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Saturday, November 05, 2011

Recent Reading - The Lies We Are Spun & a Few Truths

  BBC article about how the poor "renewable" subsidy junkies will "risk job losses". if their subsidy is cut from 43p (actually 43.3p) to 21p a unit. Censored is any mention that the actual commercial cost of producing such power is 2.2p (by nuclear) and that various reports have confirmed the obvious fact that subsidising subsidy dependent "industries" with money raised from real wealth producers causes the loss of as many as 3.7 jobs for every one "created". By censorship the BBC have thus, presumably deliberately, said the exact and precise opposite of the truth to promote the parasitism of government's cronies. A particularly obvious example of their fascistic corruption.
Greenpeace triumphalism about the report which appeared to say global warming was real. In fact it avoided saying nothing about damaging warming and the co-author. Judith Curry, has denounced the presentation saying the claim to have proven warming did not peak in 1998 is a lie.

Interesting for the fact that my comment was censored. Consider this part of my search for ANY alarmist site anywhere in the world that does no t censor factual debate and can therefore be assumed not to believe their warming scare to be a fraud unable to withstand factual discussion
"the British-empire (that is, Britain and the quarter of the globe it governed in the 1920s) operated on a budget the size of the projected fiscal revenue for Best Buy stores in 2012 (in inflation-adjusted dollars). The British Sudanese civil service, which governed a country of 9 million people, was 140-men strong (smaller than the combined active rosters of the Rams, the Packers and the Cowboys of the NFL), and governed - perhaps needless to say - with a far lighter and fairer hand than the regime now in Khartoum. In India, 100,000 British soldiers and civil servants ruled more than 300 million people. To put that in perspective, in 2009 California, a state with a population of about 37 million, had 206,000 full-time state employees - that’s not even counting city, county or federal workers. Oh, and incidentally, it’s a little remarked fact that the British ended up taxing the Indians at a far lower rate than the Moghuls had taxed their subjects before the British arrived." - Washington Post

On the other hand we now employ 200,000 "health and safety" inspectors in Britain.
The "Nobel Prize in Economics" isn't a real Nobel Prize. It was invented much later, using his name after he was dead, by the Swedish government bank. The "Peace" Prize is barely more honest being awarded by a committee of Norwegian politicians.
Steve Sailer on how the Republicans could win elections by opposing immigration. If one thinks about it this is obvious but neither the Republican "leadership" nor the Conservatives in Britain see it.
"The idea of sending someone to prison for expressing their personal hatreds seems bizarre in a society that claims to allow freedom of speech. But in the frenzied atmosphere being whipped up around the new laws, a judge sitting in a Scottish courtroom felt emboldened to deprive a person of his liberty by criminalising his words."

Spiked article on the destruction of free speech by the Scottish government.

"the Democratic Party’s sorta interest in turning the anger of a few into a left-wing Tea-Party-like movement of many."

A very good assessment of what America's political class have done to the country.

Britain's nomenklatura, who have been worse, are equally supportive of the "Occupy" movement  for the same reason..
Britain's nomenklatura, who have been worse, are equally supportive of the "Occupy" movement for the same reason..

Spiked report on how Britain's media nomenklatura embrace "Occupy"'s lack of any coherent vision as a useful blank slate.
"’Do you think you know what the Occupy movement wants?’ That was the question posed by Kevin Marsh, director of OffspinMedia, at a debate last night hosted by the Frontline Club in London. About half of the audience members put their hands up. ‘Irrespective of whether you think you know or not, how many of you support what Occupy is doing?’ Marsh, who chaired the discussion, then asked. The majority of hands went up.
"my father taught me one of my oldest—and long most futile—good habits. As we walked down the street in suburban Los Angeles in the mid-1960s, we’d occasionally come upon a parked car whose headlights had been left on. To spare the driver a dead battery, we’d open the car door and flick the lights off.
My dad’s acts of disinterested neighborliness were feasible because, implausible as it now seems, few people bothered to lock their cars back then. Indeed, it was still common in 1965 for motorists to store their keys conveniently in the ignition switch. One of the earliest magazine articles I can recall reading advised drivers that due to the sudden growth in car thefts, they should start taking their keys with them.
As the 1960s went on, my father and I increasingly found that parked cars with burning headlights were locked, so there was nothing we could do. The last time we successfully turned off anybody’s lights was 1972.
The blight of car theft spread overseas. At a business lunch in the leafy suburbs of Oxford in 1994, a half dozen English colleagues regaled me for 45 minutes with stories of their cars being stolen.
Slowly the forces of order responded. Manufacturers armored the ignition system so that thieves could no longer hotwire cars. In the 1980s, obnoxious alarms became common. The Club came along, a big red steel contraption that sent the message, “It will take too long to steal my car. Steal my neighbor’s car instead.”
In response to all this target-hardening, criminals switched to stealing cars directly from motorists: carjacking. In Los Angeles, the most publicized enormity came in 1993, when a carjacker brutalized a young woman for her BMW in placid Sherman Oaks, killing her unborn child. After the public outcry, the LAPD took carjacking seriously, and this most horrifying version of car theft declined.
Indeed, stealing cars isn’t the career it used to be. According to FBI statistics, despite the recession, motor vehicle theft declined 40 percent from 2006 to 2010. The howling of accidentally triggered car alarms seems to have become less frequent as the need for the devices has fallen.
While reading the galleys of Professor Pinker’s immense book, I paused to take a walk. I passed a car with its lights on. Out of ancient habit, I tried the door. For the first time in 39 years, I succeeded in turning off a neighbor’s headlights."  Steve Sailer again.

America has 2.09 million people in prison. That is an extraordinarily high price to pay for beating crime but it clearly works.
Prescription painkillers outpace heroin, cocaine in OD deaths
LA Times. HT Mark Wadsworth

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Friday, November 04, 2011

Scottish Conservatives - Steady As She Sinks

  The Scottish Conservative leadership election was the most interesting thing that has happened to the party in decades. Murdo Fraser's option of forming a new party was pretty well the only talking point. All candidates said they were pushing "change" though this was the only actual proposal of change. Ruth Davidson in particular, when asked on Newsnight what actual change  she proposed blustered and eventually came up with something about increased child allowance - neither major nor, unless she has done so elsewhere, costed, nor likely to happen in the current economic climate nor traditionally Conservative nor going to do anything whatsoever to solve any of the real problems of the Scottish economy.

   Not that Murdo was that much better - the only one to have, quietly, hinted they might not ne entirely willing to destroy the country on the catastriohic warming lie was Jackson Carlaw, who, "not suggesting conspiracy" was written off ny the BBC.

    Murdo did, on Newsnight, say there was party focus group information saying that  a new party title would  significantly improve their vote but he seems not to have been loud in using that. Whether the new party would have been a genuine new party in which real issues got real discussion, as I had hoped, or merely a paint job is something we now won't know. We can be fairly sure that if the party had not been reduced from 200,000 50 years ago and 13,000 when Cameron took over to 8,000 now Murdo's vote would have been greater.

Ruth Davidson - 2983

Murdo Fraser - 2417

    So Ruth Davidson, very much in the David Cameron tradition (young, inexperienced, vapid, no noticeable principles and only previous job being in broadcasting - in her case in the BBC, ) is the new face of the Scottish Tories and the remaining members of the party have opted for steady as she sinks. Another step in the long hollowing out of British political parties.

   And for Murdo and the other MSPs who supported him because they agreed with him that the Conservative "brand" was so toxic they could never win with it - start polishing your CVs.

UPDATE In, somewhat triumphalist, BBC TV reporting last night they said that she had only been in the party for 2 years and that she was the "first open lesbian party leader" - things they found too unimportant to report while the contest was on.

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Thursday, November 03, 2011

Catastrophic Warming as Pseudoscience - Matt Ridley's Speech

  Bishop Hill has a speech given by Matt Ridley at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh which dissects the catastrophic warming scare with beautiful precision and proves, beyond any honest doubt that is is not science but pseudoscience. The first part of the speech defines to difference between science and pseudoscience and I think falls not far short of Richard Feynman's similar speech on Cargo Cult Science. Read the whole thing but here is an excerpt:
[Mann's Hockey Stick] has been utterly debunked by the work of Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick. I urge you to read Andrew Montford’s careful and highly readable book The Hockey Stick Illusion*. Here is not the place to go into detail, but briefly the problem is both mathematical and empirical. The graph relies heavily on some flawed data – strip-bark tree rings from bristlecone pines -- and on a particular method of principal component analysis, called short centering, that heavily weights any hockey-stick shaped sample at the expense of any other sample. When I say heavily – I mean 390 times.
This had a big impact on me. This was the moment somebody told me they had made the crop circle the night before.
For, apart from the hockey stick, there is no evidence that climate is changing dangerously or faster than in the past, when it changed naturally.
It was warmer in the Middle ages* and medieval climate change in Greenland was much faster.
Stalagmites*, tree lines and ice cores all confirm that it was significantly warmer 7000 years ago. Evidence from Greenland suggests that the Arctic ocean was probably ice free for part of the late summer at that time.
Sea level* is rising at the unthreatening rate about a foot per century and decelerating.
Greenland is losing ice at the rate of about 150 gigatonnes a year, which is 0.6% per century.
There has been no significant warming in Antarctica*, with the exception of the peninsula.
Methane* has largely stopped increasing.
Tropical storm* intensity and frequency have gone down, not up, in the last 20 years.
Your probability* of dying as a result of a drought, a flood or a storm is 98% lower globally than it was in the 1920s.
Malaria* has retreated not expanded as the world has warmed.
And so on. I’ve looked and looked but I cannot find one piece of data – as opposed to a model – that shows either unprecedented change or change is that is anywhere close to causing real harm.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Scottish X-Prize - Any Reason This Wouldn't Work Other Than That Our Luddite Busybodies Won't Try it?

  Last night Channel 4 did an item on how the Isle of Man (pop 80,000) is a home to the growing private sector space industry. Naturally they veered between condescension about how such a small place (autonomous part of Britain but with its own tax laws) could have such pretensions and astonishment that it was achieving them. This says why. Basically they already had an aerospace infrastructure very large compared to national size, together with an internationally appealing low tax rate and were able to form a cluster of companies able to lobby the government to keep out of the way. The pre-existence of a cluster (like Silicon Valley) and a fertile atmosphere was enough:
"The Isle of Man is host to one of the most agile and dynamic clusters of aerospace and engineering companies in and around the UK region. Established in 2006, the Cluster is a joint initiative by the Isle of Man Department of Economic Development and the island's Chamber of Commerce. Working in collaboration with the North West Aerospace Alliance, it is directly linked to one of Europe's largest and most proactive Aerospace Clusters.
"The Isle of Man Aerospace Cluster will sustain an international market leading position within high technology and aerospace industries."
  Of course the British Space Minister used to proudly boast that our space industry is growing at 10% annually. That would be great if the potential was not so very much more.
   On a different subject the economically illiterate nanny statists of  the SNP have decided on the single most stupid, unfair, destructive and ineffective ways to stop Scots drinking imaginable. They intend to legally enforce a minimum sale price for alcohol, which incidentally will very probabnly be found to be illegal under EU competition rules. Unusual to find the EU more committed to free markets and individual freedom than a member government but that is the SNP for you.

  The effect of this will be to increase prices for the poor and young alone. None of the politicians, nosey parkers or medical mafia will see a penny on their expensive tipples but they will screw the poor "to protect" them.If they actually wanted to cut alcoholism let alone help anybody they would be in favour of job creation, a growing economy and providing some hope for the future - that is the best solution to despair.

  It is generally a bad thing to enforce rules on others without having to endure them yourselves, which is what we see here.

  It will, of course, have an economic effect encouraging people to shop across the border in Berwick and Carlisle and by mail. Incidentally this will presumably end any possibility of the people of Berwick agitating to become part of Scotland again.

  Here's a better alternative.
  Scots drink an average of  12.2 units weekly averaging men and women (p19) That is 3.2 billion. Put an extra tax of 10p on it which would raise £320 million, or slightly less if it succeeds in cutting consumption. We would have to get round such tax being a Westminster matter by making it part of the licencing fee.

  Then put all that into a Scots X-Prize foundation. Assuming it would be 5 years before all prizes were won that would be £1.6 billion ($2.5 bn) which could be offered initially. Remember that X-Prizes are 33-100 times more effective than the sort of grants NASA, ESA and all the government players get. If it were to be assumed that not the entirety of the world's space development were to move here and thus some of the achievements be made by foreigners the prizes offered could be increased proportionately.

  All in all, if such prizes work even fractionally as well as research shows they do then
Scoptland would be out of recession and fighting for world technological leadership. If they even appeared to work the people of Scotland would be able to find inspiration in something better than a bottle. Of course if they didn't then, by definition, prizes wouldn't be awarded so there would be no losers. None of the busybodies, nanny statists, government parasites and Luddites could possibly object. Well not unless they actually thought it would work and didn't want it to.

  Any bets whether most Scots politicos are honest nanny staters honestly interested in doing good, or Luddites totally interested in driving us back to the Middle Ages? I exclude the possibility of anybody in Holyrood actually being interested in freedom and progress.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Scottish Tunnel Project - Civil Service Reply Bombshell - Our Costs Always Rise 4% Faster than the Rate of Inflation

  I got this further reply to my further query about about the government decision not to consider the Scottish Tunnel Project because back in 2008 their own review "did NOT include the provision of any road tunnels across Scotland and the Isles". You can skip most of it. My reply is at the end.:

"Thank you for your e-mail of 27th September 2011 to the Minister for Housing and Transport in response to mine of September, in which you provide further comment on Transport Scotland. As your e-mail concerns an operational matter, it has been passed to Transport Scotland to reply.

A transport appraisal study focuses on objectives not solutions. This avoids solutions (such as those tunnelling proposals which you suggest) being brought forward without considering other options which may meet the identified transport problems and opportunities in a study area.

The STPR (described in my previous letter) was objective led and provides 29 agreed transport interventions which are being taken forward by Transport Scotland to meet its own established strategic criteria and hierarchy for investment of:
Maintaining and safely operating existing assets

Making better use of existing capacity; and

Targeted infrastructure improvements.
As part of the STPR process, interventions were proposed to Transport Scotland. While no tunnel projects were put forward, I can, however, assure you that Transport Scotland has no presumption against tunnelling projects, and if a successful Business Case for a tunnel emerged to meet a particular transport need, it would be taken forward to delivery in the same way as any other project.
The STPR does focus primarily on land based interventions. However, Scotland’s (second) National Planning Framework (NPF2) considers wider connections to Scotland’s islands, the Rest of the UK, and to Europe. This includes major developments at various Scottish ports, such as Loch Ryan, Galloway, and Scapa Flow, Orkney. Further information on NPF2 can be found at:
The Scottish Government is currently conducting a comprehensive Review of all domestic ferry services in Scotland. The main purpose of the Review is to develop a long-term plan for ferry services to 2022.
Alternatives to ferry crossings such as tunnels, bridges and causeways will be identified as part of the Review.

Forth Replacement Crossing (FRC)

The STPR Commission also covered a study of the FRC. The primary objective of this study was to identify the scope, form and function of any potential replacement to the existing Forth Road Bridge. The recommendation from this study was that the best overall performing option would be a cable stayed bridge. This was because it is significantly cheaper than the tunnel options, can be delivered quicker, has fewer risks associated with its construction and demonstrates best value for money. The total estimated cost range of delivering the project is now £1.45 billion to £1.60 billion, a substantial reduction on the previous estimate of £1.7 billion to £2.3 billion.

The tunnel construction costs that you cite refer to a single bore and appear to be from 1999 (the year in which the article appeared). Since then, construction costs have increased at around 4% above the standard rate of inflation. Your costs would therefore have to be at least doubled, and would also have to allow for the inclusion of other significant factors, as described below.

The FRC Policy Memorandum confirms that many crossing options were considered. In relation to the option of a tunnel instead of a Bridge, the FRC Study set out an analysis of current and future conditions on the transport network within the Forth area and having identified eight transport planning objectives for the study, a number of potential options were generated and subjected to an initial sifting process. From this sifting the provision of a replacement crossing was considered in five cross-Forth corridors.
Appraisals of the options concluded that the following proposals, in three of the five cross-Forth corridors, should be taken forward for further development:

West of Rosyth – tunnel (twin bore tunnel).

East of Rosyth/West of South Queensferry – bridge (either suspension bridge or a cable-stayed bridge) or tunnel (twin bore tunnel).

East of South Queensferry – tunnel (twin bore tunnel and immersed tube tunnel).

The technical challenges which would be anticipated in constructing each option were considered in detail and identified a greater number of technical risks and concerns for the three tunnel options:

the ground conditions of the Forth impact on the size of tunnel boring machine which may be used for twin bore tunnels and means that the provision of a continuous hard shoulder would not be available within the tunnel;
any incorporation of multi-modal options would require a third tunnel;
assessments indicated that a twin bore tunnel is likely to generate approximately 4 million tonnes of spoil which would require disposal;
substantial, intrusive, ventilation shafts would need to be on both sides of the Forth and these would need to be located within the unique setting of the Forth;
there are restrictions on the types of goods that can be transported in tunnels that impact on their operational effectiveness;
in respect of time-frame estimates indicated the construction of twin bored tunnels could take 7.5 yeas; and
at a higher cost (up to £2 billion) than a bridge and with greater cost uncertainty (since ground conditions can only ever be fully understood as the tunnel progresses).
Consideration of the construction of an immersed tube tunnel whilst presenting some advantages over bored tunnels also indicated a number of particular challenges.
Unlike other tunnelling techniques this approach requires prefabrication of sections followed by the floating of the sections in line before lowering them into place. There is therefore greater certainty of approach especially since a tube can avoid technically challenging geology on the crossing. There are, however, additional environmental constraints placed on this method. Locating the tube within a trench would require significant dredging and disturbance of sediments, as well as the requirement to create large cofferdams.
Engineering challenges in transitioning from the tube to a tunnel so as to link with the shore line and ultimately the road network made the option less attractive than a bridge. Though a suitable location for casting the immersed tube tunnel could be sourced locally it would require substantial modification which impacts on cost and delivery time. In terms of operational effectiveness, the immersed tube tunnel would also be placed under the same operating constraints as would apply to a conventional bored tunnel.
Though less costly to construct than bored tunnels the immersed tube tunnel option proved more costly than those options with a Bridge.
I hope this is helpful.
Yours faithfully,
Raymond Convill
Dear Mr Convill,
                           Thank you for your further response advising that the reason the 2008 review, which you previously gave as the reason for not considering tunnels, was probilited from considering such a tunnel, project because it is required to consider only existing objectives and pre "targeted  improvements" obviously of a very limited nature. This is indeed close to what I had surmised in my previous discussion when I said "they are specifically prevented from looking at any pro-active attempt to improve infrastructure" and that, for example, had the Forth Road bridge not been built in the 1960s the review would now be effectively precluded from considering building one. A system which you say "avoids solutions being brought forward" until all the Invented Here solutions have been done to death - this is indeed close to the Sir Humphrey Appleby position that "'many, many things must be done, but nothing should ever be done for the first time' .
  I note that in both letters you do not in any way dispute that such a tunnel programme could increase Scotland's GNP by about £40 billion. Nor that the costings of the Norwegian system are accurate. Nor that they do indeed, at least in 1999, show that such tunnels could be constructed here at similar prices, undercutting costs given by Scottish Transport by around 200 times - though if the price rises since then apply this would bring us to only 100 times.
Which brings us to an interesting assertion you made.
construction costs have increased at around 4% above the standard rate of inflation
  By comparison in my original article I said that the costs of tunneling have, as the technology improves over the years, dropped in real terms. This is why the Norwegian tunnel project worked. As evidence of this I pointed out that "you can get a "slightly used" tunnel boring machine for $300,000 nowadays".

  The assumption of 4% annual above inflation inflation does dovetail remarkably well with my previously pointing out that the current Forth Bridge budget is £2300 bn. Whereas the previous bridge cost £19.5 million - £320 million in infaltion adjusted money. That means you are charging the taxpayer nearly 8 times as much as predecesors charged for the previous one. A 4% above inflation increase since 1959, the year work started, is 7.99 - an incredibly consistent result

   As I pointed out the engineering cost for tunneling should actually be downwards in real terms. Indeed this is what one would expect in any practise which was technologically challenging 50 years ago and is less so now, as the electronics industry shows. We should thus expect to have achieved the same savings in any construction project, and indeed many other parts of the state structure that Norway clearly has.

  Technologically it appears clear that such cost reductions in tunneling have been made and should be continuing.

   I would thus like to know, as an FoI request, exactly why the Scottish civil service believes that inflation in their costs in tunneling projects; bridge building projects, other construction projects; and those other areas of government who claim this applies, insist that the very long term rate of cost increases for things they do simply cannot ever be reduced to less than 4% above what applies to the rest of the world. 

   One obvious answer would be an enormous growth of government employees whose work adds zero, or less, to productivity. Another would be massive fraud. I do not insist it be either but it is clearly, at least in this case, not in any way an engineering cost and there must be otherwise some enormous, irreducable and generationally continuing reason or reasons for this.

   Since you say ST accept, as an inevitability, that your costs must be expected to rise 4% faster than the world at large's you and the rest of the civil service must have put considerable effort into determining the cause of this conundrum.

   Obviously this effect does suggest, overwhelmingly, that, whatever the reason, no activity should ever be left in government's hands over the long term where it could possibly be put into the free market, even if there were cases where government appeared to be currently doing it at less cost.

Neil Craig

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Monday, October 31, 2011

Did we miss a cometary impact extinction event on 1883?

  "On 12th and 13th August 1883, an astronomer at a small observatory in Zacatecas in Mexico made an extraordinary observation....
Bonilla published his account of this event in a French journal called L'Astronomie in 1886. Unable to account for the phenomenon, the editor of the journal suggested, rather incredulously, that it must have been caused by birds, insects or dust passing front of the Bonilla's telescope. ....
Today, Hector Manterola at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City, and a couple of pals, give a different interpretation. They think that Bonilla must have been seeing fragments of a comet that had recently broken up. This explains the 'misty' appearance of the pieces and why they were so close together.
But there's much more that Manterola and co have deduced. They point out that nobody else on the planet seems to have seen this comet passing in front of the Sun, even though the nearest observatories in those days were just a few hundred kilometers away.
That can be explained using parallax. If the fragments were close to Earth, parallax would have ensured that they would not have been in line with the Sun even for observers nearby. And since Mexico is at the same latitude as the Sahara, northern India and south-east Asia, it's not hard to imagine that nobody else was looking.
Manterola and pals have used this to place limits on how close the fragments must have been: between 600 km and 8000 km of Earth. That's just a hair's breadth.
What's more, Manterola and co estimate that these objects must have ranged in size from 50 to 800 metres across and that the parent comet must originally have tipped the scales at a billion tons or more, that's huge, approaching the size of Halley's comet....
One puzzle is why nobody else saw this comet. It must have been particularly dull to have escaped observation before and after its close approach. However, Manterola and co suggest that it may have been a comet called Pons-Brooks seen that same year by American astronomers.
Manterola and co end their paper by spelling out just how close Earth may have come to catastrophe that day. They point out that Bonilla observed these objects for about three and a half hours over two days. This implies an average of 131 objects per hour and a total of 3275 objects in the time between observations.
Each fragment was at least as big as the one thought to have hit Tunguska. Manterola and co end with this: "So if they had collided with Earth we would have had 3275 Tunguska events in two days, probably an extinction event."

  My guess is probably not but only probably. Either he really did have birds flying past the telescope or more likely it was further away but no other astronomers happened to be looking in the right direction. Even so cometary debris passing at a mere 10s of thousands of km would be pretty close. The Earth has a diameter of 8,000 km so in astronomic terms anything closer than the Moon is to close to the bull's eye. Although the dinosaur killer extinctio9n event was 65 million years ago it is quite possible that we have had many more which "only" killed 99% of land animals. IN most cases that would mean populations back to normal with a thousand years of breeding - not enough to even register on a geological record 1os of millions or even millions of years ago but no fun for the 99%v of us.

   We need a spacegoing civilisation, to be able to spot these quickly and a large instant launch capability to reach and divert them. Anything less is the human race playing Russian Roulette - perhaps only with 1 chamber in 10,000 loaded but that is still far to much.

HT Pournelle.

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