent. If it broke up, sea levels may rise as much as six metres," Mr Ban said after being briefed at the Chilean, Uruguayan and South Korean bases during a day trip to King George Island, at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.

If Western Antarctica is already "floating", one does wonder why "breaking up" will raise the oceans of the world by six meters. Perhaps the oceans will jump six meters into the air to avoid getting wet? I guess adults no longer learn about Archimedes and his "Eureka!" moment or they would know better.


Of interest. . . ?


Nov 07, 2007 Weather Channel Founder: Global Warming ‘Greatest Scam in History’

It does seem to eclipse the South Seas Bubble and the Tulip Craze...

Subject: Climate skepticism: The top 10 



Skeptic: Instruments show there has been some warming of the Earth's surface since 1979, but the actual value is subject to large errors.

Counter: Warming is unequivocal.


With arguments like this, how can I possibly still be skeptical of the science?

Braxton S. Cook

Trust the Hungan! Voodoo lives.


Subject: We can genuinely feel slightly safer now.


According to AP we can genuinely feel slightly safer now as there has been an improvement in the security arrangements at Chicago's O'Hare airport.This follows the arrest of 23 illegal immigrants who were employed by Ideal Staffing Solutions Inc. on airside duties for major airlines. Two of the managers, one of whom is also an illegal immigrant, were arrested as well.

It has emerged that 110 of the 134 security badges carried by Ideal Staffing workers did not relate to the people carrying them. We don't have much to worry about while the neo-fascists who run the TSA and who would like to run the world are this inefficient

John Edwards


Subject: Robert Heinlein strikes again


Robert Heinlein strikes again. "Host mothers" from Glory Road:

Outsourcing Wombs in India -- 11/08/2007




- insurance premiums exceed revenue

And lawyers wonder why people hate them.

November 8, 2007 — Precision Airmotive, LLC, the nation’s only manufacturer of Marvel Schebler float carburetors used in many type certificated aircraft engines manufactured by Lycoming, Continental, and Franklin, discontinued sales of those components on November 1, 2007 because it is unable to obtain product liability insurance.

“We’re working to try and resolve this, to try and arrange it so that parts can come through the engine manufacturers or something along those lines,” said Roger Hall, general manager of Precision Airmotive. “There’s no resolution at this point, and that’s what we’re working for.”

Precision has manufactured the FAA-approved carburetors since 1990. They were originally designed as early as the 1930s and continue to fly over a million flight hours a year, Precision notes in its press release.

“Nonetheless, Precision has seen its liability insurance premiums rise dramatically, to the point that the premium now exceeds the total sales dollars for this entire product line,” said the release.

Precision contends that the product is safe, as does the FAA, but “litigation costs for defending the carburetor in court are unsustainable for a small business such as Precision.”

The company is working with the engine manufacturers and others to try and minimize the impact on general aviation and to provide future support for the product. There is a substantial quantity of parts and carburetors in the pipeline, which should support the industry for a short time.

Sooprise. No one reads Aesop any longer. Bought any D-RAM? Ready to enrich the lawyers?


As Pogo said "We have met the enemy and he is us"...

Applies with special irony to those who wish for government -- especially at the federal level -- to take a smaller piece of the economic pie and reduce its dominance accordingly...in other words "conservatives".


A couple of quotes from a long piece:

"The numbers confirm what every despondent conservative already knows. Since Reagan's stunning victory in 1980, conservative journals have annihilated forests to print articles about excessive government spending. Conservative think tanks have produced sweeping plans for reducing the welfare state. Republicans occupied the White House for 18 of the 26 years after 1980, and held a Senate majority for 16 1/2 years and a House majority for 12 years. Yet the result is a federal establishment bigger and more influential today than in 1980."

"In David Stockman's bitter but compelling memoir about his embattled years as President Reagan's OMB director, he describes his own reckoning with Mr. Ponnuru's dilemma: "The politics of American democracy made a shambles of my anti-welfare state theory . . . [which] rested on the illusion that the will of the people was at drastic variance with the actions of the politicians." In reality, "congressmen and senators ultimately deliver what their constituencies demand. The notion that Washington . . . [is] divorced from the genuine desires of the voters . . . constitutes more myth than truth."

"Under no foreseeable set of circumstances will liberals fear giving voters their spiel: We want the government to give things to you and do things for you. Conservatives can only reply that single-entry bookkeeping doesn't work; every benefit the government confers will correspond to a burden it has to impose. A government that respects citizens as adults will level with them about the benefits and the costs. A conservatism that labors to reverse liberalism's displacement of Americans' rights as citizens with their "rights" as welfare recipients may not achieve victory, but it will at least deserve it."

As an accountant, I especially appreciate the observation that single entry bookkeeping does not work. To that I would add "Debits WILL Equal Credits" in spite of politicians' best efforts to hide that fact. Recent examples include the meltdown of the sub-prime mortgage and in fact the meltdown of the dollar itself in international trade.

Charles Brumbelow


'She added that she considers it racist when parents are told that, in America, they have to speak English.'


--- Roland Dobbins


I am told that I say this too often; but we sow the wind.




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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Today's Surprise:

Subject: Ecology and humanity - 

Dr. Pournelle -

I believe you may find this interesting:


- a striking discussion of how terrorism and mass-murder (shocked Europeans see this hitherto "US" activity coming to their own back yard) can be seemingly logical conclusions of a certain "deep ecological thinking". Not too surprising, of course, but a chilling realisation nevertheless...

Best regards,

Roar Larsen Norway

And Denmark cannot form a government without taking in Muslim parties to the coalition. Ideas Have Consequences, Richard Weaver told us a long time ago; but no one listened.


Subject: Crack Jail Time


re: jail time for Aikens.

His being in jail for a time means that he can't sell drugs to my grandson during that time.

That's good enough for me.

His IQ wouldn't qualify him for Harvard anyway.

Ephraim F. Moya

Query: do you think jailing Aikens has made it more difficult for your grandchildren to acquire either powder or crack cocaine if they want some? Is it easier or harder to get the stuff in Washington DC than Kansas City?

I would like to see a cost/benefit analysis of the War on Drugs. I am all for your grandchildren not buying crack, but I suspect their parents have more to do with that than Willie Mays Aikens or your friendly neighborhood narco agent. I may be wrong here, but the money spent jailing Aikens for 20 years: is there no better investment?


Economics as Voodoo Science : Take from an Economist...

You're missing one category of economist that doesn't deserve the epithet "Voodoo Economist", although I will agree that more than a few of my colleagues make it difficult not to think that of the economics profession.

It's the lowly business economist, the one who never publishes anything of note to academics or pundits, because he or she is busy writing for clients and the company they work for. Some of us go on to greater and better things: Alan Greenspan was one of us before he made the big time. We more often than not don't have a PhD, because we looked at what was facing us and decided that it'd be better to work for a living, instead of devoting one's life to increasingly meaningless additions to academic "wisdom" that newly minted PhDs usually need to unlearn before they can actually be productive (as someone who has trained PhDs to be productive forecasters, there's a lot to be unlearned...).

Think of the business economist as the unsung hero of the profession, much like engineers and technical experts who, in the tradition of engineering, simply get the job done. We rely heavily on computer models, of course, but with one huge difference: we actually understand what they say and do. We work on models that are designed by people - us -who understand interdependencies and elasticities of demand and supply, and we work with the supply side of the economy, where the value is actually created. My test of whether someone is a good economist is to see what they understand of the supply side, of the industrial sectors and where the value is created: those that understand that - like Alan Greenspan - deserve the term economist: those who only care about how it is distributed - the demand side - may have studied economics, but apparently failed to receive an education. That is, of course, the fault of the academic discipline called economics, which today is nothing much more than thinly veiled theoretical mathematics, instead of the operations analysis and empirical econometrics that it should be. The moment when an economist starts to work with empirical evidence to show that the real-world actually behaves the way he or she thinks it should is the moment that they deserve the title.

Me, I'm a professional forecaster: I've been forecasting industrial activity since 1988, when I left a trade association to work free-lance as a forecaster. I don't do the big, abstract thing we call GDP: I do the nitty-gritty of helping my clients find their markets. It's the kind of work that they can do, but I do it faster and better than they can, because I'm not involved in the actual manufacturing of the widgets, don't have an agenda, and my clients are welcome to ignore my advice at their detriment. Sure, we're more often than not hired to be an alibi - if sales don't develop the way people want them to, then it's the forecaster's fault for having done a lousy job - but I've never had a client that wasn't willing to admit that my work gave them insight into their own markets that they wouldn't have had otherwise. I've forecast individual markets for individual industrial products (now *that* is real work), as well as investment goods industries world-wide, and consumer goods industries world-wide.

You'll never have heard of me because we operate in the background, which is what our customers want. I now run a 150+ sector model of a small European country for one of the major banks there. We've been running that model for 10 years (and getting paid for it!), and when that customer did back-testing, to see if we were worth the money, our work turned out to be the only significant explanation of why companies would turn insolvent and stop paying their loans back (this is of rather large interest to banks), and if they had listened to what we were saying, they'd have saved a vast sum over that period of time by having charged more for marginal loans or not have had made the loans in the first place. Now, I'm not at liberty to say what that sum would be: our customers don't usually tell us, because they know we'd jack up our prices to just slightly less than what they'd save. But suffice to say that such a service runs to six figures a year, and that from banks that are notoriously tight-fisted about spending money on something that their professional staff, if they still existed, should be doing as a matter of course. Given that many banks no longer even have professional economists indicates how large our potential customer base actually is. Right now we have a terrible time finding good people, because so few want to get their hands dirty and actually get products out there that non-economists can understand and actually use.

I made the decision many years ago not to pursue an academic career: haven't regretted it one bit. I will be the first to admit that I'm not a math genius: numbers have to make sense to me, have meaning, before I can really get my teeth into them. I'd never have survived what friends and former colleagues have gone through in order to get their PhDs, but at the end of the day it makes no difference, because more often than not they haven't learned anything that has real significance. Their time would have been better spent understanding the fundamental behavior of companies operating within a given environment and how companies make their decisions, in learning how to express that in equations that operate within an empirical framework, and to have learned how the economy actually operates, rather than be indoctrinated in making judgments of how it should be spent.

I guess I kind of take it a little personally when those outside of the profession dismiss it because of what many have done to the profession. If I sound defensive, it's because I work, as an economist, providing real value to business clients who are trying to make sense out of a complex and interdependent world that more often than not defies explanation...and for which the usual academic economists can't be bothered to work on, since it is empirical, and that means getting your hands dirty...

Best regards,

A long-time fan and someone who really should get a subscription off to you sometime Real Soon Now...

What you do sounds a lot more like operations research than economics: and if you were an academic economist, would you be able to operate as you do?  I ask seriously, since I note that Nobel Prizes in economics have gone to people with conflicting theories.

My objection to academic economics is precisely that it never goes back to the data. Allasamee with climate science. When I was in the operations research business, confirmed predictions and testable hypotheses were all we had to sell. Of course if our predictions contradicted established theories we were usually ignored. To the detriment of those who ignored them. The UW Grade Prediction Project is a good example.



Forbes article by Arthur C Clarke

Hi Jerry,

take a look at

The View From 2500 A.D. Arthur C. Clarke

Daniel Brodsky

I love Arthur dearly, but his view of the future is not mine.

Regarding directed energy weapons, read Doug Beason's book The E-Bomb. I don't know a great deal about chemically pumped EMP weapons; perhaps a reader can tell us more?





‘Wormholes’ could be made from exotic materials

Imagine peering into a hole, only to see a distant object as though it were right next to you. No cameras, no elaborate periscopes are involved — instead you are gazing through an electromagnetic “wormhole” created in a specially designed material.

A proposal for such a wormhole comes from Yaroslav Kurylev at University College London in the UK and colleagues in the US and Finland, who came up with the idea by building on the mathematical theory that gave us the invisibility cloak — a device that was realized for microwaves last year. Whereas in an invisibility cloak rays of light are guided around a cylindrical or spherical volume like water flowing around a stone, a wormhole would have light guided around a more elaborate, tubular shape. The device would appear solid at most wavelengths of light, but at cloaking wavelengths it would disappear, and light entering the tube at one end would emerge at the other with no visible tunnel in-between


Maybe Stargate wasn't so far off the mark after all. If light can pass, so can radio waves which means controlling surface explorers on the moons of Jupiter to mine for metals and to explore is certainly possible. If light can pass, how long before they figure out how to pass matter?

Braxton S. Cook


Doing Well by Doing Good...

Apparently Mr. Gore has decided to do well by doing "good".


"Deepening his ties to Silicon Valley, former Vice President Al Gore said on Monday that he had become a partner in the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers."

"...Mr. Gore keeps an apartment in San Francisco and spends five to six days a month in the area; a portion of that time will now be spent at Kleiner Perkins, which is based in Menlo Park, Mr. Gore said."

"Paul Kedrosky, a venture capitalist and author of the blog Infectious Greed, said that Mr. Gore's new role could benefit start-up companies by providing guidance through the political process.

"For instance, Mr. Kedrosky said, Mr. Gore would now have a financial incentive to push for subsidies, like the tax incentives or rebates that have buoyed the solar industry, or to provide start-ups with important connections in government and big business.

"Anyone who thinks this is happening because Al has fantastic clean-tech entrepreneurial chops is fooling themselves," Mr. Kedrosky said. Alternative energy "is a policy issue, a political issue, and that requires connections to get things done."

"Mr. Gore "is a political rainmaker," Mr. Kedrosky said. The association between Kleiner and Mr. Gore "just means that clean tech is an inherently political exercise."

"...Kleiner Perkins said it would collaborate with Generation Investment Management to find and finance clean-tech start-ups globally. Generation, which is based in Britain and was co-founded by Mr. Gore, focuses on investing in larger operations and later-stage companies focused on clean tech."

I suspect his "carbon footprint" is many multiples of mine...but of course it is for the greater good.

Charles Brumbelow


Re: Bell's Palsy.

I contracted Bell's Palsy late in 2001. My doctor said it could have been caused by stress, infection or extreme cold. Considering that I was going through a divorce, a bout of 'downsizing' at work, and a national crisis at the time, stress could have indeed been it. To confuse matters, I had heavily iced my neck as an aid in relaxation that week. Also, I had flu-like symptoms quite possibly contracted from any of my many students at the local college. Basically, my cause ended up being all of the above.

The doctor prescribed a series of some steroid or another right off the bat, but that had no effect. I had to tape my eye shut at night and when I showered (either that or switch to baby shampoo and soap). My lips could not close tightly enough on the right side to use a straw. And worst of all my horrible manners came home to roost in an unexpected way - I found my accustomed HUGE bites at meal time were now falling right out of my mouth.

On an amusing note, I wear my hair in a crew cut, and the hair on the right side did not stick up straight any more, it tended to lay to the side.

After about a month, my doctor was visibly glum. He told me recovery usually happened within a month if it was going to happen, and that recovery was rare at all after about six months.

I had no recovery for over six months. The right side of my forehead had become as smooth as a baby's.

When I did recover it was very sudden. All the nerves were working again within a period of days. Unfortunately, my muscles had atrophied after over half a year of disuse. Six years later I have them trained back to about 95% of full function. My smile is symmetrical again, my frown not so much (but who really wants to practice frowning)? My eye tends to droop when I am tired, and the entire side of my head will begin to ache and complain when I am fatigued as well. The muscles are just not as strong on that side anymore.

Given that, I encourage you to massage the affected area, and to 'work out' the muscles to avoid any atrophy while you are afflicted. Sit in front of a mirror and use your hands to move the paralyzed side in coordination with your healthy side. I think of it as lifting weights with my face, and do two to five sets of each motion each day: moving from big frown to big smile, squinting eyes closed to wide open eyes, puckering lips to gaping mouth, and massage of the scalp.

Now for the odd part. I am a religious man, and all through my episode, I prayed in a casual almost off-hand manner regarding my desire to be done with Bell's Palsy. After a Sunday sermon on the importance of ASKING before we can receive, I realized that I hadn't prayed to that extent regarding the issue.

My recovery coincided exactly with the Sunday where I specifically, sincerely and humbly asked the Lord to heal me. By the next Sunday I had all nerves working again and only the atrophy of muscle tissue to overcome.

I am generally skeptical of faith healing and am inclined to believe that we need to do everything within our means before leaning upon the Lord. I am not sure exactly what your religious leanings are, but I encourage you to follow your doctor's advice carefully, keep up the physical therapy, and then spend whatever time you feel appropriate communing with the higher power of your choice, or just meditating deeply. Whether it be placebo effect or the power of faith, you have my best wishes in this.

If you want to post this, feel free, but leave my name off, I'm oddly shy about the whole thing.

My problem isn't that severe. I am getting weekly professional massages, and I do some on my own, and I've long been of the "use it or lose it" school anyway. Thanks for the description.

For me some days are better than others. I can't tell if things are getting better or not. It's even hard to figure how long I have had this, since the phony sinus headaches from the arthritis in my neck have been around more than a year, and they seem all mixed up with the more recent problems of throat, swallowing, and eyeball leaks and focus.

Me, I was so afraid it was cancer than I continue to be grateful that it's mostly just an annoyance. Rather aggravating annoyance, but annoyance.


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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hitler's revenge.


-- Roland Dobbins

Think about this one before commenting. We have certainly changed the character of America by overloading the melting pot.


Subject: Use either platform


I'm a Mac guy who dabbles in Windows at best.

While Macs are common in professional video and such, I don't think you are trying to be a pro in that field.

There is one heck of a lot more still images and video and personal pages posted on FaceBook, MySpace, YouTube, etc. than there are Macs. Videos run from professionally made to cellphone quality. You are selling books, not cool videos. More than that, you are selling ideas that the youth who hang out on the web probably aren't getting in school.

If you really want a pro job, hire a pro to put it together for you. Your publisher may even be willing to help with promotional video for a book. If you can get interviewed on TV for the books, ask for right to post a copy of the segment.

I'm sure you can put something together in Windows without great difficulty if that's your comfort zone.


Meanwhile, procrastination is good if you are planning to get a top Mac.

MacWorld San Francisco is coming up in January and is the usual place for new hardware announcements.

That's pretty well what my advisors say, too.

And I do have a PowerBook, and I am accumulating the means for using it in the interim.  First I get Inferno II OUT THE DOOR.


Subject: Book publishing for DYI authors

Dear Jerry:

I found that article on book publishing interesting, but a little dated. About two months ago Amazon.com announced a service called CreateSpace where authors can publish their books and Amazon will provide an ISBN as part of the deal at no extra charge. The trick here is pricing; to paraphrase Bill Clinton, "It's the distribution, dummy". The reason that books cost so much is that the retailer usually gets 40 percent of the cover and the wholesaler 15 to 20 percent. That leaves, at best , 45 percent for the publisher. After he gives the author 10 to 15 percent, he has 30 percent to cover the costs of promotion, publishing, and storage of inventory and other overhead, like profit.

Which is why Print on Demand is the future here. It is electronic publishing in paper form, with the number of copies closely tied to actual sales. Which means no big inventories of unsold books and no remainders. That means that any author can become his own publisher and it becomes obvious from looking at the lists of new books, that many have. "Self publishing" is supposedly a no-no and no one will review it but with a declining number of book reviews, and those remaining more or less monopolized by big established publishers, you begin to wonder why anyone else bothers to send review copies. Hope springs eternal, I guess. Having been a book reviewer, I can tell you the arbitrary filters used by most publications have nothing to do with the possible literary merit of the work. Usually, it's more a matter of whether or not the book in question is a hardbound (good) or a paperback (bad).

And there are places that will review a book regardless, based on the content. Historical Novels Review Online is one such publication. Given that every new work is unique (and this is especially true of novels) authors need not compete on price alone and are well advised not to do so. Think about it. If your production cost is two dollars and your cover price is $15.00 that gives you $13.00 to work with. Even is you only have six dollars left after paying the retail chain, that still leaves a profit of four dollars. (This is a very simplified example). In other words, you are making a much higher royalty per copy, and you are in as many outlets as your would be if you had a regular publisher, because the demand is driven by reader interest.

The disadvantages are that you have to have a comparable product. You can't be sloppy about this. So you have to hire editors, and since the cover is important, you have to design or pay to have designed a cover that looks "professional" and will make people pick up the book and see if they want to buy it. Doing all of that costs time and money which you would rather spend on new writing.

I am going through this process now, and am so disenchanted with the normal process that I may simply self-publish everything from this point on. Up to a point. Electronic publishing is still very much a niche market, but when realized as print on demand it becomes viable, and it saves a lot of paper. That same $10,000 advance you spoke of can be had for a much smaller number of copies. The thing is that, if people want to read your book, they will pay a fair price. You may have to hustle a little, and I have known authors who thought that undignified and beneath them. Sadly they failed to realize that you have to be your own advocate and that promotion, whether or not you have a publisher or do it yourself, is part of the job.


Francis Hamit

PS: There will be a POD version of "The Shenandoah Spy" out soon. Slightly expanded and with a new cover. That will be followed by another in the same series. That one won't even be offered to a regular publisher.


"I would eat the last panda if I could have all the money we have spent on panda conservation put back on the table for me to do more sensible things with."


- Roland Dobbins

Rational allocation of resources is important, but so are tigers and pandas...

Trying to save the wooly mammoth?


"If you don’t move, you’re likely to be eaten.”


-- Roland Dobbins

I have always been interested in swarms and army ants and such. Ever since Leinengen vs. the Ant with William Conrad back in the 1940's...


The Hezbollah mole.



--- Roland Dobbins



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CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Re: Hitler's revenge


In the linked article "Hitler's Revenge" it is asserted that, in order to assert ourselves as absolutely nothing like those nasty, nasty Nazis, we threw innumerable babies out with the bathwater. I think not only probable but self-evident that the pendulum swung too far the other direction, particularly after 1968 or so. Yet this is not the most disturbing development. More problematic than an excess of postmodernism and relativism, or a dearth of "those good old-fashioned values / on which we used to rely", is the discouragement -- nay, denial -- of a rational center between these extremes of our society.

Our current civilization is stuck in a bifurcated state, as if Hegel produced thesis and antithesis but refused to proceed to synthesis. Instead of the center being a stable equilibrium-point about which society oscillated, we now have a civilization where any compromise, adjudication, or rational analysis is decried as proceeding down a 'slippery slope' leading inevitably to the opposite of whatever position is advocated. It is as if the culture was quantized; the pendulum may be observed on one or the other side, but may no longer swing freely in between.

We have been in this position before; it mirrors the division between capital and labor in the late 19th c., and that of the Catholics and Protestants during the Wars of Religion. Each of these divisions ultimately led to a stronger society, but only once a new synthesis was achieved. Where shall we find the Westphalia of our Kulturkampf?

--Catfish N. Cod

We would have been all right if we hadn't broken the model. When we threw out the notion of the melting pot and assimilation, we threw away what had made the United States the country that we once were.

It may not be too late, but we would have to close the borders, enforce the laws, throw out "diversity" for our melting pot concept and a recognition that being an American has a meaning, and that you can study what that means and learn how to become one. One part of that is making it clear that the language of the United States is English, and if you do not care to learn it, you have no part in the American political process: we will not cater to your demands for ballots in Hmong or Spanish or Norman French. Another part of that is passing the equal protection section of the 14th Amendment again, exactly as it was written, but adding the words "And this time we mean it!"

What you call synthesis is what we used to call assimilation; and for 200 years it worked. We gave it up, and we sow the wind.


Did our Solar System once have another planet?

http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/node/1691 <http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/node/1691

Did our Solar System once have another planet?

Thursday, 8 November 2007 by Ker Than Cosmos Online Did our Solar System once have another planet? Late and heavy: Did a fifth rocky planet, long subsumed by the Sun, create the bombardment that pockmarked the surface of the Moon? Image: NASA <http://ads.lunamedia.com.au/adclick.php?bannerid=13&zoneid=0&source=cosmos&dest=

* NEW YORK: The fiery demise of a fifth rocky planet in our Solar System might have led to a flurry of asteroid impacts that pockmarked the Moon and Earth billions of years ago.

The Late Heavy Bombardment (LHB) is a relatively brief period, about 3.9 billion years ago, when wayward space projectiles heavily pelted the Moon and inner planets. Craters from that chaotic time are still visible on the Moon, but have been erased from Earth, where the crust is continually recycled.

All shook up

Try as they might, astronomers have not yet been able to pin down a cause for the bombardment. Some experts have postulated that a shuffling up of the arrangement of the planets in their youth may have been responsible. One popular theory is that the outward migration of a young Neptune perturbed rocky bodies in the distant Kuiper Belt, causing some to veer into the inner Solar System.

But John Chambers, an astrophysicist at the Carnegie Institution in Washington DC, now says the size distribution of craters on the Moon better match asteroids from the Asteroid Belt, located beyond the orbit of Mars. And he thinks the misbehaviour of a long-lost, fifth rocky planet called 'Planet V' was the trigger that upset the gravitational balance of the belt and ejected some of its inhabitants. Our Solar System currently contains four rocky planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.

Using a new computer model detailed in a recent issue of the journal Icarus, Chambers provides the most compelling evidence yet that a hypothetical Planet V could have existed for hundreds of millions of years before minute gravitational tugs from Mars and Jupiter destabilised its orbit, causing it to fall into the Sun.

"Before it was lost, its orbit would have moved across the Asteroid Belt for quite a long period of time, scattering asteroids as a result," Chambers said. "My model would predict that it's only asteroids, and not comets, that caused the impacts, and that the asteroids would tend to come from the inner asteroid belt."

Unknown planet

Planet V's orbit was between that of Mars and the Asteroid Belt, Chambers predicts, and it may have been smaller than Mars but larger than our Moon. "If it was bigger than Mars, then Mars should have been the one that was lost," he said. "If it's smaller than the Moon, that's not really big enough to disturb the Asteroid Belt much." <snip>

The problem with the "Lost Planet" hypothesis is that is we take every one of the asteroids other than Ceres, and pile them all together, the resulting rock would be smaller than Ceres. There's just not so much out there. On the other hand, some of the moons of Jupiter might be added to the mixture.

The Lost Planet needs to have been entirely lost. Falling into the Sun would do that...


Rail Gun 


Popular Mechanics has an article on a rail gun.

technology/military_law/4231461.html>  Second Paragraph:

"...BAE Systems has delivered a functional, 32-megajoule Electro-Magnetic Laboratory Rail Gun (32-MJ LRG) to the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va.... Installation of the laboratory launcher is currently underway, and according to BAE, this is the first step toward the Navy's goal of developing a tactical 64-megajoule ship-mounted weapon."



Charles Adams


Saudi rape victim sentenced to 200 lashes

Hi Jerry,

Remember - Islam is a peaceful religion, Saudi Arabia is our ally, and Muslims want democratic reform.


I'm convinced that the only answer is energy independence, then back off and let them implode. Perhaps we also need immigration restrictions to prevent them from coming here and trying to do the same thing.


We all want democracy in Pakistan. That will give Iran a government like Iran. Then we can try for a regime change. This is the logic of the Jacobins.

We need to get back to being a Republic, or learn how to be competent imperialists. What we are doing now is folly and feeds the Legions to the tigers.


Best Supporting Actor 

Dear Jerry;

Who says one letter can't have epic connotations: "I have always been interested in swarms and army ants and such. Ever since Leinengen vs. the Ant with William Conrad back in the 1940's..."

Ah! Leinengen Versus The Ant --the lowest budget film in Hollywood history . Even with paying the ant's stunt double, the fortune saved on extra catering and rolling credit time more than covered Conrad's salary.

-- Russell Seitz

Actually I had in mind the Suspense radio show. I suppose I ought to learn to type, too.


Subj: Audio: Chuck Yeager describes X-1 flight

EAA = Experimental Aviation Association


Amazing! He says he was chosen as primary X-1 pilot because he was a _maintenance_ officer -- he'd been a mechanic before he became a pilot, and worked as a mechanic for his father before he enlisted in the Army Air Corps -- and X-1 had lots of high-pressure-Nitrogen-actuated mechanical systems.

He says one of the reasons he was so successful as an experimental test pilot was that he understood the systems in the aircraft he flew better than the engineers who designed them. "A lot of guys got killed because they didn't know the systems."

He wasn't eligible for the NASA astronaut program because he didn't have a college degree.

He doesn't expect economically-viable commercial aircraft, for the foreseeable future, to fly faster than about Mach 0.95-0.96, because the drag goes up so fast at speeds higher than that, driving up fuel costs.

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Something to pass on


I would have a different list, but there's nothing to object to here, and they're all free....


Subject: CS Forester


Until recently I would have agreed with you that the Hormblower books were Napoleonic sea opera. Since I read the autobiography of Admiral Lord Cochrane's, "Memoirs of a Fighting Captain", I have come to realise that the fictional exploits of Hornblower were equalled or exceeded in reality by Cochrane. Notably when Cochrane's commerce raiding sloop with a crew of 50 were trapped by a Spanish frigate with a crew of 320, Cochrane judged that no quarter would be given and decided to take the Spanish ship by boarding. Finding himself by the signal halliards on the enemy frigate he pulled down the Spanish flag and the Spanish crew assumed that their captain had signalled surrender by striking his colours promptly followed suit.

Cochrane's book is currently published by The Folio Society and would be a valuable tax deductible research tool if you decide to write a space opera book. Even if you don't, it is a very enjoyable read, and you can claim that you are working when you read it.

John Edwards


"It bothers me that my fellow scientists are not speaking out against something they know is wrong. But they also know that they'd never get any grants if they spoke out."


--- Roland Dobbins





CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday, November 16, 2007

This came today with the return address given.

Cheney & Bush deliberately let Sep. 11 happen...

These questions are based on facts, not opinions:

* Hijacked airliners flew all around the eastern U.S. for hours without any military response??? How could Osama bin-Forgotten make our air force stand down, or did Cheney do that??? * The Pentagon was struck by a “hijacked” airliner 45 minutes after two other “hijacked” airliners struck the WTC, without the airliner being intercepted, approached, chased, or even seen by our air defenses? * The Gov't still refuses to release clear video of whatever happened at the Pentagon to this day, six years later??? Why??? * The massive WTC-7 building was 350 feet from the nearest tower, was not hit by a plane, yet it imploded in a controlled demolition at 5:20 pm??? It housed many gov’t offices, & the over-insured owner said the building was “pulled.” Why???

The Bush/Cheney regime is using 9/11 as a pretext to brazenly subvert our U.S. Constitution, launch illegal invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq, (Iran?), & grant themselves dictatorial powers here at home!

They have committed high treason & must be impeached & imprisoned while we still have the Bill of Rights!

I urge everyone to watch "Loose Change" free on the web for proof that 9/11 was an inside job! Also Google terms like “911 truth” & visit www.911truth.org & other patriotic sites!

Ronald Paul [dr.paul2007@yahoo.com]

The email flyer was sent to an open list of journalists, some of them people i know, some not; it includes some very obscure places indeed, and in no way resembles a professional press mailing list; the fact that the list is open is rather interesting also.

Which is to say that I rather doubt this is an official flyer from Congressman Ron Paul.

Note the scare quotes around "hijacked".


Rail Gun

Mr. Pournelle,

Dahlgren has had a large rail gun for some time now, though it was rather a "breadboard" design. The new one is an upgrade (replacement?) for the existing experimental gun.

Nathan Okun


You can discuss the art of writing, the art of coming up with creative ideas or anything else related with Writers of the Future in a forum chat with Tim Powers! Tim is a judge of the Writers of the Future Contest. He is also a New York Times bestselling author and Writers of the Future workshop instructor and he is most of all a great person to hang out and chat with.

Today, between the hours of 5:00 PM and 7:00 PM (PST), he will be joining us for a lively discussion at the Writers of the Future forum. You can find it at www.writersofthefuture.com.  Look for the button on the left side navigation of the site.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Best regards, Peter Breyer Galaxy Press


Tim Powers is always worth listening to.


Subject: RE: Saudi Rape Victim Being Punished


First, thanks for both your blog and the many, many years of pleasure your books have given me.

The story about the Saudi woman who had been gang-raped being sentenced to flogging is not quite complete in its tellings.

She is not being punished for having been raped. Instead, she's being punished for the entirely separate (and only in Saudi Arabia) crime of being in the company of an unrelated male in a compromising position.

One could certainly argue, as I do, that her rape was more than sufficient punishment. That's not the way the court saw it, though.

Saudi Arabia's courts are in need of drastic reform. The government has announced just such reforms, but no one is sure just yet how that's going to work out. One thing it will do--thank God--is force a codification of law, taking judgments out of the hands unevenly trained, idiosyncratic judges.

John Burgess Crossroads Arabia


Subject: 200 Lashes for mentioning being raped

The subtext mentioned at the end of the article is that this happened because she was Shia & the rapists Sunni. If it were true that the US was motivated by competent oil greed rather than the incompetence of a bull in a china shop the CIA would be setting up a liberation movement for the eastern (Shia) Saudi provinces, where coincidentally the oil is & then occupying the place to liberate the locals when the Saudis crack down. Exacerbating ethnic divisions is the way to shatter almost any state & in the particular case of the wahabbi kingdom, might be worthwhile.

This is what they did in Kosovo a place of absolutely no possible use to anybody except the local gangsters, drug lords & white slavers we recruited as a liberation movement.

Neil Craig

I have no desire to shatter Saudi Arabia. What I would like to do is develop our own resources and let the Saudis sell their oil to whomever will buy it.

As to injustices, when these United States have become paradise, it will be time to tell the world how to live; as it will be time for the federal government to tell the rest of us how to keep the peace and educate our children when they do so in the District of Columbia.


Meanwhile here is an incredible YouTube video of cooperation and altrusitic rescue by water buffalo of a calf caught between crocodiles and lions. We modern humans live a very comfortable and civilized life by comparison.

Lions attack water buffaloes and bring down a young one. A crocodile tries to grab their prize, but the lions pull him away. And then as the lions settle down to consume their catch, the herd of water buffalo, in a poorly coordinated but effective counterattack on the pride of lions, rescues the young buffalo!



The Fatherless Civilization.


--- Roland Dobbins

Sowing the wind


Subject: Why no 64-bit applications?


Would you care to speculate as to why there are so few (read: virtually NO) applications which are built to run on a 64-bit platform? I was under the odd impression that we were moving into a 64-bit world, but if we are, it is excruciatingly slow progress. Some 32-bit programs can't even be installed properly, even though they will run IF you can find a work around to get them to install. Intuit's QuickBooks Pro can pretend to install, but after installation, it will not run because it doesn't know how to use the 64-bit version of ,NET, which it requires, but in it's 32-bit incarnation. It gets to be quite frustrating. Now, it should be said that MOST 32-bit programs will run fine in the 64-bit version of Windows, but finding any native 64-bit applications is extremely rare.

I find this very frustrating. In theory, I have a very advanced system. In practice, I wish I'd just installed a 32-bit OS and be done with it. Is it going to get better any time soon, in your opinion? One would THINK that the virtualization of OSes would go much better using a 64-bit platform for the task, but I see little evidence of anyone working in that direction.


Glad your writing work seems to be going well.


Joe VanZandt, Ph.D.


read book now




This week:


read book now


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Hollywood's Red Decade.


-- Roland Dobbins

Interesting addition to a story not told often enough.


'Swatters' SWATted.


-- Roland Dobbins

Phone phreaks live...


"If I'm right, this is a paradigm shift."


-- Roland Dobbins


Those nasty racists, they're everywhere!

A Jewish student at George Washington University repeatedly complained that swastikas had been painted on her door. She now admits that she did it herself:












read book now



CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday,   November 18, 2007    

I have taken the day off.





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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. 

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