picture of me

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


Mail 652 December 6 - 12, 2010







BOOK Reviews

Chaos Manor Reviews

read book now

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

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

LAST WEEK                             NEXT WEEK


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

Atom FEED from Chaos Manor

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun

Highlights this week:


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

line6.gif (917 bytes)

This week:


read book now


Monday  December 6, 2010

Woe is us!

"Gloom, despair, and agony on me..."


  David Couvillon

Despair is a sin, and despairing of the United States is a mistake.


Letter to England

To me, the Wikileaks cables appear to be mostly State Department gossip and stories already available from <http://StrategyPage.com/>. Stories on Chinese hacking of Google <http://tinyurl.com/2vfrolr> <http://tinyurl.com/22oy2um>

 It's not clear whether this is serious or just the UK Borders Agency throwing its weight around <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11920665>.

 Let's see how this actually turns out: <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11920628>--poorest students to get a year of free tuition.

 An article with some stats on poverty in the UK <http://tinyurl.com/25b8ecv>

 Story on the judicial murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa 15 years ago <http://tinyurl.com/27kc9kd>


"Truth is the intersection of independent lies." (Richard Levins, 1966)

Harry Erwin, PhD


cyber warfare


I see three levels of system to address:

1. operating system 2. applications 3. network

The Operating System There are three parts of the O/S that lends itself to hacking that is very difficult to detect and clean. The kernel, memory management, and device drivers. Most, if not all of the kernel and memory management belongs in hardware. One of the goals should be no buffer overflows = privileged execution. No root kits period. With trillion transistor CPU's coming on line, this is not that big of an issue. Intel tried to start this years ago with the 286 and due to the failure of the IAPX 432, got slammed by the industry. It's time to re-address this. Device drivers should no longer execute with kernel level privileges. They need to run in a tightly controlled environment with services exposed as necessary to meet their needs. Apple actually has a pretty good start on this. Microsoft with their driver framework is also working on it. In both cases, most drivers can become user applications which precludes a lot of the security vulnerabilities.

Applications You've said it many times. We need both strongly typed languages and we need a "hyper language" that experts who are not programmers can use to write programs. Unfortunately, the computer science departments of universities have been turning out C++ programmers for about 20 years. There must be billions of lines of production code in use. We can't change that overnight. The only near term approach is the O/S.

Applications should always be actively profiled by the operating system. (this need not take a lot of CPU cycles) If an app is doing a lot of network activity, the O/S should have some metric that is approved by the user that tells it this is OK. Otherwise the app should be shut down. Very few applications should run with administrative privileges.

The Network The last and first line of defense (and offense). This points to the router/gateway. On the backbone (in the US at least) the routers are going to have to get a lot smarter. (Cisco and Brocade rub their hands with glee). We need R&D on a military scale to develop routers that can identify and contain attacks. All traffic at some point must go through a router. The gateways we all have on our home and small business networks need to get a lot smarter and mostly be in hardware. I keep saying hardware because it does not corrupt easily. My local gateway has no ready facility to actively alert me if suspicious network activity is originating from within my network. For example, if traffic is originating from within my network that is consistently hitting a website at faster than human speeds, it should probably be flagged, throttled, and an alert generated to the network administrator.

Government Organizations:

We probably need two.

NSA should have it's charter expanded to include cyber warfare defense and intercept. If NSA has fallen prey to the Iron Law, then we need a replacement. The new org can do NSA's old role and include cyber defense and intercept. One can argue that the internet is a main target of any SIGINT organization today anyway. We need a civilian organization to avoid Posse Comitatus. One of NSA's outputs to industry would be reference designs, standards, and certification for routers and gateways. If you are not an NSA certified router or gateway, you don't go on the backbone on in an ISP.

We need a Strategic Cyber Command. I'm purposely using a similar name to SAC because SAC was arguably the best example of a modern military force that dealt in high tech issues. It's goal should be to take out any foreign network anywhere anytime to any level. It should be an up or out organization officers and enlisted. Note the positive "outs" from this command could become long term employees of the civilian organization.

Federal Level R&D Both organizations should fund R&D. NSA has an interesting history in that their development of encryption devices for our own country's use and their development of intercept and decryption equipment was synergistic. The same situation would seem to hold true for cyber defense and intercept.

The military org should fund the offensive R&D. This stays black. How much of it's research bleeds over to the civilian organization is an interesting question. Clearly some of it should.

I'll think about this some more.


A good start. It 's a new theater of warfare in a sense, and by its nature its easier to get at ptential turncoats and convince them they are doing a Good Thing by cooperating.


E-publishing update

Dear Jerry:

The big problem with e-books seems to be formatting. Amazon.com will not use PDF files for Kindle editions but insists in converting them to their proprietary format. The problem is that this process strips out extra spaces and turns formats such as stage plays and poetry into jammed-together hash. I am trying to get a Kindle edition of the original script of my 1988 stage play "MARLOWE: An Elizabethan Tragedy" up for sale Their CreateSpace unit advertises a service, starting at $69.00 per book, that will do this for you, but they won't guarantee the work. I've put the job out for bid on Freelancer.com, which accepts Paypal and where we have recently bought some art for e-book "covers". It seems you need "covers" because everyone else has them and people do judge a book by its cover. Given my experience with e-book sales going back to 2004, I am not inclined to spend big bucks on these images so I've been buying them from artists in South America, where the dollar goes much further. Most of these will never be in a print edition; most are too short for that.

Amazon.com announced another short form initiative, "Amazon Singles". You will recall I was one of the 400 or so Amazon Shorts authors where everything sold for 49 cents. It was here that we discovered that serials no longer work, at least not as single titles out of the context of a larger publication. And that without promotion and a proper staff, such schemes are dead-on-arrival. I just tried to sign up for the Google Editions service, but their system is apparently not ready for prime time, despite their announcement to the contrary. As a former Google Print Partner, I am not surprised. I haven't gotten to experience the upload process yet but I suspect that it will have some of the same formatting problems. I'm not a programmer, but it seems to me that if you define blank spaces as characters a lot of the problem would be solved.

The question for a small publisher such as myself is how many of these services can we use effectively. Amazon sells a lot of of e-books; they are the current market leader, but the real question is how many do they sell of any one title? And that goes for print books as well. They are the ultimate "Long Tail" retailer, which means that they sell a lot of titles but that sales on most of the three million or so are single digits per month. Or less. Even for titles they stock, most are limited to five or less copies in stock. Kindle editions are hot right now, but the sales volume is not much better. There is an advantage in that they now sell directly into the UK.

I put "The Shenandoah Spy" back up after raising the suggested retail price of the print edition to $22.50. That's because my unit cost will go up once the present stock is exhausted because we will use print-on-demand (POD). POD production is as good as regular offset and most small publishers have gone over to this to save inventory costs, but it does mean that there is a higher unit cost that has to be factored in, and we still get just 45% (or less) of the suggested retail price. The Kindle edition will be $9.99. On Amazon.com's 70% plan I get back more than I will with the print edition per copy and even the 35% sales return a fair royalty. However, the conversion from the same edited PDF file we used for the print edition jammed together all of the front matter and separated the interior map from it's border (two different files there). The text of the book itself looks okay and readable, so I've informed Amazon.com's rep that I now view this as their problem.

I am willing to pay extra to get that stage play in proper format because I have a movie deal and publishing it again is part of the promotion. Mike Donahue, who now has four features under his belt as a director, will direct this next year. I've just finished the screenplay, which has the same dialog as the stage play but uses different formatting conventions. I had been using Movie Magic Screenwriter for this kind of thing. I actually write favorable articles about this software when it was frst introduced because formats were tedious and time consuming on regular wordprocessing programs and Movie Magic automated the system. But we recently upgraded out whole system her, with new HP machines that use Windows Seven, which I actually like. But Movie Magic's older programs do not run on Windows Seven, and rather than write a few lines of code that would give me an easy upgrade, they decided to get greedy and make me buy a new version for about $200. Okay, cost of doing business and all that. So I bought it.

But rather than saving me time, it became a nightmare because of a new auto-correction feature. It does not just convert shot and scene text to dialog and vice versa, but also is tied into the program's spell checker and corrects your spelling and grammar, which means if you are writing in an archaic language form such as Elizabethan English (with lots of "thees" and "thous") it will "correct" them. And if you change them back will correct them again. There is a way to turn off this "feature" but it was very hard to find. In the meantime, after much cursing (when dealing with this kind of computer problem I find is useful, or at least comforting, to use the proper incantations.) I ordered the competing program, Final Draft. Amazon had a half-price sale, so it was only $150 or so. This has become the preferred format and I suspect because it has not been over-engineered with features. Movie Magic now had several dozen fonts, but the only "professional:" font acceptable for screenplays is Courier. Why? Because the font used affects the page count and page count is used to judge the probable length of the final product. The film. It is also the basis for the breakdown and that is the basis for the budget. So all of those other fonts are not really needed. I'll be interested to see what Final Draft has.

I tried to contact Screenplay Systems and got a very unsatisfactory reply. No suggestions on how to fix the problem and no refund. I posted some material about the problem on LinkedIn and found other writers have had similar experiences.

Epub is supposed to be the new standard for e-book publication, but it, too, has conversion problems. Ease of use is always an issue and time spent hassling with formats is time I can't spend writing. Because of that same flu you got, we are already running weeks behind here on publishing. I am already publishing shorter works of fiction on Amazon Kindle and suspect that going lower than 99 cents will not serve me. Lower prices do not automatically turn into higher sales, which is why all of those old magazine articles I put up in 2004 are at $4.95. They didn't sell any better at much lower prices. People will pay a fair price if they need the information. Fiction is not information, but entertainment and that's a completely different paradigm, but it's unique, and I'm not joining the race to the bottom. I'll maintain prices, sell less copies and make more money.

Finally, I've been playing catch up with all the movies I've missed, living up here in the piney woods of Kern County aqnd sixty miles from the neqrest movie theater. I'm buying used DVDs from goHastings.com (full disclosure; I won stock in this company and have done sixteen books signings at their brick and mortar stores). DVDs don't have a wear problem since they are read by laser. I'm playing them on my new HP computer with a 22 inch screen. The real value is all the extra features about how these films were made. Lot of good information about the process. For 89 cents each (usually) plus shipping. I've been through about a hundred and have another sixty or so on hand. I'm seeing a lot of films that never made it to a regular theater. Lots of low-budget material.

It's an education.


Francis Hamit

It is getting to be a more and more important market.

And see below




 read book now




This week:


read book now


Tuesday,  December 7, 2010

Dear Jerry -

I do enjoy reading the mail you post from Mr. Hamit - he is quite understandably one who defends writing as a business, and seems to feel to make a reasonable return, he much charge high market rates, and restrict the purchaser's rights more than I, at least, think is common.

Okay, up until around May of this year, I was one of those people who would purchase works by my favorite authors immediately upon publication, and in hardback. To me that not only gave me the enjoyment of owning the book, but it also supports my favorite authors and hopefully encourages them to write more. (Yep, you are on the list, along with Elizabeth Moon, Lee Modesitt, the late James P. Hogan, Michael Williamson, Spider Robinson, and others.)

Now, we tend to buy everything we can as an e-book - first from Apple's iBook store (the formatting is superior), then Kindle, then everyone else, including Baen. We also tend to pay a few dollars for copies of books like _The Art of War_, or the old George MacDonald books - if the free versions tend to have a lot of typographical errors.

Also, I am more willing to spend $3 or so to try out an author like Dan Worth, who wrote a pretty good yarn called _Exiles_. The $3 price point was reasonable, given that the book was riddled with typos.

I did buy and read Mr Hamit's _The Shenandoah Spy_ in a Kindle edition, and though the story was enjoyable, it did not display with anything like the quality we find in other $10 e-books. This was a bit disappointing, as it looked pretty much like a PDF file.

While I think PDF is a great format, it doesn't look good on an iPad or iPhone if the PDF was formatted to look good as a print document. At least, that is what I find in my experience.

I think that formatting is going to become more and more important for e-books. What we are seeing now are examples of poor typography and typesetting, and make e-books appear to be of lower quality. Well not just *appear* so, because most of them actually are of lower quality.

Baen has been doing e-books right for more than a decade now, and apparently making money with them. I know I have bought at least a coupe dozen months of their web-subscriptions, as well as dozens of standalone e-books. Even in their "Advance Reader Copies (ARC) editions, there are very few typographical or typesetting errors.

Because of the effort of reading Mr. Hamit's work, I will probably not be inclined to purchase more of his work, especially so knowing that he feels I should not be able to allow my iPad to read aloud, or be able to lend an e-book to anyone, even my wife While I understand and even appreciate his point of view, I also know that I will just tend to spend my book(beer) money on titles I have more confidence in, or on author's who work with publishers that take more care with presentation.

Quality still sells - both in content and presentation.


I agree that formatting and quality are very important. I wonder how Google is doing it with their scanned books? Francis does do quality editing. Formatting and production are new skills which some authors have learned and some have not. This will develop over time. As to marketing preferences, my experience has been that anything that makes it more difficult for the user/purchaser is counterproductive.


And here's some help:

How to create eBooks 

Dr Pournelle

"How seriously hard can it be? The whole world is eBook mad at the moment, yet creating the things still seems like a dark art. Anyway, here's a post distilling my research and practice which I hope will shed some light on how you create the things and make them look nice. It's a deliberately simplified approach designed to get your books converted quickly, which is handy when you have a backlog like me."


Live long and prosper

 h lynn keith



Europe & the US



David Couvillon


Subj: CyberWar: Putting X in Hardware, for various X

In _The Prince_, Falkenberg's Legion have a security advantage because their systems are "ROM-programmed".

This bothered me: How do they ever hack any new apps, or fix bugs in existing apps?

Do they do all their app development on systems off the net and distribute apps on EEPROMs? Is "off the net" enough? SIPRNET is "off the Internet"; it has still been attacked by worms brought in on Flash sticks.

It's customary, these days, to have the BIOS on a motherboard, or the code in a router, in Flash. This makes distributing upgrades far more convenient than having the code in a ROM that cannot be reprogrammed in place, but it also makes attacks on the code possible.

At least one current-production Flash chip has a Write Protect pin. You could put a physical switch or jumper on that pin to put the chip's programmability under manual control. Would that be "putting the code in hardware"? Would the user not still be vulnerable to phishing attacks?

Alternatively, one can imagine a router or motherboard design in which all the firmware -- except for a firmware authenticator, perhaps? -- lives on a USB Flash key plugged into a dedicated USB port. One could improve security by making that physical connector peculiar and hard to get. The FCC requires that sort of thing now, for wireless router antenna connectors, to make it hard to use unauthorized signal-boosting devices.

Finally, there's a cautionary tale anyone contemplating "putting X in hardware" needs to think about:

Flawed Routers Flood University of Wisconsin Internet Time Server


>>In May 2003, the University of Wisconsin - Madison found that it was the recipient of a continuous large scale flood of inbound Internet traffic destined for one of the campus' public Network Time Protocol (NTP) servers. The flood traffic rate was hundreds-of-thousands of packets-per-second, and hundreds of megabits-per-second.

Subsequently, we have determined the sources of this flooding to be literally hundreds of thousands of real Internet hosts throughout the world. However, rather than having originated as a malicious distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, the root cause is actually a serious flaw in the design of hundreds of thousands of one vendor's low-cost Internet products targeted for residential use. The unexpected behavior of these products presents a significant operational problem for UW-Madison for years to come. <<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com

Those scenes were written in S-100 days or shortly thereafter, so I was predicting the future of the computer revolution and its effects, then transporting them to a colonial planet; I am astonished that I got as much right as I did.

As to "ROM based" I had in mind PROM's which could be reprogrammed but it took physical access to the chip; it could at that time be done in the computer using them. That seemed to me a reasonable security system, and I used that in the story.

All systems are vulnerable to social engineering and phishing, and we were presuming that is what happened to the Spartan systems, as opposed to the Legion which had better discipline and security.  I will defend those propositions...


We have another view:

There's no such thing as 'cyberwar' or 'cyberterrorism'.

I've found that non-ironic usage of the appellation 'cyber-' is generally inversely proportional to actual security clue, FYI.

Zuckerman gives a reasonably good overview for the layman until loses the plot and starts babbling about the Manhattan Project, missiles, and retaliation.

He should be ignored.

--- R

Understand this this is a reader who is very familiar with the subject, being in charge of security for a large organization. I am not at all sure what he means here. Certainly there are Internet delivered attacks, and other vulnerabilities. Large EMP devises are being designed (and one resides in space 93 million miles away ready to repeat the attack of 1859). Iran is said to have had damage to its enrichment centrifuges from a virus or worm inserted into its computers. The US power grid is or appears to be vulnerable to an attack that could trigger massive power failures across the nation; at least people I respect tell me that is a real threat.

Whether one calls it cyberwar or information warfare or something else, the resources needed to conduct it are extremely asymmetric: Nigeria would seem to be well armed for this kind of war, as are Rumania and the Ukraine. Or so it would appear to me. It is also easier to recruit agents in the US, as for example the PFC who furnished the files to WikiLeak, in this kind of war than in wars where there is obvious combat and bloodshed. Treason consists of levying war against the United States or giving aid and comfort to its enemies: that requires war of some kind.



Wikileaks a good thing?


I am reminded that Benjamin Franklin maintained perfect transparency in his embassy in France. Though it thoroughly infuriated John Adams, this transparency was probably why the King of France was willing to continue supplying the fledgling USA with large sums to fight its revolution.


Well, Adams' side of that story is not often told, and Saratoga had a lot to do with the Bourbon decision to send real support including a fleet to help Washington. Probably the single person who deserves the most credit for French support for the American Revolution was Benedict Arnold. He knew that, too, and thought he was insufficiently appreciated...


: DHS & Walmart 


It looks like we are in that world with government monitors reminding us to report our suspicious neighbors.


This is one more dot that we need to connect to all the other little dots that we've written off over the years.


BDAB, Joshua Jordan, KSC Percussa Resurgo


Subj: How the Principles of Good Management, as taught at the Harvard Business School, destroy companies

Video: Clayton ("Disruptive Innovation") Christensen keynote at Supercomputing 2010


If you find yourself losing interest, skip ahead to the Saga of Dell and ASUStek, starting at time 0:50:57.

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


". . . if you're just going to offer me technical skills, I might as well just go offshore and get it a lot cheaper."

Except, as more and more companies are finding out, the companies to which they're outsourcing are staffed with underpaid people with faked credentials and/or no experience; their work is shoddy and causes more problems than it solves:


---- Roland Dobbins

Reform of the US secondary education system would end the depression and cause people to export jobs to us; but it is not likely to happen. The purpose the US public education system is to employ teachers who have graduated from Education Departments at what are now often called universities but which were, when education was working well, Normal Schools that gave 2 year degrees. I didn't get a college graduate teacher until I was at Christian Brothers College ( a high school run as a part of a junior college) and not all the Brothers were 4 year graduates even there. Yet I got a good university prep education. Memphis also had "technical" high school programs of shops, mechanics training, and such like.

The US education system pretends to give everyone equal access to college, which means that very few get an actual college prep education since it has to be tailored to the stupid so that no child is left behind.

This would be handled nicely by the market, but of course the teachers unions prevent that. We are left with home schooling, which ought not to be as effective or useful as a real school with real teachers, and with exceptions like Robinson and his kids, generally isn't as effective as the schools were when I was in them. So it goes.

Nothing much will be done because the students never know what they have lost, and no one else cares as much as the teachers unions. The unions have learned well: the Iron Law was never better illustrated. The good teachers avoid union office. Those who want to be union leaders as opposed to being effective teachers get the jobs. The results were predicted and predictable.


Christmas Food Court Flash Mob, Hallelujah Chorus




: I have no idea which one does what and for whom, 

Ah, Jerry

"They argued all night Over who had the right To do what and with what and to whom."

That brings back old memories. Of hearing that limerick for the first time, as sung by Karen Anderson. And it was the con where I first met you.


Long ago. In Frank Kelly Freas' room, as I recall. Before Polly came down with cancer.



For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:



 read book now





This week:


read book now


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

SpaceX successful LEO flight, re-entry.


- Roland Dobbins


Not quite D. D. Harriman -- not quite and not yet. But it's a big step.


Subj: Dragon heat shield can handle Mars-return reentries

That's what Elon Musk said, during the NASA news conference after the Dragon/Falcon-9 flight on 8 Dec 2010.

So, we need the Orion spacecraft now for ... what, exactly???

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


It's Not War

the proper analogy is espionage/covert action, not war.

Were we at war with Guatemala in 1954? Certainly not, but Howard Hunt and his merry band managed to take Arbenz down, all the same. Same for Kermit Roosevelt & Miles Copeland handing Mossadegh his walking papers in 1953.

You don't conduct espionage and covert actions with artillery strikes; unfortunately, the DoD/service branch uniformed bureaucrats who spout off about 'cyberwar' can't tell a packet from a pikestaff, and so they just assume that there's some magical place called 'cyberspace', and that with the right windage, azimuth, elevation, and charge, you can hammer the other guy into smithereens.

The better analogy is an IED placed on the road near some village in Afghanistan by some Taliban from the next valley over; it's done at night, the villagers aren't aware of it and are not involved in any way, and it's set to be remotely detonate by a radio transmission or a mobile phone SMS message by Taliban watching nearby.

When the US troops come driving by in their Humvee, the Taliban detonate the IED.

Now, what's the best course of action to take? Should the survivors call in an artillery strike or an airstrike to level the village, thus ensuring 100% collateral damage and a score of new recruits for the Taliban?

Or should they perhaps instead a) exercise more caution and make use of sensing devices to try and detect IEDs prior to reaching them, b) work to interdict the detonation cue transmissions, d) work to reinforce and up-armor their vehicles to be more resilient to attack, and d) work with the appropriate intelligence assets to develop enough of a picture to identify the bad actors and take them down directly, rather than engaging in random wog-bashing?



Climate Change and a few UK Tidbits

Remember my comment about both sides in the climate change debate assuming that a good model for climate existed, and I suspected both were wrong about that? As I recall, one of the earliest analyses of global warming indicated that the effect of increased CO2 emissions was to drive the climate system towards chaos--non-modelability. Another early analysis indicated that the big ecological problem was not the direction but the *rate* of climate change--something models handle poorly. Well, there's a new NASA study that suggests some interesting conclusions: <http://tinyurl.com/3ywsvpj>  Please remember, this is yet another model and I stick with my original comment.

-- "Truth is the intersection of independent lies." (Richard Levins, 1966)

 Harry Erwin, PhD

I have never entertained any suspicion at all that anyone, anywhere, has a good model of climate change. That is why I have been a skeptic -- now called a Denier -- for thirty years. I can only look at trend lines. I also know some history. In particular I know it was warmer in Viking times than it is now in the 21st Century. I do not now how much warmer; I only know that the Viking dairy farms on Greenland were under ice, growing seasons were longer than now in France and Britain and apparently China ( I can't read Chinese so I haven't checked the records, but people who do tell me that almanacs from China of that period exist) and there is other inferential evidence. I also know that in historical times it was colder in the Northern Hemisphere, with brackish water canals freezing in the Netherlands, and the Hudson freezing solid in New York. How much colder I don't know.

I have also long been skeptical of any temperature average accurate to anything like a single degree for the entire Earth over a full year. That's a very difficult number to obtain -- or rather there are so many ways to obtain it that it's very dificut to choose a set of measurements, and a set of weights to assign any given measurement, so that you have a unique way to calculate a single figure representing the temperature of either hemisphere for any given time of day, and when you need to average them over both hemispheres for a full year's time I see nothing that persuades me that the figure is accurate to a single digit degree, much less a tenth of a degree.

Since even the IPCC grants that the temperature rise from 1880 to present is in the order of one degree, and it is pretty clear that the temperature has been rising at about one degree a year from the Little Ice Age to present, I do not think there is sufficient evidence for everyone to run around with his hair on fire shouting Doom! CO2 Doom!  Nor is there sufficient evidence for spending trillions of dollars. I would grant that spending a billion a year on learning more, and perhaps a similar amount on research into ways to extract CO2 from the atmosphere in case we have to do that; but that is not what the IPCC recommends, and I can't find any justification to pay them that much tribute. The costs of CO2 emission reduction are enormous, and since China is not likely to eat its share of those costs, the relative cost to the United States and the resulting competitive disadvantage is prohibitive.

As to rate of climate change, I think that the models are even less reliable for determining that. We know that a cooling period came after Pinatubo; we don't know whether warming water by volcanoes has had any effect since we don't know a lot about that form of heat transfer, although it's getting clearer that there is more undersea volcanism than previously thought. Then there's modeling the transfer of heat from air to water, and the coefficients for absorption of radiant energy from sunlight, none of which seem to be as well understood as the presumed accuracy of the models indicate.


Ocean's Rising Called a Fraud


I got this link from "Power Line" (conservative political blog). It addresses the science of measuring "sea level rise" from on of the pre-eminent scientists specializing in that facet of geology. The scientist makes no bones about stating flatly that THERE IS NO OCEAN RISE due to global warming, and points out eyewitness observation of active fraud.


I would prefer to say it is controversial, not fraudulent. It is well known that sea levels have been rising about a foot a century for several hundred years; the exact cause isn't know. And of course there were massive changes in sea levels after the last interlude in the Ice Ages began. We know of sunken cities with no real evidence that they sank from earthquakes. Greek shorelines have changed in the past millennia.

There was once a considerable debate over the use of a tide level marker in Tasmania set by a governor in the 19th century. I Found mail giving these URL's



Determining sea levels from times before satellite measurements is quite difficult.


Sometimes entities must multiply

Dr. Pournelle --

New research from the University of British Columbia on the Greenland ice sheet might be of interest to you. It seems it may not behave the way we thought.


"Sudden changes in the volume of meltwater contribute more to the acceleration – and eventual loss – of the Greenland ice sheet than the gradual increase of temperature, according to a University of British Columbia study."

"Now a new study, to be published tomorrow in the journal Nature, shows that a steady meltwater supply from gradual warming may in fact slow down glacier flow, while sudden water input [such as massive rain storms or the draining of a surface lake] could cause glaciers to speed up and spread, resulting in increased melt."

Things get more and more interesting. Of course, the obvious question is what has caused the apparent increase in rainfall and the like. Is it AGW or shifts in ocean currents or something else?


The connection between rainfall and global climate is not well established nor modelled.


Francis Hamit on getting eBooks into print"

More misery with e-book formatting

Dear Jerry:

This morning I looked at the free reading sample that Amazon.con provides for the Kindle edition of "The Shenandoah Spy" and found that it is still very messed up. It can be read but the paragraphing didn't hold. So I pulled it. I read the Emma Barnes free manual and got in contact with her and it seems that we might have to redo the typesetting entirely. Bottom line, Amazon.com takes no responsibility for the final appearance of the e-books they sell. I do not want to sell an inferior product, so it comes off the market until we can find a way, an economical way. to format the files so they look right in the final presentation.

It's that word "book". People expect it to look as good as the printed editions. E-books are, however, an inherently inferior product anyway. We are already compensating for the many ways that they don't measure up to printed editions. When you sell someone a book, you don't just sell the content, but the entire reading experience. We spent weeks with :The Shenandoah Spy" getting everything right for the print edition; the type, the spacing of the lines, the white space that provides the most comfort for the eye. We wanted the best possible product. E-book formating destroys all that.

Adobe Indesign may be a solution, but the program costs $700 and I'm not sure it's worth the money or the time to fool with it. We can buy the service elsewhere. "Make or buy" decisions are part of any business, but the return on investment had to be reasonable. "If you build it, they will come" is a fantasy, not a business plan.

As previously stated, every writer has unique products. If people want them, then they will have to pay a price that we can live with too. Otherwise, it's literally not worth doing. Books are not fungible commodities, interchangeable with each other. They provide unique reading experiences. You get what you pay for. Right now, if you want to read "The Shenandoah Spy", buy the print edition. It's available on Amazon too.


Francis Hamit Brass
Cannon Books.

My daughter is finding similar problems with getting her Mote sequel up for Kindle on Amazon. I have been watching it all with some interest.

I do note that Norman Spinrad seems to have solved a good bit -- but not all -- of the formatting problems with his Kindle editions of Mexica and The Druid King. I believe he started with Word, and it's my suspicion that, given that Word is ubiquitous, Amazon probably devoted more time to making that come out well than most. I am also told that converting to .mobi from Word produces an acceptable book.

Most of my eBooks come from Baen, and Jim did a lot of work on making those formats work; his survivors have continued the effort with some effectiveness.  I confess I haven't put the time into this that I would have in previous days.


TSA patting down ambassadors?

While not being a specialist on international relations isn't having the TSA pat down the Indian ambassador a diplomatic faux pas?


Arondell Hoch

I would have said it was illegal: surely diplomatic immunity protects ambassadors? Of course the average TSA "inspector" may not have heard of diplomatic immunity. And perhaps Congress has given TSA some exceptional authority?


Climate science

Hello Jerry,

It strikes me that the climate modelers are doing the equivalent of collecting about 50 samples of an extremely noisy 1 Hz sine wave using an A/D with a 1 MHz sample rate, performing an FFT on the sampled data, and using the results to describe the waveform that they have sampled. If it were done in an EE lab to demonstrate to budding signal analysts the pitfalls of ignoring the warnings of Messrs. Nyquist and Shannon when performing such analysis, it would be mildly amusing. And educational. When the results of the climactic equivalent are being used to justify bringing western civilization to a halt and establishing a world government with essentially infinite power to ensure that it stays halted, it is neither amusing NOR educational.

Bob Ludwick

Well, I wouldn't say that. But it's bad science.


Hello Jerry,

Thought you might find this interesting.



Eric Buchanan

It was an interesting story, and certainly part of the "cyberwar" picture. Uranium hexafluoride centrifuges must be shut down properly; a power failure would ruin them as I recall. I have no idea whether anything of that sort happened in Iran.


Dear Doctor P,

Their economic plan makes perfect sense
They 'll take Bill Gates money, sans recompense
To spread his wealth their object all sublime
And what shall be our fair share of Bills dimes?
Sixty-Six dollars and Sixty-Six cents!



: FW: Ebooks and Consumer Rights

Dear Jerry:

I agree that consumers should get what they pay for. Unfortunately there is little I can do as a publisher to correct that at any kind of reasonable cost in time and money. Mr. Rauleson can now buy the Kindle version of that story, for his iPad and have an audio presentation -- of sorts. It will be robot voice, unless, as I've predicted elsewhere, someone in the distribution chain has upgraded to a "natural voice" system similar to what is used in some advanced telephone reply systems.

When I started putting titles back up on Kindle I capitulated on the audio book version question. At the time I raised my original objections, I was negotiating for an audio book edition on "The Shenandoah Spy" with another publisher that never materialized, in part because the recession made everyone risk adverse and partially because the playing field, once more, was changed by the onrush of events and new formats. I do not have the option of not allowing text to voice on Kindle. Amazon.com is very much a "our way or the highway" customer.

The cost of creating our own audio book edition is several thousand dollars. It requires hiring a studio, and voice talent and scripting the presentation. One might as well put the time and money into a film or radio play. But the real question is how many can you sell, and to whom? These are niche products and if that's the game, then it makes more sense to spend the resources in another way by producing more e-books.

And the reason the text looks like a PDF file is because it IS a PDF file. That's the original format and one of only two we can submit in. The other is Word,which we don't use. There are kinds of hidden code booby traps in the conversion process that make providing a satisfactory textual experience close to impossible for most of us and a nice little service business has sprung up, doing conversions. Even Amazon CreateSpace will not guarantee their own work on formatting a stage play. I am trying to do that with "MARLOWE: An Elizabethan Tragedy" my 1988 stage play that was produced here in Los Angeles. I've put it out for bid on Freelancer.com and we will see, but it is only the fact that providing a new edition of the original playscript is part of the promotion for the film version that will be made next year that makes us do this and spend extra money on it. . And it will not be cheap. First of all the original edition, if you can find it, is now about $140 at a used and rare book dealer, so $9.99 is a comparative bargain.

And it is a unique product. It is true that you buy for less elsewhere, but you can't buy that! This is why we have copyright laws, to prevent people from stealing the work that supports new art. It becomes very much a matter of "you get what you pay for". If they are giving away the text, then you are going to get typos. The outrage should be saved for finding typos in $30 hardbounds, which also happens fairly often these days. I employ my own editor, who also designs the interior type on our printed books. We don't bother to do that with e-books, not just because of the poor sales, but because of the options that allow customers to choose their own typefaces and spacing. Seriously, why bother?

I have been producing e-books since 2004 and have learned many lessons along the way. One is that the lowest price is not the best price. The customer base for most books is very small, whether or not it is an informational product or an entertainment one. Traditional publishing values nothing but sales. With them it's all about producing a product that can be sold as widely and quickly as possible in as many channels as possible. There is no backlist now and Maxwell Perkins and his like will not been seen again under this ethic.

What readers have yet to grasp is that new work need support. Literature is not a fungible commodity and if you want to share those stories, you need to step up and pay full price. Otherwise how are those who create these work supposed to live? I can make more money with less sales to those who understand this. Yes, you can buy something else for less, but not all of us are going to join this race to the bottom. I recently raised the suggested retail price of "The Shenandoah Spy" print edition to $22.50 and my net is somewhere about half of that, depending on the channel. I did this because , when we go over to print-on-demand when the current stock of offset-run copies is exhausted, my per-unit cost will go up by quite a bit. If customers want to read it on Kindle then that edition is $9.99, and I make even more money per copy. Which is why I did this. This is a business, not a hobby, and something I depend upon for my livelihood.

I had the Sony Reader edition at 49 cents for over a year and it sold many more copies that my high tech titles at $4.95 but it took eleven copies to equal the profit on one of those. Now it is at the house minimum for Kindle of 99 cents, and will sell less copies but I will make more money. I was one of the Amazon Shorts authors and those sold hardly at all because Amazon.com did no real promotion and had no real staff for that program. Now they want to do short works for less than 99 cents, but I do not see the appeal of this for authors and independent publishers like myself. "We lose a little on every sale , but make it up on volume" does not really work if you don't have critical mass. Amazon.com has over three million titles and makes very little on any one of them, but they sell hundreds of thousands of books every day. This is what I mean by "critical mass".

I would love to produce a better electronic book experience for my customers, but unfortunately the current system, built on the cheap, with few easy and affordable options, does not permit that. And my best path right now, from a business standpoint, is to keep raiding my files and putting up new e-books. We still edit them and write them with care, but the formatting problems are really something we have no control over. Complain to the retailers and maybe that will change, but understand we are as frustrated by the current lack or quality presentation as you are. Sony Reader got my material when they offered to do all the formatting without charge and took responsibility for what they sell.


Francis Hamit Brass Cannon Books

Spinrad has been able to get reasonable looking copies of books on Kindle, but apparently it takes a certain  amount of fuss and bother. In my case it turns out that most of my works are either on Kindle or headed there, and they don't look all that bad -- but I had nothing to do with getting them there. Which is a bit ironic, given that I practically invented the ebook (well, as a concept) way back when, and I was the sort of archtypical power user for a long time. I should have been ahead of this curve.  Ah well. I'm not too far behind it.

It will not be long before there are competing services for preparing mss. for eBook publication, and there will be script programs for doing it yourself. Apps galore...




 read book now




CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday


This week:


read book now


Thursday, December 9, 2010

TSA full-body scanners


I have something of a problem with the idea that having various metal pieces implanted (hips, ankle, foot) and being an airline passenger constitutes probable cause for an invasive personal search. I have a much bigger problem with the idea that being a young, female, gorgeous airline passenger constitutes probable cause for a forced nude photo session.

If I were in a position to do so, I would most certainly order an investigation of that TSA checkpoint, and the TSA agent who pulled Ms. D'Errico out of the line and forced her to be scanned. At the very least, it appears that proper procedure was not followed. The guy's reported behavior raises some SERIOUS questions about the TSA's oft-repeated claim that the local agents can't see the imagery.

It is already public information that the scan imagery can be saved. It appears that TSA, despite their vocal claims to the contrary, *ARE* storing and retaining images.


"EPIC filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the United States Marshals Service, a component of the Department of Justice, to obtain information about the agency's use of full body scanners for courthouse security. EPIC pursued the case in federal court, and has obtained acknowledgment by the agency that a single machine has stored "approximately 35,314 images" of the full body scans of courthouse visitors over a six month period. EPIC also obtained a representative sample of the images stored by the devices.

"EPIC is also pursuing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, concerning the use of body scanners in US airports. This lawsuit has produced the technical specifications and vendor documents for the devices. However, the DHS is currently withholding from EPIC more than 2,000 images of individuals who have been subject to the airport body scanners."


Of course former Playmates have never seized upon opportunities to get on TV and gather publicity.

The real question is whether this is either necessary or constitutional. An alternate view would be that we know how to prevent airplanes from being taken over and used as cruise missiles, and that does not require a $60 billion a year bureaucracy that demeans passengers and treats citizens as subjects. We can take some chances on bringing down a single airplane by a suicide bomber, and reduce that risk considerably without doing all this.


Great promo photos

One of my favorite movies ever. Saw it in 9th grade in 70 mm. Stunning.


It's held up well through the decades, unlike other visions of the future.

-- James F. Ponder


The Phrygian Cap.


-- Roland Dobbins

This one is just pure fun. Thanks.


Contra Mr. Hamit,

Contra Mr. Hamit, I find ebooks to be infinitely superior to printed books; I can carry an entire library around with me wherever I go, I can instantly purchase and begin reading wherever I am, and I can switch between my iPhone and iPad without losing my place.

Most ebooks I buy from Amazon and Baen look great, because their authors/publishers took the time to ensure they were properly laid out for Kindle - or in .mobi format, in the case of Baen. Quite frankly, I'm shocked Mr. Hamit allowed his novel to go on sale in ebook format without first checking for quality himself.

His view that dead-tree books are superior is a retrograde one; I don't give a tinker's damn about what he calls 'the reading experience', beyond the information being typeset/laid out properly and illuminated properly. He needs to understand that even though some firearms enthusiasts love to play with their black-powder rifles out at the range, that an AK-47 trumps a muzzle-loader, hands down.

Also, note that it's quite possible to 'sign' ebooks by scanning one's signature and incorporating it as a graphic into a special edition of the ebook in question, presumably sold at a higher price. The next step is for Amazon, et. al., to support personalized 'signed' ebooks via single-user-only downloads.

---- Roland Dobbins

I am convinced that the difficulty in properly formatting books for eBook format is a very temporary phenomenon. It will all stabilize shortly and there will be a plethora of easily available tools; doubtless there already are and I'd know about them if I hadn't got this blasted malaise that has lasted for a month. If it can be done, then it isn't hard to write scripts that make doing it easy.


Despair is a sin, they say

Dear Dr Pournelle,

Offshoring does show up the current deficiencies of the US education system. All the same it's not just reform which would allow others to export jobs to the US. Those firms heavily involved in offshoring are also heavily exposed to the consequences of bad service. The US is still very good at allowing such firms to expire, far more than other OECD countries including my own.

The Economist has a note about the latest educational rankings. ("Shanghai's school students out-perform all others", http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2010/12/education) . Despite all the bad press, US is more or less average. People have noted that Shanghai isn't necessarily representative of all China.

I wouldn't want to take away from the Chinese achievement, but In the US you have fifty states. Even if all are bad, they will be differently bad, and there will be selection pressure; you can't fool all of the people, all of the time. That is an advantage of E pluribus unum; there is an ecology of jurisdictions which exposes the unfit. Sooner or later the citizens will get tired of the union patronage. It might take time. It will happen in some states faster than in others. These will improve, which will make the problem more obvious to the body of citizens. In this and other respects the US might be on the back foot at the moment but remember evolution is still in action.

The original Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report can be found at <http://www.oecd.org/document/51/0,3343,

Generally PISA thinks the Asian tigers are among the best: "Korea and Finland top the OECD’s latest PISA survey of reading literacy among 15-year olds. Asia-Pacific economies made up six of the leading education systems, thanks to strong performances from Hong Kong-China, Singapore, New Zealand and Japan. Canada was the only other country outside Asia to score highly." Painfully, the PISA report quoted by the Economist mentions that "Britain has slipped down the rankings, despite spending heavily on education in the last decade."

China is a unitary state for educational purposes - not much variability of approach - so I think Shanghai is a reasonable proxy for other Chinese cities. Nonetheless, China's success is fragile. Unitary systems like the old mandarin exams did produce very learned officials, but not necessarily effective ones. Wait for corruption to appear. Singapore is less prone to that; other small island or Nordic countries like New Zealand or Finland, likewise.

Such places do have very high reading scores despite heavy unionization but are a bit exceptional (the places are so small and isolated: teachers, education officials, and parents really do know each other - bad behaviour gets the usual small-town sanctions).

Regards, TC

-- Terry Cole  

If the United States would allow "the usual small-town sanctions", we wouldn't have education problems, but the Department of Education operates with the courts to prevent that, since the purpose of the enormous public school system is to ensure employment of everyone who manages to get an education degree and keep them employed for life with an bit pension after. If the system doesn't accomplish that, it's not working, no matter what the results in the classrooms, and since this is a classic Iron Law situation, the hard working classroom teachers don't try to take over their unions and change the system; and if they do manage to get on the school boards they find that the courts will keep them from making any real changes.

Despair is a sin, and I hesitate to say that the only remedy is guillotines in the public squares. Less drastic but traditional small town sanctions against snake oil salesmen AKA education experts and notoriously bad teachers would probably work, but they're as forbidden as guillotines. Then there are thoughts about hung for a sheep...


Subj: Dragon/Falcon-9: root cause of cracks in 2nd-stage nozzle extension

Via spaceflightnow.com:

>>1308 GMT (8:08 a.m. EST) SpaceX spokesperson Kirstin Brost has provided more information on the cause of the engine nozzle cracks that triggered the Falcon 9 launch delay from Tuesday.

"SpaceX has discovered the root cause of the two small cracks in the aft end of the 2nd stage engine nozzle extension," the statement said. "A GN2 vent line caused fluttering of the the thinnest portion of the nozzle extension, creating the cracks. SpaceX engineers repaired the extension by trimming off the end where the cracks are located and corrected the root cause by diffusing the vent." <<

Rod Montgomery==monty@starfief.com


L---- Clouds buffy willow

Jerry, I don't have time to follow up this afternoon, but WSJ online has an editorial titled "W--- L----- and the Cloud Wars" by Holman Jenkins that is probably worthy of a mention. Article tag: "Companies might think twice before trusting the cloud." Which has been my way of thinking all along, but anyway...


(Note: company firewall is randomly blocking sites mentioning this situation, so I'm not attempting the hyperlink.)

I am doing an essay on Trusting the Cloud.


A Dialog

Cynical Deficit Reduction Theatre


"The truth is that America's long-run deficit problem has nothing at all to do with overpaid federal workers. For one thing, those workers aren't overpaid. Federal salaries are, on average, somewhat less than those of private-sector workers with equivalent qualifications. And, anyway, employee pay is only a small fraction of federal expenses; even cutting the payroll in half would reduce total spending less than 3 percent."

Believe it or not, most of us are NOT overpaid and most of us work very hard for our paychecks. Most of us also endure conditions you just don't find outside. Why? Various reasons. Mine? Until well past the time that I could easily move out and was actually being courted by several contractors, I did stuff you just couldn't DO on the outside. I loved my job and was good at it. That I have a pre-existing medical condition meant that had to be considered in the equation when evaluating job offers.

Now, don't tell me you don't face adverse actions in civil service. I was BRAC'd, RIF'd, CA-76'd, and reorganized into a dead end but will finish out my time to retirement. (All those acronyms mean that I lost jobs, found new ones, and generally faced as much adversity as many outside of government.)

Did you know that we don't get any kind of disability insurance? Most workers who have a car accident can get temporary payments...those apparently very generous leave hours? That is all we have in case of such an event. I am not saying right or wrong on state disability...just saying that we don't get it and are expected to save most of our leave in case.

For example: I was pregnant and had 2 friends also pregnant about the same time. One was employed at Sears, the other a sailor. The one at Sears got state disability while in her 6 week recovery. The sailor was sick-in-quarters. (She also continued to accrue leave time and had no charges against it.) I, being only a few years in civil service, used all my vacation, all my sick, and went non-pay for the rest. I am not complaining, merely pointing out that some of the gripes by others are not as valid as they may seem. I had to take care of myself without the safety net of SDI that my non-gov friend had. Today I have to worry about the command choosing to RIF, (Reduction in Force: Layoffs to the rest of the world.)

I am tired of hearing that I am overpaid and coddled.

R, Rose

RE: Cynical Deficit Reduction Theatre -

I think the resentment came after the essential repeal of the Hatch act. The theory of civil service is a good one, but when it is unionized, and the unions are then able to make political contributions and do political work, the result is not good.

That is more apparent in the state employment than the federal employment.

Jerry Pournelle
 Chaos Manor

RE: Cynical Deficit Reduction Theatre - 

Yet it is the fed workers taking the brunt of the resentment.

Instead of hitting our pay, honest, any fair comparison leaves most of us making a bit less; we usually trade, (what used to be,) greater upfront compensation for, (what used to be,) secure benefits, (That we have always paid in to.) 20+ years ago the retirement changed to a 401m, (think 401K,) with a much smaller pension benefit. This put the responsibility on the employee to put money into the fund. Those of us under the old plan could also contribute but had no matching funds. This is the type of change that is being resisted by state employees everywhere...yet Feds did this long ago. Soon it won't be a two-tier system as the last of us will be pretty much retired out over the next 10 years. If our TSP, (the common acronym for our 401-type retirement fund,) is better funded and managed than most, it is likely as much because it has the largest pool of contributors than any other.

The largest problem is that there may be too many of us. There are many activities that are good, but don't really have a constitutional mandate. Your Iron Law does make things more difficult. I work in an activity that is both clearly mandated in the Constitution and every decade or so gets a quick neck-jerk that reigns in the Iron Law and forces us to get real again.

There are no easy answers as what we do here is very important and necessary, yet, it will never be perfectly efficient, (or even close.) Some of the reasons are simply the way life is; others are in places we can periodically clean house and claim that we returned to more responsible practices. At my level you hear that we are spending taxpayer dollars so be responsible on a regular basis.

R, Rose

Depends I think on who you are. There are TSA people making well over 6 figures; the budget for TSA is enormous. And of course there is much of the Department of Education, which is doing work that perhaps doesn't need doing at all.

I think one solution to the problem is to restore the Hatch Act in its essentials.


Earth Absorbing Radiation


In regards to you question on how much solar radiation the oceans absorb, I recall that when I was at Vandenberg AFB in the 1980's we launched a Advanced TIROS NOAA polar orbiting satellite that had an Earth Radiation Budget payload on board called "ERBE."

I wonder what that satellite showed in terms of the amount of radation received from the Sun versus that radiated back out into space. Presumably, since it was in a polar orbit it could measure that data over all of the Earth's surface.

I have looked for reports on ERBE on the Internet and found nothing. I find that curious given the climate change debate.


Wayne Eleazer

I don't recall the ERBA satellites. Obviously if it went out of Vandenberg it had to go southwards, and likely polar.

One presumes you have examined these sites http://asd-www.larc.nasa.gov/erbe/ASDerbe.html

and http://www.nasa.gov/centers/langley/news/factsheets/ERBE.html

which appear to present arguments I have heard in the AGW debates. I would appreciate discussion of this since apparently the ERBE experiment is very relevant. I ought to be more familiar with what it measured and how.

And see below



 read book now




CURRENT VIEW    Thursday


This week:


read book now


Friday,  December 10, 2010


More on the e-book format wars

Dear Jerry:

The good news is that I was able to find a firm that will do the formatting for Amazon Kindle and Epub and gurantee the work. The bad news is that it will take at least twelve weeks and cost several hundred dollars. But we will have a quality product. No one should expect to see any price below $9.99 until we recover our costs, and perhaps not then. I am feeling distinctly cranky about this entire experience. Shorter work will not go through this process because the fees make the break-even sales volume much higher than we can reasonably expect.


Francis Hamit
Brass Cannon Books

Actually there are easier ways to bring this off, but that's one way to do it. I asked Eric Pobirs to comment:

 The Kindle simulator and other tools can freely obtained from Amazon here:


As Jerry has discovered, being your own e-book publisher involves a good deal of work authors normally don't perform. But these are one-time tasks that are a minor investment of time contrasted against reaping a far greater portion of the revenue forever after.

Calibre is essential freeware for a range of e-book tasks including creation and format conversion: http://calibre-ebook.com/

Eric Pobirs




An Inconvenient Thermometer.


- Roland Dobbins


ERBE data 

Climate feedbacks are estimated from fluctuations in the outgoing radiation budget from the latest version of Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE) nonscanner data. It appears, for the entire tropics, the observed outgoing radiation fluxes increase with the increase in sea surface temperatures (SSTs). The observed behavior of radiation fluxes implies negative feedback processes associated with relatively low climate sensitivity. This is the opposite of the behavior of 11 atmospheric models forced by the same SSTs. Therefore, the models display much higher climate sensitivity than is inferred from ERBE, though it is difficult to pin down such high sensitivities with any precision.


GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 36, L16705, doi:10.1029/2009GL039628, 2009 On the determination of climate feedbacks from ERBE data Richard S. Lindzen1 and Yong-Sang Choi http://www.drroyspencer.com/Lindzen-and-Choi-GRL-2009.pdf 


Hah! I have not seen this before. I do not think it has been factored into the IPCC reports, but I may be mistaken.


Subject: Where's censorship when you need it?

Crap. The IPCC is predicting that 2010 will be oh so hot <http://www.jerrypournelle.com/view/2010/Q4/view651.html#hot>.  That explains why December has turned so cold so suddenly. December always turns cold when the IPCC does this.

For the love of Ghod, can't someone shut them up?

Concerning climate data, I saw an interesting example of how such data is collected in the case of Darwin, Australia. The raw data shows a downtrend in temperature. However, the downtrend is clearly an artifact caused by the moving of the temperature-collection stations at the beginning of WWII. A simple correction for that shows no warming or cooling in Darwin. The IPCC's correction, however, shows a sharp rise in temperature. Supposedly, the change is based on corrections from nearby stations that show the same pattern of daily temperature changes ("first difference" analysis, where you subtract a day's high from that of the day before; obviously, if several stations show different highs every day, but the same differences day-to-day, then you have a good chance of catching errors in the record). The problem was that there were no stations within hundreds of miles of Darwin that showed the supposedly required 80% correlation of "first differences." The IPCC wouldn't tell anyone how they corrected Darwin's records, either.

In short, the way the data is collected and "corrected" appears to be dishonest.

Stephen M. St. Onge Minneapolis, MN


Solutions: neat, obvious, and wrong

Dear Jerry:

In Weds. mail, "R" discusses 'cyberwar' by analogy <http://www.jerrypournelle.com/mail/2010/Q4/mail652.html#Wednesday> :

The better analogy is an IED placed on the road near some village in Afghanistan by some Taliban from the next valley over; it's done at night, the villagers aren't aware of it and are not involved in any way, and it's set to be remotely detonate by a radio transmission or a mobile phone SMS message by Taliban watching nearby.

When the US troops come driving by in their Humvee, the Taliban detonate the IED.

Now, what's the best course of action to take? Should the survivors call in an artillery strike or an airstrike to level the village, thus ensuring 100% collateral damage and a score of new recruits for the Taliban?

Or should they perhaps instead a) exercise more caution and make use of sensing devices to try and detect IEDs prior to reaching them, b) work to interdict the detonation cue transmissions, c) work to reinforce and up-armor their vehicles to be more resilient to attack, and d) work with the appropriate intelligence assets to develop enough of a picture to identify the bad actors and take them down directly, rather than engaging in random wog-bashing?

I'd like to point out the benefits of wog-bashing. In his novel Exodus, Leon Uris explains how Orde Wingate (whose name is changed in the novel) defended a pipeline in then-British Palestine against sabotage: whenever the pipeline was sabotaged, the nearest Arab village was attacked. The villagers weren't involved, and didn't know anything was going to happen? Attack anyway. After a while, the Arabs living near the pipeline accepted that the only way to keep their villages intact was to suppress the saboteurs, and they did so. Similarly, if the Afghanis decide the only way to keep their villages intact is to make sure the Taliban can't detonate IEDs near the road, they make take responsibility for local security.

I'm not sure what any of this has to do with cybersecurity, but then his own letter was rather vague on that too. What I am sure of is that we should think things over more carefully before we decide any particular method of stopping attacks is obviously sure to work or doomed to failure.

Stephen M. St. Onge
Minneapolis, MN

Fred Pohl tells stories of French wog-bashing through ghoums in World War II. And of course the Germans used retaliation in their occupied territories, one of the best known cases being what happened in Rome. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ardeatine_massacre


IBM's ThinkPad T42 LCD: A Blast from the Past, 


I thought you'd enjoy this review - IBM's ThinkPad T42 LCD: A Blast from the Past -



I had a T-42 Tablet for a while. Good machine. Wish I had a Windows 7 version now.


Following is a mailer from the Club for Growth on the Obama Compromise:

Dear Jerry,

Weeks like this are why the Club for Growth was founded in the first place.

On Monday, President Obama announced the compromise he reached with Republican congressional leaders, extending both the Bush tax cuts and unemployment benefits. As liberals shrieked in outrage, many conservatives assumed the deal must be pretty good.

It's not, and so far the people saying so the loudest have been the Club, and some of our PAC-endorsed superstars like Sen. Jim DeMint and Rep. Jeff Flake. Economic conservatives have been so fixated on extending the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 - a vital goal - that many have missed the underlying weaknesses of the deal cut on our behalf by Republican leaders.

1. The deal extends the marginal income tax rates, but resurrects the Death Tax from zero this year to 35 percent next year. Some people don't see this as a tax hike. We do.

2. The deal extends 99-week unemployment insurance benefits for another 13 months, at a cost of $56 billion, without offsets elsewhere in the budget. This would blow another huge hole in the deficit, just weeks after the American people demanded fiscal discipline at the polls. And it will keep the unemployment rate artificially high, leading to a protracted stall in the economy.

3. The employee-side Social Security tax cut is not only temporary, but also creates no incentive to hire, invest, and grow. This is Keynesian-style stimulus.

4. Finally, all of the tax cuts will only be extended a year or two, and history teaches we can't get permanent economic growth from temporary economic policy.

It's time Washington stopped monkeying around with temporary tax cuts and permanent spending. The pro-growth conservative Congress elected last month was sent to change Washington - that means flipping the mentality to temporary spending and permanent tax relief.

The Club's opposition to the deal has generated a lot of media interest, and I wanted to give you a chance to see what I've been up to.

Click here to see me on Cavuto <http://clubforgrowth.us1.list-

Click here to see me on The Kudlow Report <http://clubforgrowth.us1.list-

As we said Monday, the tax compromise is bad policy, bad politics, and a bad deal for the American people. We're going to fight it, and I hope you will continue to help us wage and win fights for economic growth and freedom over the next two years.

I know you won't let up. Neither will we.

Please consider making a donation today. <http://clubforgrowth.us1.list-

Thank you, again, as always.

Best regards, Chris

I agree with the analysis, and I would add that extending unemployment at a Federal level is a great error. Unemployment ought to be left to the states to begin with. Paying people to be unemployed is never a very good idea; perhaps it must be done in some emergencies -- we do not want people starving -- but it needs to be done with care. Or else we need more discussion on its purpose. Who is entitled to what, and who is obligated to pay for it, and why?






This week:


read book now


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Work and recovery.






 read book now




CURRENT VIEW     Saturday

This week:


read book now


Sunday,   December 12, 2010    

I have never seen anything like this in my life.

Watch the whole thing:


My guess is that Bill Clinton will end up either running for the Senate, or that Obama will pre-announce him as his pick for Secretary of the Treasury in the 2012 general election.

-- Roland Dobbins

The Confederate Constitution made former Presidents Senators for life (as the Roman Republic made life Senators of those who held certain offices). There was a minor movement to add that to the US Constitution in Eisenhower's second term. A good way to make use of former chief executives, many thought.


Nuclear reaction defies expectations



A novel kind of fission reaction observed at the CERN particle physics laboratory in Geneva has exposed serious weaknesses in our current understanding of the nucleus. The fission of mercury-180 was expected to be a "symmetric" reaction that would result in two equal fragments but instead produced two nuclei with quite different masses, an "asymmetric" reaction that poses a significant challenge to theorists.


"Much of our energy generation depends on nuclear fission," he points out, "and if we want to make reactors safer and cheaper we need to be able to trust the basic theory of the fission process. I would say that the theory has been found to be sadly lacking, and it needs to be fixed."


The rest of the world is very serious about making nuclear power work for them. Why can't we get into that game? We used to do that sciency stuff pretty well, or so I'm told.

Braxton Cook


Who's better off?

Mark Levin on his show tonight cited the surprising statistics that a single-parent family of three, parent working full time at a minimum wage job, has about 10% more disposable income (after taxes and assistance) than a family of four earning $60,000 a year.

Original source: National Review Online


Why, indeed? Over at Zero Hedge, Tyler Durden has an interesting answer <http://www.zerohedge.com/article/
-income-family-mak>  :

Emmerich analyzes disposable income and economic benefits among several key income classes and comes to the stunning (and verifiable) conclusion that “a one-parent family of three making $14,500 a year (minimum wage) has more disposable income than a family making $60,000 a year.” And that excludes benefits from Supplemental Security Income disability checks. America is now a country which punishes those middle-class people who not only try to work hard, but avoid scamming the system.

More data here:



If you want more of something, subsidize it (Unemployment payments sometimes known as compensation; "earned income" negative income tax). If you want less of it, fine people for doing it (income taxes, taxes on interest income, elimination of deductions, etc. etc.)  Why is anyone astonished? Clearly it is the intent of government to punish those who make money in order to reward those who vote properly. And they never catch wise.


“Polymaths are disconcerting. People feel they are trespassing.”

Strangely, Freeman Dyson wasn't cited:


--- Roland Dobbins


Navy Tests Railgun

Dr. Pournelle --

From Science Fiction to test reality. How long before putting one of these on a cruiser or frigate? And how long before a big ground to orbit version?

The first part of the video shows some of the equipment for the railgun. The action begins about 1:32 into the video and shows what looks like a solid projectile cradled in a sabot. I saw one article that says the railgun can launch the projectile at Mach 7, the recent launch being 33 megajoules. I certainly wouldn't want to be the target of that kind of kinetic energy.




Temperature measurements...

While I agree generally that anthropogenic global warming remains to be proved, that even if it is occurring it isn’t clear yet that it’s bad, and that even if it’s bad it’s probably way too expensive to counter by attempting to reduce our conversion of carbon and oxygen to CO2, I don’t quite follow your apparent conclusion that inability to measure a temperature to within a tenth of a decree C (with the usual sorts of climate-type thermometers, rather than, say, laboratory stuff in lab conditions) makes invalid any claims that temperatures are rising on the order of a tenth of a degree a decade – or whatever the claim is.

As an engineer I was exposed to some statistics, but I’m hardly any expert with them. However.... Suppose we believe that we have some index to annual temperature, preferably from actual thermometer readings but maybe from proxies, that is treated identically every year, and we keep hundredths and thousandths of a degree decimal places in the final result. Presumably the thousandths place would show random variation. But possibly the hundredths place has substantially more instances when it increases rather than decreases. So long as tenths place, the ones place, etc., are not inconsistent with an increasing temperature in the hundredths place, that seems to me to be an indication of some significance in the data down to the hundredths place. I would be surprised if the result from this approach produced any great difference from just plotting the “averages” with their apparently absurd accuracy, then fitting least-squares lines through the results, maybe 100 points at a time.

The significance might be due to increases in the number of stations near parking lots, or whatever. I’m not saying that a non-random variation in the tenths or hundredths place of the “average temperature” means that the earth is getting warmer, much less that mankind is causing it. I’m only saying that there is some justification for talking about increases of less than a degree in such a nebulous quantity as the global average annual temperature.

Michael D. Biggs

Your assumptions about the collection conditions need to be examined again. And note that when there are no measures some are supplied by manipulation of other measures. Averaging a lot of bad and unreliable measures produces -- what?

And see Monday mail


200 Years Of Progress For All, 


Here's a BBC video showing the relationship of wealth and life expectancy, graphed over the past 200 years (hence the video):


Very cool.



The Kronos Effect: Bell Labs and Ma Bell


Tom Brosz


A short dialog

freedom of the press and foreign press

I understand the founders' desire to protect "press", but how did they feel about foreign press on issues directly affecting the proper operation of this country? The WikiLeaks synario is not an internal American news source, but an external one bent on causing harm. What if the young man had stolen the formula for a new bio weapon and WikiLeaks had published the corresponding "how-to" on their website? Is this freedom of the press?


Do you really want a Bulgarian Court to be able to bring criminal charges against me for publishing something that may be seen as harmful to their government?

 Jerry Pournelle

Of course not. In fact, I'm not talking about extradition or a person being subject to a foreign court. I'm talking about military or paramilitary operations. What is it we, the USA, are supposed to do with these people? He is clearly not trying to help the world, he is specifically conducting soft warfare against the USA. What should we do about it above or below the table? Clearly the governments of Europe are aghast. They are coming up with any reason whatever to detain him. In all of this leaked information the USA doesn't come out as the bad guy, it's our "allies".


I'm not sure I have any non-obvious comments.


Cynical Deficit Reduction Theatre

"I think one solution to the problem is to restore the Hatch Act in its essentials." [JEP]

You won't get an argument against this from me!

I would expand it, however, to include contractors working alongside military and civilian personnel. Contractors have become, in fact, government workers. They now do many of the jobs we did and often do it in desks right next to ours. Their corporate interests should not be allowed to lobby or participate directly in the political process in ways denied us by the Hatch act. (The limits of the Hatch Act are not on our personal exercise of political participation in most ways, but prevent, (or ought to prevent,) us from using our positions to promote a particular candidate or agenda. It also is supposed to protect us from pressure to participate by our seniors.

It helped establish a professional civil service in place of the "spoils" system. It used to be that the winner of an election could, (and would,) reward those who worked for his election with civil service jobs. (It was tough luck for the current occupant.) We still see this with political appointee jobs. We also can get a wee bit cynical about appointees scrambling to be converted to civil service status when it looks as if their candidate is gonna be defeated.

However, a professional civil service is, in general, a GOOD THING! It takes a number of people back to keep a warrior in the field. Without our services they would have to live off the land as raiders and that just won't work with modern tech.

I remember when the small manufacturer I worked for paid the price of stupidity and went out of business. While I was working temps I took the exam and placed highly. I got a permanent job and worked it for a few months when I was selected for interview. I really didn't like the job I had taken and so accepted the offer. The rest sprang from that. However, when I was first looking at places I wanted to work, I had to leave out several nice opportunities as I had a very near relative with authority in my field. They were serious about any appearance of nepotism. Now, not so much. But, as usual, the pendulum will swing back. I also think the Hatch act will swing back again, but not until some serious abuse becomes public.

I raise my cup to the swing of the pendulum, may it happen soon.

R, Rose

The civil service  ceased to exist when it became unionized and the union was permitted to collect dues and spend the money on political activities.


Stuxnet details come to light--the stuff of science fiction


This article reveals some amazing details of the inner workings of the Stuxnet worm and how it delivered a “precision targeted” attack on the Iranian nuclear facilities:


“At Natanz, for almost 17 months, Stuxnet quietly worked its way into the system and targeted a specific component -- the frequency converters made by the German equipment manufacturer Siemens that regulated the speed of the spinning centrifuges used to create nuclear fuel. The worm then took control of the speed at which the centrifuges spun, making them turn so fast in a quick burst that they would be damaged but not destroyed. And at the same time, the worm masked that change in speed from being discovered at the centrifuges' control panel.”

Best regards,

Doug Ely

I will comment on this in the column. This appears to be cyberwar -- at least the action would seem to be an act of war, and probably by a state since the amount of effort required to generate the worm is very large for an NGO, private consortium, terrorist group, etc.  If it be war, it is anonymous war...


Governemnt employees not allowed to look at Wikileaks?


"The latest act in the worldwide WikiLeaks comedy: on Friday, the White House told federal employees and contractors that they're not allowed to read classified federal documents posted to WikiLeaks unless they have the proper security clearance."

I'm honestly at a bit of a loss. Analogies about barn doors just don't seem to cover it. Everyone in the world who has the least interest now has access to these documents. News sites are commenting and quoting the best bits. Most of this stuff seems to be the political equivalent of back room gossip.

Is this just a case of the security bureaucracy blindly following its rules or are there serious reasons why government employees shouldn't be looking while virtually everyone can?



: Meanwhile, With the Legions




BDAB, Joshua Jordan, KSC Percussa Resurgo


Army manual for cooks, 1910 edition

Yes SOS!











 read book now





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


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

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

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

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

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

 Search engine:


or the freefind search

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

Boiler Plate:

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

If you subscribed:

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

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

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

Patron Subscription:

Search: type in string and press return.


For platinum subscription:

For a PDF copy of A Step Farther Out:

= = = = = = = = = =

For a Regular Subscription click here:

= = = = = = = =

Strategy of Technology in pdf format:

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

Entire Site Copyright, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 by Jerry E. Pournelle. All rights reserved.

birdline.gif (1428 bytes)