THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
Thursday, August 28, 2008
View 528 July 21 - 27, 2008
Highlights this week:
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July 21, 2008
There was a lot of activity here over the weekend. I'll get this up to date later today.
Those interested in rational discussion and the American Physical Society should take note:
Subject: APS Journal Warns Readers About Global Warming Article
Register article: <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/07/21/monckton_aps/ >
-- Harry Erwin, PhD,
Clearly I didn't. Yesterday was a strenuous day. Catching up now.
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|This week:||Tuesday, July
1215: Yesterday was a strenuous day. I went out for my walk in the morning, and got a phone call from Paul Schindler, my former BYTE editor (he founded the on-line edition of BYTE as we did an early this week in tech show which, had CMP continued BYTE and the tech show, would have evolved into podcasts and such). Paul had told me he would be in LA yesterday and we had a lunch appointment, which I remembered but hadn't marked down. All turned out well, Roberta and I finished our walk (we had to go to the bank) and met Paul back at the house. Went to the salad joint (Good Earth in Studio City) and that was good. I am always glad to see Paul, which doesn't happen often enough.
But it did tire me out a bit, and I discovered I had medical appointment at 4 PM: a bone density test. So out to Kaiser, back to the house, and by then it had been a very strenuous day. Got to bed at 11 PM, but it was a bad night. Woke up every hour until 8 AM when I should have got up, but I slept in until 0930. Whereupon Roberta bullied me into getting ready for a walk and we were out by 10 or so. I was ready to go back to bed. Plus my arthritis was killing me. It took sheer will power to keep walking -- but things got better as I went, and by the time we came back home with two or three stops for strenuous stretching, I felt pretty darned good. Which means that I can't completely trust the signals: I clearly didn't need more sleep, I needed the exercise; and indeed half way through our 2 miles I felt good enough that I did the arm lifts I abandoned a month ago.
So I'm a bit tired but not out of energy. And I need to rethink the regime. Yes, I must get enough sleep and rest, but I can't just trust the signals any more. Given enough rest, I need to force myself to do the exercises. What's good to know is that a strenuous Monday does not automatically require an all day sleep on Tuesday.
McCain sent an op-ed piece to the New York Times. Obama had one last week, so it was hardly surprising. The Times rejected McCain's editorial demanding that
"the article would have to articulate, in concrete terms, how Senator McCain defines victory in Iraq. It would also have to lay out a clear plan for achieving victory -- with troops levels, timetables and measures for compelling the Iraqis to cooperate.
Astonishing. All this before the mighty New York Time will accept an op-ed piece by the nominee of the Republican Party. Which tells us pretty well all we need to know about where the Times stands on the election. Read again what the editors demanded. Think on it.
The news from Turkey is terrible, and the US State Department thinks it is good news.
Since the US is, for many reasons, committed to an alliance with Israel, our options in the Middle East are limited. Note I make no comment on the Israel Alliance: it is as much a fact as the daily sunrise, and it is not going to change without tearing the nation apart.
But it limits our options as to allies. Given the reality of the US-Israel alliance, our choices of other allies in the Middle East were in effect confined to: The Shah of Iran (but not the mullahs); Saddam Hussein and the Baathist party; and the Kemalist Secularists in Turkey (but not necessarily the people of Turkey). For a while we could cultivate the multi-party coalition in Lebanon, but when we failed to support that regime by sufficient force -- a combat brigade would have done -- but we didn't send that, and when we lost those Marines in the barracks explosion we abandoned Lebanon to its fate.
Jimmy Carter threw the Shah under the bus in the name of democracy. He did so with the full approval of the State Department. Then came the mullahs who invaded our embassy -- even George Kennon said we should have considered that an act of war and invaded Iran -- and Iran became a "democracy" which is to say an Islamic Republic, and instead of the Shah's mild cooperation and control of the Persian Gulf (he simply took the Shatt al Arab from Saddam Hussein) we had the Islamic Republic denouncing Israel and the US as great Satans, etc.
That meant we had to turn to Saddam, and we did, making him our man in that region. He was a terrible man, but he was a secularist, and he was able to contain Iran. Iran vs. Iraq with mild US support were a pretty even match. But Saddam got ambitious. He had a reasonable claim to Kuwait, and when he expressed it, the US Department of State "professional Foreign Service" diplomats failed to make it clear that the US could not tolerate an invasion of Kuwait. Instead our ambassador gave Saddam a message that wasn't anything like clear, and which he took to be permission to proceed. Whereupon the First Gulf War, which I opposed at the time.
That crippled Saddam and turned him even more devious. It also made it much harder for him to contain Iran. To shore up his positions in the Middle East he became more and more anti-Israel. Meanwhile in Washington the policy wonks saw Iraq as a great opportunity to establish something that looked like a democracy in Iraq. All we had to do was depose Saddam, and install some friend of the west as the new leader, and Iraq would evolve into a democracy. Wouldn't that be great?
The result wasn't quite as expected. It was compounded by sending Bremer a State Department Foreign Service Professional, perhaps the least prepared pro-consul in the history of empire, to muck up what the Legions had accomplished. The result is that we have deposed the Sunni/Baathist/secularist leadership Saddam had assembled, and we are busily installing a Shia government which will have learned little and forgotten nothing; and being rather fervent Shiites, they look on Israel as an enemy to be humiliated and eventually dismantled.
Thus of our three potential allies in the Middle East the US, largely under the influence of the Professional Foreign Service Diplomats of the Department of State, has eliminated two of them.
That brings us to Turkey and the Kemalists.
will tell you a great deal about what is happening over there. My contacts within the Turkish army are concerned: if the Army does not act fairly quickly, the secularist Constitution installed by Kemal Ataturk will fall, and Turkey will become a full fledged Islamic Republic.
And our State Department will cheer and cheer. So, I suspect, will Obama.
Of course this will eliminate the last possible ally of the US in the Middle East. Sure, we will continue our nominal alliances with the Saudi kingdom (whose mullahs hate us) and some of the other states over there. And yes, some of the Trucial States and Emirates are developing rapidly and appear to be secularizing; but they don't have much in the way of a military, and will be no match for a new wave of the Flame of Islam.
And the US is sliding into a Depression with Inflation. We simply cannot afford long term continued intervention in the Middle East, not without some expectation of return, and we seem to have foregone the notion of making the war pay for itself. War can feed war, but not if you don't try.
Note that our one major ally in Iraq is the Kurdish semi-state we have created: and that is of course anathema to the Turks, both to the Army and to the Islamists. And I have heard neither Obama nor McCain address this dilemma or any of the problems. I suppose McCain to be more of a realist than Obama, who must rely on professionals to advise him about both military affairs and foreign policy, since he has no experience nor studies nor direct knowledge of either; but I haven't heard much from McCain on what he would do about US policy with Turkey.
(And yes: the Kurdish situation is in part Turkey's fault. Our original battle plan called for invasion through Turkey into the Kurdish regions of Iraq. That would have given us a full Division up there, and we would have had the preponderance of military force; but when the Turkish parliament (not the Army) decided to forbid our troops to jump off through Turkey, the military authorities in Iraq had no choice but to accept the aid of the Kurdish Militias, giving the Kurds considerable control over their own region. Of course they then used that control to launch raids into Turkey.)
As to what we can do, I am not sure: things are coming apart rather rapidly in the Near East. I predicted as much before we invaded Mesopotamia. It's hard to see a good outcome: precipitate retreat (removing our combat troops on a published time table) isn't a great idea. Trying to stay the course and install some kind of constitutional government that will protect the rights of all three major factions in Iraq -- Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish -- plus the smaller secularist class -- may or may not make sense, depending on your estimate of the outcome. It this even possible?
And invading Iran will be overstretch beyond belief; I think even the maddest of the neocons and policy wonks understand this now.
Time is very much on our side regarding Iran: the country has fewer and fewer young people, but those there are are being affected by our cultural weapons of mass destruction. Iran has only a few years to be any kind of regional power for the Islamists -- provided that we don't help them by invading or bombing the country, which would unite Iran like nothing else.
Time is not so much on our side in Afghanistan, where a few brigades of combat troops sent in early would have given us control without the long war of attrition that ensued after the collapse of the Taliban. Of course all that was predictable, and predicted (here as well as elsewhere). One primary dictum of military strategy is don't urinate on them, kick their butts: in other words, send in more than you need to get a job done. Military conquest on the cheap doesn't work in the long run. The wonks didn't understand. And Obama is pretty well a captive of the wonks, far more so than McCain.
And here we are, in this Year of Grace 2008.
And perhaps I am entirely wrong. Perhaps both the Department of State and Obama understand the Middle East more than I do, and know what needs to be done: but I have seen no signs of that. In fairness I haven't seen much evidence that McCain knows what he is doing either. And clearly Rice has no control of the Department of State.
I am probably too stupid to understand but a Charles Miller seems to have invited me to join a Google Group which seems to be a space discussion group. I thought I'd at least find out about this, but when I click the link, I am told I need to register, and it demands a user name and password. I have no idea what user name and password Google expects.
This seems to be as silly a program as ever existed. It doesn't tell me what to do, it demands that I register, and it gives neither explanation nor any place to go to ask for help.
I suppose it's part of the new Web 2.0 which everyone but me understands.
Unfortunately I have no record of ever receiving any other mail from Charles Miller, nor have I ever heard of this discussion group. But Google Groups seem exceedingly hard to use.
Well, I managed to create a Google Mail account, and that let me apply to this discussion group, but then I was told that it will all be considered and some day they may let me know if I am a member of this group. I think in future I will ignore all such requests. Google Groups seems a rather odd bit of software, probably invented to annoy me rather than to be useful. I suppose that's unfair, but I cannot understand what this was supposed to accomplish. I am part of a number of mail discussion groups, and none of them have put me through as much time wasting activity only to tell me to be patient and maybe they will process my "application." I thought I had been invited; apparently only invited to beg them or something. Well, fine, but if I ever create a discussion group I doubt that I'll use Google Groups to do it, unless it's a group of people I don't like much.
About 3 PM I had to do some simple errands (picking up dog food, and other such vital errands) and I came back somewhat tired. Apparently I can't do much more than four hours a day of actual work. Then after supper a new futon appeared at the door. Heavy. Difficult to carry. It had to be got into the back room, the old futon stripped of its accessories, and -- and nothing. I ran out of energy. We'll get the new one unpacked and encased in its covers and such when I get a bit more energy -- or we can get someone in to help. I have to say it's frustrating. I'm used to being the toughest guy you know. It's no fun...
I see some shock jock denounced autism as a racket. He said that 99% of autism diagnoses are wrong and a racket for selling drugs. His 99% number is almost certainly wrong, and it's a lot easier to show that ADHD and Aspergers seem to happen with wealthy parents who go to fancy clinics with astonishing frequency. I'll have to do an essay on this one day. But as a neighborhood example: a couple with a 3 year old boy has a second child, a girl. Shortly after that the boy starts to regress. They're rich, and of course go to the best pediatricians; and end up spending quite a lot on treatments, which, I am glad to say, don't seem to have included drugs. I don't know the boy very well, but I had no trouble talking to him, and getting him to talk to me; seemed to me he wanted some adult attention, and he was smart enough to figure out that acting like a baby got him the kind of attention babies get.
In this particular case it seems to have worked out well, and the boy is out of the hands of the doctors and doing well on his own. Another Trust Fund couple we know had only the one child, but there was this great fear of autism and ADHD; again, I don't know the boy well enough to be sure, and perhaps the physicians are correct, it didn't look to me as if there were much wrong with the boy. I do know they're spending plenty money on this. Fortunately they can afford it.
I know that when I was young, if they'd had school psychologists and drugs I might have been drugged. My mother had enough experience with young children -- she was a first grade teacher before she married -- that she probably wouldn't have gone along with it. In any event the treatment in Catholic schools my first 3 grades was simple: learn to control yourself or get whacked. I didn't have to be whacked very often before I learned to control myself.
Now we know there are real cases of autism; a friend at LASFS has a boy who was simply incorrigible and uncontrollable for his first 10 years or so. It was pretty tragic. My friend continued to have patience, continued to school his boy, and lo! he now has a very bright 12 year old boy who is a bit odd, but has decent manners (around people he respects anyway) and while many would call him odd, no one thinks him autistic any longer.
I don't really know what autism is. When I was in graduate school in psychology, autism, aspergers, and ADHD were not in our textbooks -- and that was the 1950's when shock treatments and lobotomies were fairly common. (Asperger's original paper was published in 1944.) When at one time I contemplated doing psychology I very nearly started a practice specializing in bright kids who weren't doing well in school. I actually had one patient referred by the local pediatrician. Wasn't hard to get the boy interested in things his teachers hadn't bothered with. He was flat bored in school. Big surprise. Not long ago I recommended to a high school social sciences teacher who complained that he had 6 boys who simply were not interested in his classes and caused problems -- I recommended that he get Fletcher Pratt's Battles That Changed History and get them reading that. Saw him the other day and he said he's bought a copy of the book for each kid. Worked just fine. Got them interested in history and social science. I wasn't surprised. I can recall being bored in classes, although deo gratia the Brothers at CBC were seldom boring.
So while the shock jock is certainly insensitive, and I can understand the anger of the parents -- my friend at LASFS was very angry with me when I said that most cases of autism I have encountered are misdiagnoses, and it didn't take him long to convince me and to demonstrate why he was so angry and frustrated. He was living in hell at the time. My only advice was not to give up. Easy for me to say. But he had the patience and determination to continue and now he has a bright young son who may become interested in science fiction -- and certainly is interested in science, at levels appropriate for three or four years above his age.
I do know that a good number of diagnoses of autism are just plain wrong, and I suspect all treatments with drugs in cases of 'autism', 'ADHD', and 'aspergers'. Clearly if kids -- usually boys -- are acting strangely, one should pay attention. But if the family is rich, and the recommendation is expensive treatments, I'd recommend getting a second opinion....
And Christian Bale is charged with assault by his mother and sister. One wonders what really happened? Presumably the story will come out, but perhaps there will be so many variants that picking the truth won't happen. Perhaps his mother will say that Bale has always had aspergers? It all seems bizarre, but the criminal charges seem to have been dropped. One wonders if there will be a civil case and how much the women will want? The sister is reported as saying "It's a family matter!" to reporters, but she must know that one you have called the police, it is no longer merely a family matter. She certainly knows it now.
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Senator Salazar is saying that you can't develop oil shale until 2015. What will he say in 2015? If we don't start now, when do we start? What is the rush to develop it now if we can have it in 2015? Senator Salazar have you ever heard of speculators? In 7 years we could have oil from oil shale according to Salazar (D, Colorado) but apparently it's not worth starting now. Interesting.
Obama seems to have about the same views. If it won't produce this year, it's not worth doing. Very strange view of the world.
I did a short essay last night that may be of interest. I'm in a rush this morning: I'm supposed to go record a short TV soundbite on space and space outfits in about half an hour. It's a bit of a chore, but with books coming out...
It's a reprint of High Justice (a series of linked stories) and Exile to Glory, a novel, all written back in the 1970's; it all holds up very well, because we didn't make the kind of progress I hoped we would make. These are the stories that came about while I was writing A Step Farther Out, which is itself still fairly current because -- well because they didn't take my advice. But for a picture of the solar system as it could be NOW, get this book. I think you will like it.
As you know,
Exile -- And Glory is also available in electronic format for $6.00 at Baen.
Some of us do read electrons.
all the best,
No, I actually didn't know that! Thanks!!
July 24, 2008
First a repeat: Exile -- and Glory is now shipping, and is also available in eBook format. See yesterday's announcement.
Second, if you were contemplating a subscription or renewal, this would be a good time: there is to be a reunion of the DC/X people in New Mexico next month, and I'd rather like to go. I am after all the last of the group who presented the plan to then VP and National Space Council Chairman Dan Quayle. (Me, General Daniel Graham, and rocket engineer/designer Max Hunter; the latter two are alas no longer with us). We won't be seeing Pete Conrad either. Most of the other key people are still around, and it would be nice to spend a day or two with them.
It's not a terribly expensive trip, but it's enough that I have to raise the money to do it. I'm not used to thinking in those terms, but this year I don't have a lot of choice.
Does anyone have a recommendation for a source of book plates? I need a place that can accept photographs and do full designs.
As it happens I was reminded today of the work I did years ago on The Velikovsky Affair. As a result I read my compilation on the subject, and the real debate, between those who insisted that the universe had been uniform without catastrophes (the uniform hypothesis was thought absolutely necessary for Darwinian evolution to have taken place) and those who believed there had been catastrophes not only in pre-history but in human history. Velikovsky obviously believed in catastrophe theory (where he was wrong was in his postulated mechanisms for those catastrophes); and this is one reason for the frantic efforts to suppress him. In any event, those who are interested are referred to http://www.jerrypournelle.com/science/velikovsky.htm but I warn you that it's long and sometimes repetitive. I've just read over it, and I see no reason to revise it.
My conclusion is that on good enough hardware, Vista is fine; but which Vista?
Does anyone have experience with this:
Google is showing me a dozen articles about devices that will or should attach to my Lumix FZ 30 but apparently I am not skilled enough to find a source. That's really what I want: a gizmo I can attach to the Lumix, insert a slide, and shoot the sky or a bright white background or something. This would produce digital pictures that I am sure would be good enough to convert my slides to digital images I can make new lectures out of.
I'd prefer that since I am sure the outcome would be better than any $100 gizmo. HAH. Apologies. I find one for sale at Amazon, not expensive at all. If that works then I'll get my lectures converted.
We do all realize that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were created to make a housing bubble, and the new bailout is designed to reinflate that bubble?
That is, the intention of creating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was to allow people to buy houses who could not afford to otherwise. That increases the demand for houses; which increases the money injected into that market; and when you increase demand, that will increase prices.
Now those who created Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had great intentions: more Americans own houses. Many of the congresscritters who approved probably never thought past that. Some, who are supposed to understand elementary economics, knew better. Then later Congress allowed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to sell their mortgages in packages and use the income to capitalize even more loans, thus really fuelling the bubble; and it's hard to believe that those who pressed for that didn't know what they were doing.
And now the Congress is bailing those outfits out.
Why are they in trouble? Because far too many of the loans these FHA sponsored private institutions turn out to have been not merely bad loans, but ridiculously bad loans; because the bubble they had created was larger than could be sustained without continuous injections of new demand, and just about everyone who could afford a house was already buying one. So the pressure was on, the result was predictable, and here we are, with another enormous bailout to be financed by those who didn't borrow more than they could pay, who quietly went to work and paid their mortgages and paid their taxes. The usual victims when government decides to go out and Do Good.
I wish I had the resources to look into just who benefits from all this, and to whom they give money.
But one thing we can all understand: an attempt to put into the bailout a provision forbidding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from lobbying with the bailout money was summarily blocked by Harry Reid. For lobbying read campaign contributions, junkets, and the usual bribes. Just think: we are about to send public money to organizations so that they can lobby with it. Aren't you proud? Or am I unduly cynical?
Good night last night. Unfortunately I missed the
opening of George Noory's Coast to Coast, which had Richard Hoagland's take
on Captain Mitchell's latest statements on UFO's
I've known both of them -- Mitchell and Hoagland -- a long time. Richard Hoagland is a strange combination of hard headed rationality, considerable if untrained ability in understanding technology, and amazing credulity even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. If there ever was an example of an intelligent man overcome by the will to believe, Hoagland is it.
Mitchell I don't know well. I was responsible for having him be the presenter of the SFWA Nebula Awards in the 1970's and had erratic contact with him since. I followed his sporadic attempts to demonstrate distance viewing and telepathy at Stanford over the years (there were, as usual in such matters, no unambiguous results but lots of "intriguing data".
I never heard him mention Roswell before (that may well be because I haven't been paying attention) but that certainly does not raise his credibility in my estimation. So far as I am concerned the late Karl Pflock, who accepted a commission from the UFO organizations to write a book on Roswell, and then chased down the evidence to discover that there was no alien presence at Roswell in 1947, demonstrated beyond much doubt that what happened there was a cover up, but not of UFO's; and there was no new technology, alien or otherwise, found at Roswell. (See my short comments and a reference to Karl's book in mail.)
In any event, I came upstairs to get something (flashlight and magnifying glass to examine the dog's foot, actually) just as Hoagland was coming on Noory's show, and he seemed a bit skeptical; which is intriguing. But I had to get back downstairs and missed it. I presume the show is on the web somewhere and I'll try to make time to listen: it should be in the first quarter hour of the show's beginning; and I would be interested in Hoagland's take. When he's not overcome by his beliefs, Dick Hoagland can be informative (and he's almost always interesting).
There's a pretty good diatribe on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in today's Wall Street Journal. It was all good intentions, but those two institutions were inevitably going to cause bubbles and evade responsibility; and bailing them out now without full reform including stripping them of the ability to spend public-derived money on lobbying and "public relations" is a ghastly mistake. We are going to regret these hastily constructed bailouts.
What all this illustrates is just how little our Congress understands the United States, and this seems to apply to the long term members who are on relevant committees as well as to those who just got there, or those who've been there a long time but became "specialists" in military or foreign affairs. Incidentally, how many remember that until he was named as VP Candidate by G HW Bush, Senator Danforth Quayle was the "respected junior senator from Indiana" who had in fact made a good reputation as a military and foreign policy expert. Of course the day he ran for VP he became an idiot, but that's pretty inevitable given our media.
But the problem here is that no one in Washington understands what Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do. They only know what their intentions are, which is good -- but then almost all intentions in Washington are good.
Today the Wall Street Journal reprinted remarks by Former Treasury
Secretary Lawrence Summers on the subject of Fannie Mae and "creative
capitalism." It is very much worth your time:
There's a longer piece by Dick Armey on the subject:
The scandal here is that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not clean as a whistle. They have spent hundreds of millions on lobbying. Their executives make lots of money. The bailout will see to it that they keep on doing what they have done, which is inflate the bubble, siphon off lots of money for themselves, live like kings (these are private companies after all and not subject to salary restrictions) and generally make merry with your money. Now if you're for housing bubbles, this is all a good idea. And if you're not, pay attention: someone is going to get rich out of this bailout. It may as well be those smart enough to pay attention.
The atom feed we used to have is broken, and we don't know how to fix it. It seems to have come apart when I went to the 2008/Q3 folder. Perhaps it would be better if I put everything in a year folder and had done with it; it would make for a darned big folder, but I suppose I can live with that.
I am not sure how many people use the feed structure to begin with. IF there's an expert in the house (please don't send me suggestions inspired by guesses; I don't know much about this to begin with, and I don't have a lot of time. But I could use some expert advice.)
And for those didn't notice, a new mailbag is up on Chaos Manor Reviews.
Something of a lighter nature than we've been engaged in lately.
I was looking for Starship and space battle wallpaper for something different and decided to see what I could come up with on the Leif Ericson model. I haven't come up with the wallpaper I want yet, but I was pleased to find this site, http://www.projectrho.com/SSC/model.html. Not only does it have a really neat interpretive model, it also links the Manor just below as well. I thought other readers would find this really neat as well.
And, as usual, I hope very much that you can get a couple of more novels or stories out of this universe. As I beg without shame.
I'll at least be taking what I have (everything according to your bibliography), some paper and some downloads I'm going to purchase with me to the sandbox.
For those interested in INSS MacArthur from The Mote In God's Eye. I had forgotten that this page:
exists here. There are other interesting reports in the Chaos Reports section, and I had forgotten all about them! Have a look. You may find something interesting.
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July 26, 2008
Spent the day trying to get Outlook 2007 working properly with Vista. It took darned near the whole day for reasons that will be in the column.
Not much accomplished today. I need to get to work on the column. You might want to browse the summary page cmreports; there may be something in there that will interest you. One of the reports tells the story of how I rolled my Bronco in Death Valley and hiked out.
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the weekly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 8,000 - 12,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here. This site is run on the "public radio" model; see below.
If you have no idea what you are doing here, see the What is this place?, which tries to make order of chaos.
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