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Monday, March 31, 2008


It's time to go out on my midnight walk.

Symptoms and the Supernatural

Sunday morning I used Khaos, the MacBook Air while parked outside church. Roberta has choir practice before mass, so I get an hour to read the paper or write. This ended up as partly a symptomology and partly some speculations:


Sunday 30 March 2008 St Francis Parking Lot

Symptoms come and go wildly. Tinnitus is ghastly just now, but only in right ear, where there is still some hearing. I could hear Roberta doing her singing warm-up – what she describes as grinding rocks – in that ear as I drove here. Driving is no problem; vision problems are all close up. I do have to sit very close to to my screens, far too close for a 30” screen to make any sense at all. I have no idea how I will come out of this or with what vision. I do know that I need to revise my tables and screens situation at the office, but not to what.

MacBook Air finished Time Machine in 24 hours; this is first time it has been away from network since, so this will be a good way to see how long the update takes and how automatic that will be.

Msgr. Incomprehensible – he’s from Africa, a charming man whose only flaw is that I have yet to understand three consecutive words he has spoken in two years now – is blessing a new car for a Latino family in the space next to mine. I should have got him to bless my computer. Khaos has a pagan name, but surely that would be no barrier? Ah well, too late.

I have mixed thoughts about the value of blessings of inanimate objects not dedicated; what effect might this have? I mean theologically; the mechanisms of such effects are not known although there is plenty of room for them in String Theory; of course there is room for almost anything we call “supernatural” or “spooky” in quantum theory as expressed in modern String Theory. Indeed to the point where String Theory meets the standards of scientific method hypothesis generator?

But I fear that at my age I will have to leave most of that to others. I can no longer understand the math. Actually, one reason I never went into physics was that after I got to curl and dispersion of vectors I had trouble visualizing what was going on in math, and it got less interesting to me; and while I learned tensors, they weren’t exciting to me, so I went back to matrices and modern algebra and operations research rather than playing with theories.

Dick Feynman used to explain some of the intricacies of modern quantum theory to me, but his approach to the quantum paradoxes and the classic two slit experiments was “Live with it. You won’t understand it but you do not have to.” Which remains my approach. But there’s spooky action at a distance in there and that leaves room for blessings in physics, if not in theology… And I wonder if that’s my X-Rayed Brain on a fishing expedition.


0430: Awake. Minimal tinnitus. Eyes focus. Systems remain stable. MacBook Air had no problems letting me transfer the parking lot log file to Roxanne, and I opened it in Word on Alexis. All the networks are working smoothly and without problems. Before I went to bed I restored the power to Time Capsule, and Khaos found it on her own; Time Machine is working for the MacBook Air, and Khaos is still connected to Roxanne through the regular wireless network employing the Belkin Pre-N wireless router that has served us well for years now, and allows me to be connected to the net from the breakfast table, or out in the back patio. I understand that Belkin will be sending me their N router, and I'll replace the old one when that happens, but I am in no hurry. The Pre-N not only ain't broke, it's nifty. Note that all the wireless devices here are using their built in wireless, not Pre-N cards. Belkin makes good stuff, and the Pre-N protocol adds a good 20 yards to the effective distance of a Wi-Fi.


0910: Woke up at 0815. Three hours sleep plus the three earlier. Not bad. And considerable energy.

I'm not getting Zapped today!!!  Hurrah!!!!

I have written out an action plan to set up these systems and get the column out. The column will be delayed a day or so. I'll also get some pictures up: I have The Mask as a souvenir and it's rather interesting. I also will have some photographs of accessories. And I know: I owe you several essays. I actually feel as if I have the energy to do them.

It is probable that I will run out of steam earlier than I think, but just now I feel pretty darned good and capable. And it's a very pretty day out there. We'll go for our morning walk in a few minutes.

I also need to tackle the various iPrograms that come with the Macs, including mastering iPhoto, and Spaces, and a number of other goodies.


Subject: Major Web sites hit with growing Web attack | InfoWorld | News | 2008-03-28 | By Robert McMillan, IDG News Service


Michael Zawistowski  


Which may or may not be alarming.


The Platinum Patron Club

It seems a bit arrogant for a writer to try to collect 1,000 Platinum Patron subscribers at $100 a year each, but that is my goal. I didn't think of it, but once presented it makes sense. It's not just an assured income for me, although it certainly has that effect. The goal is liberation from the publishers: I write what I think ought to be written. I am not worried about publication. I'll be published. The question is how much the publishers pay. If I have to maximize advances, then I have to write what they want most.  That isn't always what I ought to do.

That income also includes enough to let me hire an assistant to collect computer relevant information and function to some extent as BYTE headquarters used to function; and to buy equipment. Intel, for instance, has stopped sending me anything. So has Apple. Some companies send review items. Most don't. And there are travel expenses to shows. Adding an assistant (one of my present advisors) and possibly an intern will let me do less journalistic grunt work and more creative work.

And that is the real purpose: To let me concentrate on the projects I want to work on. Obviously the Platinum Patrons have some influence in what those are.

As to benefits, the above are the major ones. I will be able to send signed books at my cost (discounted cost of book, plus shipping, plus hiring the neighbor kids to actually get the stuff packaged and to the Post Office or UPS Store). I am negotiating with publishers to allow watermarked pdf. copies with eBook signatures to be sent to Platinum Patron subscribers, and I anticipate no problems with that. I'll think of other benefits, but of those who have already subscribed at this level I know of none who did so for the perks.

Anyway, that's what that is all about. As usual, I am not asking for anyone's rent or eating money, nor am I trying to shame anyone. For some this place and what I produce is worth that. For some it is not. I can't possibly determine what it's worth to you. And I am not neglecting the Patron Subscribers, to whom I give great thanks.



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Tuesday,  April 1, 2008  

I do not do April Fool stories.

0458: Sleepless in Studio City

Someone fired six or seven shots from a .40 cal. automatic just outside my house last night. Apparently they fired into the air. The shell casings were in the street just beyond my driveway. Nothing was hit or harmed so far as we can tell. It spooked Roberta and I had to promise not to take my midnight walk, so despite Sable's entreaties I didn't. I fear that the lack of the walk didn't help with sleep.

Feeling pretty good. Tinnitus very mild. Kaleidoscope of symptoms come and go, with pretty constant indigestion, but nothing unbearable or indeed all that bad. Remarkably the blistering radiation burn -- indistinguishable from sunburn, really -- behind and inside my ears is clearing up rapidly under treatment of aloe cream and coconut butter, with a bit of Vitamin e cream added at intervals.

All the machines are working fine, the Macs see the PC Network, I can open a file physically located on Roxanne (Vista) in Word 2008 on Imogene the iMac, work on it on Imogene, and save it. Even so, I have ordered a small server which will get Windows 2008 Server; I will then set that up so that all my systems are in one big Workgroup and blow away the Active Domain network that has served me pretty well since the year 2000. There is no real reason to maintain an AD network here, and it will be a lot easier to group in Linux, OS X, Vista, XP, and Windows 2000 systems so that they see and talk to each other. Or at least I think it should be. And after all, I do a lot of silly things so you don't have to.


This story continues to provoke discussion among author groups:

Amazon, BookSurge, and Publish on Demand

Subject: Amazon smacks little people with BookSurge.


Here is a comprehensive piece on the BookSurge issue from The Register:


Ed Hume

At one time publishers owned book stores, or indeed bookstores were publishers. Amazon looks to be playing at that game now. Publishing on demand is a pretty small source of income now, but it may become much larger in future.

Amazon did not help their case by beginning with physically unattractive and badly done books. That quality assurance issue has apparently been fixed -- I do not have any direct evidence, but I have reports -- but the shadow remains.

I have not heard from anyone at Amazon on this, and I would like to hear their side of the story. SFWA has inquired but so far without answer, so they are not likely to answer me either, but we will see. I don't think this story will go away.


11:30  Got back to bed at 0500 and woke at 0800 so not too bad on sleep. Took our walk. Now to work.

Los Angeles residents who like Star Trek will find this interersting:


It's a promotion, of course, but it ought to go well. I will NOT be there, so this is not an invitation from me, and I am forwarding it at the request of friends.


I have not time to watch The Pirate's Dilemma video. Is there a transcript anywhere? I would like to read it, but the download and watch takes and hour and I don't have a tranquil hour to devote to that.


And a message from my security expert advisor:

Dr. Pournelle:

Although many sites have some (allegedly) humorous All Fool's Day content, your readers should be aware that there is some email messages with April 1 content that will bring them to a malware web site. As always, be aware of mail bearing gifts. Clicking on links in an email is not the wisest choice of action.

Regards, Rick Hellewell

Do be wary!!


Subject: Biography

Jerry use this to start. http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?Jerry%20Pournelle 

A fan, Tom Monaghan

Holy Moley, that is pretty complete!  I may do some comments on the various elements, but that's one heck of a bibliography!

There's also



David Langston

Which is chronological.


and http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/p/jerry-pournelle/ which is gorgeous.


Dr. Pournelle,

Here's another site with bibliographic information of your works:


It includes only those tales set in your future history series (Codominium, Empire of Man, Secession Wars, Second Empire of Man), so it's not a complete bibliography of your works. But it does indicate the publication history of these stories (for example, it includes all four appearances of "Silent Leges").

Larry King




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Wednesday,  April 2, 2008

o015: I will skip my midnight walk. I'm very sleepy and with luck I'll get some sleep tonight and be able to tackle the column in the morning.  All day yesterday I felt as if I had been hit with a lethargy stick.

Dr. Wang called in the afternoon and I have an appointment in about 3 weeks, after which we will have scans, scans, and more scans. And see if I need any more zaps.

I will probably put a report and a picture of The Mask in the column.

And it is getting sleepy in here.


0430 Sleepless in Studio City

 It is time to do my taxes, but TurboTax is defeating me. This year I bought Home and Business, which costs more than that Deluxe I have been using. In the past, TurboTax always found previous tax returns, and imported things like all those interest account numbers. But of course I "upgraded" and those idiots haven't allowed the new version to find the old one. I hate them. I guess I will just have to type in all those numbers. I hate them.


0740: well, I got to sleep about 5 so not too bad a night.

Today I need to tackle the column. For some reason the big symptom this week is being daunted: I don't want to do silly things so you don't have to. I need to buck meself up, screw my courage to the sticking point -- well, you get the idea.

I have the ingredients to built a new VISTA ULTIMATE Dual Core Quad, which I have to get done; I will then put a shrink-wrapped Vista on it, and see what happens. It's the only fair way to test this. I have also got enough subscriptions that I will order the Mac Pro dual quad, on which we will have OS X and XP, and see if that can become the main machine here (keeping the new Vista Ultimate Core 2 Quad as a games machine).

I have three books on Apple Script and I need to learn that. It is powerful, and looks to let me write card stack programs as well as scripts for Word.

So there is a lot to do here. There are a ton of accessories. And thanks to all the new subscribers and all those who renewed.


Dr. Wang called yesterday. My appointments are now on schedule, I am tapering off the steroids (which will probably bring back some of the degenerate arthritis symptoms, so we have to watch that). Scans and scans in about three weeks to see what we did to the tumor.

This morning I have tinnitus in both ears, and my head seems a bit full. Indigestion is bad and has been all night. Yet even so I feel pretty good. I do believe I may be recovering from all this stuff and I can get back to a more usual routine that includes fiction in the afternoons. This has slowed me down a bit...


11:58 The morning of the jackpot

Back from our walk. I can barely type. When I woke up the symptoms were not so bad, but on our morning walk everything happened. My eyes wouldn't focus properly. Balance was off. Ears were singing. Nose stopped up so mouth breathing which produced sore throat.

I made the mistake of ham and eggs for breakfast instead of the bland soy milk and cereal that is my usual, and paid for it with terrible heartburn and indigestion. The walk was miserable, and coming back here I had no ambition to do anything at all. I kept trying to count blessings.

Thank heaven for the nose pump!

That unstopped my nose, and I can breathe again. I refilled my Oriole Feeder (like a humming bird feeder, but with solid roosts because orioles cannot hover to feed. I also use orange rather than red dyes.) The humming birds empty it, of course, but I saw an oriole this morning. Blessing two. Orioles are beautiful and my family of resident orioles may have survived their winter in the south. I saw only the female today, but the male is a much shyer bird, very skittish. I hope he'll be around. I know they raised one chick last year, and possibly two.

A shot of soy milk helped settle my stomach, and that's not so bad, and the ear ringings are going away slowly. My eyes are not focused properly, but I can manage. I am having to sit very close to all my screens.

I have managed to order at a good discount a new Aeron chair, but it hasn't come. Perhaps today. And Sit For Less says they will come get and repair my old one which means I will have two in working order and never again have that sinking feeling for weeks. Blessing three. Eventually. Delayed, but coming.

The blisters behind my ears, and the zillions of little sores that would not heal because of radiation sickness are healing now, which argues that my white count is going up. My weight is stable despite over-eating (two bowls of non-sugar ((Splenda)) ice cream last night as well as a Subway sandwich and soup). Blood sugar is under 110. More blessings. The important thing is to concentrate on the good stuff. The fact that symptoms come isn't as important as that they go; because if they can go, they will.

Subscriptions are up. Thanks! I am in no danger of starving.

The only real problem is that I am not getting a lot of work done. I need to attack that column, build the Vista Ultimate Machine, and get the Mac Pro. I have to set up the MacBook Pro. There are a million details to attend to, errands to run, and ambition of about 5% if that. Yesterday I felt like attacking some of my tasks. Today it's all I can do to get this narrative written. But this, too, will pass.

Thanks to those who put up with these musings.


12:30 GOOD NEWS. Turbo-Tax did find last year's returns. The secret is to start the new one, after which it magically finds the old and "Transfers" it; what it won't do is "Open". Their instructions are not clear, but it does work. Have faith and bull through. Hah. Another blessing. I will not have to go out and buy Deluxe. And now I can do the blasted taxes.

I never felt less like doing taxes in my life, but it's got to be done...

So does the blooking column, of course. At least I have the tools to do all this. I'll find the energy somewhere.


2330: The release candidate of the column is done and off to be inspected by the advisors, and it's getting sleepy in here. It's raining in Studio City so no walk tonight. I wonder if I can sleep?



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Thursday, April 3, 2008

0730: Slept more or less through the night, and the male oriole is outside on the feeder. This should be a GOOD day!

0910: After breakfast. Weight constant. Light headed. Ears ringing and full of mush. And still it is a good day.

Last night I got the column done, and this morning I folded in Advisor comments and corrections. It ought to be posted by this evening.

I have a lot to get done today, but there are workmen in the house painting the dining room where my shower leaked into the ceiling earlier this year, so I don't know what I'll get done. I have all the ingredients for the new Ultimate Vista machine (Intel Core 2 Quad 6600) and the shrink-wrapped Ultimate Vista which goes on it. I want to get that built and installed. We'll see if I am up to it.

I wonder where orioles go in winter? We know about humming birds who go to central Mexico (although a few stay in Studio City year round; I stop filling the feeders when it's time for them to go south, but a few stay and I start refilling the feeders when it's clear the little suckers aren't going away); but I have no idea where the orioles go. Last year they raised at least one chick and I think two. The same family -- well they look to be the same -- family of orioles has been here for years and there was a generation of them before that. I have seen as many as five at once, but only one time. They are very skittish birds and usually come to the feeder one at a time. Gorgeous birds.  The male is at the feeder now. The humming birds stay away when he's there. He's about 5 times their size, perhaps more.

[Everyone is telling me they go to central and southern Mexico and all the way to Guatemala.]

He's staying here a long time, longer than I can recall ever being here before, and filling up. Ah. But when I lean back in my chair, he's gone. Very skittish bird. The female is not so afraid of the world.


1100: Back from my walk and thrilled that I didn't have to pack up and go down to get Zapped. It was gray on the walk but the sun is out now, with fleecy clouds. And I need to get to work.

Begin by converting my ISBN numbers to the new 13-digit; I haven't used any although I bought them years ago just in case. It turns out that publishers will take care of my books, and it's more cost effective to let them do that -- particularly since subscriptions and the new Platinum subscribers make it possible to take deals I otherwise couldn't have afforded, thus getting books into print without my having to do any work on getting them into shape for POD or other such. I may yet go to POD for some books -- signable copies perhaps to be sent at cost to Platinum subscribers -- but in fact it's probably cheaper for everyone, and takes a l0t less of my time, to let a regular publisher take care of that chore and sell me author copies at the usual discount, which I can then pass al0ng to subscribers. We'll see. At the moment the thought of business gives me a headache, and there are The Taxes to do.

At least TurboTax got back to me to tell me how to find the previous forms and import or whatever it is I had to do; I had already found that out but it's good to know their tech support people do respond in a day or so. They even offered me a telephone number to call, but that won't be needed.

There is a pot full of stuff to do, and rather minimum energy to do it with, but I am sort of keeping up, practically, almost.


Thanks to all those who took the trouble to look up Southern California oriole flight ways.


1445: The Kaleidoscope continues.

Took a nap after lunch. Got up to find my new Aeron chair has come from Sit For Less. I took out the back to carry it up the stairs. When I got up here my pulse exploded to 125, and I had the worst pounding pulse in my ear I have had yet. It scares me. It lasted about 2 minutes, then faded to nothing, pulse went down to 64, and all is well.

It wasn't a panic attack. It was just scary. But it's gone. I have been hit with a lethargy stick, and there is a very great deal to be done. Including today's mail, which I will get at shortly.

1455: Lugging up the Aeron

It turns out it comes in two pieces: the back which weighs nothing, and everything else, which is very awkward to get up a flight of stairs. It's up here, though. Now I have to assemble which looks extremely easy to so.

Less pulse pounding getting that up, which was strenuous, than carrying up the back, which was trivial. Interestingly, this morning on my walk I made a note that I had not experienced severe pulse pounding in weeks. That radiation stuff is tricky.

Now I won't get that sinking feeling every couple of hours. All I have to now is assemble it and get it into my office, and put the old one out for Niven to use, and eventually have Sit For Less come get it and fix it. Then I will have 2 working chairs and that should last my time.


1550: The new chair is installed. It's not quite the same model as my old one, but it's new and has all the features except the Lumbar Support Bar -- and that was easily transferred from the old one. It is NOT what I ordered, but it's close enough that I am not going to complain. No pulse pounding during the transfer.

I used Lemon Pledge and a shop cloth to clean up the 0ld chair. Even took the back off to be sure I got everything. Used a bit of 3 in 1 oil on the screws that hold the back on so they'll be easy to get out next time. The old one looks like new and sits at Niven's machine (or where visitors can pull it up to the office entrance) and the new one feels good already. I need to get it adjusted so that I can lean way back with my feet on the desk to read, and such like, but that's easily accomplished.

Aeron chairs are the right stuff for people who spend most of them time in chairs. My old one lasted five years at least, and will be repaired free; it looks as good as new after the Lemon Pledge treatment. If you buy one of the specials from Sit For Less, be sure you nail down the exact model number. The Lumbar Support Bar is worth the extra money. I only have the one between the two chairs, and I am certain the one I actually ordered had one in the picture; so apparently I got a different model from what I ordered. I don't see any other missing features, though.  The arm height locks are lever rather than a wheel, but that is a feature not a bug; it's easier to adjust.

So. Now I won't get random sinking feelings. And I should have the chair situation fixed for a decade.




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Friday,  April 4, 2008

0630: Been up an hour. I've been trying to get the Sony Reader software to work. The problem is that it's slower than molasses and I get impatient and I think I broke something. Also, it stops responding: the remedy to that is usually to do nothing for a while.

Kindle is a lot more automatic. Anyway, I give up for a while.

Ears ring, and I was up at least once an hour with indigestion. Today I start tapering off on the steroids, only two today and through next Friday. Then one a day. Then none. That will probably bring back the horrible joint pains I had all summer and in fact until I started the steroids. I had better do a lot of stretching while I have the steroids to cover me. Maybe that will help.

If I have to choose between the joint pains and the indigestion, I guess I choose -- well I don't know. Neither lets me sleep much. Interesting dilemma.


Climate Prediction Summary

La Nina is coming. Global temperatures expected to fall. Global temperature has not risen since 1998.

What we know is that in 900 to 1300 there were dairy farms in Greenland, and the Vikings had colonies. The Inuit were caribou and to a lesser extent cattle herders. It was warm throughout Europe. Growing seasons were longer. We don't know much about Polar Bears but clearly they survived. We don't know about the South Pole Glaciers because no one had ever gone there. We do know that Earth abided.

About 1325 it rained a lot and began to get colder. Greenland became uninhabitable if you insisted on being a dairy farmer. The Vikings began to pull out. The Inuit came in, but could not sustain by herding reindeer and began to fish and hunt seals. The Earth grew colder. The Little Ice Age had begun.

By 1776 it was cold enough that cannon could be hauled across the frozen Hudson River to General George Washington on Haarlem Heights. The cannon saved his army: Howe, having "won" at Bunker Hill in a Pyrrhic victory, was afraid to close with Washington's Continentals, and by not eliminating the Patriot Army allowed the American Revolution to continue: but it was cold.

About 1825 the world began to warm. The warming trend continued until about 197o, halted, and by the late 1970's there was concern about upcoming new famines and new ice ages: Global Cooling was the concern of Big Science and the coming doom was big at annual meetings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

We also know this: if you need to heat the Earth you need to heat the oceans. CO2 is a weak greenhouse gas overwhelmed by water vapor: that is, if the air is moist, the CO2 plays little to no part in the "greenhouse effect." Thus CO2 mostly operates in cold, dry places, such as deserts. It has little effect at all over the oceans.

If I want to heat water, I do not get out my hair dryer and blow hot air across the pot. I heat the pot. If I want to heat oceans, the most effective way would be to blow off a volcano under water. Of course I have no control over those -- nor can I predict when they will happen, but one such event can overwhelm all the other factors in my computer models.

Modeling the weather is difficult. Modeling climate is more difficult. Most of the equations cannot be solved and must be evaluated by brute force numerical analysis. This is difficult math and requires very expensive computers. Getting those computers requires grants. Getting those grants requires peer reviewed publications. Getting a positive peer review requires, usually, that you adhere to limits set by the "consensus" position. The consensus today is Global Warming despite the evidence that there is something wrong with the model. The consensus is intolerant of dissent from one side, but tolerated the "hockey stick" with unpublished secret algorithms for years.

And that is our present state, except that the weather observers -- those who deal with data -- tend to dissent from the Global Warming Consensus. They see trends but not the trends that the modelers see. Moreover, no model -- none -- can take the initial conditions of ten years ago and arrive at the present, much less track reality over the last hundred years.

Simple Bayesian Analysis says that if you have two mutually exclusive and expensive alternatives, then it is better to spend money reducing uncertainty than in preparing for either of the expensive alternatives. If the Earth is warming we have one course of action; if it be cooling we require another (and of course ice is a far greater danger if it comes). What we ought to be doing is better observations to see what is happening. When we do gather more data we find that the case for man-made Global Warming is not in general supported by the data. Solar output and volcanism are the major drivers of world temperature, and neither is entirely predictable.

And I have said all that before, but it's worth repeating every now and then.


1150: Back from our walk, and I have entered a bunch of numbers preparatory to getting the taxes done. It's about all I am fit to do. I am in a complete funk as far as mental energy goes. Last night was the worst night of the year, with not more than one hour's sleep at a time and often less.

I am sure the weariness and brain fog this morning are due to sleeplessness. Not sure the head stuffed up and near deaf and eyes not focusing are due to that, but they could be. It is clear I will have to take up my midnight walks again. I slept better when I was doing those.

Counting blessings. I did a good stretch several times. If I can keep that up, tapering off the steroids may not end in arthritic pains. I'm dumbfounded, but that seems temporary. I was able to enter all my charitable contributions to the book keeping system, so that's done. Sit For Less is sending the missing lumbar support bar. It's warming up outside, but still cool enough for Sable. And my orioles are back.

I am not, I think, up to assembling Roxilana, the new Core 2 Quad 6600 that will sport Ultimate Vista. I ought to be but I don't trust myself. Failure of courage I guess. Mostly I just want to hang around and do very little while hoping the white cells pull all that dead stuff out of my head so it stops shifting around and causing all these symptoms. Of course some of the symptoms are classic radiation sickness, and that just takes time.

In a word, recuperation time; and patience.


What with this being the anniversary of King's assassination, there has been a lot of interest in matters racial. One headline is the lack of "Doctors of Color"
f=/c/a/2008/04/02/BAJVVUN1G.DTL .

I suppose it is getting on for time to write about why this is inevitable, and will not be "fixed" by government or private action. There can be some adjustment, but no "solution" to this "problem" and attempts to "fix" it will probably worsen the entire situation.

The problem is that I know what to write, but it is a very sensitive subject and requires some very careful words, and I am not sure I am up to that.


Perhaps I ought to write about the expansion of NATO and the stark raving mad notion that the US would have a military alliance with Georgia against Russia. But it seems so self-evident.


1535: I may be at the lowest energy point I have ever been in short of being laid 0ut by flu. It's hard to get up and walk across the room. Apparently the recovery process is hard than I thought. I do have errands. Trivial stuff like taking the cleaning out. And I really ought to assemble Roxilana, the new Quad 6600 to host Vista Ultimate. It wouldn't take an hour, and I can't summon up the courage to do it. Don't get radiation sickness.

I am sure this will pass. But wow does it lay me low! Will power. Summon up some will power!



Amazon Tightens Grip on Long Tail; Info Requested

Last week Amazon announced that it would be requiring that all books that it sells that are produced through on-demand means be printed by BookSurge, their in-house on-demand printer/publisher. Amazon pitched this as a customer service matter, a means for more speedily delivering print-on-demand books and allowing for the bundling of shipments with other items purchased at the same time from Amazon. It also put a bit of an environmental spin on the move -- claiming less transportation fuel is used (this is unlikely, but that's another story) when all items are shipped directly from Amazon.

We, and many others, think something else is afoot. Ingram Industries' Lightning Source is currently the dominant printer for on-demand titles, and they appear to be quite efficient at their task. They ship on-demand titles shortly after they are ordered through Amazon directly to the customer. It's a nice business for Ingram, since they get a percentage of the sales and a printing fee for every on-demand book they ship. Amazon would be foolish not to covet that business.

What's the rub? Once Amazon owns the supply chain, it has effective control of much of the "long tail" of publishing -- the enormous number of titles that sell in low volumes but which, in aggregate, make a lot of money for the aggregator. Since Amazon has a firm grip on the retailing of these books (it's uneconomic for physical book stores to stock many of these titles), owning the supply chain would allow it to easily increase its profit margins on these books: it need only insist on buying at a deeper discount -- or it can choose to charge more for its printing of the books -- to increase its profits. Most publishers could do little but grumble and comply.

We suspect this maneuver by Amazon is far more about profit margin than it is about customer service or fossil fuels. The potential big losers (other than Ingram) if Amazon does impose greater discounts on the industry, are authors -- since many are paid for on-demand sales based on the publisher's gross revenues -- and publishers.

We're reviewing the antitrust and other legal implications of Amazon's bold move. If you have any information on this matter that you think could be helpful to us, please call us at (212) 563-5904 and ask for the legal services department, or send an e-mail to staff@authorsguild.org.


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Saturday,  April 5, 3008

0600: A good night's sleep! I'm awake now, with mild indigestion and some pulse pounding when I get up and move around, but by and large I got to sleep at midnight and while I woke twice I was able to get back to sleep each time quickly. A good night's sleep!

No new subscriptions during the night. Should I worry? There usually have been...

Maybe I can get some work done today. There is plenty enough to do.



I have successfully activated XP and Office 2007 Ultimate on Imogene the iMac 20 booted up in Boot Camp to be an XP. She's a very crisp XP machine, and she sees every other machine on the network.

I need to reorganize the way I deal with documents now, but this is all working very well. There's a story that goes with activation of XP; that will be in the column. Incidentally, the way to boot in Windows on the Mac is to restart, hold the Option Key, and choose the Windows partition when offered a choice. You will then find that your Wireless Keyboard will not work and have to go fish out your Mac keyboard and plug it in or you will never log in. Oddly enough the wireless mouse did work. This argues that I may need a wired Mac Comfort Curve keyboard for Imogene. Are there any such things? Does Microsoft make a wired Comfort Curve Keyboard for the Mac?

Or not: because once I got XP going all right, the Wireless Laser Keyboard works just fine, and I have disconnected the Apple Keyboard.

So all that is going well. Now, though, I need some brain work: I need to organize the way I store documents and current work so that what I am working on is easily not only backed up but copied to any machine I am likely to be working on. At the moment I have been using a directory called Winword that stores 550m MB of documents, just about everything I have ever worked on, and I use xcopy c:\winword destination\winword /e/s/d/y to copy the whole schmear to laptops, new computers, and anything else I am likely to use for work; as well as to copy that directory to the box of drives that serves as a backup server.

I suppose I could continue this practice. It has the great merit of keeping just about everything I am doing in one place. It has the disadvantage of needing cleanup at intervals, and not being recognized by any other backup scheme except what's in my head. It certainly doesn't take advantage of the "Documents" fooferaw that some backups schemes make use of. I need to think; and I don't feel too stupid, so perhaps I can.

What I need is two places to store documents, one for those reasonably assumed to be DONE, the other for those reasonably assumed to be under construction and revision. Then, I guess, I move them from one the the other as indicated: new requirement to work on a document, move that one's folder to the current document works folder, and when done with it move it back? But that requires cleanup of all the other places.

My problem is that I use a lot of computers in my work. I carry a laptop up to the Monk's Cell when I work on fiction. When I work down here, lately I have been using Imogene the iMac. I create documents on Khaos, the MacBook Air. I am about to set up the MacBook Pro as my "travelling" MAC machine (along with Khaos, of course) if I go down to the beach house or elsewhere, but for safety I will also take the IBM T42p ThinkPad as well. And sometimes I do a bit of final cleanup of columns on the communications machine (currently Alexis, but that will change).

It's a complicated mess, and I need to figure out a better structure. Meanwhile, I can report that an iMac 20" makes a very nice PC running XP, but I doubt she's very happy about having to do that.



Back from our walk. My eyes don't focus well, and I get some of the pulse pounding in my right ear. That's a bit scary. I also note that my weight is up by a couple of pounds this morning, meaning that I have to pay attention to portion control; I can't just eat all I want (which I sort of had to do to keep from losing weight during the Zaps). That shouldn't be a problem. My brain is a bit fogged, but I have more ambition and gumption; certainly more than yesterday. But almost any random day of my life would have been better energy-wise than yesterday. Today is far, far better.

It has been suggested by a couple of Platinum subscribers that I think about starting up the old monthly "A Step Farther Out" column; a general report on the sciences or some monthly science news, with an annual "State of the Sciences" essay. I confess I liked doing that. I can likely find a publisher, although it won't make much money: Exactly the sort of thing having subscribers will allow me to do if it's worth doing.

And by gollies, I am beginning to think about fiction again. Of course I am way behind on a lot of other stuff just now, but I'll catch up. For the first time since the Zaps stopped I am beginning to believe I will get back to full productivity.

I need to think on the new work schedule. First, though, I really do need to invent a new document storage structure.


And I have this:

This works for me, might for you...

When I reboot my Mac into Windows my Bluetooth wireless keybaord (I use the new Apple one) does not work. However, if you just turn it off and on and then tap any keys until you see your password "blob" characters appearing, it is working again. (Just delete the rubbish you typed and type your actual password.) No need for attaching wired keyboards.

Hope this helps and best wishes,

-Ian Cottam

Which I will try. I did the push the buttons on the keyboard and the receiver after XP came up; my problem was that I couldn't get the password into XP and ctl-alt-del did nothing. Sigh. But I will not often boot in XP anyway.

Turn it off and on? How? There is no switch I know of; the only way to turn it off is to remove the batteries. Is that what you mean?


Now to do all the updates and get Imogene out of XP and back into Mac OS X where she belongs...

Hmmm. Microsoft wants to update Office 2007 Ultimate. With SP-1. This doesn't sound good. I am going to let it do that, but I suspect that it will break something. Very interesting. We will see what happens...

1240: Windows and Office updated, Microsoft Live One Care installed, booting in XP again. The Wireless keyboard worked perfectly this time. We are entering Windows XP. Now to try out Office 2oo7 to be sure they didn't break it.

It does take a while for things to come up in Windows on a Mac. Slower than my other comparable systems, I think. But there are things to install, so perhaps it's not so surprising. And this is a new One Care so that's taking up time. And it's time for lunch. When I get all this done I can boot up in Mac OS X.



Imogene is back up as a Mac, and I am firing up Windows XP under VMware. It seems to be working fine, both as Mac and as a PC.

I ran out of energy at 1600 and took a nap. Worked, too. Symptoms abating. Still head full of mush, ears ring, but all told things seem better than yesterday. Way better than yesterday, when I had so little energy I didn't want to get up. Today I didn't have enough energy or gumption or both to assemble Roxilana, the new Quad 6600, even though all the parts are just sitting there and it's only a matter of some assembly and running the ISO DVD; but I did get XP running properly on the iMac, and Office Ultimate 2007 now run both under Boot Camp and VMware. This is the way things ought to be.

Next step: get Outlook 2007 running under VMware on the iMac, thus turning the iMac into a communications machine. Whether or not I'll use that, or Entourage (The Outlook analog in Word 2008) is yet to be determined. My usual practice is to have one machine dedicated to communications, and a second to writing and games and just about everything else. When I get a dual quad Mac Pro I will in effect have a single machine capable of all that, and I can reassess the situation.

And I continue to do a lot of silly things so you don't have to. At the moment the report is that Macs are pretty good stuff even if you're a PC user...

And now to do the taxes. The goal is to get far enough that we can head to the beach place (a condo we bought way back when real estate in San Diego was cheap) and spend a few days vegetating and recuperating. I look forward to doing nothing but watching cormorants and terns and taking long walks, and letting the ocean air clear my head out. I'll have to set the Mac Book Pro up along with the ThinkPad; between them I will have enough computing power.


2155: We had corned beef and cabbage for dinner and went to a movie where I ate too much popcorn, but the indigestion isn't too bad. My eyes could focus on the screen -- Miss Pettigrew, and Amy Adams is wonderful as usual -- but not on anything closer than a couple of feet. It's hard to work, but I can drive. And still, it was good to get out, and I don't feel bad at all. A bit agitated, and frustrated by the ears ringing and head full of mush, but everything changes every few minutes, so all I have to do is wait a while. Symptoms will change.

Earlier just before dinner the iMac acted up. The MAIL icon jiggled. Clicking on it got a mysterious message about a certificate. OK on that (didn't seem to have anything else I could do) got a demand for my .mac account password. I gave it the wrong one three times (thinking I was giving the right one of course) and kept getting bounced. In black anger I used the power switch, a bad habit. Imogene came back up without any demand for any stinking passwords of any kind, and MAIL works just fine now. This doesn't make a very great deal of sense. It does confirm the adage: if someone has physical access to your machine, it's not really yours any more.

And the pulse pounding in my ear is stronger again. That's the one symptom that scares me. Since it goes away sometimes I am pretty sure it will vanish in recuperation. I can hardly wait...


Charlton Heston, RIP.


- Roland Dobbins

I only met him three times, I think. Once at a dinner with General Graham in Washington on the anniversary of High Frontier, and once when we were both at an awards dinner of the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films. I forget the other time. An agency party, perhaps.

At the Academy we were both presenting awards and found ourselves at the head table with no one else around on our end. This was at the Palladium, years ago when Oscars were given at the Palladium. We were on a high dais facing the audience. The Chairman was supposed to be on my left, but was off doing things, and Heston was on my right, with no one beyond him, so we had only each other to talk to during dinner.

We talked about a lot of things. I asked about his career, and he said it was largely getting breaks, but then he added, "Of course you have to be ready to take advantage of breaks."

"Hah," said I. "In the last analysis, luck comes only to the well prepared."

"Von Moltke," said Heston. "I read military history too."

We got on well after that. One of the actors getting an award was William Marshall. When the dinner and ceremonies were over, and everyone was standing up to leave, there appeared Marshall's son, aged about nine, at the far side of the room, and in a high piping voice he said "Dr. Pournelle, my daddy said I could get you to sign my favorite book in all this world!" And across the room he came, carrying, prominently displayed, a paperback copy of Escape From The Planet Of The Apes. (I wrote the novelization of the screen play as a work for hire; I needed the money.)

He brought it across the room and handed it up to me. I chatted with him a bit, inscribed the book and signed it, and handed it back with a smile and thanks.

Heston looked at me and said "I got an Oscar for no better performance than that..."

Charlton Heston, RIP


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Sunday,  April 6, 2008

1030: A decent night's sleep followed by big changed of plans. Family requirements will take us to Bakersfield sometime today. I've got Joe coming over to watch the house and take care of Sable, who loves him, so all will be well. More later. It's good news.

Symptoms abating. Good night's sleep. Indigestion, in part because I am out of prescription Zantac and doing commercial instead. Tapering off the steroids. Large weight gain in one day means I definitely need to pay attention to portion control, which in fact isn't that difficult; I want to stay down around 200 where all my 1980's and 90's clothes fit, and I have a whole new wardrobe. It's a matter of eating only all I want, not all I can gobble.

Still have eye focus problem: each eye focuses on a different plane, a couple of inches apart and rotated a bit. Makes it hard to write or see, but since it all changes at intervals there's nothing to be done but wait. Tinnitus not bad at all today and I can even hear a bit in my right ear. It opens sometimes with a kind of click, and I can hear, and then it all fades. But the fact that I can hear means I think that I will hear when this mess of dead hamburger in there is conveyed away by the few white corpuscles that remain. But again, my little sores are healing, so apparently I am recovering from classic radiation sickness. Another blessing.

The oriole feeder -- they are different from humming bird feeders because orioles can't hover and must perch to drink -- is empty and I need to fill that before we go. Lots of preparation for a two or three day trip, so most of this will be short.

Platinum club is growing. Thanks! I do intend to pay attention; apparently most Platinum Club subscribers want me to continue about as I have been, with observations on the world as well as on technology. I'm dancing about as fast as I can, but as the recovery from Zaps -- and I now think of it as recovery with an eventual end -- proceeds I get more energy every day. Of course the interruptions continue too, but that's Chaos Manor, and not much can be done about it.

Is Israel Finished?

There is a very good article in this month's Atlantic,


the kind of article that keeps me subscribing to the magazine although I don't read more than two issues a year. This one is on the future of Israel and asks the brutal question, is Israel finished? It is very much worth your reading. Israel made some very fundamental errors during its growth. Some were silly: alienating the Christian Arabs and driving them into the arms of the Palestinian Moslems was perhaps the most fundamental. The Christian Arabs would have welcomed the Israelis as liberators had the Israelis cared to take that role. Instead they have ignored the Christian Arab communities at best and persecuted them as about as often as not, with bureaucratic nonsense like losing building permits, and failure to enforce court evictions of Jewish squatters in Christian hospitals; the list could continue.

The settlement issues have brought about an indefensible border: and the Palestinians are out breeding the Israelis. It will not be many years before the Jews are a minority in the Jewish State; at which point it ceases to be Jewish or ceases to be a democracy, since just about all the Arabs will vote en bloc first for a secular state, then...

As to why this is important: given domestic US policies, the US has no choice but to be both a friend and protector of Israel. No other policy is possible. We have and will pledge blood, treasure, military equipment, and just plain subsidies to Israel, and there is nothing that can or will be done about it; take this as a given. This limits the number of real allies we can have in the Middle East to secular Muslims, and few Royal States. The chief ally we had was the Shah of Iran, but Jimmy Carter threw him to the wolves, and we had to try to make do with Saddam Hussein (Baathist; secular). That didn't work in part due to the sheer incompetence of the Foreign Service bureaucracy (See the Iron Law of Bureaucracy), and the result was the first and second Bush Gulf Wars, both expensive and needless and the second leading to the quagmire dilemma in which we find ourselves today. The Second Gulf War might have been won had not the amazingly incompetent Bremer been sent to make sure we would lose. That may not have been the intention, but it was certainly the result. He may be the greatest fool of a pro-consul in the history of Iraq, and that includes Lucullus who lost all his legions.

Thus the US has few possible allies: the secular Turks, who are NOT democrats, being the chief potential allies; but we are alienating them as we continue to try to build a Kurdish state. Kurds and Turks are ethnically very different people. Kurds are not Arabs, nor are they Turks. They are more closely related to the Iranians (Land of the Aryans) than anyone else over there. Saladin, who destroyed the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem established in the First Crusade, and whose interactions with Richard Lion Heart form a sage not forgotten over there -- mothers still frighten their children with threats of Melanch Rich -- is fondly remembered. Saladin united the Arabs under the Kurds, threw out the Christians, and rebuilt some of the lost glory of the Caliphate. This was before the appearance of the Turks.

The Israelis no longer know what their goals are; they are a divided people. Israel was originally to be a safe haven for Jews following the Holocaust. Never Again.

I recommend the article itself, which requires a subscription; meanwhile the Jerusalem Post summary is worth your time. I will try to get comments from Joel Rosenberg, whose views I respect.



I am beginning to despise AMD and Firefox as a combination. It blows up far too often, and Firefox then loses all the windows I have kept. It won't keep a lot of tabs open, it loses what I have, and locks up frequently. When Firefox is working it works well, but it is not well designed to keep track of what it is supposed to be doing. I have lost the location of a number of game sites. Sure, I probably did something wrong. But that's the point, isn't it? Oh Well. I must reset the system again.



Closing down here. We will be on the road for the next hours. Column and mail delayed. It's good news, not bad, but the schedule is gone all to heck.

Thanks to all. Later...



We are now in Bakersfield and logged on through the hospital internet, awaiting....

It's a girl. We now have two granddaughters. Ruth Ophelia is lovely, and all is well.


Well I stupidly brought the power supply but not the power cord, so I am about out of power.

I will be back Monday or Tuesday.


Low on battery, have Air to write essays

back on line pm


I am home and rolling the week. All is well.




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