Story conferences.

Chaos Manor View, Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Conference with Steve Barnes and Jack Cohen (ain’t Skype wonderful) on the new book; Larry Niven had a dentist appointment. We’ll have one more Wednesday conference before the SF WorldCon. The planning of the book proceeds nicely; so does the text, but now it’s time for some text only I can write. We need a big scene with most of the characters in the book and a good bit of technical detail. And a large expository lump; I generally do those and have since MOTE. And I’ve got to work on LisaBetta with DeChancie. And there’s always Mamelukes. I’ll be in fiction mode a while if I don’t starve. Of course starvation is no bad incentive for a writer to work.

We had some interesting experiences getting Live Writer, which is an intermediate step in getting this journal into publication, installed on Swan, the Windows 10 machine we’ve set up so I can work at night in the back room with disturbing my wife. It’s a relatively fast machine with a big 27” monitor, and a Logitech K360 keyboard just like the one on Alien Artifact (the main machine I write this on).

The names come from their appearance: both are Thermaltake cases, and the cases are elegant but somewhat ornate. Not unappealing; just a bit startling. They are both over a year old, and while more costly than plainer cases, they justify the extra money by being quiet and cool with plenty of power, as well as being convenient to work with. Swan may have been brought up as Windows 8 – frankly I forget – but has been Windows 10 since the developer test program existed, and is now just plain Windows 10. I have to say I am becoming rapidly more fond of 10, and I would upgrade my Windows 7 system to it except for a few reservations.

One is Total Annihilation, which worked on Swan with Windows 10, but won’t now: that is, the program runs, but not all of it is on screen. Some driver has been improved, and that made it unusable. While that game is not a vital necessity, what else won’t run? I use some pretty old programs because they work. One is DiskMapper, which I am pleased to say works just fine even though it was developed for Windows NT! I just used it to find and annihilate some redundant programs and data files on Precious, the Surface Pro 3, and it works quite well.

Anyway, the story of Live Writer is interesting, and you’ll find it in Chaos Manor Reviews along with much other good stuff . Be sure to go look at CMR if you haven’t lately.


Electric Car-Aid Acid Test

Forcing poor rate-payers to subsidize green autos for the rich.

To the list of subsidies for elite lifestyles in the name of fighting climate change, you can now add charging stations for luxury plug-in cars and other electric vehicles. A growing number of states are forcing all consumers to pay for these green amenities that only a fraction of them will ever use.

The fleet of battery-powered cars is rising, and their owners are more than twice as wealthy as most Americans. An Experian Automotive study found that more than 20% of them are middle-aged professionals who make more than $175,000 a year. But deploying the new equipment to keep these affluent drivers on the go isn’t cheap, and states and power companies are starting to socialize the cost of these green frills over all rate-payers.

Historically in the regulated electric markets, public utility commissions have allowed utilities to recover only the costs of “fair, just and reasonable” capital investments that benefit everyone. This is the sensible principle of “user pays.” Now regulators are demolishing this barrier and inserting the tab for charging stations into higher electric rates, regardless of a consumer’s income or the kind of car he happens to drive. <snip>

More concessions to the ruling class. Madame Defarge is watching. And knitting…



My new story collection is out in paperback. At one time SF was dominated by short fiction. No more. But I think we’ve lost sight of something amid the flurry of novels. Stories, especially fantastic stories, have a keener edge if they are short and to the point. They can cut deeper, probe more pointedly. They can also vouchsafe epiphanies and other bursts of illumination. They can suggest offbeat worlds that spring into existence like virtual particles. Besides, they are not huge investments of writing time. If one doesn’t sell, you’ve not wasted a year or more. Just a few of the many reasons I continue to perfect the art of short fiction.

Far Cries: Collected Stories: John DeChancie: 9781514179208: Books


John is of course my collaborator on LisaBetta which is a novel proceeding quite nicely. I don’t disagree with his analysis of the market, and of course Niven writes short stories; but it’s not my cup of tea. I have a few, but I always found that when I had a story idea it came out better in 50,000 words or more; and when I first got into this racket, 50 to 60 thousand words was a novel; there weren’t so many 100,000 word novels. But I never did work on short stories. I wish I had some.


The Starborn 

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

This isn’t directly related to your question, but I think it worth mentioning even so.

In church on Sunday I spoke  to a woman who had fertility problems, so she had her eggs harvested. Since she was determined that all fertilized embryos would be brought to term if possible, they created 8 fertilized embryos , and put them in the freezer until such time as it was possible to try to carry them.

8 embryos, 3 survived pregnancy, and now she has three lovely girls. Ironically, though the oldest and youngest girl are about seven years apart physically, the were *conceived at the same time*  — it’s just that the years that the oldest was developing , the other spent in a freezer. 
It made me wonder — we often talk about cold-sleep as one way to travel between stars. While the techniques to induce long-term hibernation in adult human beings are under development, the techniques to hibernate fertilized embryos exist * today *.
I was wondering if that might be another way to start an interstellar colony — to ship the colonists as frozen embryos.  This would require some kind of ‘caretaker’ to thaw them out and raise them up into functioning adults, either a robot crew or a generation ship “caretaker” family, a family of priests, as your other commenter mentioned, who could maintain their lives and their teachings, passing them through the generations, until planetfall, at which point it would be their jobs to literally act as mothers and fathers to the newly thawed colonists.
This would naturally make the caretakers a literal aristocracy which might cause friction among their children — especially if, several hundred years down the line, there is no more obvious difference between thawed and caretaker, but the caretakers still retain their privileges. Sequel fodder?
In any event, I would suggest that teaching in interstellar colonies will look remarkably like the teaching methods we have used to date. Reason: As you have argued in other books,  it isn’t practical to maintain a high-technology civilization on a new colony.  So until a new industrial base can be created, humans will have to use sustainable resources. Horses instead of tractors.  Animal labor in place of machines. Mechanical calculators and abacus devices instead of electronic calculators. They may eventually develop the tools to build the tools to create such things , but until they do any kind of sophisticated memory transfer technology will have to wait — or be the privilege of the caretaker family.
Some thoughts and ideas. I hope they are useful!

Brian P.

This is an important theme in our new series on the first interstellar colony. There never will be all that many adults in the first years of a colony; what the children are taught is all they will know. We address these problems



thanks & grab bag

Dear Jerry: 
I haven’t checked in in quite a while, been dealing with some health issues of my own (nothing near as serious as yours but debilitating nonetheless), so there are a number of things:
First, a huge roaring THANK YOU for posting the link to the video of the Feynman lectures!!!
I’ve been a huge Feynman fan since hearing SURELY YOU’RE JOKING, MR. FEYNMAN! on public radio’s Radio Reader 20 some years ago.  Remember Dick Estelle and how good he was?
Anyway I’ve tried to plow through the hard copy of the Lectures, but never got far.  The videos are an absolute treat, and in my opinion a national treasure (maybe after Windows ME and Vista Bill Gates CAN still get into Heaven).
But that voice!  I’d never heard Feynman speak before.  If he wasn’t consciously channeling Ralph Kramden on the Honeymooners he and Jackie Gleason must have grown up within a few blocks of each other.
It gives a whole new meaning to “To the moon, Alice!”  Or it’s like Fred Flintstone waking up one day with a genius-level IQ.
Anyway, many thanks.
Computer stuff:
NEW DESKTOP:  I can’t believe how much computer you can buy these days for $1200.  I recently got a new ASUS desktop from Best Buy (model CG5290) which comes with Intel Core i7 CPU @ 2.66Ghz, NINE gigabytes of fast DDR3 memory, a Hitachi terabyte HD spinning at 7200 RPM, and an nVidia GTX 260 with 892MB of dedicated video memory, plus a ton of ports, DVD, etc.  The only thing missing from my perspective was wifi, which I solved with a Belkin USB “N” adapter which works slicker than a smelt.
What’s this got to do with you?  Well, only that you were right: given enough horsepower – as in EIGHT cores and NINE gigs of memory – Vista64 doesn’t suck dead bunnies performance-wise any more.  On this machine it starts and stops and is about as responsive as my bottom line Mac Mini running OS X.  Happy happy joy joy!
But the ASUS is a sweet machine for the bucks, I don’t know how much you’d spend building the equivalent desktop but as my time is valuable (at least to me) I’m happy with the bargain I made.
DEVICE OF THE DECADE: well, maybe not, but I wanted to get your attention.  Maybe you know about the Thermaltake Blacx bare drive docking stations already; if so skip this.  If not I think one of these devices might be the answer to your storage and backup prayers.  Take a quick peek here:  Thermaltakeusa » Storage » BlacX
I’m sure like me you have a multiplying stable of bare drives hanging around not doing much: the BlacX easily and cheaply puts them back to work.  Even if not why buy external drives and keep paying for the case, controller, and cables with each and every one?  I just picked up a Hitachi terabyte bare drive, OEM edition (but 7200 RPM + 16MB cache) for $74.95 on Amazon.
I would think this could be the perfect solution for your backup needs as I’m sure you’re constantly rotating drives to and from offsite storage.  Works with both laptop and desktop bare drives, and the eSATA model means your data transfers are going to be many times faster than either USB 2 or even FireWire 800.  As somebody I know would say, “HIGHLY Recommended.”  Shop around, I got mine from Amazon for $43.38, a hefty slice off list price.
NIFTY NEW PRODUCT:  Intel has released the second generation of their top-line X25M SSD drives, and I have a 160GB on order.  The price is down from nearly $700 to $500, and according to Anandtech the speed and reliability are up.  Be careful to get the “G2” model.
MY NEW FAVORITE KEYBOARD:  Logitech’s Illuminated.  Great touch, four levels of key illumination, sleek looks, well thought out set of added “function” keys, what’s not to like?
WORLD OF WARCRAFT GOODY:  So how’s your Pally doing?  I’ve got three 80s now and two 70s on their way up, all classes.  Obviously I play way too much, but I don’t hardly turn on the TV any more, so…
Anyway the new goody is Logitech’s G13 game board.  Comes with a very nicely thought out WoW profile, auto-detects the game, and I find it very much more comfortable for long sessions than any regular flat keyboard.  A little pricey but if it saves me from carpel tunnel?  Check it out here: Logitech > Keyboards > Keyboards > G13 Advanced Gameboard
QUESTION OF THE MONTH:  Windows 7?  Why?  Sure it’s a bit faster and prettier, but where’s the beef?  Hopefully if you know you’ll share in a column soon.
Okay, I’ve taken enough of your time, I hope this finds you well and you find some of this useful and/or humorous, as ever all the best,

I have one of the Thermaltake drive connectors on Swan, and I just got five 4 terabyte drives…


Dr Pournelle


This is the story of the TFX and me.

I was 6 years old. We had moved to the ranch in the summer. That winter, I walked out the back door and headed for the barn to pull out bales and hay the cattle.

At this time, General Dynamics was experimenting with the TFX at their Fort Worth plant. All their flights were secret, and they never flew the same route twice.

I heard a noise and looked to the southwest. I saw two jets in fingertip formation approaching at a high rate of speed. I estimate that they flew 50 feet off the deck. They traversed from my right to my left and passed within 300 feet of me. They popped over the ridge to the northwest and disappeared from my sight.

All the while the wingman was doing slow rolls.

At that moment, I knew I wanted to be an Air Force pilot. Took me 20 years from that point, but I made it.

Live long and prosper

h lynn keith

I was on the preliminary design team for TFX and had a minor part in the strategic analysis showing that a single design couldn’t do all the missions required of air power. Eleven military boards awarded TFX to Boeing, but the contract went elsewhere; the common appellation for the F-111 was the LBJ. The F-111 was a good recce/strike and battlefield interdiction plane, and one of them could generally accomplish more (for those missions) than 8 sorties by other aircraft; but of course it wasn’t a match for MIGS in air to air combat.






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




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