Home » Daynotes Home » Week of 5 September 2005

Photograph of Robert Bruce Thompson
Daynotes Journal

Week of 5 September 2005

Latest Update: Saturday, 10 September 2005 08:40 -0400
Free Speech Online - Blue Ribbon Campaign

Paying for this Place
Visit Barbara's Journal Page

Monday, 5 September 2005
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

10:10 - Barbara and I spent the weekend with members of our astronomy club up at the Wake Forest University lodge in Fancy Gap, Virginia. We stayed up there Friday night and Saturday night. Although we also had the lodge reserved for Sunday night, we decided to come home yesterday. We'd left the dogs at home, with a neighbor stopping in to feed and walk them, but Barbara missed them and didn't want to leave them alone for a third night.

Still, having clear skies at a new moon has been so rare lately that we decided not to waste Sunday night. We headed up to the club's Bullington observing site, which is only 25 miles or so from our house, to observe last night. Over the course of the three nights, we made significant progress on the Herschel 400 list. We logged all of the H400 objects in the constellations Saggitarius, Scorpius, Dephinus, Pegasus, and Cepheus.

I'm taking today off, but it'll be back to heads-down writing tomorrow and for the next couple of months.


Tuesday, 6 September 2005
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

15:15 - This is outrageous. It's now being said that the federal government's "share" of the cost to rebuild New Orleans will be at least $150 billion. To put that in perspective, that's about $500 for every man, woman, and child in the United States. And that can only go up.

As I've said, the federal government, which is to say us taxpayers, should not be contributing one red cent from tax revenues to the cost of rebuilding New Orleans. Those who had no insurance should suffer for their foolishness. It's not as though subsidized federal flood insurance wasn't available, but they're not talking about flood insurance payments when they refer to a $150 billion federal share. They're talking about what amounts to a gift of taxpayer funds to those who were imprudent enough to (a) build in New Orleans, and (b) not insure their properties.

I plan to contact my representatives to demand that no taxpayer funds be allocated to rebuilding New Orleans, and I suggest that my readers do the same. Rescuing people who are stranded is one thing. Paying for their foolishness by rebuilding for them is quite another. And, to the extent that flood insurance premiums will not be adequate to pay claims under that insurance, I will demand that no taxpayer monies be used to bail out the federal flood insurance program. Any surplus of claims must be recouped by increased premiums for flood insurance, not by soaking the poor bloody taxpayers.


Wednesday, 7 September 2005
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

09:55 - Watching the Katrina disaster unfold, I wonder how many people elsewhere in the United States are making emergency preparations. We're too far inland to be at severe risk from hurricanes--although Hugo was still a Category 1 hurricane when its eye passed through Winston-Salem--but we are at risk from ice storms. Several years ago, we were without power for four days or so after a severe ice storm. Without power, the furnace wouldn't run, so things got a bit chilly. We were debating whether to burn books or furniture when the power came back on.

I called Piedmont Natural Gas that same day and told them to come out and install natural gas logs as soon as possible. We've only needed them a couple of times since for power outages that lasted a day or less, but it's still comforting to know they're there. Running unvented, they put out 40,000 BTUs, which is enough to keep the entire house reasonably warm just with natural circulation. We also have a 5 KW generator for emergency power, and a wood pile for backup.

That takes care of the second three in the Rule of Three: one can survive three minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, three days without water, and three weeks without food. As to third three, we store water in old 3-liter soft drink bottles. My rule of thumb is one gallon per person per day, which is sufficient for drinking, cooking, and basic sanitation. The two dogs count as one person, so we need about 180 gallons for a two month supply. We have more than that stored so that we'll have extra to share with friends and neighbors if necessary.

Come to think of it, it's about time we refreshed our supply. That's easy enough to do. Simply set up at the sink with a Rubbermaid tub with a couple gallons of water and a quart of ordinary chlorine bleach in it. Dump the old water from each bottle, rinse the bottle thoroughly in the bleach solution, and refill it with tap water. We're subject to freezing temperatures, so we'll refill them to only about 85% of capacity to allow room for freezing without bursting the bottle. Use a Magic Marker to date each bottle. If properly stored, water lasts forever, but we still like to refresh ours at least every couple of years.

As to food, have at least a two month supply of canned and other storable food on hand. A Coleman stove and several spare bottles of propane gives us everything we need to have hot food and drinks for the duration. That takes care of the last three.

And, sad as it is that it's necessary, we're also prepared to defend ourselves against looters. When I talk to friends who are making emergency preparations, I always recommend that they have some means to defend themselves. The most economical choice for that purpose is an inexpensive 12-gauge shotgun or two with a couple hundred rounds of buckshot. People sometimes question the necessity for this, but now all I need do is point to New Orleans.

There are dozens of other things you'll need and want, of course, from flashlights and batteries to a radio to a first-aid kit to kerosene lamps to chlorine bleach and trash bags for an emergency toilet. For a good starting point, see this link. Ignore the part about planning for three days, of course. As New Orleans has shown, that's a bad joke. Plan on being self-sufficient for a minimum of 30 days, and 60 days is better.


Thursday, 8 September 2005
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

09:12 - Fred says what most people are afraid to think. Fred isn't even slightly racist, although he's often accused of being so. He simply points out things that should be obvious to anyone who is honest enough to admit the evidence visible to his own eyes. What to do about it is another question, and one for which there may be no answer.

The fundamental problem is the logical fallacy that equal opportunity must inevitably result in equal outcomes. All men are created equal, in the sense that they have or should have equal rights and equal responsibilities. But, as is clear to anyone who takes the trouble to see reality, all men are most emphatically not created equal in terms of ability, willingness to work, or any of the other factors that decide success.

As Fred, Jerry Pournelle, Eric S. Raymond, and many others have repeatedly pointed out, there are very real intelligence differences between the races. The mean IQ of American blacks is a full standard deviation lower than that of whites, which is to say 85 versus 100. African blacks are worse off still, with a mean IQ two full standard deviations lower than whites, or 70 versus 100. In other words, the average African black has an IQ that places him as what used to be called a borderline moron.

The implications of this huge leftward black skew on the bell curve are profound. The far right of the bell curve, where one finds the nuclear physicists, is almost exclusively white (and oriental, but that's another issue). The far left of the bell curve, where one finds criminals, is heavily skewed to blacks. That's why our research labs are populated by whites and orientals and our prisons by blacks. And there is nothing we can do to change that.

These racial difference in intelligence--and therefore overall ability--are the largest problem we as a society face. Ultimately, the only answer is to take a hands-off approach and let matters sort themselves out, allowing people to compete on their own merits. Unfortunately, that means that not one physician in a thousand will be black, and not one research scientist in ten thousand. And the blacks, of course, would regard that as evidence of institutional discrimination.

But the alternative is a race war that blacks are predestined to lose. A profound resentment bubbles very near the surface among both whites and blacks. Each time a race riot breaks out, I fear that it will be the trigger that sets off the apocalypse. And once that lid comes off, there will be no going back.


Friday, 9 September 2005
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

08:16 - I am beginning to get very annoyed with NewEgg. After the problems I had ordering from them a couple of weeks ago, I'd hoped they'd fixed things. So yesterday evening I attempted to order a Samsung 930BF 19" flat-panel display.

The first hint that something was wrong was when the order page defaulted to using my credit card that they had on file. I'd explicitly told them the last time I ordered that I didn't want them to keep my credit card information on file, but they did it anyway. That was very annoying, but I clicked Continue anyway to complete the order. Once again, the "Verified by Visa" screen popped up, demanding that I enter personal information that I didn't want to provide. Although the customer service woman had told me that participating in that program was optional, it's optional only in an Orwellian-speak sense. There's exactly one button on that page, labeled Continue, and clicking it accomplishes nothing unless you've already entered the information they demand.

So I did the same thing I did last time. I closed the browser window and abandoned the order. And, just as happened last time, an email arrived a minute or two later telling me that the attempt to charge my credit card had failed. When that happened last time, I immediately called the customer service number listed in the email. While I was talking to the customer service lady, another email arrived telling me that they'd retried my credit card, that it had been accepted, and that my order was in progress. As I told the lady then, it was lucky I hadn't already ordered the stuff from elsewhere.

So I expected the same thing to happen this time. Last time, there were about 40 minutes between email messages. This time, there's no second message after more than 12 hours, so I suppose I'll have to call them. I am becoming very annoyed with NewEgg.

11:16 - Well, NewEgg has just lost a customer. Worse, from their point of view, they've lost someone who recommended them in print for O'Reilly. Between the mess a couple weeks ago and the current mess, I've wasted a couple of hours I didn't have to spare, sitting listening to busy signals, on-hold music, and talking to customer service reps.

The problem this time is that they require the CVV2 number on orders above a certain amount, and apparently the $452 cost of the flat-panel display exceeded that amount. Unfortunately, their web site says that providing the CVV2 number is optional, which it turns out not to be. Furthermore, their damned Verified by Visa thing, which they still claim is optional, isn't optional in practice. I refuse to provide the data required to complete the Verified by Visa screen, and the only choices are to provide that information or abandon the order.

So, after wasting 25 minutes on hold this morning, only to be disconnected and then calling back and spending another 20 minutes on hold, I told them to cancel my order. I don't trust their ordering system at all. It says an order has been declined and then runs it through again, without offering the buyer the opportunity to cancel. The customer service guy told me he'd manually canceled the order and sent me email to confirm that, but I told him if they shipped me the display anyway I wasn't going to pay for it. So it's off to Best Buy or Wal*Mart for me. I'm sure they have a suitable flat-panel display, if not the Samsung 930BF.

11:44 - Okay, I'm a NewEgg customer again. Shortly after I posted the comments above, I got a phone call from a high-level manager at NewEgg. He assured me, and I believe him, that they are going to fix the problems I experienced, including:
Assuming they in fact make those fixes, I can again recommend NewEgg to my readers.

Oh, yeah. They're shipping me the Samsung 930BF display. He offered me a free upgrade to next-day shipping. I was about to decline that so that no one could accuse me of accepting a bribe, but I decided what the hell. It's de minimis anyway, so I accepted his offer.


Saturday, 10 September 2005
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

08:40 - Today is our anniversary. Barbara and I were married 22 years ago today. It doesn't seem that long.

I'll be going on hiatus from now until the book is finished in mid- to late-October. I'll continue to post a new page each week and may post updates sporadically, but it'll be heads-down writing for me for the next six weeks or so.

I'll try to read all the email I receive, but I'll seldom have time to respond in any detail. Thanks for understanding.


Sunday, 11 September 2005
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

00:00 -


Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All Rights Reserved.