Go to previous post:
Rock and roll never forgets.

Go to Electrolite's front page.

Go to next post:
What happened.

Our Admirable Sponsors

January 28, 2004

Open thread 5. Sidelights, technical problems, cannibals and kings. [04:25 PM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Open thread 5.:

Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 05:49 PM:

The time has come, Patrick said, to speak of many things.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 06:42 PM:

Electrolite Rhymes With What?
by Jonathan Vos Post

The time has come, so Patrick said,
to speak of many things...

because of all the joys we know
Electrolite still brings;

although that nasty blogospam
appears, digs in, and clings;

Dingbats are free to post right here,
and also bats with dings,

or entertaining stories of
the poster's teenaged flings.

The blogocrat has powers that
can overwhelm a king's.

St. Germain Wisconsin's a retreat
that's known as "Krings."

Be merciful, the blogger begs,
but some are thungs of Ming's,

and we can see you trudging here
through power of The Ring's.

Still, it's less annoying than
the telephone's harsh rings,

or jokes about the turban
on the head of Mr. Singh's.

But isn't it amazing how
the internet still sings,

despite the constant barrage of
what mudslinger slings.

In frozen winter's primaries,
we wait for thaws of spring's,

with hobbit swordlets in our hands
especially that of Sting's.

Oh, set this all to music,
with a hundred thousand strings,

as we swoop up towards heaven
as do children on their swings,

while Addams Family movies
promise digitalized Thing's,

and Centrist's try to fly with
both left- and far-right's-wings.

Thank heaven for Democracy,
but not quite like Beijing's:

Bush's words are pretty scary,
but not like Deng Xiaoping's!

So we like Patrick's blogsite,
never mind those apron strings,

that tie it to Teresa's
like chlorine to water wings.

So keep those postings coming,
from cold Colorado Springs,

and we'll soon take the waters
down at Saratoga Springs!

The time has come, so Patrick said,
to speak of many things...


Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 07:07 PM:

Anyone out there know the story behind this?


Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 07:30 PM:

In a word, no, but it's intriguing. This year isn't a significant-number anniversary of Stapledon's birth (1884), or death (1950), or the publication of Star Maker (1937), so I'm not sure what the impetus may have been to publish this edition.

Still, it's always good to have a book like this in print, and this looks like an edition that would be worthy of a place in a serious library. And it's always good to give new readers a chance to experience such an important work. I have a trade paperback edition from 1987, and I don't know if it's been in print since then.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 07:41 PM:

The Dover editions of Stapledon's big four (Star Maker + Last and First Men; Odd John + Sirius) have been in print on and off since the 60s. Widely available.

(Minor freaky factoid: In the Dover edition, the copyright to Odd John (C) 1961 George Pal. According to Forrey Ackerman, Pal bought the rights so he could do a movie.)

For me the intriguing thing about the new edition is Dyson's contribution. I know that Dyson credits Stapledon with originating the idea of the Dyson Sphere.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 08:01 PM:

Im unable to rid myself of the suspicion that Galen Strawson is exaggerating what is meant by identity created out of narrative in order to give himself something to tear down.

David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 08:13 PM:

Prof. Strawson also seems to be unable to decide whether he (or Dr. Bruner, for that matter) is talking about what people do, or what people should do.

Ross Smith ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 10:18 PM:

Sorry to divert this thread from the marvels of outer and inner space to mere technical problems, but...

Patrick, you forgot to close the <a> tag on "Superhero Killer", which plays hell with the rest of the page (at least under Konqueror, and I expect many other browsers too).

Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 10:42 PM:

So Whole Earth Review is dead.

I loved that magazine.

It opened windows into things I would not ordinarily hear about. It sorted through the world's stuff and attempted to tell me about the coolest. It featured some wonderful writers, and some odd topics.

It constantly wiggled out of easy categorization. Sure, it glorified tree-huggers (years before "tree-hugger" was a common phrase), but it fell in love with O'Neill's space colonies, and nanotechnology, and all kinds of electronic communication. Not what you'd expect from a magazine for aging hippies.

The Whole Earth Review editors knew that computing and communications were going to transform the world of the Seventies into something else, something only dimly seen, and they grappled with it. I couldn't get enough.

Around 1988, Steve Roberts published an article on his whiz-bang digital bicycle nomadic lifestyle. He included his e-mail address, which was pretty unusual at the time. I dropped him a note and invited him to tour Fermilab if he was ever in the area. A couple of years later, he did, pedaling BEHEMOTH with him, a bizarre combination of Tom Swift and Johnny Appleseed. (The bike weighed 580 pounds, including trailer. Steve ate 7000 calories a day.)

Without WER, I wouldn't have had that wonderful experience.

When Wired appeared, it seemed (don't laugh) like a whole magazine full of the stuff I liked best in WER. The experience might have been similar to that a collector of "weird stories" might have had when Amazing Stores first hit the stands. It was no accident that the editor, and some of the contributors, were WER alumni.

I continued to read WER in the Nineties, and it continued to show me a world beyond my everyday concerns, and introduce me to people who think differently than I do. But they were losing their perennial battles with money. They reluctantly began to accept advertising. I guess it didn't help much.

I will miss WER.

Not least because they published my first sale.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2004, 11:00 PM:

Actually, in a real sense, I started reading WER in 1968, when my father bought the first Whole Earth Catalog. I believe he had a small bit published in one of the many "Supplements" to the Catalog. The Last Supplement was a countercultural document of richness and fascination.

And Co-Evolution Quarterly / Whole Earth Review was a marvel, a hippie magazine with scientific rigor that told us the difference between "environmentalism" (sentiment) and "ecology" (science), and boosted computers and high-tech space development. It opened doors.

Re broken tag: fixed. Apologies.

Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2004, 01:32 AM:

Speaking of Scotland... I'm going there in April. Woo hoo! Never been there before. I went to New Zealand in 2001.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2004, 02:10 AM:

My father brought home a copy of The Last Whole Earth Catalog in 71. A fascinating thing for a nine year old to browse through, let me tell you.

I have a copy of that one, bought in a thrift shop for $5.00. Wonderful stuff, even now. (Page 27: "We're generally down on utopian thinking around here, holding to a more evolutionary fiasco-by-fiasco approach to perfection.")

I read the Whole Earth crowd's software review zine now and then in the early 80s, but didn't really get into the WER thing until I found a copy while on a business trip (more on worldchanging.com comments).

I'm immensely proud of being published once in WER. I sent half the money I got right back to the Point Foundation. I would have sent all the money from my next sale there back as a donation . . . but the reviews slated for issue #111, the one in limbo. Bummer.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2004, 08:45 AM:

Like so many others I loved WEC -- for me it was the '71 edition that greeted me on my return from Germany and informed me that things had changed. The funny thing was that the most influential part for me was how it was put together. One part of the catalog DESCRIBED how they used an IBM Selectric Composer to lay out the text for the catalog. I discovered that the community college I was attending had one, so I talked my into using it for some projects. It wasn't that hard to learn, once one figured out it's markup scheme. And that's how I got involved in typsetting and computers . . .

Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2004, 10:40 AM:

Galen Strawson's sidelit review is a very odd piece of writing. He's reviewing a book which he criticizes for simply assuming the truth of the whole "self-as-narrative" bit, and in the middle of it he baldly states:

There is a deep divide in our species. On one side, the narrators: those who are indeed intensely narrative, self-storying, Homeric, in their sense of life and self, whether they look to the past or the future. On the other side, the non-narrators: those who live life in a fundamentally non-storytelling fashion, who may have little sense of, or interest in, their own history, nor any wish to give their life a certain narrative shape. In between lies the great continuum of mixed cases.

Er, Galen, would you like to prop that assertion up with some evidence or references? If not, you are doing precisely the same thing you are complaining about in book you review.

He then goes on to suppose that the narrative of the self-narrator is a fiction or even a lie, which is missing the point of the the self-as-narrative completely.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2004, 11:14 AM:

Stapledon invented what we call Dyson Spheres, after Freeman Dyson.

Indeed, Dyson credits the novel "Star Maker" for giving him the idea.

"Not only was every solar system now surrounded by a gauze of light traps,
which focused the escaping solar energy for intelligent use, so that the
whole galaxy was dimmed, but many stars that were not suited to be suns
were disintegrated, and rifled of their prodigious stores of subatomic
energy." [William Olaf Stapledon, Star Maker, 1937]

Arthur C. Clarke said, of "Star Maker":

"This book literally changed my life when I read it as a 14 year old. As
I've acknowledged many times, my later writing was shaped by Olaf Stapledon's
visions. Even though his history of the post-1930s world was swiftly
outdated by events (or are they happening in another parallel universe?)
his future scenarios remain awe-inspiring."

Specifically, he also had direct influence on writers as diverse as H.G. Wells,
J. B. Priestley, J. D. Bernal, Larry Niven, and John Lilly.

H.G. Wells was the first person to write a novel whose plot spanned
hundreds of millions of years (The Time Machine), Stapledon went to
billions of years, tens of billions, and far beyond.

Through his acknowledged inspiring of Arthur C. Clarke (who once said in
interview that his only two "heroes" were Olaf Stapledon and J. B. S. Haldane],
Stapledon indirectly inspired modern Hard Science Fiction authors such as
Greg Bear, David Brin, Gregory Benford, Stephen Baxter (who calls Star Maker
"science fiction's greatest ascent"), and Greg Egan.

For more on Stapledon, his influence on science fiction, and a correlation between his chronology of the future of the universe with more recent astrophysics, see:

Cosmic Future: Until Infinity

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2004, 12:15 PM:

As it happens, I wrote the entry on Stapledon for James Gunn's big science-fiction encyclopedia, the precise title of which escapes me.

On a different subject, anyone who's under the impression I'm endorsing the self-as-narrative essay is invited to hover their mouse above my link to it.

NelC ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2004, 12:15 PM:

Oh, phooie. Blair got away with it. Not only that, but he managed to put all the blame on the BBC.

The git's going to be insufferable after this, if not downright messianic.

NelC ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2004, 12:16 PM:

Patrick --

Eh, don't sweat it. Stuff happens.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2004, 12:55 PM:

Once, when in a really bizarre mood, I wrote an alternate-history obit for Stapledon. One where he dies in 1967, from injuries sustained in a riot in Berkeley after the premiere of Kubrick's _Last and First Men_.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2004, 02:27 PM:

As a serial self-narrator, I'd like to propose Post's Law of Self-as-narrative:

Human Beings are the story-telling animal. The story they tell is their own.

Patrick: now I've got to go to a bookstore and read your entry on Stapledon for James Gunn's big science-fiction encyclopedia, the precise title of which escapes you.

I have a paperback edition of Stapledon's textbook on Philosophy...

I'd love to see Stefan's alternate-history obit for Stapledon posted on Electrolite!

Chuck Divine ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2004, 03:07 PM:

Bill Higgins, Beam Jockey wrote:

It constantly wiggled out of easy categorization. Sure, it glorified tree-huggers (years before "tree-hugger" was a common phrase), but it fell in love with O'Neill's space colonies, and nanotechnology, and all kinds of electronic communication. Not what you'd expect from a magazine for aging hippies.

Bill, I am shocked -- shocked to the depths of my soul. OK, I'm exaggerating.

But, still, Bill how long have you known me? How long ago did you join the late lamented L5 Society?

I was a genuine (well, sort of -- very complicated to explain) San Francisco flower child -- with a degree in physics. I knew others who fit that category. Quite a few of us were involved in L5 in the early days. I gather quite a few of us got involved in SF fandom as well.

Bill, you've got to get out of Illinois more.

meta4 ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2004, 05:45 PM:

the whole earth catalogue changed my life as powerfully as the tibetan book of the dead, in its own way.
the rawboned nuts'n'bolts approach to 'becoming gods, so we might as well get good at it' appealed mightily to a very young, sunstarved brit, beginning to tire of the effete,narcissistic fatalism that passed for maturity in the circles i yearned to escape.
hitching around, i'd daydream droolingly as i dipped into a cornucopia of mindbendingly written teasers, making me yearn to live in a current of culture so vital, ironically earnest;
so hip, they were way beyond.
combining the best of practical with amazing openness to spiritual movements made them way ahead of their time.
in a different world, these folks would have been funded to design modern public life!
with what they knew, and had the keys to create with, it would have made us energy self sufficient (amory lovins), ecologically aware,(gary snyder), economically numerate,(paul hawken), tool conscious (kevin kelly), system and pattern morphology aware(gregory bateson), i could go on and on.
they were intellectual, but appealingly, reassuringly funky.

what the knowledge they embodied could have done during the last 30 years to enhance social consciousness, bring appropriate technology to the 3rd world, clean up our energy use and conservation, and discontinue the wholesale pollution and despoliation of our habitat, avoid useless illness, suffering and death, beggars belief and boggles the mind.

if it turned out they were from another galaxy and had just dropped in to bring up the level, i would easily believe it.

i comfort myself thinking the memes they sowed are pumping somewhere deep in the collective neural circuits of all of us so impacted, awaiting critical mass, wrench and screwdriver in hand to hook up the clueless millions when peak oil's spell has finally broken.

my first week in california i stumbled into a guy who showed me how to make a solar water heater out of a water-tank, an old refrigerator, a few plumbing parts, and a sheet of glass.
ingeniously, you shut the fridge door at night to keep the water hot!
that day i felt i'd walked right into the dogeared pages i'd been humping and sipping from so many miles.
i eventually parted company with my ton'o'wonder together with a reel to reel, left for the trail devas, climbing up and down coastal valleys in hawaii.
thanks you ragamuffin angels, you really shifted my gears for choices i have never had cause to regret.
w.e.r is dead.
long live w.e.r!

Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2004, 06:50 PM:

Patrick: Thank you for telling me about the Secret Decoder Ring for your sidebar posts. I hadn't noticed it.

Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 12:40 AM:

Does anyone else find it ironic that the Whole Earth Review was preparing an issue
on The Singularity - and then they suddenly disappeared from human ken?

meta4 ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 06:22 AM:

yup, maybe when we've gone through it too, we'll find them waiting the other side, where corporate malfaisance and global rapine is confined to memory, in a tiny dying fringe publication, slipping into extinction with barely a whisper.

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2004, 09:42 PM:

The article on modern uses of Latin was a lot of fun; along with rara avis, I would recommend the warning cave canem ("Beware! I may sing!"). But I question
...while iazensis musica (jazz) bears in that z the whiff of falsehood...
The last verse of the Latin apocalyptic poem "Apparebit Repentina Dies" (set for chorus and brass by Hindemith; don't ask me exactly where or when it came from, but it was presented as non-modern) begins "Zona clara castitatis lumbos nunc praecingere" (very roughly "buckle on your bright ]armor[ of purity").

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2004, 10:56 PM:

Oh man, you're evil! I just lost over an hour when I clicked on "View all comments by this author" and went back in time reading my comments and the posts they were comments on and the other comments and I got all they way up to last April. Evil I tell you, evil!


Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2004, 11:25 PM:

I think the "view all comments by this author" link is way cool, and will prove useful when I'm trying to figure out how to respond to someone. I haven't dared click one yet, for fear of what MKK reports.

CHip, classical Latin did have Z, though it was a rare letter. I'm told it was pronounced 'dz' as in the middle of 'mud zone'. I dunno about church Latin.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2004, 11:33 PM:

By the way, have I pointed out to you that "The Walrus and the Carpenter" can be sung to the tune of Shubert's "Die Forelle" ("The Trout")?

Try it. You have to repeat the last line of each stanza, but that's true of the original lyric, as well.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2004, 11:38 PM:

It should be noted that the page generated by the "view all comments by this author" link currently drops all paragraph and line breaks in the comments themselves, save for those entered manually (blockquotes and ordered lists, for instance).

I'm working on fixing it. I took the basic idea from this and this--my first experiment in using PHP to fling output from the shiny new SQL database through hoops of fire--and clearly I have A Lot To Learn.

Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 03:19 AM:

View all comments by this author is pretty cool. Itd be even cooler if each comment linked back to itself in context, rather than to the top of the page in which it appears. (In other words, if the link had that # followed by numbers at the end, like the links currently do in the main pages sidebar.)

And still cooler would be if hundred-dollar bills popped out of my CD drive whenever I clicked a button.

Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 06:58 AM:

With scanners & colour laser printers, it's not as hard as it was :)

Hence our groovy plastic notes with the clear plastic watermark bits & front/back pattern matching & micro-printed bits. I think they tried out those groovy rainbow holograms (man) on earlier models, but they flaked off too easily.
At least the old 'putting my money through the laundry in my pockets' trick isn't so disastrous these days.

Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 07:14 AM:

Wow! You're pushing your boundaries there. This could be dangerous, as mentioned above - but I like it.

BTW Patrick, re the problem with 92/apostrophe & aa/something mentioned in the 'housekeeping' thread; I have been prowling up and down in the blog, and back and forth upon it, and they haven't turned up recently.

Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 09:41 AM:

Back on an earlier thread, which hasn't seen comments for several days, I received a pretty negative response for objecting to Howard Dean's wife being paraded around on the campaign trail, and later I even apologized for not seeing the Diane Sawyer interview with both Deans. Today, in the New York Times, someone else voices what I meant to say far more eloquently: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/01/magazine/01WWLN.html

It's a damn shame that any woman married to a candidate can't live her own life, and work at her own profession, without being dragged onto the political stage. Obviously this isn't a perfect world, so the practice will go on, but that doesn't mean we all have to just grin and bear it. My thanks to the Times writer for addressing the issue.

robert west ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 10:55 AM:

This isn't quite about the hajj, but about the other major islamic holiday going on right now, the feast of the slaughter: there's something quite surreal about walking down a street in a modern, industrial, european city and encountering, every two dozen street corners or so, flocks of sheep (with shepherds standing watch!) for sale. Or watching tiny european subcompacts go down the road with the entire family crammed in front and a sheep in back. Or (and this was cute as well as odd) teenagers coaxing their ram down the sidewalk along a busy highway by holding food in their hands and slowly walking away, enticing the ram to follow.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 02:29 PM:

Faren: There's also a good column in The Nation by Katha Pollit on the topic http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20040216&s=pollitt

I got the link from Atrios.


Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2004, 10:49 AM:

Mary Kay: Thanks for the link. That's telling em!

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2004, 02:45 AM:

Thank you for the pictures of the haj. Those were amazing and I'm glad to have seen them.

MKK--also glad I'm not on that concom

Zizka ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2004, 10:50 AM:

I came for the promised cannibal stuff, which isn't there. The lessons I draw from that case are 1.) hard cases make bad law, b.) an awful ot of people are terminally bored for reasons I don't understand, and c.) when cooking penis, use a recipe for tongue. It's tough.

Of course, I already thought two of those things (a and b).

Apparently I'm in the Dad generation here, since I got one of the first WECs in about 1970-1. It was started by a lot of stoned techie types and was intentionally pretty sharply distinguishable from the rest of the counterculture, which was artsy/ideological. I sent a copy to my own father, b. 1914, who was a techie, but the hippyish stuff turned him off.

I got a lot of good stuff out of the WEC, but I ended up finding Stewart Brand and the publication's style manual annoying. They had this thing of personalizing all reviews, so when you read a description of a tool of some sort you'd get part of the reviewer's autobiography. The intention was probably to get away from fake objectivity and claims to expertise, but it ended up seeming narcissistic to me.

meta4 ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2004, 01:05 PM:

i'll bite.....
the two insights this bizarre tale has granted me:
1. this guy's belief-system was a 'final solution' for the overpopulation problem.
2. so that's why so many germans speak excellent english! (after hearing that he believed his english had improved because of the experience, due to the canni-bee having superior talent in that regard)...

as for the chatty reviews, yes, now that you mention it, there was a whiff of narcissism. never bothered me....
if anything it worked in their favour, as it precluded their having polished their comments to the point of techno-vapidity.

yes it was hippie, in the most complimentary way. if hippies had been more into wec than bell-bottoms, muddy trashfests and bad dope, their philosophy would have garnered much less derision, and more serious consideration, as it would have bent to take care of more real problems on the ground, whether or not they were visible from '8 miles high'.


Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2004, 07:51 PM:

"They had this thing of personalizing all reviews"

I can understand how this might annoy some.

But it's a nice contrast to the kind of "review" that started turning up in the late eighties, in PC magazines. You weren't really sure if you were reading an honest review, or some kind of press release / sponsored placement / review - hybrid.

There's something more honest about the gushy / kvetchy personal reviews you found in Whole Earth *, or that Kevin Kelly is circulating on his Recommendo elist.

(Of course, chatty personalized reviews can be bogus, too. Anyone else out there remember the DAK catalog? No, not the Northern European meat company; the shlock-electronics outfit that popularized bread machines. Lesson: The venue counts too!)

James J. Murray ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2004, 08:54 PM:

Avram & Epacris, you're closer than you know. Check out the newest "Rolling Stone" (Beatles "It Was 40 Years Ago Today!" cover story). It contains an article on some DC-area teens with a scanner, a printer, and no damn brains amongst them. Apparently counterfeiting is the trendy new high school thing. Whatever happened to sex and drugs?

Goo-goo-ga-joob (obligatory walrus reference).

Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2004, 10:07 PM:

So, er, is it just me or do the article/comment pages give anyone else the feeling of reading down one column of an otherwise blank broadsheet? Unlike some, I don't maximize the width of my browser windows to match my screen, so the actual text is a bit over 1/3 of the width and the rest is whitespace. Much as I appreciate the value of whitespace, having over half the page width be blank (even with the spiffy comment boxes) seems...excessive, somehow.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 11:25 AM:

Christopher Davis: about a week ago, I was reading this blog in a public place, and someone read over my shoulder. That person asked for a printout of the thread. It took me a few minutes to cut-and-paste into Word, and widen the margins. Perhaps there should be a "printable version" option? I think it looks good on the screen, though, where only virtual trees get cut down.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 12:47 PM:

Interesting book review of Philip Ball's new book "Critical Mass: the Physics of Society" [William Heinemann, 12 Feb2004], which somehow avoids Asimov's Psychohistory:

Futurology gets a little more exact

From the way we drive to how we vote, physicists reckon they can forecast human behaviour. Philip Ball explains the so-called 'physics of society'

Thursday January 29, 2004
The Guardian

"Imagine that you could predict whether house prices are about to crash. Or how a political party could choose policies guaranteeing electoral victory. Or whether a new set of criminal laws will reduce crime, or whether a new road will reduce traffic, or even whether your favourite pub will be overcrowded on the nights it shows live football."

"Sounds good, doesn't it? But when it comes to human behaviour, politicians, pollsters, urban planners and economists have a decidedly mixed record of predicting the future or anticipating the consequences of their decisions. Because we have free will, futurology can never be an exact science...."

James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 04:03 PM:

Following up on "Don't Bother Me With Facts" (http://nielsenhayden.com/electrolite/archives/002908.html).

In the month since my last post we've lost 45 more troopers (that's over one a day), and a great many more civilians in Iraq.

George Bush delivered a State of the Union address remarkable in its fatuousness, one in which he didn't even mention the proposed Man-on-Mars program he'd floated the previous week. Perhaps Bush was trying to avoid another "sixteen words" problem by keeping his entire speech devoid of statements of fact liable to checking.

To the surprise of no one but the Neocons, no weapons of mass destruction (the reason that we had to go to war right now rather than build an international coalition, obtain the blessing of the UN, get allies, or have some sense) have turned up yet, despite our having Saddam himself in custody since early December.

The military lawyers assigned to defend the prisoners held illegally at Gitmo have refused to play by the rules George & company want since they worry that they might be disbarred for ethics violations. Good news from Gitmo: Suicide attempts among the prisoners are way down. Bad news from Gitmo: "Manipulative Self-Injurious Behavior" among the prisoners is way up.

Back to those weapons of mass destruction: From CNN today:

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, and other Democrats on the committee reminded Rumsfeld that in September 2002 he said "we know" where weapons of mass destruction are stored in Iraq.

Explaining that remark, Rumsfeld told the panel that he was referring to suspected weapons sites, but he acknowledged that he had made it sound like he was talking about actual weapons.

Thank you, Donnie Rumsfeld. A real Profile-in-Courage moment.

Let's see, what else? Record-breaking federal deficit, not counting the fifty billion dollars in new military spending in Iraq that isn't being counted in the budget. More job losses than any time since 1929.

Exciting times to be alive, folks. Don't forget to vote.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 09:33 PM:

Exactly correct, James D. Macdonald!

I started my Algebra class this afternoon by writing the revenue and expenditure figures in Emperor Bush II's proposed Fiscal 2005 budget on the blackboard, as listed in the New York Times.

Then we played with the numbers.

Then we looked at mathematics in ancient Egypt, and why the slaves eventually revolted against their illiterate innumerate masters. Then we examined quadruple taxation (coporate, payroll, income, and estate).

Then I said that by the end of the class they'd know more math than slaves 3000 years ago. And what would they do as wage slaves. Raise your hands if you ever expect to receive a penny from the Federal Government when you retire. No hands. Raise your hands if you believe in UFOs. Several hands.

Now, let's go over the homework assignment...

Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2004, 10:34 AM:

"View all comments by this author"--very cool, though I hesitate to use it much lest I kill the servers.

Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2004, 12:28 PM:

I agree with Kate, and I've used it (it works quite well) to see who it was that was agreeing with me on another thread. After looking up that person's other posts, I started to wonder if I wanted to be in agreement with them . . .

Nice work, Patrick. As a data wrangler I really would be interested in how your database is set up and the kinds of queries used to drive some of this. Combined with PHP you should have some fairly powerful tools to keep things going . . .

Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 09:56 AM:

Thanks for that link to the Black Commentator article on Sharpton. Like many European-Americans, I probably don't pay as much attention as I should to what's happening in minority communities. The only thing I thought when reading that a former Nixon operative had been made head of the Sharpton campaign was "how odd". Some very valuable perspective there from Black Commentator.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2004, 01:05 AM:

More on the plunge in Bush's approval ratings:


Maybe I'm being over-optimistic, but I think we may have turned a corner.

You can't fool all of the people, all of the time.

William ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2004, 11:39 AM:


In a comment from an old thread from Teresa's blog, you (Patrick) mention going through Glen Cook's next book (first of a trilogy?).

I have some questions:
a) is it a Black Company book?
b) when is it going to be released?

What is this new book about? Is it a Garrett book (which is way overdue, given the cliffhanger about the mob boss' party at the end of Lead Skies)?
Does Cook strike in a new direction?

Any information is welcome - there is a dearth of information about Glen and his projects. Inquiring minds want to know.

Many many thanks and kind regards,


Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2004, 05:47 PM:

It's the first book of an entirely new series -- think religious war and intrigue, with real gods, in a world roughly analagous to 14th century Europe and the Near East.

Look for it in the first half of 2005.

Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2004, 10:49 AM:

That photo of Olympus Mons looks suspiciously like a rotifer.

Ah hah! When the oceans of Mars began drying up, the advanced civilization of intelligent Martian rotifers triggered an immense volcano, directing the calderas and flows to create an image of themselves viewable by passing space travellers as a monument to their empire and glory.


Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2004, 04:09 PM:

I don't know if Shel Silverstein knew Woody Guthrie had said it, but when he saw a kid with "This Machine Kills Fascists" at a demonstration to allowing folksinging in Washington Square Park, he said, "What does he--hit with it?"

Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2004, 07:34 PM:

"This Machine Kills Fascists"

I went to an electronic music show a while back and one of the performers had that slogan emblazoned on his laptop. I thought it was a nice updating.

Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2004, 12:22 AM:

Got this from Calpundit, and immediately knew that it was the sort of news item that you and Teresa would like: San Francisco Judge Delays Gay Marriage Ruling Due to Punctuation Error (L.A. Times, registration required):

"I am not trying to be petty here, but it is a big deal. That semicolon is a big deal," Warren told attorneys, according to an account by Associated Press.

NelC ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2004, 12:42 PM:

I'm in awe of the Rumsfeld Fighting Techniques -- truly he must ba a master. I must use them in my next Big Eyes, Small Mouth game....

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 03:24 AM:

Hmmph. That Rumsfeld piece was a slam at me wasn't it? After what you said at dinner Sunday how I can believe it is not? Remember my husband has access to megawatt lasers and cower puny mortal.


Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2004, 10:16 AM:

It's a joke dear. Obviously my memory of Sunday is clearer than yours. You were teasing me about the way I use my hands when I talk. Oh, never mind...


Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2004, 03:12 PM:

I saw that article on pain and empathy on google news last night and a lightbulb went off in my head. I'm more sensitive to physical pain than most people and I've always been very empathic about other peoples' physical pain. When someone around me is in physical pain, esp. acute as opposed to chronic, I end up hurting in the same place. According to this finding that would be tied in with my own pain response so I'd be more sensitive to physical pain in general. Doesn't do much to help with the actual pain but knowing the mechanism is always nice. Maybe I'm not just a big baby after all.


Anne ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2004, 05:45 PM:

On the Girl Scout boycott: I live in Waco. The boycott leader--whom I deliberately leave unnamed--was quoted thusly in today's fishwrap: "I want to see a complete disassociation with Planned Parenthood. I want to see Girl Scout councils back off their feminist affiliations, and from any feminist agenda they may have."

In the words of an eminent philosopher, "Oh, barf."

Rivka ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2004, 08:17 PM:

The Girl Scouts really are a fantastic progressive organization. One thing I've been reading about lately is their programs behind bars: they have troops at a girls' detention center in Michigan. They also have troops for girls who have a parent in prison, troops which meet at the prison and have, as one of their major goals, preserving or rebuilding the parent-child relationship. When they say "for every girl, everywhere," they mean it.

It's a shame that so many people assume that the Girl Scouts are just like the Boy Scouts.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2004, 09:28 PM:

And of course, as even a cursory googling reveals, today's Girl Scouts are a frequent target of unhinged attacks by the wingnut Right. Liberal! Feminist! I'm so shocked, I want to go out and buy a hundred bucks' worth of their cookies right now.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2004, 09:37 PM:

Argh-inducing thought:

What would the Right-Wing alternative of the Girl Scouts be like?

I'm picturing troops "volunteering" to help cater GOP fund raisers, so they can learn valuable decorum and entertaining skills. And then there are the Virtue Badges: Chastity, Obedience, Bare-Footedness . . .

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2004, 10:48 PM:

Patrick: Make'em thin mints and I'll be happy to help take some off your hands.


Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2004, 02:27 AM:

I had a dream last night about Girl Scout cookies. It was not a happy dream: there was only one box of Thin Mints! I was upset because that would go fast in my house. Whoever it was in the dream (it was pretty vague, but possibly my mom) should have bought me three or four boxes of them!

Normally the only thing that annoys me about Girl Scout cookies is that in recent years I have not been able to buy them -- I haven't been approached by anyone selling them.

Well, that and the price. When I was in Scouts, they were only 40 cents a box, instead of whatever they are now. (Two dollars, I think, last I heard.) Of course, that was forty years ago.

Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2004, 05:20 PM:

How's the comment-spam battle going? I've been getting an average of a half-dozen comment spams per week for the past few weeks, I stay on top of them by trying to delete them as they come in, so long as they come in when they're at my computer.

You guys have taken more draconian spam measures than I have - how's that working out for you?

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2004, 05:02 PM:

Reasonably well. We get a few every week, easily deleted with MT-Blacklist.

The latest version makes bulk deletion across a range of threads incredibly easy, which helps a lot.

adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2004, 09:10 PM:

Stefan asks:

What would the Right-Wing alternative of the Girl Scouts be like?

The Boy Scouts Girl's Auxilary.

Luckily for me, my boss has kids in both the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts. I think I make up for not buying Boy Scout popcorn by my generosity when it's Girl Scout cookie time.

Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2004, 01:13 AM:

Back a bit, JvP linked to Guardian (UK) Futurology article. Didn't see any mention of Hari Seldon or Foundation, so thought I'd throw one in.

But too lazy to find & make links :)