A Trip to the Apple Store

View 850 Wednesday, November 12, 2014

“I have observed over the years that the unintended consequences of social action are always more important, and usually less agreeable, than the intended consequences.”

Irving Kristol

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009


Tuesday I worked on fiction. John De Chancie and I have a new project, based on a story idea and character I have had in mind for years, and it is coming along nicely. I’ve done little writing but much of the planning, and the goal, as always, is for readers to have no idea of who wrote what. That’s not easily achieved in collaborations, but it is almost always a quality of successful collaborations, or has been in my experience.


Today I started by going to Kaiser to collect my new glasses: probably the last ones I will have before I have to have cataract surgery or whatever they call it. I understand intellectually that what they do today has almost nothing in common with the barbaric procedures they did when I was very young, or even what they did in the 80’s. I thank the readers who have taken the trouble to describe to me what happened to them and how much they appreciate the results, and I thank all those who have written to cheer me on.

I remain terrified, but I am getting control over that.

My visit to Kaiser took longer than I had planned – the lines at both the optician dispensary and the pharmacy where I had to pick up prescriptions were considerably longer than I had expected – but I was done by 1300.

As planned, I headed to the Apple Store in the Fashion Square mall in Sherman Oaks. I intended to look at the new iPhone and probably buy one, either the 6 or 6+ (I think those are the names; there’s a reason I am guessing and don’t know). I wanted to see if the bigger one would fit into a shirt pocket, and I think it will; again there’s a reason I am not certain.

I had also intended to look at the new iPad. I suspect I don’t need one, my Microsoft Surface Pro 3 being more than enough tablet. My original iPad still works fine, but I find I don’t use it much. When I carry a device to read while waiting in lines I carry the Kindle Fire, which is a bit too large for a shirt pocket but goes into a bush jacket side pocket nicely, and which I find exceedingly readable. I used to read on my old iPad, but now I find the Fire works better both at home and when I go out. Still, I wanted to look at the iPad. After all, this is Chaos Manor, and I do a lot of things so you don’t have to.

I had also brought along Khaos, my 6 year old MacBook Air. (I didn’t really remember how many years I have had that Air, but I do recall that I got her at about the time they were burning my brain with hard X-rays to get rid of The Lump, and that was Spring/Summer 2008. Khaos is still my favorite machine to carry when I am going out and expect to make notes or do some actual work, and won’t have a good desk and chair to work with. The Air is really good for productive work. Alas, mine isn’t: as I showed in the September Computing at Chaos Manor column, the Air has developed “Swollen battery syndrome”. Her batteries have swollen so much they distort the case, and she don’t work no more.

So I traipsed up to the Apple Store, where I was met by a helpful sounding young man in a blue shirt. I looked closely and he was Apple, not Helpful Honda. Ah well. I told him I was interested in iPhone 6, the new iPad, and I also had this, showing him the air. He glanced at Khaos but obviously didn’t look at it. “What do you need for that?” I chuckled a bit. “You didn’t look at it.” So this time he saw that swollen battery. He had been leading me to the iPhone table, but now he told me I needed to talk to an appointments maker or something like that.

That apparently required a different level of blue shirt than him.  He pointed out a young lady with a blue shirt and a red bag.  I’d have to make an appointment.  I said something about the iPhone and he said, yes, after I’d made the appointment we could do that,

The young lady was talking to someone.  I stood expectantly waiting, but she didn’t acknowledge me, and continue chatting pleasantly with a couple.  I don’t hear well in a crowded place with many conversations going at once so I don’t know what it was about.  Eventually a young man came up and asked if he could help, I confessed I had been sent to see that young lady, and he was smart enough to ask why.  I showed him Khaos,m and he grinned.  “Yep, you need an appointment.  I can do that for you.”  It turned out to be an appointment for 1645, some three hours away.  I hadn’t intended to spend the whole day on this, but since the next appointment was for Friday this seemed the reasonable thing to so.

So I went back to the iPhones, and waited again. I got someone.  I asked about bringing the stuff from my iPhone 4G over to the new iPhone, and was told that would be through the cloud, only I don’t back up to the cloud, I back up to the iMac. So we set out to see how long it would take for my iPhone to back me up to the cloud, and that led to my Apple identification and password, and that’s the wrong thing to ask me cold because I don’t remember it offhand, but I had my logbook, but I’m also rather deaf.

The rest of this story will be in the November Column which I’m writing now.  It ended up with my being locked out of my iPhone settings for 24 hours, although I could still use the iPhone as a telephone; waiting for Apple Support to telephone me on my iPhone; more complications, all of which I should be able to overcome after 1500 tomorrow but not before; and my cancelling the 4:45 PM appointment because I was exhausted, I still didn’t have a new iPhone or iPad and wasn’t all that sure that was what I wanted and it was now 3 PM and I was exhausted.  I’ll have to make another appointment to get Khaos looked at.

I’ll tell the entire story in the column.  I hope to have a happy ending.  The moral of this story is that if you’re somewhat deaf and a bit unsure about the name of your first car and where you met your wife, be very careful about letting eager young people in blue shirts be helpful with your iPhone in an Apple Store.  Be sure you know what you Apple Id and password are (and if you live at Chaos Manor they will not be the id and password you log onto your Apple machines with) and you have things written down for quick retrieval,

More in the column.



Airstrikes strengthening ISIS Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I believe you will be interested in this article, though I doubt it will give you much pleasure.


It appears that our pinprick airstrikes against ISIS, far from weakening our enemy, is strengthening them. Why? Because we’ve been bombing other rebel groups as well. Those groups, figuring they will be lumped in with ISIS anyway, are hastening to merge them. So we have subtracted pennies from their strength through airstrikes but indirectly we have added pounds by fostering their merger and alliance with other rebels.

The upshot is that ISIS is stronger now than it was before this campaign was started.

I am trying to practice more optimism so .. there’s still time for Americans to do the right thing after all the other options are exhausted. So it appears that’s one less bad option between where we are now and actually doing something right!


Brian P.

I haven’t spent enough time studying this to be certain of anything, but on principle if we continue random acts of violence and destruction in Syria with no apparent strategy or goal, we are not likely to accomplish much that we want.  This is what we did in Libya, with hideous results that will plague us for years.  We’d have done better in Libya to declare the restoration of the Royal Family and hired some mercenaries to take the country for him.  No, of course I don’t mean that  in the sense that I’d propose it as an objective, but I have the horrible suspicion that a policy of restoring the monarchy would have produced better results than what they have in Libya now.  The point I am trying to illustrate is that if you don’t know what goal you are trying to accomplish, yet you insist on breaking things and killing people, you may not know what goal you are accomplishing.



October 30, 2014 7:00 pm JST

Japan frets over coming absence of US aircraft carriers

TETSURO KOSAKA, Nikkei senior staff writer

TOKYO — Security policymakers in Japan and the U.S. are privately voicing concern about the absence of U.S. aircraft carriers from East Asian waters for four months next year.    

Budget restrictions in the U.S. and turmoil in the Middle East is putting pressure on the fleet’s capability and will mean not a single aircraft carrier is deployed in East Asia.

     Japanese and U.S. officials fear having no U.S. carriers in the region could provide China and North Korea with an opportunity to take military action.

     The USS George Washington, the only U.S. aircraft carrier with an overseas homeport, is to leave its base in Japan for refueling and extensive maintenance. Until the USS Ronald Reagan arrives at the Japanese port of Yokosuka to replace the ship, there will be no American carrier in East Asia for about four months, according to U.S. and Japanese officials.

     The U.S. Navy has not disclosed details about the replacement, but it is expected sometime between spring and autumn next year.


So it has come to this.



SS2 Feathering


Good piece on what may have happened, but SS2’s "feathering" system could use a bit of clarification.

The reason SS2’s twin tail booms need to be physically locked in their horizontal position until the ship has accelerated past Mach 1.4 has to do with transonic aerodynamics.

As a wing (or wing-shaped surface like the horizontal bits of SS2’s

tails) approaches Mach 1, shock waves form on its forward upper and lower surfaces. As our wing accelerates to and past Mach 1, these shocks move aft unevenly, with the typical result being the wing’s center of lift moving aft, causing the vehicle’s nose to pitch downward.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mach_tuck.

The related transonic effect on the SS2 tails is apparently strong enough to lift them toward the vertical position despite their actuators, hence SS2’s mechanical tailboom locking mechanism.

Once we get up to around Mach 1.3, the upper and lower shocks on our wing have both moved all the way aft and united into one shock on the trailing edge, and we’re through the transonic region with its weird and often counter-intuitive aerodynamics.

Mach 1.4 is a reasonable margin above this trans-sonic region, and therefore is about as early in the rocket powered portion of SS2’s flight as you would want to unlock the tails.

As for WHY you might want to unlock the tails as early as possible, it’s because SS2 cannot reenter safely from max speed and altitude without the tail booms lifted vertical to the rest of the vehicle, "feathered".

Without the greatly increased drag from this feathered configuration,

SS2 would reenter too fast, overheating and damaging or destroying its structure.

Unlocking the tails as soon as possible in SS2’s rocket motor burn is a safety measure – if they can’t be unlocked for some reason, then the pilots can shut down the rocket motor and abort the flight before SS2 is going too fast to reenter safely unfeathered.

As for why the copilot might have unlocked the tailbooms early, it’s too soon to do more than speculate. Pilot error is the easy conclusion many have leaped to, but consider that he may have been given an incorrect procedure for this mission, or may have executed a correct procedure based on an incorrect (or easy-to-misread) instrument reading, or that some combination of cockpit design and test-plan and training factors may have made an error much harder to avoid than it needed to be.

The NTSB, for what it’s worth, has announced it is forming a new Human Performance Group within the SS2 investigation to look into these factors. It may be a while before we know much more.

Henry Vanderbilt

I understand there is always eagerness to unlock the feathers as soon as possible; we now have a better idea of when is too soon. Sir Richard continues to build the new ship, and is determined to be on its first commercial flight.


It’s late and bed time.




Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




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