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Week of 22 March 2004

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Monday, 22 March 2004

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13:45 - I took the weekend off. Barbara and I left Friday afternoon for an astronomical observing field trip up to the Wake Forest University Lodge at Fancy Gap, Virginia. Friday was clear and relatively warm, and those conditions continued all night. In addition to Barbara and me, Steve Childers, Sean Childers, Paul Jones, and Bonnie Richardson observed Friday night. Steve and Sean did a Messier Marathon, staying up until dawn, and bagging 109 of 110 objects. The one object they missed, M30, rose so late that it was nearly impossible to get, so as far as I'm concerned they swept. Barbara has more about the trip over on her page.

Steve and Sean ran a well-organized and successful Messier Marathon. Barbara logged the last seven or eight objects she needed to complete the Messier list, as well as several Herschel 400 Club and Deep Sky Binocular Club objects. Bonnie bagged quite a few objects, as did Paul. I was so whacked that I spent most of the evening helping Barbara and Bonnie or sitting around talking with people who were taking a break from observing, but I did log several objects for the Deep Sky Binocular Club list, which I'm working on simultaneously with the Herschel 400 Club.

telescopes.jpg (48718 bytes) The telescopes set up for a night of observing. Background, left to right, are Bonnie Richardson's 5" Maksutov-Cassegrain, Steve Childers' home-built 17.5" Dobsonian, and Paul Jones' 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain. Foreground right is our 10" Dobsonian.
steve-sean.jpg (57961 bytes) Steve Childers (left) and his son Sean before the Messier Marathon. They didn't look nearly as happy at dawn the next morning when they completed the Marathon. In fact, I've seen photographs of Egyptian mummies that looked livelier.
barbara.jpg (82495 bytes) Barbara building a fire in the great room of the Wake Forest University Lodge. The weather wasn't really cold, but it was cool enough that we kept a fire going much of the time.
paul-bonnie.jpg (46493 bytes) Paul Jones and Bonnie Richardson in the kitchen.
mary.jpg (69973 bytes) Paul's wife, Mary Chervenak, relaxing in the great room, watching the Wake Forest game.

I watched a basketball tournament on Friday evening before it got dark, and then again Saturday afternoon and evening. We would have observed Saturday evening, but it was clouded out. Bonnie, Steve, and Sean had gone home Saturday afternoon. Mary Chervenak had arrived. So Paul & Mary & Barbara & Bob sat around watching basketball. I know my readers will find that difficult to believe, but it's true. I have witnesses. Honest.

Actually, it wasn't so much that I watched the games as that I was propped in my chair, too tired to move, when someone turned on the television. I was shocked out of my stupor occasionally by Mary's screams when someone or other did something particularly satisfying to her. Boy, can she reach the high notes. I think she could break wine glasses at forty paces.

It was an enjoyable, relaxing weekend for all of us. We've all been working very long hours and needed the time away. I'm looking forward to the next one. Now it's back to work for me.

 

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Tuesday, 23 March 2004

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8:21 - Still working on chapters for the new book, as well as an outline for the fourth edition of PC Hardware in a Nutshell.

I tried to get the D-Link DWL-2100AP 802.11g Access Point configured last night. By default, the IP address of the unit is set to 192.168.0.50. I changed my den system from the 192.168.111 block to the 192.168.0 block, typed the IP address into Mozilla Firefox, and was off to the races, or so I thought. I got to the point where I was to run the setup wizard, but nothing happened when I clicked on the button. I finally realized I still had WebWasher running. When I disabled that, I was able to run the wizard, as well as use the normal configuration screens.

The problem is, I can't reset the IP address of the unit. I went to the LAN tab, where I had the choice of setting a static IP address (the default) or using DHCP. I first tried to replace the default 192.168.0.50 with 192.168.111.50, but the unit responded "Illegal IP address". Eh?

Well, I thought, perhaps the unit won't accept an IP address outside the currently defined C block. I though about messing with the subnet mask, but I decided it'd be easier just to change the "Use static IP address" item to "Use DHCP". So I did that and rebooted the unit. Sure enough, it was gone from the 192.168.0 block, so I changed my den system back to the 192.168.111 block and found that the AP was now using 192.168.111.147. Great. So I logged onto the AP, changed the setting back to "Use static IP address", went down to the IP field and typed in 192.168.111.50. The unit responded "Illegal IP address". Urk.

This is beginning to annoy me. I can find no way to make the DWL-2100AP accept a static IP address outside the 192.168.0 range. I suppose I could change the rest of my network to use 192.168.0.X, but I shouldn't have to do that.

 

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Wednesday, 24 March 2004

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9:09 - I had a wardrobe malfunction last night. That'll teach me.

One of our astronomy club members, Paul Jones, is teaching an astronomy course at Wake Forest University. His students are science teachers from the local schools. Last night, Paul scheduled an observing session on the WFU campus, and asked some of us to bring out our scopes to help. Paul was using his 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain. Mary Chervenak had a short-tube refractor set up. Bonnie Richardson had her 5" Maksutov-Cassegrain. Barbara was using our 10" Dob. And I was planning to use our 90mm refractor, mainly because it's a long-tube refractor, which is what most people think of when they visualize a telescope.

Things didn't work out as I planned. First, when I pulled the 90mm refractor OTA out of its case, the Telrad finder fell off. I'd never seen double-sided tape fail like that before. Then I noticed that the rear part of the optical finder was missing. I found that flopping around loose in the case and finally managed to get it screwed back in to the rest of the finder.

Barbara brought over some duct tape and I used it to tape down the Telrad in approximate alignment. When I tried to turn the Telrad on, I found the switch was already on. Urk. Dead batteries. We had good batteries to replace them, but I just wasn't up for un-taping the Telrad, replacing the batteries and re-taping it. So I decided to try using the optical finder, which turned out to be so completely misaligned that it was useless. At that point, I decided I wasn't destined to use the refractor.

At least I was able to talk to several of Paul's students, pointing out the planets and the ecliptic, several constellations including Orion, Gemini, Taurus, Auriga, and so on. So it wasn't a wasted session, but next time I'll make sure my equipment is going to work.

Barbara hates the refractor. I like the scope itself well enough, but I hate the mount. I think I may build a Dobsonian mount for it. That sounds odd, because with a typical Dobsonian Newtonian reflector, the Dob mount is on the ground, holding the rear of the scope. With a refractor, of course, the eyepiece is at the rear. So to make a Dob mount for the refractor, I'd put the "ground board" and rocker box on top of a tripod, box the scope tube and put altitude hubs on either side of it, and make a cutout at the rear of the ground board to allow the scope to pivot to a vertical position. I'd have to counterweight the front of the ground board because the scope would be off-center, but it shouldn't be too hard to build.

The eyepiece height would vary a lot more with the refractor than with the Dob because the refractor would be mounted mid-tube rather than at the base, but even so it should be usable. The refractor tube is roughly a meter long. Assuming it's mounted at mid-point, the eyepiece height at zenith would be 500mm lower than the eyepiece height at horizon.

Back to writing. I'm not sure if I'll start work on a new chapter today or work on the proposal for the 4th edition of PC Hardware in a Nutshell. Probably both.

 

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Thursday, 25 March 2004

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8:44 - The Kobe Bryant case proceeds. Katelyn Faber testified for 3.5 hours in a closed courtroom. The judge will now rule on whether the defense can bring her sexual history into evidence.

This whole case disgusts me. If there was any justice, the judge would have thrown the case out long before now. The standard in criminal court is that the prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. In this case, it's her word against his, which by definition raises reasonable doubt. The facts that had already been made public before the case began were sufficient to establish that reasonable doubt existed. The prosecution is obviously trying to make a name for itself. There is no other explanation for why they would choose to prosecute a case that is without merit on the face of it.

Rape shield laws are unconstitutional on several grounds. Our justice system presumes that the accused is innocent, or, looking at the other side of the coin, that the accuser is lying. On that basis, why should the identity of the accused be made public and the identity of the accuser be concealed? The strong implication is that the accused is guilty, when in fact the presumption should be that the accuser is lying. Why should the admissibility of the accuser's sexual history even be in question? Any reasonable person would recognize that her sexual history is very pertinent. Why should the accuser be protected against hostile questioning by the defense? The defense has every right to do everything possible to tear down the credibility of the accuser.

As things stand, Mr. Bryant is at risk of being sentenced to a long prison term, and yet is compelled to defend himself with both hands tied behind his back, as it were. That is simply inexcusable.

The sad part is that, with a few notable exceptions, feminists are supporting Katelyn Faber and the rape shield laws. That is ironic. I have long argued that rape laws should be repealed. These laws originated as a means of prosecuting crimes against property, literally. A woman, presumed virgin, who was raped became "damaged goods" and was then literally worth less in the marriage market. By supporting rape laws and rape shield laws, feminists are perpetuating this antique concept of women as property.

So, do I think men should be able to rape freely? Of course not. We should prosecute them under perfectly good existing laws against assault and battery. There should be no difference in law in how we treat a man who forcibly rapes a woman and how we treat a man who attacks another man with a baseball bat. Either crime should be penalized severely.

The difference with rape, of course, is that there are often no witnesses. That's one of the reasons why I think the jury should determine what is and what is not relevant in a prosecution. As things stand, for example, if a man has been convicted of armed robbery several times and is now charged with another armed robbery, his jury cannot be told of the previous convictions, on the theory that those convictions are irrelevant to establishing his guilt or innocence beyond a reasonable doubt in the current case.

The special nature of rape mandates a change in what is considered admissible evidence. For example, if the accused rapist and the victim did not know each other, a reasonable jury might be more inclined to believe the charges, on the assumption that few women would arbitrarily accuse a man unknown to them. But what if the accuser habitually cries rape? What if she has done so in the past and been discredited? Should not this be admissible evidence? What if she is a prostitute? Can prostitutes be raped? Certainly. But a jury has the right to know all relevant facts before they make up their minds.

In a rape case where the accuser and accused know each other, it becomes even more difficult. No reasonable person would dispute that many women cry rape after having second thoughts about what was in fact voluntary intercourse. Nor would any reasonable person dispute that many women have been raped by friends and acquaintances. But when a man rapes a woman who is a friend or acquaintance, there is always by definition reasonable doubt. Both parties may even be telling the truth as they see it. She didn't want to have intercourse, but didn't do a very good job of making that clear to him.

In this type of situation, the woman is seldom in fear of being killed or injured, so the burden of proof should reasonably be set higher. That is, unless a woman is unconscious or terrified into submission, it is literally nearly impossible for a man to rape her. In one famous 19th century trial in which a British colonial officer was accused of raping a British woman of his acquaintance, defense counsel made his point devastatingly. He had established that the woman did not think the accused would kill or injure her. Defense counsel approached the accuser in the witness box with a sheathed sword. He had the woman draw the sword and then demanded that she re-sheath it. As she attempted repeatedly to do so, he simply moved the sheath slightly each time. She was unable to re-sheath the sword, and the case was dismissed.

So, does that mean that I think a man can or should never be convicted of raping a woman who is a friend or acquaintance? Nope. I do think that he deserves the benefit of the doubt, though. Certainly that means that some rapists will go free. But consider this. In such cases, the woman has undergone an extremely unpleasant experience, forced to have intercourse against her will. But what if she is lying or it was an honest misunderstanding? Are we to sentence a man to 20 years to life in prison on that basis? Weigh her unpleasant experience of a few minutes' duration against ruining a man's life and putting him in prison for many years. Doing the later requires an overwhelming burden of proof, at least to my mind. And if the accused and accuser are friends or acquaintances, it's almost never possible to establish that level of proof.

Which brings us back to the admissibility of evidence. Basically, my position is that every dog gets one bite. Or, to put it another way, a man who is accused of raping a friend or acquaintance should get away with it--the first time. But if I'm sitting on a jury in the case, I want to know some things that I'm not allowed to know as things currently stand. First, has this man ever been convicted of raping a woman before? Second, has this woman ever before accused a man of rape who was subsequently acquitted? If so, was her testimony discredited, or was there simply insufficient evidence to convict? Third, and perhaps most important, has this man ever been accused (as opposed to convicted) of raping a woman. If so, under what circumstances? I want to see the transcripts of his earlier trial. Let us, the jury, make the decision. Whatever conclusion we reach will be fairer to both accuser and accused than the decision likely to be reached under our current system.

11:09 - I've already gotten several responses to the preceding post, most pro but a few con.

Someone queried my comment about the "special nature" of rape. By that, I meant that, unlike most violent crimes, rape is a matter of circumstance. That is, if a man goes into a 7-11, points a gun at the clerk, and demands money, there are no circumstances under which his actions can be perceived as being other than criminal. Rape, on the other hand, is not as straightforward, because the action of sexual intercourse can be consensual, forced, or somewhere in between. The first is not criminal in any respect, the second is criminal, and the third is a matter for a jury to determine.

As to the purported unlikelihood of a woman charging rape against a friend or acquaintance, I direct your attention to one of the most common situations in which rape is falsely claimed. A woman voluntarily engages in sexual intercourse with a friend or acquaintance. Her husband arrives home unexpectedly and catches them in flagrante delicto. Faced with the choice of admitting her own culpability versus crying rape, the woman decides to cry rape. It may be that she simply has no honor, or it may be that she is afraid her husband will physically abuse her if he realizes that the action was voluntary on her part.

Whatever the reason, the police arrive and an innocent man finds himself charged with forcible rape. His life may be ruined. He may be sentenced to a long term in prison. And all because our methods for enforcing rape laws are deficient. This doesn't happen often, because most women are honorable. Many women in that circumstance would be tempted to shift the blame to their lovers, but relatively few succumb to that temptation. Enough, though. It's by no means rare for men to be imprisoned for a crime they did not commit.

I've even heard some women argue that the man deserves to be punished for seducing a friend's wife. Perhaps so, but, even granting that he was the seducer, that seems a bit harsh. In that situation, an otherwise-honorable man who had strayed might allow himself to be pummeled by the offended husband without attempting to defend himself, but it's certainly not a matter for the justice system.

So how do we sort it out? Again, every dog gets one bite. If he really did rape her, he'll rape again, probably sooner rather than later. When the next victim cries rape, she'll be listened to and the man will be rightly prosecuted for and convicted of forcible rape. And I certainly wouldn't have any objection to giving the first victim a nice rusty pair of scissors and the opportunity to snip off some of his important parts.

 

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Friday, 26 March 2004

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9:12 - Jerry Pournelle and I each publish probably only a couple percent of the email messages that we exchange. Most of them stay private, although there's usually no reason they should. In this sequence, we're talking about the book I'm currently reading, Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Good article on outsourcing/education failures and a good book on naval war
Date: Thu, 25 Mar 2004 15:52:35 -0500
From: Robert Bruce Thompson
To: Jerry Pournelle

This is an interesting article:

<http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,62780,00.html>.

The AeA report blames outsourcing on the failure of US education.

Also, I don't remember for sure who recommended it to me. It may have been you. But the book _Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea_ by Robert K. Massie is excellent. I'm about half-way through it.

Thinking about it, I believe it was Barbara who mentioned it to me first when she read a review of it in Library Journal or one of her other library magazines. I thought at the time that it was a history of dreadnought battleships, and told her I'd be interested in reading it. She bought it for me, and as it turns out it's a history of the naval war in WWI, as the full title indicates. It's well worth reading, although heavier going than the light fiction I usually read to relax.

 

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: RE: Good article on outsourcing/education failures and a good book on naval war
Date: Thu, 25 Mar 2004 12:56:58 -0800
From: Jerry Pournelle
To: Robert Bruce Thompson

Castles of Steel was book of the month in one of the columns. I gave my copy to my naval officer son.

I have long said that the education system is the reason for most disasters here. And Federalizing it and letting the goddam teachers unions impose "standards" for teachers is the dumbest move ever.

Note that private schools can make use of retired military and other people as teachers and not have to mess with 'credentials': and they get better results.

Oh well.

 

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: Good article on outsourcing/education failures and a good book on naval war
Date: Fri, 26 Mar 2004 08:14:06 -0500
From: Robert Bruce Thompson
To: Jerry Pournelle

Jerry Pournelle wrote:

Castles of Steel was book of the month in one of the columns. I gave my copy to my naval officer son

I figured it was you. I'm just up to Jutland now. It's taking me a while to slog through this one, because I keep taking detours to check other sources and so on.

I have long said that the education system is the reason for most disasters here. And Federalizing it and letting the goddam teachers unions impose "standards" for teachers is the dumbest move ever.

Note that private schools can make use of retired military and other people as teachers and not have to mess with 'credentials': and they get better results.

Oh well.

I remember a few months ago sitting around with three of my astronomy club observing buddies. Paul Jones got his PhD in Organic Chemistry from Duke and did his postdoc work there. He's an Organic Chemistry professor at Wake Forest. His wife, Mary Chervenak, got her PhD in Organic Chemistry from Duke and did her postdoc work there. She's a research chemist for Dow Chemical. Steve Childers got his PhD in Biochemistry and did his postdoc work at Wisconsin, and is a full professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at Bowman Gray School of Medicine.

We were discussing the problems with public education, and I pointed out that not a one of them was qualified to teach even an elementary school science class in North Carolina.

At any rate, it's an excellent book, although it's not what I expected. I told Barbara I wanted to read it based on the partial title, Castles of Steel. I thought it would be a history of the development of Dreadnought battleships from a technical perspective--design, engineering, and so on. Instead, it's a history of the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet in WWI. The book focuses on the personalities involved--Kaiser Wilhelm II (whom the book for some reason calls William), Admirals Pohl, Scheer, Hipper, and others on the German side, and Churchill, Fisher, Jellicoe, Beatty, and others on the British side--as well as strategic and tactical issues. There's not much discussion of technical issues like design, engines, armament, and armor, but it's an excellent book nonetheless.

My friend Mary Chervenak and I have similar taste in books, from mysteries to non-fiction. I took Castles of Steel up to the lodge at Fancy Gap last weekend. She spotted me reading it, and wants to read it when I'm finished. I spotted her reading a biography of William Henry Perkin, who at age 18 accidentally invented aniline dyes. When she finishes reading it, I want to read it. So we'll trade.

As it turns out, Mary has a special reason for wanting to read the battleship book. When she was in college, she worked one summer as a tour guide on the USS North Carolina. Barbara and I toured the USS North Carolina one summer around that time, so we may have met Mary many years ago and not realized it until now. Time to dig out the old vacation pictures and see if we can spot a very young Mary Chervenak in any of them.

14:05 - I hate Microsoft. My main office system was completely stable until I installed Windows 2000 SP4. I had to do that because some ATi software I wanted to use on this system required SP4. Now that SP4 is installed, explorer.exe GPFs several times a day. I always know when it's going to happen, because the initial display of the directory tree is empty and it takes several seconds for it to be populated. Once that happens, clicking on anything GPFs explorer.exe to a blue screen for several seconds. The desktop then reappears with generic icons, which over the following several seconds are replaced by the proper icons.

And I'm not crazy about Mozilla's standalone Thunderbird mail client and Firefox browser. Both are a large step backwards from the current Mozilla 1.6. They lack configurability compared to the monolithic Mozilla, and there are many features missing as well. They're both in beta, so perhaps the release versions will be feature-complete. But somehow I doubt it.

14:36 - Jerry replies to the above as follows:

After the "No Child Left Behind" federalization of credentials, it is my understanding that they are not qualified to teach in any state or anywhere else in a public school. Note that I am not qualified to teach in this country either. You must be "qualified" with the proper "credentials": your results don't matter. You can be the dumbest bonehead in the world, so long as you have attended the workshops and found some way to get passing grades from Department of Education. Of course everyone knows about the academic standards of the Department of Education in every major, minor, tiny, large, etc. college in the nation.

So maybe we should be outsourcing work we don't teach Americans to do.

I am not sure whether Bar Associations or Teachers' Unions are the biggest public enemies in the country, but they certainly are the top two.

And yes, I know there are plenty of dedicated teachers breaking their hearts out there: but until they take the credentialing power away from their unions and the Departments of Education, the nation is doomed.

The only bright spot are private schools and home schooling.

 

 

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Saturday, 27 March 2004

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Sunday, 28 March 2004

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