picture of me

Chaos Manor Home Page> Mail Home Page  > View Home Page > Current View > Chaos Manor Reviews Home Page


Mail 592 October 12 - 18, 2009







BOOK Reviews

Chaos Manor Reviews

read book now

emailblimp.gif (23130 bytes)mailto:jerryp@jerrypournelle.com

CLICK ON THE BLIMP TO SEND MAIL TO ME. Mail sent to me may be published.

LAST WEEK                             NEXT WEEK


This page looks better if you set the default text to Georgia.

Atom FEED from Chaos Manor

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun

Highlights this week:


  If you send mail, it may be published. See below. For boiler plate, instructions, and how to pay for this place, see below.

line6.gif (917 bytes)

This week:


read book now


Monday  October 12, 2009

There was an interesting discussion of the principle of surprise in yesterday's mail.

BBC says Earth cooling for last decade

Dr. Pournelle,

Just in case you missed this:


The BBC admits that the globe has been cooling for the last decade, that the models do not predict this, and that the debate is "far from over"!

I guess Al Gore is wrong. I'm sure he'll immediately return his Nobel Peace Prize.

Sincerely, John Bresnahan

That's OK. It's climate change now. Keep paying your offset money and carbon taxes. Feel good, and all will be well.

Just don't do any actual science.


'For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures.'


- Roland Dobbins


Harry Erwin's Letter from England

I have the impression Obama was stunned by the award of the Nobel Peace Prize. The award has always been political, and he fits into the historical pattern. Irrespective of his politics, he is *personally* a challenge to how things are run in much of the world, so I suspect the award is really to the American People.

  Labour's biggest lost opportunity is its failure to facilitate social mobility. <http://tinyurl.com/yhbajtp> <http://tinyurl.com/yhqh3d3> <http://tinyurl.com/ydchpft  > <http://tinyurl.com/y8hmems>

 Simon Tilford commentary in the NY Times on UK economic problems <http://tinyurl.com/ybhaxdc  >.

 You've seen me whinging about the UK Governments lack of interest in research. Physicists in the UK find their long-term research grants have been reduced to one year. <http://tinyurl.com/yz8s5b9>

 Home schooling in the UK: <http://tinyurl.com/yg3t56k>

 Delays in student grants <http://tinyurl.com/yz5ypvv>

 Territorial Army told to stop training to save money <http://tinyurl.com/yhl5mmo  > <http://tinyurl.com/yg6w8b6>

 The Royal Mail strike is on: <http://tinyurl.com/yzzfun7>. Many companies that use parcel post for delivery have cancelled their contracts with the Royal Mail. Something about not being able to manage its union relations effectively...


Harry Erwin, PhD

"If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." (Catherine Aird)



"I don't care that you guys miss the librarian, and she was nice, and she helped you find books."

If this guy ever ran for president, he'd have my vote:


-- Roland Dobbins

And see below


What is an intellectual

“Paul Johnson - long since recovered Marxist - has an interesting, and I think valid, definition of what is an intellectual. It's someone who is convinced that the power of their thought and word is sufficient to bring about great change in the world, presumably for the better. (Though the implicit definition of "better" is usually narcissistic in the extreme: "Better because it would make me happy.") He's got a book on the subject, entitled - perhaps unimaginatively - The Intellectuals, IIRC. He takes a dozen or so prominent ones and analyzes them for common features. Among the common features he finds are arrogance, narcissism, a definition of friendship limited to "people who will give me money and not expect me to repay it," use and abuse of the opposite sex, unreliability, selfishness, lack of rigor in analysis...to mention a few.”

From Baens Bar – Tom Kratman

I reviewed and recommended Johnson's book years ago; it's one of the books that all educated people ohght to have read.


A Third of Dinosaur Species Never Existed?


- Roland Dobbins


Bussard Fusion

One hopes that you are following the "Polywell" story. We may yet have fusion-powered spacecraft.



Bulfinch's Age Of Fable

Complete, Illustrated


It's, well, fabulous!



"I am what Adorno or Marcuse would have been if they had been bourgeois conservatives, applying their critical method to leftist targets."


- Roland Dobbins






At first glance: they're talking about a 3100s ISP, and 400N of thrust with a 20MW power plant.

The Hyperion reactor weights 20t for a 27MW electrical output, so we'd get about 500N of thrust out of it.

Going to Mars in 39 days under constant accel (assuming a 100,000,000 km trip) requires 0.002g of accel with a total dv=~62,000mps, so we're looking at dv=~2xVe, or a total mass ratio of roughly 10.

It looks like the P/W ratio of the system needs to be improved by roughly a factor of 20, which may not be an impossible feat considering all those are prototypes and you can probably save a lot of shielding on a spaceship.

I'm not up to doing the actual trajectory calculation, but maybe some other reader could?

In any case the real problem with ion/plasma thrusters is that the power requirements for a given level of thrust is a square function of the isp.

Since you need a minimum level of thrust to get a spaceship going at useful accelerations, the real limiting factor for isp is the power density of the power plant.

Jean-Louis Beaufils, Paris


Subject: History of the Apple Tablet

This is interesting:


Tracy Walters, CISSP



Ride along on a Lockheed U-2 and check out the amazing view cruising at 70,000ft as the sky above turns black:


It's amazing what happens when one of our armed services wants a little publicity. I especially liked that there is routinely a chase car that follows a U-2 when it takes off or lands.





 read book now




This week:


read book now


Tuesday,  October 13, 2009

Friday the 13th falls on Tuesday this month

“Our working hypothesis is that the spectrum and scale of the observed disturbances are best explained as the effect of a shock wave generated by the impact of an extraterrestrial object.”


-- Roland Dobbins

Hot Fudge Sundae...


Bachevich: 'In this sense, Afghanistan is a classic proxy war, with the main protagonists here in the United States.'


-- Roland Dobbins


Nobel Peace prize




Planning for surprise in battle 

Dr. Pournelle,

The discussion of surprise as a factor in military affairs reminded me of a little known example of the dangers of attempting to plan a strategic surprise.

In the mid 1930's the Imperial Japanese Navy faced a strategic problem. They had secretly abandoned the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty, which had limited their tonnage of major warships to three-fifths that of the United States or Britain., However, they well knew that Japanese shipyards could not match the shipbuilding capacity of Britain or the USA

Since they were certain, thanks to the open and democratic nature of their opponents, that they would adhere to the limits of the Washington treaty, which allowed battleships to mass no more than 35K tons, they decided to build a relatively small class of five super-battleships. Massing over 70K tons, able on such a gargantuan hull to carry naval artillery of unprecedented range and hitting power, they would overawe the Americans, be able to each handle two or three American or British "treaty" battleships, and carry sufficient armor and anti-aircraft guns to be imnpervious to aerial bombardment attempts.

They were intended to prevent war through deterrence, as well as assure victory should deterrence fail.

The research, planning and construction of the class, named Yamato after the first vessel of the class laid down in 1937, was undertaken with concomitant ultra-secrecy, to ensure the maximum strategic surprise for the enemy onfronted with these behemoths. The hope was that the American and British admirals, overawed by such engines of destruction, would warn their political masters against pressuring Japan overmuch as it expanded into China and southeast Asia.

The Japanese pulled it off. The first two vessels of the class, Yamato and Musashi, served right through the heart of the war. The secrecy worked so well, so perfectly, that even AFTER the war had ended, with both vessels sitting on the bottom of the ocean, the best photographs of the vessels American intelligence had were those taken by the planes that sank them. The best American naval intelligence estimates of their size were off by ten thousand tons or more. The Japanese completely surprisedthe Allies,

So much so that no Allied Admiral ever had the chance to be overawed by them, because they never knew much about them. Since the decision by Japan to go to war was taken just as the first of the" Super's" was commissioned, they were useless as a deterrent force. The Japanese shuttled the first two (Yamato being the first, sister ship Musashi coming along in 1943) about the Pacific in great secrecy, searching for the chance to spring their grand surprise on the unsuspecting Allies, to score a stunning coup.

Never happened. The Musashi was sunk in one such vain attempt, off the Philippines in late 1944. The Yamato met her end gallantly off Southern Japan after being sent on a literal Kamikaze mission against the American fleet besieging the Japanese island of Okinawa.

In each case, the vessels were sunk by carrier aircraft. The third build of the Yamato Class, Shinano, midway through construction had been converted to a super-sized aircraft carrier, commissioned in late 1944, wasduly sunk on her maiden voyage by an American submarine, never launching an aircraft in anger.

It's been estimated that if the Japanese had eschewed this attempt at strategic surprise, that the resources used to build and operate the Yamato class (including the two unfinished vessels) would have sufficed to build and maintain six or more aircraft carriers, and their air groups, of the formidable Akagi and Soryu types. With such an augmentation of forces in the first year or two of the Pacific war, the Japanese would have had the strategic reach to take, rather than merely raid, Hawaii and the northern Aleutian islands, threaten the Panama Canal and harry the West Coast of North America,. In a word, they would have given the United States Navy fits.

It's an object lesson in the perils of over planning and outhinking ones own best interests.

Commanders beware!


I am not sure I ever heard that story before. Thanks. Prior to Coral Sea, most naval strategists thought the BB the most important unit in the navy. Prince of Wales and Repulse should have shaken that faith, but it was Coral Sea and then Midway that really demonstrated the change in naval warfare.


We've run the first one before, but for those who never saw it:

Dr Pournelle

A creative use for sheep:


What you wish your school's telephone answering service recording really said: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

Live long and prosper h lynn keith




---- Roland Dobbins


RE: Is the AK47 a Copy of the MP44?

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

As I was the one who sent the email stating that the AK-47 was a copy, I hope to clarify my statement.

Kalashnikov didn’t conceive of the design himself, no matter how upset he got when asked. It wasn’t until he had a MP-44 in his hands that he realized what a great concept it was. Is it a “carbon” copy? No, it’s a typically Soviet copy. He cheapened some aspects and even improved on a few. The AK-47 is a lot “looser” than the MP-44 and could handle a lot more abuse. Bury it in sand or mud and it will still chamber a round. It was capable of being operated with gloves, important to the Soviets given their geography. On the other hand, the MP-44 was far more accurate, while the AK-47 is more a “pray and spray” weapon.

What many people don’t know is that the AK-47 is actually based on three different weapons: the trigger and raceway from the M1 Garand, the safety mechanism of the Remington Model 8 and the gas system and layout of the MP 44.

With those points being stated, it’s not a direct copy, but is extremely similar, and the MP-44’s designer was working with Kalashnikov at the time. I’ll go so far as to say that the similarities far outstrip the differences. There are enough similarities to argue that the AK-47 remains a copy, and more charitable people than I would argue that the MP-44 was at the very least an inspiration. As Kalashnikov stated when asked about the design of the AK-47 (emphasis mine):

"A lot of [Soviet Army soldiers] ask me how one can become a constructor, and how new weaponry is designed. These are very difficult questions. Each designer seems to have his own paths, his own successes and failures. But one thing is clear: before attempting to create something new, it is vital to have a good appreciation of everything that already exists in this field. I myself have had many experiences confirming this to be so."

Regardless of whether the AK-47 was a copy of, or was merely inspired by, the MP-43, it is rather poetic justice that they didn’t bother to secure the copyright of the design!

Stay well!

Bill Grigg


'At the 98% confidence level, Rachel finds that general relativity is inconsistent with the data.'


-- Roland Dobbins

But is general relativity immune to data by now?


'This simple rule separates the government from the profit-making classes and the criminal classes. Break it at your peril.'


'Could policing be skewed by forces winning bounties for hauling in asset-laden drug dealers but not for catching not-for-profit wife- beaters?'


---- Roland Dobbins


“The result of those studies is that more school districts have removed discretion in applying the disciplinary policies to avoid criticism of being biased.”


-- Roland Dobbins

Whom the gods would destroy...


Re: Oak Brook Library

I'm not so sure that Roland Dobbins has read the article he linked. Constantine "Connie" Xinos sounds like the kind of guy who makes you ponder the truth of the statement that an armed society is a polite society.

-- Mike T. Powers

I like librarians, myself...






This week:


read book now


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The average federal worker makes $75,419 a year, while the average in the private sector is $39,751.

I’m sorry. This is so blatantly, horribly misleading or false that I have to ring in on this one. I am going to attach the current pay scale for Federal workers and I can tell you that the percentage of employees who hit the upper levels is incredibly small. Whoever came up with this figure needs to be drug in front of the rest of the media and exposed for the absolute liars or sensationalists that they are.

Sadly, a huge amount of people will look at data like this and not understand the difference between average and median data, but the data referred to in this has to be skewed beyond all recognition.

I worked for the federal gov’t for approx 10 years and have been out for around that long but I did get to the GS-13 level and I can tell you that this was a very high pay level and not easy to achieve.


As I have now noted where this was posted, the number sounds high even if you assume full employment until retirement and factor in the retirement benefits plus all other benefits. When I was offered GS 13 to be a systems analyst for the Army Aviation program back in 1972 the annual salary was pretty good, but no more than I had been making in aerospace. (I turned down the job with regrets because I had been given the post of science correspondent for Twin Circle, a National Catholic Press publication, and it paid enough that I could afford to try to become a full time writer; that's another story and somewhat more complex than it sounds. Had I taken it of course I would be long retired by now, presumably at least a level above what I entered as.

My actual point was that given the uncertainties of the market, even if salaries were equal in federal service and private sector, as a career choice taking the government option is a pretty good deal, particularly for the kind of people who read this.

Also, do not number me among the anarchists. I do not think all government activity is useless. I do think that civil service is subject to the Iron Law and this will be the case with even the best of the government agencies: look at what happened to NASA, from Apollo to the present. Bureaucracies are necessary, and some are vital. Possony and I were working on The Strategy of Progress when he died, and one of our essays was on the need for bureaucracies such as Animal Control and Sanitation as well as the more glamorous first responders. There are some jobs that must be done by government, and government has few weapons beyond bureaucracy.

Most people who work for government are certain that what they do is helpful. Few, I suspect, think that what all of their colleagues do is quite so, or that their department is particularly efficient at the task. Sometimes that doesn't matter: operating grocery stores and Post Exchanges in Europe during the Cold War comes to mind. It wasn't done very efficiently but that wasn't the point. The point was that the military would have to do those jobs in time of war or greatly increased tensions, and it was better if they had already learned how to do it before the shooting started.

At some point I ought to do an essay on necessary government functions and control of bureaucracy; I still have notes from The Strategy of Progress project that was scrapped when Possony had his stroke and was incapacitated. I couldn't finish it alone without devoting full time to it, and it wasn't going to pay enough to make a living. I regret that, and I really ought to scout up the notes. We were working on this at the dawn of the computer revolution; computers have changed things since then.

In any event, I do not have contempt for those who chose to work for government. I am concerned about the development of these institutions as the Iron Law inevitably transforms them, but I wasn't speaking ironically when I noted that one ought to consider such work as a career choice. There are times when I regret that I didn't go to St. Louis to work with the Army's development of air resources. Part of my job would have been to help the Army vs. the Air Force in mission definitions. This is technical work demonstrating effectiveness from combat mission results -- but the result would have been papers and policies, which would affect real lives and real battlefield outcomes.


A long time subscriber notes:

Apples and Oranges and the Iron Law 

Dear Jerry,

I am one of those monstrous government employees. Last year my tax return shows I made 43K, With 20+ years I don't feel bad that I made 4K more than an average that includes fast food workers still in school. These surveys really don't look at the "average" civil servant. I work in support of a constitutionally mandated purpose. I have been every bit as dedicated as one could wish.

I will grant you that just looking in and around the beltway will give a skewed view of just about anything, but the "average" worker around here is pretty impressive.

Contracting out services more complicated than janitorial work, on the assumption that private contractors would be cheaper and more effective hasn't worked out that way. What it has done is move the naturally lower paid jobs completely off government books. Janitors, office support, most of the blue collar and support level white collar jobs are just not in the mix any longer. There are far more professionals in our mix.

Now, looking at a proliferation of activities that maybe ought not be done by government at all would cut the overall cost. But most of us where I work, at least, have some element of pride in what we do that keeps us here. We also value that we, at least until today, could depend on having health benefits and some stability. We are often offered MORE money to go private and many do. I turned down several private offers because of health bennies. Later because I am under the old pension plan and have too much invested to start over at my age. (We'll see what happens if enough survives until retirement)

I am grinding out my heart until I reach retirement age as Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC) and "reinventing" government required more college degrees and forced med away from the jobs I was "Grandfathered" so as not to need that degree. I won't say that some of those bases shouldn't have been closed because many needed closing. But BRAC changed the mix too.

There are most certainly deadwood employees in government. Don't kid yourself, they exist in the private sector, too. Just look at banking and Wall Street even before they became deeply mired in government influence. Ever work for a family held business? I have, Uncle so and so sits in his office all day smoking because no one will fire family.

The issues in Civil Service lie with the "leadership." They lie with inventing new agencies with highly paid top dogs and lowly paid support personnel.

Just try and find and apples to apples comparison. This has been a point of discussion in sites frequented by feds for years.

Anyway, thanks for letting me rant. I have a danged virus that is keeping me down in spite of all attempts otherwise. This has been my high point today.

Take care.

Respectfully, Rose

I don't disagree, but when Uncle Joe fouls up or more likely fouls off, it doesn't harm the taxpayers; the problem is the eternity of the bureaus, and the inability of anyone to hold them responsible to any standards whatever. I don't begrudge someone leaning on the shovel once in a while, but I do contend that some of that laxity ought to be factored into the pay scales. But note that I am not fundamentally hostile to the workers as I am to the institutions which simply have no mechanisms for self-cleaning. I doubt that anyone would disagree with that statement.

I note just how hard it is to fire a teacher, as an extreme example; but I also note the statistics on discharges from government service for incompetence. I note that in California officials of the Water Districts end up negotiating with the unions on salaries -- including their own salaries. I note that when civil service was instituted, the Hatch Act really did try to separate the jobs from politics, and did not allow unionization, nor allow participation in politics. The notion of a public employee union holding demonstrations for higher salaries seems bizarre -- but then I grew up in the days when civil service people were "Hatched".

As to the "leadership" creating new agencies with high salaries for the higher levels, just what did you expect? I refer you to the Iron Law... It really does apply to nearly every bureaucracy.

And see below


The Average Federal Worker's Salary

Interesting statistic you cited regarding the average Federal worker making twice as much as the average private sector worker.


That is a good example of a statistic being misleading. In the Washington, D.C. area, Federal workers earn less than their private sector counterparts. That is one reason why so many Federal workers leave government. One example - me - is that I now earn more in the private sector as I did as a Federal employee.

The salary statistic comes from the "average." Federal workers don't earn minimum wage and less at Wal-Mart, McDonald's, and Bill's Dollar Store, so the average is higher.

The real question to ask is, "why are Federal workers so poorly managed giving rise to such awful productivity?"

Another good question about poor management in Federal offices, "why is most of the Federal government still using MS Office 2003?" We could also ask, "Why is most of the Federal government still using Internet Explorer 6?"

-- Dwayne Phillips - retired Federal employee

I will agree that averages are misleading. As I said, the last civil service position I was offered had pay comparable to what I had earned in industry (but with a bit more job security, of course). Otherwise see the remarks above.


Protecting consumers from money lenders


Regarding protecting consumers from money lenders my current experience is that if anything we could use a little predatory lending right now. We are trying to purchase a used house. [details deleted]. Our credit is almost perfect. The mortgage is 84% of the mortgage company's appraised value. The location did not experience a material bubble and house prices have been steady. 2 years ago the companies would have been falling over themselves to loan three times the amount we are asking for.

We were originally scheduled to close at the end of September and things are still dragging along.

Every little stage now has to be double checked and then approved by a committee.

If anything the current status is that lenders have now gone overboard in being overly cautious from my experience. I don't blame them for this. But to claim that we now need government oversight those people really have their heads in the sand.


Apartment tenants flying American flags facing eviction

Dr. Pournelle,

This is nearly as unbelievable as the US Post Office that flew the Mexican flag over the US flag. At this apartment complex, diversity is the excuse given for the ban on displaying any flag, including the American flag.


From the article:

“Jim Clausen flies the American flag from the back of his motorcycle…

But to Oaks Apartment management, Clausen said, the American flag symbolizes problems.

He was told to remove the red, white and blue from both of his rides, or face eviction.


“Residents we talked to who had been approached to take down their flags all told us the same thing: that management told them the flags could be offensive because they live in a diverse community.”


This is but the beginning. You will find more of this as time goes on.


Benito Mussolini and MI5

Guess who gave Mussolini his start... <http://tinyurl.com/yjpwy8z

-- Harry Erwin

Fascinating. I had heard stories but had not known. Mussolini was very much in favor of the Great War of course. And had he chosen the right side in WW II he would have had a seat in the Security Council...


Suspended 6 year old 


Cub Scout utensil gets boy, 6, school suspension by Mike Celizic


First-grader brought it to eat his lunch with; now he’s facing reform school

Dressed in a button-down shirt and tie and speaking calmly and articulately, first-grader Zachary Christie hardly looks or acts like the sort of kid who should be spending 45 days in reform school. But, thanks to a zero-tolerance policy, that’s where Zachary’s Delaware school system wants him to go after he made the mistake of taking his favorite camping utensil to school.

A Swiss Army-type combination of fork, spoon, bottle opener and knife, the tool has been Zachary’s favorite ever since he got it to take on Cub Scout camping expeditions. “He eats dinner with it, breakfast and everything else, so it never occurred to him that this would have been something wrong to do,” the 6-year-old’s mother, Debbie Christie, told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Tuesday from Newark, Del.


And what has he learned from everything that’s happened to him?

“To always ask before taking something new into school,” he said.


I suppose that is what every subject is supposed to learn. But do we have to teach it at 6 years of age?

Braxton Cook


Good Lord in Heaven...

It’s a Fork, It’s a Spoon, It’s a ... Weapon?


Where have all the adults gone?

- Paul

He needs six months of reform school to make certain he learns the real lessons of survival in life. It will do him good. And when that doesn't work, try prison. That will fix the little terrorist.

The adults have all gone to Washington to help rule this land of hope and glory.







 read book now




CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, October 15, 2009

discharges from government service for incompetence


I’m a GS-14 supervisor with 30 years of service (Army/Civil Service). I “fired” a government employee (GS-13) for incompetence. I do not know if I would ever try to do it again. The employee had been “put on a shelf” by my two predecessors. I decided to do the right thing and improve his work or get rid of him. It literally took over three years. The last two years, I had to sit down with him at the start of every day and give him a specific list of things to do that day. After we reviewed the list, we both had to sign it. At the end of the day, we had to sit down and review what he had done, where he succeeded and where he needed to improve. If he needed to improve anything, I had to prepare a detailed written counseling statement. He then had duty time the next day, to prepare a written rebuttal. That would take him several hours. Then I had to prepare a written consideration of his rebuttal. When he was finally removed from Federal Service, I looked back at what my office could have accomplished had I not spent so much time with him. The missed opportunities were overwhelming. I can’t honestly say that I did the right thing. Perhaps, leaving him on a shelve would have been better.




Afghanistan et al.


If I were an Afghan the factors that influenced me would first and foremost be the record of the US in dumping her supporters. No doubt Osama has accurately pointed out the fate of the Marsh Arabs in Iraq and before them the fate of the US supporters in Viet Nam. If that were not enough I would reflect that the Taliban were ubiquitous and that Nato had one soldier for each sixteen square kilometers.. If this were not enough my mind would be made up by the apparent desire of the USA to have me ruled by the bloodthirsty tyrants in Kabul, for that it how my tribe has seen them for a millenium.

A hundred years might do it or might not do it. I personally think the latter is more likely.

What sane Afghan will sincerely support the US except in pursuit of advantage over the tribe in the next valley?

John Edwards


Re: school districts have removed discretion

If an administrator, principal, superintendent or various assistants, deputies, etc., cannot use discretion, that person should be paid no more than a teacher.

John Abshier


School board eases weapons policy - UPI.com


Sometimes common sense does prevail.


Francis Hamit



F&SF'S $2010 in 2010 Contest Winner Announced 

He predicted the world wide web and hand held computers by 2010. in 1980.

I think he must have been reading "A Step Farther Out". Too bad you never entered the ocntest.


"The winner of the /Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction's/ <http://www.sfsite.com/fsf/>  "Win $2010 in the year 2010" contest is Allen MacNeill, for his prediction that handheld computers would exist by 2010. In 1980, under then editor Ed Ferman, /Fantasy & Science Fiction/ held a 30th anniversary contest, asking readers to choose the science fiction concept most likely to be realized by the year 2010. The approximately 2,700 entries were kept securely and, as promised, were recently opened to determine the winner (a few months ahead of schedule)."


Ah well. I'd already done that in 2020 Visions and my Galaxy columns well before 1980, but I didn't enter the contest. Good luck to him.


Remember the Plus Development Hardcard, and the Santa Clara Systems BATRAM?


--- Roland Dobbins




The British NHS seems to work tolerably well. There have been cases where the Iron Law has triumphed. Notably in the appointment of strange creatures called Directors of Patient Empowerment. The utility of these bureaucrats being recently demonstrated in the scandalous case of a nurse who exhausted official channels of protest and had the BBC make a programme showing elderly patients lying in their own ordure. Her professional body withdrew her license. The nurse had violated the patient's human rights.

Defensive medicine is dangerous, especially for the patient. Perhaps the USA should adopt the New Zealand no blame principle in compensating malpractise victims. If nothing else it would release large numbers of lawyers for productive activities.

John Edwards


Dr. Pournelle:

Your comments today about what is wrong with today's health care system brought to mind a recent surgery I had. Three years ago I needed an emergency appendectomy. I went to the emergency room at 3PM one afternoon, had a battery of blood tests, a CAT scan, and a physical exam. All covered under my $75 emergency room co-pay. It was determined I needed surgery. By 11PM I'm on a table wearing little more than a towel, counting down from 100 as iodine is swabbed on my abdomen. By 1AM I am a woozy sole occupant of a semi-private room sipping water and ice chips. I'm given two shots of morphine during the evening (both times woken up for the shots). By 6AM I'm out of bed being told to walk around. After walking slowly up and down the same corridor, burping and drinking coffee I get a meal; the standard breakfast of cream of wheat, an English Muffin half, and scrambled fake eggs. By 11AM I am being wheeled out the front door as a discharged patient.

I received a number of bills in the following days. The surgeon billed me for $2000, the anesthesiologist billed me for $1000, and the hospital billed me for $16000. Including the emergency room visit I was there less than 24 hours. None of the hospital bill was for the emergency room but for operating theater, scrub nurses, and supplemental care. Excluding the emergency room, I was there 12 hours. Thank God for insurance. I paid the surgeon $750, the anesthesiologist $250 (hadn't used my $1000 deductible) and wound up paying the hospital about $1200. My insurance company "negotiated" my bill down to $6000.

You know there's something wrong with the system when a hospital thinks it can get away with charging you sixteen grand, and settles for "only" six. Is that helping those who can't afford insurance or is it just plain greed? I'll admit to a little bias IN FAVOR of this hospital. They took excellent care of me after my heart attack in '99, so I've recommended people go there. That experience soured me a bit. I don't see how ObamaCare is going to improve any of this. Truth be told, I'd rather buy my own insurance.

At least the English Muffin was Thomas'!!

Best regards,

Bill Kelly

Clearly there is something wrong with a system that produces these results; but that is not evidence that "reform" will work better or cost less. That being obvious, I ask again, why the rush when we don't know what it is we need to do?


"You may say it's disappointing that we can't build infinitely fast computers, but as a picture of the world, if you have a theory of physics allows for infinitely fast computation, there could be a problem with that theory."

computers_faster_only_for_75_more_years >

 Roland Dobbins


Stockholm's bunnies burned to keep Swedes warm.


--- Roland Dobbins

Poor things...



Climate Myths and National Security, by Viscount Monckton



Climate Myths and National Security, by Viscount Monckton

<snip>The single question whose answer gives us the truth about the climate question is this: By how much will any given proportionate increase in CO2 concentration warm the world? We now know the answer. The oceans, which must store 80-90% of all heat-energy accumulated in the atmosphere as a result of the radiative imbalance caused by greater greenhouse-gas concentration, have shown no net accumulation of heat for almost 70 years, implying a very small influence of CO2 on temperature (Douglass & Knox, 2009). The devastating analysis of cloud-albedo effects shortly to be published by Dr. Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama at Huntsville will show that the UN has wrongly decided that cloud changes reinforce greenhouse warming, when in fact they substantially offset it. Repeated studies of the tropical upper troposphere (e.g. Douglass et al., 2008) show that it is failing to warm at thrice the surface rate as required by all of the UN's models, again implying very low climate sensitivity. The clincher is Professor Richard Lindzen's meticulous recent paper demonstrating - by direct measurement - that the amount of radiation escaping from the Earth's atmosphere to space is many times greater than the UN's models are all told to believe. From this, the world's most formidable atmospheric physicist has calculated that a doubling of CO2 concentration, expected over the next 150 years, would cause 0.75 C (1.5 F) of warming,
 at most: not the 3.4 C (6 F) that the UN takes as its central estimate.

<snip>To mitigate just 1 C (2 F) of warming, one must forego the emission of 2 trillion tons of CO2. The world emits just 30 billion tons a year. <snip>

http://www.solarcycle24.com/  13 days without a sunspot again.

Also, from http://org.ntnu.no/solarcells/pics/chap2/Solar_Spectrum.png.  I have to look at this and wonder whether "maximum forcing" can even make the difference claimed.



New Aluminum-water Rocket Propellant Promising For Future Space Missions

Researchers are developing a new type of rocket propellant made of a frozen mixture of water and "nanoscale aluminum" powder that is more environmentally friendly than conventional propellants and could be manufactured on the moon, Mars and other water-bearing bodies.


Bill Shields


Re: fusion update ]

I was reading this article from New Scientist this morning


when I came across your link on the Bussard fusion project update.

The difference in the two projects is considerable. Reading the article at New Scientist seems to make me think that the engineering challenges are....well, very considerable. From what I can read, I'd say that that particular hot fusion project is probably another 50 years away. I hope that money for research is continued to be spent on projects like the Bussard fusion project which shows (I believe) more hopeful signs than the ITER tokamak.

- Paul

I have seen no strong evidence that any fusion projects will be economic in under forty years. We know that fission plants are re economical and non-polluting.





 read book now




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  October 16, 2009

: Frankfurt Book Fair: Europeans Play the Moral Rights Card Against Google Settlement
10/16/2009 8:03:00 AM - Publishers Weekly


Dear Jerry:

Don't expect Google to prevail. Copyright is an international set of laws controlled by treaty and the American version should only be altered by the Congress, not the courts. With public domain material Google Books is a great research resource and does provide the access envisioned. With material under copyright it is mostly irritating, especially the "Snippet" view. The people Google hired to scan material into their system seem to have real problems getting the citations right. And then there was that one page I found with a lovely full color shot of someone's hand. Right over the information I needed. There are a lot of government documents that are only shown in "Snippets" because apparently the date of publication is the only filter used and people doing the work don't understand that this material is automatically in the public domain.

I don't think the Settlement is going to happen, but I opted out anyway. I advise other writers to do the same. Controlling how your material is distributed is part of your moral rights.


Francis Hamit

The publishing world is changing rapidly...


Health Care Speechwriter for Edwards, Obama & Clinton Without Insurance Now


"What makes this a double blow is that my experience contradicts so much of what I wrote for political leaders over the last decade. That's a terrible feeling, too. I typed line after line that said everything Massachusetts did would make health insurance more affordable. If I had a dollar for every time I typed, "universal coverage will lower premiums," I could pay for my own health care at Massachusetts's rates."

Irony can be so ironic, at times.



VCs sour on the President


During the presidential campaign, venture capitalists were won over partly by Obama’s plans for clean energy and more research spending, said Jim Watson
=p&getfields=wnnis&sort=date:D:S:d1>  , a partner at San Francisco- based CMEA Capital. The California county that includes Menlo Park, Silicon Valley’s venture-capital center, voted 70 percent for Obama.



“It’s not self-evident that doing more will accomplish more.”

-t.html?&pagewanted=all >

-- Roland Dobbins




 read book now





This week:


read book now


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Horror of Blimps

"Last week while travelling I stopped at a Zany Brainy store and saw that they had a blimp for sale. It's called Airship Earth, and it's a great big balloon with a map of the Earth on it, and two propellors hanging from the bottom. You blow up the balloon with helium put batteries in it, and you have a radio controll indoor blimp.

I'd seen these things for sale in Sharper Image catalogs for $60-$75. At Zany Brainy it was on clearance for $15. What a deal!"

Just in case somebody could use it.



Re-grinding the Lancet

"The Associated Press reported similar figures in April based on government statistics obtained by the AP showing that the government had recorded 87,215 Iraqi deaths from 2005 to February 2009. The toll included violence ranging from catastrophic bombings to execution-style slayings."

I myself complained at the time about media reports of deaths we couldn't verify, citing anonymous "Iraqi Policemen" and doctors. I preferred to use Iraqi coroners, since they had to be able to produce an actual body and thus produced much lower numbers, quite consistent with the latest reports.




Geoff Whisler - an two decade old reader


Government Pay

Dr. Pournelle,

Is it possible the real average government employee pay is higher than the mean of the official pay scale if one factors in the executive pay of the banks and auto companies that were bailed out? Just a thought. I would have been happier with the bailouts if the companies taken over would have been required to accept GSA pay scales. Perhaps therin lies the answer to health care, also -- perhaps the government will control costs by putting health care professionals on those same scales.








 read book now




CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday,  October 18, 2009     

real time us debt clock





Jeff Greason on The real justification for human spaceflight


Joshua Beall II


Software Bug Endangers Radiation Therapy Patients


The maker of a life-saving radiation therapy device has patched a software bug that could cause the system’s emergency stop button to fail to stop, following an incident at a Cleveland hospital in which medical staff had to physically pull a patient from the maw of the machine.<snip>

The hospital is not named in public filings, but had apparently failed to report the incident to the state, as required by law.

-- 73s and best regards from John Bartley K7AAY PDX OR USA kiloseven.blogspot.com

Fortunately it didn't happen to me...


Surprise and Pearl Harbor

Japan at Pearl Harbor had the advantage of local surprise, even though war warnings had been sent to Kimmel and Short, but the warnings were never specific, and Short made it easier for the Japanese Empire by parking his fighters out on the runways in clusters, safe from sabotage, but not able to get into the air quickly.

--I find it always shocking that people are so quick to forgive Kimmel and Short for their absolute incompetence at Pearl Harbor. The fact is that Taranto had happened almost 13 months earlier and yet their was no standing CAP over the islands nor were PBY planes being used to scout the approaches or even being used on ‘training’ despite the fact their having been several false alarms. It would have been a simple manner to keep some men guarding the AA batteries at all times.

--Half the Italian navy sunk at anchor by bi-planes was a hell of a bigger warning than anything than the couriered note was. The Japanese studied Taranto in preparation for their attack at Pearl Harbor. The question is why didn’t Kimmel and Short.

David March

Or, given that he knew precisely what Kimmel and Short were doing, why didn't Marshall suggest something? But no one believed that carriers could operate so far from home.


IE, Chrome, Safari duped by bogus PayPal SSL cert

Fraudulent credential, real risk

By Dan Goodin in San Francisco

Posted in Enterprise Security, 5th October 2009 23:24 GMT

If you use the Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Apple Safari browsers to conduct PayPal transactions, now would be a good time to switch over to the decidedly more secure Firefox alternative.


Tracy Walters, CISSP


"Under the aegis of self-promoting misinterpretations of federal statutes, the West Coast technology industry has produced a number of start-up firms premised on the notion that commercial copyright infringement is not illegal, unless and until the injured party discovers and complains of the infringing activity, and (the) infringer fails to respond to such complaints."


-- Roland Dobbins


How Big is American Government?


---- Roland Dobbins


'The crisis began with the advent of the ballpoint pen.'


--- Roland Dobbins







 read book now





The current page will always have the name currentmail.html and may be bookmarked. For previous weeks, go to the MAIL HOME PAGE.


If you are not paying for this place, click here...

IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature. In general, put the name you want at the end of the letter: if you put no address there none will be posted, but I do want some kind of name, or explicitly to say (name withheld).

Note that if you don't put a name in the bottom of the letter I have to get one from the header. This takes time I don't have, and may end up with a name and address you didn't want on the letter. Do us both a favor: sign your letters to me with the name and address (or no address) as you want them posted. Also, repeat the subject as the first line of the mail. That also saves me time.

I try to answer mail, but mostly I can't get to all of it. I read it all, although not always the instant it comes in. I do have books to write too...  I am reminded of H. P. Lovecraft who slowly starved to death while answering fan mail. 

Monday -- Tuesday -- Wednesday -- Thursday -- Friday -- Saturday -- Sunday

 Search engine:


or the freefind search

   Search this site or the web        powered by FreeFind
  Site search Web search

Boiler Plate:

If you want to PAY FOR THIS PLACE I keep the latest information HERE.  MY THANKS to all of you who sent money.  Some of you went to a lot of trouble to send money from overseas. Thank you! There are also some new payment methods. I am preparing a special (electronic) mailing to all those who paid: there will be a couple of these. I have thought about a subscriber section of the page. LET ME KNOW your thoughts.

If you subscribed:

atom.gif (1053 bytes) CLICK HERE for a Special Request.

If you didn't and haven't, why not?

If this seems a lot about paying think of it as the Subscription Drive Nag. You'll see more.

Patron Subscription:

Search: type in string and press return.


For platinum subscription:

For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:

= = = = = = = = = =

For a Regular Subscription click here:

= = = = = = = =

Strategy of Technology in pdf format:

To order the nose pump I recommend, click on the banner below:

Entire Site Copyright, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

birdline.gif (1428 bytes)