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Monday  November 9, 2009

Harry Erwin's Letter From England

A commentary on Lord Mandelson's program of restructuring the UK university system in a more business-like fashion. <http://tinyurl.com/yz8opv9  > <http://tinyurl.com/yz725f4> <http://tinyurl.com/yfp9qbt>. THE

report: <http://tinyurl.com/yz725f4>. Growing university resistance to the new Government policies <http://tinyurl.com/ygzdjf2>. New government policies on university entrance to take account of social

class: <http://tinyurl.com/yk43quw>. UK Parents lose right to opt their children out of sex education (beginning at age 5) <http://tinyurl.com/ydrjquw  > <http://tinyurl.com/ylfo65c>. I suspect these changes are being made because Labour knows it will be out of power in the spring, and they want to 'bed in' policies that their supporters want. I expect these will be reversed in a few years, but not before doing serious damage.

 Bruce Schneier's latest comments on zero-tolerance policies <http://tinyurl.com/yfqngx3  >.

 MPs ask about Nutt firing <http://tinyurl.com/y8mwa65>. Nature editorial "The sacking of a government adviser on drugs shows Britain's politicians can't cope with intelligent debate." <http://tinyurl.com/y9ho7j7  >. Having been a risk analyst, I recognise the problem--people are nutty about low-probability risks. The scientific establishment is now asking for a fresh start <http://tinyurl.com/ykcr8sk>.

 Wikipedia defines 'anomie' as "a sociological term which may most simply be described as a personal condition resulting from a lack of norms." Durkheim comments "a lack of social ethic produces moral deregulation and an absence of legitimate aspirations." The average UK citizen may not know it by that name, but they recognise it in the behaviour they see around them. (I'm not sure I'd call it lack of norms so much as having norms appropriate to life in a baboon or chimpanzee troop.) There seem to be those in Government here who see it as a reasonable state to be encouraged or at least not discouraged. 

In any case, the pervasive anomie here produces news stories like the

following: <http://tinyurl.com/ykh2zk6> <http://tinyurl.com/yblq29e>.


"If academic research is not devoted to finding the truth, it is a form of propaganda, and not necessarily to be preferred to other forms, much cheaper and perhaps more persuasive." (Lord Conrad Russell


Harry Erwin


House Vote

Dr. Pournelle --

Yesterday you wrote, "Mourn the Republic."

May I remind you that despair is a sin. There's still the Senate vote on a bill which is not guaranteed, a reconciliation in committee of the two bills, and then the result of that has to be voted upon by both houses. There's still a chance that any Pelosi-Reid chimera will be wholly unacceptable to sufficient numbers of Congressmen and Senators.

There's still time but it will require more work, especially from those who live in the districts of the vulnerable Congressmen and Senators.

It could even be that the Lords on the Hill will suddenly shift their focus from good politics to good governance. (And maybe the horse will sing.)


Point taken. And maybe the horse will sing...


E-Books Impact on reading


Re - ebooks , and the idea that people are reading more. I respect Tracy Walters view that ebooks are not having a significant impact on the quantity of reading, but his perspective is that of an avid reader. There is not much opportunity for heavy readers to read more. However, for the casual reader, the impact can be tremendous. Prior to purchasing a Kindle, I averaged 5 - 10 books per year. I am now Reading 8 - 10 books per MONTH. And I am not a fast reader. But the key is easy access. I use my Kindle to read various blogs, including this site. When an interesting book is referenced it is so easy to acquire the referenced book. In addition, my 18 year old son is linked to my Kindle account with his IPhone. He reads anything I point him to. In addition, he has taken advantage of the public domain and is working his way through the classics! His increase in reading is proportional to mine, perhaps even greater as he is a much faster reader than I am.

In my neighborhood the increase has been noticeable as well. There is much more discussions about various books people have read electronically. The recurring theme is access. When traveling, many of us would grab a book to carry and read, but few people want to carry more than two books. With the Kindle that limitation is gone.

Amazon's estimate of a three fold increase seems very reasonable to me.

Two questions for you. One, as my interest in reading has increased, the slowness of my reading is bothering me much more. Any recommendations for an adult to improve his reading speed?

Two, I would like to introduce my son to your SF writings. Can you suggest which books of yours he should start with?

Thank you again for your efforts,

Herb Mueller

I read slower every year. It seems to come with the years. Sorry.

I'd say begin with Starswarm, then The Mote in God's Eye. Then Exile -- and Glory! That ought to get him started.


Beckman's books 


"The History of Pi" is still available and in print for about $10. In fact, I saw it for sale in a Borders about 4 years ago in your area. Also here.


His printing company seems to have been bought out by Vales Lake Publishing.


"Einstein Plus Two" is listed at $40. Not cheap, but much better than $225.

Still, much like abandonware software, we need some equitable method of preserving works unless the author specifically opts out. I still have a great piece of shareware that the author directed the source code be destroyed on his death from cancer. His right, but I wish he had not. I understand that Alastair Reynolds has systematically removed one of his works.


I would say that once one has accepted the protection of copyright or patent, one has the obligation to allow the property to become public domain at some point. Once published you may not unpublish...


Solar Power From Orbit

Jerry, According to Raw Story the Japanese government are planning to launch an experimental orbiting solar power satellite in 2020 which will beam down ten megawatts. Using the lessons from this a full prototype with a capacity of 250 megawatts will follow. Makes a lot of sense for a country that has to import all its energy. Makes a lot of sense for the USA too.

John Edwards


Hadron collider

The theory about the Collider sabotaging itself from the future to preserve the timestream is getting less funny all the time...


Tom Brosz




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Tuesday,  November 10, 2009

 Iron Law at work


Here is a link to an excellent article about the problems with high tax/high service states. The short version: you never get what you pay for. Much of this article discusses how government bureaucrats look out for themselves at the expense of the work they are supposed to be doing. This article is explanation of the "Iron Law" at work:

"Whatever theoretical claims are made for imposing high taxes to provide generous government benefits, the practical reality is that these public goods are, increasingly, neither public nor good: their beneficiaries are mostly the service providers themselves, and their quality is poor."


I found this article at the Volokh Conspiracy. Two contributors to that blog will be at the Federalist Society Lawyer's Convention in Washington, DC this week. I wish I could be there too. d

Yours very truly,

Hugh Greentree


Atheism as a Stealth Religion.


- Roland Dobbins


Maj. Hasan even gave a PowerPoint presentation to Army doctors foreshadowing his intentions in June of 2007.


 Roland Dobbins


Fearful Tolerance

You write: "It is not stupid to pay attention to probabilities. It is certainly less stupid to attempt to confiscate a retired general's Medal of Honor at an airport in the name of political correctness."

And it seems to me that this promise--that we would have effective enforcement if only prima-facie harmless people submitted to indignities--this promise isn't even being kept. Uniformed police officers take toys from toddlers, but we're too scared of being called racists to kick a religious-freak Arab out of the Army or take guns away from a crazy Asian student.

When did we elect officials that were so scared of being hated? Oh wait, that's right. We didn't *elect* any of these people. They were hired by someone who was hired by someone who was...well, you know the rest. Congress has ceded its governing authority to the unelected regulatory bureaucracy of the Executive Branch.

-- Mike T. Powers


extra scrutiny

It seems to me that the type of people who deserve extra scutiny are also situational. But I can honestly say I'd be hopping mad if the DoE had (strctly hypothetically here) ignored the nuke power plant inspector who was involved in a far-out group that believed that such plants would be the doom of us all for years, had given several odd speeches on how horrible they are were, and then went on a destructive spree either at Sandia. Seriously, couldn't you see the signs that this was NOT the sort of person who should be allowed access to the sort of people whose immediate destruction he is exhorting? If I were to say such nonsense about, say, HR folks, I'd be fired for cause so fast the paper would be singed. Which is, after all, the way it should be.


Twenty Years After the Fall | STRATFOR


Stratfor has an interesting update on Russia:




“My belief today is that it’s better to have the Americans as an enemy rather than as a friend, because you cannot be trusted.”


-- Roland Dobbins

The only way to win in the Afghan War is a 20 year commitment of blood and treasure. Can / will the United States make such a commitment?


Thank you, sir.

"The criticism is that USAF insists on keeping the ground support mission while it really doesn't want it. Had USAF handed over the Warthogs after the First Gulf War there there wouldn't be so much glee among the brown shoes when the blue suits take one.

I am no fan of turning the military mission over to legions of robots. I am a fan of giving the ground support mission to the Army."

Thank you, sir. It's the 'fighter pilot' attitude and reluctance to acknowledge that air to air combat is no longer logical (or, even that it exists!) where the rub lies. AND, my point is that it doesn't take a 'super-educated and trained on-board pilot' to do the job. Ground support is the current raison d'tere for aircraft - manned (in fact, I PREFER manned aircraft for ground support missions) or not. Do we need some capability for air defense? Absolutely! Aircraft made battleships obsolete (though I still support their use as fire support platforms - ironically, even more so due the reluctance the the USAF to use their aircraft in that role!) and long-range rockets (air to air and ground to air) have made air to air combat obsolete. It is past time for the US Air Force to change their priority. And, for the record, even though satellites are a means of 'robotic' communication, it's also true that AWACS and local communication nodes are also means of same. UAVs are not wholly dependent on satellite communication. Additionally, increasingly robots ARE being used by ground forces - it's only a matter of time that tanks are remotely controlled.


David Couvillon Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps, Retired.; Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance; Collector of Hot Sauce; Avoider of Yard Work

BB's were very effective anti-aircraft platforms in WW II, particularly against kamikaze attacks. The sheer amount of steel they could put in the air was effective. They could carry a lot of both guns and ammo.

Warthogs were very effective in the First Gulf War. But USAF doesn't want them, and becoming a Warthog pilot is a career ender in USAF; yet they won't let go of the mission. If that means that USAF must be abolished and be split between the Army and the Navy, then that should be done; a Service that will not perform a critical mission but obstructs others from performing it has lost its reason for existence.


unpopular new theory

Which is correct - Dark Matter or MOND? Lower in the article it implies an unpopular new theory up against a popular established but not proven theory.




Consumer Electronics on Airliners 


I am retired pilot, both from the Air Force and then a major US Airline, a ham radio operator with an Amateur Extra license, and along the way a PhD physicist who did his dissertation on high power RF heating techniques in fusion plasmas. You learn a lot about shielding doing that. ;)

Let me assure you that anyone who claims the ban on consumer electronics is JUST about protecting profits is speaking in ignorance. (Remember, people go into marketing because they have no useful skills, and are often oblivious to technical realities.) On two occasions, I experienced interference with aircraft systems which were traced to a piece of equipment in the cabin. The first was a video game in an MD-80 about 20 years ago, and the second was 5 years ago, just before I retired, in a brand new B-737-800. That was caused by a computer in an overhead bin which was in standby mode, not off as directed. The owner ignored the instructions because he "knew it was all nonsense since planes don't use radio for navigation any more." He did not go to jail, but he did find another way home.

This is a complicated issue, and it is getting more critical with the transition to digital controls. On the one hand, airliners are getting better avionics. On the other, consumer electronics with internal RF systems are now ubiquitous, and many of the indistinguishable gray and black market knockoffs radiate 10-20 db or more above specifications. On the gripping hand, though rarely, interference is found between properly operating consumer electronics and properly operating avionics by technically qualified industry researchers. This usually results in changes to the avionics specifications.

So please, don't subject your fellow passengers to a test flight they did not sign up for.



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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

Marketing skills

Dear Jerry:

As a former Vice President of Sales and Marketing I must take strong exception to Alan's crack that "People go into Marketing" because they have no useful skills." You can have the best product in the world and if no one buys it, you go broke. Keeping firms from going broke , especially in this economy, is, I submit, not just a useful skill but a critical one. Everybody sells. Everybody.


Francis Hamit

I suspect your leg came off in his hand. I doubt anyone truly believes that sales and marketing aren't useful.


I, too, am a licensed amateur radio operator (KB4BED is my callsign), and I've been involved in RF professionally for data comms for the last 25 years or so.

And I must respectfully disagree with Mr. Horr. There is *nothing* different about the electronics during takeoff/landing vs. cruising which justifies making folks turn off their electronic devices - and the evidence is quite clear on this point, since a heck of a lot of people *don't turn off their electronics* because either a) they know this is nonsense and rightly ignore it or b) they don't know or have forgotten that said electronics are enabled in the first place.

There are dozens and dozens of mobile phones powered on during almost every commercial airline flight in the world, as most folks think that blanking the screen or locking the UI equates to turning it off, as do the flight attendants - and yet, aircraft are not dropping from the skies.

These phones aren't quiescent, either; they've mobile radios on, they have Bluetooth enabled, they have WiFi enabled, all actively looking for base stations/paired contacts/WiFi LANS to join. Not to mention the loads of laptops with WiFi and Bluetooth enabled, PSPs, and so forth. Again, the fact that the airlines have before and will again provide wireless Internet access during flight, and soon will provide airborne mobile phone service, gives the lie to their assertions.

Not to mention the hundreds of private aircraft flying around every day, from Piper Cubs to privately-owned 737s - they aren't falling from the skies, either, nor are the passengerless cargo flights. Heck, those Northeastern airline pilots who overshot their destination last week were dorking around with their laptop *in the cockpit*, were they not?

It's all nonsense, about control and rent-seeking rather than public safety. As are most rules and regulations.

'Alan' is telling tall tales.


I call BS on his story, too. I do datacomm for a living, including lots of RF in both licensed and unlicensed spectrum, globally, have done so for 25 years, and am also a licensed Amateur Radio operator. The two incidents 'Alan' is describing are bogus, because a) 20 years ago, there was no portable video game player which would've been on and operated in an MD-80 in the first place, and b) there is absolutely no piece of datacomm equipment one can hook into a laptop computer which, either directly or harmonics can interfere with standard aircraft voice or nav comms, and c) they wouldn'tve been able to identify it in the first place unless they grounded the plane and brought in specially-trained FCC folks with special equipment, of whom there aren't very many in the country and who most assuredly wouldn't be hanging around at that particular airport at that particular time.

---- Roland Dobbins

I confess curiosity as to how a laptop in standby mode stored in an overhead compartment was detected. Of course it would be easy on CSI or NCIS Los Angeles, but I don't know how to do it in the real world.


Loyalty Oath

Mr Pournelle,

While there may be some benefit in having the military periodically repeat their oath of enlistment, I fear that against this particular set of enemies it would be pretty fruitless, just as it would have been during the cold war against our communist foes. Where communists used the tactic of "maskirovka", Muslims are fully capable of lying to advance their cause, and in fact have a religious justification in the concept of ""Taqiyyay" a full explanation of which can be found at Jihad Watch at:


I become more and more convinced that Islam is not compatible with western civilization.


Boris Berejan MD

Former USAF Maj

I agree that renewal of loyalty oaths will not disclose dedicated enemy agents. In the case of those with reservations and doubts such as Hassan, it may be useful. It would also be cheap, and may have some positive benefits for most troops. I do not see any major downside.

Thank you for your service.


Some Stories Continue to Unwind 

Three more drug advisors throw in the towel <http://tinyurl.com/y9sobpz> <http://tinyurl.com/ybetou7>  <http://tinyurl.com/ydxe5wj>  <http://tinyurl.com/yknvkf6> . You have to read the tealeaves to understand what's going on; however, it takes a *lot* of abuse to get an academic to resign from those committees.

BBC plans to use DRM on broadcast TV rejected <http://tinyurl.com/y8l85fq

Big Brother database rejected <http://tinyurl.com/yzartvx

Government management by targets causes hospitals to lose track of the ball <http://tinyurl.com/ybb9suq

Student loans still stalled <http://tinyurl.com/yzecbp3

UK libel tourism <http://tinyurl.com/yjl36t5

-- "If academic research is not devoted to finding the truth, it is a form of propaganda, and not necessarily to be preferred to other forms, much cheaper and perhaps more persuasive." (Conrad Russell 1993)
Harry Erwin


Setting Sail Into Space, Propelled by Sunshine

About a year from now, if all goes well, a box about the size of a loaf of bread will pop out of a rocket some 500 miles above the Earth. There in the vacuum it will unfurl four triangular sails as shiny as moonlight and only barely more substantial. Then it will slowly rise on a sunbeam and move across the stars.


Bill Shields


: Maybe we can sail to Mars one day? - 


I don't think that light sails are necessarily Crazyeddie. I hope this one works.

R, Rose

We can all hope it works. Mike Flynn has a number of stories about an interplanetary civilization that uses light sails.


State of the Climate: 


 I don't know if anyone has sent this link to you yet. But I am sure you will find it interesting. Last week I noticed while reading the comics that one of them was preaching the global warming doctrine, and it wasn't one that normally has political commentary like Doonesbury. I was floored.



State of the Climate

National Overview
October 2009

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

National Climatic Data Center

National Overview:

  • Temperature Highlights - October
  • The average October temperature of 50.8°F was 4.0°F below the 20th Century average and ranked as the 3rd coolest based on preliminary data.
  • For the nation as a whole, it was the third coolest October on record. The month was marked by an active weather pattern that reinforced unseasonably cold air behind a series of cold fronts. Temperatures were below normal in eight of the nation's nine climate regions, and of the nine, five were much below normal. Only the Southeast climate region had near normal temperatures for October.
  • Statewide temperatures coincided with the regional values as all but six states had below normal temperatures. Oklahoma had its coolest October on record and ten other states had their top five coolest such months.
  • Florida was the only state to have an above normal temperature average in October. It was the sixth consecutive month that the Florida's temperature was above normal, resulting in the third warmest such period (May-October).
  • The three-month period (August-October) was the coolest on record for three states: Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Five other states had top five cool periods: Missouri (2nd), Iowa (3rd) , Arkansas (5th) , Illinois (5th) and South Dakota (5th) . Every climate division in Kansas (nine) and Nebraska (eight) recorded a record cool such period.
  • For the year-to-date (January - October) period, the contiguous U.S. temperature ranked 43rd warmest. No state had a top or bottom ten temperature value for this period.

I would not venture any strong conclusions from these data. My fear is of the world depicted in Fallen Angels. The book was a satirical romance, but the climate scenario was fairly realistic. My preference is to find out what's likely before spending all we have on trying to fix something. It's best to save and apply fixes to known problems; he who defends everything defends nothing, and societies that try to prepare for every possible alternative generally end bankrupt and able to prepare for nothing. If we spend all we have on carbon taxes, and cripple the economy in the bargain, what will we do when the Ice Age comes back? Ah, well.

Note that Fallen Angels was optimistic about the space program...


Melting ice sheets create new carbon sink, say boffins, 


Ice retreat produces new carbon sinks:


homeostasis in action.


Perhaps; the question is, does CO2 have much effect? Well, we know it does, but does more CO2 have more effect? How much CO2 has to come out of the atmosphere to have an effect? Do we know more than Arrhenius did in 1896 when he did the calculations on the back of an old envelope? We should have better data, but it's not clear that the celebrity scientists and their sponsors pay much attention to data now.


Even the government health plans have troubles these days - 


And for the record, I pay a third of the cost up to a certain amount and all of the additional cost over a preset dollar limit. Yes, they tend to be good plans. Yes, I have access at a reasonable cost when many don't. But I DO pay premiums plus copays. I also make quite a bit less money per year than I have been offered by companies outside of government but stay because of the health benefits and pre-existing conditions in my family. (Don't kid yourself about COBRA laws and the like...Pre-Existing Conditions DO make a serious difference in a family's ability to get care for those conditions at a cost that doesn't require every penny of the family income.)



: Public domain -

Hi Jerry,

You'd wrote "I would say that once one has accepted the protection of copyright or patent, one has the obligation to allow the property to become public domain at some point. Once published you may not unpublish..."

What about limited editions, where the book only has a certain number of copies published in order to create a higher value? This is particularly true of art books, where the artist only produces a certain number, signs them as works of art, and sells them at a premium.

That's the challenge, all the special cases, and fiddly little exceptions. My preference is a modification of your starting point: Copyright is absolute, including the ability to restrict access to works, and to choose to not publish again, for some period of years after the death of the author (perhaps as little as 25, perhaps as much as 75 - we can debate that separately). That does raise the sticky issue about corporate owned/created copyrights, since corporations never really die - perhaps 75 years from first publication, or 25 years from last publication. Until that time, the work is not in public domain - if it's not available, then it's not available - sorry Google.

Now I don't expect that to happen, as Google has good lobbyists (and yes, for the record, I do think that what they are doing is evil, immoral, and nothing short of theft). At the very least, I would establish a trust fund for each work, with some reasonable level of royalties paid into that, and held in trust for the copyright holder or their heirs to claim. Place a statute of limitations of 10 years after the copyright expires, at which point the royalties are donated to the library of congress.




Are Too Many Students Going to College?

Among those answering yes is Charles Murray, political scientist and scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, who is quoted as saying, "The four-year residential program leading to a B.A. is the wrong model for a large majority of young people." Mr. Murray argues that "only 10 to 15 percent of the nation's youth possess" the linguistic and mathematical ability to do well in a traditional college program.


Bill Shields

We reviewed Murray's book some time ago. It seems obvious to me that half the children are below average, and the traditional college education assumes students of at least above average ability. In fact it assumes top 15% or so. Our present practice does not well serve the above average students, which is a waste of intellectual resources. But we've said all that before.


Are Too Many Students Going to College?

Includes comments from Charles Murray:


-- Roland Dobbins


Be sure to Buy A Poppy

I always do buy one, and within two hours its usually gone. I managed to keep mine long enough this year to be wearing it for Prince Charles visit. Apparently the Royal Consort is descended from the first PM of Canada, who just happened to have his familial state in Hamilton, not bad for a jumped up Scottish Baron in the Provinces. C’est le Guerre I guess.

Regardless I usually try to talk to the Veteran who is selling the things. This year I ran into a Korean War veteran, something I haven’t found since High School. Sadly this one was a bit shell shocked, and wasn’t able to give me much information. But last year I had to justify my interest in history to two members of the Navy, who both were in the Med during the big one. Got to find out that many of their friends lost their teeth to the water they were drinking. It was a good commentary since I was reading about Taranto and Swordfishes.


David March






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Thursday, November 12, 2009

We have a great deal of mail regarding consumer electronics and airplanes. Begin with a correction

A correction regarding the history of portable game consoles.

The Atari Lynx and the Nintendo GameBoy were both released 20 years ago, in 1989; the Lynx never really took off, and the GameBoy took off in the early 1990s. Prior to that, there were a few primitive things like the Atari TouchMe (basically, a crude handheld predecessor version of the once-ubiqitous Simon electronic game) and those dumb LED-based 'football' games.

--- Roland Dobbins


Hello Dr Pournelle,

In the consumer electronics on airliners discussion, Roland Dobbins says that he doubt the story of "Alan" attributing a plane RF interference incident to a hand-held game console. Dobbins assures us that there was no hand-held game machine 20 years ago.

This contradicts my memories of getting a Microvision console around 1980, in my teens. I did a quick search, and sure enough, Milton Bradley did indeed release the Microvision cartridge-based, hand-held LCD console in 1979 (http://www.handheldmuseum.com/MB/uVUS.htm). I doubt it was designed with any kind of RF shielding in mind.

To give you an example of how poorly shielded consumer electronics was back in the day, I'll refer you to to 8-bit computer folklore of the late 70s. Many computer magazines published stories about how to use an AM radio to "listen" to your computer's CPU. To do so, you simply had to put an AM radio received near a TRS-80, for example, and tune it to long wave. In spite of the low CPU frequencies of the days (less than 2 MHz typically), notable RF noise could be detected up in the tens of MHz from several feet away. Most machines radiated harmonics generously. Plugging extensions (that is, PCB boards) into hobbyist machines increased the RF noise even more.

In today's ham radio forums, it's common to find threads about how to find and suppress sources of interferences (QRN) around the house. Consumer electronics is by far the worst offender.

And yet, these days, consumer electronics is designed with FCC specs in mind. Cheap knock-offs and defective models can make RF noise much worse. An apparently insignificant defect in shielding can turn a cable (such as an earphone) into an RF-emitting antenna. So as an engineer who occasionally battled with the RF noise issue myself, I understand why airlines ask people to turn off their electronics. Meanwhile, as a passenger, I grumble and curse these overly cautious policies, of course.

--Fred Mora



I know of at least one cargo aircraft (I won't say which one) where cell phones of one specific carrier set off the Fire Warning signal in the cockpit.

Before I install any system that goes on an aircraft we have to perform very expensive certification tests, and sometimes you get interference anyway. Consumer electronics clearly are not tested to the rigors of the Mil. Standards, so I would certainly expect them to be far more problematic.

Mark E. Horning, Physicist, L-3 Communications


Dr. P,

I must respectfully disagree with Mr. Dobbins: There is one immensely significant difference between electronics during takeoff/landing and at cruising altitude and that is the proximity of the ground. Any pilot will vouch that a brief disruption of flight systems is much more survivable when the ground is at least a minute or two away versus right flippin' there.

That said, I think that a couple of other data are worth mentioning:

1. As I recall, the original requirement to turn off cell phones on takeoff and landing had a ground-based rationale entirely separate from the whole interference issue: cell phones whizzing past towers at triple-digit speeds caused problems for the cell networks trying to track which tower was the current best for contact with the subscriber. 2. The last time I looked, avoiding failure with a worst-case option of failing to a safe mode is a fundamental design tenet for flight-control systems. Flight electronics, by necessity, must be able to continue operation in an RFI-unfriendly environment. I would think milliwatt-strength emissions by consumer electronics would not hold a candle to the electrical surges induced by high-powered radar, in-flight static electricity and cross-airframe voltage differentials, not to mention cross-talk between cables (with the caveat that a low-power emitter in close proximity to a wire run can trump a high-power emitter a few miles away).

On a totally unrelated front, I suspect that there was an additional mindset which clouded the Army's treatment of Major Hasan. As you may recall, each time our military has been mobilized to go in harm's way, there have been service members who resisted deploying because they had thought enlisting (or ROTC) was just a good way to get some marketable job skills or get their college education paid for. Many folks (myself included) become rather pig-headed in dealing with these folks, taking an almost knee-jerk stance of "You took the king's shilling, now you get to earn it." I would note that the Army's personnel bureaucracy seems almost hard-wired to take that stance, especially after all the arguments from folks who got caught up in stop-loss orders. This would mean that security measures meant to weed out potential infiltrators will inherently be resisted by measures meant to smack down the duty-dodgers. In that clash, we can only hope that somebody exercises intelligent discretion (rare as that commodity has been for much of this war).

Watching poppies grow,

Bill Clardy

And indeed I remember using my office radio to get the sound effects for a Star Trek game from an S-100 Buss computer. Phasers, and torpedoes.

I agree with your conclusions. The probabilities of significant interference are small, but the consequences could be large. The ritual of turning off electronics before takeoff and on landing approaches is a small inconvenience, a minor irritation compared to the many other annoyances of travel today.

In any event I I think we have pretty well exhausted this discussion topic.



'A wind arose from the south, strong and deadly, bringing with it vast columns of whirling sand, which entirely covered up the troops and caused them wholly to disappear.'

The supposedly unreliable Herodotus is vindicated yet again:


-- Roland Dobbins


Apple Rejects My Caricature App | Tom's MAD Blog_PC run amuck

Apple rejects an iPhone app for finding congress folk, because a caricature was done for each one, by an artist who works for MAD magazine. You may find it amusing, Tim.




China Declares Space War Inevitable.


- Roland Dobbins


Are Black Hole Starships Possible?


--- Roland Dobbins


: Hot CO2

As for money and mouths, I'd say Gore was putting the latter where the former is.

Here's maybe some of the reason he's backed off slightly on the COO-COO causality bit: http://arxiv.org/pdf/0707.1161v4   Falsification of GH Physics

Brian H.


OK, now this I would never have predicted, EVER


A male Columbia University professor punched a woman in the face.

The male was black. The female was white. It occurred during a vocal dispute about race relations and "white privilege". It is not clear to me that this has anything whatsoever to do with the basic fact that a male professor hit a female in the face.

Jerry, in the world I grew up in, a university professor would die of shame before he would throw a punch in anger.


I confess I was shocked as well. I recall some bitter debates in the academic senate, but they never came to the threat of blows.


Category error

Hello Jerry,

Once again, Category Error raises its ugly head. The fact that a problem cannot be defined, for whatever reason, (in this case, political correctness) precludes a solution.

Quoting you: "Are all Muslims enemies of everyone not part of the House of Submission to Islam?"

The question of course is self answering. The murder/subjugation of non-Muslims is a (maybe THE) central tenet of the faith. In EVERY society around the world with a significant, but non-majority, percentage of Muslims, a noticeable subset of them take their religion seriously--and murder their non-Muslim neighbors with gay abandon. In Muslim majority societies, the Muslims simply impose sharia law and subjugate--or murder--non-Muslims.

Our government, in its infinite wisdom, is encouraging the Muslims within our borders to ''Be all that you can be, Muslimwise!", encouraging the importation of new Muslims, and subjugating our own culture to that of the Muslims when the two conflict.

We, in the immortal and deadly accurate words of someone or the other, are well and truly 'sowing the wind'. The harvest is predictable.

Bob Ludwick


15 hours.


--- Roland Dobbins

Space is large. Earth is a small target. Small is vulnerable. God helps those who help themselves. Of course a 7 meter rock isn't much of a threat, but we are finding there are a lot of such rocks out there.


: Balloon Boy and punishments for False Statements to Officials?

Hi Jerry,

I have not written for a long time but the news of the Balloon Boy prosecution has moved me to action... at least moved my fingers to action of propelling electrons in your direction.

I saw this below story and remembered your earlier disgust that you could be punished for making a false statement when you had not been under oath. This prosecution would go against that. How would you deal with this kind of hoax?

(CNN) -- The Colorado parents in last month's notorious "balloon boy" case  will plead guilty to offenses for creating a hoax that their son had flown away in a large balloon.

Richard and Mayumi Heene are to plead Friday morning in Larimer County  Court, according to a statement issued by Richard Heene's attorney.  Mayumi Heene is expected to plead guilty to an offense of false reporting to authorities, a misdemeanor of the lowest level, according to the attorney. Richard Heene is expected to plead guilty to a felony offense of attempting to influence a public servant.

Though the Heenes could receive jail time for the charges, the prosecutor has recommended probation, Richard Heene's attorney said.

We are former Iowans who sold the home, and are ocean cruisers living the dream in the islands aboard our 41 foot Catamaran, Angel Louise for the past three years.

Ed Kelly

Ed & Sue Kelly aboard USSV Angel Loiuse Currently anchored & floating happily at Salinas, PR

Your point is well made. Yet surely there is a difference between Martha Stewart who said, not under oath, that she hadn't done something that, had she done it, would not have been a crime; and the Heene's whose false report launched rescue aircraft and endangered lives. When one of my boys ran away (actually it was his birthday and he was going down to Buddy Brown's toy store because they had presents for 4 year olds on their birthdays, only he got lost) the police immediately began a search. If I had falsely reported that I'd expect to pay.

There has to be a difference here. Not sure how to draw a legal distinction, but I know it's there.

Fair winds and smooth seas!


Oath of Enlistment

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I heartily agree with your "modest proposal" to renew the oath of enlistment before deploying. I'd like to suggest a modification. The Army (and I am sure the Marines and Navy) requires a review of the Code of Conduct (for POWs) to be given annually. Requiring the oath to be given at the same time will inhibit the temptation to "sign off" on the training ("Oh, Suuuure, Sergeant Major/Master Chief! We did that training...nudge, nudge, wink, wink"). Further, I'd require the oath be given by at least a captain or naval lieutenant (O3) or higher, and not be passed down to the most junior 2nd lieutenant or ensign. Troops need to be reminded of why they are ultimately serving. It isn't for a paycheck or the GI Bill! Also, giving the oath annually will involve all the troops, not just those deploying.

I was involved in countless NCO bull sessions regarding the status of conscientious objectors. The consensus was that such status was desirable and even necessary "in your day" because there was a draft and those opposed to war didn't have any other choice. But "in my day" and today, there is a simple choice: don't enlist! We regarded those who decided right before deployment that war was a Bad Thing in which they suddenly did not want to participate were nothing more than cowards who should at the very least be booted out on their kiesters with a Bad Conduct Discharge and no benefits. Hassan enlisted after Gulf War I. He knew very well that he could end up in a war against Muslims. He's had over 8 years since 9/11 to get out. But he took the training and took the paycheck. I advocate either a bullet or dancing Danny Deever for him. One friend thinks he should be tried under Texas law, where he stands a much better chance of actually being executed.

Thanks for listening to my ramblings; I'll pass your suggestion along to my comrades who are still on active duty.


Frank Luxem SFC, USA, (Ret)




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This week:


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Friday,  November 13, 2009

The wrath of the legions  


I direct your attention to the following article in realclearpolitics.com:


Bill Kristol predicts that the author of the piece (a US Army major) will probably suffer more professionally than anyone else involved. Except for the shooter himself, of course. I concur.


Brian P.

I expect Kristol is right. At some point we have to address this.


: Muslims and movies

From a review of the movie “2012”: <http://www.mtv.com/movies/

“While the snickering fat cats get ready to split, the unticketed masses are deep in prayer. The director's heart is probably not with them, though — not after he's blown away a Buddhist monastery, the Sistine Chapel and the giant Jesus statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro. (Not that Emmerich holds nothing sacred. In an online interview <http://scifiwire.com/
2009/11/5-best-things-2012s-direc.php>  , he's quoted as saying that he'd wanted to wipe out a sacred Islamic shrine, too, but then thought ... maybe not: "You can [let] Christian symbols fall apart, but if you would do this with an Arab symbol, you would have ... a fatwa. So I kind of left it out.")

This really pisses me off. Our PC attitudes about a religion that wants to kill or subjugate us are having a subliminal effect on our society that we will regret. Here’s a case of a movie director changing his approach because he is afraid he’ll be murdered by Muslims. The example of Salmon Rushdie has not been wasted. Another example of Muslims getting more bang for their buck than they expected from our society.

John D. Witt


Re:Category error


The email from Bob Ludwick had an obviously incorrect statement.

" In Muslim majority societies, the Muslims simply impose sharia law and subjugate--or murder--non-Muslims."

I have little truck with political correctness, but I would like to point to Turkey and Indonesia as obvious counter-examples.

Joel Upchurch

You are correct, and the point has often been made, both here and elsewhere. There are Muslim nations that do not hold to the necessity of jihad against the infidels.

Turkey is not a Muslim nation, by Turkish Fundamental Law. Mustapha Kemal Ataturk established the Turkish Republic as a secular society, and the Constitution authorizes and commands the Turkish Army to enforce that stipulation. On more than one occasion the Army has come out of barracks and dismissed an elected government -- at least once hanging some of the officials -- for attempting to establish a Muslim state. There is considerable evidence that this Constitutional provision would be overthrown in a popular referendum in Turkey, and the current government has taken steps to replace the top leadership of the Turkish military with officers more sympathetic with the notion of an Islamic Republic. This situation is compounded by Western politicians including those of the European Union chastising Turkey for being insufficiently democratic. Of course a thoroughly democratic Turkey might well become an Islamic Republic with an established religion and bring in sharia; it might well go further. No one knows. Also note that the Turkish secularists cannot in general be described as "moderate Muslims". Most call themselves athiests.

Indonesia is indeed a highly diverse society, diverse in races and religions. It has the largest Muslim population in the world, but has never adopted sharia or demanded jihad.

Your point is well made, but there remains the problem that in both Shia and Sunni states sharia is often popular and has been imposed by both autocratic/monarchic and popular governments. The statement you object to needed modification, but it is not utterly untrue. There is a considerable body of scholarly work that holds that all Muslims must adopt sharia and wage ceaseless struggle to bring all infidels under the House of Islam.


HEALTH / RESEARCH | November 17, 2009 Vital Signs: Risks: 5 Pathogens Linked to Risk for Stroke By RONI CARYN RABIN The lead author of a study said low-level infection and inflammation in vessel walls might be leading to disease.



Falsification of GH Physics

Jerry P: I am usually not interested in the arguments on global warming but found that the paper on " Falsification of GH Physics" most enlightening. This is stuff from college thermodynamics that I remember and of course the arguments are correct. The proponents of the greenhouse will ignore the physics and more importantly the engineering involved. I would like to hear the greenhousers mention mechanical work in their arguments but they are totally into radiative energy transport and not interested in discussing the conversion of thermal energy into mechanical energy, which does work moving the atmosphere about. This of course is much less than that amount of work done moving the oceans. And on that topic, the probability that oceanic circulation in the Arctic and Antarctic oceans does more to affect the ice shelves etc., than any atmospheric affects is something that should be considered. But I am an engineer and look for specific heat and mechanical energy relative to the mobile parts of the atmosphere and hydrosphere. I also consider convective heat transfer, a difficult topic at best, to be more interesting in climate discussions than radiation. It is also important to consider what the millennium oceanic circulation cycle may do with respect to climate than almost anything that is currently being discussed. I agree that we must understand what is going on before taking precipitous actions, but that is not how politics work; or don't actually work.



Re: Balloon Boy vs. Martha Stewert

Dr. Pournelle,

you recently replied "There has to be a difference here. Not sure how to draw a legal distinction, but I know it's there."

but doesn't the intent, as defined by the initiation of the report, provide a glaring distinction between the two situations? The parents called the police (though, if I remember, they called the media first), willfully providing a set of specific information, and undoubtedly answering with additional information in response to the professional investigators' questions (the commonality with the M.S. case), but they initiated the whole charade willingly.

Martha Stewart, on the other hand, was answering questions in an investigation that she did NOT request, and for which she was uninterested in the outcome (well, until it came out as it did).

I am neither a legal professional nor a professional investigator, but I would clearly expect that an uninvolved "witness" would provide less "trustable" information just because it is from someone who has no vested interest. If it is important that the information be truly "trustable", then it becomes essential to impress this upon the "witness" with an oath of truth or some such methodology.

When, on the other hand, a parent initiates a report such as Balloon Boy, I would think that an oath of truthfulness, at least in a "good faith" sense of providing facts to the best of one's knowledge, particularly when involving the mobilization of public resources such as emergency services like a call to 911, can be implicit in the type of emergency situation.

Perhaps I am just too naive from a legal point of view for the complicated legalities of today?

Best regards

James Siddall jr


: XM-25

Looks like a cover to one of your books.




"An Alleyway in Hell."


- Roland Dobbins


Hasan's Treason,


Austin Bay agrees with you on Hassan's Treason:



If it were treason then certainly the wounded deserve Purple Hearts...


'America's alliances are no longer considered responses to security challenges. Instead, they have become ends in themselves.'


-- Roland Dobbins

I continue to wonder why we find NATO in our national interest.







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This week:


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Saturday, November 14, 2009

rapid ice ages 


This isn't it item you cited but is immediately relevant regarding rapid onset of ice ages:


JUST months - that's how long it took for Europe to be engulfed by an ice age. The scenario, which comes straight out of Hollywood blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow, was revealed by the most precise record of the climate from palaeohistory ever generated.

Around 12,800 years ago the northern hemisphere was hit by the Younger Dryas mini ice age, or "Big Freeze". It was triggered by the slowdown of the Gulf Stream, led to the decline of the Clovis culture in North America, and lasted around 1300 years.

Until now, it was thought that the mini ice age took a decade or so to take hold, on the evidence provided by Greenland ice cores. Not so, say William Patterson <http://geochemistry.usask.ca/bill.html> of the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, and his colleagues.

The group studied a mud core from an ancient lake, Lough Monreagh, in western Ireland. Using a scalpel they sliced off layers 0.5 to 1 millimetre thick, each representing up to three months of time. No other measurements from the period have approached this level of detail.

Carbon isotopes in each slice revealed how productive the lake was and oxygen isotopes gave a picture of temperature and rainfall. They show that at the start of the Big Freeze, temperatures plummeted and lake productivity stopped within months, or a year at most. "It would be like taking Ireland today and moving it up to Svalbard" in the Arctic, says Patterson,<snip>



this aritcle seems opportune considering you just asked for help finding the old article that may have started the whole research angle.


good luck on your trip.


: Belgian Scientist - Ice, Pollen, Lakes 1979

Is this it?

Nature, Genievieve Wollard 18 October 1979


That's it. I knew I hadn't dreamed it.


The curse of the book 'Fallen Angles'? 

Projection of climate changes of the last 4century and past 500 years into the future. The black curve is temperature variation from 1900 to 2009; the red line is the IPCC projected warming from the IPCC website in 2000; the blue curves are several possible projections of climate change to 2040+ based on past global cooling periods (1945-1977; 1880 to 1915; and 1790 to 1820). The lack of sun spots during the past solar cycle has surpassed all records since the Dalton Minimum and some solar physicists have suggested we may be headed for a Dalton or Maunder type minimum with severe cooling.




"A major eruption, like the one 39,000 years ago, would leave large parts of Europe buried under a thick layer of ash."


-- Roland Dobbins

Then there's Yellowstone which could go off anytime in the next thousand years or so including tomorrow. We live a bit more fragile than one might think. So we worry about CO2 a lot.


: Purple Heart 

HI Jerry...to quote you...

"If it were treason then certainly the wounded deserve Purple Hearts..."

I agree...but I suspect the following is the sticking point...

"The fact that the proposed recipient was participating in direct or indirect combat operations is a necessary prerequisite..."

I contend that these were AT LEAST, Indirect Combat operations against an enemy combatant whether the participants knew it beforehand or not!

Let us hope logic prevails...

Richard Hakala Former SSGT of Marines

Would they have been eligible if their airplane had been shot down on the way to Afghanistan?


Kindle at the University

Schools shun Kindle, saying blind can't use it


Understand: the Kindle has a feature by which it can read the text. The schools are not buying Kindles because that feature is difficult to turn on by a blind person without help.

Left unsaid is what the two universities plan to do about textbooks.



Cormac McCarthy: 'If you think about some of the things that are being talked about by thoughtful, intelligent scientists, you realize that in 100 years the human race won't even be recognizable.'


- Roland Dobbins

See also C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man







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CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


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Sunday,  November 15, 2009     

British Navy was within 50 feet of Somali Pirates as they Kidnapped British Citizens

Their poltroonery in letting the pirates do this may be related to the advice that no pirate should be taken on a British ship in case he applies for political asylum. Words cannot express how far this is from the Nelson tradition.




Water on the moon

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I will be fascinated to hear what you learned at your conference. If you are able and not TOO angry I'd also be interested in hearing how bad the flight was.

I'm sure you saw this: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/

Finding 25 gallons of water where most scientists have long believed there was none is like shaking a haystack and having 25 needles fall at your feet. What I thought was interesting was NASA playing coy about seeing the spectra of "volatiles," and "hints other intriguing substances." We can hope they are talking about carbon and ammonia.

Sincerely, Frank Luxem

The discovery is of major importance, and deserves far more contemplation and comment than I can give it under the circumstances. We'll return to it when I get more time. It certainly makes Lunar Colonies a great deal more practical; and that is exciting news.


Heinlein right again

NASA has found significant water on the moon. What's next? Ice miners?



I saw this on slashdot.org this morning:


Maybe we'll actually see this happen one of these days.



Dr. Pournelle,

You said:

> I continue to wonder why we find NATO in our national interest.

Is this not a classic example of the Iron Law?

I have frequented this place (and subscribed) long enough to become quite familiar with the concept. I know you are, as you say, "dancing as fast as you can", but I think the topic a worth some sort of formal presentation, perhaps even a book. It might not not solve all the world's problems, but it would help people understand a lot of them better.

Steve Chu

I commented on this in View; you are correct, and I am collecting notes on the matter. I understand that the matter is larger than just foreign policy and alliances.


Health Care Reform

“More Americans now say it is not the federal government's responsibility to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage (50%) than say it is (47%). This is a first since Gallup began tracking this question”


“The reason behind this shift is unknown.” Heh.



Subject: A couple years ago, this kind of power would have cost millions

Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/

Dell resells customized Cray baby super

It's a workcluster, it's a superstation

By Timothy Prickett Morgan <http://forms.theregister.co.uk/

Posted in HPC <http://www.theregister.co.uk/hardware/hpc/>  , 12th November 2009 17:09 GMT

Supercomputer maker Cray today announced a reseller agreement with number two PC and server maker (in terms of shipments) Dell, which will see the latter company resell its own custom version of the entry-level Cray CX1 baby supercomputer. <snip>

Unlike the Cray boxes, which support both Windows and Linux stacks, the Dell variants will only run the Windows stack. 

Tracy Walters, CISSP


Don't-Miss Video: Incredible Look at U.S. Airways Flight 1549, 


Check out this sim of flight 1549, from takeoff to its landing in the Hudson:


"[T]he latest work by Kas Osterbuhr, an engineer at K3 Resources who specializes in the visual presentation of complex data, . . . It reconstructs the flight using vast amounts of material, including radar information showing the position of the geese that led to the Airbus A320 losing power. The result is an incredible series of videos providing an immersive look at the flight of Cactus 1549.

"The main video . . . shows a 3-D simulation of the flight from the moment the brakes are released at La Guardia to the collision with the geese to Sully's amazing touchdown. It shows the flight from several angles, including a constant cockpit view in the corner, as well as the plane's air speed and altitude. The video also includes the audio between the crew and air traffic control and text of the conversation between Sullenberger and Skiles. It's an up-close-and-personal look at the demeanor of both pilots.<snip>

Very cool.



'We have reached a point in Afghanistan that the Soviet Union reached in the 1980s: we no longer believe our own propaganda.'


-- Roland Dobbins


What You Really Should Know About Obama's US Healthcare 


I’m sure there are many such stories out there…but this one is good. If you’ve never read Howard Galganov, he’s got some good stuff.


What You Really Should Know About Obama’s US Healthcare By Howard Galganov

About 16 years ago, a dentist friend of the family noticed a swelling under my left ear that I had ignored because it didn’t bother me. His advice was that I see a doctor without delay.

He knew what the swelling probably was, but didn’t want to tell me.

I will do my best to make this long story short: <snip>


But, to be sure that it was a tumor, I needed a CAT-SCAN. So, he gave me a prescription for the procedure to be done at the hospital radiology department.

When I handed in the prescription to his receptionist a few moments later, I was told that I would be scheduled for the procedure in about 6-8 weeks if I was lucky.

Whoa - 6-8 weeks with a probable tumor growing in my neck. NO WAY was I going to wait.

I asked the receptionist for the prescription back, as I was going to go to the USA to have the CAT-SCAN done there, to which she quietly said: I’m not allowed to be referring you to this, but there is a “PRIVATE” radiology service that is operating not far from here. She gave us the phone number.

Up till recently, it was AGAINST THE LAW for any private medical procedures to be done in most of Canada that were not elective, such as Plastic Surgery. So this clinic was relatively new.

My wife (Anne) called the private clinic from a hospital payphone, where Anne was told that they could take me right away if I was able to get there within 20 minutes. No problem Anne said. But, they also told her over the phone: We don’t take public healthcare. It was cash, check or credit card. No problem Anne said. And we were on our way.

The procedure cost $280.

When we called the private clinic it was a few minutes before noon. We got there in 15 minutes. They took me right away. The procedure was over in 20 minutes. The films were put in my hands within moments of me getting dressed. And we were back at the hospital just before 1:00 o’clock, where we saw the ENT surgeon walking down the hall.

As I approached him, he smiled and asked why I was still at the hospital. His smile turned to disbelief when I presented him with the CAT-SCAN films.

So, we went back to his office where he reviewed the films. He told me the tumor was in fact the size of a bagel. So big, that he didn’t want to be the one operating on it, as he preferred to leave it to the Chief of Surgery who is renowned for this type of procedure.


But that’s not the end of the story.

After the surgery was done, it turned-out that the tumor was of a very rare mixed variety, where the outside tumor was benign, encapsulating a vicious malignant tumor that would have surely killed me had it entered my Lymphatic System.

And according to the Chief of Surgery, the benign wall separating the malignant tumor from my Lymphatic System was so thin, as to be nearly non existent.

The result was very aggressive radiation therapy that began a couple of months after the surgery, since the surgical wounds had to heal before they could start pummeling my neck and chest with massive doses of tissue destroying radiation.

I was nearly finished the radiation therapy when the hospital’s radiology department called to tell me that they had an opening for a CAT-SCAN, MORE THAN THREE MONTHS AFTER the original request was made (even though we had cancelled it).

Had it not been for the PRIVATE system and the $280 cost, it is very doubtful that I would be here today writing this editorial. BUT IT DOESN’T END HERE EITHER.

Because of the radiation therapy, my left ear doesn’t drain efficiently, which leads to a build-up of dead skin cells on my ear drum, which is uncomfortable, and makes it hard for me to hear.

It has to be cleared by way of minor surgery requiring the steady hand of an ENT doctor aided with a microscope. The entire procedure takes less than 5 minutes.

But, because of Canada’s healthcare policies, it takes anywhere from 3-6 months for me to get an appointment with an ENT doctor. And when I do, it take’s hours in the waiting room for a procedure that takes less time to do than it takes to describe.

Because the Canadian system is so overloaded, and the doctors are so poorly compensated, no one seems to care about the patients, making the medical system somewhat like a meat market.

Receptionists are generally curt, if not downright rude, since they don’t have to be nice to anyone. If you don’t like the service, what are you going to do? Take your so-called free business elsewhere? They don’t care.

If you don’t like waiting for an appointment, or waiting for hours in a crowded waiting room. Tough luck.

Again – what are you going to do, since there is nowhere else to take your business?

I went the so-called private route in Canada (Montreal), since there are more private clinics popping up to deal with people like me. But, I’m not the ONLY person to feel the way I do, so the private option is as nuts and as inundated as the government paid system.

So what’s my option?

I can’t plan on when I need the minor surgery, since it sort of sneaks up on me all of a sudden. So when it happens, I call for an appointment. But as I wrote in the preceding, that could take months before I get to see a doctor for a 5-minute procedure.

So, I decided to try a whole new different strategy. I went to the Internet and researched US hospitals close to where Anne and I live on our side off the US/Canada border, and found an ENT doctor with a great reputation. And I called.

The person who answered the phone was exceedingly polite and helpful. She asked the right questions and gave me the answers to questions I had. She gave me an appointment for 5 days from the time of my call, but told me that she would fit me in sooner if I was really uncomfortable.

But, what really floored me was when she said: Please be on time since we don’t like to keep any of our patients waiting.

Anne and I drove about an hour and a quarter to see the US doctor in his private home/clinic. True to their word, I didn’t wait a moment to be seen.

The doctor’s office was cheerful. He and his staff were cheerful. And he was really well equipped.

The procedure took about 5 minutes. But, in addition to clearing the debris from my eardrum, he also did a comprehensive check-up on both of my ears, my nose, and my throat, which is something NOT one of the Canadian doctors had done who I had seen over the last 16 years.

The total cost for all of this was $96 US.

When Anne and I left his office, I literally held back tears of joy, knowing that I no longer have to grovel, be treated like a piece of meat, and wait months for a procedure that takes 5 minutes to do, and relieves a great deal of discomfort. <snip>

Best Regards . . . Howard Galganov

Tracy Walters, CISSP







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