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Week of 10 September 2001

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Monday, 10 September 2001

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8:57 - Happy Anniversary to us. Barbara and I have been married for 18 years today.

Hmmm. The battle between Intel and VIA over Pentium 4 chipsets has gotten interesting. Intel finally sued VIA, as many had been expecting for a long time, claiming that VIA's P4 chipset infringed on Intel patents. Also as expected, VIA countersued. But what wasn't expected was the basis of VIA's countersuit. VIA is now claiming, get this, that Intel's P4 processor and 845 chipset infringe on VIA patents and that Intel will have to license patents from VIA in order to produce the P4 and 845 legally. Richard Brown, Director of Marketing for VIA, says, "Intel processors and the Intel Pentium 4 processor compatible 845 chipset infringe VIA's patents." He adds that Intel "has not obtained a license from VIA for the P4 microprocessor or the 845 chipset." This should be interesting.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal and other news sources are reporting that the HP/Compaq deal is in trouble, and may be nearing collapse. If that's true, and I suspect it is, Carly Fiorina is in deep trouble. If this acquisition fails, Ms. Fiorina will probably end up looking for a new job. It couldn't happen to a more deserving person.

A date that will live in infamy. On 7 December, Intel will stop accepting orders for the desktop Pentium III. Thus comes to an end the long reign of Intel sixth-generation processors as their flagship products, that began with the Pentium Pro running at 120 MHz and ended with the Pentium III running at ten times that. It's not really the end for Intel sixth-generation processors, of course. The Pentium III Tualatin will live on in mobile processors and in the "Celeron 4" for at least a year longer. But the end of Intel's sixth-generation processors is definitely in sight.

That's not good news for AMD, whose current sixth-generation Athlon and Duron are topped out at speeds much slower than the Pentium 4 can achieve now. The changeover to the Palomino/Morgan core will help, but not enough. Until AMD's next-generation processors ship, which probably won't be for a year or more, AMD will be limited to the fastest speeds achievable by their current cores. With the die shrink and copper interconnects, they may be able to reach 2 GHz, but that still puts them in the position of selling their fastest and best processors against Intel's economy models. It's going to be an interesting year for AMD.

 

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Tuesday, 11 September 2001

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8:48 - Thanks to everyone who sent us messages and e-cards to celebrate our 18th anniversary. It doesn't seem like18 years...

Barbara and I are both hard to buy gifts for. Both of us tend to buy what we need, and neither of us is particularly acquisitive, so finding something we want (as opposed to need) isn't easy. In particular, unlike most women Barbara doesn't wear jewelry or perfume, so those old reliable gift ideas are out. But she does like to watch TV in the bedroom occasionally, and the old TV back there had started having some problems. So we headed off to Best Buy yesterday afternoon in search of a new TV. I found a Panasonic unit for her. 

While we were there, I started looking at wireless headphones. Barbara likes to watch NASCAR Winston Cup automobile racing, but the sound track on it drives me berserk. Think of the program as one long commercial that has more commercials embedded in it. That, and there's always the danger of country music, which I cannot abide. So a set of wireless headphones seemed like a good idea. That way, she can watch whatever she wants, when she wants.

And I could use them, too. After dinner, I sometimes flip over to AMC at 7:00, when they run Three Stooges. Barbara feels about Three Stooges the way I feel about NASCAR racing. I also confess a weakness for those black & white 1950's movies that feature radiologically-mutated giant humanivorous vegetables or insects. For some reason, all the screaming bothers Barbara, particularly when she's gone to bed and is trying to sleep. 

For example, I'll be sitting there watching the climax of a radiologically-mutated giant humanivorous scorpion movie. They've lured it to a stadium, where they plan to electrocute it. But they forget to unplug the 500,000 Volt cable before Raoul picks it up. Poor Raoul. And right in the middle of the dramatic climax, as the radiologically-mutated giant humanivorous scorpion knocks down yet another helicopter, Barbara comes out of the bedroom and says, "Would you mind turning that down a little bit?" Really spoils the mood.

So we could both use a set of wireless headphones. I was about to pick up an Advent set when I noticed another box that contained a transmitter and receiver designed to convert any set of headphones to wireless. That looked like a good idea to me, because Barbara and I prefer different types of headphones. She likes the little standalone ear-bud types, whereas I prefer traditional headphones. With the transmitter/receiver unit, we could each use our preferred phones. So that's what I bought. It seems to work pretty well.

After we got home, we played musical TVs. We installed the new TV in the den, moved the TV that had been in the den to my mother's room, and moved the TV that had been in my mother's room to our bedroom. I am still strong like bull. Now everything is where we want it and working properly.

We went to dinner last night at The Vineyard (whose name I almost always forget). It's one of those places that has excellent food, many courses, and it takes two hours to have dinner. I had a steak covered in some kind of brown French goop. Barbara had veal.

I see that Elizabeth Dole is going to run for the US Senate from North Carolina. The news article says that her opponents won't make an issue of her residency. I'm not sure why not, because Elizabeth Dole is no more qualified to hold a US Senate seat from North Carolina than is Hillary Clinton qualified to hold a Senate seat from New York. Dole's qualification is apparently that she grew up in North Carolina. Of course, she hasn't lived in North Carolina for 40 years and has rarely set foot here. Oh, well. If she's elected, I'm sure she'll visit North Carolina once in a while. Just what we need. Another carpetbagger.

I really must do something about my inbox. I use my inbox as I suspect many people do, as a kind of to-do list. I now have 23 unread items in it, all of which require action from me, and some of which are now a week old. I also have eight other read items, which require follow-up from me, and some of which are nearly six weeks old. I periodically get the thing emptied, but it just fills up again. I guess I'd better get that backlog cleared before I start writing.

13:22 - It's clear that the United States is now at war. This morning's attack was worse than Pearl Harbor. Worse in terms of deaths, worse in terms of economic destruction, and worse because it was directed against civilians. Many have talked about investigating this outrage as though it were a law-enforcement matter. It's not. It's a military matter. These terrorists have no idea of what they've brought upon themselves and those who support them.

There are, as far as I can see, exactly two possible culprits. Either government-sponsored terrorism initiated by Iraq, Iran, Libya, etc., or terrorism sponsored privately by Osama bin Laden with the connivance of the Taliban. Everyone seems to be concentrating on figuring out who exactly was behind the outrage, but that seems to me to be immaterial. Once we are sure that one of the above is guilty, all of the above are guilty. And all of the above should suffer the full weight of American military response. It doesn't really matter which one or ones were actually behind the attack. They are all equally responsible.

The danger here is that we will over-react domestically and under-react abroad. What we don't need is stricter airport security and similar useless measures. The way to stop terrorists is to kill them and those who support them. So what can we do? Several measures, to start with:

1. Turn the Israelis loose. Give them whatever they want and need to eradicate the blight of Islamic fundamentalism from the planet. Start with enough combat aircraft to populate two or three wings, and enough tanks to equip two or three armored divisions. Give them the loan of a couple of our aircraft carriers in support. Give them a reasonable number of tactical nukes and delivery systems, to use as they see fit. And give them our unqualified support of whatever actions they find necessary to eradicate Islamic fundamentalists from the planet.

2. Declare war against all of these countries and groups. Engage in a reasonable, measured thermonuclear response against these criminal countries and groups. We should start by vaporizing the capitals and other important cities in Libya, Iraq, and Iran. Using airbursts, of course, to minimize fallout danger to other countries, including ourselves. We should destroy all important infrastructure, such as railways, dams, and power plants. The goal is to put these countries back into the dark ages.

3. The US should demand that the oil fields in such countries be evacuated. The US can then occupy them, simultaneously ensuring our supply of oil (and it is, after all, our oil) and that these countries have no financial resources to feed their own people, let alone sponsor terrorism against the US.

4. Make a public statement that any country or group that supports terrorism against the US is equally guilty, even if that support is indirect, such as supplying arms, money, or other assistance. Declare war on any country or faction that supports terrorism against the US in any fashion, and sterilize it.

5. Resign from the UN, and eject the UN from US soil. We don't need it, and it's time to stop pretending that it matters.

We need to make it clear that killing Americans is unacceptable. It is unfortunate that these events will inevitably result in further loss of freedom for American citizens, but I don't see any alternative to that happening. These bastards have started an undeclared war against us. The last country that did that found itself nuked into submission. It's time to do the same here and move on.

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Wednesday, 12 September 2001

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8:49 - I've gotten lots of email messages from people who want to debate my position. I won't be replying to those. I'm not interested in talking about it. The time for talk has passed. The time has come to kill the bastards. There'll be time to talk about it after they're all dead. 

My only fear is that the US government will under-react. If it turns out that these acts were committed by Islamic fundamentalists, as I strongly suspect is the case, the time has come for us to wipe Islamic fundamentalism from the face of the planet. I don't particularly care exactly which faction was responsible. If one was responsible, they were all responsible. If, for example, Osama bin Laden actually organized the attack, we should of course eradicate bin Laden and the Taliban. If that requires nuking Afghanistan into a pool of molten glass, fine. But that's not enough. We also need to nuke Iran, Iraq, and Libya into pools of molten glass.

To those who claim this would be murder, I say bullshit. It's self-defense. If we retaliate in limited form, that accomplishes nothing. We'll simply piss off the survivors, who will engage in more attacks against us. So long as any of them remain alive, the threat remains. So the obvious solution is to make sure that none of them remain alive. These places are mostly lifeless desert already. We need to make sure they're 100% lifeless desert.

I've already sent email to Mr. Bush, asking him to ignore any pleas for moderation from abroad. Now is not the time for moderation. Now is the time to kill all the bastards. Every single one. We can do it, and we should do it.

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Thursday, 13 September 2001

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9:05 - My mail is currently running nearly 10:1 in favor of an extreme solution to eradicating terrorists and the countries that support them. Some messages point out practical difficulties in doing so, but few doubt the necessity. Nearly all of the traffic has been by private mail, and I don't have time to respond to all or even most of it. I encourage everyone who has something to say to post it to the messageboard, where everyone can see it and I can respond publicly.

For now, it's time for all of us to get back to work. The world in general and the United States in particular didn't get much work done Tuesday or yesterday. I tried to get some work done, but it was hard to concentrate on something as trivial as writing a computer book when thousands of my countrymen had just been murdered. Others obviously felt the same. Winston-Salem was a ghost town, with little traffic on the streets and the stores nearly empty. I'm sure that was case in every town and city throughout the country, and probably in other civilized countries as well.

It was eerily quiet. We're used to hearing the Baptist Hospital helicopter making frequent flights throughout the day, as well as hearing other commuter jets from the local airport and commercial jets from Piedmont Triad International. There was none of that.  When Barbara and I walked the dogs, we did hear a jet. We looked up and saw a pair of vapor trails in formation which were obviously National Guard fighters flying high CAP. I never thought I'd live to see fighters flying CAP over the Triad, but there it is. The target here is a huge petroleum tank farm located between Winston-Salem and Greensboro, which I believe is the largest petroleum distribution point on the east coast. 

In retrospect, I'm rather surprised that the terrorists didn't attack it. I hadn't even thought about it Tuesday until Barbara mentioned it. Years ago, a guy in a position to know told me that that tank farm was the nexus for most of the pipelines that supply the Northeastern US. If that's true, destroying it would have had greater practical impact than destroying the WTC. I'm sure it's guarded now, and will remain so. In fact, although no one has made a point of talking about it, I'd guess that a lot of attractive targets are now well-guarded.

But, as I say, it's time to get back to work. This thing will play out over the coming weeks and months, but in the interim the best thing all of us can do is get back to work.

13:47 - Barbara tells me that they have recovered one of the pilots' bodies from the cockpit of one of the crashed airliners. It is one of the Arab terrorists. I think they should put his head on a pike and hang his body from a gibbet. Eventually, they should bury whatever remained in a coffin full of pig offal.

 

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Friday, 14 September 2001

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10:04 - President Bush isn't saying much, but reading between the lines it's pretty clear that a Holy War against terrorism is imminent. This isn't going to be a limited retaliation, nor will it be of short duration. Most people now are talking months, but I think it will be years. The initial targets will be Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq (no mention of Libya, which I found strange) and I expect we'll see the cities and infrastructure of those countries reduced to rubble. I don't expect to see nuclear weapons used, but I do expect to see the first large-scale use of FAEs, which approach the destructiveness of baby nukes. For the first time this morning I read a quote from an official source that mentioned destroying the states that sponsor terrorism.

Most sporting events have been cancelled in the US. Some commentators have said that they understand the reason for canceling them, to show respect, but that they should go on as scheduled to show the terrorists that they haven't won. Those commentators miss the point. Those events weren't cancelled or postponed to show respect, or even because transportation was impossible, but because putting 100,000 people in a stadium presents terrorists with a ready-made target.

As usual, a lot of the activity is over on the messageboard. You can read messages freely without registering, but you have to register if you want to post messages yourself. To register, click here.

11:11 - Barbara and I are both self-employed and work at home. That means we have to file estimated tax payments each quarter. In the past, doing that always raised my blood pressure and put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day. Today, I wrote big checks to the North Carolina Department of Revenue and the United States Treasury, and it didn't bother me a bit. I hope I just sent the federal government enough money to buy a nice bomb to be dropped wherever it'll do some good. I wish they could adorn the nose "Greetings from Bob and Barbara Thompson" but they have much more important things to worry about.

But life has to return to normal, or at least as normal as it will ever be again. While we were at dinner last night, the cell phone place called to say that Barbara's phone was ready. They even put it on the charger. When I called back this morning, they said they could take the information over the phone to get it initialized. The first thing he asked for was Barbara's Social Security number, which I refused to provide. Cingular has no need of that information, and in fact has no right to ask for it. He called back later to say that he'd talked to Cingular and could initialize the phone without providing our SS number or driver's license number. Good for him.

The airtime expires every three months unless we buy more. Conveniently, this corresponds pretty well to our estimated tax payments (except the four-month gap from September 15 to January 15), so there won't be much problem remembering to refill the phone. Unlike AT&T Prepaid Wireless, which discounts the price per minute the more you buy, Cingular is a flat $0.35/minute. The $10 cards only last 30 days, but $20 and above last three months. That means we buy at least a $20 card every three months, which comes to $6.67/month and buys roughly an hour of airtime. Given that over five years with our old cell phones Barbara and I averaged about 10 to 15 minutes total airtime per month, that should be plenty. If not, we'll just buy more. I really prefer paying as I go to a having a contract.

I think I'm going to take the next few days off, so posts here will be short or non-existent until sometime next week. I'll continue to check the messageboards, though.

 

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Saturday, 15 September 2001

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8:36 - I see in the morning newspaper that Islamic fundamentalists aren't the only whackos out there. We have our own, home-grown Christian fundamentalist whackos. According to those well-known whackos, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, the attacks Tuesday are our own fault. Actually, I agree with them about that. As I've said repeatedly, the US should mind its own business, like Switzerland, instead of trying to mind everyone else's business. But the whacko part is that, according to the article, Falwell and Robertson blame the attacks on "those who insulted God". And who might those be? Pagans, abortionists, feminists, homosexuals, the American Civil Liberties Union, and People for the American Way. So, if we believe Falwell and Robertson, all we need do is get rid of those undesirable elements and we'll be safe from terrorists. Give me a break. Christian fundamentalists are as bad as Islamic fundamentalists or any other fanatics. But at least the people of the United States have had the good sense not to put them in positions of authority.

Barbara finally got her new cell phone yesterday. Assuming the weather is clear tonight, we'll head up to Bullington for the club observation night. It'll be interesting to see if her new phone can get a signal up there. Her old AT&T phone didn't.

As usual, a lot of the activity is over on the messageboard. You can read messages freely without registering, but you have to register if you want to post messages yourself. To register, click here.

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Sunday, 16 September 2001

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11:56 - We did end up going to Bullington last night to observe. Barbara and I had planned to take the weed whacker along to clear off the concrete pad and surrounding area. When I called Bonnie Richardson after lunch, she said she and her husband were just about to go up to Bullington and whack weeds themselves. We decided to get up there around 6:30 as planned and finish off whatever was left to be done. That wasn't much. We spent an hour or so whacking weeds and sweeping off the pad and then sat around watching the sunset.

The night turned out to be just about perfect. Clear, cool, and reasonable humidity. No haze, and only a few clouds. We head up to Bullington any time we feel inclined and the weather is clear, but last night was one of the formal monthly club observing nights. Usually, it's just us and Bonnie Richardson, but last night there were nearly a dozen people there. By 8:30 or so, it was nearing full dark, and we spent the next four hours observing Mars, deep sky objects, meteors, and satellite passes.

Bonnie made a breakthrough last night. Until then, she'd not not had much luck finding deep-sky objects. When she found something, she usually wasn't sure what she'd found. Last night, I guess things finally clicked for her. She was able to use her Rigel QuikFinder (similar to a Telrad) to get her in the right vicinity, and then zero in on the target. For the first time, she was able to decide what she wanted to look at, and then go find it. 

If that sounds like a trivial accomplishment, I can assure you that it's not. Some objects are relatively easy to find because they're bright themselves and/or because they're close to relatively bright "guidepost" stars. Even a beginner can easily locate the Great Nebula in Orion, for example. Others are very hard to find because they're very dim and are in the midst of areas of sky that don't have many guidepost stars. And even once you have them in the field of view, it's not always immediately apparent. Deep-sky objects (DSOs) aren't called "faint fuzzies" for nothing.

Bonnie succeeded in tracking down some moderately hard objects last night. Part of the reason for that was that the skies were about as good as they'll ever get at Bullington. Even I was able to see stars down to about 5th magnitude, and my night vision isn't very good (probably because I light my pipe frequently). When you can see lots of stars, it's much easier to "star-hop" from a known Point A to an unknown Point B. But that doesn't minimize Bonnie's accomplishment. As with many things, once you prove to yourself that you really can do it, it's a lot easier to do it again.

By 0030 or so, everyone was thinking about packing up. The temperature had been around 50F (10C) most of the evening. That doesn't sound very cold, but when you're out under a sky whose temperature is nearly absolute zero, your body heat simply radiates out. Everyone was bundled up by that time. I was wearing two flannel shirts and had a blanket wrapped around me. Someone shouted that Saturn was up. Sure enough, there it was, rising over the ridge behind Pilot Mountain, with Aldebaran just to the south. Seeing that at a reasonable hour means it won't be long until we'll be able to observe the Fall constellations and the gas giants in the evening instead of the middle of the night.

It was very nice getting away from the real world for an evening. There was, of course, some talk about terrorism, but we generally concentrated on the night sky. That was a break we all needed, I think.

 

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