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Monday  May 3, 2010

Letter from England

UK election coverage: Clegg claims the Liberals are now ahead of Labour <http://tinyurl.com/3a7vfuw> Times commentary <http://tinyurl.com/35f4otg> Brown continues fight <http://tinyurl.com/38ovg95> <http://tinyurl.com/2v45yot>

 NHS postcode lottery <http://tinyurl.com/33n94yl>


Harry Erwin, PhD, Senior Lecturer of Computing, University of Sunderland. Security engineer and analyst. http://www.theworld.com/~herwin/

It will be an important election for the United States. The polls seem to shift by the hour...



England wears masks clearly labeled Mr Idle and Mr Tolerant. This often fools our enemies. When sufficiently pressed the masks come off to reveal Mr Fell and Mr Grim. If that were not enough the other countries which make up the United Kingdom and who heartily loathe the English actively resent outside interference in what they regard as a purely family matter. Military geniuses like Hitler or Napoleon suddenly find themselves also facing the wild Highland Scots, the dour, covenanting, Lowland Scots, that most formidable mixed breed of dour Lowland Scot and wild Southern Irishman that inhabit Northern Ireland and last, but not least, the cantankerous Welsh. In addition the Southern Irish, never ones to waste a good fight, flock to England's assistance.

Somehow when these islands are threatened we manage to find the right war leaders. The Spanish Armada was defeated by Efingham who knew nothing of naval matters but who could get things done. He had the wits to listen to the likes of Hawkins and Drake and the numerous other piratical seafarers and to give them what they needed. Napoleon faced Wellington and was discomfited. Hitler's planned invasion foundered on the rock that was Dowding's Fighter Command. The man who spent his reserves with a masterly though miserly hand that the Luftwaffe had to admit defeat when thirty bombers went to attack Newcastle previously untouched being out of range of German fighter cover and lost the lot. The weary but battle hardened squadrons that had been switched to the North to rest and re-equip were fully prepared for this straightforward duty.

The British are indeed groaning under an absurd amount of absurd legislation at present. Hard times are coming here as in Greece, and in the USA, and everywhere else in the West.. When they do there will be a lot of subsistence farming and the foolish laws and the officials who enforce them will be swept away.

John Edwards

We can hope.


On Simon Ramo's OpEd in the LAT


All I can say is "pffpt!" like Bill the Cat.

The money quote:

"....Some worry that if we allow further conquering of outer space to be by China or Russia, they will become the most respected nations as to exploration initiative and heroism. But should Russia put a cosmonaut on the moon, they merely will have caught up with where America was 40 years ago. And if China tries to send humans to Mars, it is reasonable to guess that they will be bogged down for many years, while our unmanned missions will continue to produce valuable research results...."--<http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-ramo-20100426,0,452 1776.story>

I have had great respect for Mr. Ramo, the "R" of TRW.

Dean Wooldridge & Simon Ramo on the cover of Time April 29, 1957 <http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19570429,00.html

But his statement boggles. I never thought he would be so old in spirit. Does Mr. Ramo forget that China and/or Russia might perform both manned space exploration and unmanned space exploration?! Does Mr. Ramo forget that the Moon is near the top of the Earth's gravity well?! I seem to recollect that someone that we read here on Chaos Manor has written about the Moon having some very minor strategic advantages.

I think we can delete Mr. Ramo from the possible list of candidates for D.D. Harriman. On the other hand he would be one of the board members of D.D. Harriman's company!

His view reminds me of what wags have said:

To someone who says, "I am too old to go to college."

Wag, "How old will you be in four years from now if you don't go to college?"

To our leaders who say, "It will take ten years to get oil online."

Wag, "How much oil will we have in ten years if we don't do anything for ten years?"

I am beginning to believe we are in Heinlein's "Crazy Years" [Do see Spider Robinson's "The Crazy Years: Reflections of a Science Fiction Original"]. To have hope I do have to remember what you say, "despair is a sin."

Regards, Charles Adams, Bellevue, NE

Crazy Years and hiatus indeed


4th Amendment and Mr. Keech's comments

Mr. Keech's rhetoric is a bit.....over the top.

But I know where it comes from.....the frustration that most, probably all, criminal defense attorneys feel as they try to defend clients that they know are being railroaded by set of governmental officials who have lots of power, and not too many limits on that power.

And more frustrating is the feeling that the balance is tipping against criminal defendants even more. This is a close call, but the members of the defense bar often feel as if they're losing ground. For instance, it's easy to point at the Patriot Act, but exceedingly difficult to find anyone who has actually had to defend a client charged under its provisions. Nonetheless, it is widely held by the criminal defense bar that the law gave too much increased power to federal prosecutors....and in certain cases, it probably did.

And the government has, should it choose to use them, essentially unlimited resources. Your run-of-the-mill criminal defendant does not. Prosecutors, by and large, in my experience, care a lot more about their conviction rate than they do about justice. I hasten to note that attitude is NOT universal amongst prosecutors. I have known some who really lived up to what prosecutors are supposed to do, which is seek a just result, not merely a conviction. But I have also seen a large number who don't, and it is often for political reasons, because in a lot of places, District Attorney is an elective office. So you get abuses, like the Duke lacrosse team fake-rape-charge case, and you fight them for many hours and many client dollars, even though anyone objectively examining such case would quickly realize just how ridiculous it was.

It doesn't take long to feel like your job as a criminal defense attorney is to knock your head against a brick wall for 10 hours a day.

It's this kind of thing that led me to teaching instead of practicing law these days. After awhile, it really wears you down.

Just some food for thought.

Highest Regards,

Professor Tim Pleasant
Concord Law School of Kaplan University

And the prosecutor faces jury nullification of drug convictions in the District of Columbia.

Perhaps there is a lesson there.


Jury Nullification...


"There are scholars lately focused on legislative tools, nullification <http://www.lewrockwell.com/woods/woods131.html>  and interposition. However, these not only rely upon the ballot box, but have also historically been the follow-on to jury nullification rather than a pre-cursor. The legislative nullification of fugitive slave laws came after juries nullified them, rather than before. In essence, the legislatures were merely formalizing what had already been accomplished by jurors rather than leading the charge to erase tyranny.

"The same can be said of prohibition, nullified even after judges stopped informing juries of their right to judge law. The final legislative repeal of the 21st amendment was a mere formality. The government found it virtually impossible to convict and thus it went about saving face while throwing in the towel. Can you imagine any similar outcome as a result of voting? If so you have a vivid imagination because such has never happened in our relatively brief history."

Charles Brumbelow

Macaulay's History of England tells of a time when juries were locked up until they brought out a verdict. One was holding out for acquittal and his wife was tossing him bread through a window. They closed the window and got a conviction.

Is this the way we will get out of our War on Drugs?


THE ENEMY WITHIN: Security Threats From Domestic Militia Groups by Francis Hamit

Just a reminder that some of my old world has, alas, become relevant again. This e-book is about 10,000 words on the rationals, history and countermeasures against such groups.

Francis Hamit


Would that we had a real militia at the local level. Well regulated. For that matter, a Civil Defense organization such as we once had.


SUBJECT: Expansion of border crossing baffles farmers.

Sounds like the Iron Law at work:


$7 million for 2.5 cars per hour.


Mike Casey

See also http://www.msnbc.msn.com/


Public Education Costs HOW Much?


"Real spending per pupil ranges from a low of nearly $12,000 in the Phoenix area schools to a high of nearly $27,000 in the New York metro area. The gap between real and reported per-pupil spending ranges from a low of 23 percent in the Chicago area to a high of 90 percent in the Los Angeles metro region."

Charles Brumbelow


Subject: Cost of Education in Washington DC


I went to the link and read the article posted by your correspondent on the cost of education in Wash DC. Several things caught my eye…cost of Instructional Staff, School Administration, generally almost everything is higher across the board. The one that really caught my eye is Student Transportation. Cost for this in DC is $1160 per student. Much higher than any other region. I’ve been to DC quite a lot over the years due to my work, and it’s not a huge place…and has pretty good public transportation. So I am at a complete loss to understand this cost as compared to my state, which is Montana, where cost is $425, and we have large open areas where busses must drive many miles to pick up just a few students.

Are they picking up the kids in DC in limousines?

Supplying the link again:


Tracy Walters, CISSP




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Tuesday,  May 4, 2010

A note from the trenches

I've had a small business for 15 years and I talk to several other small business owners. Here is what is going on...

The economy is getting better. Orders are up and we are trying to fill them. The huge problem is that all of the suppliers have drained inventory down to zero and it is difficult to get nearly anything. And if you do find a scarce part, chances are that it has doubled or tripled in price since the last time you bought it. *Everything* is much more expensive and has a longer lead time than pre-recession.

My machine shop friends have had major problems getting good aluminum stock. Some of the name brand US AL producers have closed their US plants and are supplying bar and sheet AL brought in from China and relabeled, with serious quality control issues.

I suspect we are creeping up on 10% inflation for the products that we buy in the supermarket and hardware store. I guess we don't see this number because it is offset by the decline in housing prices and the relative stability in gas prices. My two friends that own restaurants have seen the price for quality produce almost double in the last year.


On the other hand, we have nots about officials in Washington saying we should get used to 10% unemployment (as they have in Europe; it's a price of European style socialism.) Well see.


The New Nerd Panic


An article by Eugenia Loli-Queru, wherein he points out that:

"[T]here is something very important, that the vast majority of both consumers and video professionals don't know: ALL modern video cameras and camcorders that shoot in h.264 or mpeg2, come with a license agreement that says that you can only use that camera to shoot video for "personal use and non-commercial" purposes (go on, read your manuals)."

I remember something like this happening before; remember how Compuserve had the copyright for the GIF format and nobody was allowed to use it?

-- Mike T. Powers

New one to me. Anyone know much?


Subject: Camcorder "licensing"

The rumors are true. From my camcorder's manual, page 7:


"This product is licensed under the AVC patent portfolio license for the personal and non- commercial use of a consumer to (i) encode video in compliance with the AVC Standard (“AVC Video”) and/or (ii) decode AVC Video that was encoded by a consumer engaged in a personal and non-commercial activity and/or was obtained from a video provider licensed to provide AVC Video. No license is granted or shall be implied for any other use. Additional information may be obtained from MPEG LA, LLC. See http://www.mpegla.com. " 

Funny, I don't remember reading any of this in the advertisements for the camcorder. This kind of nonsense *should* have been nipped in the bud with the invention of the "EULA", but instead we got judicial precedent claiming that it's okay for a company to impose new terms on a sale after they've already taken your money. Better read all the fine print... --- Roy

 But then we have:

MPEG2 License

It's just more whargarbl. The encoding method is licensed for non-commercial use. If you want to distribute your work commercially, then you just buy a commercial license which then covers you. And to cut off those that start screaming about the fee it is very minor. From what I remember it was a few pennies/unit to start and the price dropped with volume.

Gene Horr


From <http://www.streamingmedia.com/
=65403&Pag eNum=4>  it appears that:

1) There is no fee for videos under 12 minutes 2) For individual units, "Title-by-title", the fee is US$.02/unit 3) For mass broadcast the fee is either $2,500/encoder (in this case per camera) or a bulk per-viewer fee that starts under US$.03/viewer.

Since there are cases where a license "attaches" to a camera and cases where it doesn't it appears to me that the best choice would be to sell the camera without a commercial license.

My take on it is that this is just more scaremongering by the freetards. A few years back there was similar outcry about the licenses for playing music at places of business. Hardly a new issue, but they acted like it was. Lots of people screaming about the evil RIAA and kind of ignoring the fact that the solutions were dirt simple. Either pay the fee of a little over US$1.00/day or just turn the music player off. Neither was much of a burden.

Gene Horr



Catastrophic retreat of glaciers in Spitsbergen...with a Shyamalan-worthy twist.


Jason Merrell

So the Arctic Ice went away in the 20's and came back some time after 1940. Not astonishing except for the rapidity, but certainly not part of the official record.

It is likely, then, that the Arctic was open and the Northwest Passage was open during Viking times, which means that Hudson and his ilk were following legends that had a basis in fact; but by the time Hudson searched for the Northwest Passage it was all iced up.

Or is there better data? I have always supposed that Arctic Ice thicknesses were cyclic, but I would have thought the period a good bit longer than a few decades. Apparently not. We really need better data.


“NOVA Arctic Passage: Prisoners of the Ice Sir John Franklin, and 133 officers and crew set off to conquer the most perilous waterway in the world. Their mission: to be the first to sail from the Atlantic to the Pacific through Canada’s icy Northwest Passage May 1845.

Transcript of the NOVA program.

Dated 1848—more than a year after the original note was written, Francis Crozier, the captain of the Terror added in the margin that the ships were still trapped in the ice in the same location.

Apparently "everyone knew" that the Arctic ice melted in summers. Every year. And in 1942

St. Roch is a Royal Canadian Mounted Police schooner, the first ship to completely circumnavigate North America, and the second sailing vessel to complete a voyage through the Northwest Passage.

So one does wonder: it seems the Arctic Ice has melted not merely in historic times but in times of recent memory. So why the sudden alarm?




John Ringo regarding storms and global warming:

"Go back to the Global Warming thing. One of the things that was raised about why Global Warming was going to Destroy Civilization was that Storms Got Stronger... Cold fronts (affect most regions of the world). And warm fronts. And they can be pretty (expletive) powerful. Se "Storm of the Century." Well, it might have been for the 20th Century, but in the 21st we've learned a whole new definition. "Why? "Meteorology 101. 'Storms are governed by differences in temperature between the polar regions and the tropics.' "Global Warming would have meant warmer temperatures in the polar regions and pretty much the same in the tropical regions. "Global Cooling meant much colder temperatures in the polar regions and pretty much the same in the tropical regions."

-- John Ringo, "The Last Centurion," Baen 2008, Chapter 21 (page 347 of the hardcover edition). (Chapter title omitted due to vulgarity and due to principal focus unrelated to the above quote.)

It really is pretty close to that simple; we're noting the consequences tonight in the Southeast, yesterday in your home town, today in most of the places I've lived (central Kentucky, Nashville, and Huntsville.) Current short-term tropical and subtropical heating and global anomalous temperature distributions due to El Nino notwithstanding.


What it ain't is CO2


So Befuddled, 

So, immodest women cause earthquakes . . . . now, that begs the question: Is the size or intensity of the earthquake dependent on the religion of the immodest woman? Do immodest Islamic women generate stronger earthquakes???

And HAARP controls the weather causing hurricanes.

The Chinese manipulate snow . . .


Can I still believe that thunder is caused by the Angels and God bowling on heavenly alleys????



Regarding Civil Defense and the Local Militia: It may not have been what it once was, but...



(The local organization is a normally unarmed group activated as part of CERT exercises and activities such as in-state weather emergencies; I've been a member for about a year and have supported several civic organization programs, plus emergency training exercises under FEMA involving radiation release and toxic chemical release accidents, though NOT in my professional capacity to deal with either.)




Re. the Census and the hand-held computers

I’ve been working at the Census Bureau for a few months now, at one of those umpteen thousand temporary jobs. I came on-board after the decision had been made to scrap the HHCs (hand-held computers), but I’ve heard some fun stories about how terrible they had been during the address canvassing phase (in 2008, I believe).

The devices had some sort of GPS built-in, you see, so it could record where you were while you typed-in what sort of residence you were standing in front of. And it reported your position to the local office. Except when it reported that you were twenty miles away from where you were assigned to and your supervisor had to travel and confirm that you actually were where you said you were.

Then there was the absolutely reliable crash-every-time-you-did-this bug. Which really was a great feature, because the device could only be reset in the office; if the weather was bad you could tickle the bug, induce the crash, and spend the morning at the office instead of in the rain.

If you can come up with a credible mock-up of an app running on a tablet computer with GPS and the Google Maps API, there might be a $700 million contract in your future….

—A loyal reader


Re: Stop Drownings in the All American Canal


Stock the canal generously with Nile Crocodiles. Feed them of course, but just a little.

Regards, George

Sir Rodney: The Peasants are Revolting!!  The Moat Monsters are starving!!
The King: "Hmmmm"


Stealth Inflation

Have we been experiencing stealth inflation (I haven't heard any government acknowledgements but I've been tacking my pocketbook...)?


Americans saw prices rise two percent in the year to March according to the Commerce Department's <http://topics.breitbart.com/Commerce+Department/>  personal consumption expenditures index published on Monday.

The figure, which is closely watched by the Federal Reserve <http://topics.breitbart.com/Federal+Reserve/>  as a sign of broader inflation levels, is approaching the maximum the central bank normally considers sustainable.

Energy and food costs rose 18.7 percent against March 2009, up almost four percentage points compared with February.

Without food and energy spending the inflation level remained stable at 1.3 percent. <snip>

Noting stealthy about it. Energy costs are directly correlated with the cost of living. Always. Whether we are making stuff, growing stuff, or importing stuff.


Civil Defense 

Perhaps a smaller "strike force" in local counties and cities of decent size is a more achievable goal, and it might come without the political threat envelope.

James Witt was getting there on the Gulf Coast during the Clinton years. W's team was all influence, deals with friends and pals, and no smarts. We are about to see about this administration before the oil spill is controlled. I think it will be in good shape before May is over.

Remember that never has anyone tried this before with one mile of separation in a water column with at least 1 or 2 thermal layers and/or currents on the way down. The deepest water now below drill rigs ia over 10,000 feet. Your point is valid about being better prepared with new equipment to manage such an event. It could be staged for use among a producing group of companies in deep water without breaking any one bank account. I know of no drills to test theories and approaches.

BP is trying hard to get a handle on the spill and some control (as heard from my personal contact with insiders who know the people and the equipment).

G Allan Smalley Jr, P E

It's best to be prepared in advance. Always.  Seems obvious to me.





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Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Sable got her knee operation today and it is very chaotic at Chaos Manor






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Thursday, May 6, 2010

  Hidden tax change in health care bill that affects you.

I saw this http://money.cnn.com/2010/05/05/
smallbusiness/1099_health_care_tax_change/index.htm  on CNN.com. 

If you buy more than $600 of supplies from anyone, say a monitor and a couple of disk drives from Fry's, you will be require to get Fry's taxpayer identification number and submit a Form 1099 to Fry's and the IRS. I am sure that this will cause some small business owners, especially those that are not the primary source of income, to drop out.

My Dad, age 87, bales hay for pay. Now he will have to keep track of where he buys gas and diesel, repair parts and twine and get taxpayer id numbers and file the 1099s. His business consists of--him. This is another example of why 2000 page bills are bad.

John Abshier

Alarming indeed. I had not heard of this. It needs thought.



Five Morgan Hill students sent home for wearing American flag T-shirts


"Some Mexican-American students said that their flags were taken away or asked to be put away, but none were sent home for wearing red, white and green. Since Boden would not comment, it's uncertain if any other students were sent home for what they were wearing on Cinco de Mayo."

Clearly I missed what nation I'm supposed to be serving. Or maybe somebody has along the way.

Other than the story, I'll point out that this is a fine example of a website more excited about what they can do than presenting information. Please do not modernize in any direction the Gilroy Dispatch took.



Show what is this about???


Cinco De Mayo celebrates victory over the French, not the USA. And California is not Mexico.

For reasons not clear to me, some teachers confuse Cinco de Mayo, which was a victory over the Emperor Maximilian who was installed with French troops including the Legion during the American Civil War, with the grito del delor and subsequent Mexican rebellion against Spain. It's a bigger holiday in the US than in Mexico.


Wow, what is going on in this country?

Flag-Shirts-Sent-Home-92945969.html  -- BDAB,



Re: Soft Bigotry and the Menlo Park Flag Incident

So let me get this straight--the administrators of Live Oak High School believe that Mexican students are so unstable, so emotional and prone to violence, so unable to control their own impulses, that we must avoid provoking them in any way.

And they say that *WE'RE* the racists?

-- Mike T. Powers

I don't expect further commentary is needed. Incidentally the Latino students in the school want those who wore American flag clothing to be punished, and a lot of Latino students are demonstrating. You must be punished for wearing an American Flag to school.

The invasion by ten million illegal immigrants continues.


11 Reasons Why Google Has Already Won the Ebook Market - Cloud Computing from eWeek


Interesting, but not comprehensive. None of these outlets seem to know how to cultivate a business relationship with vendors. Ingram is a little better at it.


Francis Hamit


Google to start selling digital books - May. 4, 2010


Dear Jerry:

Is this curtains for the Kindle? Probably not, but having been a Google Print Partner, I'm not hopeful that their "solution" will be any better for publishers. Amazon has made the grave error of trying to force everyone else to accept their standards so they can control and dominate the market. You would think that getting rapped on the kncukles repeatedly with MobiPocket and as a source of Print on Demand books would have taught them better. Google is a bit more agile but also suffers from some of the same "If we build it, they will come" arrogance. From a publishers standpoint, IMO, the people who are the best distributors of electronic books are Ingram. They service all of the web pages for brick and mortar stores as well as online ones like FicitonWise and Diesel. Truth to tell, I don't care where it is sold or at what retail price s long as I get my percentage. Amazon ties to buy market share with lower prices, but since time really is money, most people don't comparison shop for e-books, but go to their usual trusted source. Which is why you want to be in as many channels as are convenient and easy to service. As you found out, Amazon Kindle is anything but that. Rule #1 of merchandising: You can't sell it if you don't have it and if you treat vendors badly you won't have it.


Francis Hamit


The MPEG problem is both old and new

Dear Dr Pournelle,

Your correspondent Mike Powers wrote that "Compuserve had the copyright for the GIF format". The issue was a patent, not copyright, and Compuserve did not have any right to use GIF; it had to license it from Unisys, the patent holder, which then took proceedings against others.

Another correspondent (Gene Horr) mentions that "A few years back there was similar outcry about the licenses for playing music at places of business. Hardly a new issue, but they acted like it was."

Once again, this confuses patent and copyright. The 'similar' outcry is about copyright, where the MPEG issue has to do with patents. The portmanteau word 'freetard' has morphed into a term of common abuse; it's not helpful here because those complaining can't reasonably be dismissed as fanatical anti-copyright activists.

In particular, there is a real and present danger involving the MPEG-LA patent pool; the current license period ends December 31 2010. MPEG-LA has announced it won't make changes involving content which is free to consumers, but the same is emphatically not true if any fee is charged. So someone charging a fee for self-made movies in will get hit with fees which are presently unknown.

The copyright squabble was both an old and a new issue, and it's ongoing. In the UK the biggest case was against Kwik-Fit which had a policy against radios going at work. They nonetheless were done by the copyright collectives in (Scottish) court because the workers refused to do the bosses bidding. I believe there was an out-of-court settlement. In the US the bit of copyright law covering performance is §106, section 4, but this is a world issue.

The public as a whole has not accepted any such rulings and the issue keeps resurfacing in the courts, for copyright performance fees are not small. In the case of Paul Wilson, a sole-proprietor mechanic, they came to 150 pounds sterling (in 2009). He had been playing his radio in his workshop since 1963, so for him this was indeed a new issue practically speaking. The copyright collective did not accept his radio in lieu of the Ł150, and warned him that ongoing spot checks by what amounts to a private copyright police would target both him and his neighbours. Even the police in the UK now have to pay such fees for the majority of police stations. This even bit a packer for a supermarket who warbled while she worked. The old biddy was quite upset and the copyright cops had to backtrack in the face of public ridicule, while not of course conceding an inch of principle.

That principle as the Scottish justice put it is that if you have control of the workplace, you have a duty to ensure no unlicensed broadcast takes place. The good judge quietly complained that this had not been properly argued by either side. That will doubtless happen soon.

More importantly, there are indeed new issues concerning the MPEG decoder/encoder licence fees (pace Gene Horr).

First, they might not be adequately brought to the attention of the consumer; but new laws (UCITA, replacing the Uniform Commercial Code) make a nonsense of traditional interpretations of unilateral contract law. In particular they allow for the terms of an agreement to change post-sale. This I think is the point made by Roy; it is a much bigger legal issue which also will not go away.

Second, although Mr Horr claims the fees are low, to take one example $2500 for (one) mass broadcast is still far too much to pay for an independent movie-maker, and they won't know about it till the MPEG-LA consortium puts the bite on after any initial success.

Third, Steve Jobs is on record as saying that a new patent attack is to be mounted on those video and audio codecs which have no patent encumbrance, such as Ogg Vorbis and Ogg Theora. For a short time these were listed as part of the HTML5 standard, but they were ejected for the threat of "submarine" patents, although Ogg is designed to avoid them, inefficiency, and no hardware acceleration. The inefficiency and hardware acceleration can be improved, but a nebulous FUD patent threat can't.

This is a big and important subject. I hope the above helps see why.

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole

Patent Law is hopelessly out of date.


Re: The Census Device

A Loyal Reader writes: "If you can come up with a credible mock-up of an app running on a tablet computer with GPS and the Google Maps API..."

My immediate thought: "Apple already did that, they call it the iPhone..."

-- Mike T. Powers



Jerry: A good read:


The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. -Mencken


VA AG to Investigate Mann, UVA


RICHMOND -- Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II <http://projects.washingtonpost.com/votersguide/
2007/va/candidates/kenneth-t-cuccinelli-ii/>  is demanding that the University of Virginia turn over a broad range of documents from a former professor to determine whether he defrauded taxpayers as he sought grants for global warming research. The civil investigative demand <http://voices.washingtonpost.com/
virginiapolitics/Virginia_Attorney_General_CID.pdf>  asks for all data and materials presented by former professor Michael Mann when he applied for five research grants from the university. It also gives the school until May 27 to produce all correspondence or e-mails between Mann and 39 other scientists since 1999.

I count myself as an AGW skeptic, but I find this a troubling development. This seems more like a way for Mr. Cuccinelli to score points for himself among conservatives, not a useful contribution to the scientific debate on global warming. However, given the reluctance of AGW proponents to turn over data and models, perhaps this is the skeptics' last recourse.

Tom Fagan

I don't know enough about this to have an opinion, but my impression is one of distaste unless the charge is deliberate fraud. This is a request for evidence and may be justified, but I agree, caution is appropriate. I'm no fan of Michael Mann, but I have no reason to believe he is acting improperly.


The limits of policy

Interesting Op-Ed from the NYT today - http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/04/opinion/04brooks.html?hp 

Roughly a century ago, many Swedes immigrated to America. They’ve done very well here. Only about 6.7 percent of Swedish-Americans live in poverty. Also a century ago, many Swedes decided to remain in Sweden. They’ve done well there, too. When two economists calculated Swedish poverty rates according to the American standard, they found that 6.7 percent of the Swedes in Sweden were living in poverty.

In other words, you had two groups with similar historical backgrounds living in entirely different political systems, and the poverty outcomes were the same.

A similar pattern applies to health care. In 1950, Swedes lived an average of 2.6 years longer than Americans. Over the next half-century, Sweden and the U.S. diverged politically. Sweden built a large welfare state with a national health service, while the U.S. did not. The result? There was basically no change in the life expectancy gap. Swedes now live 2.7 years longer.

Again, huge policy differences. Not huge outcome differences.

The discussion covers life expectancy, region and ethnic factors and the effect (or lack thereof) of government policies.

My favorite quote: "Therefore, the first rule of policy-making should be, don’t promulgate a policy that will destroy social bonds"

Its a shame that government policy never seems to work this way.

John Harlow



Your idea of containment booms was fine.

Turns out that the oil companies (us) have been paying a 8 cent tax per barrel on production/imports to haave the feds have just such an emergency force. Of course in true government tax behavior they took the money and spent it on more important needs. So wjen BP asked for the booms they were not available, so on to Plan B.

Quoting BaensBar Future tech


...If you have the tools to make it work.

When British Petroleum called on the Federal Government to supply the Fire Booms as called for in the Nation Oil and Hazardous Substances Contingency Plan (NCP), they ran into a snag. The Government did have the 10 booms pre-positioned like it was supposed to under the plan supposedly put into effect in 1994.



The reporter, Ben Raines, has been a pain in the Governments fundament for some time.


It's not like they haven't studied the problem.



Maybe Mr Raines could be picked up by the National Media, but if that happened it would become clear that while BP is holding up it's end in dealing with the spill, the Government is who is really responsible for the oil making it to the coast in the quanities it is. It now looks like like the containment vessel that BP has built and brought in will be there before the fire booms are.

Keith W--

My real point was and is that oil spills are inevitable (more comes from shipwreck than from leaking offshore wells) and the time to test procedures and mechanisms and chemical solutions is before they happen when tests can be made under controlled conditions and proper evaluations can be made.

We ought to know about detergents, and other chemical dispersion agents. We ought to be researching booms and boom deployments.

And the proper way to pay for all this is a portion of a separation tax. It seems elementary to me. I thought Reagan believed so too as Governor. It did not happen, but I am not privy to all the political machinations. Now would be a good time to try it...


Subject: your website design 

Dr. Pournelle,

You may have seen this before, but I suppose this is what your website would look like if it was modernized...


Meh. It appears reasonably well organized and customizable, but the blog format and forums are pretty much the opposite of how you want your site to work. Still, it may give you some ideas if you ever revisit the idea of updating your web presence.


I prefer what I have now.


Greece -

Hi Jerry,

I've been watching the situation in Greece, and wondering when or if the people there will get a clue. Then I saw this quote in a Foxnews story this morning:

"Thanassis Nazaris, an elderly shop owner, said he expected protests to build after Greeks return from summer breaks and find they do not have enough money to live." [emphasis mine]

Return from summer breaks? They are facing pay cuts, and yet they still take vacations? How about cutting back on personal spending? Words like hubris, ignorance, idiocy, and arrogance come to mind. Are they having a psychotic break, or do they really not get it? There simply isn't any more money - you can't tax the turnips any more.

And these are the seeds that Obama has sown here at home. I just hope they don't sprout.



You do not understand the aristocracy's needs. Be quiet and continue to knit.



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Friday,  May 7, 2010

Greece Austerity Measures


With all the talk of riots, I wanted to know what measures the Greeks are rioting about.

Now I can see why Germans are pissed off. I would be ticked off if I had to pay so some Greek can get 30 percent yearly increases on salary, and 2 month salary bonuses every year!

David March

How selfish of you! Are you not your Greek cousin's keeper?


The Internet Destroys the Newspaper or was it Something else

CHANGE is in the air. A new communications technology threatens a dramatic upheaval in America’s newspaper industry, overturning the status quo and disrupting the business model that has served the industry for years. This “great revolution”, warns one editor, will mean that some publications “must submit to destiny, and go out of existence.” With many American papers declaring bankruptcy in the past few months, their readers and advertisers lured away by cheaper alternatives on the internet, this doom-laden prediction sounds familiar. But it was in fact made in May 1845, when the revolutionary technology of the day was not the internet—but the electric telegraph.


David March

And then radio news, and then television news, and then cable television. Newspapers survived all that even as they got thinner. But then came Craig's List, and that ended their local classified advertisement revenue, and now their future is up in the air. The Wall Street Journal seems to have found a way to continue. So has the National Enquirer. But the large newspapers and magazines with major editorial staff -- BYTE, Rocky Mountain News for example -- have died or are in real trouble. Each of the previous threats took their toll -- the great days of newspapers were before 1950 -- but the Internet hit them in the revenue with a fatal blow.


Subject: An interesting concept


Tracy Walters, CISSP

Computer generated future predictions come up on George Noory's Coast to Coast from time to time. Always interesting if not particularly understandable. Their premise is that a Google search on future events has real predictive value. Their track record is interesting: a couple of the "computer runs" apparently have managed to predict some events, although how far they are from the typical fortune teller's deliberate ambiguity isn't entirely clear. The theory is that the collective consciousness knows things that individuals don't.

Google invested in Recorded Futures, which I don't think has ever been on Coast to Coast. Here is a link to an article on how Recorded Futures is supposed to work: http://www.smartplanet.com/

For what it's worth Dana Blankenhorn who seems to be the sparkplug of SmartPlanet is an old friend and associate from back in the GE Genie days. He was on a business beat at CMP when BYTE was McGraw Hill. We haven't been in contact for years.

All this reminds me of the time back before small computers when there was "technical analysis" of the stock market: Dow Jones theory and others, which studied the variations in several indices: 50 Industrials, 20 Rails, 20 Utilities, 500 Stocks (those are from memory). When Rails went up before Industrials it meant one thing. Utilities had a special place in the scheme. The formulae were complex. Several science fiction stories including the Boy Who Bought Old Earth (Cordwainer Smith) took the premise that if you just had a good enough computer you could predict the stock market, and someone managed to do that. In the early days of microcomputers it was assumed that technical analysis of the stock market would eventually succeed, and computers would be much better at predicting the future -- earthquakes, hurricanes, wars -- and we'd all benefit from that.

The problem is that things change. As a simple example, Margaret Mead's father Edward Sherwood Mead (Professor at the Wharton School) used the price and volume of scrap iron sales to track the likelihood of war, and did rather well at it -- but after World War II everyone was armed to the teeth and small nations had more armor than the Wehrmacht had in 1940, so preparations for war weren't so predictive any longer.

Much the same happened to technical analysis, assuming it ever had real predictive value. In general the technical analysts made more by selling their analyses than they did by acting on their tips. Those various stock market theories all seem to have vanished -- at least I don't hear about them any more. Instead there are really complicated models, derivatives, and the like.

It's interesting to see Google betting on the usefulness of this one. As to how well such complex models predict, consider climatology models, meteorology and weather prediction, and the computing resources available to the big Wall Street firms that had to be bailed out by the US government. Or, for that matter, the resources available to the Federal Reserve.

The problem with such models is that sometimes we believe in them without testing their ability to find Black Swans. Consider investments in the Peso, which brought about a steady and rising rate of return day after day, year after year, until suddenly it all collapsed and all the gains plus the investment capital itself vanished in one day. That one burned a lot of authors who had retired to San Miguel de Allende and lived off their Peso investments... And of course the smartest people in the world, the only people smart enough to devise and market derivatives, with their supercomputers, had to be bailed out by the people who still had jobs after their world collapsed.


Hutaree Militia out on Bail


--Turns out the governments case is pretty much a joke. The judge finds it hard to believe that there was a likely attack being planned after listening to the tape the FBI used to conduct the raid.

--The FBI would be better off arresting Rappers for their explicit lyrics about killing police officers, cause they were more specific than these guys.

Lots of people sit around drinking beer and singing the old songs. Comes the Revolution, Comrade... From what I can see, most of the extreme suggestions were from the paid informant who kept trying to find ways to make them sound dangerous enough to warrant his being paid. If not this time it has certainly happened before. Reminds me of the cartoon in which every single inhabitant of the opium den including the chap distributing pipes and the towel boy had whipped out a pistol and badge...


: Five Morgan Hill students sent home for wearing American flag T-shirts

Is it just me or is anyone else worried that people with such poor judgment skills are 'educating' our children?

John Harlow

Perhaps he will go on strike


Murphy's Law: Megan Fox Sweats While the USAF Melts, 


"Offers to hire American airmen, stationed at an airbase on the Central Pacific island of Guam, as extras in the Transformers 3 movie, turned out to be an unexpectedly scary training exercise. First, keep in mind that there is no Transformers 3 filming scheduled for Guam. The email was a fake, used to test how well airmen could detect a hacker attempts to deceive military Internet users to give up valuable information."


"The Transformers 3 email was a test to see how many airmen would fall for a "spear phishing" offensive." <snip> "In the Guam case, the targets of the spear phishing test were asked to go to a web site and fill out an application form to be eligible to be an extra. That form asked for information that would have enabled hostile hackers to gain more access to air force networks. A lot of the airmen who received the Transformers 3 email, responded. The air force won't say how many, but it was more than expected. A lot more."

"The hundreds of separate spear phishing attacks on American military personnel each year is worrisome, because it means someone is looking for defense related data, including classified stuff."

And we thought we have security issues.




Oil Spill Response 

Jerry There is a lot of misinformation out there and it spreads faster than facts. Oil Drilling and pipeline companies pay to fund several firms on all coasts who's sole job is to respond to and clean up spills, leaks incidents, etc. These companies are the first responders and contract out when it requires more resources.

They were set up after the Exxon-Valdez disaster. These companies have deep pockets and are drilled and trained by the Coast Guard. Some contract for outside US waters work too. The response was complicated by the deep water rig involved.

This a ship with a derrick like Glomar Challenger but way more advanced. They are positioned by GPS have station keeping alarms and multipoint anchors. After the drill pipe is lowered it too becomes an anchor. One of the earliest steps in well drilling is to place the "blow out preventer" on the drill stem. In deep ocean drilling this often deeper than divers and many submersibles can go. It is also as close as possible to the bottom, but the bottom is seldom solid or clearly defined. Think deep, silty mud.

Blowout preventers have several modes to actuate and fail safe (closed). The accident sequence, an explosion on board causing evacuation and then more explosions resulting in the ship sinking was probably a worst case. I imagine that the conditions at the leak are difficult. From the reports I have read both the Coast Guard and the oil spill companies responded quickly as did the well driller. Winds and choppy surface condition prevented simple boom containment. Search and rescue is and was the first priority.

With 3500 rigs and many years of drilling there is inevitably going to be accidents. That this one is severe (rare) enough to get the coverage it is getting shows how well this system works. The biome will clean up this oil. Skimmers, booms, fire all reduce impact to public view but natural processes do the real clean up. They are slow and non-spectacular and free.

Nuclear Power, It's not rocket science it's PLUMBING !

Thomas Weaver

With 3500 rigs accidents are inevitable; and we ought not be experimenting with detergents and dispersal agents now, we ought to have done that long ago.

I agree that it will clean up. The Santa Barbara spill cleaned up so fast they never did build the response teams we had recommended.

And I agree that we need nuclear power. But until we get unclear power we need oil, and it's less dangerous to get it here than to pay a trillion a year to sovereign investment outfits in the Near East.

Energy plus freedom equals posterity.


John Edgar Wideman Embraces the Future


Dear Jerry:

I think this is an important article. His rationales for choosing the self-publishing route when he already has publishers is very interesting.


Francis Hamit







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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Taking care of Sable. We took the day off.






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CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

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Sunday,  May 9, 2010     

Took a hike up the hill. Mail resumes Monday. There's a lot.




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