- 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
- This is outrageous. It's now being said that the federal
"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
- 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
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
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
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
- 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
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
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.
- 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
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.
- 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.
- 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
- making it completely clear when or if the CVV2 number is actually
- if it is required, making sure that the CVV2 number is only kept
long enough to verify credit card validity
- not storing any credit card information for customers who have
specifically indicated not to do so
- making the Verified by Visa option truly optional
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
- 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
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All