THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 552 January 5 - 11, 2009
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January 5, 2008
It's late and time for bed. I am doing the annual orchid and onion parade column now. There's considerable mail including another observation from Joel Rosenberg on the Israeli situation.
Today I will work on the January column including orchids and onions.
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January 6, 2008
The Deadline for my column is tomorrow. I'm not as far along as I ought to be. It's cold here. Yesterday I gave up column work and played with Mamelukes, and figured out why I am not getting far with that: it's not only time to shift locations but viewpoints. That will get things going again although it's harder work. But first the column has to be done.
Abu Marzook makes some significant points.
Unsurprisingly, Mark Stein has a different view:
He also makes some significant points.
I long ago proposed that Israel just declare these places "states" with all the responsibilities of sovereign countries. That would of course make the Israeli blockade illegal. At the same time, I said then, Israel ought to make it very clear that acts of war are acts of war. Rocket launches into Israel will be met with massive artillery response flattening the area from which the rockets were launched. Massive buildups of weapons will be dealt with as nations have always dealt with hostile armies forming on their borders. Of course doing this would mean pulling all the settlers out, and would require building border fortifications.
That was long ago; and of course that's not a decision I can or should make to begin with. It's not my family at risk. Alas, all decisions have terrible risks attached. All of them.
Roberta, who tracks these things -- one of our boys had Celiac -- thinks Jobs' problem may be Celiac, which is an allergy to gluten. Not just to wheat. To gluten, which is found in a lot of things that have no wheat at all. It is also possible to develop Celiac in middle age or later with no prior indications whatever showing up earlier. Until recently most doctors never even thought about Celiac.
It's very complicated to live a gluten free life, but it's possible. The big problem is that it takes only a tiny amount of gluten -- one bite is plenty -- to give you a week of problems, and if you're eating gluten during that time -- most people eat a lot of gluten every day -- you'll never get over it.
If any of my readers are friends of Steve Jobs they ought to make sure he understands that it's not a simple "cure". It takes a lot of attention to details of diet to get past Celiac problems. Roberta is an expert on this.
Back from our walk and time to get to work. The iMac20 locked up last night at 8:39 PM. I know that because I have the time as part of screen saver. I noticed that last night and tried everything with mouse and keyboard to get it to respond, but nothing did, so I left it be all night. This morning it was still not responding so I powered it down and back up again. It works just fine now.
This is twice now since I set up the Apple Hot News screen saver. I didn't log the freezes that happened before I set that screen saver (and my recent memory is pretty well confined to a log book, alas), but I'm pretty sure they were rare, under one a month and probably less frequent than that. On the other hand, I have reports that other Mac OS X systems have locked up recently, so it may be a recent OS X revision. We'll see. Or maybe the iMac is simply reminding me that it needs to be restarted every now and then...
And I still can't get over finding this in the Huffington Post. Is this a signal that sanity is penetrating?
The answer is either very simple, or there isn't one. The simple answer is that HAMAS has to Do Something to remain in power; and the something they can do is launch rockets. The tougher question is, why they have to be seen to be fighting Israel to get support from the local population? And that one involves both Arab and Israeli policies which have spiraled away from any mutual interest or understanding. If the Palestinians could get Israel to just let them go, they could in fact build an economy (see Hong Kong).
However, if Israel were to do that, the first thing that would happen is importation of weapons to strike at Israel; or that is sufficiently probable that no Israeli government can discount it, and any attempt to move in that direction will lose elections in Israel -- as any attempt at a permanent truce with Israel would lose elections in just about any Arab state, certainly including Gaza and the West Bank, but also in Egypt and probably in Jordan. That's the problem with democracy. People vote. I see no way to preserve democracy in Israel or establish it in Egypt or Gaza that will not create governments pressured to launch rockets into Israel.
I repeat from above:
January 7, 2007
I seem to be in a funk. The year end column is due tonight and I haven't got much of it done. I'm not sure what the problem is. I suspect I'm champing at the bit because I didn't go to either of the computer shows and I miss some of that excitement, except that any sane analysis would say this was a good year not to go. Whatever the problem, I seem to spin wheels without traction, and that has to stop.
So: I'll finish the column today. There won't be much here. Tomorrow's View will probably be late in the day.
This would take time I don't have, alas, but some of you might be able to enter. Three grand isn't trivial, but there's little chance I'd win such a contest with a title like that. The simplest stability operation for US land forces is not to be involved in foreign wars, if w must be so involved not to be involved in occupations, and in general to stay out of entangling alliances and avoid the territorial disputes of Europe (and Africa and the Middle East) and not to get into a land war in Asia.
If we really have to go carry democracy on the barrels of Abrams tanks, it will require a very great deal of change in the way we do things. Principles don't change. Republics aren't Empires. Democracies aren't either.
Sociology is a prime example of Voodoo Science (see my pages on Sociology and The Voodoo Sciences for details). One example of voodoo is ignoring evidence in favor of favorite beliefs and then using mathematics and jargon to make it sound as if you are still entitled to scientific respect. Sociology is very good at this, with a few exceptions (Charles Murray being the principal exception that comes to mind). The total and willful ignorance of heredity in explaining human culture and behavior is a screaming example of why Sociology is best regarded as voodoo, even though the departments are among the largest in universities and absorb a disproportionate amount of tax support).
I suspect that the result of this will be a flood of vituperation directed at the author of such heresies.
This isn't a forum for breaking news, and I don't have to answer that question now; but all indications are that the local Hamas leadership in Gaza have thrown out their cell phones. Some say they are hiding deep, afraid of informers. If this be true, then Hamas is finished. As Mao observed, the people are the water and the revolutionaries are the fish, and if the water rejects the fish they are finished.
Of course there's no way of knowing how much any of this is true. Fatah wants it to be true. So does Israel. That doesn't mean it isn't true, of course.
As I said, this isn't a forum for breaking news. More on this later. I really have to get to work. For more, see Joel Rosenberg's latest in mail. Things are happening fast, and the consequences are great, but we won't really know what's going on for a while.
January 8, 2009
Regarding that strategy essay contest:
We are down at the beach house and Joe is taking care of the house and walking Sable. I got the column out today and it ought to be posted sometime tomorrow. I am running things on the ThinkPad T-42p. For some reason, Outlook 2003, which I usually run as Outlook 2007 over on the Quad 6600, insists that there are two "contact" files, and one of them is empty. I can manually select the second one, but to send mail I have to jump through a couple of hoops to get the contact information. I can't figure out how to get rid of the bogus one or to tell Outlook 2003 to use the Contacts file. It certainly can find that file. Sigh.
With any luck I'll get some work done down here.
January 9, 2009
On the beach.
Yesterday's mail had a comment by Leibnitz on calculations, which has led to a discussion of calculation and models. It's worth your time. Start with the original comment and follow the link. Today's Mail opens with an inquiry about Word vs. other editing tools, which got a fairly long comment from me.
The monitor here wants 1440 x 900 resolution; it's a ViewSonic VA 1930wm; the wm, I presume, denotes a "wide screen" monitor. The ViewSonic I usually use with the ThinkPad t42p up in the monk's cell at home is a 19" ViewSonic that does not have "wide screen" and I sure prefer it to this one. For wordsmiths the width of the display isn't all that important because you can't make lines very long before you have to start moving your head to take in a line. That's very bad for productivity. I set my manuscript size for 10 - 12 word lines, and the more lines I can get on the page the better; wide screens mean that I have a lot of blank space on each side of a page of text, and the page is cut off so that I don't see the whole page without scrolling. (Yeah, I know, some youngsters can make the type small enough that they can see the whole page at once. Whippersnappers. I lost that ability back in the early dark ages, back when I invented computer glasses and didn't think to patent the concept. Sigh.) In any event, while I like ViewSonic monitors, I have to say I like square monitors a lot better than "Wide Screen". There was a time when you could rotate a "wide screen" so that that the long dimension became vertical, which was great for writers, but I don't think anyone makes such a monitor now, certainly not in any affordable bracket. My friend Phil Tharp keeps urging me to get 23" or even larger monitors so that I can have everything I am doing up on screen at once; which is probably a great idea for those who do a lot of things at once, but when I try to write fiction I don't need the distractions: I don't want to see my email while I am constructing a scene set in an extra-terrestrial incarnation of Crusader Venice. One of these days I'll get a new monitor for down here and take this one home to use on a non-writing computer. It's a good monitor in all respects but that one.
(BEFORE YOU WRITE ME ABOUT THIS, SEE BELOW!!!)
I had my t42p overhauled by IBM just before the warranty expired -- one of those golden failures -- and it turns out that when Lenovo reinstalled the operating system they didn't put in the latest video drivers. Incidentally, that's about the only complaint I have ever had about Lenovo's warranty service, and it's more a gripe than a complaint. Anyway, the VA1930wm kept telling me it really and truly wanted 1440 x 900, only the t42p didn't have that resolution: it could only generate 1280 x 1024. The fix was simple, download the latest drivers from Lenovo, which I did. Installation was faster than the download. I did have to reset the system, but the whole process took less than five minutes. Actually I like 1280 x 1024 a lot better anyway, but it doesn't look right on the VA1930wm. It might if I had Vista instead of XP on the t42p but that isn't going to happen. Incidentally, the Lenovo driver web site tells me there is no need to download any drivers for systems running Vista. They are all in the OS.
I don't have any newspapers here and didn't really read the papers yesterday, so I have no comments on the news.
I'm going to try to get some work done today. My thanks to all those who recently subscribed or renewed their subscriptions.
January 10, 2009
I have a very great deal of mail informing me that I have been misinformed about monitors: Apparently there are many reasonably priced monitors that can be swiveled from wide screen -- landscape -- mode to vertical or portrait mode, and of course the software to accomplish that has been built into Windows and Mac OS for a long time. Apparently I need to get out more: there are many of these, all competitive, and my "market research" has mostly consisted of the local Fry's sales advertisements; if any rotating monitors have got into those ads I missed them.
I haven't visited David Em's place for a long time, or I would know that he routinely uses several monitors, in particular a pair one landscape and one portrait attached to his main machine. Others have written me to say they do the same: the vertical or portrait monitor has Word, and the landscape or wide screen monitor displays everything else. This makes so much sense that when I get home I am going to try it. I'll also look for a rotatable monitor to keep down here at the beach house since I mostly write here, and the more words on a page the better except that lines ought not be more than about ten words long. I'll have more on this when I actually make changes in my establishment. Thanks to all of you who wrote me about this. I indeed appreciate the information.
There is an enormous amount of mail and I will try to clean up some of the residual today. Since weekends get less traffic than weekdays, I'll point to today's mail next Monday as well.
I have put up some of the mail now, including an addendum to the snipergirl story in yesterday's mail. It's time for our walk on the beach now, more mail later when we get back.
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January 11, 2009
Still at the beach house. I am definitely going to get a swivelable monitor for use down here, but it will have to wait until I have another best seller (or at least good seller). The ViewSonic VA 1930 at 1440 x 900 is pretty nearly Good Enough for most of what I do. For keeping this place up I need the horizontal aspect since a lot of the work here is pasting mail and editing it, and I have to go to Firefox or Internet Explorer fairly often; web sites really expect you to be in landscape mode. But for writing stories and for that matter for reading on screen, what I need is about ten to twelve words a line and as many lines as I can get which means portrait mode. I can't leave my system set up here when we leave, so it all has to pack away into a closet; that also limits what I can use, and probably keeps me from having a 24" swivelable ViewSonic as recommended by Joanne Dow in recent mail, but we'll see.
I am definitely going to set up two monitors, one vertical, on my main communications system when I am back home; and I will look into whether a MacBook Pro can support two monitors, one vertical. Anything that increased productivity is worth considering as an investment, especially since the Republicans seem to have worked hard at wiping out much of my savings, and now the Democrats seem to be working harder to top their achievement.
I have been reading Confessions of a SubPrime Lender, and I am horrified; apparently it wouldn't have taken much brainpower to determine that when Lehman Brothers brought Wall Street into the real estate business there was great potential for disaster, and that the ratings companies were in a bind: if they rated a package of junk at what it was worth they wouldn't get paid to do ratings any longer. What Lehman and the others wanted was AAA ratings for packages of mortgages so sliced up that it was impossible to determine what the actual risks were or even the ratio of loan outstanding to the value of the properties that were collateral for the loan; and when the AAA ratings started to flow, everyone wanted in the act. Those who smelt a rat were trapped: if you didn't get in on the deals, your return on investment was low compared to those who did get in on it. And you didn't dare say much about the insanity of it all lest you trigger the crash!
Apropos of that:
Atlas Shrugged shows capitalists overwhelmed by government regulators who don't understand how things work and eventually, which trying to assure fair play, make it impossible for the market to work. The referenced article above shows how we come closer and closer to that state every year.
Alas, a slave market shows where unregulated capitalism will go if left to itself.
For two thousand years political philosophers have known that good government consists of a mix, and that maximum freedom can only be obtained through mechanisms to assure that freedom. "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed,"
Apparently no one remembers any of this. Miss Rand didn't; her unregulated capitalists were still decent men and women, what a D&D master would call "Lawful good" alignment, and apparently the only "chaotic evil" people were bureaucrats and politicians, with government workers being at best "neutral, neutral." In the real world there are some very competent villains -- including, of course, politicians who have found it's the easy way to power without having to produce anything. But that's another story.
I would think that if you have set up a system to intercept messages and tell people they can beg you to let them send you mail which you may or may not deign to look at, you might, before sending out personal messages about your recent graduation or such to a list of people, put those people on a white list so that if they choose to congratulate you, they won't get that infuriating message about how in order to avoid spam... I suppose I am merely being curmudgeonly. I mean, some messages to a list of people aren't intended to generate replies, but some, with personal details, most certainly will. Ah well.
About a decade ago, the Wall Street Journal has a story about a man who had spent 3 years in jail in India, awaiting trial on a charge of stealing from the government, to wit, riding a train without a ticket. The maximum sentence he could have been given was under a year. A year later the Journal ran an update: he was still in jail awaiting trial.
Comes now this: http://www.news.com.au/story/0,27574,24898119-29277,00.html
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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