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December 11, 2004

Calling card. This is possibly the least interesting Electrolite post in a long time, but I just want to note that the nielsenhayden.com home page is actually more or less up to date, for the first time in what seems like forever. At any rate, no longer is it a living museum of Whisperado gigs from last summer and conventions that are now one with Nineveh and Tyre. [09:04 AM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Calling card.:

Elaine ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2004, 10:10 AM:

Looks good. As always, I love the photos. Damn, where did the years go?

Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2004, 10:13 AM:

No Boskone, huh?

When will you (institutional) know if Tor is doing a Boskone party? I vowed last Boskone to do a Saturday night party if Tor wasn't, and I guess I should get moving on that.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2004, 10:33 AM:

I'm absolutely sure Tor will be throwing a party at Boskone. Scott Card is this year's Guest of Honor.

We're skipping Boskone because (1) we have an old friend visiting that weekend, (2) we're going to two other conventions in the Boston area next year, and (3) plenty of other Tor people will be at Boskone. We'll be back next year, though; it really is one of our favorite conventions.

Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2004, 10:57 AM:

Cool. Tor throws much better parties than I could. We'll be sorry to miss you, but looking at your schedule I can certainly understand why!

Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2004, 11:17 AM:

up to date

Ack! my world has been turned upside down and all around. The left is now the right and the right the left. hopefully this change in web layout isn't the result of a comlete political change of direction on part of the maintainers of nielsenhayden...


Dan MacQueen ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2004, 03:11 PM:

Out of curiosity -- was the Toronto picture taken on Bloor Street? If so, I pass that bench every time I go to my local Tim Horton's (unless I go to the other Tim Horton's on Bloor, or the other other Tim Horton's on Bloor.)

Soli ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2004, 03:21 PM:

Damn, you had to link to Readercon on the front page. Maybe next summer I can actually GO. Nothing like 3 days of talking about books and buying books and talking to authors to break the monotony of library work. ^_^

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2004, 03:32 PM:

Actually, the Toronto picture was taken somewhere on the Toronto Islands.

Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2004, 03:57 PM:

Wah! You won't be at Boskone? Wah! That's the first time I'll be able to travel after the surgery or I'd go to Confusion. When I lived in Ohio and Michigan that was my favorite local con. But they tell me I can't fly for 6 weeks after the surgery on account of the risk of getting blood clots. Sigh.

As for your minor, unexpected career writing introductions. Well, the most unimportant reason is that you know a lot of people who write books. Mostly it's because you're smart, witty, and charming and can translate that into small chunks of print. Well, that'd be why I would ask you to write an introduction to my (non-extant) book.

OMG. I just looked at the front page for ConDFW. No, no, no. I musn't. No. I'll be recovering from surgery and in Boston the just before and SF the week after. NO. But Bob and John and David. NO! Excuse while I remove this argument from your blog.


Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2004, 05:26 PM:

ConDFW entry nit: "Forth Worth"?

Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2004, 06:20 PM:

Re: What.The.Expletive
I read the story. Are you *sure* this is not a plot summary for "Stargate: SG-1"? I swear I saw the episode, where O'Neill and that Senator ... oh, never mind. Life is imitating the wrong art these days.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2004, 07:06 PM:

"Forth Worth" corrected. Thanks!

Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2004, 01:45 AM:

Patrick: you're welcome, of course, even though you're an evil tempter trying to get me to go to more cons.

I may try to squeeze Vericon in between Arisia & Boskone; it's got the useful feature of being closer(!) than the others (no pesky river crossings in the cold wind to deal with).

Mary Kay's reaction to ConDFW is remarkably similar to mine (modulo the "recovering from surgery" part, at least as far as my current plans are concerned).

Readercon...hmm. The problem with that is that it's impossible to commute to, meaning that it's like an out of town con that I have to "fly" to by bus (or rent a car to drive to), without the benefit of actually seeing another city. A thought, anyway.

julia ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2004, 07:28 AM:

A little island of casual elegance in the early eighties.

I cast my mind back and I see mantailored suits and floppy bows.


John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2004, 01:34 PM:

Oh, excellent. I've been giving thought to going to Confusion, being that it is the geographically closest con to coincide with my book release; now if I go I can also add another chapter to my "Nielsen Hayden Stalking Diary." Restraining orders be damned!

JamesG ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2004, 02:03 PM:

Outstanding! The ConDFW is out in my neck of the woods. Barring any natural disasters in the near future, I will actually attend that one.

Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2004, 03:33 PM:

Hurray! Here is my headline for the day: Kimberly, an Ann Arbor resident, today made firm plans to contrive balance in January schedule to attend Confusion, which after all takes place not far from home. Spitting distance, really. Hurray!!

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2004, 11:27 AM:


"This is possibly the least interesting Electrolite post..."

Actually, it is an inspiring kick in the ass to me, as someone whose home page has not ever been up to date since launched in February 1986. There are just so many other things to do [insert mutterings on fiawol and gafia].

Such as reading [see Open Thread 10]; teaching [have finished grading 60 students' final exams in Intermediate Algebra, now need to grade Extra Credit assignments based on The Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences, where I've had 93 pages posted by AT&T Research in 2004]; legal actions [filed a Request for Extension to File Reply Brief in Carmichael v. Palo/Haklar, against the drug-dealer pornographers that I beat in California Supreme Court but from whom neither my wife nor I have collected a penny]; walking the dog, and attending a potluck last night where I volunteer at the Pasadena Job Center [I spent 3 years on the team that conducts videotaped 1-hour Mock Interviews for unemployed professionals]. The hostess kept saying that the Margarita Mix was unspiked. The party grew very lively, and someone finally read the fine print "... prepared with Jose Cuervo Tequila..."

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

Ummmm. February 1996. Sorry. Repeat to self: my web page is about to celebrate its 9th anniversary, not 19th... It has received roughly 100,000,000 hits, not a googleplex [misspelling intentional]...

David B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2004, 10:26 PM:

If nothing else, this post answered the eternal question: Is there any topic so bland, innocuous, or uninteresting that it cannot be made about Jonathan Vos Post? The Answer? No.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2004, 12:16 PM:

David B.:

As someone who apparently has Too Much Self Esteem for the Blogoverse, it was interesting to read:

"Exploding the Self-Esteem Myth; Scientific American, January 2005; by Roy F. Baumeister, Jennifer D. Campbell, Joachim I. Krueger and Kathleen D. Vohs; 8 page(s)

People intuitively recognize the importance of self-esteem to their psychological health, so it isn't particularly remarkable that most of us try to protect and enhance it in ourselves whenever possible. What is remarkable is that attention to self-esteem has become a communal concern, at least for Americans, who see a favorable opinion of oneself as the central psychological source from which all manner of positive outcomes spring. The corollary, that low self-esteem lies at the root of individual and thus societal problems and dysfunctions, has sustained an ambitious social agenda for decades. Indeed, campaigns to raise people's sense of self-worth abound.

Consider what transpired in California in the late 1980s. Prodded by State Assemblyman John Vasconcellos, Governor George Deukmejian set up a task force on self-esteem and personal and social responsibility. Vasconcellos argued that raising self-esteem in young people would reduce crime, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, school underachievement and pollution. At one point, he even expressed the hope that these efforts would one day help balance the state budget, a prospect predicated on the observation that people with high self-regard earn more than others and thus pay more in taxes. Along with its other activities, the task force assembled a team of scholars to survey the relevant literature. The results appeared in a 1989 volume entitled The Social Importance of Self-Esteem, which stated that "many, if not most, of the major problems plaguing society have roots in the low self-esteem of many of the people who make up society." In reality, the report contained little to support that assertion....
File size: 297 KB

Of course, that article (on your newsstands now) said nothing about wasting bandwidth and annoying Electrolite readers. If your comment is along those lines, I apoplogize. If it was in the spirit of good fun, then I admit to being egocentric, and can take your point, and move on...

Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2004, 04:12 PM:

The telephone repeats soft snoring sounds.
A purring cat pursues the ghosts of mice uncaught.
The muted screen shows Max Bialystock.

And in some call centre that is forever foreign,
The dreary scripted echoes of hello are unanswered.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2004, 02:57 AM:

Dave Bell:

That was really good occasional verse! It will be quite some time before blogs have enough AI to report on their pet human's state of consciousness as well as you have done. And succinctly!


Damn! That's amazing and disconcerting. I'm a First Amendment activist myself, though I've only become a paralegal in the past 15 years. I have no time of my own to offer, but I read what you so clearly and correctly explained, and I found your arguments and citations dispositive. Go get 'em!

Do you have a Statute of Limitations problem (re: 2000)? What would it be for the Contract matters, 2 years? For the Civil Rights matters? Whom have you asked for Amici Curia? What is EFF's position on this?

pericat sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2004, 10:08 AM:

the kstreetfriend one. just a guess.

Marilee sees if not spam, someone as long-winded and irrelevant as JVP ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2004, 07:55 PM:

I'm with pericat, although since I page up from the bottom to find the new posts, I thought at first it was JVP.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 12:44 AM:


Maybe it's Instant Karma, since you're not the only good person to consider me both "long-winded and irrelevant," but I completely lost my voice about a month ago. That's a really good Act of God for someone who obviously is in love with the sound of his own voice.

It makes me appreciate Buster Keaton, Harpo Marx, and Penn & Teller that much more. After 3 doctors, endless tests, throat x-rays, chest x-rays, they now diagnose "spastic disphonia." The doctor wrote to the Academic VP at my university, suggesting that I be given a non-speaking position until my voice returns in a month. Or two.

The losers in this were my 60+ students, who lost several days of lectures. They appreciated my cancelling a penultimate exam, and maybe were ambivalent when they took the Final Exam. But all the course grades have been submitted yesterday; I picked up my last meagre paycheck of the year today; and I'm now technically unemployed until 3 January 2005, when I'll find out if I have a new job on campus.

Again, I apologize if I've overcompensated by blogging more in the past month.

There were at least a few seconds when I was not irrelevant, but after my son was subsequently born, and is now a university junior himself, I may indeed have dwindled to irrelevance.

It is oddly nice to know that there are people as longwinded as I. Does it reflect badly on me that I found his story interesting?

Thank you for being "frank and open" about me, as the diplomats put it. I'm a grown man. I can take constructive criticism. I'm certainly a better listener now.

Patrick: re: Teresa's "Power of the Press" thread, do you feel more like Cary Grant, or Spencer Tracy, as I suggested both as playing you?

Thomas Nephew ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 10:28 AM:

Minor correction to your sidebar item "Nathan Newman on why Lakoff isn't enough": the post you linked was by guest blogger "RalphTaylor", not Mr. Newman. But you're right that it's a good post, and that Newman is worth reading too.

Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2004, 08:04 PM:

JVP, my vocal cords are partially paralyzed. This has turned out to be convenient because it keeps me from taking over meetings when they're being poorly run. On the other hand, I can't sing lead anymore.

It's not so much that you're irrelevant in general, but you rarely post things that are actually related to the conversation.

A WashPost columnist wrote this week about how voice recognition systems had trouble with his accent and I emailed and said "You think *you* have trouble!"

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 01:59 AM:


Thank you for clarifying. I feel the same way about meetings -- having twice been an elected local politician who needed deep magic from Robert's Rules to make things work, and have been Secretary of several small corporations and nonprofits to keep their darned meetings on track.

You're quite right. Conversation is not monologue. I hope to become a better listener now. Maybe needed this, to get there. Silver lining in painful cloud.

The first sign that my voice was going, maybe 5 or 6 weeks ago, was when I tried to sing while accompanying myself on my boss' acoustic guitar. I didn't recognize the croaks for a while as coming from me, until the pain hit. Wasn't there a scene in -- was it The man with the Golden Horn? -- about the junkie jazz musician who gets his horn back from the pawn shop, after having sold it for dope months ago, and plays blues from his soul, annoyed by a squeaky grinding sound in the background, which he suddenly realize that it's he, having lost his chops...

What's your prognosos?

David B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 03:17 AM:

JVP: I was just poking a little fun. I find it kind of amusing, really, wondering how in any given thread you'll work in an anecdote about the time you had lunch with Harlan Ellison, Werner von Braun, and Elvis, during which you all talked about your lawsuit with NASA and the Bilderberg group.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 03:13 PM:

David B.,

So Harlan Ellison, Werner von Braun, and Elvis walk into a bar.

Harlan sips a 1909 Chateux Mouton Rothschild and starts singing the Tom Lehrer song: "vhen da rockets go up, who cares vhere they come down? That's not my department, says Werner von Braun."

Werner sucks back some peppermint schnappes from a prototype tinanium hip flask and says: "Ellison Vunderland?"

And Elvis takes a swig of tequila from the bottle and says: "Wonderland -- sounds like a good name for a blog, like by that electro Lite guy, or maybe a ranch like neverland..."

Then the blogger criticizes Elvis for going on too long.

"Don't be cruel," sings Elvis, and then Harlan Ellison, Werner von Braun, and Elvis go into a snappy little dance number.

Hey, I was there. Was it the Heidelberg Worldcon, or the one in Huntsville, Alabama?

Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 05:25 PM:

JVP, the otolaryngologist thought it might have several causes, so he went ahead and operated, but it turned out it was auto-immune disease because it killed the surgical fix. The most likely thing is that eventually I'll need a PDA with a *really* good keyboard.

An Announcement from Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 05:46 PM:

Jonathan Vos Post, I'm suspending your Electrolite and Making Light posting privileges for the next two weeks, which means you're out of here until New Year's Day.

You are not mindful of the company in which you find yourself.

You've posted far too many messages that had little or nothing to do with the discussions in which they occurred.

You've been a burden on the conversation.

Furthermore, you've failed to take cognizance of the longest-running and most heavy-handed series of hints and suggestions I've ever given anyone in all my years as a moderator.

See you in 2005.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Moderator, Enforcer, and
Wielder of Arbitrary Power

David B. ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2004, 09:14 PM:

Oops. Now I feel bad. I didn't mean to get him in trouble ;(

Igor Volsky ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 12:05 PM:

From the Bush conference:

He refuses to answer any SS questions.
Recognized errors in Iraq
Upheld immigration plan
Stood by Rumsfeld

** we need to reframe the SS debate and quick, he used the word crisis and social security 3 times in one sentence

more here: www.politicalthought.net

Michael Walsh ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2004, 07:57 PM:

Thanks for the update; ever so glad to see Capclave listed!

Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 02:40 AM:

As much as I sympathize with the political agenda of Igor Volsky, I find myself asking the question: How, precisely is this different than comment spam?

JVP: I applaud you for your valiant effort in your last post to make a gift out of your flaws; you succeeded admirably. It was, however a punchline that required a set-up altogether too long. A New Year's resolution concerning "relevance" might be suggested?

Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 03:01 AM:

we need to reframe the SS debate

Just finished "Dont think of an Elephant" (except for the FAQ at the end, which I'll get to soon). Lakoff said that the 40 billion dollar Social Security lockbox has been unlocked to pay for the War On Terrorism. Have they touched the money yet?

Currently, I see the advantage of privatizing social security as a way to prevent republicans from raiding SS dollars in the future to pay for their budget overruns, empire building campaigns, and star wars gadgets. Am I missing some huge/massive disadvantage to privatizing? Cause right now, it seems like it would just be another kind of 401k.

mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 09:35 AM:

Am I missing some huge/massive disadvantage to privatizing?

I don't know the details of the proposed plan, but on the surface it would seem that:

Breaking them out into individual accounts means that
a) they will be paying individual account fees
b) they depend on the long-term solvency and integrity of the investment company they pick
c) they are subject to market risks and their own choices

It says something, I think, that John Bogle was against privatizing social security when it first came up as a campaign issue in the 2000 elections, and that he supported Kerry in 2004. He suggested SS investing collectively in the market in some form, but not broken up into individual accounts.

Bogle on SS in 2000

And can you really trust wall street?
Bogle on corporate governance (e.g. Enron)

CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2004, 11:21 PM:

Greg/mayakda: as I hear it, a lot of the push for privatizing SS is coming from brokerage firms, which would rake in massive amounts of commissions (hence Bogle's recommended solution of a minimal-service, govt-run pool -- any bets that will happen under the Republicans?). Bogle also argues (in the 2nd link) that the "historic" returns of the stock market are unlikely to continue, which carves down the claims about how much more remunerative privatization would be compared to traditional SS -- and he's talking just the numbers inside the US, not the possible crash caused by owing China et al several trillion dollars. He also (from what I skimmed) doesn't try to compute the effect of running large additional amounts of money \through/ the market -- buying in at the start of privatization would increase demand, boosting prices, and cashing out would depress them. (Arguably, the stocks would simply be sold to the next generation of investors, who would in turn hope to see gains ... does this begin to sound like a Ponzi scheme?)

And the biggest hole, which Shrub was uncautious enough to say something about, is where the gap funding comes from (to prevent current benefits from dropping as contributions are sidetracked to future investments). "One trillion dollars" was mentioned -- which means that the actual number will be higher, not to mention that it will need to be dug up from somewhere by a government that is already going half a trillion dollars a year further into debt.

NB: I am not an economist, nor do I play one on blogs (I hope); these are just what strike me as obvious problems.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2005, 08:27 PM:

CHip and mayakda:

You are right to cite Bogle. Brokerage firms would profit, but it is an understatement to say "the 'historic' returns of the stock market are unlikely to continue."

If I may be allowed a relevant comment on the Social Security Privatization subthread, there is a horrible false assumption underlying the proposals, which no mainstream media have mentioned. In one technical word: heteroskedacity.

The various stock, bond, derivatives, and commodities markets discussed all have heteroskedacity. That is, they all are random, but sometimes the randomness suddenly and dramatically leaps outside of the bounds where it had been apparently limited. This includes, but is not limited to, bubbles, booms, and busts.

Any political statements as to expected yield of any kind of long-term investment fails the science fiction test: it is neither a scientifically valid prediction, nor is entertaining.

I am not a full-time Economist, but I have published several refereed articles on Mathematical Economics at major international conferences. Now I shall shut up for a while, as I do not have a Neal Stephenson's talent of making economics into fascinating human stories.

Happy New Year!

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2005, 12:28 PM:

"Moderator, Enforcer, and Wielder of Arbitrary Power" has the acronym ME WAP.

Coincidence? Perhaps.

mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2005, 01:18 PM:


Ooh, new word for me. I'm guessing, in layman's terms, this includes a bunch of thingies randomly deciding to all jump in the same direction. Unlikely, but always possible. Reminds me of the Improbability Drive in HHGTTG.

(JVP, I don't want to get you in mathspeak trouble here, so if you want to explain heteroskedacity at a 12 year old level* I'll check your blog. )

*my math skill level

So, anyone else waiting for our host's first 2005 electrolite post? *hint*hint*

Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2005, 03:25 PM:

I eagerly await our hard-hitting moderator's first 2005 post.

Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 10:43 AM:

I eagerly await any and all posts from our hostei, on either of their blogs.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2005, 01:28 PM:


I don't want to annoy our host with technical material, and am loathe to type another equation ever again here or on Makinglight, but I really did think that it was pertinent to the economics here. There are not many nontechnical explanations on the web.

The "Nobel Prize" in Economics for 2003 was announced 8 October 2003, and went to 1/2 to Robert F. Engle [born 1942], New York University, USA, "for methods of analyzing economic time series with time-varying volatility (ARCH)" [where ARCH is an acronym for "autoregressive conditional heteroskedacity"]; and 1/2 to Clive W. J. Granger [born 1934 in Wales], University of California at San Diego, USA, "for methods of analyzing economic time series with common trends (cointegration)." [from Timeline 2000-2010 A.D.]

"Market theorists are now looking for slight non-linearities in markets, as a means of anticipating future prices. One theory, GARCH (Generalised Auto-Regressive Conditional Heteroskedacity) assumes volatility in stock markets is clustered. In times of high volatility, markets are contrarian, a point Keynes first highlighted in the thirties. GARCH theory, however, concentrates on clusters of low volatility, where it anticipates that trends last longer than an examination of market fundamentals suggest. Investors often wait until they see a price rising before they purchase. Hence a rising price is a bandwagon, with herds of investors entering the market, second guessing each other. If we are non-linear in thinking, then technical analysis is justified."
[typo-corrected extract from STOCKS, HORSES, CHAOS AND EFFICIENT MARKETS by Donagh Lynch]

"It is a difference of opinion that make horses race." -- Mark Twain

Maryna ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2005, 12:48 PM:


I study in Canada, and my family lives in Ukraine. Can I buy your cards here in Canada (I live in Halifax, NS)? How much does it cost to call to Ukraine from Canada?


Elspeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2005, 07:13 PM:

A very belated comment as I'd missed this thread, so it may be too late for it to be posted -

To follow up on another, it's good to see Capclave listed and better that you'll be there. The thing is, the Velvet Underground shot started me thinking about doing publicity as a spoof of media conventions, with glossy b&w photos of the principals in dramatic poses. The two of you, and Waldrop . . .

Fortunately for all concerned, I'm not in charge of publicity.

Amy ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2005, 01:21 AM:

According to Sen. Barbara Boxer's statement on the issue, the administrative costs of privatization would be 20% of the account(according to a University of Chicago study) and the current administrative costs of social security are 1 1/2% (according to? the GAO, I hope? she doesn't say).


I found you all because I was Googling for an answer to the same question Greg is asking: is it true that the Bush admin. has spent $40 billion of Social Security on the "war on terrorism"? 'Cause if it is, they've got a hell of a nerve claiming it's in "crisis" now.

--Amy, 37 and damned if she's going to give her pension to a lot of fat cats.