THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 626 June 7 - 13, 2010
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June 7, 2010
I'm still catching up. I find that for some reason having to do with firewall settings and a totally stupid help system, I can send things from the IBM ThinkPad into my network, but although the other computers on my network can see the ThinkPad, they cannot connect to it so long as it is connected by Ethernet. If I unplug the Ethernet and turn on the Wireless net, then I can connect from the other computers to the ThinkPad. That's of course slower. Now that's the normal connection: the ThinkPad sits up in the Monk's Cell, and only connects by the local wireless network, so it's not a problem; but it took me forever to copy the big Outlook and FrontPage files from Rolando the ThinkPad over to Bette the main machine for networking, email, and maintaining this site.
I could send from Rolando to Bette, sort of, by Ethernet, but there were some problems I don't understand. Those I can work on. But when I tried to connect from Bette to Rolando, although the net can see Rolando, and I can ping Rolando, attempts to connect to Rolando by Ethernet fail. After fooling around a while -- resetting both machines and doing other rather obvious things -- I pulled the Ethernet cable plug out of Rolando and turned on the internal Wireless Net. Lo! All connects now.
The internal wireless net is "private" to the Windows firewall system. Nothing I can do seems to be able to give that status to the Ethernet system. I can't find out how to change those properties. Help is the usual Microsoft Help which means that if I knew how to do it already I'd have no problems understanding it, but trying to follow the Help files gets me all over the place but there is no way I know simply to tell the machine that it's part of a workgroup and that workgroup is private not public and you ought to allow file sharing on Ethernet just as you allow it on Wi-Fi. Please, Microsoft, let my computer be part of the local network on Ethernet and not just on Wi-Fi. Pretty please? With cream and sugar on it? But I can't figure out how to do that, and while I am probably not as smart as I used to be, and I am certainly less interested in Windows crazy arcana than in the old BYTE days.
I suppose I ought to dig through the Missing Manual and other books on Windows 7, but I'm disgusted and it's lunch time. Back after lunch. It works with wireless and that's the usual way Rolando connects, so it's all right, but I sure would like to know how to tell its firewall that my local Ethernet is as reliable as the Wi-Fi.
I am also pledged to get some fiction done. One of the benefits of the Charlotte trip was dinner with my editor/publisher Toni Weisskopf of Baen Books. We discussed Mamelukes and what I should do with 135,000 words of very good text but with a pretty powerful set of characters so that the ending keeps fading like dreams. As it happens on the airplane home I read on the iPad an economics book I got by download from the Kindle App for iPad, and it was enormously relevant to the decisions Rick and his council of officers are going to have to make. So that turned out well.
So once again I am behind, but there's light at the end of the tunnel. And I do have comments on things happening out there in the real world. And this remains one of the most critical years in the history of the Republic. The US has not faced an existential threat in any of its wars. One could say that faced it and lost in the Civil War, as that transformed these United States into The United States and put the Federal Government firmly in the saddle; and of course losing World War II or really bad moves in the Cold War would have been disastrous (See Phil Dick's Man in the High Castle as an example); but really the US has been behind the oceans and safe from foreign invasion.
But that is all changing, and the nature of the Republic has changed drastically since I was in high school civics. It's different country now, and it's headed further toward the sort of place you expect to see in Europe, a nanny state with subjects where care of the subjects and control of the subjects is the object of government, and when one asks about liberty the answer is always "Well we're for liberty! But ---" and after the but comes increasingly less polite demands that you do something or cease doing something.
And I think this year and this election may be the most crucial I have lived through since, say, Midway and Stalingrad. Certainly since the end of the USSR. Thoughts on that later. It's lunch time.
NASA has a few words on space weather.
I point out that a working Civil Defense organization making use of local groups like the Scouts could be important in the event of a failure -- one might say inevitable failure -- of some of the large preparation programs. A big solar event such as happened in the 19th Century, could be pretty devastating in its EMP effects. The 1859 flare knocked out telegraph lines and set fires in telegraph offices; there weren't any electronics or radio or TV antennas, or power lines in those times. The fires were started by currents generated in the telegraph lines. There could be a lot of local damage from a big solar flare, and considerable disorganization.
Of course it's unlikely that we'll do anything until it happens, after which we'll have big inquiries into why no one was prepared.
Apple's new iPhone http://news.cnet.com/8301-31021_3-20006866-260.html?tag=nl.e404 does not use Intel chips. Of course the iPad doesn't use Intel either. As these pocket computers get better and faster and take over the functions of netbooks, that may have some real effect on Intel sales and chip designs. The future gets murkier but the outlook is better.
Of course the more we become dependent on our pocket phones/computers the more vulnerable we are to EMP, either from the Sun or hostile action.
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|This week:||Tuesday, June
Election day. The polling place is about four miles from here, at the top of the Mulholland ridge; it used to be just down the street, then they consolidated a number of polling places to the Japanese College/Finishing School in what used to be Corvallis High School that's still walking distance and in fact on our usual walk. Now it's at the top of a 600 foot climb and half a mile beyond the first summit -- which is to say, further than anyone is likely to walk or to bicycle. It will be interesting to see how Ed Begley Jr. gets up there. He bicycles usually but has a small electric motor (which he charges from his solar cells) for uphill. I seriously doubt that he's up to going up Coldwater to the Tree People.
Anyway I'll get up there, but it's a car trip. It's interesting that they've done this. I don't know if it's financial or a political mover: making it hard to vote is best for the well organized political outfits who run a paid ground game or have organized workers (unions are always well organized for that sort of thing). Of course in primaries that's not as important as it will be in the general election.
But the turnout of the elderly in this area will be small, unless they all did absentee ballots. The thing is, the older the voter, the more accustomed yeye will be to thinking of voting by mail as "absentee ballots" and something not to be used except when going on trips or in emergencies. Perhaps that custom will have changed. I haven't look lately. I do know that in my case since the polling place has always been not only in walking distance but on the route I use for my daily walk, I haven't at all been in the habit of voting by mail. Perhaps I will start doing so more often if they keep this up.
I suspect the voting trends will be interesting. We won't know until tonight.
The employment trends continue toward the awful. Pundits and Obama's people are spinning things, but the fact is that there were only 40,000 or so real jobs created, and the pressure on small business not to expand continues unabated. ObamaCare will send many more jobs overseas -- if you increase the costs to provide workers with health insurance, those who provide health insurance as a benefit have to rethink their positions. Other regulations make it economically infeasible to expand a company: if you have fewer than 10 employees you'll think very hard about going over that number, while if you have fewer than 50 the penalties for expanding to larger than 50 are enormous. The incentives to offer overtime or make do with part time employees is very great and growing. And tax increases in the form of expiring Bush tax cuts are coming. Business decisions are made with such things in mind.
Depending on the November election we will either have a mild recession in 2011 or a major crash. The chance of economic growth isn't large even with a Republican sweep, because the chance of Obama triangulating as Clinton did is not great. Obama wasn't elected to be a New Democrat. Perhaps many who voted for him thought he would become that, but he did not, and he will be president for two more years. With a Republican House and Senate Clinton was able to get quite a lot of New Democrat measures passed, and the country was fairly well run when Clinton and Gingrich were in charge. That all changed when Clinton left office and Newt self destructed and the Republicans doddered into the era of the Creeps.
But I suspect Obama will not do as Clinton did.
But if the Democrats retain control of both Houses in November, I think you will not care for the Recession of 2011. I hope I'm wrong. I can think of scenarios in which the Nuts lose control of the Democratic party, but the Democrats actually hold on. We can all hope. Hope springs eternal. But i won't be the ones we've been waiting for.
Greece can default, abandon the Euro, return to the drachma and devalue it, and climb out of its hole. A devalued drachma will attract tourists and help with exports. It's not fun to go through such times, but the pattern is known. California can't do that. What happens when a State goes bankrupt isn't really known -- but we're likely to find out. There is no real way out of California's problems, and they are severe enough to affect the dollar. We had an era of stagflaction in which there was no economic growth but the value of savings fell and fell, misery index (inflation plus unemployment) in the 20's during the Carter Era. Remember the Whip Inflation Now buttons? But that was small stuff compared to what's coming.
June 9, 2010
The election is over without spectacular results so far as I have heard. No incumbent Member of Congress lost a seat in the primaries, as many Tea Party people had hoped and a few had predicted. Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas won in a runoff with the Lieutenant Governor. True she just barely won in contrast to her 84% in the primary 6 years ago, but win she did, despite the fixed intention of the unions to dump her in the primary because she wasn't for card check. Come the general election it will be interesting to see what develops, since her Republican opponent won't be for card check either.
In summary: it's no time to relax. The election results are good news, but not great news. The trend is toward the conservative alternatives -- in California the Republicans all ran on platforms of "I'm more conservative than he is" -- but they also cut each other up pretty badly, when it would have made more sense for Whitman to concentrate a lot more of that negative advertising on Brown rather than Poizner. Poizner and Whitman both ran as conservatives, but spent most of their money pounding the other as not having always see the light. No surprise there. It's not as if either had always been disciples of Bill Buckley and Russell Kirk. After all, neither were the voters. Buckley's intent in founding National Review all those years ago was to stand in the path of history shouting Stop! He had his effect, but the leftward lurch was merely slowed, not halted. Now the piper has to be paid.
The fact is that California isn't a far right state, and Whitman's campaign is going to need a great deal of care. She'll run center right, fiscal conservative but on social issues not so much.
As to the rest of the nation, I suppose we were all hoping for more thrilling results. That doesn't change the fact that next November is critical. If the lurch toward European style socialism is to be diverted, it will have to be done then. The country is waking up to that.
Dorothy Rabinowitz has an interesting column in today's Wall Street Journal, "The Alien in the White House." One supposes that it will not be long before the charges of racism begin to fly, but that isn't her point. Her point is alienation. Extract:
There's considerably more.
Fred's point about Commentator's Disease is well made. The particular manifestation is Beltway Disease: those who live inside the Washington Beltway, over time, come to the view that the only important things that happen in the world are those that happen inside the Beltway. The only leader I have ever known who didn't succumb to that view was the late General Dan Graham.
Fred goes further in pointing out that commentators are all bright people and they only talk to other bright people, and get an exaggerated view of human capability.
It's a powerful argument; but is it true? The temptation is to "compassionate conservatism" which is sometimes known as paternalism. There are a lot of people who live their lives in quiet desperation and who are never going to achieve anything of national importance. It's not true that everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.
It is true enough that most of us -- by us I mean me, Fred, those who read this web site -- spend most of our time conversing with other smart people, and few of us have more than very brief interaction with people of IQ 90 or less (16% of the population). Half of the people are by definition below average, but I would suspect that most of the people we know are IQ 110 or above -- 16% of the population. As Fred observes, about 20% of the population has the brains for going to college. Those are the people we generally know. But it hardly makes everyone else stupid.
Compassion is all very well, but it can't actually change the way things work:
The problem is that the main effect of a minimum wage is to see to it that teenagers and the unskilled never get jobs in the first place, or if they do, they'll be under the table jobs. I don't know many people who would argue against need, or that the national minimum wage is absurdly high. The question is, if you can't make a profit by hiring someone at that minimum wage, why would you hire anyone? There's no great reward for having employees. It's actually a fairly large hassle.
And yet this nation was built largely on the concept of freedom.
When most government is local, many more have a chance to participate. When the government is not trying to do everything, there is more room for those who will never found a big company, or make a huge salary, or be on Oprah, to do and feel good about. At one time one did not need to be greatly successful to be a pillar of the community. Instead one could be concerned with the waitress who has nothing. As to the Federalist Papers, I do remind Fred that they were originally published as letters to the editors of newspapers.
June 10, 2010
Washington is getting increasingly frantic and the voices from Washington are shrill. Obama is looking for whose ass to kick. That, surely, will fix the problem, so long as you understand that the problem is Obama's falling popularity and his image of competence. He was, after all, supposed to be competent.
Of course the President hasn't any competence in deep water oil drilling, of for that matter in oil spill cleanup. Why should he? No one expected him, or the Federal Government, to know how to plug the hole. What we did expect is some competence in crisis management. At least we had a right to expect that.
We had a right to expect that the President would take this seriously, if not on the first day, at least in the first week. We had a right to expect him to assemble a team of experts to assess the threat and recommend actions. We had a right to expect a plan to plug the hole, and another plan to deal with the oil contamination.
Instead he throws in Stephen Chu, Nobel physicist, as if Chu, a brilliant man, would have any competence in plugging holes a mile under water, or cleaning up threatened marshes -- or crisis management.
Obama continues to look for advice. His last statement was that he's looking for advice on whose ass to kick. That ought to be a lot of compensation for Louisiana.
It's going to be a long summer. And hurricane season is just beginning.
I have had several old friends ask me what I'd do about space. Some have asked me to convene the space policy council I chaired in the 1980's. We had a good bit to do with developing the SDI policies and our last act was to recommend the DC/X, one of the last spectacularly successful X projects.
I had to point out that there's no point. The Council came into being at the invitation of the incoming Reagan Administration, and had direct access to the President and his National Security Advisor. Even after Reagan left office and the first President Bush pretty well cleared the White House of Reagan appointees. Vice President Quayle was Chairman of the National Space Council and paid attention to our reports. The result was the DC/X.
I don't think we need a new meeting to develop a space policy. The last Council meeting developed a report and a concept, the SSX. You can read about SSX here. The paper is a bit technical, in that it explains the reasoning that went into the recommendation, and that means some reflecti0ns on the rocket equation, so it may not be everyone's cup of tea. The non-technical report is available here. An exposition on How To Get To Space is here; it explains what X Programs are and are not.
The SSX we proposed was never built. Quayle was able to get enough money to build what amounts to a scale model of SSX, the DC/X, which wasn't a paper study: it was flying hardware. It made 11 successful low altitude flights. That, indeed, was the point of SSX: it may or may not make orbit -- as Max Hunter said, it may not get to orbit but it will certainly scare it to death -- but it doesn't have to. SSX was a 600,000 pound Gross Liftoff Weight (GLOW) ship. From the rocket equation we know that of that 600,000 pounds, at least 540,000 pounds must be fuel and oxidant if we're hoping to make orbit. Fill it less than full and it won't make orbit but it will fly sub orbital and land to be refueled and fly again. That's the point. Fly it in incremental missions. Learn where it was overbuilt and where it needs beefing up. Learn what the engines can do. Learn how to gang a number of engines and control them. There's a lot of other stuff to be learned.
We don't know how to build reusable single stage to orbit space ships. If space is ever to be commercial, we'll need those. A good X project -- SSX -- will give us enough engineering data to design those ships.
That's my recommendation. We don't need a conference. We need an X program. DC/X showed the way. Next step is to build a larger one. I'd go for the full 600,000 GLOW SSX, but we can settle for something smaller (that can never make orbit, or even scare it much, but can teach us a lot about engines and control). DC/X used hydrogen. One of the things we learned from DC/X is you really don't want hydrogen rockets; they are an operational nightmare. Max Hunter always thought we'd end up using propane. (There are those who like methane, but rocket fuel grade methane is hard to obtain and has operations difficulties. Propane is easy to come by and we know a lot about handling it.) The conclusion is obvious, at least to me: build the best propane LOX ship using at least 8 engines that we can build with present technology. Make it somewhere between 100,000 and 600,000 pounds GLOW. Build it, take it to Edwards, and fly it. Build three tail numbers. Fly the first one closer and closer to the envelope and learn all we can. If it prangs -- sometimes X ships do -- you've got the second tail number to fly until the tests are over. With luck the third one is a hangar queen that eventually goes to the Smithsonian.
We don't need a conference, we need to fly some rocket ships.
June 11, 2010
I Told You So
Back in 1967 in a briefing to then-governor Ronald Reagan I advocated that all off shore oil platforms be subject to a special separation tax that would be devoted to the creation of a spill recovery service, on the grounds that there would inevitably be oil spills. In those time we weren't contemplating mile-deep wellheads. In 1969 the Santa Barbara oil spill pretty well confirmed my predictions. Later came Exxon Valdez. Neither particular incident could have been predicted, but the probability of such event was -- and remains -- significantly greater than zero. The service I advocated would have functioned as a core service for a Civil Defense operation,
The real question is what happens next. We'll see.
The teenage girl on the ocean is alive and likely safe. She's lost a mast. Others have survived that even before the days of radio and rescue fleets, and her boat is practically unsinkable by water and storm -- there are many watertight compartments and modern materials are astonishingly strong. There are boats on the way. Rescue, probably by tow, is likely,
The chattering classes are debating new rules and regulations and laws to prevent this sort of thing happening again: what business does a 16 year old girl have being out in the middle of the Indian Ocean in typhoon season? Some talking heads seem obsessed, so their polls must be indicating that the subject is interesting to their listeners. certainly there was drama. The typhoon seems to have abated, but this is the sort of storm that caused the officer of the deck of the USS Caine to turn into the wind for fear of foundering the ship. Percy Bysshe Shelley sailed his yacht under and drowned in a far less violent storm, and he was in sight of land. Abby was in the middle of nowhere with the nearest possible rescue at least a full day away. I don't suppose I have any readers who don't have major qualms about the whole situation.
The talking heads are telling us that we ought to learn a lesson from this. I can't imagine what lesson that might be. I don't need persuading to abandon any ambition for sailing alone around the world, or sending my granddaughters off in small boats....
I would myself suspect she was in less danger alone in the Indian Ocean in a typhoon than many girls her age on prom night.
The President is flat out lying.
Tuesday he told seniors that they would not lose any of their Medicare benefits, whether from regular Medicare or Medicare Advantage. That's a flat out lie, and he must know it. ObamaCare makes drastic cuts in Medicare Advantage. This was intentional because Advantage has some private elements in it, and that's antithetical to the single payer philosophy. This isn't just spin, it's deliberate falsehood.
.In digging through looking for something else, I found this adventure, a report on the trip home from PCEXPO in July 2000. It's a bid odd reading it. Only ten years ago and the world has changed a lot. So, I think, have I. Anyway I got interested, read it, and it's now available here for anyone interested.
Note that airport procedures have changed, but are we safer?
June 13, 2010
I have taken most of the day off. There will be mail posted for the day.
I am also working on the column. I know there was no May column; this month's will mostly be about iPad, my experiences and those of some readers who took the trouble to send detailed reports. I believe iPad is a game changer -- or at least that it will lead to very large changes, just as the early S-100 buss machines led to the computer revolution.
I also have a flock of books to review, and I may do a summer book review column for Chaos Manor Reviews. With the deep changes in the economy some of these books are important. Tracking the changes in the computer world is difficult, and many who thought they understood the computer world have to scramble. The high tech segment of the economy has not been as damaged as the middle section, but there is a lot less investment, and fewer startups. The world has changed, and it's in no hurry to change back. The iPad makes for another fork in the road, but it is still the road generated by the economy collapse and enormous public debts.
The news from Afghanistan is not encouraging. Note well that Pakistan's national objectives are not those of the United States or indeed of the West. Pakistan is more concerned about India and its financial institutions. Recall that East Pakistan became Bangladesh, not by Pakistan's choosing. Pakistan does not see Aghanistan -- either the Pushtans who are the majority in Afghanistan and make up a goodly number of the people of Northwest Pakistan -- nor the non-Pushtan Afghanis who resist the rule of Kabul. The situation over there is immensely complex, and the fundamental problem -- we cannot make the long term commitments that are absolutely required before locals will trust us to protect them rather than submit to the invaders who have their sanctuaries across the border -- that fundamental problem cannot be solved. The United States was committed to Viet Nam, and the result was the first US/Viet Nam victory, the crushing and elimination of the Viet Cong insurgents, who had pretty well vanished after the end of the Tet affair; then the utter defeat of 150,000 North Viet Nam regulars invading from the North with more armor than the Wehrmacht had in France, in 1972. But when North Viet Nam assembled another armored army and invaded in 1975, the United States was not engaged. Our commitment to our ally had been repudiated by the Congress of the United States, and our South Viet Nam ally accordingly fell.
Closer to home, the US had a commitment to the Shah of Iran, until Carter had qualms about it, and the royal government accordingly fell.
Those lessons have not been lost among the leaders of the Middle East. Nor do the Pakistanis believe that the United States has a stronger commitment to Pakistan than to India.
The news from Afghanistan is not encouraging.
I report this without comment.
I see that we are read in Scotland...
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