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Monday, March 3, 2008

Early morning zap today. Here's what happens. For those who don't know what's going on, see yesterday's View.

   This is the machine. There are several treatment rooms, not all identical, but similar.


I put my stuff down on a table. That white thing next to my flight bag is the mask they put over my face to hold my head rigidly still. It's quite claustrophobic.

I get laid on that table.  They zap me, usually twice, once from each side. The big machine rumbles into place, then there is about five seconds of loud buzzing.

And then it's done. This was an early appointment with technicians I had not previously met. My usual people are Sandy and Jessica, and I have to say it's nice to have the attention of some pretty girls. But in fact I want to commend the entire Kaiser staff, from the parking attendants and security guards, the receptionists, the treatment staff, and the physicians. This isn't a pleasant experience, but they are pleasant people, solicitous and very professional.


Yesterday I was able to do the mailbag and the column without much difficulty, and they'll be posted tonight and tomorrow. I may be getting my head zapped, and it's hard to talk, but by gollies I can still write.

And I want to thank all those who have recently subscribed or renewed your subscription. KUSC does four fund raising drives a year, and each takes a whole week. I don't nag you anything like that often. That probably explains why they have a higher percentage of subscribers than I do...

This place is operated on the Public Radio model: I keep it going as long as it's worth it to you and me. The only real measure I have of its worth to you is subscriptions, although of course a few of you are valued contributors (nearly every one of them a subscriber, interestingly enough).



Over in mail Francis Hamit has some detailed instructions on self publishing. I commend it to your attention.


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Tuesday,  March 4, 2008   

Early nuke this morning so I have to get out of here.

The iMac Dashboard has a pretty picture of the sky from Toronto. Is there any way to make it believe I am in California, or is this just one of the features?  I need to find other Dashboard gadgets, and I have forgotten how, but I'll get back to it when I get back from the zapping.


Not a good night. Indigestion is worse; had to get up and do Alka-Seltzer but that was enough to get me back to sleep.


In LA a can of dog food is now up to about $10 million, much of it for lawyers. We have completely lost our minds.


Space Access '08 Conference Information March 27-29, Phoenix Arizona

SA'08 Hotel Rooms Still Available, But Deadline Approaching

We've heard some of you trying to reserve rooms for SA'08 have been told there are none left for our dates. This is incorrect; there still are rooms available - but only in our reserved "Space Access" room block. The rest of the hotel is indeed sold out, and will show as such on the clerk's reservations computer unless they specify our room block. When you call the Grace Inn at 800 843-6010 for rooms, try telling them you want a room for the Space Access conference before telling them your dates. If they still say "no rooms", ask them specifically to check in the Space Access Room Block. That should do it - for now.

However, as of this Thursday, March 6th, three weeks before the conference, our reserved room block opens up for general rental. This means that after Thursday you'll be competing for rooms with the winter vacationers and Spring Training fans who've already filled up the rest of the hotel. Our $99 taxes-and-breakfast-included rate will still be good right up through the conference - IF you can find a room. If you want to be sure of getting a room right there in our hotel for SA'08, the time to reserve it is now. Wait too long, and you could end up commuting from another hotel, likely as not at a higher rate.

For conference details see



Done with the morning Zap. Here are some pictures:


A new technician crew, and like all those at Kaiser they are professional, cheerful, and just plain nice. I don't see how they do it all the day.

And that's me, ready to be zapped.


Ran errands, then ran out of energy. I hope to spend some time with the iMac today: I need to blow away VMware and start over on the installation in the hopes that eventually XP under VMware will find the rest of my network and I can start moving stuff that has to run under Windows over to the Mac. I am beginning to find some enthusiasm for the Mac. Eventually, I'll buy myself a MacBook Pro when needed, but for the moment the iMac in the office, the Power Book in the Monk's cell for fiction (and used as a sneakernet) and an Air to carry around like to LASFS meetings to talk for me, and the iPhone as pocket computer, and ye gods!  It's like I wrote about 25 years ago...

So I will probably acquire an Air as soon as I can. It sure will help me talk. 

Eventually I'll need the MacBook Pro to take on real trips where I have to work in a hotel room if I ever get to that point again. Which I may. I can't talk but I do feel a bit better, and I think I still understand the world even if I can only write, not talk, about it.

 That makes it better than Possony had it after his stroke. Steve was trapped in his skull. I am sure much of the old fox was in there, but unable to communicate, which was awful. He used to smile when I'd talk to him and say the kinds of things I thought he would be thinking; but of course that wasn't enough. In his prime Possony used to sit through two days of meetings and say almost nothing except a few sociable words, then when the discussions began, he would ask two questions and make one comment, and change the whole nature of the conference.

When the Berlin Wall fell, Steve was grinning like a thief, but he also had some worries he couldn't express. But thank God he lived to see that. He had as much to do with bringing it down as anyone alive.

So I am far better off than Possony was. Thank God.



It turns out that I had to rename the VMware XP virtual machine to Vimogene, leaving the Boot Camp XP virtual machine (same installation) as Wimogene. Now Vimogene sees the network just fine, I can transfer files back and forth, and it all works. More in the column but that particular problem is behind me.

Now I can concentrate on turning the Mac into a Mac, but I have the XP inside the Mac OS to fall back on. All is well so far, and I have lots of suggestions for Mac Software, which I'll start playing with.

Next is to peel off all my addresses and numbers from my ancient Nokia Cingular phone so that I can activate the iPhone with the old phone number. At least I think I want to do that. I can't really afford to keep the old number on the Nokia. The iPhone account will cost half again what the old phone account cost, which isn't all that bad, but I can't really justify opening a new one just to be able to keep the old.

The problem is that periodically I have been tempted to take the SIM out of the Nokia and put it into the iMate. That always works, and I like a lot about the iMate -- indeed I like everything about it except its use as a phone. But since I now carry a carry bag (with the MobilePro and Kindle as well as log book and medical paperwork)  carrying the larger iMate isn't so bad. When I put the SIM into the iMate, it knows all the numbers I used to know, and it works.

If I activate the iPhone with that number, all that will be lost: you can't go back. Your old SIM dies when you activate your iPhone, and the new SIM in the iPhone isn't removable to put into something like an iMate. So I may want to experiment with the iMate for a bit before going all the way.

And yet. The iPhone is nifty. I got a "skin" for it that I hate. I am going to figure out a way to put a lanyard on the iPhone since I tend to be clumsy now; I do wish Apple had designed in a lanyard cleat as most cameras and such do. It's the one thing I really miss on it. The iPhone looks so elegant that I hate to put skins on it, but I am also afraid I will drop it. Perhaps AppleCare? Do they sell that for the iPhone?

I need to upgrade the PowerBook to the latest and greatest OS X and I may just take both it and the iPhone to the Apple Store at Fashion Square (Sherman Oaks) and see if the geniuses have any options (and also if any of them have ever heard of me)... 

So I have my work cut out. I am pretty sure I'll eventually be carrying the iPhone as a pocket computer. Sure enough that I am going to order a good Bluetooth headset for it (about a hundred bucks). I already have a good Belkin unit, but it's shiny and flashes a blue light in my ear, and that's not really want I want. What I would be satisfied with is a headset I can carry somehow and put on and take off easily since I don't spend a lot of my time on telephones when I am out of the house (or anywhere else). I haven't found a really good headset, but I am told about Jawbone (sold at Apple stores as well as on line) and I will get that.

So I have my work cut out...


Gary Gygax, RIP

Subject: Gary Gygax Passes - 

Hi Jerry,

Gary Gygax, the creation of Dungeons and Dragons passed away recently. http://blog.wired.com/underwire/2008/03/report-gary-gyg.html 

I still look fondly at my old books sitting on the shelf, I don't have the heart to box them up. He gave a generation of geeks something to do on Saturday afternoons.




I knew him, not well. We were at a couple of conventions together and had lunch once. D&D certainly changed many lives. Chains and Chainmail, Dungeons and Dragons. Good Hunting, Gary.


2350 and time for bed. Restless, but sleepy. I hope this works. I can use a good night's sleep. Tomorrow I have a zapping at 1330, so it won't be a disaster if I sleep late.

And Fred has something to say. As usual. http://www.fredoneverything.net/AmRen.shtml



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Wednesday,  March 5, 2008

Restless night, indigestion. Alka-Seltzer helped. Now I'm up at 0630. I get zapped after noon today. Sure breaks up your day, having to go get your skull fried. I'll get the computer stuff done before I go and plan on a tour in the Monk's Cell after I get back. Maybe I can get a few pages of fiction done. I am in a set-up and exposition chapter in Mamelukes, and making those interesting is always hard work. Action and adventure, letting the clock run once you have wound it, that's easy: but creating new characters, setting the problems so that the readers understand what the Hero Protagonist faces and is trying to do, is very hard work.

The city of LA has gone mad. A can of dog food has cost us ten million, much to lawyers, and the story goes on and on. Meanwhile the politicians are saying they just don't have enough money, and they have to raise taxes.

The Iron Law

The purpose of government is to hire and pay government employees. If it can accomplish anything else, that is good, but the first purpose is to pay the government workers. Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy describes the process perfectly.

Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in every bureaucracy there will be two kinds of people: those dedicated to the purposes of the bureaucracy: examples, working firemen, competent classroom teachers, working cops, most nurses and doctors, etc.; and those dedicated to the bureaucracy itself: examples, most education administrators, nearly all union leaders in both teacher and civil servant unions, etc. In every case, the second group will inevitably seize and keep control of the organization.

You've seen this before, but it never harms to be reminded.

She's Back, and Huckabee is gone.

Thompson for VP

Hillary Clinton dodged a bullet, and the show will go on. Obama, meanwhile, fled in confusion when the press, goaded by the Saturday Night Live parody of their treatment of him, actually asked some hard questions. Obama tried his usual political magic of substituting charisma for intellectual answers, and when that failed, fled like a wounded deer.

I expect the Clintons to take full advantage of this vulnerability.

McCain has completed the nomination process. Now he has the delicate problem of keeping his name in the news without going broke. He also has to choose a running mate. I commend Fred Thompson for that post.

Of course I wanted Mr. Thompson for President, and the fact that Thompson refused to go grub for the office is one of the reasons I like him. The problem with democracy is that those who get the top posts have usually had to disqualify themselves from having it. Thompson is from a border state, believes in state's rights and federalism, and has good conservative instincts. He would make a good President, and the VP route would be a good way for him to get there. And he and McCain are friends.


Things to Do

I woke up hoping for the energy to do two report pages: a continuation of the "growing up bright" notes I started last week, and a new "Essential reading" page of musings on books that everyone ought to know about if they are going to live in Western Civilization. I have started the Growing Up Smart page, but there's not a lot there yet. It turns out that getting up early after a restless night is not a particularly good way to start the day. Apologies.

I also need to collect Francis Hamit's letters on epublishing and put them on a page of their own. That is the chief disadvantage of this free form daybook: good stuff gets lost unless I bookmark and index it, and even then it may disappear from view. Roland Dobbins keeps berating me for not going to a more modern system with data bases and the like and of course he is right; but I have reached a stage where there is only so much energy. I can use it to understand new techniques, or I can use it to try to generate something worth saying; but the days when I had plenty of energy for both are in abeyance, hopefully to return when they get this thing burned out of my head, but they aren't here now.

And I still have to make a living, which at the moment consists of grinding out fiction, and being interesting enough that some of you out there will subscribe. I do thank all those who have recently renewed their subscription. I seem to have a very good renewal rate. The column sells overseas -- Nikkei Business Publications pays me well for the translation rights, and I get money from Istanbul as well for Turkish rights -- and in the closed area over at Chaos Manor Reviews there are a number of bonus benefits. At the same time, I would rather have readers who don't pay than lay out such a guilt trip that they go away. I am not after your eating or rent money. I am after your beer money... But enough of that.

I have begun to compose the "essential books" page in my head, and I'll get to that sometime Real Soon Now. If anyone would like to experiment with finding Mr. Hamit's materials that belong together, I'd appreciate the help.


1600 Done with my 1330 zap and errands after. Exhausted. I don't guess I'll do fiction this afternoon.

We have a race war in Los Angeles, but the Chief of Police seems angry when the reporters ask about it. The fact is that the Latinos are driving the Blacks out of their traditional areas in Los Angeles. Watts and much of South Central has become Latino, and Blacks are killed or driven out; it is racial, we all know it is racial; it is hate crimes; we all know it is hate crimes; it is not a rainbow coalition in there.

When I was in the Mayor's Office the Street Racers were in fact integrated, led by a black man with white lieutenants; but that was before the big influx of illegals and other Hispanics, and street racing was illegal; and that movement is gone. There are no integrated groups in LA now, except possibly the Boy Scouts, and they are persecuted by the authorities because they don't have gay Scoutmasters; and of course the Scout Oath includes "God and my country" and that's no use. So we make war on integrationist groups, and deny that the street gangs are racist, and the Chief of Police screams at the reporters for asking about it.

But the fact is that the Latinos are driving the Blacks out of the formerly black areas of Los Angeles. Some welcome this: within the Latino area there is comparative quiet once the outsiders are driven out. There's less disorder than when the Blacks were there; or at least that is claimed, and there is some evidence. But this creates enclaves and ghettos, and that is not a good thing for a Republic.

When Pepperdine was at Florence and New Hampshire I used to daily take my noon class on a walk down to Broadway and Manchester to buy ice cream cones. We would talk on the way. This was the heart of Black South Central, and some places near it had been burned in the riots. Watts was near. I would drive visitors through Watts and they would not believe they were there. "These aren't slums!" No, they weren't. They were single family homes well kept up, and if you did not know where you were you would not know this was a black district.

Now I would not walk my students to that area nor drive through it. This doesn't seem to be progress to me.


I am learning more about the Kindle, or trying to. I have just mailed a copy of the pdf of Strategy of Technology to my Kindle address, and it has arrived. Readable. I gather that Amazon will charge me a dime for that service. I also downloaded a copy of my Fallen Angels from the Baen Free Library, and them mailed the zip file to the Kindle. Once again it appeared without problems, and is readable.

So now I am sending the pdf of A Step Farther Out (available in the subscriber area at Chaos Manor Reviews) and by gollies it's here too. Since I have an enormous card in my Kindle I can keep a lot of books in there.

At some point I suppose I should get a Sony Reader and see how I like it compared to the Kindle, but I have to say that Amazon is doing this right. It's easy to buy books -- perhaps too easy -- but it's also easy to acquire free books and books from other sources. The store is part of the Kindle.

More in the column, but I find it very easy to read on the Kindle, and I do that every day in the waiting room. My only complaint is that The Silver Swan isn't available on Kindle so I had to order a hardbound copy. (I'll review it in the column. I could have got a review copy, but I don't usually try to get mainstream books; if I did I'd get too many, and I haven't any place to keep them. Which is why I wanted it as a Kindle book.)

The Amazon My Kindle page tells me what books it thinks I have on it (including the newest ones) and a bunch of other stuff. It all manages out well. They put some thought in this. And the store is always open...



Midnight. Took Sable for a 3 mile walk. I ought to sleep all right



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Thursday,  March 6, 2008

Global Cooling

Dr. Phil Chapman was born in Australia and was a South Polar Explorer before coming to the the United States and becoming a US citizen and astronaut. He was one of the original members of the Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy which formed in 1980 to write the Space and Defense policy papers for the incoming Reagan Administration Transition Team (Jerry Pournelle, PhD, Chairman)


As straws in the wind, note that it snowed in Baghdad in January, for the first time in a century. There is still snow in the Australian Alps at midsummer, never before seen. The extent of the Antarctic sea-ice last austral winter exceeded all records. These are of course mere anecdotal evidence, not to be taken seriously.

However, the four major organizations that track the global average temperature have now released their results for 2007. They are the Hadley Centre in the UK (Hadley), the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), Remote Sensing Systems, Inc., in Santa Rosa, CA, (RSS) and the Christy group at the University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH). The first three have been alarmed about GW for years, while the UAH group (which uses satellite MSU measurements) has tended to be skeptical.

All four of these studies report an astonishing drop in global temperature during 2007, between 0.59 and 0.75 degrees C. You can see graphs of their data at

sources-say-globally-cooler-in-the-past-12-months/  .

This is by far the fastest change in global temperature on record. It is probably just a blip but if the climate stabilizes at this level, it will have wiped out all the increase since 1920, and the whole GW thing will have gone away. Moreover, if 2008 shows another decrease of this magnitude, we will have to consider seriously the possibility that the 20-year transition to the next Ice Age has begun.

To paraphrase Eugene O'Neill, The Ice Age Cometh?

If this is true, the consequences are appalling. Most of North America and all of Europe north of the Alps will be under a mile of ice by 2030. This means that most of the advanced countries except Australia will cease to exist. There can be little doubt that the need to survive will trump any international norms of behavior: I would expect that Europe would invade Africa and the US would invade Mexico, accepting genocide of the indigenous populations as an unfortunate necessity, given the absolute need for lebensraum.

Perhaps we could delay or stop the transition by using nuclear explosions to release floods of methane (a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2) from the hydrate deposits under the Arctic permafrost and on the continental shelves, and/or by mounting a major effort to reduce the albedo by shoveling dirt over northern snowfields. Unfortunately, the reputations and income of far too many influential people now depend on the existence of the GW threat, and they will resist recognizing the truth as long as possible. In any case, I don't expect politicians to have the chutzpah to act before it is too late.

Until we find out whether the present cold is transient or getting worse, the Precautionary Principle demands that we all do our duty by guzzling as much gasoline and emitting as much CO2 and CH4 as possible. Flatulence is now a patriotic duty.

This is of course probably just a nightmare but I will be watching the global temperature data this year with considerable interest.


PS. Get well, old friend. We need you


Global Warming, if real, threatens longer growing seasons in the North Temperate Zones, at a cost of some rise in sea level. A new ice age is a disaster without precedent. Core borings in lakes in England and Belgium show that the area near the English Channel went from deciduous trees to under many feet of ice in fewer than 100 years at the last Ice Age onset.

There are ways to counter warming and cooling, but they are not cheap; and first there have to be actual scientists, as opposed to the grant gatherers, trained seals, and headline grabbers who now pose as climate scientists. The Peer Review process has systematically excluded publication of any contrary opinions.

And yet it is now as it has been: the modelers see man-made global warming. The observers have never seen it, and now when honest admit they see cooling.

Political correctness demands that science submit to correct opinion. It is Voodoo Science in the real sciences, not just the social sciences.

We sow the wind.

Of course this year may be a blip; but it doesn't look that way. Discussion in mail.

JEP 0300 Sleepless in Studio City




Sic Semper Tyrannis

George Mason recommended this as the motto of the United States. Thus ever with tyrants. He meant their removal, but the Iron Law of Bureaucracy decrees that it also means that tyrants shall also act as tyrants.


CA: No to homeschool 

Well this sure ought to be an interesting fight. So, if one doesn't have a teaching degree, one is not qualified to teach? Can we say: Power of the Teacher's Union?



From the Los Angeles Times

Ruling seen as a threat to many home-schooling families

State appellate court says those who teach children in private must have a credential. By Seema Mehta and Mitchell Landsberg Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

March 6, 2008

Parents who lack teaching credentials cannot educate their children at home, according to a state appellate court ruling that is sending waves of fear through California's home schooling families.

Advocates for the families vowed to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. Enforcement until then appears unlikely, but if the ruling stands, home-schooling supporters say California will have the most regressive law in the nation.

"This decision is a direct hit against every home schooler in California," said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, which represents the Sunland Christian School, which specializes in religious home schooling. "If the state Supreme Court does not reverse this . . . there will be nothing to prevent home-school witch hunts from being implemented in every corner of the state of California."

The institute estimates there are as many as 166,000 California students who are home schooled. State Department of Education officials say there is no way to know the true number.

Unlike at least 30 other states, home schooling is not specifically addressed in California law. Under the state education code, students must be enrolled in a public or private school, or can be taught at home by a credentialed tutor.

The California Department of Education currently allows home schooling as long as parents file paperwork with the state establishing themselves as small private schools, hire credentialed tutors or enroll their children in independent study programs run by charter or private schools or public school districts while still teaching at home.

California does little to enforce those provisions and insists it is the local school districts' responsibility. In addition, state education officials say some parents home school their children without the knowledge of any entity.

Home schoolers and government officials have largely accepted this murky arrangement.

"This works so well, I don't see any reason to change it," said J. Michael Smith, president of the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Assn.

The appellate court ruling stems from a case involving Lynwood parents Phillip and Mary Long, who were repeatedly referred to the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services over various allegations, including claims of physical abuse, involving some of their eight children.

All of the children are currently or had been enrolled in Sunland Christian School, where they would occasionally take tests, but were educated in their home by their mother, Phillip Long said.

A lawyer appointed to represent two of the Long's young children requested that the court require them to physically attend a public or private school where adults could monitor their well-being. A trial court disagreed, but the children's lawyer appealed to the 2nd District Court of Appeal, which has jurisdiction over Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

The appellate panel ruled that Sunland officials' occasional monitoring of the Longs' home schooling -- with the children taking some tests at the school -- is insufficient to qualify as being enrolled in a private school. Since Mary Long does not have a teaching credential, the family is violating state laws, the ruling said.

"Parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children," wrote Justice H. Walter Croskey in a Feb. 28 opinion signed by the two other members of the district court. "Parents who fail to [comply with school enrollment laws] may be subject to a criminal complaint against them, found guilty of an infraction, and subject to imposition of fines or an order to complete a parent education and counseling program."

Phillip Long said he believes the ruling stems from hostility against Christians and vowed to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

"I have sincerely held religious beliefs," he said. "Public schools conflict with that. I have to go with what my conscience requires me."

Public schools teach such topics as evolution, which Long said he doesn't believe in. He said his wife spends six hours each day teaching their children reading, writing, math, science, health, physical education, Bible and social studies. Court papers say Mary Long's education ended at 11th grade.

It's unclear if the ruling will be enforced, given the likely appeals. Typically, these rulings take effect 30 days after they are issued.

Other organizations that plan to get involved include the Pacific Justice Institute, Home School Legal Defense Assn. and the Home School Assn. of California.

Meanwhile, state Department of Education's attorneys are reviewing the ruling.

Teachers union officials will also be closely monitoring the appeal. A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said he agrees with the ruling.

"What's best for a child is to be taught by a credentialed teacher," he said.

While many educators and officials remained unfamiliar with the ruling Tuesday, news about it has been sweeping websites and blogs devoted to home schooling. Organizations have been getting tense phone calls from parents worried that they will be targeted.

Families who home school include those whose religious beliefs conflict with public schools and those whose children are in the entertainment industry or have other time-consuming activities that require them to study at an individualized pace.

Glenn and Kathleen, a Sacramento-area couple who requested that their last name not be used for fear of prosecution, home school their 9-year-old son Hunter because their Christian beliefs would be contradicted in a public school setting, Glenn said. He is troubled by the idea that his son would be exposed to teachings about evolution, homosexuality, same-sex marriage and sex education .

"I want to have control over what goes in my son's head, not what's put in there by people who might be on the far left who have their own ideas about indoctrinating kids," he said.

If the ruling takes effect, Glenn vowed to move his family out of state. "If I can't home school my son in California, we're going to have to end up leaving California. That's how important it is to me."

All Power to the Teacher Unions!

The California Schools are so splendid that surely all will see the value of having a good unionized teacher to ready their children!


The Mac is driving me mad.

I have created a new "mailbox" and moved some mail into it. Now I can't find it. I can find it to move things into it, but not ever to see them again. This is sheer silliness. Why can't it show and let me drag stuff to it? Why can't I ever see it? Why is Apple hiding the mail I tried to sort? Who designed this imbecility?


Here is a thought:

Subject: 1000 True Fans 

Jerry, I got this off Wil Wheaton's site, http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2008/03/1000_true_fans.php  but thought you might be interested. I like the idea of you having 1000 True Fans (core customers as Wil says) and being set for life while the Free Riders (Econ 101) can still get there daily dose of you.

Maybe a Super Platinum Patron that is limited to 1,000 an gives you $100.00 a year to be subscribed. In return, maybe you send out an autographed edition of one of your books and a letter? I was thinking phone call, but with your current speech problems, that wouldn't be cool. But some method of special communication that would enhance the experience of your Super Platinum Patron (TM).

Hope this finds you feeling better and better every day.

Thank you.

Heiskell Christmas.

What might I offer that would attract 1,000 people to send me a hundred bucks a year? Obviously fulfillment would have to be something under $20 and not be onerous. I can promise to buy copies of my books as they come out, sign them, and send them -- only can I really? It takes time to sign 1,000 book, and more to get Niven to sign them as well; packaging and mailing I suppose I could let Kinko's or the UPS Store handle, or heck, hire the kids next door.

It is worth thinking about. It's about the income BYTE used to furnish, and I spent a good half my time doing that journalism so that I'd be able to support my family no matter what the sales of fiction. Mr. Heinlein used to teach us that writers are professional gamblers, and we ought to be sure to have a base income just in case. He ran scared all his life.

Anyway, it is a thought. (and see below)

I get zapped again in a couple of hours. Obviously I can't promise even to be around in a year, although it is beginning to look good for that and some years to come. Sleepless nights I can endure. The headaches are better, the joint aches are pretty well gone -- thanks to the steroids or the zaps or both -- and the indigestion is endurable (I am taking Zantac for that).


QUERY: The iPhone is loverly, but how do I carry it? Probably in my carry bag, which is fine, but then how to use it? Jawbone? A HANDSET? Is there any such thing as a handset so that using the iPhone like a telephone works without my having to have my ear flash blue and look geeky? I suppose I can get used to that, but how do most of you use iPhones?

It's beautiful, it's a pocket computer, I would like to have the PDA features and we know that once the SDK is released there will be a flood of really great software for it. But that was true for the iMate as well: a great pocket computer but not much of a telephone. My little Nokia sits in my pocket, does nothing but be a phone, but it does that well. I can use it with one hand, holding the phone to my ear the way one holds a phone to one's ear. With the iPhone it's buds, or doing some kind of ear thing plus you need to hold the iPhone to dial.

I expect to get used to it all. Just a matter of time...


Roger Kohn, I need your email address!


Aleta Jackson just sent me this picture from the first flight of the DC/X. These were all members of the Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy. The DC/X proposal was drawn up and the ship specs were framed in the Great Hall at Chaos Manor.

That's me in the middle. The late Harry Stein is in the middle to my right, and on my far right are Larry and Marilyn Niven.





Thursday   TOP  Current Mail



This week:


read book now


Friday, March 7, 2008

0500 Sleepless in Studio City

There has been some discussion of "Platinum Patron Subscribers", and indeed several of you signed up without pre-conditions. I am seriously considering this. One possible perk would be autographed pdf versions of all my new books as they come out; that would be easy enough to fulfill. I am pretty sure I can get my publishers to agree to that. Another suggestion is newsletters, but I am reluctant to do that: I have sometimes sent newsletters to subscribers, but in general contents are open to the public: this is the Public Radio model...

Of course 3,000 patron subscribers would do the trick as well.


We have considerable discussion of global climate change over in mail this morning.


I activated the iPhone last night. I have mail from Apple telling me that AT&T has activated the iPhone. The iPhone remains a brick. It can access my local WiFi network, but it will not access the web. It has "no service" and tells me it is awaiting activation: "This may take some time."

It has been that way since 1700 yesterday. Meanwhile the old Nokia, whose number I tried to assign to the iPhone, will work although I keep it turned off in hopes that Apple or AT&T or someone will wake up. I also tried putting the iPhone sim in the Nokia: no joy.

So I wait. I'll take the iPhone with me to my morning zapping along with the Nokia -- I really don't like to be out of communications at this stage of my life. Perhaps I will drop by the Apple Store on the way home? Or I can call Apple Helpline and see if they can do anything. It seems a bit absurd that it takes this long to get my phone on line, and I am not sure Apple was well served by making an exclusive deal with The Phone Company ("We don't care. We don't have to.")

But perhaps I should learn patience. I would have considered the iPhone a miracle a few years ago; now I am impatient that it takes a couple of days to get it activated.

Meanwhile I have found my missing mailboxes on the iMac, and I'll have that story in the column. And the conversion of various activities to the Mac continues.


And now to see if I can get an hour's sleep. I doubt it. I get zapped at 1030. I think they sunburned the inside of my head with the last one.


0800 I was indeed able to sleep, and now Sable has awakened me in her rather gentle fashion. The iPhone still proclaims no services. And it's an early zap today.


0900 iPhone still in brick state. No Services.


1140: back from zapping. iPhone still in brick state. No services. It connects to internal wireless but will not use that to access iStore or the Internet. I am on hold to AT&T having called Apple help and got a robot that speaks English. The AT&T rep seems pleasant and may know what he is doing. He has found the account. But I am on hold. My phone is still a brick.

This activation sucks dead bunnies. I suppose I ought to learn patience. I am after a miracle -- at least in my youth the notion that I could have something like an iPhone would have been a miracle, and when I described the pocket computer in Mote in God's Eye I was reaching far and now I have the potential to have one -- so I suppose I should be patient.

But this seems like a heck of a way to run a railroad. Or a phone company.

11:44 still on hold. They say "just a few moments."

11:46: Mr. Gregory Leaks of AT&T says they have checked everything out and the problem is the phone. The network believes I ought to be able to communicate. I must take the phone to an Apple store where they may be able to swap it out. It's the equipment.

I have to say AT&T was efficient and pleasant.

I will go to the Apple Store at Fashion Square in Sherman Oaks. I had intended to take the PowerBook there to be upgraded to the latest OS - x anyway, and also have a look at their software offerings. I still need a contact at Apple PR to get some of the software, but I may as well have a look at what is offered; and since I already have the latest OS - X I don't have any valid reason to wangle a free copy for upgrading the PowerBook; I ought to pay for that, and I will.

And perhaps they will make my pocket computer work!

Now to find all the stuff that came with the iPhone and pack it into the box.



Back home from the Apple Store with a new iPhone. Now I have to figure out how to blow away the old registration from the iMac and install the new phone. I don't know what, if anything, I have to do. I would like to get this going. AT&T has disabled my old phone so I have no cellular phone at all and thus no communications when I leave my house. Given my present condition that is not wise, and I may have to go buy a phone or something. I did NOT want a new cell phone number, but perhaps I ought to have got one.

AT&T says the problem was the hardware and getting a new phone would take care of it, but they haven't told me what to do to get going. Do I have to uninstall anything on the iMac before I get started? Sigh.


1705 With some help I have got the iPhone working. My first two calls were dropped, but it seems to have learned because I then had a good 20 minute conversation. I have been using it like a phone, no headset, and it works.

I connected to my local network, but alas, although it says it is connected, Safari could not find anything. I turned off wifi so AT&T had to do the job and it is SLOW but it does connect. So I have to figure out why my Belkin pre-n Wireless Router connects but doesn't let it do anything. It's not a prioritized router like the wired main router is, and when visitors come to Chaos Manor they can connect to the internal wifi network (if I give the WPA password; we have strong protection here) so I see no reason why the iPhone won't. But that's for another time.

I have a cell phone again, it fits nicely in the pocket of my bush shirt, and it is easy to use. I am beginning to like it. I am sure I will love it once I get used to it and it will surf the web and like that.

I need to use it to look for a local fabric store. I need buttons and a thing to sew them on with. My new bush shirts were made in China so all the buttons are falling off after the first washing. This is typical. I hope to use the iPhone to track down a good button house...


2105 We went out to dinner and I discovered that the iPhone works just fine when I am not at Chaos Manor. Apparently the data signal is weak here; out there the web through AT&T works just fine.

I am beginning to love this beast.

On the other hand, the Local WiFi doesn't work. iPhone thinks it is connected to it. There is an IP address assigned by the router. But it don't work and can't find anything.

I will work on that. The AT&T data access is horrible here, but it's fine outside the house. We have bad service here because of the hills.



 read book now

Friday   TOP  Current Mail


This week:


read book now



Midnight. On my walk with Sable I was able to access the T-Mobile hot spot at the local Starbucks, but I wasn't able to log on, probably because I had the wrong user name. I will take care of that tomorrow. After that it ought to log on to T-Mobile hot spots automatically.

I will also set up a wireless access here for the iPhone. I have lots of routers, so I'll just use one and not worry about changing the access for the others yet. We are using an old Belkin Pre-N and it is probably time to upgrade to a full N router, and when we do we may as well go to WPA2 and be done with it.

It is clear to me that the iPhone works but I am having trouble using it. One reason is fat fingers.


0530 Sleepless in Studio City

Been up since 4 but I may be able to get back to sleep. I can't figure out how to get another router going. I think my brains have been fried.

I have a Dlink router that understands WPA2. Apple in its wisdom has decreed that iPhone uses either WPA2 or no security at all, so when I log on to my internal wireless net that uses WPA (which has been good enough for everything here) the iPhone appears to connect, but in fact it won't. I can't access the Internet. And because it thinks it is connected to a net, it won't try with the AT&T data signals.

When I disable my internal net, the iPhone connects to the Internet just fine through AT&T. This is a definite bug in the iPhone and one Apple ought to be ashamed of since it surely would have been easy enough to test.

So my thought is to add a second router and set it to WPA2, but my brains are fried. I can't figure out how to do that: where do I aim it? I thought to set it up, use it for the iPhone, and assuming all is well, then convert my various laptops over to it. That way I have not taken down the wireless net I have that works (all my laptops automatically connect to it and I can work from my breakfast table or out on the patio) until there's something that works.

But I can't figure out what to do. It doesn't help that DLINK has saved money by having its manual on a CD rather than the splendid little paper manual they had.

All this stuff will be in the column. Think of this as notes. I'm sure I'll have a happy ending eventually.


0900 Thanks to all those who have taken the trouble to inform me that iPhone works just fine with WPA, but it doesn't.

If I connect iPhone to my internal net with WPA it believes it is connected but it will never connect to the Internet. Ever.

If I turn the net off (FORGET IT), it connects to the Internet through AT&T but because Chaos Manor is in a bad service area, it does so at dialup speeds. If I go out to the village it works quite well at AT&T speeds, as I said above.

Phil Tharp has some information from Apple that iPhone wants either an open net like T-Mobile, or WPA2 (like Airport) and doesn't do the other security protocols at all. If this is incorrect as several of you keep telling me, please cite something because all the links you send to Apple documents do not in fact say that, and I have been unable to find it. My experience is that this is a fatal bug. It believes it is connected to a net at WPA, it shows the WiFi symbols, but it is in fact not connected; but because it thinks it is, it will not try with AT&T access. I have no evidence that this isn't true and I can repeat the experiment with the same results every time.



No joy with T-Mobile and the iPhone. I can connect to the T-Mobile. I was able to log on to my account, the one I normally use at T-Mobile hot spots with my PC's.

I have been paying T-Mobile for YEARS, 30 bucks a month, for Wi-Fi access. I did that originally because it is usually in airports and in particular in the Admiral's Club of American Airlines where I have a lifetime membership having traded in half a million miles (accumulated in the aerospace industry) for that. It has always worked.

But apparently iPhone needs a different kind of service? And I am having trouble making any contact with T-Mobile to find out what the hell is going on.


I got through to Jocelyn at T-Mobile. There is no reason why my T-Mobile account did not work. She has reset my password to something trivial so I will have to run down to the coffee shop and reset it to something else, and hope that this time I can log in with the iPhone. They have no notion of why it did not work.

This iPhone is costing me a lot of time. Of course it is giving me something to write about. Once I see it work with T-Mobile I will have some idea of how it works with Wi-Fi, then I may have a chance to solve the problem of Wi-Fi here at Chaos Manor. I do a lot of silly things so you don't have to.

The International Edition of the Column is due Sunday night. I seem to be spending this day on which I usually write it doing silly Apple things.

I suspect the only real solution to Wi-Fi here at home is to buy the Apple Airport. When you go Apple you are in for the whole nine yards, I think. They really do not want to work with any other kind of PC equipment.


1655  Back from T-Mobile hot spot (Starbucks at Ventura Blvd and Vantage), and the Apple Store at Sherman Oaks. I went to buy a Time Machine but they were out so I got an Airport Extreme; given a number of new subscribers with .mac addresses, I think these are reasonable investments so I can do silly things so you don't have to.

I have taken care of the T-Mobile problem, and the iPhone now gloms on to any T-Mobile hot spot that it can see. Automagically. And when it does it uses that to connect to the Internet, and does so at good speeds. The iPhone now works as it should. Why it required resetting the password -- twice, once to 123 and then back to what it used to be -- with the intervention of T-Mobile is not known to me, but once I got successfully logged in to T-Mobile the first time, that was it. The iPhone now surfs the web if it can find Wi-Fi and if it can't it falls back to AT&T.  Now to see if we can do that here with the Airport Extreme.

The Time Machine has storage as well as router, and is a better deal (but a good bit more money) and if I didn't have the International Edition deadline this weekend I would not have bothered with the nearly $200 for the Airport Extreme; but I can persuade myself that once I recover from getting my brains fried, I will go on trips again, and the Airport Extreme is a good portable router known to work with both iPhone and Apple laptops. Since I am being sent an Apple Air laptop -- may arrive Monday -- and I am probably going to get a MacBook Pro with all the trimmings -- having a portable router that allows them to talk to each other on the road seems a reasonable thing to do, so it is not a waste of money.

Now to see if it will work. I am assuming it will. Apple is very easy to use or very difficult and Apple with Apple is almost always insanely easy.


1820: We have iPhone working with local Wi-Fi ChaosMac net on Airport Extreme Router Tallulah in Bridge mode. It works fine, surfs the net fine and FAST.

When I get near a T-Mobile hot spot the iPhone automatically acquires that and uses it to surf the net.

We have happy endings. Now I need to write all this up, but the iPhone is in good shape.

It took 2 days to do this and the conclusion is that Apple plays nice with Apple and may or may not work with other stuff. And you may need to know what you are doing.

But it now works, it's a good cell phone (although it drops calls, which the old Nokia never did) and I can hear and speak clearly with it. And of course Chaos Manor is notorious for weak AT&T signal so the dropped calls are not astonishing. It has not dropped any calls outside the house. Only here in my office.

The Wi-Fi works very reliably now.

We have achieved success.

Now to do the International Edition of the column (and Part 2 for next week, which is part of the International Edition).  Next month Time Machine.



Saturday   TOP  Current Mail

This week:


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Sunday,  March 9, 2008

A busy day. I must get out the International edition of the column. That means writing March Part 2, weaving in March Part 1, adding Winding Down, and doing whatever it takes to make that a single work. That will also give me March Part 2 for posting Tuesday.

I also need to collect the mail for the March Part Two mailbag. Once all that stuff is in draft form it goes to the advisors who will spot a whole bunch of errors, some trivial, some egregious, and I fix them, either on my own or by incorporating their remarks. The result is that I don't usually get caught in many errors.

In the old McGraw Hill BYTE days, there were a dozen editors in Peterborough. One of the best was always assigned to me as tech editor, and he (generally he; Pam Clarke did tech edit on my column for a while until she became Editor in Chief of Popular; I had a Popular column also, and Pam kept the job even though as EIC she could have assigned someone else) had priority call on the other editors. With support like that I seldom made errors. I might be wrong, but it would be wrong on an opinion, not on technical facts. Today I have a crackerjack team of volunteers who do much the same thing.

In the old McGraw Hill Byte days I also had a style editor. He didn't have to work very hard: mostly he corrected my tendency to write like Macaulay with very long sentences and perhaps too many semicolons.

At 2 PM Paul Schindler came for a visit for the afternoon and dinner. Paul was the CMP editor who revived BYTE on line back in 1998 when CMP, having bought BYTE from McGraw Hill for over $30 million, folded both BYTE and Windows as paper magazines. We never knew why they did that. It was sudden and without warning.

Paul was an MIT graduate and had made his career with CMP. He took over BYTE and made it a going concern on line. We also did This Week in Technology, a weekly broadcast done with ISDN telephone. I built a sound baffled broadcast booth in one corner of my office. Paul edited it, and CMP did Internet broadcasting. It was, in a word, podcasting, but there were no iPods. You had to listen on a computer, and there weren't a lot of ad sales.

Anyway, Paul comes down for a visit every now and then and we are always glad to see him. Today I was also asked to join Leo Laporte's This Week In Technology (TWIT.TV/135). That's done with a Plantronics DSP USB headset and Skype. No isolation booth. No ISDN telephone. No sitting with my mouth an inch from a terribly expensive microphone on a huge boom feeding a rack of preamplifiers and watching levels. I just sit in my chair with my headset, use the mute button unless I want to talk, and Leo Laporte records all of us in his studio in Petaluma. Today we had participants in England and Austin, Texas, as well as Studio City and Petaluma.

If we'd had that technology back then, BYTE's Technology Week would probably still be going. For that matter, so would BYTE. Ah, well. Paul was EIC of BYTE when we did the last of the BEST OF COMDEX Awards.

Sable, our red Siberian Husky, is convinced that it is her mission to see that humans get enough exercise by walking, and that anyone who visits is of course here to take her for a hike. She managed her magic and Paul and I did about 2.2 miles on the flats here in the Studio City triangle. I showed him some of my neighbors including Ed Begley's house with the vertical windmill and the two-axis steering solar array. We also went past Peter Dinklage's place, but Peter is probably off on location. He gets a lot of work. And the house where they filmed Malcolm in the Middle for years. And the house where Howard Hughes used to keep one of his mistresses. And so forth.

Then back to do the TWIT recording.

 I managed TWIT, and we all went out to dinner. After Paul went back to Orinda, I managed all the column work and the mailbag, finishing by about 1 AM, after which I took Sable for an uneventful two miles in hopes that this would assure a good night's sleep.

And off to bed.



 read book now

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This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the weekly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 8,000 - 12,000 words, depending.  (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If  you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here. This site is run on the "public radio" model; see below.

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