Week of 2/22/99
Sunday, February 28, 1999 12:39
A (mostly) daily
journal of the trials, tribulations, and random observations of Robert
Bruce Thompson, a writer of computer books.
February 22, 1999
Back to work on the book. As I open a new week's Daynotes file I'm
wondering if I should stick with the weekly format or go to a daily
format. The drawback to the weekly format is that the files get very
large. The FrontPage status bar gives the download time for this file
right now as about 5 seconds. That assumes a 28.8 dialup, I think. Once
filled out, the files take a great deal longer to download. I noticed when
I finished last week's file, for example, that the download time was
showing as 93 seconds. Someone who reads this every day ends up reading
the Monday notes on Monday, but downloading those Monday notes six more
times throughout the week.
But I haven't thought through all the implications of doing a daily
file. Certainly, I could put a "Yesterday" and a
"Tomorrow" link at the top and/or bottom of each page. That'd
allow people to scroll back and forth easily through the days. But I
really don't have time to do a lot of manual organizing and link creation,
so I'm not sure how I'd index the thing. I'll keep thinking about it. If
anyone feels strongly one way or the other, please let me know.
* * * * *
This from Jeff Powell [email@example.com]
about the future of modems:
Where do you think history is heading?
What's on the horizon?
Modems have no future. They've reached their ultimate
pinnacle with V.90. The limiting factor is telephone lines themselves. The
telcos restrict bandwidth on a standard phone line to sidebands of 3
kilohertz. Subtracting guard bands and so forth leaves about 2,600 Hertz
usable. The Shannon Limit says that a channel this size can transfer, as I
recall, a maximum of about 3,600 baud. The best currently available
encoding methods allow you to encode 16 bits per baud, yielding 57,200
bits/second. I may have these numbers a bit scrambled, but the essence of
it is that we're never going to be able to transfer data faster across a
standard telephone line than we do now. And that's a hard limitation of
physics rather than a technological limitation. The wires themselves, you
understand, can transfer data much faster by using an alternative
technology like ISDN or xDSL.. It's the POTS circuit that can't go any
And the days of circuit-switching for data connections are
rapidly drawing to a close. Back when I ran a bulletin board system, I had
lots of users. Each of them typically called not just my BBS, but perhaps
a dozen or so other BBSs. So the connections were serial many-to-many.
Nowadays, most people call just one number with their modems, that of an
ISP. There's no longer any need for circuit-switched connections. A
point-to-point connection serves the purpose more efficiently, and allows
much higher data throughput, as with xDSL or a cable modem.
As xDSL and cable modems become ubiquitous, I suspect that
the phone company is going to have a lot of people cancelling extra phone
lines. If the standards bodies ever get around to developing standards for
IP-based faxing, I suspect it'll largely replace standard faxing almost
overnight. The phone companies make a lot of money on fax lines and fax
long-distance calls, so I suspect they're doing everything they can to
prevent IP faxing from becoming standardized. It's probably a bigger real
threat to them right now than voice over IP.
* * * * *
UPS just showed up with an Intel
RC440BX motherboard. Like the EPoX EP-BXT, the Intel RC440BX is an
integrated motherboard. But where the EP-BXT includes Intel740 video and
Yamaha sound, the RC440BX includes integrated
nVidia RIVA 128ZX video and integrated Creative Labs SoundBlasterPCI 64V
audio. The RC440BX is available in two form factors: the Micro-ATX version
has three PCI slots and one shared PCI/ISA slot. The full-size ATX version
has three PCI slots, three ISA slots, and one shared PCI/ISA slot. The two
versions of the RC440BX are otherwise identical.
quite a bit with the EP-BXT already, and have a very high opinion of it.
Although I haven't had a chance to work with the RC440BX yet, I suspect it
will also end up being one of my favorite boards. The EP-BXT is a bit less
expensive (street price is about ~$150US for the EP-BXT versus ~$200US for
the RC440BX), but some will prefer the RC440BX nVidia graphics to the
EP-BXT Intel740 graphics, or the RC440BX SoundBlaster audio to the EP-BXT
both of these motherboards have poor distribution. I checked PriceWatch
and found a few hits for the EP-BXT and only one for the RC440BX. But it's
worth spending some extra time tracking down an EP-BXT, and I suspect the
same will prove true for the RC440BX. I'll have detailed reports on the
RC440BX once I get some free time to work with it.
* * * * *
The following from Gary M. Berg [Gary_Berg@ibm.net]:
Actually, I prefer what you have now. When I
read the notes for Wednesday (for example), I need to peek back to the
end of Tuesday to see if you added anything to that since I last read
it. All in one page makes it easier to do this.
Yes, it does take longer to download.
Actually, I make use of the "Open in New Window" option to
navigate to several pages (such as yours and Jerry P's) and let them
download in the background while I'm clicking over to another page.
Then, after I have all the pages download I sit down and read them.
Okay, thanks. That makes sense. I should have realized this
myself, because I have exactly the same problem on Pournelle's site.
Tracking down all the new stuff there seems like an Easter egg hunt at
times, and I'm always left with the vague feeling that I may have missed
something. Actually, I was kind of hoping that people would prefer the way
I'm doing things now, because doing daily pages would be more work for me.
Not so much in creating the pages themselves as maintaining the links.
Your message is the first I've received about this. It'll be interesting
to see if anyone prefers the idea of daily pages.
February 23, 1999
The following exchange with Bruce Denman mentions Tom's Hardware and
got me to thinking. Actually, I'm seriously considering opening a new site
devoted to hardware reviews, advice, and so on. It would have absolutely
no advertising, and would be completely user-supported. A lot of it would
be open to the public, but I'd also offer memberships on a subscription
basis. Members would have access to the members-only areas, would have
first access to stuff before it was posted a week or a month later in the
public areas, would be able to post (versus just read) to the forums, etc.
But in order to do something like that, I'd have to have some assurance
that it would pay its own way. Realistically, it would have to generate a
minimum gross of $100,000/year to start in order to pay for the staffing
and other costs involved. With something like this, a business school
concept called Price Elasticity of Demand is a major factor. In other
words, setting the annual subscription fee is key. If I could get X number
of subscribers at $30/year, I'd have to get 3X at $10/year to break even.
Actually, I'd need a bit more than 3X to account for the additional
administrative load in handling three times the number of subscribers.
So the question becomes, can I get 10,000 subscribers at $10/year, or
would I be better off aiming for 3,333 subscribers at $30/year, or even
2,000 subscribers at $50/year? What do you think? Would you be willing to
pay anything at all for member-level access to such a site. What would you
want to see on that site? What could I do to differentiate the site and
make it useful, and worth paying for? If you're willing to take a few
minutes to tell me what you think, I'd appreciate it.
* * * * *
This follow-up on cookies from Bruce Denman [bdenman@FTC-I.NET]:
Howdy once again.
A quick observation/comment. I swapped hard disks and am now a running
relatively clean copy of Win98. Loaded Cookie Crusher 2.01 again and
deleted all old cookies but a few known ones (microsoft, abcnews, msnbc;
etc.). Will see if Cookie Crusher runs stable for awhile...
Anyway; after deleting the junk cookies I fired up DUN and MSIE 4 and
It immediately stopped a total of 33 cookies
from being set. I repeated the experiment and it caught 32 the second
time. There were at least three were different cookies; the others might
well have just been retries. All were categorized as "site
Duh....Am I being paranoid? <chortle>. Sure points out the
silliness that is going around (and abuse too). Cheers....
ps: no eudora (yet) on this system; so
clicking your link brought up outlook express. hope it does not have
weird formatting or some such.
I kind of figured that a clean install might clear up the
problems you were having with Cookie Crusher. That's a pretty well-known
product, and I'd be surprised if it had bugs that would cause problems as
serious as those you described earlier. Of course, with Windows one never
knows what interactions are going on between products.
As far as Tom's Hardware, it is an advertising supported
site, so I'm not surprised that it's cookie heaven there. The man gets a
half million page reads a day, and I've never been able to figure out why.
Surely I can't be the only one who sees at least the appearance of a
conflict of interest in a site that purports to offer unbiased reviews of
products and yet accepts advertising. And we're not talking about trivial
amounts of money, either. Mr. Pabst apparently pays employees from that
advertising revenue, and I believe someone told me that he was opening a
testing lab. I have the same problem with AnandTech.
* * * * *
And this follow-up from Bruce Denman:
> I kind of figured that a clean install might clear up the
problems you were having with Cookie Crusher...
Yes. grrrr. Windows on my regular drive
(2.5GB Maxtor) usually has few problems. Its a Win95 install upgraded to
Win98 last summer....installing Cookie Crusher caused a definite burp.
My spare 1GB Seagate has a fairly fresh install with Win98 upgrade over
fresh Win95/OSR2 install and Cookie Crusher seems content with it for
now. I usually experiment with my 1GB since installing/uninstalling junk
tends to cause problems. (its been redone a couple times). Over time it
would appear that my main load has become gunked up. I was hoping to get
a new (bigger) drive first before I had to do that.
I agree with you on the journalistic
veracity...I would think it tough to take money from company x and then
be critical of them or their product. Makes you wonder. And yes, I did
see Dr. Pabst's that he is opening a major lab soon. Time will tell.
I'm not surprised that you need to strip Win9x down to bare
metal periodically. I've been running Windows NT almost exclusively since
version 3.5 shipped. I keep a couple of Win9x boxes around the house for
testing, doing screen shots for books, etc., but I can't imagine actually
using it as my day-to-day operating system.
As far as Tom's Hardware and ads, I always think of that
fundamental precept of Roman law, cui bono (who benefits?). As regular
readers of my Daynotes column know, I'm pretty free with my criticisms. I
don't go out of my way to find bad products and trash them in print, but
neither do I hesitate to point out bad things. I'd like to think that if I
had advertisers I could remain completely objective, but I can't imagine
that that would be the case.
* * * * *
I've gotten a bunch of replies about the page-a-day versus page-a-week
question. The first is from Bruce Denman:
I vote for you to keep your layout as is. I
do not think your download times are excessive...and my norm connection
speed is 26,400.
Thanks. I've done everything I can think of to reduce
download times, including pretty much eliminating graphics, making each
day a separate table, etc. But the reality is that by the end of the week,
my Daynotes page is going to take a minute and a half or so to download,
just because there's a lot of text in it.
* * * * *
And this from Alberto S. Lopez:
I E-Mailed you last week regarding issues
with a PC that would not boot past the memory count. I have not had a
chance to implement your suggestions, but I wanted to thank you for
answering me as quickly as you did. Again, Thank You.
As far as the format you have for your Day
Notes, I think it is fine. Who cares how long it takes to Load? As far
as I am concerned, having the WEEK'S DISCUSSION, on the same page is
great. That way I don't feel like I maybe missed something that you
wrote on another day, on some other page...
It it ain't broke...
Have a FANTASTIC Day,
Alberto S. Lopez
Thanks. Your opinion about the weekly format seems to be
shared by all. Good luck with the NT box.
* * * * *
And this from Wesley Moore:
I'm another who found your site from
Pournelle's and found reason to make it a regular stop. I like your
style, writing and site building, and while I don't always agree with
you, I don't expect to and why should you care? I haven't found two
people yet who agree on everything and don't think I want to, it would
be too weird.
I also am a fan of "Buffy" and I
find it interesting that the show attracts a diversity of fans. I would
certainly not have expected Dr. Pournelle to be one before he mentioned
it on his site.
I don't think you should change your
daynotes layout to a daily, and I like your sprinkling mail excerpts in.
It really doesn't take that long to d/l, especially if you turn images
off. Hey, once you've seen the images on a regular stop, why load them
up each time? It helps that I'm using Opera and it's ridiculously easy
to toggle images off or on.
I know you don't have much time and don't
want to casually change e-mail apps, but you might sometime try one I
found that seems pretty nice called pmmail98. It started out as an OS2
app and has grown to excompass other platforms. A few handy things is it
stores mail in text readable form in individual folders for each
account, supports multiple accounts, and has executibles for Warp and
Win 95/98 that live in the same installed directory, so your mail is
accesible from whatever OS you boot. Don't know if it has an NT flavor
yet, but the company has a Web site at
in case you're interested. And I think
that's enough babbling for now.
Thanks for the kind words and the comments. You're by no
means alone in finding my site from Dr. Pournelle's. I'd guess fully 10%
of my regular readers found my site by following a link from Jerry's. I do
It's well-written, well-acted, and surprisingly complex for
a TV show. I mean, there are Good Good Guys, Bad Good Guys, Good Bad Guys,
and Bad Bad Guys. I like women who stand up for themselves, and that's
certainly the case there. My wife, who is a librarian, likes the show for
obvious reasons. How many other TV shows have a librarian who goes out and
And you're right about changing email applications. If
there's one thing that I don't change lightly, it's my email. I'm quite
satisfied with Outlook 98. It's not the most powerful mailer I've used
(that honor goes to Pegasus Mail in spades), but it does what I need to do
and integrates PIM functionality. I've also used Eudora Pro, and I can't
figure out why it's as popular as it is. It's neither as powerful as
Pegasus nor as convenient as Outlook 98. I've been on the Internet since
about 1987, and I've probably tried at least a dozen mailers during that
time. For me, at least, Outlook 98 is Good Enough.
* * * * *
And this from Bo Leuf:
Just thinking out loud
Should you decide to use page-a-day format,
it might be worth your while to do an indirection system, something
1. Each page named according to date
(YYYYMMDD.html comes to mind :), with links to preceding and succeeding
day. These links never change.
2 A "current day" referral page
with no content except links to: (today), (yesterday), and whatever else
seems relevant. The (today) and (yesterday) links are then updated
forward each day to the current content pages. The (today) link could be
echoed in a META-refresh tag, so that people who use a constant bookmark
can let the page load in background and after say 5 seconds be
autoforwarded to the current page.
Actually, you could use this for the
page-a-week system too.
For an example of a working referral page,
(I at one point moved the original into a
Bo Leuf firstname.lastname@example.org
Leuf fc3 Consultancy
Yep, that would all make sense if I went to a page-per-day
format. But I don't think I'm going to. I've gotten a dozen or so
responses already, and going to a page-per-day format has gotten zero
votes so far.
Thanks for the suggestions, though.
* * * * *
This from Chuck Waggoner [email@example.com]:
Like Gary Berg, I prefer the weekly over
daily pages. I use IE to 'subscribe' to your site, and the new system of
'currentweek' and 'lastweek' works wonderfully! No more changing the
subscription URL every week.
Another factor making weekly pages better
for me, is that there are some weeks when, for several days in a row,
I'm too busy to read. The weekly pages let me catch up late in the week
without missing anything, whereas with a daily page and using
'subscriptions', I'd have to go online and manually retrieve the days I
missed. Download time is really not a factor for me, since it's a
subscription that I view offline.
I must be in a minority on this subscription
business, as I never read of anyone else employing it, but I decided
some time ago, that it was a good way to shave some time off the day:
waiting on a page to load while surfing online IS time lost.
I have another IE quirk to add to the list.
Ever since I upgraded to IE4, when I opened a downloaded subscription by
clicking on it in the 'manage subscriptions' window, it opened that page
in the first occasion of IE that I had opened. Starting suddenly last
week, it now opens pages in the LAST occurrence of IE that I have
opened. This is ridiculous. There should be some control over this
behavior. It would be best if it opened pages in a new window, instead
of preempting a window already in use, but that is not an option in the
'manage subscriptions' window, even with a right click of the mouse.
The New York Times Quick News page at
still dials up my modem by itself every 20
minutes then leaves the connection hanging on, if I leave it open in a
browser window. I do that accidentally sometimes. This is another
procedure over which there should be some control; it occurs even if I'm
set to 'work offline'.
And on the video vs. film discussion, NYTimes
reports today that digital projector technology is now good enough
to replace film as the medium of distribution for theater exhibition.
Hollywood sources were quoted as saying there is no longer a discernable
difference between film and video projection in side-by-side
comparisons, except that film had "that jittery movement and the
electronic one didn't". Having worked on a television series that
brought me close to the movie industry for a number of years, I can
attest that theater exhibitors are just waiting on the edge of their
seats to jump at this when it comes. They want to be able to use
computers to automate the downlinking of their movies from satellite,
just like local TV stations dial in network and syndicated fare from
satellite these days, instead of 'bicycling' tapes around the country as
was done in the old days before satellites, and which is still
essentially the method used by Hollywood to get their films out to the
In those older days of TV talk shows like
Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, and Dinah Shore, the same program was not
seen by everyone across the country on the same day. Instead, about 20
markets saw a show, then those tapes were rotated to another 20 markets,
and that continued until all stations in the country had seen those
programs. Today, the tapes are gone, and Oprah, Rikki Lake, and the
like, are most often picked up directly from satellite on one of many
feeds provided throughout the day.
Like the earlier days of television, so it
is now with movies. Lots of smaller towns have to wait a few weeks,
while limited numbers of prints are sent first to the big cities in
order to maximize the impact of advertising in the places where there is
likely to be the biggest return. But all that will end when movies are
sent by satellite, instead of film--and a lot of film and shipping costs
will be saved, too.
We really do live in an incredible age.
I think Microsoft blew it in naming subscriptions. Until I
installed IE5, I thought subscriptions were related to channels and push
technology. I had no interest in that, so I didn't pay any attention to
subscriptions. I suspect many other people assumed the same thing, because
Microsoft no longer calls it "subscriptions" in IE5. It's now
"off-line browsing," which got my attention immediately.
I'm not surprised that digital is coming to the fore in
traditional movie theatres now. Like television, movies use relatively low
picture quality compared to still photography. Stringing together frames
at 24 or 30 per second overcomes minor defects in the individual images,
so I guess digital is good enough for movies, although it's still not
ready for prime-time in still photography for other than very specialized
purposes like news photography. You're not likely, for example, to see
Advertising or Industrial photographers move to digital any time soon.
Although movie theatres may cheer the arrival of electronic
distribution, it's really another nail in their coffins. Movie theatres,
like book and music stores, have traditionally used distribution friction
to ensure their profitability. Anything that reduces that distribution
friction is not good news for them in the long run. Although I seldom
agree with John Dvorak, he has a very good column
this week that explains why MP3 is going to kill the traditional music
industry. Electronic distribution will ultimately kill the book and movie
industries as well. Not the content development portions of them, but the
* * * * *
And this from Tom Syroid Tom Syroid [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
Add my vote for a weekly Daynotes format.
Obviously, download times are not really a factor for me, but the
structure and organization is. I think youíll end up being surprised
at just how much more work a one-page-a-day format is, and Iíd prefer
to read your words than see your layouts. Donít forget the principle
of KISS ó itís applicable here. What you have works. In my opinion,
it works well.
Well, the week-per-page format is certainly less work for
me. Everyone seems to prefer it, so I'm sticking with it. Everyone wins.
* * * * *
This from Robert Webb [email@example.com]:
As both you and Jerry are found of saying
"It is good enough". And I agree with Mr. Berg, I often look
back at previous days to remind myself of the current topics.
Thanks. Good Enough is good enough. I think the saying
"Perfect is the enemy of good enough" is now attributed to
Soviet Admiral Gorshkov, but I'm pretty sure it dates back much further
than that. Something tells me that someone will track that down and tell
February 24, 1999
Thanks to everyone who emailed me to say that this page was scrolling
horizontally. I tried to fix the problem yesterday and publish the
changes, but I wasn't able to publish to my server. At first, I thought
the problem was at the server, but I was having all kinds of problems
getting to anything on the Internet yesterday afternoon, so it appears
that either my ISP or the Internet in general was having some problems.
So I'm covered up in mail. I'd thought about staring a separate mail
page, but that would give me two pages to keep updated and you two pages
to read each day instead of one. The overwhelming concensus seems to be
that people want everything in one place. So I'll keep putting reader mail
here unless it just become ridiculous.
I finished up one chapter yesterday and got a good start on another.
Barbara started feeling ill last night. I'm afraid she may have what I
had. When she starts feeling better, I'll have her go over the chapter I
just finished in detail before I submit it. And now to see if I can
publish this morning...
* * * * *
A followup from Bruce Denman [bdenman@FTC-I.NET]:
> I'm not surprised that you need to strip Win9x down to bare
....I have never run NT. I now use Win98 but
have used Win95 in a work environment (I managed a computer store in
Florence SC for awhile (long story) and it had a Novell setup with Win95
on the workstations). Before that I used Win 3.1/DOS before that 20 plus
years on puters; big and small (but am not programmer). Anyway, early
on, I learned to either do or recommend an annual install of Win95.
Appears Win98 also needs it. I probably should learn something about NT;
that is the future it would appear.
> I keep a couple of Win9x boxes around the house for testing,
doing screen shots for books, etc., but I can't imagine actually using
it as my day-to-day operating system.
....I too cringe on using Win95/98 as a
day-to-day perating system for a small business. Beside the stability
problems, backup/restore is not for the faint of heart nor novices. My
wife's office (property management) went to Win95 in January (two
systems networked peer-to-peer) The owner's son did upgrade. I am
waiting for shoe to drop (he lives/works 50 miles away). They do data
backup on tape but the potential for major system problems/crash is
still there. (Before the upgrade I provided the general support on the
old system as an unpaid resource; now I won't touch it).
> I'd like to think that if I had advertisers I could remain
completely objective, but I can't imagine that that would be the case.
....Mental chinese wall? Guess it depends on
dependence and need. The appearance of conflict of interest would still
be there even if one attempts to be totally honest.
One last item. Your comment on MSIE 5beta;
yestersay I thought why not. Came to find out they took the download off
the update page. They are now taking paid orders for the final release
on CD to be released on Mar 17. Course; the order page says 6 to 8 weeks
Well; enough for now. By the way; don't feel
you have to respond to all my blatherings...tho it is appreciated.
Thanks. Yes, you really should try NT. As far as IE5
beta, I'm not surprised they pulled it. They probably don't want people
downloading and installing the beta if the release version is going to
ship shortly. I expect they'll post the release version for download
before long. In the meantime, IE5 beta is working fine for me.
And this follow-up from Bruce:
error: Earlier I said Microsoft is taking
orders for the final release on CD to be released on Mar 17 with 6 to 8
correction: Make that March 18 and 8 to 10
weeks delivery. Cost is $6.95 plus tax
* * * * *
This from Gary M. Berg [Gary_Berg@ibm.net]:
Something in your current view is forcing me
to scroll left/right on an 800x600 screen with IE4. It might be your day
separator line, but I've not had this problem before.
Hmmm. This doesn't happen to me too often, but when it does
it's almost always deeply nested blockquotes that are causing the problem.
Ordinarily, I can just call up the page in IE, do a View-Source, scroll
Notepad's display all the way over, and then start scrolling down. The
line causing the problem normally stands out because it's extremley long
in Notepad. I just did that, and can't find an extremely long line. I
noticed a couple--most those from people's URLs in their sigs and the
embedded references to NY Times URLS, etc.--that were a bit long, but
nothing extraordinary. At any rate, I've gone back and put the long URLs
on their own lines, so that may fix the problem.
* * * * *
This from Cam Voelker from Waterloo Ontario Canada [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
I have been reading and enjoying your daily
reports. I noticed some comments you made in the last several days about
pipe smoking and health insurance.
I think you should be happy that there are
people in your 'group' whose risk experience is a lot better than yours
- otherwise you would be paying even more than you are now.
If the group is too homogeneous isn't it
likely to be too small to spread the risks around? Others in your
'group' who think they have or in fact have a better experience - will
feel the same way about you as you do about teenage males, women etc.
I think what should be attractive about
insurance (quite apart from the business aspects) is that people are
able to spread the risk around so that no one is destroyed financially
if they suffer from an adverse health episode. If you keep trying to
focus the group and exclude those at higher risk - won't you eventually
find yourself logically in a group of one - paying your health care
costs from your savings and good credit rating?
Health care is a publicly funded program for
citizens in Canada. We pay much more in taxes and much much less (in
most provinces - no health insurance premiums) in health insurance
premiums. All citizens are offered the same levels of service and care,
regardless of ability to pay. (To a degree, knowledge and influence can
be used to move up in the queue or to access more advanced types of
treatment - in the same way these factors would be used by informed
American consumers of health care).
I don't want to make judgements about the
merits of the two approaches - but the Canadian way is my preference. I
prefer health care funded through 'social policy' even if it leads to
under-employment of actuaries.
I envy you your pipe smoking. I too smoked a
pipe in preference to cigarettes or cigars - for about 20 years. I quit
about 10 years ago and still miss the effect of smoking my pipe while
trying to create or edit text. Fresh coffee with a pipe was a great
pleasure of each day. I find myself attracted to the smell of pipe
tobacco and quite repelled by the smell of cigarette smoke. BUT, I do
not miss the frequent clearing of my throat before talking that was a
routine part of my behaviour as a pipe smoker. (Yes, of course I
If pipe smokers experience the average
incidence of cardiovascular disease they may have been at lower risk by
virtue of stress tolerance and other personality traits - and the
smoking simply moves them back to average. I think pipe smokers are
probably more laid back and not your stereotypical Type A's. Finally, I
am pretty sure that pipe smokers experience a higher incidence of lip,
mouth, and other cancers of the upper airways - than do non pipe smokers
Still, when I smell good pipe tobacco smoked
by someone using a clean pipe - I think the health risks may be a
reasonable price to pay for the pleasure.
Waterloo Ontario Canada
Well, I guess it's a matter of philosophy. I believe that
people should get what they pay for and pay for what they get. Medical
care should, like anything else, be rationed by market forces. I'd like to
drive a Rolls-Royce, but I can't afford one so I make do with my Isuza
Trooper. I don't begrudge those who can afford a Rolls-Royce their right
to buy one. And the argument that health care is somehow essential and so
should be subsidized misses the point. The problem with subsidizing
something like medical care is that the demand, although finite in an
absolute sense, is effectively unlimited, while resources are very much
limited. All that subsidized "universal" health care does is
make resource allocation decisions that twist resource delivery in favor
of the poor at the expense of the middle- and upper classes, who are
ultimately the ones paying for it.
In theory, the idea of universal health insurance coverage
is attractive to many people. But in practice, it never works out. Rather
than raising the poor and uninsured to the level of the rich and insured,
it simply reduces the quality of care available to everyone to a
least-common-denominator level. We see that happening now in the US, where
women who have just given birth are being sent home early and against
their doctors' advice because insurance no longer covers a longer stay.
These are women that have medical insurance, and would formerly have
stayed in hospital for two or three days, but are now being forced out in
There's a good reason why people from all over the world,
including Canada, come to the US for health care if they can afford it.
The level of care available to those who can pay for it is still by far
the highest in the world. But the evil "if everyone can't have it, no
one can have it" mindset damages that. Equipment or drugs that are
too expensive for general use will no longer be developed because there
will be no one to pay for them. In the past, this stuff trickled down. The
wealthy and insured paid the development costs. As those costs were
amortized, the technology became cheaper and more widely available. But
the way things are going now, companies won't risk the venture funding
needed to make breakthroughs because they won't be able to earn back those
costs. That damages the structure of the medical care system, and it's all
due to socialized medicine.
As far as grouping people for insurance, that is the entire
heart of the matter. If you don't group people into reasonable
risk-groups, a process called adverse selection occurs. Assume, for
example, that life insurance was sold without consideration for sex, age,
or health. In order to make money, the insurance company would have to set
premiums at a level that covered their losses and administrative costs.
But under your system, a 25 year old woman in good health would pay
exactly the same premium as an elderly man with severe health problems.
What happens, of course, is that the elderly man buys as much insurance as
he can afford at a rate that's being subsidized by the young woman. But
she's no fool. She understands that she's being grossly overcharged, and
so either goes without insurance entirely or else buys insurance from
another company that does recognize that she should pay a lower premium.
My objection to their charging me a higher rate for smoking
a pipe, grouping me in with cigarette smokers, is that pipe smokers
demonstrably (by every study ever done) live longer than even non-smokers
and have fewer and less severe health problems than do non-smokers. You
are correct that this is probably because people who smoke pipes are
classic laid-back B-type personalities, but the fact remains that overall
pipe smokers should get a better rate than non-smokers. And, yes, pipe
smokers do have a higher incidence of mouth cancer than non-smokers, but
pipe smoker's lower incidence of such things as heart attacks, strokes,
etc. more than makes up for that.
* * * * *
This from Dave Farquhar [email@example.com]:
I'd like to think there'd be a market for
such a hardware review site as you describe. Maybe I'm just being a
grumpy old man here, but I liked Tom's Hardware a whole lot better way
back when it first started out. I think it did have a little advertising
even then, but we were talking one or two ads on the site, and it was
just one guy with FrontPage. It seemed more geniune then. ("In my
day, we didn't have 47 blinky ads flashing at us -- it was blue text on
a white screen talking about 83 MHz bus speeds and we liked it!")
It's possible to accept advertising and stay
objective, but you really have to work at it. The key at every
publication I wrote for back when I was a practicing journalist was
keeping the staff separated. The advertising folks had very little or
nothing to do with the editorial folks. The advertisers never talked to
anyone in editorial, and the culture always dictated that the ad people
and the writers didn't talk, and the ad people only talked to the
designers to give them the specs for the ads they'd have to design
But a one-person operation can't have that
culture, and I'd have to say I wonder sometimes about the objectivity
even of print computer magazines. Frequently they seem to do more for
Microsoft's PR than Microsoft's own PR team -- I still remember a
PC/Computing cover that read "Windows 97! Office 97! The two most
significant breakthroughs since the invention of the PC!" Come
on... These judgments were based on beta code, and as we all know,
Office 97 was an evolutionary improvement over Office 95 (but with some
major issues), and of course, Windows 97 became Windows 98, which was
also just an evolutionary improvement.
Now, whether enough people would pay $20-$50
a year to make the thing worthwhile, and whether the thing would still
leave you enough time to write books, are two very big, very tough
questions. Would people prefer just to buy a copy of the upcoming
"Good Enough for Chaos Manor" book every year instead? There
aren't many success stories of pay sites on the Web. I paid for a
subscription to Jerry Pournelle's site, but I have to admit, I didn't
expect it to make it, and as much as I hate to say it, if money was
Jerry's #1 priority, I doubt he'd be doing it. He'd make more writing
books that people pay for -- or doing anything but writing, seeing as
most writers make a pittance. There's a reason why I have a journalism
degree and I fix computers full-time...
I'd like to think there's a market, too, but I'm not sure
there is. At least not on a subscription basis. As the US government
discovered a long time ago with withholding, it's a lot easier to get
money if you make the process essentially invisible than if people
actually have to cough it up. Advertising-based sites work because their
funding is invisible to the user. We all pay a hidden "advertising
tax" every time we buy something. Then we get "free" access
to stuff, whether it's Tom's Hardware or network television shows. So, in
essence, companies make us pay for the privilege of watching their
But with that comes biased material. Unless and until one
realizes that the "content" is just the cheese in the trap, one
might believe that the content is the purpose and the commercials are just
a distraction. The reality, of course, is that the commercials are the
purpose and the content is simply a means to an end.
And that's why I believe you're wrong about firewalling
advertising from editorial. Oh, I know that many organizations make an
effort to do that. Jerry frequently mentions BYTE and the way they
completely isolated him from advertiser pressure. And I'm sure he's right
in a direct tactical sense. If Jerry had something bad to say about the
latest Frammus, I'm sure that he could say it without worrying about what
would happen when BYTE got a letter of protest from Frammus, Inc.
But in a larger, strategic sense, no advertising-supported
endeavor can long survive if it does not place the needs of advertisers
first. The needs of consumers must take a far-distant second, if that.
Perhaps that's why BYTE folded. Maybe they made the mistake of thinking
that they could place the needs of consumers above those of advertisers.
If I start up such a web site, I want to be accountable to
my readers, and only to my readers. As anyone familiar with public
television will tell you, very few people voluntarily support something if
there's no good reason to do so. So if I am going to make a subscription
site work, it'd have to be by giving people a strong incentive to become
paying members. If micromoney ever becomes ubiquitous, that'd work, too.
Most people wouldn't mind in the slightest having five cents a day or a
penny per page or whatever deducted from their wallets invisibly.
Actually, micromoney would be the best method, because one
would get immediate feedback. With annual subscriptions, if you're doing
something wrong the first real sign is when people don't renew their
subscriptions in droves. With micromoney you get that feedback on a daily
* * * * *
This from Tim Werth [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
Just my $.02 but I think you would have many
more people willing to subscribe to a hardware site @ $10/year versus
$30. My rationale is that I had no problem sending Jerry Pournelle $10
when he asked for it last year to help sustain his web site. Whereas @
$30 a lot more people would simply read what is easily available. Even
though $30 isn't even the cost of a night out anymore (unless your
wife/date doesn't mind Taco Bell and a dollar theater).
The other thought is that there are already
several hardware sites on the web, Tom's, Anandtech, Sharky's, etc. They
mostly concentrate on the latest and greatest thing that can run 3D
games the fastest. Usually when I put a machine together I am looking
for the most stable and compatible m/board, processor, video card, etc.
that gives me the most bang for the buck. For instance I recently but
together a system around a P5A m/board from Asus and used an AMD K6-2
350 and a Matrox G200 Millennium video card. I've had good luck in the
past w/AMD chips and Matrox cards and the fact that I don't play many 3D
games. Therefore I was willing to sacrifice some performance (floating
point w/the chip and 3D w/the video) and go w/a cheaper chip and video
card from companies that I've had good luck with before. As Pournelle
says, good enough is good enough.
So to sum up what I'm saying is if you're
interested in putting up a hardware site I think the "Good
Enough" aspect is what is not already being covered on the web.
Besides, that is what most people are actually looking to build anyway
so that would be a good niche to shoot for. Anyway, you asked for it so
there is my $.02. Talk to you later.
Thanks. I suspect the reason that these sites concentrate
on 3D and gaming is because that's what a lot of people want to read
about. As Willie Sutton never said, "I rob banks because that's where
the money is." But the Good Enough issue is something I hadn't though
* * * * *
The following from Warrick M. Locke [email@example.com]:
Add my vote to continue the weekly format.
As usual, I do have a suggestion...
Move the <Sunday> <Monday> ..etc
links so they appear on the first load in 800x600. That way us codgers
with antedeluvian hardware don't have to click the down-arrow to get to
Thanks. It's not just people running 800X600, either. I run
1024X768, and I can't see past about Tuesday or Wednesday. I've put a
horizontal menu at the very top that should solve the problem.
* * * * *
This from Tom Syroid:
As far as you idea of a hardware site, I
support you 100% ó providing you keep a structured, useable design
like you do now (which I take for granted would be the case, but I
thought it important to add). The only reason I donít send Pournelle
subscription money is that it is a ratís nest to find anything on.
There is literally gobs of worthy information there, but as you and I
both have remarked on occasion, it is not readily accessible except if
you have 3 hours to dig ó and even then there are no guarantees. (Iím
still hunting for something I remember seeing 3 or 4 months ago) If he
ever decides to take the time to clean up his design a bit, heíll get
How much would I be willing to pay? That very much depends on how good
and relevant the content is to my own interests. $30/yr goes without
saying. For $50 it had better be good ó consistently good. Cuz thatís
about $75 CDN.
I think itís do-able, but youíll need help. Good quality help. And
time. Lotís of that too. How many books do you have lined up over the
next 2 years??
You're right that such a site would be very labor
intensive. I couldn't do it all myself, which is one of the reasons why I
mentioned that it'd need to generate at least $100K/year gross to start. I
have four books currently under contract with O'Reilly, including the one
I'm working on now, the book with Pournelle, and two W2K books.
* * * * *
The following from Dennis Loretz:
I am interested in home networking. I work
in the Air Force, but not in a computer field. I am, however, the local
"LAN administrator" and computer "geek" for my small
(22 pc) computer-dependent office. My experiences are limited in the
field of networking; I can easily setup a Win95 machine to log onto an
NT network. But I am really getting interested expanding; setting up NT
servers. ANYWAY . . .
I recently built a pc for my son (p166, 32mb
RAM, 2gb hd, Win95 OSR2, sound, cdrom), and was thinking about setting
up NT server 4/5/2000 on mine (AMD K6-2/300, 64mb RAM, 8.4gb hd, Win95
OSR2, sound, cdrom, soon-to-have CDR). I have a pair of ISA 10mb generic
NICs, and am looking for a small 4-port hub with UTP cabling. I have a
few pieces laying around for another pc (486 DX2/66), just haven't put
it together. Maybe a BDC? Does this config sound reasonable for a
beginner? Thanks for any help!!
Yes, that sounds fine. Windows NT Server 4 will run happily
on your main system. In fact, with 64 MB, it'll probably "feel"
a little faster than Win95. If you don't care about NTFS security and so
on, you can just install Windows NT to your existing FAT partitions,
assuming they're FAT16 rather than FAT32. The 486/66 is marginal for NT,
at least as an interactive system. But it'll do fine as a BDC, and could
also be converted to a network "resource server" which you could
use to share hard disk space, share Internet access via a proxy server
like WinGate, etc.
With 100BaseT getting cheap now, I'd be inclined to go with
100BaseT stuff. Make sure the cables you get are Category 5 (rated for 100
Mbps use) whether or not you start with 10BaseT or 100BaseT. Small
100BaseT hubs aren't that much more expensive than 10BaseT hubs nowadays.
You can find four- and five-port 100BaseT hubs for $50 or $75 and
eight-port ones for $150. Make sure to get enough ports. Four- and
five-port versions are normally very close in price, and that extra port
is worthwhile. Consider going to an eight-port version if there's any
chance you'll ever want more than four or five ports. If you decide to use
your existing 10BaseT adapters with a Fast Ethernet hub, make sure it's a
"10/100" hub rather than a "100 only" hub. The latter
work only with 100BaseT cards, while the former automatically detect 10
versus 100 and run the port at the proper speed, allowing you to mix and
match 10 and 100 cards.
* * * * *
Well, it took more than 15 minutes to publish this morning, but it did
eventually publish. I wasn't sure if I'd fixed the horizontal scrolling
problem which wasn't showing up on my 1024X768 monitor, so I tried
downloading the page on a system that runs 800X600. It was still
scrolling. I finally tracked the problem down to a long NY Times URL. I
hate to edit reader mail in even minor ways, but I decided it was
justified to change that message slightly by embedding the URL into the
description rather than leaving it visible as plain text. And that solved
the problem. The URL was simply too long in text form to display properly
on an 800X600 screen.
And Internet Explorer 5.0 is about to drive me mad. The first bad thing
I noticed versus IE4 is that the auto-complete doesn't work the same way.
For example, with IE4 when I wanted to visit Pournelle's web site, I could
just type "www.jer" in the address field. After a brief pause,
IE4 would fill in http://www.jerrypournelle.com
and I could just hit enter and go to the site. With IE5, it doesn't work
this way. When I type in "www.jer", IE5 displays a drop-down
list of sites that match the fragment I entered. I then have to move the
mouse to the one I want and click on it. This is significantly less
convenient than the IE4 method. In fact, it's useless. Microsoft still
calls it "auto-complete" but what it really is is
But that's not what's driving me mad about IE5. The problem is this: I
open a site, say www.microsoft.com
in the first instance of IE5. I navigate that site and find a page I want
to keep up for the time being. Then I decide to visit another web site, so
I open another instance of IE5 and enter the address for that new site.
But IE5 displays that new site in the first instance of the program,
rather than the new instance. The new instance always displays my start
page, which happens to be the home page of this site on the local copy.
And it doesn't matter how I open the new instance. Whether I double click
the IE5 icon on the desktop or choose File - New - Window from within IE5,
it always opens the new site in the old window. That's just about enough
to make the product unusable for me, and I can't find anywhere in Tools -
Internet Options or elsewhere to change this behavior.
Well, now it's time to try publishing this. It's about 11:45 a.m. EST.
If I had a tough time getting it published earlier this morning, it's
liable not to work at all now. But I'll give it a shot.
February 25, 1999
I was able to publish normally yesterday afternoon. It took a bit
longer than it usually does when I publish in the morning, but not
excessively so. I'm beginning to suspect that the time-out problems I
sometimes experience while publishing have more to do with the current
activity level on the Internet than anything else. There doesn't appear to
be any way to modify time-out settings in the local copy of FrontPage.
There may be such a setting on the Server Extensions, but I haven't
checked the docs for them to find out. Even if there is, I'm not sure I
could talk my web service provider into changing them.
And there's been some discussion about whether and how much reader
reviews on Amazon.com affect book sales. Common sense says that a lot of
good reviews should help a book sell better, but I'm not sure how much of
a factor, if any, they really play. Some books have a lot of mediocre and
bad reader reviews and still appear to sell well, but a lot of good
reviews can't hurt. At least I suppose that's the case. There are
currently four reviews, all five stars, posted for my latest book, Windows
NT TCP/IP Network Administration, but the more the better. If
you've read it and would be willing to take a few minutes to write a
reader review of it on Amazon.com, please click
here. Please note that I'm not trying to stuff the ballot box.
If you haven't read the book, please don't post a review as a favor to me
* * * * *
This follow-up from Dennis Loretz:
Appreciate the reply. Perhaps the 486 will
work better as a file server/answering machine as you mentioned. Maybe
start collecting parts for a low-end Pentium system in the future for a
BDC/file server. Will have to check with father-in-law; he has been
bitten by the computer bug for awhile now and is always scrounging parts
. . . :-)
Current harddrive configuration is: 4gb
FAT32 (C:\), 2gb FAT 32 (D:\), and another 2gb FAT 32 (E:\) = 8.4gb. C:
loaded with 95 OSR2 and D: primarily misc storage. E: left open for
installing NT server or workstation, for dual boot system. PLANNED.
Haven't the guts to go ahead with the install.
I did look up dual booting in the Microsoft
Support Online database though, and didn't find much about general
installation FAQs. Try and see, I guess!!
I have enjoyed the last few nights browsing
your website. Well written; not too technical but won't bore me to sleep
either! I like the "Daynotes", let's me review at my own pace.
As my Internet time is spotty (wife, two little kids, and a new puppy) I
have begun coveting my time in front of the "blue screen"!!
I'd think twice before I built a low-end Pentium system,
unless you'll be building it exclusively from scrounged parts. If you have
to buy stuff, for not much more money, you can put together a much more
capable system around a Celeron/300A, which you can overclock to 450 MHz
if you're ambitious.
As far as dual-booting, you're going to have a problem with
FAT32. Installing WinNT as dual-boot on an existing Win9x system running
FAT16 is a no-brainer. You just install WinNT, and it configures dual-boot
automatically. With FAT32, the problem is that WinNT can't see the
partition and so can't install dual-boot.
I dislike FAT32. It's noticeably slower than FAT16, and the
only two problems it solves aren't really very big problems anyway. FAT32
lets you use larger partitions and avoids wasting disk space with large
clusters that result in a lot of slack space. But for most people, using
multiple 2 GB partitions is a better idea than using one huge partition,
and with disk space at a couple cents a megabyte, slack space is a minor
* * * * *
This from Wesley Moore:
Re: your stated interest in digital camers
and specifically the Sony Mavica's.
I saw an ad in a magazine that said they
have new models that support 1024x768 res jpegs and vga res bitmaps, not
to mention voice annotation and mpeg recording capability. These url's
are essentially the brochure pages on Sony's web site. You might check
it out when you have time. Noted, it says the cameras
"display" images at 1024x768, but not that they record at a
higher native resolution, and they can alternatively store images as
uncompressed bitmaps for better quality, but only as vga(which to me
means 640x480). I wonder if you could get an eval unit or two? The
"91" is the extra feature model, natch. I am sort of motivated
to send you this 'cause I too am interested in these camera's, but it's
not likely I can get hold of them for evaluation and I think I trust
your judgement in matters photographic.
I looked at the specs on the FD-81 and FD-91 models, and I
would indeed like to get evaluation units of them. But Sony is so large
that even finding a contact person there is nearly impossible. I actually
spent an hour trying to do that, sending emails to various addresses from
which I never heard back, and bouncing around in their automated attendant
system. If anyone knows of a good contact person there, I'd appreciate the
information, but I simply don't have the time to spend on tracking one
With digital cameras, naturally enough I suppose, people
tend to fixate on the inherent resolution. That's important, certainly,
but just as important is the optical quality of the lens itself. On the
FD-71, Sony uses a decent glass zoom lens that provides about 10X optical
zoom. I've seen many other cameras that use cheap lenses more suitable for
an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera, and attempt to make up for the lack
of decent optics with "digital zoom". The problem with digital
zoom is that it's not really zoom at all. All they're doing is taking the
existing image and making it larger, filling in pixels for which they have
no information with interpolated pixels. Back when I was building
telescopes, we called this "empty magnification". In other
words, making the image larger, but without any additional information.
In short, I'd rather have a Sony that offers 1024X768
inherent resolution and is equipped with a good lens that has a wide
optical zoom range than a camera with somewhat higher inherent resolution
that's equipped with an inferior lens.
* * * * *
I just spent fifteen minutes of my time to correct a 45 cent billing
error on my cell phone bill. I use GTE Wireless, and they seem to have a
problem billing me for the correct amount. It may be coincidental, but the
mistake is always in their favor, and always by a small amount. The deal I
have bundles in some unrelated services, including the Mr. Rescue roadside
assistance program. A couple of months ago, they increased the price of
that service from $2.50 to $2.95 per phone. They billed me the $2.95 on
each of the two lines that's included in the deal, but credited me only
$2.50 per line, leading to a bill that was $0.90 too high. I called them
last month and they said they'd fixed it for that and all subsequent
When I got this month's bill, I noticed that it was for $44.87 rather
than the correct $44.43. That sounded suspiciously like they'd failed to
issue a $0.45 credit on one of the lines (with the minor difference being
due to taxes charged and credited), so I looked at the bill. Sure enough,
they'd credited me the full $2.95 on my first phone, but only $2.50 on the
second. I called them up and they fixed it for this bill, again claiming
that it'd be fixed for good. We'll see.
But what I wonder is whether this is really unintentional or whether
they do it on purpose. Overcharging by $0.45 or $0.90 may not seem like
much, but I wonder how many people just pay the damned bill rather than
wasting their time to fix an error of a few cents. But if that error is on
100,000 people's bills, that means that GTE is overcharging by at least
$45,000 per month or $540,000 a year, which goes straight to their bottom
line. If it's on a million bills, that adds $5.4 million to their profits.
February 26, 1999
I sent another chapter off to O'Reilly first thing this morning, and
will dive into the next chapter as soon as I finish publishing this.
I'm doing some internal reorganization of the site, so if you notice
any broken bookmarks, that's probably why. Right now, I have probably 200
files or more in my main folder, including close to fifty Daynotes weekly
files, many images, etc. I'm gradually creating a folder structure and
moving files to folders appropriate to their purpose. I say gradually,
because I don't want to have to republish my entire web all at one time.
Publishing is iffy enough when there are only a few files to be updated.
But I'll leave the commonly accessed files--the home page, thisweek.html,
lastweek.html, etc. in the home folder, so most bookmarks should continue
to work normally.
And in the course of doing this I've found yet another bug in
FrontPage. The Timestamp bot has two settings. One causes FrontPage to
display the date the file was last edited manually, but ignores automatic
edits such as link updates when files are moved. The second causes
FrontPage to display the date the file was last changed in any manner,
manually or automatically. I have the timestamp bots on all my pages set
to the first option. But it doesn't work properly. Some, perhaps all, of
my pages are displaying an updated date when all that's happened is that
they've been updated automatically to reflect a new folder location. Oh
And I have my weekly network backup and other administrative stuff to
get done. As the penguin says, it's back to work for me...
February 27, 1999
Well, it finally happened. I tend to put off going to the barber,
particularly when I'm busy, which I usually am these days. My barber
doesn't take appointments, and I sometimes have to sit for an hour
waiting. So I seldom get my hair cut more than about once every three
months, and it's sometimes four. My hair is curly, so it doesn't get in my
eyes or anything. It just gets thicker and thicker. When my hair starts to
get very long, Barbara frequently urges me to visit the barber by telling
me that if I don't she'll cut it herself. The other night, I told her to
go ahead and do it. She did, and she did a pretty good job of it, I think.
We went to dinner last night at a little Chinese place in a strip
shopping center not far from our home. When we arrived, there was a
parking place right out front. We'd pulled partially into it before we
noticed a couple of ducks (Mallards, I think) nestled up against the
concrete log that blocked the parking place from the sidewalk. They were a
male and a female, obviously a mating pair, and we at first thought that
one of them had been injured. We were going to call the Wildlife Rescue
folks, but noticed the restaurant staff watching us and the ducks. We went
in, and they told us that the ducks were regular visitors. They come by
every evening for a handout of fried rice.
I woke up early this morning, so I decided to write a brief update here
and see what happens when I try to publish before dawn on a Saturday
morning. I'll give it a try now.
* * * * *
8:00 a.m. -
well, that didn't work very well. FrontPage appeared to be publishing
normally, but after it uploaded the pages it sat for several minutes and
then timed out, telling me that publishing had not succeeded. I also
relearned a FrontPage lesson: never answer Yes
to all when FrontPage wants to overwrite or delete files on the
server. Actually, I verified each file individually, but I
answered Yes to each prompt. That was a mistake. FrontPage told me that I
had deleted several images from the Images folder and asked if I wanted to
delete them on the server. I didn't think I'd deleted them, but I had been
moving stuff around, so I told it to go ahead and delete them from the
server. That was a mistake, as I verified later by looking at the pages
that contained the images. I copied and pasted them from my backup, so
they should be back where they belong when I publish this.
* * * * *
Barbara was terrified last night by the way our younger Border Collie,
Duncan, was behaving. He was making hacking sounds and shaking his head.
He'd just been outside, and she was afraid he'd gotten a twig lodged in
his throat or something. I thought he just had a severe case of hiccoughs,
because he was breathing normally, bringing the ball to play, and
otherwise seemed normal. Because of Barbara's concern, I even tried the
Doglich Maneuver to expel anything he might have caught in his throat. I
finally got Barbara to call our friend, Sue Stephens, who is also our vet.
Barbara hates to impose on her, but I have no such qualms when the health
of my dog is in question.
As it turns out, Duncan (who has allergies) was sneezing. Sue explained
that dogs sneeze two ways. First, in a way that pretty much resembles a
person sneezing. That we are used to seeing. But Dr. Sue says that dogs
also sneeze internally when they're trying to clear their snouts. We'd
never seen that before, and that's what Duncan was doing.
February 28, 1999
As my long-time readers know, one of my concerns is the perversion of
science to suit the goals of the Politically Correct and other
know-nothings. Although this should go without saying, it doesn't
nowadays: a scientist is an investigator, not an advocate. Terms like
"environmentalist scientist" are oxymorons. A scientist has no
predetermined notions about how an experiment will (or should) turn out.
To a scientist, the purpose of an experiment is to go there and find out,
not to "prove" a preconceived belief.
A scientist gathers facts, examines them, and attempts to craft a
hypothesis that fits all of the known facts. If a scientist uncovers new
facts that do not fit the existing hypothesis, he discards or revises his
hypothesis to accommodate the new data. A fact is. A fact speaks
for itself. It requires no justification. A fact must be reproducible by
others who perform the same experiment. To a scientist, there is no such
thing as an inconvenient fact, or one that should be explained away or
ignored. Science, then, is based upon reason and logic.
But pseudo-science is becoming increasingly accepted in the collective
consciousness. Worse still, the distinction between science and
pseudo-science is becoming blurred. Pseudo-science has always been with
us. Alchemy, astrology, numerology, and so on appeal to the credulous. In
the past, intelligent, educated people have recognized pseudo-sciences for
the frauds that they are. But our schools long ago ceased teaching our
children even the rudiments of logic and reasoning, and many (perhaps
most) of our newly-minted "scientists" are not scientists at
all. Oh, they have degrees in chemistry or physics or biology, they wear
white coats, and they work in laboratories, but they're not really
scientists at all, any more than astrologers are. Their logic processes
are flawed or non-existent. A scientist is a scientist because of the way
he thinks, not because of his college degree or his job title.
As an example, I corresponded not long ago with a young man who
represented himself to be a scientist, and who was in fact employed by the
U.S. government in such a role. During the exchange of emails, I mentioned
the famous post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore
because of this) logical fallacy. He had never heard the term. Worse
still, he was unfamiliar with the concept itself, which is fundamental to
science. I referred him to a web
page that explains logical fallacies. Perhaps that will be enough to
get him started in the right direction, but I somehow doubt it.
In the current Politically Correct environment, science is under
attack. That is so because science concerns itself with facts, and facts
are often inconvenient things for those who are pursuing an agenda. Those
who are the enemies of science would prefer that it just go away quietly,
leaving them free to proliferate their ignorance. But science is strong,
so they must instead take measures to kill it or co-opt it. A frontal
assault is always costly and uncertain of success. Attack from within is
slower, perhaps, but ultimately more certain.
And so we see a two-pronged attack on science. First, attack science
through the popular media, by attributing positions to science which no
self-respecting scientist holds. See the Junk
Science web site for many examples. Second, choke off the flow of new
scientists by mandating Politically Correct curricula in science
education. Science must ultimately die if there are no new scientists. If
this attack on science succeeds, we're destined for a new Dark Age. And
right now it looks as though the bad guys are winning.
* * * * *
I wasn't able to publish this morning's update because my web server is
non-responsive. Something tells me I won't have much luck this time,
either, but I'll give it a try. I know it's the server itself causing the
problem, because I'm able to ping it. The connectivity is fine. It's the
server itself that is apparently running so slowly that requests time out.
I've mailed BigBiz several times over the last few days, but have yet to
hear anything from them. Supposedly, the move from Server01 to Server05
was to have solved the problem. If anything, it's gotten worse.
I've about had it with BigBiz. I plan to move my web site to pair
Networks in March, so there may be some disruptions later this month. I'm
also having problems with mail being delivered very late or not at all. If
you send me mail at my ttgnet.com domain and don't receive a response in a
day at most, you can resend it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is actually my wife's POP account, so please don't send stuff there
unless it's urgent that I see it quickly.