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Mail 503 January 29 - February 2, 2008







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Monday January 28, 2008

Harry Erwin's Letter from England

Had a chat with my broker. He congratulated me for getting out before the debacle, but then I scared him by discussing what I saw in China.

It looks to me like the Chinese government is riding on a tiger--it's dependent on a continued economic boom. If the current problems in the markets affect the East Asian economy, we may see some military adventurism. I don't think America has the military assets in reserve to keep a lid on events.

UK Government panic about security in the workplace: <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/01/25/email_civil_servant_laptops/

> <http://tinyurl.com/2rhrrf>

UK ID card project looking gray at the gills: <http://www.channelregister.co.uk/2008/01/24/accenture_bae_ditch_id_cards/

> <http://tinyurl.com/yqz6kc>

UK police numbers down due to reduced funding: <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/01/26/npolice126.xml

> <http://tinyurl.com/2gguqp>

UK Department of Transport spin: <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/01/25/dft_car_share_fiddle/

> <http://tinyurl.com/2cxd8g>

Assiduously making mountains out of molehills: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jan/25/gardens.animalwelfare

> <http://tinyurl.com/yvxzmb>

This reminds me of the trend in the USSR during its last decade: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2008/jan/25/drugsandalcohol

> <http://tinyurl.com/yw2736> <http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-wellbeing/health-news/middleaged-binge-drinkers-dying-in-record-numbers-774279.html

> <http://tinyurl.com/22jcfy>

The NHS is characterised more by its gaps than its coverage: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7209166.stm

>. Mental health is a *big* hole.

Wind farms are hard on the flying fauna: <http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/wind-farm-plan-is-blown-off-course-774277.html

> <http://tinyurl.com/yrttef>


Beware Outside Context Problems--Harry Erwin, PhD


Subject: Self piracy? (see last week's mail)

Dear Jerry:

I'm not sure that "self piracy" is a legitimate term of art. It is not possible, in the legal sense, to steal from yourself. If you own a copyright then you may do as you please with it, including giving it away selectively or entirely by putting it in the public domain. There was a writer at WesterCon last year who did podcast readings from his novels and got so many hits that he managed to acquire not one, but two book contracts from a regular publisher. Of course Science Fiction and Fantasy is one place where good fiction still rules and is considered an acceptable risk.

Your remark about journalism v. the long path to a novel strikes home since it parallels my own life. As you know I was a journalist for many years, a trade I learned in the US Army, and actually made a living from in the 90s without much in the way of other "day" jobs. I have over a thousand articles, reviews, columns, etc in print, which is not bad for a guy who doesn't have a journalism degree and who took only a few courses in it. People have congratulated me on being so prolific. My reply has always been "It's called 'making a living'." And the real cost of that to my career is this is ten or fifteen novels and plays that I will never write instead. I've been working on my current novel, in one form or another, for about ten years and will finally put it in book form this spring. It will be quickly followed by another derived from the original draft which was too large and complex for a modern audience. And there are others in the pipeline, some begun long ago, but never finished because writing articles got in the way. Given time, they will also be finished, perhaps in a far different form than originally intended.

I am not against sampling. It worked a treat for Debbie Fields with cookies; so much so that the marketing tactic now bears her name. But what Mrs. Fields gave away was cookies that had not sold and, at the end of the day, had to be thrown away anyway. Our material has a little more shelf life, and our best interests are served when the customers come back for more and actually buy something. Marketing is not rocket science and every writer should know that this is what she or he does when reading at a bookstore. The writer with the podcasts simply extended that principle online. We also send review copies for free because reviewing is work and we don't expect those reviewing to pay to work.

We live in a capitalist, commercially minded, culture that defines the professional as one who is paid to work. The constant struggle for writers of all kinds are the people who keep demanding we work for little or nothing. That's all to their advantage and none to ours. Publicity is nice but has the half life of a may fly. Most people seldom read a byline much less remember it. I remember an interview I did in 1987 with the late Robert Adams, author of the "HorseClan" series. He sent me the 17 published to that date I read them all. Not because it was great literature, but because he had called himself "The last of the great Pulp writers". "I like to eat well and live well, and I like to see my wife well dressed" he said when I asked why he wrote. He had no other agenda that to earn a living and entertain his fans, who were many if not legion.

In one of my day jobs I once gloried in the title "Vice President of Sales and Marketing", so I know a bit more about the process than the average writer. Given the amount of attitude displayed by retail clerks these days, sales may be becoming a lost art...or perhaps it's just the fact that most of them are working for minimum wage and no incentives. Knowing how to sell is important for a writer, especially a freelancer, because you are always doing it. Every one of those articles I published began with a sale, to the editor who assigned it and then published it. No payment unless its published, so it's a very tough business; one that most editors have tried and failed at. Publishers have a legitimate right to expect that an author will promote the book delivered, in the form delivered. While his copyright may permit him to give it away as he chooses, his publishing contract, ladened with words like "exclusive right to sell" does not. Authors who do this may be innovative marketers, but unless their publisher agrees, they are breaking their contract.

I do not share your faith in electronic publishing as the wave of the future. As you observed, people go for ease and convenience first. This is called Zipf's Principle of Least Effort. Electronic publishing suffers disadvantages when compared to print. Print is familiar and comfortable, does not require a device, nor does it have to be downloaded or plugged in. It's just there, ready to use. That makes electronic publishing a niche market at best, and I think we may have been mislead by all of those electronic databases in public libraries. There are millions of articles, but my research a few years ago found that, in any given year, only a few thousand were actually used. And they were used by people who needed them for a specific purpose tied to some kind of research rather than for amusement. Libraries are not bookstores. They are not distributing individual items to customers, but are rather repositories at need for the common good. There is no sales process here because what demand there is has already been formed in the mind of the customer. There is a competition with bookstores because many people would rather read and return a library copy than buy one. The last time I tried to get on such a list for the one copy of a new novel at my local library, there were fifty people ahead of me, at three weeks delay each. I quickly came to see the rational behind the Public Lending Right payments in the UK and elsewhere. That's 50 copies not sold. A modest fee for use is appropriate. It is something we should have here. I wasn't willing to wait, so I did go and buy a copy.

The people who want to have everything for free on the Internet fail to understand that a copyright is property very much like real estate; a bundle of rights rather than a single one, designed to compensate an author for years of very hard work. These constant demands that authors and other creators give away their "store", their "stock in trade" demeans them because it reduces creativity to fungible commodity rather than unique works of art. The stealing of our content to support venues for advertising is not just theft but another, more serious violation; that or our moral right to control how, where and when our work is presented and by whom.

This is why the Copyright Act has criminal as well as civil penalties. The intent of the law can be defeated by benign neglect which we have in abundance on the criminal side,. As recent events have proven, the entire law once more is badly in need of reform. As currently written and enforced it creates huge safety zones for infringers and pirates. As Harlan Ellison will tell you, the cost of justice is high. Too high for most.

One form of electronic publishing that will enter the mainstream is Print on Demand. This is the future of fiction for most authors. Do it yourself. Fortunately that's not rocket science either. There are a lot of people who will make it very easy. It's hard to get a self published work reviewed, but these days it's hard to get anything reviewed. Your copyright gives you control and self publishing may not, probably will not, give you a best seller and world renown, but if you handle it right, you can make a living.


Francis Hamit

I suppose that's comforting. But I keep reading about people who can't make much of a living writing, so they get a salaried position that pays them to advocate giving away my work to everyone. Meanwhile, SFWA remains crippled as a result of that bullying letter from EFF, which seems to be the enemy of authors' rights. Author associations seem crippled, and the pirates keep moving along. Perhaps I am just discouraged.


360 panorama from an A380 cockpit

Very cool, will resize your browser window to its max size for good reason.


Looks pretty nice!

-Dan S. _

Very nice indeed.


The Black Death revisited.


- Roland Dobbins


Dr Pournelle

From the penultimate paragraph in the Daily Intelligence Summary 25Jan08 (as reported by Michael Yon):

At the end of December 2007, Major General Mark Hertling, the commander of Multinational Division North said al Qaeda in Iraq was defeated in Ninewa province when its financial network took a hit. "Al Qaeda suffered a fund shortage and posed no big danger in Ninewa after the killing and arresting of a number of its financiers [by US and Iraqi forces]," Hertling said in an interview with Voices of Iraq.

Full text at http://www.michaelyon-online.com/

I see this as a model for defeating terrorists. There will be difficulties reaching all the sources. Again, I suggest issuing Letters of Marque and Reprisal to give legal standing to private parties to pursue creative methods for seizing monies that fund terrorists.

But what do you think?

Respectfully h lynn keith

Marque and Reprisal. Indeed. And Admiralty Courts for determining legitimacy of claims and prizes. It's in the Constitution.





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Tuesday,  January 29, 2008

If the Black Death mainly killed the already weak it suggests that it was an inevitable result of decreased crop production caused by the end of the Medieval Warm Period. We know that there had been a major population rise during the warm period.

Neil Craig

You may be interested in my political blog http://a-place-to-stand.blogspot.com/

But we all know there wasn't an actual Medieval Warm and there couldn't have been a population expansion. Anyway it was the Gulf Stream, and the Greenland Colonies were tiny, and the Inuit don't really have stories of the times when they were reindeer herders. It's all an illusion.


re A380 cockpit


After I got past the surprise of no yoke and three jump seats, I had to wonder: WHY is there a fire button on the joy sticks?

Love the cup holders.



Warning! Politicians about to do something egregiously stupid! Quel surprise!

When sensors are illegal, only criminals will have sensors: http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0803,thompson,78873,2.html <http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0803,thompson,78873,2.html

Doug Adams' character Zaphod Beebelbrox (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) had glasses that would go opaque whenever he was threatened by danger, to protect him from the trauma of being frightened. Once again science fiction predicts reality!



Re: Copywikirightipedia

Oh, nobody told you about that? I thought about mentioning it, but figured that someone would have beaten me to it.

There's a "movement" on Wikipedia that is acting to protest copyright through Aggressive Compliance; the idea being that they're "enforcing copyright" to such a stringent degree that the general public will recognize the Fundamental Absurdity Of The Notion. Sort of like protesting speed limits by getting two or three friends and driving at exactly the speed limit side-by-side on a busy freeway during rush hour.



Books That Make You Dumb

Looks at the top 10 favorite books of people on Facebook, and compares it with the average SAT of their university.




The Kaiser's Last Grenadier.


---- Roland Dobbins


NYT globalization advocate admits Huntington was right.


-- Roland Dobbins


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Is this a conspiracy theory, or one of the undercover motivations of our economic madness:


Soros Bets on U.S. Economic Collapse

By Cliff Kincaid

Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama favor government support for people losing their homes because they can’t repay their subprime mortgages. But what about the financial wheeler-dealers in the hedge fund industry who may stand to make billions of dollars from this terrible debacle? Foremost among them is billionaire hedge fund operator George Soros, who has committed his life and immense financial resources to bringing the Democrats to power in the White House.

Ties to the controversial and mysterious hedge fund industry could become a major problem for the Democrat Party. Hedge fund money “appears to be tilting toward the Democrats of late,” the New York Times reported last year. <snip>

(Incidental: to me, this has been obvious about a decade, since Soros turned his attention towards the US after almost collapsing the UK economy, and started supporting the extreme, socialist left. Socialism as means of economic manipulation for personal profit at the expense of the broad economy. I suspect that even Marx is spinning in his grave over that one -- though certainly not Lenin. Of course, I'm not a trained economist or economic historian and I don't know all of the examples such might use, but I think I know something about process and numbers and maybe about contemporary politics.)


If you believe that the Clintons, or Soros, actually care much about anything but maintaining their power (which means having control of very large amounts of money) then I congratulate you on your abilities. My suspicion is that they think they care, but they also think that only by their being in control will they be able to do what's right, and thus they can justify almost anything they do. I saw that happen in the space advocacy movement: there was one chap who was convinced that he had sacrificed his life and career for the cause and therefore deserved to be in control of it, and thus anything he did to keep that control was legitimate. I am sure we all know such people.

Statism, whether Brown (fascist) or red (communist) is still socialism, and both varieties believe that the only hope for the future is centralized state control. Once you build that kind of machine the Iron Law of Bureaucracy takes over in the ranks, while for people like Soros control of that machinery is the very essence of survival.

The only hope for freedom in the world is to fractionate power; as Madison and others understood when they built a Federal Union rather than a State. Even Hamilton understood this, although he tended to more centralization of power, but fractionation of its control (by having property qualifications for at least one house of any legislature, and advocating an hereditary element in control of state power). 

We seem to have forgotten those lessons.



The Celebrated Scientific Method Of Calavaras County


 -- Russell Seitz


Subject: Leaderless jihad, 


If this book review is right about Marc Sageman's Leaderless Jihad, then we may have a reasonable description of what is going on among our enemies:


What the reviewer describes is certainly consistent with what I have been reading in various non-MSM sources.


We face a movement, not an organization. Surely that has always been clear? The invasion of Iraq gave that movement something to focus on, and was good for recruiting for organizations within the movement. It also gave us something  to fight that we could see.

But there is no Caliphate, Islam remains divided in many ways, not merely Shia and Sunni but also "democratic" vs. feudal, along economic lines, etc. We have not exploited those fractions, but instead act in a way that for a while had Sunni and Shia united against us.

Of course it is leaderless Jihad. There is an obvious strategy for dealing with that. We don't seem to be interested in adopting it.

Meanwhile we alienate the Russians through our senseless support of Albanians against Serbians. Why? Because it's against our national interest, and thus makes some people feel altruistic.




Superbugs all go back to one highly adaptable strain:


The drug-resistant "superbugs" that have cut a swathe through day care centers, schools, locker rooms and prisons across the United States in the last five years stem from one rapidly evolving bacterium, US scientists said Monday.

Scientists studying the genetic make-up of these bugs, which are resistant to almost all antibiotics, say they are nearly identical clones that have emerged from a single bacterial strain, which they have dubbed USA300<snip>



Subject: Man On Mars? 


Interesting. I expect George Noory will have oodles of fun with this one! (Not to mention Richard Hoagland, sui generis!)


Stills and article from Daily Mail on "Martian Figure". Hmmm,


I never thought it was anything but a rock. Insufficient imagination?


Subject: Claim of alien cells in rain may fit historical accounts, 


Panspermia in action?



Data point, surely? And of course there's Sir Fred Hoyle's  Evolution from Space... Sir Fred may have been off his head. But again, he may not have been.


Navy Aims to Break Record With Next Test of Railgun

"What is the electromagnetic railgun?," the Navy asks in a news release today. "In a word, innovation."


Bill Shields


Subject: Aries 


from what I understand, the vibration is intrinsic to solid motor design but the problem is made worse by the fact that the SRB / Aries composite has a segmented casing (maximum allowable slippage before loss of vehicle thus some fraction of segment overlap divided by segment length, which is on the order of 1%) and isn't throttleable after ignition so that acceleration increases (roughly) in proportion to propellant mass burnt; plus the SRB motor is designed for lateral support due to the connection to the external tank, whereas this support will be missing from Aries. In addition, of course, while internal pressures are roughly constant, the fifth segment increases integrated internal forces (and thrust) by 25%, and with the other consequence that it takes a smaller net perturbation of the whole vehicle to induce the fixed segment to segment slippage resulting in breakup. And (of course) every pound of hardware to increase stability (and steerability) decreases payload by about 23 pounds. This includes the retrothrusters that have to be added to keep the spent first stage, if it survives to separation, from surging in the second stage immediately after separation due to residual thrust from the still-burning residual fuel.

The decision to use SRBs-derived motors for the Aries was politically good for Utah (which otherwise stands to loose most of its NASA funding as Shuttle is phased out) but probably disastrous for manned space flight.


I have never been in favor of segmented solids, which makes about as much sense as segmenting motorcycles. Solids are monopropellants. The technical name for a monopropellant is 'high explosive.'


Organlegging - for real - 

This video describes a crew of organ-leggers who were literally stealing kidneys from their victims.


Another form of piracy. Perhaps the perpetrators could be persuaded to part with two kidneys apiece -- and maybe a liver -- as part of their sentences?

--Gary Pavek


Followup - Re: Organlegging - for real - 

Also found this article. It repeats some of the information but is handier for those who may have trouble viewing the video report.


> This video describes a crew of organ-leggers who were literally stealing > kidneys from their victims. >


> > Another form of piracy. Perhaps the perpetrators could be persuaded to > part with two kidneys apiece -- and maybe a liver -- as part of their > sentences?

--Gary Pavek


Subject: The Curse of Peace in Iraq,


My dad, a combat veteran from the European theater of WW2, had a copy of Bill Mauldin's Up Front in our house. This story could have come directly from that book:




CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


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Thursday, January 31, 2008

The short essay on the generation gap in the military brought in a lot of mail.

RE: The Unpublicized Generation Gap 

On the subject above, I am sure your correspondent feels very much he is an authority on the subject, and I do not dispute that, nor do I wish to in any way aggravate him. However, having served in the peace time Navy, which in the late 1970’s and first half of the 1980’s, was anything but peaceful- at least in the ASW world – I would like to point out that the viewpoint represented is pretty much only that of the Army. It is not very representative of the other services; services which have a very different job to do.

In fact, I wonder if it perhaps represents an unstated corollary of Pournelle’s Iron Law Of Bureaucracy. *Somebody* has to be there doing the job, even against the will of the entrenched and purely survival oriented bureaucracy. In some ways, it is easier by far to jump into a military job that has a high probability of making you a hero. Nothing wrong with that, it is one of things that actually motivates our warriors, and the desire to do something heroic is hard wired into our genetic makeup. But the guy who spends a twenty year career keeping the peace, perhaps never even having been put into a “heroic situation”, is, if not a hero, very far from being a “slacker.” Somebody has to do the job! That isn’t to detract from the heroism or bravery of anyone currently out there butting their tail on the line.

And it is truly something that has to be viewed in a much larger perspective too; the engineer working for Boeing is doing an important part of defending the nation too; and the good ones are all the time confronted with situations that challenge them to “keep the faith.” So is the guy melting down scrap steel in the dead of night and producing tons of good U.S. steel products. You can pretty much identify the contribution to our national defense of any profession; some just contribute larger shares to the pie. The guy taking fire most of all, of course.

I know, balance and reason are not popular ways to think today. We are told from every media outlet that THIS or THAT or THOSE PEOPLE or THAT GROUP are *evil* and should not be trusted. That kind of scare tactic seems to *entertain* the dear peepul more than anyone with a reasoned or thoughtful analysis. The election process is about to get down and dirty here; Hillary vs. Obama and McCain vs. Romney. The real fireworks have not even been unpacked yet. Of that bunch, I suspect you will support Sen. McCain, and he is a worthy man. He would make a decent President, depending upon whom he is saddled with as a running mate. Could be good, could be bad. Hillary is also not the evil person she is often portrayed to be; smart, political, and of strong character, yes. I do not believe she would make a bad President either, though the radical right would of course, break out in a lather and proclaim it the end of the country and every possible freedom.

Perhaps it is time for the country to take a swing to the Hillary side, at least for 4 years. The current administration has overseen the most out of control spending and erosion of personal rights and liberties since – I don’t’ know when. WWII perhaps? It will take many years to regain those freedoms, if indeed it is at all possible. And of course, the other side would abridge our freedoms in other ways, such a not allowing one to own a firearm or even, apparently, a pollution sensor. :)

The best part of the whole thing is, as you have stated before, we have a very good way to sweep out government that is not performing, and we exercise that method every four years. There is little enough damage anyone can do in 4 years. Certainly nothing that would change most people’s ideological viewpoints. Of course, I may be overly optimistic there; there was Wilson good, Marion Berry, and even people like Huey P. Long who are counter examples to my belief, if at a lower level. :)

Anyways, once again, best wishes, and my prayers, for your health and well being. I know it is incredibly difficult to face what may be a serious medical situation, but keep the faith. Find something joyful in each day and treasure it. Nobody and nothing can take that away from you!


The Navy pretty well does in peace time what it does in war (albeit no one is actually shooting at them, there are still storms at sea, and reefs, and sandbars.

Wars do weed out and cull the military bureaucracy, which is why it has some partial exceptions to the Iron Law -- provided that There Will Be War, which seems a pretty good bet.


Dr. Pournelle,

Concerning the letter from "A Serving Officer". There are other factors involved as to why so many pre-911 service personnel are getting out. I am sure that there are some who don't want to actually fight. I personally have not met any, however I have met many examples of 2 other categories that were not mentioned.

One is Junior Officers who have commanded companies and know that their life from then on will consist of nothing but staff work until they manage to get back down to a line unit. Usually that will take a minimum of 4 years and that will only be as a Battalion S3 and XO. That tour will only last another 2 years tops. After that, they will never see troops again unless they are one of the chosen few (less than 2% the last time I looked) who will command a line battalion. After company command you pretty much already know if you are in the running for a battalion or not. Many see this and simply decide that it isn't worth it. Too boring, too arduous, whatever the case may be. Some of these end up in Private Security. Some try for the CIA or other aphabet soup agencies. Many just move on to other lines of work entirely.

The other is what I will call "ideological converts". They do a tour in Iraq or Afghanistan and decide what they are doing has little to do with "fighting terror" or that we are doing it the wrong way and get out. I have met a few of these types in events around Congressman Paul's campaign. I have also met many in this category who were post 911 enlistees. In my experience, this category crosses that divide. I have met a few junior and mid-term NCOs like this as well.

A sub-category of this is those who may be luke-warm ideologically, but for whatever reason decide that what we are doing there isn't worth spending so much time away from home or getting killed or maimed. They've done their part and it's time to pass the torch.

To be clear, I do not claim to know the feelings of the majority. What I say above has just been my experience. It might be different in the non-combat arms branches or other services. I have also met people who fit more than one category.

My experience may be unique. I suspect it is not.

Matt Kirchner

I am not as familiar with modern "career manglement" as I probably should be, but I will bet it's very much subject to the Iron Law: the people who manipulate other people's lives usually like doing that. Management of field officer careers from Washington is guaranteed to be a bad way to do things. Marshal knew better.

If we are going to go back to being a Republic, we will still require both Legions and garrison troops; if we are going to become a competent Empire, we will need both and lots more of them. The temperaments are wrong.

As to command structure, I always thought that the best system is a variant of the regimental system (brigade system?) in which good field commanders stay with the troops they will command for much of their careers, while staff officers rotate in and out. Troops have little reason to trust a short time commander getting his ticket punched.

In the old days we used to say that if you didn't trust an officer with troops, you put him in Intelligence (or one or another garrison administrative branch).


Subject: 360 panorama from an A380 cockpit - 

Dr Pournelle

Thanks to Dan S. for the A380 flight deck panorama, but it has me freaked out.

That's a left-handed side-stick controller for the left seat! That's typically the seat for the Aircraft Commander. That means the A/C -- the senior and more experienced pilot -- has to fly with his non-dominant hand.

Who learns to fly left-handed?

When I flew, I was so determined to keep my right hand on the stick at all times that I taught myself to write left-handed.

Have cockpits changed that much? Have I been out of the loop too long?

h lynn keith


Apparently the Chinese are Equal Opportunity Poisoners...


"A huge state-owned Chinese pharmaceutical company that exports to dozens of countries, including the United States, is at the center of a nationwide drug scandal after nearly 200 Chinese cancer patients were paralyzed or otherwise harmed last summer by contaminated leukemia drugs."

"The drug maker, Shanghai Hualian, is the sole supplier to the United States of the abortion pill, mifepristone, known as RU-486."

"The United States Food and Drug Administration declined to answer questions about Shanghai Hualian..."

Charles Brumbelow


Subject: even the left starts to catch wise 


Alexander Cockburn, of all people, has figured out that Anthropogenic Global Warming is more mass hysteria than science, being cynically used to advance leftist causes that couldn't ever otherwise get enough votes.





New Ice Ages? Fallen Angels?

Canadian Agency Reports continued delay in new solar cycle...

I'm waiting to see if this manages to percolate into the MSM...


"The Canadian Space Agency’s radio telescope has been reporting Flux Density Values so low they will mean a mini ice age if they continue.

Like the number of sunspots, the Flux Density Values reflect the Sun’s magnetic activity, which affects the rate at which the Sun radiates energy and warmth. CSA project director Ken Tapping calls the radio telescope that supplies NASA and the rest of the world with daily values of the Sun’s magnetic activity a “stethoscope on the Sun”. In this case, however, it is the “doctor” whose health is directly affected by the readings.

This is because when the magnetic activity is low, the Sun is dimmer, and puts out less radiant warmth. If the Sun goes into dim mode, as it has in the past, the Earth gets much colder.

Tapping, who was originally from Kent, says that “Typically as you go through the ten or eleven year solar activity cycle you see the numbers go up or down. The lowest number is 64 or 68. The numbers 71 or 72 are very low, but they usually start to go up. We are at the end of a cycle, but the numbers still haven’t gone up. We have been joking around coffee that we may be seeing the Sun about to shut down.” (To date Tapping has been far more concerned about global warming.) "


Big joke. Of course the Maunder Minimum was not a joke. But surely all that man made CO2 will save us?

Stay tuned. If you have a subscription to Chaos Manor, you won't need to wait for the Main Stream Media to get it before you find out things. I will argue, seriously, that my mail page is the best on the Internet, with important subjects and reminders and hints and tips you won't find elsewhere...


Subject: D-Day


A friend of mine sent me this.

How do you re-create Omaha Beach for a low-budget documentary with 3 actors, 1 camera, 4 days, a Chromakey green screen and Avid Editing Suite?

-- Recent novels by Michael Z. Williamson available in bookstores worldwide:

BETTER TO BEG FORGIVENESS..., Nov 2007 from Baen Books THE WEAPON, Mar 2007 from Baen Books (mass market edition) CONFIRMED KILL, September 2005 from Avon

http://www.MichaelZWilliamson.com  http://www.SharpPointyThings.com  Custom blades and historical costumes -- "The totalitarian states can do great things, but there is one thing they cannot do: they cannot give the factory-worker a rifle and tell him to take it home and keep it in his bedroom. That rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or labourer's cottage, is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there." --GEORGE ORWELL

This is an astonishing illustration of what I've been writing about: how technology enables the creative.


re: Ethanol from Biomass Hint #1 - when you read about a new technology that's going to change everything - start looking for patents.

http://ipbiz.blogspot.com/2008/01/gm-aligns-with-coskata-on-cellulosic.html  The author of this blog actually understands the science and the intellectual property issues.

note published US application 20070275447, based on filed US application 11/441392, to inventors Randy S. Lewis, Ralph S. Tanner, and Raymond L. Huhnke which is titled: Indirect or direct fermentation of biomass to fuel alcohol. Note within the application -->

This invention was made using funds from grants from the United States Department of Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service having grant numbers 2001-34447-10302, 2002-34447-11908, 2003-34447-13162, 2004-34447-14487, and 2005-34447-15711. The United States government may have certain rights in this invention.

The first claim of the application states:

A biologically pure culture of the microorganism Clostridium carboxidivorans having all of the identifying characteristics of ATCC No. BAA-624.

The fifth claim states:

A system for producing ethanol, comprising a vessel in which a source of CO is combined with Clostridium carboxidivorans; anda controller which controls conditions in said vessel which permit said Clostridium carboxidivorans to convert said CO to ethanol.

An IDS was filed on 3 July 2007.

Jim Coffey

I  think ADM and politics has more to do with the popularity of ethanol than patents, but biomass has a potential to contribute to the energy budget of the US.

I wrote about biomass in A Step Farther Out quite a long time ago. (Step Farther Out is available to subscribers through the closed section of Chaos Manor Reviews).  ==========

Scientist: All Blue-Eyed People Are Related Thursday , January 31, 2008

ADVERTISEMENT If you've got blue eyes, shake the hand of the nearest person who shares your azure irises: He or she may be a distant cousin.

Danish researchers have concluded that all blue-eyed people share a common ancestor, presumably the first man or woman to sport what must have seemed oddly colored peepers 6,000 to 10,000 years ago.

"Originally, we all had brown eyes," Professor Hans Eiberg of the University of Copenhagen said in a press release. "But a genetic mutation affecting the OCA2 gene in our chromosomes resulted in the creation of a 'switch,' which literally 'turned off' the ability to produce brown eyes."

. Click here to visit FOXNews.com's Natural Science Center.

That "switch" - a simple change from "A," or adenine, to "G," or guanine, in the DNA - actually sits next to the OCA2 gene, which regulates the pigmentation of our eyes, hair and skin. If the mutation had completely deactivated OCA2, all blue-eyed people would be albinos.

Eiberg and his team analyzed 155 individuals in a large Danish family, plus several blue-eyed people born in Turkey and Jordan. All blue-eyed subjects had the mutation, and among those was very little variation on the genes neighboring it on the chromosome, indicating that the mutation first arose relatively recently.

In contrast, most mammals share the "normal" form of the gene. The six-letter sequence is exactly the same among mice, horses, cows, rats, dogs, cats, monkeys, chimpanzees and humans with brown eyes. (No word on what gives Siberian huskies and Siamese cats blue eyes.)

Eiberg figures the mutation took place on the northern of the Black Sea, but that's an educated guess, assuming the first blue-eyed human was one of the proto-Indo-Europeans who subsequently spread agriculture into western Europe and even later rode horses into Iran and India.

Does this mean I have married my cousin? And of course Sable, the Siberian Husky, has blue eyes...


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Friday, February 1, 2008

This one is worth looking at closely


If the Vikings had been up to speed on climate modeling, King Magnus The Law-mender might have fired off a demarche to the Sultan Of Solo demanding more virgins be thrown into Indonesia's grumbling volcanoes.

A paper in Geophysical Research Letters reporting shrinking ice caps on Baffin Island's northern plateau also focuses blame for the end of the Medieval Warm period on eruptions in the tropics.


Russell Seitz

The conclusion seems to be that we don't understand climate very well, and our models are far too simple. Astonishing.


Subject: Prizes

You may have seen this already already, but John McCain mentioned prizes in an energy speech:

"With some of the savings from cutting subsidies for industries that can stand on their own, we can establish a national challenge to improve the cost, range, size, and weight of electric batteries for automobiles. Fifty percent of cars on the road are driven 25 miles a day or less. Affordable battery-powered vehicles that can meet average commuter needs could help us cut oil imports in half. The reward will be earned through merit by whomever accomplishes the task, whether a laboratory in the Department of Energy, a university, a corporation or an enterprising young inventor who works out of his family's garage."


The idea is catching on, here and there.


Well, there's that going for him. And he is a man of his word.


Subject: Subconscious Signals Can Trigger Drug Craving Circuits, 


Remember all that controversy decades ago about subliminal advertising? Well, subconscious signals can trigger drug craving circuits:


That is to say, the triggers are outside the addicts' awareness.

Disturbing, to say the least.

Ed the shrink

As you say.


My Spidey Sense is ringing off the wall -


Why is it that these two statements from two almost-adjacent paragraps are giving me a bit of a queasy feeling?

* "Muslim schools to conduct own inspections"

* "faith schools could be forced to take a number of children from non-religious backgrounds"



Gazans  and Their Egyptian Brothers


I don't know if you've heard this one or not.


"Palestinians, Egyptians cheat one another in Rafah"

It seems the Gazans used counterfeit money, but the Egyptians sold them expired goods. How's that for brotherly love?

Hoping and praying for your health.


John Alexander


RE: 360 panorama from an A380 cockpit:

h. lunn keith wrote: "That's a left-handed side-stick controller for the left seat!"

I cannot resist asking, "What's so surprising about a EuroPlane built with massive government subsidies being flown off the Left Wing?"

Makes sense to me!




Subject: De Jouvenal ?

And which of De Jouvenal's book do you recommend? There are no reviews on Amazon. My public library will track down anything.

John Monahan

The two classic works, both very readable, are Power and Sovereignty.    The Pure Theory of Politics is more speculative and theoretical, and less easily read. Power and Sovereignty ought to be read by any serious student of politics.

I need to do a bibliographical essay. Some day.


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Saturday, February 2, 2008

This day was mostly spend getting to know the new Mac. We also had to do some rain inspection in the attic. Alex did that; I am no longer up to crawling around up there, or at least I can plausibly claim that I don't have to do that any more...

Re: a380

Hi Jerry,

Re a left handed joystick in the A380, I've never flown one except in FSX, but I am a private pilot. Everyone is taught to fly in the left seat as pilot in command, and is taught to handle the flight controls with the left hand and the engine controls with the right hand. If you are flying in the right seat, the opposite would be true.

Jack Jacobson


A study that shows the true stupidity of discrimination.




Now it begins...


"Eyes on Google, Microsoft Bids $44 Billion for Yahoo "

As railroads in the United States turned from steam to diesel locomotives, Baldwin and Lima -- two of the largest and most respected steam locomotive manufacturers -- merged in an attempt to offset the tide of General Motors and its diesel locomotives. The attempt failed...

Are we watching a repeat of the scenario in the internet industry?

Charles Brumbelow


Subject: Drug craving  stimulus

Ed said "That is to say, the triggers are outside the addicts' awareness. Disturbing, to say the least."

As an instructor pilot making a living observing and influencing young student pilots, I have found that an awful lot goes on in our minds that are well outside an otherwise normal person's awareness. In my line of work, recognition of this opens up a lot of useful instructing options so I can't see "official" recognition of the role of subliminal cues directly affecting behavior as a surprise or a disturbing reality. I think we already knew this, but didn't apply the concept to negative addictive behaviors before.

After watching a student make the same mistake 20 times in a row and having to wrack my brain for a way to break him out of a dangerous habit pattern, I'll take any stimulus option I have available, overt or subliminal. I suppose it makes me somewhat more aware of subliminal cues in my daily life, but that just means I have to discard or actively process a bit more info simply because I notice it instead of it sliding through to my subconscious.

As an aside, I really wish someone would run a study on the brain activity of military student pilots before and after pilot training. The training we provide gives ordinary people a rather extraordinary set of skills. The ability to instantly access memorized data and dynamically apply it while exercising a constant hand-eye coordination exercise, while talking on the radio, listening to maybe 30 simultaneous radio conversations for what may be a single crucially relevant message, and planning moves from 1 second to 5 hours in the future, is not something most people can do. It's a bit like making a gymnast walk a balance beam, juggle knives, recite memorized quotes, listen to 10 simultaneous conversations and respond to any questions directed at him, while solving time/distance/fuel burn math problems on a 10 minute cycle (a new problem that MUST be solved every 10 minutes). What does an activity map of the brain look like for students before they can do all this, and after they graduate when ALL of them can do this?

If I only had a billion dollar neuro research lab to play with...



Jack and Kim have 20 stamps between them. Jack has 7 more than Kim. How many stamps do they have? Explain your solution.

Solution method: 13 - 7 = 20.

Here's the question to you folks:

1. What's the most nearly obvious problem with this question? (Hint, try solving it)

2. What's the less obvious problem with the intelligence / or idiocy level of the people who constructed this question given that it was just proposed as an example of 2nd grade addition and subtraction by Washington State's new committe to revise math standards?

Here's another kindergarten problem solving question.

Grandma has 3 kids with gloves with holes in the fingers. If she has to fix every finger, how many fingers does she have to fix.

What's wrong with this "standard"

This sort of problem is quite common in the new academic standards people are proposing for elementary school kids. It's not just sight singing music, or asking people to draw a color portrait in 3D with emotional expression in 90 minutes. Or maybe it's just my state of Washington (I doubt it)

Related, I just read that the reason Connected Math Project includes an entire month on visualizing and building 3D objects with cubes is because women were reputed to be worse at visual-spatial reasoning. It's a complete waste of time motivated by gender PC (it's a 6th grade unit).

You also may be intrigued to know that I de-coded the major problem with the book - in the name of forcing students to "construct" their own methods, the unit on area of a circle does not actually contain pi r squared, and the unit on adding fractions does not contain ANY method of adding fractions, standard or otherwise. It's reserved for the teacher and parents, but not to be seen by the students.

The student is instructed to construct his or her own method on the basis of various investigations which hint at, but do not give away using common denominators (which are not mentioned by name either, even in the index) This is true for every unit. Any attempt to use the text as a reference book to look up any standard method will find an investigation asking the student to invent their own method, with no working method actually supplied by the textbook. This textbook has survived nearly 10 years to a 2nd version. The original version skipped over the standard definition of average, was reviewed by dozens of college professors, high school teachers, deployed by hundreds of school districts, and other than an unusual number of complaints from parents that it was utter junk, considered by most in the education business to be a spectacular success. Is it simply mass insanity that so many people can overlook a minor ommission such as not printing ANY method of doing anything in the student book? Several other series such as TERC and Mathland did not contain ANY instruction in elementary arithmetic as practiced by any advanced civilization, also funded by federal research dollars.

Interesting the reviews are that students AT grade level can cope with these no-instruction texts, but students with low levels of english or skills (the students that these text were allegedly created for so that ALL students would excel at math) do the most poorly. The impact of such curricula is likely to exacerbate any achievement gap mourned by education reformers.

Did you folks realize the sort of craziness being perpetrated in the name of raising IQ in schools today??

- Answer to the question above: Use algebra to solve for x. The correct solution is actually 6.5, but 2nd graders don't know how to divide whole numbers OR fractions. Solving equations like this is traditionally started in grade 9 algebra 1, though wacky text such as Connected mentioned above attempt as early as grade 7. The college SAT does not require solving linear equations, but this 2nd grade standard requires it.

- The kindergarten problem is solved by multiplying 2 x 5 x 30, even though kindergartners may not even be able to add or count to 30. Multiplication at this level is not introduced until 3rd or 4th grade.

- CMP 6th grade says that students will figure out that you can find the radius of a circle from its area by using a square root. That's if you can solve a quadratic equation to solve backwards from pi r squared, and know what a square root is which is not introduced until 7th or 8th grade by CMP.



Well if they have 20 stamps between them then they have 20 stamps; were we asked how many each have? But if we are, then we have x + x + 7 = 20 which reduces to 2x=13, which means thy have to have fractional stamps, which is a bit much to ask of second graders.

But no child will be left behind.


Subject: water bureaucracy of California


In your blog, you seem to be implying that the water bureaucracy of California is not needed.

Try to remember that you live in a desert.

Water is taken from the Owens Valley and the Rockies to satisfy southern California. Your region could not survive without government water! NOT to rub it in, but it's just the truth.

Keep in mind that almost every front-running POTUS candidate is an open-borders immigraton advocate if not fanatic. The population of California could be 100 million in just a few decades.

You will need far more than a water bureacracy, maybe a water KGB.


Sheldon Jeter

The simplest solution to the water problem is to build a nuclear power plant, recycle the water we have, and pump the processed water up to the top of the Angeles to trickle down through the old watercourses and fill the reservoirs. We don't really need Federal help. Of course if you want to pay for it...

If the Feds enforced the borders, Southern California would have emergency rooms, and other amenities. But when we send the Feds the bill, they don't pay.









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