Eulogy – In Remembrance

 

As requested by many in attendance at his memorial service and wake

In Remembrance of Jerry Eugene Pournelle
7 August 1933–8 September 2017

As written and delivered by his daughter Jennifer Pournelle at
St. Vincent de Sales Church, Sherman Oaks, California, September 16, 2017

I have been asked today to say his eulogy. From the Greek, as he would tell us, meaning true words, spoken in praise of the dead. And as the eldest of his children, presumed by age to know the most about his life, that duty falls to me.

But how is it possible to write truth in praise of a master of fiction? How is it possible to eulogize a man who rose to public acclaim while I was mostly away? Away to school, away to the Army, away to university, away to build my own career?

I cannot say truth about the personality—the public figure, known far better to many of you here than to me. I can only do my best to say truth about the person; about the man. About what I know to be true about the son, the husband, the father, the grandfather—and the loyalist of friends, to those fortunate to know him as a friend.

I begin with what we all know of him: his insatiable intellectual appetite. His breadth of subject was literally encyclopedic: as a child, alone on the farm, his parents away working, he entertained himself by reading the Britannica from A to Z. That reading foreshadowed an essential, but surprisingly inobvious, core trait of his character: iron discipline. Not imposed on others, but imposed on himself. The chaos we all observed around him, immortalized in the household epithet “Chaos Manor,” was actually symptomatic: the result of him making everything—absolutely everything—secondary to being done.

He quite openly expressed this sense of discipline about his writing: writing, he often said, was work. It was not difficult: you merely sat in front of a typewriter until beads of blood popped out on your forehead. Yet he did it, time and again: dozens of novels and anthologies authored and co-authored—eight of them bestsellers. Hundreds of columns, delivered weekly, on time, over decades.

But both his joking aphorism and prodigious output belie the other disciplines that lay behind them. First, his disciplined reading. He read voraciously. He read everything, on every subject. His walls at home are literally lined with enough books to fill a small library—and those are only the ones he kept. Thousands more no doubt fill others’ shelves today, donated to book sales or simply given away. And that’s the books: the breadth of periodicals, online and in print, is staggering.

He read to inform himself, and especially to form and inform his own opinions. Which leads us to his second discipline: he was disciplined in debate. He was, at core, a son of the south: where he, and his father, and grandfather, and their and their fathers back unto the foundation of the southeastern colonies were born; where he was born. And southern men of his time believed that expression of intellect demanded mastery of a style of discourse that brooked no prisoners— because, there and then, when discourse failed, violence inevitably ensued.

So, by nature more than a little reclusive, he mastered that style. And honed it. That is, he believed in the art and craft of rhetoric. He held it as a duty to be able to stand tall, in a crowded forum, command attention, sway opinion, and silence opposition. And a good deal of that mastery he learned on the road, because he was incredibly disciplined in travel. By that I mean his endless circuit of lectures, interviews, conventions, book signings, and background research. Despite his being, at heart, a homebody. He loved nowhere better than behind his own desk, in his own office, in his own home—or, failing that, in the home of his closest friends and collaborators. He loved no food better than that cooked on his own stove, or, failing that, in the kitchens of a few local dineries.

So, the frenetic travel, the speaking tours, the holding forth in yet another venue: they were all, for him, service. Duty. Discipline. A requirement of his craft and trade.

And they were also a reflection of his generosity. He was a remarkably generous man: generous with his time, his money, his possessions, and his ideas. As a son, as a husband, as a father, as a friend, and as a member of his (many) communities.

He was generous as a son. He was a Great Depression baby and a World War II latchkey kid, which made him just old enough to leave and fight for his country in Korea. So he never really knew his mother: she was out working her fingers to the bone, struggling to keep the wolf from the door, while his father struggled to craft a depression-proof future in the (then) new commercial radio industry. So, he often felt estranged from his parents, especially from a mother he felt he never saw. Yet, after his own father’s death, and well before he had earned anything like assured prosperity, with his own young sons yet to raise, he took her into his own home, where she lived out her years reclaiming the childhood he missed with her love for his children.

He was generous as a husband. He adored his wife. He loved deeply, and passionately, and never anyone more than her. The parable of the widow’s alms teaches us the truest measure of generosity: when that of which you have the least, you give most freely. So by “generous,” here I do not mean with obvious things like, like gifts and jewelry and public events (though with those too). I mean that, although always awkward as a schoolboy in showing his feelings for her, he did his utmost with what he knew how to do: jokes, and puns, and praise, and respect, and walks, and stalwart support of her career, and four sons.

And especially—and this is most telling—by listening to her, and to her alone. Certainly not always. Probably not often enough. But I do not believe that any other human being on the planet had the capacity to tell him “no” and make it stick. Because of his generous love for her, he listened, and learned how to be a better father, and an outwardly more affectionate one. To say the words out loud. She taught him that the great light of a generous heart need not be hidden beneath a bushel. He listened, and let his generous light shine on her, and everyone around them.

It certainly shined on us, his children. He was generous as a father. OK, let’s start with the obvious. There was never a check he would not roll his eyes, groan, and write. School fees? Of course. Wrecked car? Harrumph. No problem. College expenses? Well, it’s your job to get the best deal you can. It’s my job to pick up the rest. Airplane tickets, tailored mess uniforms, personal sidearms? Here you go. Need a tool, a meal, a book, a computer, a printer, a place to sleep, a bottle of white-out? There’s one here somewhere in the house. Go find it. Help yourself.

But his real generosity was with imagination. He believed in space. He believed in adventure. He believed in deep truths in myth, and deep lessons in legend. He believed in science. He believed in nature. He believed in fun. And he combined them all. Road trips, hiking trips, shooting trips; flights of imagination; cooking (badly), reading (well), brainstorming plot lines, standing up to bluster, figuring out what you need to know, then figuring out who could tell you. He’d pick up a phone in a heartbeat if he thought he could marshal support or make a contact. He’d invite you to dinners across thresholds you’d never otherwise cross—and then always pick up the tab.

And when you finished what you started, or achieved what you’d aimed, or found success in your field, his outpouring of respect was spontaneous and generous—and never seeking to curry your favor. He told everyone else how proud he was; how much respect he had. He seldom told you. For you, he was generous with what he most valued: drive. Achievement. Finding your own way, and your own mind, and (if you wanted to learn them) any skill or opportunity he’d mastered that might be of use to you.

He was similarly generous as a friend and colleague. That is the generosity of which I personally know the least. But over the past three days alone, I have lost count of the number of people who have messaged me—a person they know barely, if at all—to relay their heartfelt gratitude for what he most willingly provided: opportunity. Access. Introductions. Praise for work completed. Respect for early accomplishment.

I can add to that his remarkable financial generosity to people and causes and community. To his church. To the arts, especially the Los Angeles Opera. To battered women’s shelters, and widows & orphans funds, and of course to the greater science fiction community.

Which brings me to a final reflection, shared by one of those among us who is as close as a family member: How was it that a man so liberal with all he had, was so staunchly conservative in his political philosophy? I believe, in my very genetic soul, that this stemmed from his true and deepest belief: that we are all required to rise above adversity, and succeed, and then be generous with our success. And in the true world of his writer’s mind, this was always possible, for he could always imagine a universe in which it could be. And so he wanted us all to rise to that challenge, and having risen, to succeed.

So, from this house of God, in my own father’s name I invite you to go live your own dream. He was more than happy if you wanted to join and share in his. But he was always happiest, and most respectful, when you went and lived your own. Chin up, and soldier on.

Passings….

From Jerry’s son Alex:

I’m afraid that Jerry passed away.
We had a great time at DragonCon.
He did not suffer.

(8 Sep 2017 – 3:45pm PDT)

Readers may use the Well-Wishing page for remembrances.  For those that are interested in Dr. Pournelle’s books, please see the e-books  page or the Amazon page at http://amzn.to/2xliy73 . Here’s a list of All The Books.

Jerry’s last post is here. The text of the eulogy given at the memorial is here. Site news is here. – Editor

Dreamers

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Being intelligent is not a felony. But most societies evaluate it as at least a misdemeanor.

-Robert A. Heinlein

The map is not the territory.

Alfred Korzybski

If you establish a democracy, you must in due time reap the fruits of a democracy. You will in due season have great impatience of public burdens, combined in due season with great increase of public expenditure. You will in due season have wars entered into from passion and not from reason;

Benjamin Disraeli

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

George Santayana

Between 1965 and 2011, the official poverty rate was essentially flat, while the government spending per person on poverty programs rose by more than 900% after inflation.

Peter Cove

Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for the West as it commits suicide.

Burnham

If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.

Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983

“Deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

We are a nation of assimilated immigrants.

Immigration without assimilation is invasion.

We have to start with the premise that the goal is to defeat the enemy.

Jim Woolsey

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Back from DragonCon with both a cold and the flu. Was supposed to go to the Mars Society meeting in Irvine, but I didn’t feel up to it and would have been a burden on Larry who generously offer to drive me. I suspected that would be sure exposure to this ConCrud and since he escaped it he doesn’t need it. But mostly I didn’t feel up to it. I’m still in pajamas. I type horribly as well. But that’s the way it goes. I did read all the mail and sort out a pile that needs answering.

The news is full of the Dreamers. The Constitution says the President must take care to see that the laws are faithfully enforced. Mr. Trump didn’t want to deport the “Dreamers”, particularly those who have integrated into the society, but the law gives him no leeway, and the Presidential Order Obama signed giving them amnesty is unconstitutional. He solved that dilemma by giving it back to Congress who created it. We’ll now see what happens.

I can solve part of the problem. Any volunteer of any age who serves 7 years overseas in Army or Marines gets a Green Card and an application to apply for Citizenship along with his honorable discharge. The Citizenship application and test need not be very difficult and I would expect all who applied to pass it. The swearing should be public and conducted by an officer of rank Colonel or above.

As to girls, we can think of something similar or suitable; they need not join the combat arms. Surgical Assistant comes instantly to mind.

Their parents are a more difficult problem, and it will take ingenuity to find a path that does not offend the legal immigrants who obeyed the law.

More later I’m experiencing a wave of nausea.

Bye for now.

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

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Packing

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The map is not the territory.

Alfred Korzybski

Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for the West as it commits suicide.

James Burnham

If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.

Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983

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Packing for DragonCon. That turns out to be more work than it used to be. Ah, well. I do hope the weather hasn’t affected the Dallas airport.

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Longest war

Lately I keep hearing the talking heads on the news refer to the current conflict as “America’s longest war”. In modern times it can be (weakly) argued that since the Korean War that started in 1950 was paused by an armistice rather than ending with a peace treaty it has been 67 years and counting. A better claim can be made for the even longer Indian Wars. the VA recognizes the Indian Wars as running from 1817 to 1898 a total of 81 years. More proof that history is not something the media worries abound.

John

I expect that’s correct. And even includes the year Congress appropriated no money for the Army, leaving the officers with the problem of how to feed the men…

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Floods and FEMA

Dear Jerry –

You recently wrote, 

The way FEMA worked, at least when I was familiar with it, made Clinton’s action as good as any, because the local FEMA officials’ competence was irrelevant. Washington controlled FEMA, and needed no advice from locals; neither local FEMA nor National Guard. Locals couldn’t possibly as competent as the DC Professionals, and don’t you forget it. Of course when Clinton became President he had some reasons to suspect that…

and certainly the approach reached its disastrous apotheosis in Katrina. (Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that FEMA had been folded into DHS, and DHS was largely focused on terrorism at the expense of disaster relief, which led to wholesale retirement of upper level FEMA managers with disaster relief backgrounds who might have done the necessary and made Brown look good. And it’s always a good idea to consider that all the pre-Katrina estimates said that at least half of New Orleans was too poor to evacuate – and then folks blew a gasket when half of New Orleans DIDN’T evacuate. Plus, the press frenzy started about 48 hours after the barriers failed and completely ignored the fact that the nominal FEMA response time had always been stated as 72 hours.)

But there is hope. The FEMA director for the last 8 years has been Craig Fugate, who seems to be about as far from Michael Brown as possible, and who preaches “whole-community response” and makes statements such as,

We had almost by default defined the public as a liability. We looked at them as,We must take care of them, because they’re victims. But in a catastrophic disaster, why are we discounting them as a resource? Are you telling me there’s not nurses, doctors, construction people, all kinds of walks of life that have skills that are needed?

and

“Quit referring to people as victims and call them survivors.” I said, my first goal is to change the vocabulary of emergency management. As long as you use vocabulary like “victims,” you’re going to treat the public like a liability and you have to take care of them. That works in most small- to medium-size disasters, ’cause we can bring in more help than there are people—but the bigger the disaster the less effective it is. When you step back and look at most disasters, you talk about first responders—lights and sirens—that’s bullshit. The first responders are the neighbors. Bystanders. People that are willing to act.

I recommend this interview https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2015/09/we-are-all-first-responders/402146/

Of course, Pournelle’s Iron Law applies, and there’s no telling how much progress he’s made in a mere 8 years, but it’s certainly hopeful.

Also hopeful is the lack of FEMA response with respect to the civilian efforts such as the Cajun Navy, which have apparently moved several thousand people out of flooded homes and are continuing the god work. Contrast this with the the attempts by FEMA post-Katrina to actively prevent private boat-owners from doing the same function because it wasn’t coordinated. And somehow I doubt volunteer firefighters from other states will be required to undergo a week of training before they are allowed to start work.

It’s still early days, of course, and there are some big political differences from Katrina, such as competence from both the local and state governments (Chocolate Ray Nagin was never properly held accountable for his utter incompetence, and the Louisiana governor’s refusal to ask for help has gone remarkably unnoticed – and both stand in stark contrast to the current politicos). I thought the advice by the Rockport mayor to those who wouldn’t evacuate (“We’re suggesting if people are going to stay here, mark their arm with a Sharpie pen with their name and Social Security number,”) showed a certain welcome bloody-mindedness. But we shall see what we shall see.

Regards,

Jim Martin

==

Civil Defense

The “Cajun Navy” is proving your position on “Civil Defense” to be correct.

Duane

 

Civil Defense

With regard to Civil Defense teams, which I remember being aware of in my youth. If you aren’t already you might want to become familiar with CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_emergency_response_team]) – I don’t know about your area but I became aware of their existence shortly before I moved from Stockton (Central Valley) a couple of years ago. With recongnition of the earthquake dangers of the subjunction zone here in Oregon there has been an increasing emphasis on these local teams (Salem OR has numerous teams within each of several regions in the immediate locale, although they are not as yet completely built out). Last spring there was a weekly series of page long preparation guides in the Statesman Journal, and there was a significant presence of CERT representatives at our recent National Night Out neighborhood gatherings. There is quite a lot of media promotion on emergency preparedness and at least low level prepping here. OEM offered the free ham radio class I took a few months ago. CERT is coordinated with the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, headquartered at the National Guard base here in Salem. CERT courses are being taught at our local junior college and in other venues.

Paul

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Afghanistan.

There are several reasons why we should maintain a presence in Afghanistan.

We’ve been there 16 years. The Afghan government will most likely never stand alone.

If we leave, the Russians, Iran, or more likely China will have to move in to support

their government.

This is undesirable. One main reason is Rare Earth Elements mining. China currently controls

97% of the market. The Rare Earths are Lanthanides like Neodymium, Scandium, Cerium,

Lanthanum, Yttrium and 12 others. The Rare Earth elements are used in everything hi tech

from cell phones, batteries, magnets, to hi tech aluminum and steel alloys.

The problem with the Rare Earths is they all are generally contained in the same ore.

They are very difficult and expensive to separate in the refining process because they

are closely grouped on the periodic table. China has put the single major US company out

of business by undercutting the market.

Mining and refining Rare Earths is not a very Eco-friendly operation. The mine tailings are

generally mildly radioactive due to Thorium and Uranium. All the acids and chemicals that

are used in refining are strictly regulated by the EPA upping costs.

In remote, sparsely populated Afghanistan, these issues are non-issues. Mining and refining

can occur with little, if any, global impact. China’s monopoly on the market will be mitigated.

David Rockefeller spent a lifetime building a Central Asian presence along with people like

Zbignew Brzezinski and that effort and accomplishment should not be wasted or thrown away.

Through the Council on Foreign Relations and other local boards and commissions, an overall

Central Asian policy of cooperation has been developed.

The Central Asian policy is best put forth and described in Zbignew Brzezinski’s essay;

“A Geostrategy for Eurasia”published through the Council on Foreign relations (CFR);

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/asia/1997-09-01/geostrategy-eurasia

and his book “The Grand Chessboard”

http://https://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sociopolitica/sociopol_chessboard.htm

When one reflects on the decades of dedicated work by David Rockefeller and people like

Zbignew Brzezinski for developement, stability and partnership in Eurasia, it becomes

apparent it’s in everyone’s best interest.

If we are not in Afghanistan, somebody else will be there.

That’s what the interventionists fear. They may be right; but stationing 20,000 troops for decades in Afghanistan is a serious matter, and might even require building a different sort of Army; Legions that expect to serve out their time in foreign lands. Would they be rewarded with citizenship? Pensions – land – for his veterans was one of Caesar’s major concerns.

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if they say you are wrong, say it again louder

Dr. Pournelle,

They’re back:

http://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/energy/renewables/100-percent-renewable-energy-for-139-countries-by-2050

I notice, again, that the authors do not estimate cost, or who they expect to pay, or the actual cost of development in barrel of oil equivalent units, or the cost of maintenance, or the limitations of wind and solar power generation.  And, as in their study two years ago, still don’t state the cost of the energy storage that their proposal requires.  They don’t account for projected growth of demand.

This time, they pointedly also don’t mention the cost in comparison to the gdp of the countries involved.  Obviously, the U.S. will be expected to foot the bill, and China and India will be expected to continue to absorb the pollution generated by mining, smelting, concrete production, and chemical processing.

It will obviously be all free, since we will all be paying two or three hundred percent more  (corrected for collectivized petroleum industries) for the five to ten-fold increase in fossil fuel usage that will be required to build these technologies.  And of course, it will all have to be replaced again by 2075.

I feel better already.

-d

Glad that problem is settled.

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Thinking for oneself

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

In the midst of woe, gloom and uncertainty, I see this little note in freshman orientation at Princeton U which brightened my day, and I hope yours as well.

https://jmp.princeton.edu/announcements/some-thoughts-and-advice-our-students-and-all-students

In a nutshell, the profs warn the students to beware of campus orthodoxies and the ‘tyranny of public opinion’, to think for themselves and to give even ‘unspeakable’ ideas a second look.

Good for them. C.S. Lewis asked “What do they teach them in those schools?” It’s nice to see that some of the old light survives, even in the midst of the Crazy Years.

Respectfully,

Brian P.

That’s what my generation was brought up to expect of any college. Some were better at it than others. Not necessarily the big research Universities. When I worked as a consultant on the California University Master Plan, the State Universities were different campuses of one University, and had small undergraduate student bodies; the California State Colleges were supposed to be the primary undergraduate institutions, and were not to have graduate students or issue graduate degrees. On this basis the costs were sold to the taxpayers. Of course so soon as the law was passed the California State Colleges insisted on becoming California State Universities and be able to give graduate degrees, and started humping for grants and wanting graduate students to teach the freshmen, ad so forth, etc., etc.

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And here you thought there was no slavery anymore anywhere.

Actually there still is slavery. If you go to a backwards nation on the West coast of Africa near the equator you can find massive slavery operations which the government refuses to do anything about. It’s a Mohammedan nation. It is run according to Sharia law. And Sharia law, the law supposedly handed down to Mohammed by his sham Moon god Allah. The Guardian, of all things, published an article about slavery in Mauritania. It’s there. It’s active. It’s the way of life there. And regardless of pressure placed on them, it remains a standard practice in the nation.

Here are Jihad Watch’s excerpts and comments:

Defying international pressure, Islamic Republic of Mauritania refuses to free slaves https://www.jihadwatch.org/2017/08/defying-international-pressure-islamic-republic-of-mauritania-refuses-to-free-slaves

And in case you miss the click through to the source here it is:

US warned Mauritania’s ‘total failure’ on slavery should rule out trade benefits https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/aug/25/us-warned-mauritania-total-failure-slavery-trade-benefits

The US is making this an issue under the Trump administration. If Trump plans to have the US military somehow get involved, that would be a bad bad thing. But, making a public issue of this is a nice way to show the savagery of Sharia Law.

We need to do MUCH more of that. Mohammedanism is a threat. And it should get criticized for the uncivilized, indeed savage, behavior called for from its adherents.

{^_^}

I wonder if the law against filibustering still applies? (Private expeditions of US volunteers intent on liberating the oppressed in other nations was once known as filibustering, and at one time outlawed after vigorous debates.)

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Re: Your Aug 29th post and refrigeration

There’s another issue about the change in refrigerants. I don’t know how much coverage the Grenfell Tower fire and the subsequent discovery of hundreds of deathtrap tower blocks in “social housing” in the UK have had, but one thing that has had almost no coverage (probably because the environmentalists don’t want it to get any) is that the actual direct cause of the Grenfell fire (the spark to touch it off, if you will) was almost certainly an exploding refrigerator.
Huh? you say? Well, it so happens that approved refrigerants are tightly controlled and much more expensive than the old ones. Because of this, makers of budget fridges have started filling them with such things as propane and butane. Which works fine, until the fridge gets a bit old, doesn’t get maintained (as most don’t) and the refrigerant starts leaking.
Picture it. A small, unnoticeable leak in the cooling circuit, inside the fridge. It gets left overnight; gas builds up inside the refrigerator. Go into the fridge in the morning to get the milk for your cereal, the little light inside goes on, the switch that does that arcs over – and BOOM! (And the blast fractures the cooling circuit altogether, and half a litre of liquid propane flashes almost instantly to gas…)

Ian

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

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