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Mail 512 March 31 - April 6, 2008







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Monday  March 31, 2008

Harry Erwin's Letter from England

This week's big fiasco is Terminal 5 at Heathrow.


> <http://tinyurl.com/2onkl5>



> <http://tinyurl.com/2jks2o>

My belief is that these large project fiascos are partly due to 'low- balling' of project bids and partly due to middle management problems.

The complexity of a large project is very hard to appreciate--the job of an architect or a chief systems engineer is to break a system down into components that can be individually built and then assembled into the full system. A major project like Terminal 5 would have had four or five levels of middle management. Middle managers have four basic responsibilities--to manage people, to structure a subsystem internally, to handle the interfaces of that subsystem correctly, and to control development through *all* the phases. Broad rather than narrow education and experience are needed.

That's where the UK has a serious weakness. Students first specialise at age 16, selecting three subjects for their A-levels. Then at university, they specialise in a *single* subject with no breadth requirements. Post-graduate education (if any) consists of one year at the masters level in a single subject. A PhD has no taught element.

Graduates reach a level of expertise in their one subject that usually exceeds that seen in the rest of the world, but they have a specialised expertise. For them to move into management requires many years of OJT. It's not a good system to prepare middle managers for working as part of large projects.

And the problems with this system are not appreciated. We say that the average UK politician has never managed an enterprise as big as a corner shop, but it's true. Management of large projects is a closed book to them. You get a lot of amateur managers in the UK. 'Nuff said.


<http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/food/story/0,,2269340,00.html> <http://tinyurl.com/2mkaqf >


Software patent law story


> <http://tinyurl.com/2p52xt>

Malware targeted against pro-Tibet groups



Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland.


Weblog at: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>


Subject: The future of fiction

Dear Jerry:

There are magazines that promote fiction the way that The Saturday Evening Post did back in the 30 through the 50s. The New Yorker has a story every week. Playboy has one every month. However, there are literally thousands of submissions for every story that gets published. These are the top markets, along with some of the women's magazines. Rates have not gone up. One would still get about $4,000 from a top market. Amazon Shorts has tried to fill the void, but the "team" there is small and they publish a lot of non fiction as well as all of the fictional genres....and online publications simply do not enjoy the ease and convenience of print. They pay a royalty, not an advance since there is little or no outside advertising support.

Bookstores suffer from the glut of books. The marginal cost of printing more of a particular edition is about two dollars a unit for most novels. You can't sell it if you don't have it. So every edition is run in excess. This means that the piles of remainders, which produce no royalties for authors, will continue to accumulate in the front of bookstores. From a consumer point of view this is a bonanza. A new hardbound for five bucks. It also provides a lot of profit for the big chains since the remainder price is between a quarter and a dollar each. Because of an obscure tax ruling on inventories called Thor Power Tool no one keeps a backlist now. Older titles that may have some sell through left are produced as Print on Demand titles, as are low-demand academic and other niche books.

More and more authors, some with good reviews but lousy sales records, are also going to self publishing and print on demand publishing to get their work out. Mainstream publishers no longer take submissions directly "over the transom". They no longer have the staff to handle such and have delegated this entire function to a certain class of literary agents. (Mostly in New York City.) These folks work on commission. They have expenses to pay. Therefore their best path is the quick and easy sale, and that is the fiction that looks much like what has already succeeded in the marketplace. That approach mitigates against anything experimental or innovative. It maybe fatal for the future of literary culture. Rather than a future where books are burned we have one where they are ignored because they are boring. Nothing fresh and interesting can be produced because there is no short term money to be made.

Science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery and thrillers are the reliable genres with big fan bases. The kind of fiction published by The Saturday Evening Post simply would not sell today. Truth to tell, their fiction was often pretty lightweight. I recall a series of stories about a mythical company that made construction machinery which I enjoyed very much, but I was 12 or 13 when they were published. Hardly a sophisticated reader. I recall Heinlein's The Green Hills of Earth showing up in one issue, which made my father reluctantly admit that not all science fiction was the trash he made it out to be. But the gold standard there was the many stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald they published, which likewise allowed him time to do his novels. I have a book of those and could not finish it. They all pretty much have the same plot, and are imbued with the blatant racism of the era. Obviously Fitzgerald was writing for a limited audience here. The editors who liked such stories and would pay well for them. Submitted today, they wouldn't survive a first reading by an intern.

When I read a magazine I seldom read every item in it and I think most people are this way. Were it not for the cartoons, I suspect that The New Yorker would not have the large subscription base that allows them to pay top rates. It's a literary cafeteria. Some of the articles are really interesting. So is some of the fiction. But only some.

If the function of fiction is to entertain, then the current system is modeled on the one hour television drama, which in a seven year series like NYPD Blue or The Sopranos or Deep Space Nine can replicate the novel's ability to place us in a time and place with interesting characters and events. David Milch has a theory that every one hour drama series is about a family. It may be a family of cops or crooks, but that's the dynamic and we watch and enjoy because the dynamic is a familiar one. The same is true of most kinds of modern fiction. They are about people we can relate to and circumstances we can draw a moral lesson from. We like moral lessons. We like flawed characters with redeeming values.

Over that a layer of information or theory can be laid, but just a thin one. Like journalism or the essay, fiction is part of the cultural conversation and wise people don't confine themselves to a single genre; that's self-imposed illiteracy that ignores the larger culture, which is more than the sum of all of its parts. The current problem is that many voices go unheard. The gatekeepers at publishing firms impose rules based on arbitrary distinctions that have nothing to do with the quality of the work. It makes writing fiction of any kind a real crap shoot.

One of my favorite stories from my Workshop days is about the young writer who submitted a story to a local literary magazine with a low circulation in the East Village. The editor of that journal, who paid the princely sum of ten dollars for a story, savaged it with such a negative letter that this young writer, now convinced that it had no worth, stuck in a drawer. His girlfriend had a different opinion, made a fresh copy and , without telling him, sent it to The New Yorker which promptly bought it for $1,000. I think this story is told there to remind people that a rejection slip is just one person's opinion and that, if your work is good, you will find a market. Maybe not the best, but you should not seek the permission of others to communicate your narratives. I've done a lot of selling so I understand where those literary agents are coming from, but I think they forget one of the virtues taught by sales work; persistence.

Print on demand technology allows authors to reach readers directly. Electronic publishing has a lot of barriers. It may be the future, but that future is not here yet, and may never be. Getting something into print yourself is a lot easier now. It does require severe attention to detail and a level of obsession much like model railroading. If you are going to compete with the big publishers you have to match or exceed them for technical quality. It can be done. We are doing it, one book at a time.

Literary agents are overwhelmed it seems. The self-publishing conversation at the Amazon Shorts boards was started by a woman who was wondering not just if this was a viable way to publish, but one that would be financially rewarding. This is the knock on all forms of writing; it's a very hard way to make a living. Most people can't do it. If you put your stuff out and don't make a profit then you are accused of self indulgence and "vanity". Of being a wantabee rather than a "real" writer. Her experience with agents made her decide to go forward. It was the ones who asked to see her novel and still had not read it after six months ( and insisted that she talk to none of their competitors in the meantime) and with agents who simply did not respond at all. She decided that she would take her chances and put out the book herself. I came to a similar conclusion about my own work after actually getting a publisher and receiving their contract, for which "a license to steal" is too gentle a term . I started last year with a print version of "The Shenandoah Spy" by working on the cover, which is the first and most important element is selling a book. What's on the cover makes people pick up the book and look at it, and if they do that, you are halfway home to selling it. (We don't have the book yet, but one of my retailers up here displayed the cover card and already has two orders for copies.) The downside to all of this extra effort is that is takes time away from writing new material. But no one writes to simply put their work in a drawer where it will never be seen. It's a collaboration between the reader and the author to create an experience, a conversation, a dynamic interaction that is mutually satisfying. (sounds like sex, doesn't it?)

Given that, why should we accept the intervention of third party gatekeepers in our process? Why do we feel we need permission to publish? Creativity requires display as well as composition. Life is about taking risks. Print on demand allows us to mitigate that risk and reach an audience. Most self published fiction fails in the marketplace, but then so does most of that published in the mainstream. There are very few best-sellers. There are even fewer first novel best sellers. If you price and promote your book properly you can make money. Writing is a business as well as an art.

The future of fiction is going away from the big publishers and the big bookstore chains to the Print on Demand environment that Amazon.com has suddenly seen as the future and is trying to monopolize. Amazon is killing brick and mortar bookstores with superior service and selection. Now they are moving into publishing as well, and have seen the opportunity in self-published fiction. They obviously are like that old Missouri farmer who was praying one night and said "I don't want much, Lord. Just the land next to mine."


Francis Hamit

A lot to think about. I'll ponder on this. It is clear that the paperback book, which has been the mainstay of my income for thirty years, is not going to provide the revenue it used to, for either best sellers or mid-list books. On the other hand, the new systems make mid-list viable if not as lucrative as in the past.

A lot to think about. Thanks. And See Below


Amazon.com Telling POD Publishers - Let BookSurge Print Your Books, or Else...

Amazon is removing the buy button from Amazon pages of print-on-demand authors who don't use their printing service.

I saw this linked on news aggregator web site fark.com [if aggregator is a word]. I don't recommend Fark to people who have real work to do (worse than Slashdot), but every once in a while, a link they post is pure gold.


-- Mark Allums


"We couldn't believe our government was being so weak and cowardly."


- Roland Dobbins

My daughter recently returned from China. She says that in the Chunking area (I know, but I grew up in WW II calling it The Burma Road, Flying the Hump, and Chunking) they remeber well that America saved them from Japan, and think well of Americans. And the scale of construction -- Chunking is now the largest city in the world -- is astonishing.

China is enormous. Enormous. And they're pretty smart, and trying to professionalize the bureaucracy, retiring the old Party cadres and replacing them them with management trained Mandarins...


EE Times: Latest News Hyper-entangled photons claim bit-encoding record

R. Colin Johnson EE Times (03/26/2008 1:48 PM EDT)

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A new world record has been claimed for encoding information onto a binary property of light, according to researchers at the University of Illinois. By "hyper-entangling" photons--that is, using quantum entanglement with multiple degrees of freedom--Professor Paul Kwiat, doctoral candidate Julio Barreiro, and postdoctoral researcher Tzu-Chieh Wei (now at the University of Waterloo) claim to have encoded 1.63 bits per photon. The previous world's records were 1.13 bits per photon without hyper-entanglement, out of a theoretical limit of 1.58 held by Professor Anton Zeilinger at the University of Vienna (and 1.18 with h hyper-entanglement out of a theoretical limit of 2 held by Professor Harald Weinfurter at the University of Munich, Germany).

By combining Hyper-entanglement and linear optics, Kwiat, Barreiro and Wei, claim that 2.81 bits per photon could be encoded to someday increase the channel capacity of satellite-to-satellite data transmissions by more than 3.5 times.

"The record amount of information encoded on the binary property of a photon used to be 1.18 bits," said Barreiro. "We encode only in polarization as the binary property, but have the orbital angular momentum as ancilla, to achieve 1.63 bits per photon."

Called "superdense" encodings, these techniques harness the quantum mechanical properties in pairs of entangled photons, and could theoretically be extended to more dimensions in future experiments to achieve an exponentially larger number of bits.

In classically encoded binary systems, a single photon can at most encode a single bit--either a one for horizontal polarization, or a zero for vertical polarization. With entanglement--the linking of the states of two photons--it is possible to encode more than a single bit per photon to achieve a theoretical high of 1.58 bits per photon. With hyper-entanglement--adding another degree of freedom--it is theoretically possible to encode two bits per photon; however, in real systems, unavoidable imperfections lead to the recording of only statistically valid encodings between 1 and 2 bits (here the researchers achieved 1.63 bits). By encoding also in the ancillary degree of freedom, a theoretical high of 2.81 bits per photon is possible--one of seven messages per photon‹albeit, again, imperfections will limit real systems to somewhere between 2 and 2.81.

"With hyper-entanglement, you can get up to 2 bits per photon, but in our experiments we achieved 1.63 bits, limited by imperfections in our system," said Barreiro. "But if you use our two binary properties--polarization and orbital angular momentum--it would raise your theoretical limit to 2.81 bits per photon."

The researchers used a process called "spontaneous parametric down conversion" in a pair of nonlinear crystals to produce pairs of entangled photons, allowing bits to be encoded in the polarization of the photons by applying birefringent phase shifts.


Help w/ Vista, Mac, office (using Microsoft "quick assist")

Hi Jerry, fyi, saw your diary entry on configuring office/word issues. Sent out a call for people in your area to follow up, one of the folks not in the area offered one of our employee “give a customer a free trouble call” cards..

Here it is (below) – it’s like a credit card for a trouble ticket – be it 15 minutes or 15 days of work..

The support line is “1 800 Microsoft” (1 800 642-7676)

Tell them you have “quick assist card” and the number is (below). They will open a trouble ticket for the problem and work with you until resolved.


I have access to the Waggoner Edstrom Rapid Response Team and very good relations with them. Microsoft is looking into the OLM problem but it turns out I may have more experience than they do; it's severe where it hits but it wasn't as wide spread as I thought.

I also have about as much experience of wedding Mac and PC as much of Microsoft; apparently they don't do a lot of that, which I think is a mistake. In any event, I will now proceed systematically as is my bent, now that I have some energy back and some will to do things. Thanks!




- Roland Dobbins

Now there is a disaster in the making. With luck the checks and balances will stop this. Alas, they haven't been working very well in the last 40 years.


Subject: r.e. The next bubble 

Dear Jerry,

"There is one industry that fits the bill: alternative energy, the development of more energy-efficient products, along with viable alternatives to oil, including wind, solar, and geothermal power, along with the use of nuclear energy to produce sustainable oil substitutes, such as liquefied hydrogen from water."

I think an energy bubble potential exists only to the extent Eric Janszen's overlying FIRE economy, government policy and subsidies distort renewed investments in energy infrastructure. An example here is the late real estate bubble. This was facilitated by Federal Reserve policy and half a dozen federal housing agencies. And it featured the market paradox that housing prices increased in lock step with an increasing supply of new housing construction. This apparent multi-year failure of the supply/demand curve deserves more attention from economists than it has received to date.

There is certainly Bubble potential in things like subsidized food crop based ethanol displacing farm animal feed, and huge subsidized wind turbine farms producing electricity for twice and more the cost of coal and nuclear power. 'Substitutes' of all kinds that are more expensive than what they replace, and are only justified by reference to specious Global Warming 'science', other environmental emotionalism and government diktats designed to suppress competitors, can easily foster the creation of a another 'bubble', and one that would probably lead to a Motie style Collapse in this instance. Green conservation measures requiring large up front capital investments and having payback periods close to the predicted service life of the equipment are another red flag.

At the same time we have to recognize we're in uncharted territory with record combined carbon fuel prices (coal, natural gas and oil). This is already wreaking economic havoc and is playing a recognizable role in increasing the severity of the home foreclosure and falling incomes crises. I propose two initial criteria for evaluating emerging energy projects to separate wheat from bubbling and blowing chaff.

1. Will the project tend to displace imports of foreign sourced fuels with cost-competitive domestic substitutes? This creates 'energy security' and also addresses the unprecedented trade deficit. Such projects will help reduce the incentive for more off-shore military interventions and also strengthen the dollar's forex value.

2. Will the project lead to lower absolute fuel and energy costs, measured on a price per million British Thermal Units basis, when compared to nuclear, coal, natural gas and oil? The price per million BTU standard is a great common yardstick that cuts through a lot of obfuscation and clarifies essentials.

Projects meeting one or both criteria are inherently 'anti-bubble'. Projects that meet neither criteria should be treated as guilty until proven innocent.

Best Wishes,


Interesting. I haven't time to look into that just yet; soon I hope. But using energy to make fertilizer to grow corn cannot possibly be a good idea. SO of course all the politicians endorse it.


Subject: Paperback books

Dear Jerry:

In my view the market is segmented for print books. The usual progression is hardbound, trade paperback, mass market paperback. Sideways the same text goes to audiobooks/podcasts and e-books.

Let's look at the first three. Hardbounds are usually done because they are the easiest to get into retail stores, because they provide the most margin. They are also the easiest to get reviewed, but with less reviews come less incentive to do them. For fiction in particular, and academic books likely to be adopted as supplemental reading material in university courses, the trade paperback has become the defacto standard, and this is where POD technology has taken off.

Mass Market paperbacks are a commodity business, distributed more in supermarket racks and the like than bookstores. Bestsellers aside (and only the top ten ) the usual pattern is to print double the amount that will ultimately be sold. The usual print run is 100,000 copies. 50,000 sold at eight dollars each with an eight percent royalty makes a nice addition to a writer's bottom line, but to get there, one must have decent sales in the more senior forms or be in a genre such as science fiction where Mass Market paperback first publication is the accepted norm and the cover and genre is the primary sales mechanism.

Audiobooks are becoming more important because a lot of people no longer actually read, but like Mass Market paperbacks, are hard for the individual writer to produce one their own; it's a more collaborative process. Generally, the kind of publication that has made you so successful will stay with us, because it's convenience selling and impulse buying. Thirty bucks for a hardbound book mandates careful consideration. Eight bucks for a paperback to read on the plane does not. Writers don't make as much per copy as with the more expensive product, but they make it up on volume. ($8.00 x 8% x 50,000 = $32.000)

So, when the time comes, my books will be available to Mass Market paperback publishers, probably after I've sold the film rights. You can't do it all yourself.


Francis Hamit



read book now



This week:


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Tuesday,  April 1, 2008

I do not do April Fool's Stories. At least not on purpose

Jerry's Book List


I don't seem to be able to find a list of Fiction that you have written anywhere on your site.

I've read a couple of your works, and at a SciFi specialist bookshop in London recently I saw a small selection of your books, but I prefer to start a series in order, and wasn't able to work out the order.

A search on Amazon doesn't list your books in any meaningful order to help my selection.

Do you have a list of your works and how they link. More to the point, can you recommend one of your more recent publications.

Great work. Always loved your columns, though you seem to be having a lot less 'disaster' of late. Is computine becoming less problematic, or have you reached the pinnacle of your technical savvy I wonder?

Regards, Tim Bonnell

Good point. I do not seem to have a current bibliography, so I have begun to construct one. It's not as easily done as you think, but it is needful. I'll put it together in my copious free time...


Subject: First recorded human voice played in public 

Ten seconds of a woman singing "Au Claire de Lune" - recorded in 1860! There's nothing in the technology of Messr. Scott that was not known to the Ancients. Why could not some genius have somewhere deposited scrolls with smoky scratches recording, oh, Plato? Demosthenes? Cicero?


Story Idea~!



"At first listen, the grainy high-pitched warble doesn't sound like much, but scientists say the French recording from 1860 is the oldest known recorded human voice."

I hadn't thought of that. It's astonishing that the Royal Society people didn't think of that in Newton's time.


Subject: "The next bubble" 

"The next bubble"


Call me cynical, but IMO "The next bubble" will be *money*.

I think we're already watching the first in-earnest trial balloon, in the form of the "free" Bushbux. The experiment is a success -- people *will* gladly accept the issuance of "free" money, regardless of the fact that it's 1) coming out of their own pockets, and 2) is inherently inflationary, meaning that it devalues the currency in general.

Once it's established that yes, for all intents and purposes "money" really *does* "grow on trees" (or at least, "fall out of the presses at the gentlest of breezes), it will be a very small leap to the end game, i.e., the monetization of the debt.

We'll as a nation be poor as a churchmouse, but the books will balance, "the debt will be paid," and that will be that. And if at any point it looks like The Subjects might chafe, well, by golly, we'll just print up some *more* Free Money and toss it over the gunwales! (Cue footage of Abbie Hoffman tossing dollar bills onto the floor of the NYSE, bringing things to a halt as the traders dove after them like frogs on a junebug.)

It would hardly be the first time that a nation has decided to print its way out of a hole; the "innovative" part would be getting The Subjects to gladly embrace the gambit, and welcome it as something of benefit. That's something that would not have been possible in earlier times -- it takes a populace with a collective fifteen second attention span, willing to dismiss anything of true importance as "boring" -- and thus, easily led by the nose into ... well, I guess you could call it a form of Hell.

But, the books will balance. The debt, having grown to unimaginable size, compounded by "private"-sector folly (of the "too big to fall" variety), will be resolved by printing up "money." (If the problem is that too many dollars are owed, then, by golly, we'll belly up to the bar and print up as many dollars as it takes! The debt WILL be paid! The "full faith and credit" of the federal government will *mean* something! We will *not* as a nation "walk away from our obligations. Nope! *Every* dollar will be paid, no matter *how* much ink and paper it takes!)


We're J.M. Keynes' granchildren, his curse be upon us...

Is it possible that I'm wrong? I sure hope so! But with each new day, it seems less and less likely. I think "The next bubble" will indeed be "money" -- or at least the "Graven Image" facsimile thereof (i.e., paper debt instruments that "look like money," rather than paper tokens representing precious metals).

That old saw about "those who have the gold make the rules" has a reciprocal: Those who make the rules will have the gold (and the land, and any other commodities of actual worth), having sold *their* "money" to "the greater fool" who will jump at the chance to get in on "The next bubble."


Congress wanted people to own houses, so they created Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to inject money into the system; then Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy took over. These instituions were allowed to capitalize on their mortgages and inject ever increasing amounts of money into the housing market. With all that money chasing houses, the prices went up to wher people could not afford a house. Enter junk quality loans. A bubble was inevitable.

But they all meant well.


Subject: Climate debate is over 

Dr. Pournelle,

Al Gore has effectively ended the global warming debate... by invoking Hitler. Per Godwins law, the discussion is over and Gore lost.





Subject: Climate science 

Jerry: Some interesting comments from a scientist (Roger Pielke) who believes in anthropogenic climate change (March 31 entry).

http://climatesci.org/  <http://climatesci.org/

I particularly like:

The neglect of including the diversity of human climate forcings indicates that the real objective of those promoting the radiative effect of the addition of atmospheric CO2 as the dominate human climate forcing is to promote energy and lifestyle changes. Their actual goal is not to develop effective climate policies.

Chris Christensen
Aspen Research Corporation


Subject: Spooky Action at a Distance

Dear Dr. Pournelle:

I enjoyed reading what you wrote about "spooky action at a distance," and the funny story about Feynman. I saw one of his lectures while I was an undergraduate at UCLA (yes, many years ago; time is the fire in which we burn). I cannot handle the mathematics, but my physicist friends tell me that I "think" like a physicist (Greg Benford foremost among them). It's amusing, since my wife is a mathematician and my father in law a physicist.

Anyway, I caught Feynman standing by himself, and he talked briefly with me about my heartache and not being able to "handle" physics. He chuckled and patted me on the arm. "Listen kid," he said to me, "most physicists are putzes. You do what you love; that's enough for anybody."

I didn't know what a "putz" was, but I got the gist.

A few years ago, Greg Benford took me to Caltech's campus, and showed me where Feynman's last office was in the Physics department (they swap offices around, but Greg showed me the last one Feynman had before he passed). It was a pilgrimage of sorts for me.

This book may not be entirely factual, but I love how Feynman "helped" the author:


The BEST part is the end of the book, when Feynman gives the author a "Final Exam" to determine if he loves science. Wonderful, wonderful scene that I force my undergraduate students to read when they are thinking about graduate school.

You probably read it already, yes.

Speaking of spooky action at a distance, I know that you looked into John Campbell's claims in the past. The late Harry Stein was very much into this kind of thing. Did he ever discuss that with you?

I realize that you are very busy. But if you get a few moments....unlikely....but I thought I would ask.

Again, I am glad that the Zaps are over. And I envy you your Mac equipment, irritating or not!

Best to you and your family.

-Mark Martin


 Mark O. Martin, Ph.D.
 Assistant Professor
Department of Biology
University of Puget Sound


The following is an unabashed commercial. It also illustrates something I could do of IO thought there was a market for such stuff:

Subject: I just joined CafePress.com, and I think you will like it! Check it out!

Hey There,

I just joined CafePress.com to make my own custom stuff to sell in my own online shop - it's easy, and it's FREE. Upload your artwork or photos, pick what products you want to sell them on - T-shirts, hats, mugs... there's over 70 products - and you're in business. If you don't want to sell your merchandise, hey - it's a great way to make custom gifts for yourself and your friends.

Click here to try it out:


Francis Hamit

The question is, if I got someone to do a decent design, would anyone be interested in Chaos Manor paraphernalia of this kind? It's Print on Demand and drop shipped, so for me there's only getting the design and signing up at a reasonable fee for a year; they do the rest.

Anyone interested? Particularly Platinum Club of course. Do understand, I am not offering to provide any of that free. The costs shown are about what they would be for my stuff.


read book now




This week:


read book now


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Subject: Money Troubles Stall Green Town Project


"From the outset, the vision for BioTown was ambitious. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and the state Department of Agriculture wanted to create a model for energy self-sufficiency. No other U.S. community produces all its own energy, and a German village that runs on renewable energy took eight years to develop.

But project officials believed they could turn this community of about 550 people, surrounded by silos and stubbly corn fields, into something special.

"We are taking challenges and turning them into opportunities by developing homegrown, local energy production to become independent from foreign sources," Daniels said in announcing the project.

The timetable was aggressive. State officials hoped to break ground in November 2006 on a $10 million facility that would house the core equipment needed to turn manure and other biomass material into energy, and start generating electricity for the town by July 2007.

The groundbreaking happened, and General Motors <http://search.breitbart.com/q?s=General%20Motors&sid=breitbart.com> offered deals on flex fuel vehicles to people living in the Reynolds ZIP code. But there has been little other progress, and now BioTown leaders acknowledge they have adjusted their vision. But they insist the project will happen.

"What we try to remind folks all the time is that this project, there's no manual that you pull out and say, 'How do you do a BioTown?'" Indiana Agriculture Director Andy Miller said. "We're kind of inventing it as we go.""

The project turns out to be more complex than first thought, and more expensive, and generally less immediately useful, etc. Gee, wonder if that could have been predicted? I also wonder if we're going to notice this when the greens press us to do this nationally and globally. What is the point of a horrible example if we follow blindly down the same path?


Using energy to make fertilizer to grow food to burn for energy is about as silly as anything I can think of, but we are determined to keep doing it.


"He's fallen victim to people who are more concerned about issues of cultural sensitivity and political correctness than they are about helping vulnerable young women.”

<http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=549248&in_page_id=1770 >

- Roland Dobbins

The joys of diversity. It's wonderful.


'They also sang communist party songs.'


- Roland Dobbins

More of the joys of diversity, this time in Canada.


Subject: South Africa fades away.


Soo - Prize!!


The decline of English parenthood.

main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/03/22/norgy122.xml >

- Roland Dobbins


Subject: P-47 video

Hi Jerry,

Through a synchronicity this popped up tonight after reading your comments about P-47s and WWII. It demonstrates graphically the impact of this aircraft.


One thing I have wondered as I learn more about the subject, and the price the ground support squadrons paid in Korea because the USAF saved the hot rod P-51s after the war and not the P-47s, is what impact they might have had there as well.

But then you get into the USAF having to eat crow and use A-1s in Vietnam and the whole A-10 debacle.

All the best,

Richard Kullberg

USAF has little interest in supporting the field army; but the Iron Law makes them keep the mission so the Army cannot have aircraft that will do the job. And this will continue forever unless we abolish USAF entirely.

The Iron Law works in the military too. Like dogs in a manger, USAF keeps the mission of close support, interdiction, and isolating the battle area, and will not give it up to the Army. The Army makes do with rotary wing aircraft, which are fuel costly and maintenance costly, and cannot have what it needs. We saw it in Korea, we saw it in Viet Nam, we see it in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And the beat goes on.


Subject: "Jump in rice price fuels fears of unrest"


Jump in rice price fuels fears of unrest By Javier Blas in London and Daniel Ten Kate in Bangkok

Published: March 27 2008 18:30 | Last updated: March 28 2008 09:06

Rice prices jumped 30 per cent to an all-time high on Thursday, raising fears of fresh outbreaks of social unrest across Asia where the grain is a staple food for more than 2.5bn people.

The increase came after Egypt, a leading exporter, imposed a formal ban on selling rice abroad to keep local prices down, and the Philippines announced plans for a major purchase of the grain in the international market to boost supplies. Global rice stocks are at their lowest since 1976.

EDITOR S CHOICE Indonesia warns of unrest as food prices rise - Feb-27Editorial Comment: Biofuels will not feed the hungry - Feb-25High food prices may force aid rationing - Feb-24Wheat prices in biggest one-day rise - Feb-25MF Global takes $141m hit trading wheat - Feb-28MF Global counts the costs -



Subject: Working your way through College

Dear Jerry:

Working your way through college or university is a mixed blessing at best. I found it impossible to study Photography they way I wanted without turning pro to earn enough money to pay for all the supplies I needed to do personal work. That got way out of hand. I was a working pro from the year I graduated High School until about midway through my MFA. In the Army I was doing a lot of work on the side and I had a studio in Iowa City that, at one point, employed eight people. The "bread and butter" work took over. The K-Mart introduced the 98 cent color portrait and I was done. That was 1974 and my first experience of being economically crushed by a mass market force. The only job that would permit me the freedom to make my classes at the Writer's Workshop was Real Estate. My first licensing class had eight people. Three of us were professional photographers who were getting out of the business. I liked Real Estate but I liked being a writer more and juggling the two was complicated. Looking back, it would have been better from several standpoints to have been able to just go to class and write as much as possible. That was before the MFA became a job training program for academia and actually meant something. You got to study with great writers. (There was also all that stuff about the Vietnam War, but that's another story -- one I shall tell in due time.)

These days the new Director of the Workshop is trying to find funding so that every student can simply go there and write and study writing. A laudable goal. Tending bar and mopping floors will, at best, provide you source material. It won't make you a better writer, which is the real point of the program, or should be. There are other MFA programs where the students get a full ride; in effect a salary or stipend for showing up. Of course, if a writer simply exists within academia, their material is likely to be yet another novel about that world. Very few can break out of that mold. Jane Smiley did. T.C. Boyle did. A few others. This is perhaps the biggest problem with such programs; research seldom stands in for life experience and the reader can tell the difference going in. I find that military fiction written by people who have served (Jim Webb, the Junior Senator from Virginia comes to mind) is much more compelling than that produced at one remove by people who have this world second hand. As Nalo Hopkinson said "Fiction is not autobiography in a party dress." One does not need a MFA to be a writer and the expense can be daunting. The peer review process, properly run, can give you tools and insights that will put you ahead of the competition, but in the end provides no marketplace advantage. Scott Turow has a MFA from Iowa (He went to law school to get a "day job".) John Grisham has no MFA , and started his first book on yellow legal pads to kill time between court appearances.

In every field there are all kinds of ways to get an education. I believe you once told me that this was your rationale for going to West Point when you already had a commission. Harvard has a very rich endowment. Spreading a little money around to students whose families can't otherwise afford it is consistent with what a great university should be about; diversity and exposure to outside influences. Better that than hoarding their capital or putting up more buildings.

I am having my own argument with the University of Iowa right now. I was thinking of funding, way down the line ,a program that would support military veterans who otherwise qualified for the MFA program in Creative Writing of narratives. But I see signs that the Vietnam War is not over there. Of the more than 30,400 students there, only 350 are veterans. So, before proceeding, I am asking some hard questions about the prevailing culture. How many of the faculty have served? The military is my tribe and I want their voices heard. I want them to be part of the social context and the ongoing conversation...but then, I've always been a dreamer.


Francis Hamit

I got through the University of Iowa as an undergraduate on the GI Bill plus "Board Jobs" at Reich's Cafe. I had a single room in a private house, and at Reich's I got one meal for each hour I worked as a waiter; plus tips, which usually amounted to about fifty cents an hour in dimes. I got my undergraduate degree without having to borrow money. But then tuition was not ridiculous in those days -- and at Iowa I studied with Van Allen, Wendell Johnson, Gustav Bergmann, Kurt Lewin, George Mosse, and some of the best scholars of the age.

But that was in 1953.


Subject: Amazon.com: POD Authors! Amazon Wants to destroy Your career! - amazon shorts Discussion Forum

Dear Jerry:

There seems to be a rebellion brewing among authors over the latest misstep by Amazon.com. They are trying to force people to use their Booksurge subsidiary as their POD provider. They haven't been competitive on price and with their new CreateSpace operation (which I plan to use) are actually competing against themselves. Anyone who runs the numbers is going to use the CreateSpace ProPlan, which lowers costs and only takes 20% or the cover price rather than 55% as in the usual publishing arrangement. The problem in dealing with Amazon is that no one seems to talk to anyone else there or have any information about competing or complimentary in-house services. I was in a military branch of the National Security Agency and we were not this compartmented!

Amazon is the big dog in bookselling, but not the only game in town. Abusing their market power simply invites anti-trust action, which can be initiated by civilians rather than the current round-heels DOJ lawyers. Amazon is being a little greedy at every turn. I signed up for their webstore and then dropped it when I found that I would not be allowed to link to my CafePress store. (Read the book! Buy the t-shirt!) . Affinity merchandise is a keep part of my marketing strategy as well as a way to recover all of those up front art charges. Amazon could have done something similar with the Amazon Shorts program, where there are 400 or so authors who would probably be customers for a t-shirt with their logo, but declined, because it is external to the their vision of doing everything online and "viral". This from an outfit that can't even keep an Amazon Shorts button on their front web page.

Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy may be at work here. The pattern seems to be lots of initiatives, but not enough people to do the hard work, no coordination and corporate politics over profit. Nimble, they are not. I was getting e-mails about the webstore a week after I closed it. I abandoned these "off the rack" web solutions to a simple set up which my local computer guy is building while I stand over his shoulder and tell him what I want. More upfront cost, but a lot less time wasted -- and people will be able to get to my CafePress store from there. Coffee cups, any one?


Francis Hamit



Subject: New article by Al Nofi about Recent Trends in Thinking about Warfare


Extensive reports of war gaming results; of great interest if you're interested in that.




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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Fed Sub-Prime Responsibility

Fair Housing & the Sub-Prime Mess By Jerry Bowyer Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Last Saturday, I was a guest on Larry Kudlow’s WABC radio program. Larry’s a good friend and we have been talking quite a bit lately on his TV and radio shows about the ways in which Federal regulations have created the sub-prime mortgage crisis. This is far and away the most underreported aspect of the mortgage story, and aside from Larry’s shows and a few conservative media outlets, such as Townhall, it has been completely missing from the discussion.

That’s a shame, because there simply was no such thing as a developed Subprime mortgage industry until the US congress created it by ordering banks to issue loans to people who were not credit worthy. Community activist groups (such as the Public Interest Research Group and Acorn) and civil rights law firms (such as Miner, Barnhill & Galland) had make their living by accusing banks of racism when the banks hesitated to approve loan requests from minority citizens with poor credit scores. Fair Housing laws, championed by American Heros like Martin Luther King, Jr., had long-ago outlawed the practice of ‘redlining’, which is refusing to sell or rent to blacks in certain neighborhoods. But a new generation of activists modified the concept of redlining, applying it not just to race-based home sale covenants, but to any refusal to lend to a minority member, even for sensible financial reasons.

The Community Reinvestment Act was created as a result. Initially the act was used, not to get banks to lend to minority households, but to get them to cut checks to ‘community groups’. Left of center activist agencies, which had pushed for the act in the first place, used it as a shakedown tool. So long as the banks kept paying off to the activists, the activists would hold off on sending complaints to the bank regulators’ CRA files.

Eventually, under Clinton, the CRA was renewed and, not surprisingly, made more punitive. Banks were required to make Subprime mortgage loans now too, or else suffer a low CRA rating and be punished accordingly. The Fed played it’s part. The Home Mortgage Disclosure rules created an unfunded mandate for banks to track and publicly disclose the race and gender of it’s mortgage clients. Now the shakedown artists had an easy source of complaints and a club with which to beat the banks into submission. The bankers complied and the Subprime mortgagage market was born.

But the bad paper remained principally on the balance sheets of the originating banks for a couple of years. The banks and their shareholders were directly hurt, but not the general public, at least in the beginning, that is until the bank regulators once again intervened and encouraged banks to push the paper out to unsuspecting investors.

First the Fed issued guidance which warned the banks that their capital requirements would be severely raised in response to the Subprime mortgages. In other words, banks were told that to the extent that they issued mortgages to high risk borrowers, to that extent they would not be allowed to put as much of their money into income-producing activities. The banks had already been told by the Fed that they would have to set aside more money for mortgages in general, and now they were being hit again for the Subprime variety.

Second, the Fed issued guidance on how to mix Subprime mortgage paper in with good paper and sell the resulting composite security to the general market. This is how the ‘toxic waste’ of bad debt was pumped out into the world. This is why credit markets are now having trouble clearing. This is why banks are taking massive write-downs of the loans which still exist on their books. This is why foreign investors don’t want to buy US mortgages, or bank stocks, and consequently don’t want to buy the dollars in which they are denominated either. If you add to this a Security and Exchange Commission ruling which compels banks to ‘mark to market’, which means they are forced to show large losses in times of market panic, you give a legal mandate for short-term thinking. You create a more serious crisis for the system and a fatal blow to the weaker banks.

This crisis has the fingerprints of congress and its bureaucratic enforcers all over it. It also has the fingerprints of a generation of activists and ‘fair housing’ lawyers as well.

Julie Woodman

Astute. Very much worth your reading.



And let's not forget that the USAF killed the SR-71 (and several other Interesting Programs.) This was, basically, a fit of pique; the A-12 and SR-71 were Mach-3 aircraft built on a civilian contract, for a civilian agency, and they were flown and operated by civilians. Meanwhile, the USAF's XB-70 was cancelled after only two prototypes. And the USAF has never quite gotten over that...

-- Mike T. Powers

Well the Valkyrie flew at optimum speed and altitude for the Soviet intercept system; the threat of building a fleet of them (originally the WS-100A; I was on the design team) was to require the Soviets to keep a very expensive system in place. Eventually only three were built, and one was wrecked in training. All told it was a very cost effective program in the war of attrition that we called The Cold War.

That part USAF got right. If USAF had stuck the air superiority and strategic bombardment all would have been well; but it insists keeping control of vital missions it will not perform, and that is disaster.


Cuban Blog


Jerry, the above link will take you to blog of Yoani Sanchez, a 30 something Cuban woman who tells of her daily life under Castro. She sneaks into tourist hotels to get internet access and post this blog. If caught, she would most certainly be imprisoned. Where does this woman get her courage? A little anecdote from a recent entry in her blog perhaps contains a clue. Referring to her family’s Easter celebration, she regretted that there would be an empty chair because of a missing relative — Adolfo Fernandez Sainz, one of the 75 independent journalists jailed by the Castro regime five years ago. And she expressed the hope that no one would deserve the phrase hurled at her by her young son when he learned of those detentions: “So, you are still free because you are a bit cowardly.”

And that is a challenge to us all.

I'm glad to see that your symptoms are improving. An ocologist friend said (in another context) that with post radiation therapy, changes in symptoms were a good thing, they showed that the body was dealing with the waste. He would be very concerned with early stability.

We continue to pray for you at St. Mat's.

David A. Smith


Zaps and economy 

Dr. Pournelle,

First things first; you have my devout prayers and sincere hope that the 'zaps' have accomplished their purpose and need not be repeated. Having said that, a happy ending is not necessary for a book of your treatment even if it is earnestly to be desired. There are several books (Death Be Not Proud springs to mind) that were successful without a happy ending.

My mother, who is of your generation, completed similar treatment in a similar location about one month ago. In her case, she had neither the understanding of technology to ask the questions of her doctor that you would have, nor the information resources your readership allows you to get the depth of information you have. I mentioned to her your treatment and description of same and she asked for your web site so she can read it herself. Please understand, this is a woman who is profoundly ignorant of computers and the web. Previously, nothing has induced her to get on a computer. I am, in my copious free time, attempting to collect your musings in relation to your treatment and symptoms, to make her search easier. Please consider a book on this subject in your copious free time, and do not hesitate to write about this on your salon.

Of the reports on the economy, I have known for over a year that the economy was bad. Currently, I am making almost identical salary to what I was making ten years ago. At the time, I still had children at home, and I was in school. I did not have a degree yet and was able to (barely) support my family on my income alone. Occasionally, I could take the family out to dinner, or a movie. Currently, I am supporting only a wife. My house is now paid off, and I am now getting a small VA disability pension. My wife and I have been out to a restaurant only one in the last year and we are unable to meet all our bills which include no credit card payments. We have bills which are almost a year behind and saving have been exhausted. (Parenthetically, this is the reason I have not renewed my subscription to your site). This situation should be corrected for a short time as my wife, for the first time in our 35 year marriage, has gotten a job, but previously we had been able to make it on my income alone even though we raised three children and for almost half our life together, I was military.

I mentioned some of the observations on your site to a friend of mine. He immediately (as is his wont) started researching my statements. He is currently trying to figure how to reinvest his savings, but has pulled his money out of both the market and government bonds. He is very frightened at the economic future.

One of the observations you have made repeatedly was reference to the German hyper-inflation of the '20s. My reading of this from history has been that it was engineered by the Wiemar government as a method of paying the enormous reparations imposed by the Versailles treaty. In other words, they ran the presses until the cash was available even though it was worthless. This is supported by the fact that when the reparations were repudiated after the Ruhr occupation was ended, the mark recovered very quickly.

This has several effects. It allowed payment of the reparations without raising German taxes. It punished the foreign holders of German Marks and made investment in German recovery worthwhile. I made for good propaganda to the Brits and the American peoples who generally were opposed to the terms of the Versailles treaty. It was an excellent form of non violent resistance to the treaty. Of course it was kind of hard on the German middle class but you cannot make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.

The point of the above paragraph; when are our politicians going to start this or have they already? Paying out the voters (modern bread and circuses) is one benefit. Another would be paying off our enormous trade deficit. But who could think of such conspiracy? After all, no moral nation would do that, would they?

On another vein entirely; I have read two new books recently, Christianity's dangerous idea : the Protestant revolution-- a history from the sixteenth century to the twenty-first by Alister E. McGrath, and Persian fire : the first world empire and the battle for the West / Tom Holland. Both came out late 2007 and both are very much worth reading.

Please know that your fans value your contributions and your opinions (even if we sometimes disagree) and that you have our payers for a complete and speedy recovery. Eagerly awaiting Inferno 2 and Mamelukes;


Patrick A. Hoage



NATO: Am I mad?

LTC (Ret) Ralph Peters has a column in Todays' NY Post advocating NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia, specifically as a way to 'keep the bear caged' .


Evidently that is what the administration is doing as well.

I have to ask: Are we mad?

Because a military alliance is ultimately a commitment to defend another militarily. Does anyone seriously believe we're going to go to war in Ukraine or Georgia if the Russians decide to invade?

What's more, I don't recall us being the enemies of the Russians before our Kosovo adventure antagonized them. Yes, we are rivals rather than allies now. But rivals allow each other their proper space. If you walk too far into territory another dog has claimed as its own, expect to growl louder and louder until biting happens.

And don't think for a minute the Ukraine is not territory Russia claims as its own.

This is , IMO, stupid. We're needlessly antagonizing one of the world's great powers in order to offer paper assurances we can't possibly follow through on. We tried that once before, in 1956 Hungary IIRC, when we deliberately fomented revolt in Eastern Bloc countries, then stood aside while the Russians crushed them with great violence and brutality. It's all very well for LTC Peters to talk about 'appeasing bullies' , but the wise man knows when not to pick a fight.

We have no business further antagonizing one of the world's great powers in order to make a promise we have no intention of keeping.

And you know very well we'd never try this during Brezhnev's time, or Andropov's. I think the message we're sending the Russians is: Not only do we consider you enemies, we consider you contemptibly weak. How does anyone *expect* the Russians to respond to something like that?

Have I gone mad, or has the world?


Brian P.

Stark Raving Mad. Entangling alliances. Involvement in the territorial disputes of Europe. Bombing Serbia in defense of the tights of illegal Albanian immigrants to Kosovo. Stark Raving Mad. Bush and Rice have apparently lost their minds. Worse than Albright. Stark Raving Mad,


Subject: POD -- 


Here's an interesting article on the logistics of POD:


At those prices (Ingram's "Lightning Source" POD subsidiary) -- three bucks per, wholesale, the "grocery store" (or airport) book becomes a lot more viable.

Using those other outfits, and paying twelve or fourteen bucks "wholesale," I just don't see how any kind of general interest book can even dream of making it.


I am learning more about POD publishing; I will have my views another time. Meanwhile Francis Hamit is following it closely.

And that article is worth the time of anyone intersted.


"Internet book piracy will drive authors to stop writing"


"Book piracy on the internet will ultimately drive authors to stop writing unless radical methods are devised to compensate them for lost sales.

"This is the bleak forecast of the Society of Authors, which represents more than 8,500 professional writers in the UK and believes that the havoc caused to the music business by illegal downloading is beginning to envelop the book trade."

Jim Douglas

Another reason for the Platinum Patrons, of course. I don't need boom and bust with best sellers. Just an assurance that I will have an income to support my family. I can spend time negotiating with publishers and writing what they are interested in, or I can write what I think is important with the assurance that I will have sufficient income (from subscriptions) knowing that what I write will be published and available one way or another.

Now to build the subscriber base...


Subject: Few Students are Proficient Writers 



In Test, Few Students Are Proficient Writers

By SAM DILLON Published: April 3, 2008

About one-third of America’s eighth-grade students, and about one in four high school seniors, are proficient writers, according to results of a nationwide test released on Thursday.

The test, administered last year, showed that there were modest increases in the writing skills of low-performing students since the last time a similar exam was given, in 2002. But the skills of high-performing eighth and 12th graders remained flat or declined.


Hmmm, HUGE increase in the focus on underperforming students equals, "modest increases in writing skills of low-performing students" while at the same time, "the skills of high-performing eighth and 12th graders remained flat or declined." This looks like proof that no-child-gets-ahead works just as you figured it would. Don't you get tired of being so right most of the time?

Braxton Cook


Subject: Amazon smacks little people with BookSurge


Here is a comprehensive piece on the Booksurge issue from The Register:


Ed Hume


Publishing News - News Home Page - Amazon threat on direct selling

Dear Jerry:

More evidence that Amazon has gone mad. I signed up as an Amazon Associate today. Why? It's like that story about the guy who complains about the poker game he was in the night before. Asked why he put up with people who dealt seconds and off the bottom of the deck, he replied calmly "It's the only game in town?" Thus it is with Amazon, but such behavior will only come back to bite them in the end. One suspects that Jeff Bezos has no idea what's going on and that when he finds out how these clowns are damaging his brand, will lay about him with a flaming sword. The company has grown too fast. It has also hired a lot of people who are more interested in power than profit.



Francis Hamit


Subject: Letter from Francis Hamit 3/31/08

Dear Dr.Pournelle,

The mythical company, the one that made construction machinery, featured in Saturday Evening Post stories was Earthworm Tractor, with super salesman Alexander Botts. The inspiration for the tractor company is easy to see. It was many years before I heard about a Collins Machete salesman that was the equal of Mr. Botts.


William L. Jones

wljonespe [at] verizon [dot] net

Indeed. I grew up reading Alexander Botts stories and loved them. I read the first one before I was in third grade, and we took the Post so I read each as it came out. I have a paperback collection of all of them, and I presume they're still available. Earthworm Tractor vs. Steel Elephant...


Subject: "Someone liked them"


"Someone liked them, or they wouldn't have paid me all that money ..."

Being a writer means having to have the same kind of thick skin a salesman has, the same kind of JOAT inclinations an old farmer has, the same kind of imagination a florid schizophrenic has<g> -- and world-class diplomatic skills OR the ability to get away with being a complete introvert.

I've been told by an editor at a "major imprint" publisher that "writers are scum" -- and I've received solicitous fan mail that creeped me out (and discovered, after moving *way* into the boonies that a relative of a friend of a relative "read all my stuff and really wanted to meet me," which just made my blood run cold. I think I blurted out "No!" before I was even finished digesting the statement.) Is this "right" or "wrong"? I don't even go there. It's *me*. I know that *I* could never open my life up the way that you do with CM, but that's *you*.

For every "critic" who pans your work, there's a RAH who comments on Mote being the best SF novel ever written. (And remember that a critic (de facto or de jour) is someone who can't make it as a writer.) You grow inured to the twin demons of praise and condemnation, peck out your thoughts, and with luck, make enough to keep ahead of the bill collector.

It's a different kind of life...


Of course. I have always known this, and perhaps I waxed sarcastic in pointing to the nonsense over on Schneier's site.


Seitz The Bayeux Travesty 


What a milestone week for seriously bad Fan Film remakes

First, The Sirens Of Titan location got hit with a 100 kilometer thick ice regolith and pelting methane rain.

Now Plan 9 From Outer Space has been rendered redundant by a flick that may edge out _An Inconvenient Truth_ when the Academy gets around to awarding Intellectual Dishonesty Oscars .

The top banana in _ Expelled _ is second string Nixon speech writer Ben Stein, who seems to know less about Darwin than Ferris Bueller, and whose knowledge of evolution would fit on a Visine label.

Only photoshop can do its trailer credit-- behold the Bayeux Travesty



-- Russell Seitz


A point on the iPhone

Subject: an iPhone point...

Jerry, just reading the column and came across this: Alas, no GPS so the iPhone doesn't know where it is, but that, too, is probably only a matter of time.

Actually its already sorta here - you can tell the iPhone to search for its current location and it uses the nearest Cell Towers to triangulate your position within a couple of blocks. Then you can tell it where you want to go from there and Bob's Your Uncle - sorta GPS...it will give you maps, satellite views or turn by turn directions. I've tried it in Houston, Memphis, Sacramento and the Bay Area...works like a champ


Yes! It took a while the first time, but it has found Chaos Manor. Thanks




--- Roland Dobbins





CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


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Friday,  April 4, 2008

Subj: Happy Feast of St. Isidore of Seville: Patron Saint of the Internet

Well, not officially, but ...



Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


Subject: Amazon Ups the Ante on Platform Lock-In - Tools of Change for Publishing   <http://toc.oreilly.com/2008/03/

Michael Zawistowski


Subject: Publishing News - News Home Page - Amazon threat on direct selling

Dear Jerry:

More evidence that Amazon has gone mad. I signed up as an Amazon Associate today. Why? It's like that story about the guy who complains about the poker game he was in the night before. Asked why he put up with people who dealt seconds and off the bottom of the deck, he replied calmly "It's the only game in town?" Thus it is with Amazon, but such behavior will only come back to bite them in the end. One suspects that Jeff Bezos has no idea what's going on and that when he finds out how these clowns are damaging his brand, will lay about him with a flaming sword. The company has grown too fast. It has also hired a lot of people who are more interested in power than profit.



Francis Hamit


Subject: Critics

Ron wrote "And remember that a critic (de facto or de jour) is someone who can't make it as a writer".

That has been a standard put down for ages, but there have been enough people like the famous theatre critic George Bernard Shaw who went out and proved that it didn't apply to him to show that it ain't necessarily so. And there's the story of the Greek philosopher, Thales if I recall correctly, who got so fed up with being asked "if you're so clever, why aren't you rich?" that he cornered the olive oil market just so he could get back to philosophy.

Yours sincerely,


Oh I more or less agree. It is certainly not a universal truth. But there are some very silly critics out there.


Organlegging - makes oil wars look nice

"Independent Beta news agency carried excerpts from Del Ponte's book, 'Hunt, Me and War Criminals', in which she says that in the course of her investigations she learned that some 300 Serbs were abducted and killed for organ trafficking in 1999. The abductions were allegedly the work of Kosovo Albanians.....

her team of investigators had been informed that some 300 Serbs were killed for organ trafficking after being transferred from Kosovo to the small town Burrel, 91 kilometres north of Albanian capital Tirana.

A room in a 'yellow house' outside the town was used as the operation theatre. Organs were extracted from young people there, taken to Tirana airport, and trafficked abroad. Those people were later killed and secretly buried, according to information she cites.

Del Ponte says her team found the house in Burrel in 2003, following leads by 'reliable journalists' and by the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) administration.

But despite finding traces of blood in the house which had been re-painted white in the meantime, as well as remains of old, used medical material (gauze, a used syringe, two plastic infusion bags hardened in mud, empty drug bottles, among them of drugs used for muscle relaxation), 'we decided the evidence was not enough. Without bodies or firm evidence that would link any suspects with the crimes, all the possibilities for further investigation for the tribunal's prosecution were closed,' Del Ponte wrote."


They put Milosevic on "trial" for 4 1/2 years & then "somebody" poisoned him with Rifampicine, with far less actual evidence than they clearly have here.

Neil Craig



Still love it?

Joseph L. Anderson

As I have said in the column, I like everything about it except as a phone: the rf is not as good as on other phones, and it drops calls sometimes. As long as there is signal strength it's great. And it really is a pocket computer.

All told, yes.


Subject: A fascinating list

Lots more than Marion Zimmer Bradley & Mary Stewart... Hundreds of modern Arthurian novels!!!


Julie Woodman


Subject: CafePress 


I took a look at that site -- went from thinking gee, maybe I could use this for marketing some of my photography (in "other than print" media) but quickly got the impression that the prices are *really* high -- as if they started with "high-end retail" pricing, called it "wholesale" and then tacked an even higher price on it and called *that* "retail."

Out of curiosity, I looked at their P-O-D book printing, yikes! A 200 page "Grocery Store Paperback" would cost $13.00 "wholesale"! I can't really see that flying off the grocery store racks at that price -- but it wouldn't *be* at that price, unless the author was aiming at a 0% markup, because that would be his "wholesale" price. (Contrast that with real-world "bookseller discount" and it suddenly seems a whole lot less attractive.)

If that pricing is typical of print-on-demand publishing for books, then I can't really see "print on demand" being anything other than a vehicle for the most dedicated "MUST see my name in print!" types -- in other words, the usual vanity press target client base.

As to the novelty products, the pricing does seem kinda steep to me. I have a hard time seeing how it'd be possible to generate any serious revenue. (I did not do an exhaustive search of all of their offerings, so maybe there are some items that have a low net cost, with room for a reasonable markup?)

Yes, I see they do tout "Some of our shopkeepers" who "earn over $100,000 a year." I also hear that some Amway distributors make millions -- but the *average* is far less, in some cases into the red. (At one point the Wisconsin Attorney General reported that the average distributor *lost* $918 a year.) I'm not interested in being told about the outliers. I'd want to know about the *typical* merchants.

I'd think that if you see value in having that sort of novelty product line *apart* from any direct revenue generated *by* the products themselves, then it might be worthwhile for you, but I'd be real leery of going into it expecting to make significant money via the sales themselves. Maybe I'm all wet, and eleventy nine sellers will arise as one, waving deep black balance sheets in my face. If so, more power to 'em. I'm just saying how it looks to me, having looked at the price structure -- and, having, in an earlier life, having "been in retail" (owned a camera store).


I have been looking at Cafe Press and it's pretty clear I need to make a deal with them. I need to find a designer who will design some products for a reasonable fee as work for hire: I own the designs.

I can see a cup with the Caesar image

Then there are Chaos Manor cups; the Iron Law of Bureaucracy; even something derived from the axes in my dissertation on political theory. A number of readers have suggested some. The notion would be to make them available at the site cost plus maybe buck or so for me to cover the annual fees. I have no idea how many people would be interested in Chaos Manor coffee cups and t shirts.

I cannot think this is a way to get rich.


Subject: Burning food - ungood

Jerry: Perhaps they do eventually catch wise? World cooling on biofuel solution to climate change


Some have always known it.


Why IT Hates the iPhone Corporate information-technology departments say the phone poses security risks. But they seem powerless to stop employees from using it. By BEN WORTHEN March 31, 2008;

In less than a year, the iPhone has won the hearts of users, who speak of the combination cellphone, Internet device and music player with reverence.

Indeed, the iPhone, which maker Apple Inc. says has captured 28% of the U.S. smart-phone market, seems to be loved by everyone -- everyone, that is, except those who work in corporate information-technology departments.

Designed with the consumer in mind, the iPhone is less secure than business-oriented smart phones such as those from Nokia Corp. or Research In Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry, according to IT professionals. But that isn't stopping people from using the device for work-related tasks such as checking email, managing sales contacts and getting information about prospective clients. In fact, market researcher Nielsen Co. estimates that one-quarter of iPhone owners over the age of 18 pass their phone bills on to their employer, suggesting significant use of the device for business.

Many IT groups have banned the iPhone from their workplaces, complaining that there is no way to force employees to protect their iPhones with passwords and that they can't erase sensitive corporate data from remote locations if the device is stolen or lost. Additionally, they say the iPhone doesn't support the software many businesses use and that it only works on one cellular carrier's network.

But keeping the iPhone out of the office may be a losing battle. As a result, some technology experts say the iPhone could usher in a change in the way businesses adopt new technologies.

Shifting Landscape

Whereas software vendors and other tech suppliers traditionally pitched their products to high-ranking executives and IT managers, some are now paying closer attention to the technologies workers actually use. Some vendors say that if employees make clear that they are going to embrace a particular device -- with or without their IT department's approval -- then they will develop compatible products for it. Otherwise, they risk losing business to rivals.

"It's clear to us that power is shifting to the users" and away from IT departments, says Mike de la Cruz, a vice president at business-software maker SAP AG. "So we've changed our strategy to focus on the users."

SAP, of Germany, says it is developing a version of its customer-management software for the iPhone that will let salespeople access information about leads and customers, partly because its own salespeople prefer the iPhone. International Business Machines Corp. of Armonk, N.Y., is developing a version of its Lotus email and collaboration software for iPhone users, and salesforce.com Inc., of San Francisco, and Sun Microsystems Inc., of Santa Clara, Calif., are among other companies tailoring software for Apple's device.

Some vendors are designing applications aimed at making the iPhone more business-friendly. Sybase Inc., for example, released an iPhone version of its software for forwarding corporate email and other data to mobile devices. Sybase's software is installed and managed centrally, so it gives IT departments some measure of control over what end users are doing. Overwhelming demand from managers and executives at customer companies led Sybase to create the iPhone-tailored software, according to Senthil Krishnapillai, a director of project management at the Dublin, Calif., company.

Apple and its iPhone partner, AT&T Inc., are trying to make the iPhone more business-friendly, too. In January, AT&T began to allow iPhone purchases by corporate-account holders. Previously, the telephone company would bill iPhone charges only to individuals, and they would have to seek reimbursement from their companies. "We saw business customers clamoring for the iPhone" and wanted to make it easier for them to use the device, says an AT&T spokesperson.

Apple, of Cupertino, Calif., said earlier this month that it plans to release new iPhone software in June that will allow IT departments to integrate the device with Microsoft Corp.'s email, calendar and contact-management software. The new software also will allow iPhones to connect to a corporate network in a secure fashion and give IT staffs the ability to erase data on a lost or stolen iPhone from a remote location.

Simon Yates, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc., says these moves address the biggest concerns that IT departments have about the iPhone. Another research company, Gartner Inc., said the announced changes would make the iPhone appropriate for business use.

Harboring Doubts

Despite the steps to make the iPhone more business-friendly, some chief information officers continue to harbor doubts. David O'Berry, who heads IT for the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, says his organization uses email software from Novell Inc., not Microsoft, so Apple's changes won't help him. In addition, even though Apple intends to set up a private section of its new App Store -- the service through which people download applications for their iPhones -- for business, Mr. O'Berry and other chief information officers don't like the fact that they would have to go through Apple to distribute in-house software to employees. That means giving Apple access to their computer code, which some are reluctant to do.

Most people who use their iPhones for work don't think about these technical challenges. What they see is a device capable of connecting to wireless Internet networks, with a full-fledged Web browser and a large screen that gives them access to the same Internet pages they can get on their personal computers and gives them the ability to play music and movies.

Michael King, a Gartner analyst, says that while other phones have browsers with similar features, their smaller screen sizes give them limited utility. He expects bigger screens to become more commonplace on smart phones soon.

When Mark Russell, vice president of sales and marketing at U-Line Corp., had to replace a damaged Nokia smart phone, he bought an iPhone. The phone's "cool" factor was its main appeal, but he found that its Web browser allowed him to more easily locate distributors and get directions to meetings. He says that because he is an executive, his Milwaukee company agreed to support the device, using software from Visto Corp. that allows him to access email on the iPhone. [Image]

Productivity Boon?

Dale Frantz, chief information officer at Auto Warehousing Co., a Tacoma, Wash., company that inspects vehicles for auto makers, has been using an iPhone since the first week it was available. He is convinced that the iPhone's Web browser can boost productivity.

Auto Warehousing's systems -- everything from email to the internal software used to inspect autos -- can be accessed by any Internet-connected device with a Web browser, which typically meant a desktop or laptop computer.

But in February, while waiting for a flight in the Detroit airport, Mr. Frantz used his iPhone to check the system Auto Warehousing uses to track vehicle inspections. He found that several cars in the same plant all had scratches. He called the auto plant, where it turned out a worker on the assembly line was scratching the cars with his belt. Mr. Frantz says he wouldn't have been able to catch and resolve the problem so quickly had he been using a different phone.

Still, Mr. Frantz isn't convinced that the changes Apple announced this month to help businesspeople will have a big impact on his company, because Auto Warehousing uses Web-based software. He also has concerns about the plan requiring businesses to distribute software through the App Store.

Other technology executives aren't convinced, either. Smart phones can contain a lot of valuable and confidential corporate information, and they can be so easily lost or stolen. BlackBerrys and other mobile devices designed for the corporate market have built-in software that enables the IT department to require employees to encrypt or password-protect the devices.

None of that may matter, however. As Beth Cannon, the San Francisco-based chief security officer for Thomas Weisel Partners Group, says: Even after she explains to people why her IT department can't allow them to use the device, they "still want to use their iPhone."

--Mr. Worthen, a staff reporter in The Wall Street Journal's San Francisco bureau, writes the Journal's Business Technology blog at WSJ.com/biztech.

Write to Ben Worthen at ben.worthen@wsj.com


Great article on global warming from National Review:


This is why conservatives need to get in front on the issue of global warming. The sort of analysis presented above is what they're good at. Let the liberals be the champions of wacky bad science; liberals historically excel at bad science (it is a recent phenomenon that conservatives are hogging all of it for themselves).

Conservatives should be hardheaded enough to realize that global warming has a huge amount of evidence behind it, eat crow for being wrong on the issue for two decades, and come back with good, scientific, smart solutions that won't come from the other side of the aisle.

Joel Eidsath

I have yet to see the huge amount of evidence behind human initiated global warming. Could you supply some? I have seen computer models, but I have seen little data. Indeed, I am not sure there is any definitive definition of what operations one undertakes to determine the temperature of the Earth. Where do you take the temperatures? How many on water? How many on land? At what altitudes? Radiant environment? Air, ground, water: what weights to you give them?

When you can operationally define the Earth's temperature we can begin to record that temperature and observe trends. I have yet to see that happen.



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This week:


read book now


Saturday, April 5, 2008

A good Post article on Borders and book stores

"But I did get an e-mail from somebody who said that she thought it was rather snide, that after all Borders did put books in people's hands."

content/article/2008/04/04/AR2008040403540_pf.html >

Roland Dobbins

Thanks for finding that.


Subject: Harper Collins opens door to lower cost publishing

Harper Collins planning to create a new imprint with very few advances, and which won't accept remainders.


John Bartley


"It smelled good. They told me that's wrong."


-- Roland Dobbins

I have mixed emotions here. Education officials are generally cretins to begin with, but perhaps they ought to be allowed some judgment? The problem is that the courts took control of school finance away from local school boards, and no one is now in charge; and the Iron Law of Bureaucracy rules in just about every school in the land. The cretins rule: is it better they have some discretion or should it all be set in concrete through rules, rules, rules?

Once Iron Law solidification sets in there is no cure. Well, historically, the only cure has been blood.


Great White Father to cut off Internet access for Navajos?

More consequences of the shameful ghettoization of the American Indian by the US government; note that Ronald Reagan was roundly pilloried for pointing this out 25 years or so ago:


-- Roland Dobbins





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CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


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Sunday,  April 6 2008     

Off for Bakersfield. See View.





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