Where I’ve Been; ZEN, A New Machine; A Hole In The Sun; Air Support; and other matters

Chaos Manor View, Thursday, June 2, 2016

Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for Western Civilization as it commits suicide.

Under Capitalism, the rich become powerful. Under Socialism, the powerful become rich.

Under Socialism, government employees become powerful.



I have a new ASUS ZenBook Touchscreen, 15”, with half a terabyte on an SSD disk. There was a huge hours long sale announced Saturday, and I had just been to the bank; I had an IRS refund check to deposit, meaning unallocated money. Not a lot, but enough for a new machine. The computer in the Monk’s Cell, where I write fiction, was an aging ThinkPad beginning to fail; I figured the ASUS would last at least four years for what it was to do, and might turn out to be useful for a lot more. This is the biggest laptop I have ever had.

I had already taken the opportunity to play with Carl Lembke’s ASUS at LASFS Thursday night, and the keyboard is chicklets. I hated those on the PC Junior all these years ago, but since the stroke I am strictly a two-finger typist and need separated keys. Even so I hit two at once perhaps 20% of the time, so correcting a sentence takes about as long as writing it; with the big laptop screen I don’t have to raise my eyes much to edit, and ZEN is fast – really fast – so entering text is much faster with ZEN than it is with any of my big machines and the Logitech K360 wireless keyboards I use. I can’t recommend the ZenBook without some more use, but I do say you might seriously consider it – provided that you can stand chiclet keys. If you’re a two finger typist you will love it.

Installing Windows and Office 365 took some time, because Windows 10 does things the way it always has, but has buried the process deeply in odd places. Eventually I got ZEN named, and installed visibly on my internal wireless net so that other machines could talk to it. The frustrations came when the commands I needed were buried somewhere; I’d ask the search lady to find out how to add a computer to the wireless net, and she’d open a Microsoft help file off the Internet; it would tell me exactly how to do it – for Windows 7, 8.1, 8.0, Vista, and various other versions, but for Windows 10 the help files were strangely silent.

This became infuriating, and I don’t think well when infuriated. Fortunately my advisors calmed me down, and eventually I was able to use the improved Control Panel to find it all. Indeed, it makes sense – once you have seen it done. Why Microsoft can’t simply provide examples of common setup features I don’t know; a secret full employment act for gurus?

Anyway, ZEN can now see and be seen by the other machines, files can be transferred, I have Office 365 installed but not yet the features like Word and Outlook, and I haven’t imported all the applications I will need, so ZEN is still downstairs where he can be reached by an Ethernet cable; tomorrow will probably do it for that, and he’ll go up to take the ThinkPad’s place and become my main creative writing machine. That means an hour a day on Mamelukes until this volume is done. I also have LisaBetta, an asteroid mining technology level no faster than light story which has some new thoughts on artificial intelligence; it will be a novel of a bit under 100,000 words, of which John DeChancie has done about half from our agreed plot, and now it’s my turn. I need to weave in a character. You’ll never know which one once I’m through.

And Larry Niven, Steve Barnes, and I, with some consultation with Dr. Jack Cohen who used to work with Anne McCaffrey and Terry Pratchett. It’s the next book in our series on interstellar colonies in a universe of no faster than light travel. The first book in that series was The Legacy of Heorot, (there is also an audio book). This was about the first years of the first interstellar colony, and some biological dangers the colonists didn’t expect. The second, Beowulf’s Children (audio) is an even better novel (and the first was pretty good) about even more unexpected life forms causing new problems for the few hundred colonists. We’re writing the third, and should have it done possibly this year, almost certainly next. And if you haven’t read the first two, you should.

I’ve been busy, really I have. When I get ZEN installed there will be a full report. I’ll also compare its utility to the Surface Pro, which I can now recommend if you can use a much smaller tablet/notebook. It’s reliable, snappy, and easy to carry and use. We’re blessed with some good technologies.


The Hole In The Sun.


The UK Express “Hole in the Sun” story is a grossly sensationalized exposition about a large but not abnormal coronal hole – which is to say, a cool spot in the sun’s “atmosphere.” Stephanie and I dismissed the absurdity yesterday – she noted that the same web site had posted a similar story during a large coronal hole last year.

The only practical implication is that the earth has the glory of aurora without the accompanying mess of a large X-ray solar flare.

Jim Woosley, Ph. D.



Hole in the Sun

Yeah, that’s about the size of it. And yeah, this particular UK paper has a habit of, as Tommy Lee Jones once said, of going “…over the top, and keep on going.” I’m not infrequently getting Facebook tags by people who have been scared half to death by their yellow-journalism treatment of a perfectly normal astronomical phenomenon. And this is the second time they’ve done this, as Jim says. In fact, when he sent me the article link, I had to go double-check that it really was recent, and not the one from last year.

Which actually makes me think, I might want to go post a commentary over on Facebook, to ward off a panic…
Stephanie Osborn

“The Interstellar Woman of Mystery”

“Sometimes you gotta say what’s in your heart… And you have to stand for what you believe. No matter what.”
~’Dr. Michael C. Anders,’ Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281

Which, I think, wraps it up quite well.


thoughts on required minimum wage

Working at low end jobs used to be mostly for high school and college kids making extra money. Not career choices. Working at the local burger joint, mowing lawns etc. You can fill this in better than me. The left while in power has made most of that full time jobs for the illegals. Now they want higher “living wage” minimum wages. OK, let’s really do it. In the bay area, 15.00/hour is not a living wage. There is no way a normal person can live on that here. That’s 30K / year before taxes. Even if both spouses worked, that’s 60K / year. Just where would they live? So, let’s setup a federal requirement that local boards calculate what it takes to live in their areas and set that as a minimum wage. Around here, that will be around 150K/year. That’s a rental wage. Doing this will drive out all the illegals and bring in automation, but at least we won’t be kidding ourselves any longer.

Phil Tharp

“All Economists know that minimum wages either have very little effect, or produce unemployment; that’s not a statement, that’s a definition,” Milt Friedman used to say (my source is David Friedman, Ph.D.) If you didn’t know that you should not claim to be an economist.

When people tell me they support $15 an hour minimum wage in California, I usually say, no, that’s not enough, make it $25. Sometimes I even suggest $100 an hour. That always gets the reply that I can’t be serious, at which point I order iced coffee or something and try to change the subject. There is no point in a serious discussion.

Either the market dictates wages appropriate to the job, or someone dictates them without regard to their worth. The only exceptions tend to be contrived. A motel keeper with a monopoly on low wage jobs in a town of much labor surplus; that sort of thing. Once you start price controls and labor wage controls, you are on a path that has little ending. Minimum wage actually raising the take home pay of the same number of people doing the same jobs?

And in this era it is a stimulus to automation or job exportation, or more likely, both. By 2020 about half the jobs in the US can likely be done by a robot costing no more than the annual wage of the workers that do it. It will probably have a useful life of ten years, and ten to fifteen of these robots can be supervised by a single employee. That’s a blue sky prediction but I am willing to defend it given present trends.

Raise the minimum wage enough and there will be no apprentices; and all the foremen will be teaching robots. Well, OK, you can think of exceptional situations. I grant you that. But do understand that a recent college graduate of our terrible colleges is not worth a lot to a prospective employer. Does it make sense to take from the productive to subsidize the unproductive? Always? Only sometimes? But few think about these questions.


Put Down Your Beverage; Clinton

Her campaign’s reaction to the State Department’s report is typical:


The State Department’s watchdog report was especially damaging, given the official nature of its source. The report claimed that Clinton never sought approval for her “homebrew” email setup, that her use of the system violated the department’s record-keeping rules and that it would have been rejected had she brought it up to department officials.

Clinton’s allies attempted to paint the office as partisan in the weeks ahead of the report’s release, but the effort failed to leave a lasting impact.



That Republican-controlled State Department is the latest pawn in the right-wing conspiracy to suppress Hillary Clinton!

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

Of course no one expects the Obama Justice Department to do anything about this.


‘The Air Force has not only lost the capability to penetrate well-defended airspace with strike aircraft — with the loss of its electronic warfare expertise, it has lost the capability to know that it has lost the capability to penetrate well-defended airspace.’



Roland Dobbins

Yes. Tactical planners must factor this in. One reason why it will now take a full Corps supported by Corps Level assets and considerable Wing Level assets to destroy ISIS now; they have had a chance to deploy new surface to air weapons. We could have done it with a single division and the A-10’s but we waited too long.

‘Buying this mature low-cost weapon with its unique capability seems like a no-brainer, but the Air Force continues to reach for expensive exquisite solutions to pedestrian problems.’



Roland Dobbins

Not unrelated to the above.


Air Force working on Super A-10??
And, if the Air Force brass performs to their past standard, we might see one in service in another 20 or 30 years performing a dozen different types of missions! And, they say the decision to retire the A-10 is budget driven. Give them more money and they’ll put it into buying F-22 and F-35 and then ask for more money to spend on an A-10 replacement.
“Air Force leaders had previously said that the emerging multi-role F-35 would be able to pick up the close-air-support mission. With its sensor technology, 25mm gun and maneuverability, there is little question about whether the F-35 could succeed with these kinds of missions.”
But there is a lot of doubt about the F-35s ability to survive an A-10 mission!
All I can say is that I will believe in the Super A-10 when I see it in the air!
On a different topics, Mamelukes; it has been the case that a co-worker and I were worried that you’d live long enough to finish it. Now that we’ve both been retired for a while, we’ve been worrying whether we’d live long enough to see you finish it. Live long, prosper and finish Mamelukes plus it’s sequel! Please!

The Air Force does not want the close support mission; it reminds them of the Army Air Corps days. The Army needs air support badly. This is why I sometimes say we should abolish the Air Force and Defense Department and go back to a Department of War and a Department of the Navy.

I’m working on it.


Film Producer Reveals Truth About Christopher Marlowe’s Death

Here’s something I thought you might like to take a look at:



This is our latest press release. Please pass it on.


Francis Hamit

I think I should talk to you about press releases, but perhaps I am the wrong person to do it. I agree that your play has significant new data on the era of the Spanish Armada and the British/Spanish conflict. I was fascinated.


“Anti-semitism”; a misnomer

Dear Jerry Pournelle:
You note that Israel-haters and Jew-haters in the Arab world are themselves called Semites; so “anti-Semitic” seems a misnomer. I agree. “Semitic” is a flawed category for a region of the world with so many visitors and invaders, with consequent gene-mixing. Likewise, Jews have picked up genes from all over.
Instead of “anti-Semitism”, I recommend “anti-Judaism” or “anti-Zionism”. Both terms are more accurate. Note that these are two different terms, with overlapping but distinct referents. My own position re Israel is principled pessimism.
– Nathaniel Hellerstein

Yes, but perhaps I emphasized it too heavily: my point was that the debate had become unintelligible. I have been accused by the anti-defamation League of being anti-semitic at the same time as I was being denounced in the opposite direction.


Another nail?

I realize that none of this is news to you or your readers, but the source is interesting.


Richard White

Austin, Texas

The debate is not settled because we do not know enough. But no one seems to notice that.




Just finished re-reading the three Janissaries books and am still wowed by how good they are. Hope you finish Mamelukes soon, so we can continue this terrific tale…. Got to be a big fan of your works, including Mote in God’s Eye, War World series, Falkenberg’s Legion series, and There Will Be War series. Love it all, and am in great agreement with your opinion of Mr. Obama and clone Hillary. Not a great Trump fan, but far better than Clinton/Obama II. Anyway, just a fan saying you’ve given me a lot of entertainment over many years with your stories. Keep it up as long as you feel the urge……

Tom Williams – alias Spaceman Spiff


My first fifty candidates for President didn’t run.  One works with what one has.  We know what Hillary will do.



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




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