Thinking Magazine #17 12-22-92

Thinking Magazine is One Year Old

Well, it was just about a year ago I put out my first issue of Thinking Magazine and what a year it has been. Originally born out of total frustration with reality I felt the need to make some sense out of the chaos. Now it seems that there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

Last year in issue #2 I made my 1992 predictions. Now that the year is almost over lets go back and see how I did.

Well, I didn't do to bad on this one. I was clearly wrong when I predicted that Bush will win by a narrow margin. It shows how pessimistic I was about the way things were going. In fact it was this prediction that made me decide to put out the kind of effort I did to prove myself wrong.

But Bush did try to put a rosy face on the economy. He cut the tax deductions for your paychecks in January to put more money in your pockets this year. Now this gives you the illusion that you got a tax cut, but actually taxes went up last year. When April 15th comes around you'll find that you won't be getting your tax refund. Many of you will be sending in additional taxes.

Bush sure did run a fear and hate campaign. A lot harder than I had predicted. I definitely got that one right. Duke did fizzle early, but it was Buchannan who took a hunk out of Bush's hide. And I think he did the most damage at the Republican convention when he endorsed Bush.

Well, here in Springfield Mo. gas stayed low but only got down to 85 cents. But was this an election year favor from the middle east? I don't think so. So I was wrong on this one. Had I been right on this one I might have been right on the first one too. I'm glad Bush doesn't read Thinking Mag!

Well, the stock market was stable. I'm wrong on this one.

This is still true. But I don't think Clinton will raise interest rates back up any time soon. But at some point rates are going to have to get back to reality and it may not be pretty. I'm locked in at 6% for this next year on my main business loan and there is a temptation to go for more debt to pump up business. But I'm looking forward to going into the black and having everything paid off. I want to experience having money I haven't even spent yet. On the other hand I'm tempted to get a printing press or buy out a small printing business.

Well, I'm still glad I'm in the software business. Technically this is a 1993 election and I'm now optimistic that things will turn around. We now have a "window of opportunity" and we must take advantage of that window. Congress clearly has a mandate to do whatever's necessary to get the job done. This is the best shot we'll have.

Well, Boris is still the one on top and he's the guy they hate. He now has the blame and now the old Communists are giving him a hard time. I think he karmically deserves it. Yeltzin is just a political opportunist who took advantage of the first coop and launched a left wing overthrow of Gorby. The Russians, like us, think with our bellies. But perhaps we rose above that. All we have to do is look over there if we want to see what the results of stupidity are. The only thing that keeps us from being like them is that we are smarter, or at least have been so far.

As far as a Gorby comeback, that hasn't happened, yet. I'm still hoping though.

Well, I got this one right on everything except June. Both systems came out in April. But OS/2 was released "as is" and wasn't what I call done. Actually, I still don't consider it done. Windows 3.1 was a big step up from Windows 3.0 as far as stability goes, but I still consider Windows to be software from hell as far as the programmer is concerned.

Well, (see enclosed press release) Novell just bought out the UNIX from AT&T. This gives Novell the opportunity to go head to head with Microsoft in the operating system market, if Novell is smart enough to pull it off.

But Novell lost out on a deal for IBM to bundle Novell's DOS on IBM machines because DR-DOS has several incompatibilities and Novell didn't deal with these bugs in a timely manner. This is the prediction that could have been, but Novell snatched defeat out of the mouth of victory. I'll go into more detail on this in a future issue with an inside exclusive story about how Novell got into the DOS business. Stay tuned.

I don't have this months Computer Shopper handy but if I'm not right on this I'm real close. Just about all 9600 baud modems have fax built in.

Well, I'm still talking about it anyhow. This one may come slower than I would hope. But it will happen.

Well, December isn't over yet but it doesn't look like Saddam is up to much. No 900 number this year. I am right about the Middle East slowly plodding forward though.

This is still a real threat. I wonder who is now armed with nukes because Bush was to dumb to follow through and help the Russians get rid of their nukes. I'm afraid we're going to pay the price for that one some day.

Well, Star Trek is getting a little weak as of late. This fall season has been the worst yet. It's still better than other shows and if you look at the whole year it's still the best show on TV. But if they don't come up with some good episodes I may record Bart Simpson over this years Trek tapes.

There wasn't a new Trek VII this year but there is one in the works. So I'm right on that one except for the timing.

Well, 1992 was a more interesting year for me personally. But looking at things objectively I think 1991 outdid 1992.

So how did I do in my predictions? Well, in my unbiased humble opinion I think I did fairly well. The way I measure results is that I compare myself to other predictors and see how many I get right compared to the experts. I think I did better than 90% of the rest of them based on what I remember was predicted. We'll see more details on this as we get closer to New Years Day.

Looking back I noticed that my view of the future was tainted by my frustrations with reality. I also had a tendency to go for the "long shot" with the idea of the big "TolJaSo" in mind. I guess that in the next issue that I'm going to make my 1993 predictions. Should I go for accuracy? Or is it more fun to sacrifice some accuracy and go for the "Big Game"? I guess we'll see what kind of mood I'm in when I write the next one.

How the Future Works

Looking back the odds were clearly in Bush's favor. I believe that the future is a variable and isn't carved in stone. Some people have this view that time is like a movie that has already been shot and were here just watching it, but we can't affect the ending. I look at the future in terms of probable conclusions based on existing events. But if one makes minor corrections to the present, one can change the odds and create a new series of events which change the future. I think that there were enough of us who decided that they were going to buck the odds and change the course of events.

Based on the logical conclusion of the chain of events that were in place on January 1st 1992 that Bush should have won hands down and that his winning was the future at that point. But if you look further down the road that same chain of events would have put our country, the sole remaining nuclear superpower, on a course of almost certain economic collapse. And the combination of the United States with a failing society and being ruled by the religious right controlling a nuclear arsenal was very scary indeed. I believe that a sufficient number of people realized what was happening and did what it took to change the course of future events.

It is possible for one person to change the course of human history. Gorbechev dissolved the Communist block and ended the cold war all by himself. Hitler was merely a German artist, but came closer to destroying civilization than anyone in history. Ghandi overthrew British rule in India. Mandella is in the process of overthrowing white rule in South Africa.

Every one of you reading this has the potential to accomplish as much or more than these people did. You can change the course of history. You can decide the future for all of humanity. I believe that there are no guarantees that we are going to come out all right. We only do well to the extent that we make it happen. And if we fail to make it happen then all we will have left is our fossils and our trash at the bottom of the sea.

Almost Got Picked

For those of you who watched Clinton's economic summit trying to see if I was there, I wasn't. I came close though. A few days before I published the last issue of Thinking Magazine I got a call from the Clinton Economic Transition team and they told me I was one of the finalists. A few days before the summit though they called me back and said that I didn't get picked.

I did manage to get to watch a few hours of it on C-Span and it was interesting. It was rather frustrating feeling like I should be there. But I haven't given up. I'm hell bent on getting 5 minutes with Clinton to get some of my ideas into his hands. I still view Clinton's election as the first step to recovery, and that it is imperative that he succeed.

On one of the letters I wrote, I wrote a note on the bottom saying that if he was looking for some music for the inauguration, that I knew an Ozark hippy bluegrass band called "Hot Mulch" that I thought would be great. A few days ago I got a call from the transition team wanting to hear a tape of the band. So, Hot Mulch may go to Washington.

I'm planning on being at the inauguration. I'm exhibiting at Networld, a computer show in Boston. The show is a week before so Vicki and I are going to spend the week in DC. Hopefully I can get some lobbying in. If not at least I'll have a little vacation.

Christmas Shopping Ideas

For those of you who are scrambling to get your Christmas shopping done, here's a few hot ideas. For the political activist I found a software package called "Write Your Congressman!". I picked this little goody up at Sam's Wholesale for a mere twenty five bucks. This program is an adaptation of the ACT contact manager program and is written for salesmen to keep in contact with clients and customers. It has a database with the names, addresses, phone numbers, fax numbers, and key contact people for all the congressmen, senators, governors, supreme court justices, and the president and vice president.

The package includes a word processor, scheduler, merge printing, and contact history tracking. It also allows you to export the data to a comma delimited ascii file. They also offer a free upgrade for the new data for after the election. Whether you're into teaching gay rights to grade school children or torching abortion clinics, this is the software for you.

In issue #12 I wrote about some wonderful Bose Acoustimass-5 speakers I bought this summer for $750. Well low and behold the price has dropped and these speakers can be had for $350. I thought they were great at the price I paid, but at $350 it's a musthave item. These speakers look like a pair of 3 inch cubes on each side with a small base unit assembly, but don't let the size fool you. These speakers put out better sound than the massive columns with giant woofers. I still wonder -- how do they do it?

Another slick little toy is VCR+. It looks like a remote control but it controls your VCR and cable box. It has it's own clock in it and you program it by entering the VCR+ code numbers in your TV Guide or from the listings in your Sunday newspaper. This device sends out the signals to run your VCR and cable box turning the VCR on, setting the clock, and changing to the right channel. It is much easier and much more reliable than the built in VCR programming. And if you take a power dip you don't loose your programming. With a device like this you no longer have to cancel that important business trip so you can record Star Trek.

Dr. Kavorkian is Right

You have heard of the doctor in Michigan who is assisting people commit suicide. So far he's helped 8 terminally ill women kill themselves. I for one support his efforts and I consider this doctor a hero. He is attempting to deal with death in a realistic way instead of trying to sweep the issue under the rug.

Very few of us believe that we are actually going to die someday. I have this fantasy myself that technology is going to eliminate death and that all I have to do is hang in there long enough till the technology develops. Realistically though, of all the people on the planet who were born 200 years ago, none of them are alive today.

Therefore, since we all die, we must assume that death is a part of life. And if we want the best life for our friends and loved ones, then we should also want the best death for them as well. And it is often the case that suicide is the best solution a person might have.

"But Marc", you might say, "What if the person who wants to die is wrong?" Well here's how I see it. If it's my life then it's my death. If I make the wrong decision then it is my wrong decision to make. But I'm a conservative and I tend towards the idea that the government needs to stay out of personal decisions. Thus if a person wants to kill himself I think he ultimately has the right to do so.

If I have a cat who is old and sick and is suffering then I am responsible to do the "humane thing" and put the poor creature out of it's misery. I would think that we should extend the same services to humans as well. We, as a society, need to face reality.

Now It's Aids Cards

In past issues I mentioned my friends Cat and Dean of Eclipse Publishing who put out those political scandal trading cards. You might have seen them in the news last year when they released the "True Crime" trading cards. Well the best is yet to come. In February they are releasing the most interesting cards yet, the Aids Cards!

The complete aids card set will have 110 cards that will be packaged in packs of 12. They will also come with a condom in each pack and will be sold through card and comic book stores and maybe some mass merchants. Besides being informative about the spread of AIDS it also provides a discreet way to purchase a condom. You're really buying cards right? This will help teenagers protect themselves without their parents and friends knowing they're having sex.

In spite of all the protests from various groups about the True Crime trading cards, Eclipse did very well. In fact they attribute a lot of sales to the protests. Next week Eclipse is releasing True Crime II and hopes they do as well as the first batch.

Novell Buys Out Unix

Here's a hot little news item in the computer industry. Novell is buying out AT&T's Unix Systems Laboratory. Here's the press release.

What this means to you is that Windows and NT are going to have some serious competition. The main drawback to Univel is that 500 bucks is just too high for a desktop OS.

Writing My Own BBS Software

After running TBBS on my system for years and looking at other packages I finally decided that I wasn't going to get what I want unless I write my own BBS software. So I'm adding communications commands to my MarxMenu script language. I should have a BBS running shortly. It won't have all the features I want right away, but it has one feature that none of them have -- there's almost nothing it can't do.

MarxMenu is my script language that is turning into a programming language. It has 800 commands and is pascalish looking. I'm not only going to have total control of the look and feel, but I'm going to be able to send and receive faxes on the same lines that I'm taking modem calls. The fax sending will interface into my MHS mail system so that I can send faxes by sending EMail to user FAX. Incoming faxes will generate an EMail message indicating that a new fax has arrived.

Tech support files uploaded to the BBS will be routed through MHS as a file enclosed in a message to the tech support department. Tech support won't have to log into the BBS to get these files.

Initially I won't have a message base but that will come soon. I will probably interface someones message door. MarxMenu will be a plug-n-play type of system so that if you can't do it in MarxMenu then you have MarxMenu run something that will. I'm figuring that once I get it working I can release it so that others might develop goodies I can use so I don't have to write everything myself.

For those of you who are wondering what programming a communications program in MarxMenu is like, here's a sample terminal program for calling BBS systems.


Copyright 1992 by Marc Perkel * All right reserved.

This program is a sample communications program in Marxmenu.
It isn't as good as Procomm, but it isn't half bad for a few
pages of code.


Var InitString Compuserve

ComPort = Com2             ;your com port
InitString = 'ATZ'         ;your init string
Compuserve = False         ;set to true if accessing Compuserve

if Compuserve

Writeln 'MarxCom * Copyright 1992 by Marc Perkel'
Writeln 'Alt-X to Exit * Alt-H to HangUp * PgUp to Upload * PgDn to Download
ComWrite InitString CR


;----- Set up Communications

Procedure Setup
   Explode Off
   ClearScreenOnExit Off
   BlankTime = 0
   Mouse Off
   DrawBox 1 1 ScreenWidth ScreenHeight
   WordStarKeys Off
   {Set up event logic}

   KeyEvent(PgDnKey) = loc DownLoad
   KeyEvent(PgUpKey) = loc UpLoad
   KeyEvent(AltX)  = loc ExitProgram
   KeyEvent(AltH)  = loc Hangup
   ComXmitAbortProgram = loc XmitAbort
   ComXmitStatusProgram = loc XmitStatus


;----- This is the main terminal loop

Procedure Terminal
   while True
      Cursor On
      if KbdReady then ComWrite(ReadKey)
      if ComCharReady then Write(ComReadChar)

;----- Exit the Menu

Procedure ExitProgram

;----- Download Menu

Procedure DownLoad
var FileName Proto
   Proto = PickProtocol
   if Proto = Esc

   elseif Proto = '1'
      FileName = AskForFileName
      if FileName = '' then return

   elseif Proto = '2'
      FileName = AskForFileName
      if FileName = '' then return

   elseif Proto = '3'

   elseif Proto = '4'

   elseif Proto = '5'

   elseif Proto = '6'



;----- UpLoad Menu

Procedure UpLoad
var FileName Proto
   FileName = AskForFileName
   if (FileName <> '') and ExistFile(FileName)
      Proto = PickProtocol
      if Proto = Esc then Return

      FileName = CleanFileName(FileName)

      if Proto = '1'

      elseif Proto = '2'

      elseif Proto = '3'

      elseif Proto = '4'

      elseif Proto = '5'

      elseif Proto = '6'



Procedure AskForFileName
var FileName
   BoxBorderColor LCyan Mag
   BoxInsideColor Yellow Mag
   InverseColor Yellow Red
   DrawBox 10 20 40 3
   Write ' FileName: '
   FileName = Readln
   Return FileName

Procedure PickProtocol
var Ch
   BoxBorderColor LCyan Mag
   BoxInsideColor Yellow Mag
   InverseColor Yellow Red
   DrawBox 50 7 20 8
   UseArrows On
   Writeln '  1 - XModem'
   Writeln '  2 - XModem 1k'
   Writeln '  3 - YModem'
   Writeln '  4 - YModem G'
   Writeln '  5 - ZModem'
   Write   '  6 - Kermit'
   Ch = ReadKey
   UseArrows Off
   Return Ch

;----- Hangup Modem

Procedure HangUp
   Writeln 'Hanging Up'
   ComDTR Off
   Wait 50

;----- ESC aborts UpLoad or Download

Procedure XmitAbort
var Ch
   if not KbdReady then Return False
   Ch = ReadKey
   if Ch <> Esc then Return False
   Return True

;----- Display file transfer status

Procedure XmitStatus
   if ComXmitStarting
      BoxBorderColor LCyan Mag
      BoxInsideColor White Mag
      BoxHeaderColor Yellow Cyan
      BoxHeader ' Transfer Status - ' + ComProtocol + ' '
      DrawBox 43 6 35 9
   GotoXY 1 1
   Write '         File Name: ' ComFileName
   Write ' Bytes Transferred: ' ComBytesTransferred
   Write '   Bytes Remaining: ' ComBytesRemaining
   Write '         File Size: ' ComFileSize
   Write '        Block Size: ' ComBlockSize
   Write '      Block Errors: ' ComBlockErrors
   Write '      Total Errors: ' ComTotalErrors
   if ComXmitEnding

;----- That's it folks!
Anyone interested in trying this out can call my BBS and download the shareware version. I should have the new BBS software up in a few weeks.


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