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Monday, December 18, 2006

Belated Hanukah Greetings and Blessings

Merry Christmas

Today I am swamped. There is a new mailbag over at Chaos Manor Reviews, and tomorrow there will be a new column.

Last week I started a discussion on IQ and education. I have considerable mail, most of which inspires commentary. Commentary takes time, and that's precisely what I don't have any of just today.

Apologies. The world is too much with me lately. Not that I object. As Roberta says when I say I have too much to do, "How fortunate." Given my years, she's right. But sometimes I do run a bit short of time.

Thanks to all those who recently renewed or started new subscriptions. I am catching up with enrollments. I will have all of them done this evening, and I'll have a letter to subscribers some time this week.




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Tuesday,  December 19, 2006  

  The day began with a trip to Woodland Hills to drop off the Explorer for checkup and maintenance, and a long ride back on the Metro. It took no more time to come home on the Metro on Ventura Blvd, than it did to get out to Canoga Ave. and the Vista Ford agency. Incidentally they can count me as a satisfied customer. I only wish I lived within their courtesy driving range. On the other hand, the Metro Rapid is fast, and I get my morning walk this way.

I am still digging out from work. The column is up, mail bag is up, and now I have internal work to do, but I need to get some mail posted. It's going to be a long day.

On the subject of the column: there will be no column next week, due to the Christmas holidays.


We have a great deal of mail on the Education and IQ issue, and much of it needs comment. It is a complex issue and one of enormous importance to the future of the nation.

Rather than rush this I am taking some time to do it properly. Apologies.

Java Slide Rule!


And now, for something else fun...and the other end of the mathy-fun spectrum:



In case you hadn't seen this yet.


"(CBS) PLAINFIELD, Ill. A 13-year-old Plainfield boy and his parents are stunned and outraged after the teen found a gun in school and turned it in to authorities, who then expelled him."

Zero tolerance




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Wednesday,  December 20, 2006

FCC vote could speed up telco TV

12 / 20 / 06 | Phone companies looking to compete against cable operators in the TV market could get help Wednesday in their fight to streamline the video franchise process.

During its open monthly meeting, the Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote on new rules that would make it easier for phone companies to secure local video franchise agreements, which spell out requirements for everything from equipment to environmental protections.

The phone companies--namely Verizon Communications and AT&T--have spent billions of dollars over the past few years upgrading their networks with fiber-optic cabling and new equipment so they can offer TV service in addition to telephony and broadband services.

But to offer TV service, operators must negotiate local franchise agreements with cities and municipalities. Phone companies have complained that the process for obtaining these franchise agreements is taking too long. They also complain that some local communities have made unreasonable requests before granting the agreements.

The phone companies have looked for relief from state governments, which in many cases have streamlined the process by offering statewide franchises.


The season catches me with a rush. I have hike and lunch with Niven in an hour, and work all day. At least I caught up with some of the mail.

More on IQ and Education

The subject began last week.

There is more mail and my comments on this matter.

I have in response some very good letters that need careful attention, which I will try to give tonight. The education and IQ and race question is enormously important. One thing to remind all: that one race has a lower IQ than another does not mean "inferior" nor does it say a lot about individuals. What it does say is that equal opportunities will not produce equal outcomes (as equal opportunities to play professional basketball will not produce teams with racial distribution proportional to the distribution of races in the population). On the other hand, if you take all sports it's a different story.

The ability to manipulate abstract symbols is not equally distributed among the races. That's unfortunate -- I mean that literally -- but it's true. Apparently God or the universe have set things to be challenging. But the ability to learn skills and do high quality repetitive work is not equally distributed among the races either. High IQ people can learn to do precision mill work, but they get bored soon, and start making mistakes because they don't pay attention. Their minds wander. High IQ types can learn to do plumbing, but you can't do plumbing while thinking about Spinoza, and pretty soon the pipes back up. High IQ types are notoriously unable to do a lot of simple routine work that demands both high skills and close attention, and all personnel departments know this: when we were allowed to give IQ tests as part of employment process there were maximum IQ's attached to certain jobs. You do not want very smart people with vivid imaginations doing certain work.

The late John Gardner put Jerry Boyd's point rather elegantly, I think. He said,

"An excellent plumber is infinitely more admirable than an incompetent philosopher. The society that scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity, and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because philosophy is an exalted activity, will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water."

Best Regards and Merry Christmas 

-- Lindy Sisk

There is considerably more to this subject. As to whether there will be sufficient high skill jobs for people on the left side of the bell curve, or whether automation will displace them all, I put it to you that it is not automation, but export of jobs and import of unskilled impoverished laborers that have put us into this mess; and that a 15% tariff on ALL imports plus control of the borders would test the proposition. If there were a demand for high skilled workers the schools might be induced to supply that demand. As it is ---


And I have been saying this for years. Apparently some other have seen it:

Subj: Revising Vietnam


Quotes Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore:

=Conventional wisdom in the 1970s saw the war in Vietnam as an unmitigated disaster. But that has been proved wrong. The war had collateral benefits, buying the time and creating the conditions that enabled noncommunist East Asia to follow Japan's path and develop into the four dragons (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan) and, later, the four tigers (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand). Time brought about the split between Moscow and Beijing and then a split between Beijing and Hanoi. The influence of the four dragons and the four tigers, in turn, changed both communist China and communist Vietnam into open, free-market economies and made their societies freer.=

Rod Montgomery==monty@sprintmail.com

To all of you who fought in Viet Nam: you have always had my gratitude. Perhaps others are beginning to understand.




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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Subject: Armor


I have no explaination for these, but they certainly merit a look.


Hoo Hah


Marines 0, Geeks 1

December 21, 2006: The commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, and the sergeant-major of the marines, are going around giving pep talks to the troops about the new computer system the navy and marines are using. The troops don't like it, but the commandant tells them there isn't any money to redo it, so get used to NMCI (Navy Marine Corps Intranet) the way it is.

NMCI is so user unfriendly that many sailors and marines are communicating via commercial email accounts, rather than use their government issued ones. NMCI is a project that has the navy spending nearly $9 billion to connect some 400,000 PCs into one large, and secure (all data is encrypted) Internet like network. This will provide high speed, hassle free communications for everyone involved. At least in theory. After six years of effort, users have a growing list of complaints. For example, because the navy found that there were over 100,000 different bits of (previously unknown) software being used on navy PCs, making the new network function at all proved much more difficult than anticipated.. Some of these 100,000 program were created by sailors to make their work easier, but the navy never really knew about this home brew stuff.



We're still on fiction writing schedule here, and I'm trying to churn out words.


My friend and neighbor Ed Begley, Jr. is doing a TV show from his house.


It's a reality sitcom about his devotion to the Green stuff, and Rachelle's more normal approach to life. They are a very nice couple. Ed is probably the nicest guy in the neighborhood. Incidentally his bio-degradable house cleaning stuff (takes the place of Ajax, Comet, and the various liquids; comes in a hand pump dispenser) called Begley's Best actually works very well. I buy it at Whole Foods. Ed is not a subscriber or advertiser to this site...

The roof of Ed's house is covered with solar cells, including  4 square meter two axis solar tracking system. His garage is half filled with batteries. It works: the night a tree fell across the power lines, Rachelle was watching television in her living room while everyone else was wandering around with flashlights in the dark. Ed claims to be off the grid, and actually selling surplus power to LA DWP. I once teased him about the fact that if he'd put the money the system cost in the bank the interest would pay his utility bills (which may or may not be true); but what he's doing is impressive, and an interesting experiment in just what can be done.

Yesterday walking past his house I had a thought: if we want to cool the Earth, paint our rooftops white. I don't know how much good that will do, but it ought to be a lot. Of course if you use rooftop solar cells, the energy is absorbed by the cells and eventually enters the Earth's heat balance as heat. Given the efficiencies, is it more "green" to paint your roof white and buy the energy it takes to heat your house in winter (it ought to be easier to cool in summer); or to put up solar cells and use that energy. How much does it change things to factor in the energy costs of making the batteries and solar cells?

I am going to suggest to Ed that he paint white the parts of his roof that don't have solar cells. Of course it's cold out there now; will that make it cost more energy to heat the house (they have two small children, so just not heating is out of the question).

And one last thought: if there a feasible way to use a heat pump to take solar energy off the roof and put it into the house? Or a way to make the roof white when it's hot and black when you want to absorb energy? But these are random thoughts.

I will say again: if the goal is to reduce CO2 (and I think that is a reasonable goal; we are running an open-ended experiment on CO2 levels, as I have said for twenty years, and this is Not A Good Thing To Do) -- if the goal is to reduce CO2 levels then we ought to be working on methods to do that. Preferably reversible methods: sowing iron into the sea to produce plankton blooms appears to be feasible, but the stuff then falls to the bottom and can't be retrieved. The good side of that method is that if you stop sowing iron the blooms cease and the CO2 fixing stops, so if we discover that we want the high CO2 levels we can allow them to rise again.

Electro mechanical methods that use energy are probably not unreasonable but they are not very elegant.

Query: is seeding the high altitude with contrails or water vapor thus increasing cloud cover and increasing the albedo or reflectivity of the Earth and thus lowering the solar energy absorbed under study? Surely it ought to be feasible? But once again that does nothing for CO2 levels, although it will change warming.

There is a lot of money being spent on Global Warming studies. How much is being spent on looking at actual ways to deal with it, as opposed to simple Luddism?

But it's time for my walk. I'll get a picture of Ed's house while I'm out.


Ed Begley's house. The yard is low maintenance. The roof top solar arrays are hardly obtrusive. On the right is a detail of the steerable two-axis solar tracking array. There are many passive units on the roof as well. 


While we were out walking we encountered another neighbor with Meeks the Beagle. Sable has always found Meeks rather interesting.


 Sable is a little overweight but not as much as these photos make her appear. She sleeps outside (by choice) and it has been in the 30's the last week or so. She loves cold weather.

Pictures were taken with the Kodak V570. The camera you have with you is the one you'll take pictures with. This one is very easy to carry and I always have it.



Subject: Triple threat targets Word users

Don't know if you saw this...


"Three unpatched bugs in Word have been uncovered in the last few weeks and two are already being exploited by attackers."

"The loopholes being exploited allow attackers to create booby-trapped documents that steal information or take over a PC when they are opened."

John Harlow, President BravePoint

Security Expert Rick Hellewell says:

Dr. Pournelle:

Although Microsoft has not released patches for the recently (last and this month) discovered malformed Word document vulnerabilities, the activity of the vulnerability is sensed and blocked by current anti-virus definitions. That doesn't mean that one can be oblivious to unexpected Word attachments in emails or Word documents downloaded from web sites.

One should carefully judge the source of files (Word or otherwise). Always save a doc (or any) file to allow your up-to-date virus program to check it. Then you can open it from the saved location. That portion of 'safe computing' practices will serve you well.

Regards, Rick Hellewell

Further information on this subject:

There are three recent Word vulns. Since my antivirus program of choice is McAfee, I'll detail their response.

- "Word1", publicized 12/5/06, McAfee protection on 12/8. - "Word2", publicized 12/9/96, McAfee protection on 12/10 - "Word3", publicized 12/12/06, McAfee protection on 12/14

While none of these vulns have been addressed by a Microsoft update as of this date (12/21/06), McAfee has protection against the actions of the vulns. I suspect that the other AV vendors have similar protection.

Note that I have no relationship with McAfee other than a customer.

Regards, Rick Hellewell


As usual, be careful out there.




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Friday,  December 22, 2006

I am trying to install Vista on a new system. Sometime in the last couple of days Microsoft sent out updates that completely muck up the network. Machines that used to see and copy from each other can no longer access each other. The whole network is mucked up. I think I can restore it by resetting everything, but I am weary of all this.

I have a problem. I would like simply to go over to something simpler and be done with it. Microsoft is trying to drive me mad. I had hoped to be in the process of converting to the Mac OS by now, but financial prudence says otherwise: that is, until I complete the two novels I am working on, I have no reliable income, and we are living on savings, which is fine; I anticipated that the BYTE gig would not last forever, and I have enough savings to last well past when I should have the books done.

Should have. That's the problem. It is not prudent to bet on the future. Mr. Heinlein told us that we writers are professional gamblers, and he's right. Have your car and house paid for, free and clear. In my case the car is paid for and the amount owed on the house mortgage is trivial; we bought it a long time ago.

I don't need any new equipment to finish my books. The IBM ThinkPad plus the system I'm working on now will be more than enough to do the job. I have plenty to write about for the next few months. Lenovo has sent another ThinkPad I can use for about as long as I like. If I can ever get the network running I have all the gear to build a new Core 2 Duo to run Vista. I'm up to my clavicle in computer equipment, and while Microsoft and Windows can be maddening, I can make it work well enough to keep this site up. Thanks to all you subscribers my savings are lasting longer than we had thought, but again, that's not an assurance for the future. I'm still gambling.

And until I have the books done and some assured income, it's simply not very prudent to invest in equipment I would like to have but don't need just yet. I was reminded of this yesterday when my auto maintenance bill was a thousand rather than a hundred dollars. Such things happen. The work needed doing, and keeping the -- paid for -- Explorer in safe running condition is a necessity. There are always things you didn't budget for; when you have a normal income this is no problem, and I lived for years understanding how to cope with the vicissitudes of living as a writer. Then came BYTE, and while I continued to be a writer, the regular income from the columns allowed me to relax a lot. Now that's gone, and while the subscriptions have helped, it's not quite the same; after all, that too is a gamble.

Of course in this modern world we are all professional gamblers. The days when people went to work for a company and eventually retired with a gold watch and a good pension are gone for very nearly all of us. That's the way of this world today; writers have always had to live that way, although for a decade or two I was able to fool myself into thinking things were different for me. Now everyone gets to live that way. Jobs are exported weekly. The whole basis of the economy is changed and our masters want it that way; no one puts the good of their neighbors, or their country, ahead of making another tenth of a percent profit. Now, unless you were born with an huge trust fund, you're likely to become a professional gambler too. Welcome to the New World Order. This isn't likely to change with the new changes in Washington, by the way.

Anyway: we'll keep this place open, and we'll keep the columns going, and I'll fight my way through making Windows work properly and get my novels done; but it may be a while before we get the new MacBook Pro to play with. Sigh.

But at least the network works again: it did take resetting all the systems, and letting the updates install where the installation wasn't automatic. If you are having network problems, restart everything. It works.


Another apology. I haven't put any content into the subscribers only area. I am working on that. Part of it is getting the mechanism straight for doing it, and part of it is that I've been spending a lot of time in Hell recently, and the kind of content that runs through my head wouldn't be anything you'd much like. I don't mean you won't like the Inferno sequel because you will. We have about 45,000 words and it reads like lightning, and you will love Sylvia Plath. But that's all part of an integrated whole, and in pieces it's not so much fun.

I haven't had complaints from subscribers, and I thank you for that; but I have not forgotten you, and I intend to put together a suitable reward. You kept me going with the first BYTE collapse, and through this one as well. And I am dancing as fast as I can...


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Saturday, December 23, 2006


In the current The American Conservative: "Policymakers realized Vietnam was lost as early as 1966, but that didn't stop them recycling a million more American boys through the jungles, at epic human cost."


If we had cut and run in Viet Nam in 1966, the dominoes falling would have likely included not merely Laos and Cambodia, but Thailand and Indonesia. It was a close run thing in Indonesia as it was. Malaysia and Burma were in play. Singapore couldn't have held if Malaysia fell. Perhaps the collapsing dominoes could have been held, but I do not know where, and I doubt at lower cost than the Viet Nam War --

WHICH WE WON. How many times does it have to be said? By 1972 the "jungle war" and the "civil war" was over. There was even diversity what with Cao Dai and Hoa Hao along with the Tonkinese refugee Roman Catholics. South Viet Nam with US aid held against the North Viet Nam invasion with 150,000 troops and as much armor as the Wehrmacht had in France, at very low US casualties. It was a complete victory. Thrown away in 1975 by the Congress after a new invasion from North Viet Nam financed and outfitted by the USSR; but South Viet Nam could have held against that had Congress allowed us to help our dependent ally. Instead Congress threw away all the blood and treasure spent since 1966 and before, but throwing away a victory is not defeat. The VIET NAM WAR WAS WON. We then abandoned our ally. Fortunately, by then, communism wasn't doing as well as it had been in the 60's.

I opposed both the First and Second Gulf Wars because there was no need for American involvement in them. Viet Nam was different: in those times there were still 20,000 plus nuclear weapons aimed at the US, and there was real threat to Europe. Communism threatened to sweep the world, and there were many including Henry Kissinger as well as most of the American intellectuals who were pretty sure it would ultimately prevail. We have forgotten all that.

We old Cold Warriors didn't like expanding the role of US government, and the liberals kept exacting a price for everything we did to defend the country; for every concession they made to defense they insisted on a domestic expansion and entitlement. For all that, Communism was contained and containment worked -- but if it hadn't been contained containment would not have worked. Communism on the march in Asia and Latin America and Africa were not some theoretical bugaboo in those times. Jimmy Carter's era of limits and national malaise came from his assessment of the world situation, and it was echoed by much of the intelligentsia of the US -- and that came after we had VICTORY in Viet Nam and then threw it all away.

Imagine what would have happened had we cut and run in 1966?

And this in a CONSERVATIVE magazine? Ridiculous.


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Sunday,  December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve

O ye, beneath life's crushing load,
   whose forms are bending low,
 Who toil along the climbing way
   with painful steps and slow,

 Look now! For glad and golden hours
   come swiftly on the wing:
 O rest beside the weary road,
   and hear the angels sing!

   Yet with the woes of sin and strife,
     the world has suffered long
  Beneath the heavenly strain have rolled
     two thousand years of wrong;

  And man, at war with man, hears not
     the tidings that they bring;
  O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
     and hear the angels sing!


 Letter from Jesus about Christmas --

 Dear Children,

It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season. Maybe you've forgotten that I wasn't actually born during this time of the year and that it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate My birthday on what was actually a time of pagan festival. Although I do appreciate being remembered anytime.

How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Now, having said that let Me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small nativity scene on your own front lawn. If all My followers did that there wouldn't be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15: 1 - 8.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it:

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of writing George complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up. It will be nice hearing from you again.

4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.

5. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.

7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn't make so much money on that day they'd close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families

8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary--especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name.

9. Here's a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.

10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.

 Don't forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember : I LOVE YOU.


Gloria in excelsis deo,
et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis
Laudamus te.
Benedicimus te.
Adoramus te.
Glorificamus te.
Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam.
Domine Deus, Rex caelestis, Deus Pater omnipotens.
Domine fili unigenite, Jesu Christe.
Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius patris.
Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Qui tollis peccata mundi suscipe deprecationem nostram.
Qui sedes ad dexteram patris miserere nobis.
Quoniam tu solus sanctus.
Tu solus Dominus.
Tu solus Altissimus, Jesu Christe.
Cum Sancto Spiritu in gloria Dei Patris. Amen.


The Second Chapter of the Gospel According to Luke:

Factum est autem in diebus illis, exiit edictum a Cæsare Augusto ut describeretur universus orbis.

Hæc descriptio prima facta est a præside Syriæ Cyrino:

et ibant omnes ut profiterentur singuli in suam civitatem.

Ascendit autem et Joseph a Galilæa de civitate Nazareth in Judæam, in civitatem David, quæ vocatur Bethlehem: eo quod esset de domo et familia David, ut profiteretur cum Maria desponsata sibi uxore prægnante.

Factum est autem, cum essent ibi, impleti sunt dies ut pareret.

Et peperit filium suum primogenitum, et pannis eum involvit, et reclinavit eum in præsepio: quia non erat eis locus in diversorio.

Et pastores erant in regione eadem vigilantes, et custodientes vigilias noctis super gregem suum.

Et ecce angelus Domini stetit juxta illos, et claritas Dei circumfulsit illos, et timuerunt timore magno.

Et dixit illis angelus:

 Nolite timere: ecce enim evangelizo vobis gaudium magnum, quod erit omni populo: quia natus est vobis hodie Salvator, qui est Christus Dominus, in civitate David. Et hoc vobis signum: invenietis infantem pannis involutum, et positum in præsepio.

Et subito facta est cum angelo multitudo militiæ cælestis laudantium Deum, et dicentium:

Gloria in altissimis Deo,
et in terra pax hominibus bonæ voluntatis.  

Et factum est, ut discesserunt ab eis angeli in cælum: pastores loquebantur ad invicem: Transeamus usque Bethlehem, et videamus hoc verbum, quod factum est, quod Dominus ostendit nobis.  Et venerunt festinantes: et invenerunt Mariam, et Joseph, et infantem positum in præsepio.

Videntes autem cognoverunt de verbo, quod dictum erat illis de puero hoc.

Et omnes qui audierunt, mirati sunt: et de his quæ dicta erant a pastoribus ad ipsos.

Maria autem conservabat omnia verba hæc, conferens in corde suo.



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This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the monthly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 8,000 - 12,000 words, depending.  (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If  you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here. This site is run on the "public radio" model; see below.

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