1979 Jerry Pournelle Interview on the Future of Computers

David H. must have had a lot of free time lately. He’s dug up a lot of good stuff. Though some of this is destined for GRS or GFS, here’s one video that doesn’t have a good home besides foldedspace.

In this clip from 1979, talk show host Tom Snyder speaks with scientist Durk Pearson and science fiction author Jerry Pournelle about the future of publishing, computers, and technology. Look at them predict the internet!

I love the part where Pournelle whips out his pocket calculator and says something like, “In 1952, ENIAC took up a field house. Governments paid millions of dollars to use this machine. This pocket calculator cost $249 and anyone can use it.”

I also like Pournelle’s pipe. When was the last time you saw an intelligent, well-to-do man smoking on television? It’s now an activity reserved for the poor or the evil.

Listening Man

One of my favorite things about the end of the year are the “best of” lists that come out. I don’t have the time or the inclination to pay attention to pop music, movies, and videogames anymore. I especially don’t have time to wade through the 90% of this stuff that’s just crap.

With music, especially, I count on the year-end lists to point me to new stuff. This is the only time I really ever watch music videos. These “best videos of the year” lists have begun to appear (Pitchfork, Director File), and I spent some time this morning looking through them. There’s some great stuff here.

For example, I love the video to this song. (Be patient. The pay-off comes past the midway point.) Twee? Too cute for its own good? Maybe. I don’t care.

The Bees – Listening Man

Love it. This video, on the other hand, is just fun to watch:

Bats for Lashes – What’s a Girl to Do?

Ah, to be young again, and to have time for music.

Best Clam Chowder Ever (Updated Edition)

Winter — ’tis the season to make clam chowder. I continue to hone my clam chowder recipe, which I originally shared almost five years ago. This chowder originated as a recipe shared in Bon Appétit magazine, but I’ve adapted it enough that I feel content calling it my own.

I’ve probably made this chowder 25 times now — I make it five or six times a year. Each time I make it, it’s a little different. I learn things as I go. My latest version of the recipe is narrative.

J.D.’s Clam Chowder

Read this entire recipe before starting. Prepare all ingredients in advance. This recipe can be time-consuming (it takes 60-90 minutes from start to finish), and until you know where your slack periods are, it’s best to have everything ready to go instead of having to scramble in a panic because you suddenly need your onions.

Open two 51-ounce cans of clams. Reserve the juice into a large pot. Add 5# russet potatoes (do not use Yukon gold — they’re too mealy). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until potatoes are just tender (al dente). They will soften more in later steps. Draw off about two cups of liquid from the potato mixture for later use.

Mince a bulb of garlic (a bulb, not a clove). Rub the inside of your largest pot with garlic. Set garlic aside. Chop two yellow onions. Chop a bunch of celery, including leaves (but not including bases, of course).

Over medium heat, melt half a stick of butter in your largest pot (which has been rubbed with garlic). Add 1# bacon, chopped. I prefer thick bacon for this chowder. Pepper bacon is good. (I sometimes use bacon ends from a local butcher — they’re big and meaty.) Brown the bacon. When the bottom of the pot becomes gummy and sticky, brown for another minute or two. Add celery, onions, garlic, and one bay leaf. The vegetables will remove the gummy stickiness. Cook for several minutes, until vegetables soften.

Reduce heat to low. Stir in 1/2 cup flour. Once everything is good and gummy, gradually add the previously reserved potato liquid, whisking occasionally. This will create a thick, gummy gravy-like mass. It will thin as you add more liquid. By adding the liquid slowly, you’re able to keep more of the thickness. (You may also increase the thickness by using more flour. But this chowder isn’t meant to be a thick chowder.)

Stir in clams. Stir in one tablespoon hot pepper sauce, such as Tapatío or Tabasco. (I prefer the former.) Stir in one tablespoon hickory smoke salt. Add potato mixture and stir. Add one quart half-and-half. Add copious fresh ground black pepper to taste. Simmer five minutes, stirring frequently. This allows the flavors to blend.

This chowder is good immediately, but it’s even better after a couple days in the fridge. It keeps for up to a week. This recipe will probably make about 16-20 servings.

Do not skimp on the hot pepper sauce. This is a crucial ingredient. I’m not joking. I also think the hickory smoke salt is important. I use Spice Islands brand. (It may be possible to substitute liquid smoke, but I haven’t tried that yet.) This chowder is even better with fresh clams, but I haven’t perfected ratios and quantities when doing it this way.

Jenn recently made this chowder using fish stock in place of some of the clam juice, and not using any smoke seasoning. It was good, and less salty than my version (which I confess is pretty salty). Her version actually had an unexpected sweetness to it that surprised me. It wasn’t bad, but I plan to stick with clam juice in the future.

This recipe makes a ginormous batch of the stuff. That’s the way we like it. It’s enough to feed a dinner party, with lots left over. When I make this, there’s always tons left over so that Kris and I can eat on it for a week. Which we do.

Beautiful Star of Bethlehem

Every few years, Jeremy and Jennifer hold a Christmas party with lots of food, wine, and song.

Tiffany says the singing is unusual, and maybe it is. I remember lots of singing at the gatherings I went to as a kid, but a lot of those were Mennonite events too. Music is an important part of the Mennonite tradition, and, especially, of the Gingerich family culture.

Three years ago, the Gingeriches came together to record a CD of their best-loved hymns. This year they produced an album of Christmas music, mixing traditional songs with lesser-known stuff. I remember singing the following in Tom’s choir class in high school:

Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light

Though I like the CD of hymns better than the CD of carols, the best song from either album can be found at the end of the latter disc. I’ve never heard this song before, but I love it:

Beautiful Star of Bethlehem

Well done!

Here Are Some Facts About Santa

Eight or nine years ago, Kris and I took a Saturday around Christmas to drive all over creation playing Santa, delivering goodies to our friends. We’ve harbored fond memories of that trip, but never made the time to repeat it until now.

On Friday, Mr. and Mrs. Claus boarded the sleigh — Mrs. Claus’ sleigh because Mr. Claus still has no heat in his — and delivered presents to good boys and girls down near Canby and Woodburn. We got to chat with Kara, Kim, Kristin, and Steve and Mary. On Saturday, the industrious couple made a run to Newberg, Beaverton, and various parts of Portland.

“We should do this every year,” I said to Mrs. Claus when we had finished. “I like spending the hour or so chatting with each family, seeing them in their environment without a lot of stress all around. And all the kids seem to like it, too.”

“Yes,” Mrs. Claus said. “It’s fun.”

Because we were too lazy to drag our sleigh all the way to McMinnville, Michael and Laura and Ethan and Sophia agreed to meet us halfway. They joined us at a Chinese restaurant in Newberg. We had a slow, relaxed lunch during which the children charmed us (as they always do). Ethan is six and Sophia is four. They are both very verbal and overflowing with ideas. Ethan gave us updates on his nature museum and bug zoo. His fund-raising drive is going well, and he hopes to have the museum built and opened by summer.

Near the end of our meal, Kris asked Ethan, “What do you know about Santa?”

Ethan fixed her with a serious gaze and said, “Here are some facts about Santa.” Fortunately, I had my notebook open and ready to scribble. Most of what you read below is verbatim from Ethan’s mouth.

“Here are some facts about Santa,” Ethan said. “One, he has super powers. Three, he —”

“You forgot number two,” the adults corrected.

“Two, he has jingle bells. Three, he has a sleigh. Four, he has a magic sleigh. Five, he has magic reindeer.”

“What about his home life?” Kris asked. “Does Santa live with anyone?”

“He has Mrs. Claus, and he has some elves,” Ethan said.

“Do they have jobs?” asked Kris.

Ethan nodded. “The elves have lots of jobs. One, they have to be disguised in public. Let’s say I was bad. The elves — who could be disguised as anything — would see and would tell Santa.”

“Two,” Ethan continued (he likes lists), “they have to find out what kind of toy you like. Three, they make the toys. They invent the toys. Four, the elves guard the sleigh — there are a couple of elves on board. Five, they help Santa with The List.”

“Is there on-board navigation?” asked Michael, Ethan’s father. “Like GPS?”

“Sort of,” Ethan said. “He has an air map.” He spent a couple minutes describing how the air map worked before Kris steered him back to the original topic of conversation.

“What does Mrs. Claus do?” she asked.

“Well, Mrs. Claus has to make dinner,” Ethan said. “Sometimes they go out. How do they go out without people knowing they’re Santa? They dress up like just regular people. But pretty much Mrs. Claus does clothes and stuff. Sometimes she gets to relax. Mostly when Santa is gone.”

“Is Santa really fat?” asked his mother, Laura.

“No, he’s not. He’s really skinny,” Ethan said. And here my notes end. He gave us more information on Santa, but they were all minor compared to the enumerated lists he’d shared before.

I’ve often noted to Kris how different friends play different roles in our lives. Some are for relaxing. Some are for exploring new things. And some make me think in ways that are different from normal. The same is true with children. I have to admit, I find it exhilarating to interact with kids — especially young kids — who seem to have unbounded imaginations. Ethan and Sophia are two of those.

Just a Joke

Wow. I never thought the dead baby jokes would hit such a sore spot. I grew up listening to these, and so I just assumed everyone else had too. And like anything a person grows up with, I’m inured to the literal meaning of the stories and have learned to take them for what they are meant to represent. I apologize for those who found them distasteful.

By way of compensation, I’ve dug up some other jokes — some (mostly) non-offensive jokes — from a past entry.

Person 1: Knock knock.

Person 2: Who’s there?

Person 1: Control freak.

Person 1: Now you say “control freak who?”

Two cannibals are eating a clown. One turns to the other and says “Does this taste funny to you?”

A woman gets on a bus with her baby. The bus driver says: “That’s the ugliest baby that I’ve ever seen.” The woman goes to the rear of the bus and sits down, fuming. She says to a man next to her: “That driver just insulted me!” The man says: “You go right up there and tell him off — go ahead, I’ll hold your monkey for you.”

Why do ducks have flat feet?

To put out burning camp fires.

Why do elephants have flat feet?

To put out burning ducks.

Two atoms are leaving a bar when one realizes that he left his electrons back in the bar. His friend asks, “Are you sure?” “Yes,” he replies. “I’m positive!”

Q: Someone that knows three languages is trilingual. Someone that knows two languages is bilingual. So what do you call someone that only knows one language?

A: An American.

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy takes out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps: “My friend is dead! What can I do?” The operator says: “Calm down, I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.” There is a silence, then a gunshot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says: “OK, now what?”

Little Red riding Hood is walking through the forest on the way to see her grandmother. She sees the wolf crouching down beside the track. “What big eyes you have!” she says. “Get lost,” says the wolf, “I’m taking a crap.”

How many feminists does it take to change a lightbulb?


And, finally, here’s one that Dana told to foldedspace readers way back when:

A mathematician, a biologist and a physicist are sitting in a street cafe watching people going in and coming out of the house on the other side of the street. First they see two people enter the house. Time passes. After a while they notice three people leave. “Well, look at that,” said the biologist. “They must have reproduced!” “No,” said the physicist, “the initial measurement wasn’t accurate.” “Well, I’ll tell you one thing,” said the mathematician. “If one more person enters, it’ll be empty!”

Funny stuff!

Dead Baby Jokes

On a whim, we met Celeste & Nicki and Rhonda & Mike for dinner at Gino’s last night. It was a damn fine meal with damn fine friends. Gino’s can be hit-or-miss, and last night was definitely “hit”. The food was hot, the portions were enormous, and the conversation was hilarious.

The highlight of the evening wasn’t actually the clams, as one might expect, but a brief departure into Dead Baby Jokes. Kris loves Dead Baby Jokes, and I can’t say I disagree. She told our two favorite, and they had me gasping for air.

Q: What’s the difference between a truckload of bowling balls and a truckload of dead babies?

A: You can’t unload the bowling balls with a pitchfork.

Q: What’s sadder than a dead baby nailed to a tree.

A: A dead baby nailed to a puppy.

That last joke brought the house down. Or at least our little corner of it. “It’s hilarious on so many levels,” Kris said on our drive home. Just thinking about it made me laugh again.

I’ve been trying to decide what makes Dead Baby Jokes so funny. I think it’s because they’re just so wrong on so many levels. They violate taboo. They shock. They provide unexpected juxtapositions.

The real problem with Dead Baby Jokes is that they’re difficult to craft. There are thousands of these on the internet, and maybe one-percent of them are funny. Most are just dumb. Some go for intentional gross-out, which is not the same as humor. I can’t believe that of all the Dead Baby Jokes I’ve read, these are the only two that I really like, but it’s true.

The best way to generate new Dead Baby Jokes? Set the dingoes loose!

Bonus joke:

Q: What do vegetarian dingoes eat?

A: Cabbage patch kids.

Yeah, I know — it’s more of a groaner than a laugher, but still…

It Must Have Been Something I Ate

Busy busy busy. We are busy.

Yesterday morning, book group met to discuss The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert. This is not a good book. Gilbert has a strong, confident style, but she’s just a little too glib. Some might consider her twee. Worse, her subject is not worthy of a book-length exploration.

In The Last American Man, Gilbert writes about Eustace Conway, a real-life mountain man of the Daniel Boone and Davey Crockett mold. Eustace lives in a teepee (or used to, anyhow), eats roadkill (or used to, anyhow), and runs a sort of wilderness camp in North Carolina.

The problem is that we, the readers, are supposed to sympathize with Eustace. We’re supposed to admire him. Gilbert clearly does. She provides a chapter on his downsides, but they’re always filtered through her rose-colored glasses. But it’s hard to admire a man who comes across as a complete jerk. His attitude is always “my way or the highway”. He doesn’t trust anyone. He believes his is the only right way to do things, and is unwilling to let others learn from their own mistakes. He’s authoritarian. He’s callous. He’s not a sympathetic figure.

Despite the lousy man and the lousy book, we had a fantastic book group discussion — probably our best in months. Our discussion ranged from parenting to life skills to American history to our possible futures. Through it all, we touched on a number of books we’ve read in the past. It was great.

In the evening, we attended Kris’ office party. This, too, was fun. I used to be uncomfortable at these sorts of gatherings, but I know enough of Kris’ little friends (and their spouses) that I can have a good time. Plus, the highlight every year is the two-hour-long White Elephant gift exchange.

When Rhonda and Mike dropped us off from the Christmas party, they came in for some late-night Dance Dance Revolution. We spent an hour stomping and flailing. DDR is a great game, though it proved just how out of shape I was. Plus, as we were dancing, I became nauseated. I’d been feeling sick ever since dinner, and the exercise just made it worse.

It took me over an hour to fall asleep — I was trying not to be sick.

Today we drove to Jeff and Steph’s for our family Christmas. This, too, was fun, are would have been except that I was miserable most of the time. Kris and I left early.

I’ve spent the afternoon doing nothing. (Well, that’s not true. I’ve been writing. Always writing.) I just tried to have a bite to eat, but my stomach has rebelled. I’m not sure what’s wrong. Near as I can figure, I must have had something “off” at the Christmas party.

In any event, I have a busy week ahead of me. But once this is over, I think I can have some time to relax! I’m looking forward to it…

Subscriber Counts for All My Sites (Dec 2007)

In February, I posted subscriber counts for all the sites I run. At that time, my most-read site had 6784 regular readers. Today that numbers is over 40,000. While I’m pleased with this, it also gives me a severe case of stage-fright. It’s one thing to be writing for a few hundred people, but to be writing for a small city? It makes me nervous.

This list is based on the FeedBurner survey of my RSS feeds. This isn’t a count of actual direct traffic to the sites, but of the number of people who have subscribed. In parentheses, I’ll list the number of subscribers in February and the number of subscribers now. I’ll also write a little about my plans for each site.

I’ve ordered the list based on how important the sites are to me. I consider the first four to be “active”, and it’s my goal to maintain each of them as best I can.

Get Rich Slowly (6784 readers in Feb, 40808 today) — Yes, GRS really is read by over 40,000 daily subscribers right now. (And 4,000 people subscribe via e-mail.) I try not to think about it. I love writing this site and I love interacting with the GRS community. I’m earning enough from writing about personal finance to transition to a full-time writer.

foldedspace.org (330 readers in Feb, 302 today) — Foldedspace has suffered over the past two years. My attentions have turned elsewhere. We used to have a small but vibrant community here, but I fear I’ve lost many of the old readers. Still, I’ve been working to post here more often lately, and I’ve managed to move my old MT template to WordPress. All that’s left is to move over the archives.

Get Fit Slowly (new blog — 373 readers today) — Get Rich Slowly helped me turn my finances around. I’m hoping Get Fit Slowly can do the same with my health. Mac and I are writing this blog together, and so far I’ve been quite pleased with the experience. We’re both relaxed but serious about this. We’re not letting it become a chore, yet we’re dedicated to make this site a success. Our posts here are sporadic, but should become more regular (and higher quality) with time.

Animal Intelligence (23 readers in Feb, 98 readers now) — This number actually rises to about 120 or so on the days I post an entry. Unfortunately, I don’t post entries as often as I’d like. This is one blog that will benefit from my move to full-time. I’ll be able to spend a couple hours writing posts each week. This blog will never go away. I love the subject.

Money Hacks (93 readers in Feb, 847 today) — This GRS companion site was basically stillborn. I kept at it for a few weeks, and in that time grew the subscriber base to 1,000 people, but I couldn’t maintain the site. I didn’t have time. I still hope to revive it someday, but for now it’s dormant. (And, in reality, the Money Hacks feed is an abridged GRS feed at the moment.)

Vintage Pop (3 readers in Feb, 1 reader now, and that’s me) — Ah, Vintage Pop. How I love the idea. I’m not going to say this site is dead forever, but I have no plans to work on it in the next year or so. I do think it could be huge if I were to devote time and effort to it, and I think it could be a lot of fun. We’ll see…

Four Color Comics (31 readers in Feb, 39 readers today) — Ah, my comic book site. This site is dead, dead, dead. Though I’d love to have time to write about this aspect of my life, I don’t. I’ll maintain the domain, but I have no plans to return to this blog in the foreseeable future.

Bibliophilic (11 readers in Feb, 19 readers now) — My book site, which is dead dead dead. Again, this is a nice idea, but I just don’t have the time. I once thought I’d repost all my book reviews here, but rumor has it Google frowns on “duplicate content”, so I’m not willing to jeopardize all my other sites just to keep this one alive.

These are not the only domains I own, but they’re the only ones where I’ve actually created active sites. (They’re not all active now, of course…) Other domains that may see future activity include:

  • Cougar Tracks — A site meant for alumni of Canby Union High School.
  • Oak Grove Crossing — For information about my local community. This is a slow-to-get-started project with John C. I’m also hoping Lane will chip in. (And maybe Amy Jo, since she’s in the area now.)
  • Spiral Bound — My notebook blog. Believe it or not, this site has some underground support. I’ve never posted a thing here, but I think it could have a cult following if I did. I’m dead serious.
  • Success Daily — This one is set up and ready to go. I just don’t have the time. David Hatch will be disappointed to hear that I’m now thinking a January 2009 start date at the earliest.
  • Taking the Scenic Route — Actually, though I own the domain, this is a placeholder for a future Amy Jo project.
  • Too Much Cat and Too Much Dog — Ah, yes. I actually have entrepreneurship plans for these sites. I may make them a case study for GRS at some point.

There are other ideas kicking around inside my head, but I have to stop somewhere. The truth is, nothing else really matters to me right now but Get Rich Slowly. That is my top priority. If anyone out there wants to help with any of these, let me know. I’m open to possible collaborations.

The Devil in the Dark

When I was a boy, I loved Star Trek. For nearly twenty years, Portland’s KPTV (channel 12) broadcast the series at 4pm every Sunday afternoon. We didn’t have a television for much of my childhood, but most of my friends did. Whenever possible, I would watch Star Trek.

When the series was released on DVD a few years ago, I bought the first season, but I never watched it. It’s been gathering dust.

A few weeks ago, I decided to make some clam chowder. This is a laborious process. Though I enjoy it, the work takes a couple hours, and much of it is mindless. “I should watch something on the computer,” I thought. “I should watch Star Trek.” And so I did. I’ve been watching one episode a night ever since.

Many of the early episodes are truly awful — there are good reasons the show struggled to stay on the air. But by the middle of the first season, things began to click. The writers and producers discovered their characters and figured out how to tell their stories.

I plan to do a full review of season in about a week, but I want to take the time to mention one of my favorite episodes: The Devil in the Dark. On an important mining colony, a mysterious creature is terrorizing the workers. This mysterious beast can move through solid rock, and it dissolves anyone it touches. Fifty men have died in just a few months. The Enterprise is summoned to eliminate the problem.

Initially, Kirk and company intend to destroy the creature. But, as he is wont to do, Spock begins to suspect that there’s something deeper to the problem. He’s right, of course. First of all, the life form is silicon-based, something that is seemingly impossible. Second, it is highly intelligent. And finally, it is merely defending its nest, which has been disrupted by the mining activities.

Watching the episode tonight, it was shockingly obvious that this is where my appreciation of inter-species friendship and communication originated. It was from watching this episode of Star Trek when I was a boy that I developed an appreciation for other animals, and began to suspect that other species might harbor intelligence that we, as humans, could barely comprehend. From there, it was only a small jump to similar philosophical positions.

Many of these Star Trek episodes don’t stand up well upon re-viewing. I haven’t seen them in twenty (or thirty!) years, and what I loved as a boy is sometimes almost unwatchable as an adult. (The Corbomite Maneuver is mind-numbingly bad.) But The Devil in the Dark is as good as I remembered. Amazing that much of the framework of the adult J.D.’s belief system can be traced to one hour of television made in 1965…