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November 9, 2005

Open thread 53
Posted by Teresa at 11:31 AM *

As you know, Bob, fifty-three is the smallest prime which is neither the sum of nor the difference between powers of the first two prime numbers.

Comments on Open thread 53:
#1 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 11:49 AM:

It's also the Number of the Joker.

#2 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 12:09 PM:

Wow, I did not know that. That's really cool!

I assume that in this context you're not counting 1 as prime, and that you mean one each of power of 2^a and 3^b, in either order (a and b being integers). Because otherwise, of course,

2^6 - 3^2 - 2^1
= 64 - 9 - 2
= 53
And also
2^5 + 2^4 + 2^2 + 2^0
= 32 + 16 + 2 + 1
= 53

(i.e. 53 is 110101 in binary)
Wellll...JVP's not here! Someone hadda do it!
#3 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 12:17 PM:

Umm...that second one on the fifty-three site? Does π(53) mean something besides π times 53? Because 5² - 3² is 16, not 166.5044...

#4 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 12:21 PM:

There's a question I've been meaning to ask for quite some time, what with all the editors and writers who post on this site...

What the heck is a hack?

Oh, I could come up with examples, such as Alexandre Dumas, but I'm really asking about a definition. Our American Heritage dictionary says that a hack is (1) a worn-out horse for hire, (2) a person who undertakes unpleasant or distasteful tasks for money or reward, and (3) a writer hired to produce routine or commercial writing.

A couple of years ago, though, I caught Stephen King coming up with a new definition during a talk on CSPAN2: a writer who plans a book in advance is a hack.

I guess that, by the same standards, Alfred Hitchcock, who extensively planned his films, was the ultimate hack of the movie world.

#5 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 12:30 PM:

A hack is a writer who says that any writer who plans a book in advance is a hack.

#6 ::: D. Eppstein ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 12:37 PM:

Excellent Two Cultures moment going on here. Xopher: I believe they mean sum or difference of two powers; 64-9-2 has three terms, not two. 1 is not prime, but it is a prime power, e.g. 17=2^4+3^0.

#7 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 12:49 PM:

Yes, that's what I thought, but it's not what "the sum of powers of the first two primes" means...by itself. You do know that I was doing a parody, right?

#8 ::: AnimeJune ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 12:55 PM:

By planning, do you mean outlines?
I'm fairly lax with those...and I've never been good at math. As a writer, I thought I'd take Symbolic Logic in university, which is essentially math, with words, and it succeeded in completely confounding me.

#9 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 12:58 PM:

King never said, AnimeJune, but that's probably what he meant.

#10 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 01:07 PM:

A hack, originally, was any horse or carriage for hire (a contraction of hackney, which is why taxis sometimes have "hackney licenses"). A hack, in the sense of a writer, is therefore a writer for hire--someone who is not deeply engaged in his own work and is only in it for the money. Unlike the rest of us artists who don't care if we get paid or anything like that...

#11 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 01:10 PM:

I'm not sure what that definition makes Stephen King, other than possibly a writer who knows he can find a publisher without having to produce an outline. He sells Stephen King, not books.

Still, there's a difference between an outline and a specification, and I can see writing to a specification being one way of being a hack. Trouble is, I've seen some fine writing which, for various reasons, could be classified as hack writing. Go and check out some of what Diane Duane produces, such as for the "Net Force Explorers" series.

And looking at writers such as Dumas, or Dickens, churning out long books for money. I'm told that Dumas suffers from bad translation, but I hardly think that either can fairly be called hacks.

Bron Fane, maybe...

#12 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 01:17 PM:

Well, by Stephen King's definition I'm a hack through-and-through. I don't always write to an outline, but I do it more often than not. Moreover, just about every academic text is clearly an example of hackwork by this yardstick.

Moving swiftly on, the Schwartzian transform is a hack, although not as much of a hack as Duff's Device.

#13 ::: Christian Griffen ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 01:18 PM:

I heard the rumor that Robert Jordan's first Wheel of Time book was written based on him being asked to write a new Lord of the Rings. I don't know how much truth there is to that, but given that the novel starts with little people leaving their peaceful village in the company of a grumpy wizard and an exiled-king-turned-ranger, followed by evil dark cloak guys and dragons, I wouldn't be surprised if it was a very conscious Tolkien remake.

If so, that's what I'd call a hack job.

Stephen King, he's just... well... a rambler in dire need of an editor.

#14 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 01:19 PM:

Saw "Mirrormask" last Saturday.

(Bless Portland and its many indie movie venues.)

The story struck me as . . . well, not bad, or lacking, but just kind of ordinary. Maybe more for younger folks than me.

The acting was good; the dialog and characterization were clever and enjoyable.

But the visuals, and the visual imagination behind the visuals . . . oh. Oh my. That was just incredible work.

#15 ::: Sharon Mock ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 01:25 PM:

Oh, no. I hope the planner vs. "pantzer" argument doesn't infest here, now, too. ("Pantzer" = somebody who writes by the seat of the pants, i.e. without outlining.) It's a very popular topic of debate on a writing site I frequent, and I'm always horrified at how quickly it devolves into an issue of moral superiority despite the efforts of most participants.

Stephen King is just wrong here, IMO. And I say this as a freak who straddles both sides of the planner-pantzer divide.

#16 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 01:26 PM:

My comment about Alexandre Dumas wasn't a reaction to translations' Dave, because I read The Three Musketeers in French. It's not that his writing style was bad. But there were times when some scenes went on and on and on. I don't know how much you remember of the various movie adaptations, but at some point, Buckingham finally gets wise about Milady and confines her to her room, with a guard at the door. In the version with Gene Kelly and Lana Turner, Milady cooks up a sob story and the guard quickly falls for it. In the book, that sob story goes on for a whole long chapter. The only reason I could figure out for things to be that way is that Dumas had a quota to fill up that week.

#17 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 01:26 PM:

By Stephen King's defintion, then, Harry Stephen Keeler was king of the hacks. He even devised his own system of plotting, with diagrams and everything.

#18 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 01:30 PM:

Stephen King writes in a spirit of exploration. It's one of the known styles of composition. I'm surprised to hear that he thinks using other methods means you're a hack. Some authors can't write well if they know what's going to happen next, and others can't write well if they don't. I suspect it's a hardwired difference, or something close to it.

The American Heritage's definition of hack is perhaps not a specimen of their best work. (Among other things, they seem to have entirely missed hack as a synonym for taxicab.) When a hack is a horse, its primary characteristic isn't that it's old or broken down; it's that it's for hire, or adapted to general work, or both.

I'm not entirely clear on the etymological relationship between hack and hackney -- the latter being either a breed of flashy driving pony, or a carriage for hire. It occurs most commonly in hackney carriage, which is usually shortened to hackney or hack.

As you've probably figured out by now, a hack writer is simply someone who writes for hire. A secondary and somewhat outmoded sense of the word is that a hack is someone who's paid to clothe others' thoughts and opinions in more felicitous language. It isn't a synonym for "untalented." If it were, you wouldn't find old reference books temperately praising Defoe as "...the most practised and versatile journalist and hack writer of the day."

#19 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 01:31 PM:

And by the way, Patrick: all of Shwarzenegger's Props failed, including redistricting. The angels rejoice.

#20 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 01:33 PM:

And what is a commercial writer? Someone who gets paid for his/her work? I remember when I read Gustave Flaubert's Salammbo. My edition had an intro on the genesis of the book: he had been contracted to write a historical novel, originally set in Egypt but eventually he decided to use Carthage. My goodness... He was contracted to produce a story. How crassly commercial. Yeah, maybe, but it sure had very poetic language.

#21 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 01:45 PM:

The thing is that I love King's early stuff. Later on though... It became obvious he needed to do some planning when I read the novella The Library Police then the novel Needful Things, and I realized, crap, he had the main character defeat Evil the same way in both places.

Anyway, he should remember that what works for him may not work for others. Different strokes for different folks.

I remember Leigh Brackett in an intro to a story collection saying how she didn't plan. Her hubby Edmond Hamilton, upon finding that out, apparently exclaimed that was a Hell of a way to write a story.

#22 ::: Christian Griffen ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 01:46 PM:

According to the ever-entertaining comments on dailykos, the One-Term-inator should face a Total Recall after that disaster.

#23 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 01:56 PM:

Christian, the story about Jordan is an urban legend. To the best of my knowledge, he started out knowing how the story had to end, and has been working his way toward it ever since.

#24 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 02:01 PM:

The only translation of Dumas I've read is The Phoenix Guards, so IME he doesn't suffer a whit. In fact Brust is a good bit more careful than Dumas was--there are plenty of No-Prizes in the original. (Not that I can think of any just at the moment, of course.)

I've always found Flaubert kind of meh. But Victor Hugo, who also wrote for money, is one of my favorite non-sf novelists.

#25 ::: Christian Griffen ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 02:03 PM:

Thanks for clearing that up. I guess you would be in a position to know :)

It does have those certain touches I mentioned, howver. Maybe that was all subconscious.

#26 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 02:09 PM:

I'm very proud of my state for voting against those ridiculous propositions, although I am a little sad that 79 (state negotiated drug prices for low-income citizens) failed, I am gladdened by the failure of the parental notification thing. I noticed a couple of hinky things at the polling place, but I'm not sure whether to be paranoid or not. My roommate and I are turning into quite the conspiracy theorists, and elections tend to set those off.

In a related note, I have going through season 1 of Xena (yay, Netflix!) and the plot of one of last night's episodes gave me pause: A minor king is moonlighting as a warlord and leading The Bad Guys on regular raids against his principality as a way of keeping the citizens in fear and keeping their high taxes for him and his cronies.

I sure hope tonight's episodes include some hot guest star (Ares? Hades? Autolycus?) to distract me from the notion that Our President is getting some of his ideas from campy TV shows.

#27 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 02:16 PM:

Xena as an inspiration for the Administration's current policies, nerdycellist? What a scary idea.

#28 ::: Dan R. ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 02:17 PM:

Returning to primes:
Some time ago I downloaded the first 1000 prime numbers for use in some program code, and did some fooling around with them in Excel.

Havin little prior experience of the properties of prime numbers, I was amazed at how regular their progression is: a simple x-y graph of prime number versus its sequence number produces a curve that is remarkably smooth (at least at the scale of a graph for the first 1000).

Probing ever so slightly below the surface, I plotted the differences between adjacent primes. While the result wasn't too edifying, I noticed that difference number 217 (between 1327 and 1361) was a notable outlier. The difference of 34 was the highest of all in the first 1000, and significantly higher than other differences in the first 250.

Can local wizards comment on this? You know who you are.

#29 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 02:20 PM:

Back to the thread's original mathematics subject... A few weeks ago, there was an episode of numb3rs wher Charlie tells his older brother that there are no Nobel Prizes for mathematics. Apparently when Nobel was about to start his Prizes, his wife was fooling around with a mathematician. Considering that the show has a real mathematician as its technical advisor, I'll assume that this is not BS.

#30 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 02:22 PM:

I suspect King might be using "outline" in the same weird way that he uses "plot" in _On Writing_; he expressed great disapproval there of "plot" defined as something that an author actively forces on a book (shoving characters to do something they wouldn't to make a necessary event happen, like that). Making an outline and sticking to it no matter what would be similar to him, I bet.

#31 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 02:23 PM:

Nobel wasn't married.

http://www.snopes.com/science/nobel.htm

#32 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 02:26 PM:

Perhaps King meant someone else's outline.

At least some of Dumas's works were written by another writer based on his outline, then polished up by the master. This may be why he is put in the "hack" category.

#33 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 02:27 PM:

It is BS. Nobel never married; and there are other good reasons as well.

#34 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 02:33 PM:

And there are cases where a writer cooks up an outline to get the basic idea of where to go and if problems still come up, or if a better idea comes up, then one feels free to diverge. I wonder if such a writer would then fall under King's definition of a hack.

#35 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 02:38 PM:

Nobel was never married? Darn, gulled again.

#36 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 02:39 PM:

I once saw a book called "Shrink-Lits" which was various classic books condensed into lite verse.

#37 ::: Julian M Bucknall ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 02:46 PM:

Xopher

pi(x) is the mathematical notation for "the number of prime numbers less than or equal to x". So pi(53) is 16, since there are 16 primes less than or equal to 53 (2,3,5,7,11,13,17,19,23,29,31,37,41,43,47,53).

I must admit I'd never seen the original proposition that Theresa wrote about. Now I have to go find out if it's a conjecture, and if not, the proof! Another couple of hours to waste!

Cheers, Julian

#38 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 02:48 PM:

No kaboom for the MythBusters tonight but hopefully some big pop as, according to their web site, "...Adam and Jamie test the ability of steel toe boots to protect against heavy objects. In Bottle Blast Off, the Build team fills a soda bottle and watches as it lifts off, testing Newton's third law: every action has an equal and opposite reaction..."

#39 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 02:56 PM:

Speaking as an OCaml hacker, I have to say that giving a name to that technique, i.e. the Schwartzian Tranform, seems awfully presumptuous.

let sort f u =
let u = Array.map (fun x -> x, f x) u in
Array.sort (fun (_, a) (_, b) -> Pervasives.compare a b) u;
Array.map (fun x, _ -> x) u

In OCaml, I probably wouldn't start with this data in an array in the first place. It would probably be in a list. Or even more likely, a Cf_seq type, i.e. a lazy list.

#40 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 02:57 PM:

Dan, primes have all kinds of interesting properties. They're catnip to mathematicians. Check out this site, or this one.

Watch:

What's your favorite prime number? Mine is 11.

#41 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 03:07 PM:

Christian, Jordan was quite conscious of it, as you can see in this quote from the WoT FAQ:

The only direct influence we know Jordan has acknowledged is Tolkien: "The only deliberate connection between WOT and any other modern fantasy was giving the first 100-odd pages of TEOTW a Lord of the Rings-esque flavor, to start people off in familiar territory." [from Dublin talk, 11/93, Emmet O'Brien]

Personally, I think he maybe took the parallelism a little too far, but others maybe disagree.

In a complete tangent, I'm happy to report that Chicken Little is a quite fun light SF film suitable for all ages. Worth seeing.

#42 ::: alex ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 03:11 PM:

Another open thread diversion: the American Society of Civil Engineers has released its report on the NOLA levee failures.


#43 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 03:31 PM:

Keith Kisser,
Now that you've pointed out Keeler's writing, all I have to say is
"..."

-r.
p.s. Here's a pair of extracts for those who didn't follow the links:

For he was to become now, as I was shortly to find, as coldly calculating as an adding machine sitting on the North Pole!
Elsa, this day, had just completed a single leaf of those several million green leaves yet to be done, and had climbed off her stool to survey it from a distance--when her phone rang.
Most alarming!

#44 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 03:34 PM:

Whoo! Harry Reid did predict the weather--the wind is blowing hard for the Democrats!

The Democrats still won't be my party, though. Oh, well, at least they're not crazy.

#45 ::: Christian Griffen ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 03:50 PM:

Thanks, Skwid. It's good to see that I wasn't completely making something out of nothing. And I do agree with you on taking it too far. Of course, he then moved on to having his bad guy crush rats' spines as a pastime, and that's where he lost me. He should have stuck with Sauron's hobby of gazing about evilly.

As for favorite prime numbers, I claim 5.

#46 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 03:52 PM:

Julian, thanks. I knew it hadda be something I didn't know about.

#47 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 03:56 PM:

Teresa and I share a favorite prime. I was born on the 11th day of the month (though not, alas, this month...I have a friend whose birthdate was 11/11/55!); my last name is such that I was often 11th on the list of students at school; my first name has 11 letters; and other multiples of 11 keep cropping up in my life.

#48 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 04:02 PM:

Christian, can we share 5?

I was born on 5/25 of a multiple of 5 year....

#49 ::: qB ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 04:02 PM:

My favourite prime is 97. In fact it's my favourite number. I went straight to the 97 page at the site you originally linked to and discovered that 97 is the first "Bad prime." So that figures.

On hackery - we purchased, at a steam railway fair, an ancient book which consisted entirely of the fares for hackney carriages (as in the horse-drawn variety) for specific routes in London. An attempt to standardise charges before the advent of the meter. Hundreds and hundreds of routes in a London much smaller than it is now. Fascinating.

#50 ::: Aboulic ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 04:06 PM:

I just made an interesting discovery. Sir Christopher Meyer's book, DC Confidential, is being serialised in the online (as well as print) versions of The Guardian.

This means that several substantial extracts are available at: http://politics.guardian.co.uk/iraq/page/0,12956,1636156,00.html (no subscription seems to be necessary) This page is list of extracts published to date, along with a leader, an interview, and a couple of related articles by Guardian journalists.

The extracts from the book by the man who was British Ambassador during much of the planning for the Iraq war contain some things worth knowing, such as:
"I found myself repeatedly answering the question: did something said by Jack Straw or Geoff Hoon represent the prime minister's views? Sometimes it did not. Indeed, throughout this period, the Foreign Office impinged little on my life. Between 9/11 and the day I retired at the end of February 2003, on the eve of war, I had not a single substantive policy discussion on the secure phone with the FO."
"When this document was drafted none of those conditions was anywhere near to being met. Nor, at the time the leaked cabinet note was drafted, had we left the starting gate in pursuit of the UN or building an international coalition."
"This was a lousy backdrop to taking part in any military action against Iraq."
"Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, said to me later that we were the only ally that mattered."
"Just before Blair arrived at Camp David, I received a phone call from one of the most experienced and prominent foreign policy practitioners of the Clinton administration. The familiar voice warned me that Cheney, Bush's sometimes intimidating vice-president, would be present throughout Blair's discussions with the president. "How the hell do you know?" I asked. "Don't ask, don't tell," was the enigmatic reply. "But Blair had better watch out.""

And also some things I'd rather not know:
"Blair put on a pair of ball-crushingly tight dark-blue corduroys. I was later told that his wardrobe for the weekend had been the result of intensive debate within No 10." A very bad mental image, but a very good metaphor.

#51 ::: tortoise ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 04:33 PM:

Dan K:

The overall smoothness of the plot is the result of the Prime Number Theorem, which says that any positive number n has approximately n/log n primes less than it (with the approximation getting better as n gets larger). Since a plot of n/log n would look exactly like a smooth curve, this means that a plot of the nth prime number should look almost like a smooth curve.

I can't entirely account for the large prime gap you noticed. Part of the reason for it, though, is that 1320 has a lot of smallish prime factors (2, 3, 5, and 11); this means that, if we add some small number to 1320, odds are that that small number will share a prime factor with 1320, and so the sum won't be prime. This idea shows that all but seven of the numbers in your range (namely 1333, 1337, 1339, 1343, 1349, 1351, and 1357) have some small factor (because all the numbers between 7 and 41 are multiples of either 2, 3, 5, or 11, with the seven exceptions 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, and 37).

#52 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 04:35 PM:

Apropo of nothing, I spotted this:

DVDs are selling like hotcakes…and everyone’s buying (begging the question…have you ever seen a run on pancakes? Was there some Depression era shortage on pancakes of which I am not aware?).

from http://lnnline.blogspot.com/2005/06/why-movie-theater-prices-are-so-high.html

that is all
-r.

#53 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 04:38 PM:

Blair's choice of pants... I heard about that a couple of days.

This reminds me of a comment made by a fantasy writer after we had seen Jim Henson's Labyrinth. She especially liked all the scenes where David Bowie was surrounded by muppets. Why? In those scenes, the camera was usually at muppet eye-level. And if you don't remember, Bowie's pants left nothing to the imagination.

I don't know which is worse, when thinking of Blair's: associate them with David Bowie, or with the Wallace & Gromit short film with trousers as their subject.

#54 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 04:43 PM:

OK. So the Nobel comment on numb3rs are BS. What about the mathematics themselves, aside from their fanciful applications on the show?

#55 ::: Christian Griffen ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 04:50 PM:

Nancy, it sounds like you sure have a much better claim to 5 than I do. I just always liked the number because it was just outside my really weird quirk with the numbers 2 and 4 that involved obsessively counting the number of stairs on every flight I climbed anywhere, as well as my steps on differently colored tiles on the ground, and that will surely make me sound crazy if I don't shut up about it.

So yeah, let's share. :)

#56 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 05:06 PM:

My favorite prime number is 17. I don't know why, it just is.

#57 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 05:10 PM:

There are an infinite number of favoritable copies of each prime number. Therefore any "claim" to any number is as vacuous as Balboa's Claim.

#58 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 05:18 PM:

Dan R. wrote:

... difference number 217 (between 1327 and 1361) was a notable outlier. The difference of 34 was the highest of all in the first 1000, and significantly higher than other differences in the first 250.

The prime density is smoother than you'd expect from a probabilistic approach, because the prime density has a negative feedback mechanism--too few primes now translates into too few factors (so more primes) later, and vice versa. I recall something I heard thirty-some years ago about how the prime gaps are especially chaotic, too, but the details escape me. Google for "prime gaps" and you get hundreds of matches, many very good.

Can local wizards comment on this? You know who you are.
The problem is that a lot of (nonlocal) non-wizards "know" they are wizards, too. See Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments. I'm not sure whether math is especially magnetic to that kind of personality, or whether I see it more in math only because that's where I'm looking. I saw them break sci.math, and now they're gnawing away at wikipedia. I sometimes envy people who are only alienated by the government.


#59 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 05:22 PM:

Duh. A hack is a writer which is not the sum of powers of the first two primes. Everybody knows that!

#60 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 05:29 PM:

In other news, it appears that the Texas legislature and voters, in their on-going quest to protect the institution of marriage, has instead outlawed it. The relevant quote is: "This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage."

Suddenly, I am a strict constructionist.

#61 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 05:30 PM:

Marilee, my favroite prime number is 17, as well! I don't know why either.

#62 ::: Aquila ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 05:31 PM:

I don't think I have a favorite prime number. Do I fail some kind of test?

#63 ::: Michael Rawdon ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 05:34 PM:

Hmm, how strange. I was going to make a comment here and was informed that my post was denied due to "questionable content" (I was informed almost immediately when I clicked POST, so it's clearly an automated check). Now, arguably anything I post is somewhat questionable, but as my post contained no swear words and no hyperlinks, I'm at something of a loss to imagine what it might be...

#64 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 05:41 PM:

My favorite cribbage hand score is 19.

#65 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 05:43 PM:

We both did, Aquila.

Maybe there's still time before we're consigned to Math Anxiety Hell... My favorite prime is 2.

#66 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 06:26 PM:

Shrink Lits...just the other day I was thinking about Beowulf (the topic came up in my anatomy class, oddly enough) and into my head popped:

Monster Grendel's tastes are plainish:
Breakfast? Just a couple Danish.

#67 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 06:33 PM:

I really meant to put shrink lits on the other thread "The answer, dear reader, is yes" since it's apropos of the limerick discussion there.

Balboa's claim sounds a little like Aguirre's claim: " we take more territory with every mile we drift"

#68 ::: Chris S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 06:34 PM:

Shrink Lits - wow. I have a copy of that, um, buried somewhere...

The verse for ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND always cracked me up. It began: "Holed up with bunny/ pre-teen acts funny..."

I loved that book.

#69 ::: Brooke C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 06:55 PM:

From "ShrinkLits":

"Humbert gloats: his young nymphet
Is 'ineffable'--and yet
'Eff'able as she can get."

I used to have that book in college; I keep looking out for it at library sales. The other bit I remember is the Moll Flanders entry, where, after quoting the original title page (which lays out the entire plot for you: "five times a wife, whereof once to her own brother..."!) it ends, in reference to her eventual repentance at around age 75: "Love your sense of timing, Moll."

I would've assumed that the Stephen King quote was tongue-in-cheek. I'm sure he respects many writers who don't do improvisational plotting...could this be a sarcastic reaction to being so often called a hack himself?

Serge:

Milady cooks up a sob story and the guard quickly falls for it. In the book, that sob story goes on for a whole long chapter.

As a matter of fact, it's more like 3-4 chapters. Which are long, yes. Personally, though, they're some of my favorite of the book (she corrupts the Puritan guard through his own religious enthusiasm...which just rocks), since Milady's far and away the character I like best. Without even getting into the fact that D'Artagnian basically *rapes* her halfway through the book, I think I'd be pretty angry at mankind in general if, upon discovering that I'd been a thief at some time in the past, my sanctimonious asshat of a husband immediately stripped me naked and hanged me from the nearest tree. I mean, geez, Athos...way to love, honor and cherish.

#70 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 07:11 PM:

On the other hand, Brooke, Milday did kill Constance. Anyway, I wasn't saying that The Three Musketeers is a bad book, Brooke. I was only using it as an example of hackitude. I must say there were indeed times where d'Artagnan and his companions were such immature jerks that I did wonder if Dumas actually hated his characters and wrote about them just for the money. But by the end of the book, somehow, a feeling of melancholy permeated the whole thing, as if Dumas were sad to let go.

Do you have a favorite movie depiction of d'Artagnan? Michael York was accurate as far as the jerky d'Artagnan went. But I far prefered Gabriel Byrne in Man in the Iron Mask.

#71 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 07:14 PM:

Oh, and as far as I remember, Brook, King wasn't facetious in his comment about what makes a writer a hack. I think. It was some time ago. And maybe King has a poker face. He didn't have a poker face though when he made a crack about pro-lifers whose interest in protecting life ends at birth.

#72 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 07:17 PM:

Did Teresa or Patrick ever say why the producers of the new version of Pride and Prejudice thought their site was a good place where to advertise?

I was looking at a movie guide for information about the story's various versions when I came across this tidbit about the 1940 movie: one of its scriptwriters was Aldous Huxley.

#73 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 07:18 PM:

Now, Duff's Device, on the other hand— there's a hack worthy of naming after an inventor.

#74 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 07:42 PM:

Hack: a more highly paid writer than oneself, who has stepped out of the room?

Also, Dinosaurs and Sodomy may have changed my life. Mostly in the direction of more dinosaurs. Well. Wombats and moose, really, but still.

#75 ::: Brooke C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 07:49 PM:

Serge:

On the other hand, Brooke, Milday did kill Constance.

Well, yeah. Years later. (She was only about 16, IIRC, when Athos-before-he-was-Athos did his little attempted murder. I know, thieves were commonly hanged in this time period. Still. Dude.) Anyway, I wasn't saying she was a character to emulate, just that I found her more sympathetic (even in her badly misplaced anger) than most of the Musketeers. And I totally wasn't disagreeing with you on the "hack" bit.

Dorothy Parker:

"Although I work, and seldom cease,
On Dumas pere and Dumas fils,
Alas, I cannot make me care,
For Dumas fils and Dumas pere."

In re: film adaptations...Byrne was good, you're right. Was that the same one that had Gerard Depardieu as Porthos? 'Cause that was great. The '90s era Disney adaptation, though, lives in infamy...despite the hilarious awesomeness of Tim Curry as a lascivious Richelieu.

#76 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 07:55 PM:

I'd like to take a moment to say thanks to Teresa and the other Firefly fans here-- if not for this entry from April, I probably wouldn't have given a second thought to Serenity, let alone the Firefly universe. Damn, that was fun going thru the DVDs, and seeing the BDM on the big screen--- and meeting a few people after the movie when I stood up and said "grrrrr, arrrrgh" after the closing credits...


Bwah.

#77 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 08:00 PM:

Point taken about Milady, Brooke. I confess I had compressed the years in my memory.

As for Gabriel Byrne, yes, that was the version with Depardieu as Porthos.

#78 ::: Brooke C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 08:00 PM:

Marna:

That's pretty much what I always assume people mean when they use the word.

Unless I'm reading Georgette Heyer or something, and it's describing a horse. I wonder how those meanings are connected, and if it relates to the verb. Like, "this story was hacked out of the author's brain without any attempt at organization."

Off-topic: Heyer is occasionally hilarious in her blinker-wearing obsession with period language. One of my favorite quotes ever comes in "Sylvester, Or: The Wicked Uncle," when the hero says to the heroine, quite innocently, "You must allow me to mount you while you're in town."

He's offering to loan her a horse, of course. Why are you sniggering?

#79 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 08:03 PM:

Bill, I'm VERY bummed about Serenity not being a commercial success. They did promote it quite a bit and still it failed. I'm sad knowing I'll never meet the gang again. Well, at least, we did get to say a sort of goodbye to them.

#80 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 08:05 PM:

You want a double entendre, Broke? How about a romance novel that opens with the line "What a beautiful cock!" and yes it was set on a farm, and it was about a rooster. Another romance titled "Proud Pillar Rising" is nothing to sneeze at either.

#81 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 08:10 PM:

Totally. I would never have seen Serenity without reading the comments it on Making Light. A friend just burned me a DVD of the first 4-5 episodes of Firefly. Anyone know how many there were? He thinks there were two seasons. I have no idea. Anyone...?

Tim Curry is awesome in anything. I'll watch him in a commercial, I'll watch him even when he phones it in. I will watch him in a skirt, I will watch him with a quirt...

#82 ::: Aquila ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 08:16 PM:

It's even sadder being somewhere where it hasn't even opened yet and knowing it hasn't done well enough to fly again.

It opens tonight here. And yes, I have already seen it. And yes, I will be seeing it again.

#83 ::: Brooke C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 08:25 PM:

There's a great bit in Pratchett's "Witches Abroad" where Nanny Ogg says brightly, "My word! That's the biggest cock I've ever seen, and I've seen a few in my day," causing all the other witches to give her Looks and Granny Weatherwax to harrumph, "Don't mind her. She never had no proper upbringing." Nanny: "What with living next to a chicken farm, is what I was going to say next." I love Nanny Ogg.

And, with the unintentional, this is absolutely the funniest page of the Superdickery site:

http://www.superdickery.com/seduction/3.html

It...it just keeps going on! And on! And by the fourth panel I'm practically hyperventilating.

#84 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 08:27 PM:

The new Kate Bush album contains a highly suggestive song about laundry, and another song where she's singing the digits of pi in a wistfully romantic way.

It is perhaps the case that motherhood agrees with her.

#85 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 08:57 PM:

There were 14 episodes of _Firefly_ only.

For those wanting a bit more detail, I did a why watch post on LJ a while ago.

#86 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 09:42 PM:

Lizzy L wrote:

> Tim Curry is awesome in anything.

Congo? I mean yes, Tim Curry is great, but Congo?

#87 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 09:46 PM:

Graydon wrote:

> The new Kate Bush album contains a highly suggestive song about laundry, and another song where she's singing the digits of pi in a wistfully romantic way.

I read a (quite positive) review of the album which described her as "still madder than a box of frogs". Quite.

> It is perhaps the case that motherhood agrees with her.

I've always found her music to be a fine emulsion of incredibly good and incredibly awful bits, and that's still the case. I'm very glad she's finally recorded again - and the second disk is just inspiring.

#88 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 09:53 PM:

Steve --

Nobody is good enough that everything always works. (Though pretty much everything on "The Red Shoes" does.) I tend to take the occasional awful bits as an indication of not playing it safe. (Similar to Leonard Cohen's willingness to get up in public and sing his own songs.)

And, rather like the various comments about Tim Currie, I'll forgive the person responsible for "Waking the Witch" and that take on the Jig of Life almost anything.

#89 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 10:49 PM:

Marilee: possible reasons:

"'Seventeen!', shouted the Bug, who was usually the first with the wrong answer." (Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth)

The proof that 17 is the largest finite number, possibly out of the pejorative calculus (which also proves that Alexander the Great did not exist \and/ he had an infinite number of limbs.)


I'm partial to 137, which in addition to being the fine structure constant (? reciprocal?) was snuck into the ST:TNG pilot -- probably not because it was running around fandom at the time, but one never knows.

#90 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 11:02 PM:

Graydon writes:

> Nobody is good enough that everything always works.

Oh I agree completely - I think she's capable of doing excellent work for exactly the same reasons she's capable of doing awful stuff - taking chances. The sublime and the ridiculous are very close companions.

Nick Cave is someone who's spent a lot of time in that territory too.

>(Though pretty much everything on "The Red Shoes" does.)

Oddly enough, I work with a rabid Kate Bush fan who thinks that's her one unlistenable album - damned if I see why.

Though thinking of granularity of tastes, I realised the other day that both my wife and I love half of a particular Sonic Youth song and hate the other half. Needless to say, we don't agree on which is the good half. I don't think granularity comes much finer.

#91 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 11:03 PM:

Any thoughts on Ann Rice's turn to Catholicism and Christian fiction?

Genuine? Or a turning to greener pa$ture$, inspired by the caustic reception of her last horror novel?

#92 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 11:03 PM:

"The '90s era Disney adaptation, though, lives in infamy...despite the hilarious awesomeness of Tim Curry as a lascivious Richelieu."

I've only ever seen this dubbed in Japanese. I don't speak Japanese. Maybe that's why I enjoyed it thoroughly. The voice actor they hired to speak all of Tim Curry's lines was awesome.

I wonder how many bad films are substantially better when you watch them dubbed in languages you don't understand. I saw Cube in a French theatre, and found it delightfully confusing. Later, I watched it in English and wanted to destroy the rented DVD rather than give it back.

#93 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 11:17 PM:

j h woodyatt wrote:

> I wonder how many bad films are substantially better when you watch them dubbed in languages you don't understand.

I used to buy a lot of French comics (or should I say Bandes Dessinees) because of the jaw droppingly beautiful artwork. Finally getting to read some in translation didn't make me very happy.

#94 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 09, 2005, 11:27 PM:

Where did people read that Serenity was a box office flop?

Out here, it is still playing in multiple theaters a month after it opened. If it was poison it would have been long gone.

I did read that Whedon got it made well under budget and got some attention for that feat.

#95 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 12:28 AM:

Mention of Tim Curry reminds me to menton my theory of Why Tim Curry On TV Has Flopped:

Twice. On THE TIM CURRY SHOW and on the remake of FAMILY AFFAIR. And the reason those showed flopped was because they were comedies.

My theory is that Tim Curry is, at heart, a dramatic actor, rather than a comedic actor. He's been cast in many comedy films, but his portrayals of the various characters of those films have always had a certain gravitas, a dignity, that wasn't present in the failed tv series. He's been essentially a straight character caught in comedic circumstances.

So I was thinking, what remake of a tv series WOULD be suitable for Curry's talents?

And I think the answer is: LOU GRANT

The original tv show had its comedic moments, but overall was mostly dramatic in tone and execution. And I think Curry as the aging, sardonic editor of a major newspaper (Ed Asner in the original) would be friggin' great!

[aging fanboy exits stage left]

#96 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 01:13 AM:

Just watched 4 Firefly episodes in a row. Good. Looking forward to the other 10.

Tim Curry now... I would watch him in a box; I would watch him without socks. I agree, he has great gravitas, and it makes the comedic parts funnier. Rocky Horror is the ultimate example. I didn't see Congo. I didn't know Curry was in Congo, and to tell the truth, never mind Dr. Seuss, I wouldn't watch Congo despite Curry's presence in it. (But the Green Eggs and Ham rhyme is so fun...)

#97 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 01:22 AM:

Dumas a hack? I... don't know how to react to that. I'm reading the unabridged Count of Monte Cristo for the first time and it is perhaps the most enjoyable book from that era I have ever read.

Though actually, reading the various definitions for "Hack" offered here it seems that a conglomerated definition would be something like this:

Hack
A writer who produces a great volume of work according to a basic set of themes/forumlas who is handsomely rewarded with both money and popularity.

In which case I'll give Dumas a strong Maybe in the Hack department. I'm only halfway through Monte Cristo now, but I am definitely in love, in a "Man I should go to sleep I have to work tonight but maybe one more chapter arg can't stop!" way.

#98 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 01:44 AM:

I would watch Tim Curry sodomise a dinosaur in a box of mad frogs.

Wait. What am I saying?

OK, I'd listen to Leonard Cohen do that.

I wouldn't watch anyone do that.

... *wanders off singing 'young men will do it/if they come to it/by cock they are to blame...' but not in the direction of running water*

#99 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 01:51 AM:

Heyer is occasionally hilarious in her blinker-wearing obsession with period language. One of my favorite quotes ever comes in "Sylvester, Or: The Wicked Uncle," when the hero says to the heroine, quite innocently, "You must allow me to mount you while you're in town."

If it were occasional...

After the ending of The Corinthian, I have come to believe she was about as innocent as O'Brien, if so innocent.

#100 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 02:25 AM:

Er, with all this mathematics being tossed around, where is Jonathan vos Post?

#101 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 02:43 AM:

OK, I'd listen to Leonard Cohen [commit anatomically difficult saurian/amphibian act].

Well, so much for everything sounding like Coldplay.

Looking forward to the "Make:Out" issue of Make magazine, with such articles as

Let's Play "Hide the iPod"

MIDI Moan Enhancement

Eight Ways to Humiliate Your Roomba

DRM for Teledildonics: You Know Sony Wants It

Reich Meets Fuller and They Get to Talking: The Legend of the Dymaxorgone Chamber

#102 ::: Marna ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 03:33 AM:

Well, so much for everything sounding like Coldplay.

"every dino wants a box of chocolates/and a long stemmed rose ..."

#103 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 06:15 AM:

My favourite prime number is 982067, which was our home telephone number when I was a boy. We only found out it was prime when one of my older siblings got a TI programmable calculator, which took hours to work it out.

We moved when I was in college and got 985937, also prime.

Sadly neither of these is a valid phone number anymore since the phone company added a prefix digit, depriming both numbers in the process.

#104 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 06:45 AM:

Re: Anne Rice - everything I've read (not that much) seems to indicate genuine Christian conversion. I can't believe money is a big factor - she has to be pretty much set in that department.

I dropped the vampires after #3 or 4, but admire her ability to present the experience of supernatural realities in something like an accurate way. This gives me hope for the Christ series. A concern would be that she seems to excel in portraying narcissists, and hope she doesn't go there with Jesus....

Leah - I envy your first encounter with the Count. May I ask, are you reading it abridged or no? I listened to it abridged and A) did not feel cheated at all, and B) was totally captivated. It seems to me to contain the original of so many figures and plot points that are patterned in later fiction. The experience was, "Aha! So THAT'S where that came from!" And - what a story.

#105 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 06:47 AM:

Note to self: read post you're answering more carefully. Will now read the unabridged CoMC as pleasant penance.

#106 ::: Mikael Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 07:24 AM:

As one of the more enthusiastic candidates for a JVP standin, a few comments are in order. :)

(1) 1 is not prime because it is a unit. This in turn is the algebraist's fancy way of saying "It screws up our later constructions!" (to be quite exact, the ideal within Z generated by 1 is all of Z. Thus 1 doesn't generate a proper ideal, whereas all prime ideals are proper...)

(2) The Nobel story is indeed very snopes-worthy, but it is also very common among mathematicians as well - it took me several years until I bothered to convince myself it wasn't true.

(3) My favourite prime, hands down, is 91. Why? Because (as John H. Conway points out) it is the smallest almost-prime. It fails all the 'obvious' divisibility checks: Not even. Number sum not divisible by 3. Not ending in 5 or 0. Not two equal digits after another. And not a square.
Ok, so it's not a -prime-.... But it's neat!

#107 ::: Paul Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 07:52 AM:

Where did people read that Serenity was a box office flop?

I agree that it hasn't flopped, but it hasn't been a box-office success either. According to Box Office Mojo, it's grossed about $35 million so far, which is less than the production cost of $39 million. DVD sales will presumably give the total a healthy bump, but I can't imagine that Universal will do much more than break even. A pity - it was a fun film, though the series at its best was better.


Now, Duff's Device, on the other hand— there's a hack worthy of naming after an inventor.

When interviewing we used to give this to people and ask them what it did. Reactions varied between horror and admiration, and sometimes both from the same person.


#108 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 08:10 AM:

Serge: In those scenes, the camera was usually at muppet eye-level. And if you don't remember, Bowie's pants left nothing to the imagination.

Yes, no codpieces for that coming-of-age fantasy.

#109 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 10:14 AM:

Yup, Aconite. By the way, do you know what other movies Labyrinth's young female lead later was in? I'll give you a hint: Russell Crowe.

#110 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 10:20 AM:

Speaking of numbers, even if they're not primes...

"I'm NOT fifteen."
"I know, you're too old for me"

(Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant in Charade)

#111 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 10:26 AM:

Yesterday's episode of MythBusters indeed had no kaboom - not of the pyrotechnic kind anyway. But in the process of preparing for Kari's test flight of their water-bottle rocket backpack, they of course had to test the bottles to see how much pressure they could take before blowing up. Rather spectacular. More spectacular than the backpack's flight when they moved on to the let's-try-it-on-the-dummy stage. That convinced them not to try with beany Kari. Much to her relief.

#112 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 10:28 AM:

Dinosaurs, sodomy AND Tim Curry? Well, that should do it for the Rapture Index.

Tim Curry in a dramatic series? Been done already. Remember Earth 2?

#113 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 10:44 AM:

I don't feel any impulse to google myself, but it seemed important to find out whether my phone number is prime. Not only is it not prime, but apparently its only appearance online is as my phone number.

Google your phone numbers! Are they doing anything extra, or are you their only escape from total obscurity?

Am I the only one who liked Rucker's discussion of unmanagebly large numbers? IIRC, the idea was that, due to real world constraints, there are numbers so big and so far from handy landmarks that they can't be specified.

#114 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 11:14 AM:

Just a couple quick notes, the first of which goes back to Marna's proposed definition of hack, "a more highly paid writer than oneself, who has stepped out of the room," to say that can't be the definition King's using, because I can't really think of a higher paid writer than King. I mean, Grisham, Brown, Koontz, they're all up there, sure, but King's first novel earned $400,000 for the paperback rights, and I can't imagine that's declined. And that was "Carrie", back in 197-something, before I was born, so I don't even know how that compares, inflation-wise, to now.

"I'm partial to 137, which in addition to being the fine structure constant (? reciprocal?) was snuck into the ST:TNG pilot -- probably not because it was running around fandom at the time, but one never knows."
This rang a bell to me. 137, I mean. When I was younger, I started a book called "The God Particle," by Leon Lederman, and I think 137 was mentioned in the foreword (which is about all I ever managed to plod through). Isn't this Planck's constant, or something? I remember his saying that there's some whole big equation thing, with various units of measure, etc., but when you solve, everything magically disappears except for 137.
Admittedly, my memory is fuzzy.

I've been reading about "Out of Egypt," Anne Rice's new novel, and I think her conversion is pretty genuine, and seems to coincide with the death of her husband. I won't read it. I read twenty pages of "Interview with the Vampire," and that was about it. I've heard she's cut down her language considerably, and that this present story is told from the perspective of a seven-year-old Yeshua ben Miryam, and I've even heard it compared not unfavorably to Hemingway, but, then, I was never a huge fan of his, either.

And I love "Labyrinth". And Jennifer Connelly. Soooo beautiful. Ironically, I think she's rarely looked better than she did in "The Hulk." I look forward to "Dark Water," too, because I've heard it's a lot of Jennifer Connelly wet.

I can't comment on hackdom. I don't really know quite what the qualifications might be. I'll end up being called one, one day, though.

#115 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 11:14 AM:

Steve Taylor writes that he "...used to buy a lot of French comics (or should I say Bandes Dessinees) because of the jaw droppingly beautiful artwork. Finally getting to read some in translation didn't make me very happy..."

I think this trend in French comics started in 1975 when the magazine Metal Hurlant was born. If you ever bothered reading its American offspring Heavy Metal, you'll notice that the graphic aspect is superb while the storytelling aspect fell off to the side. Up till then, most comics were mostly staid, graphically. And there were some things they just didn't deal with. Then the above magazine was born and gave artists way more freedom. Some of which was used for rather disgusting stuff. But there is good stuff, although I don't really keep in touch much anymore now that I'm in the USA.

#116 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 11:19 AM:

Yeah, Connelly looks rather skelettal in the Hulk movie. It's as if she'd heard too many comments about her curves in Rocketeer.

As for Ann Rice, I tried reading her Mummy book. I tried.

#117 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 11:20 AM:

Among the controversies at Wikipedia's Lamest edit wars ever page is a dispute over whether potato chips are flavored or flavoured. The disputants eventually compromised on seasoned.

#118 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 11:24 AM:

It sounds like there are lots of definitions of what makes a writer a hack. About as many as there are for SF.

Say, was L.Ron Hubbard a hack? (I never tried to read him. When I think of him, I think of 1984's LAcon II and the giant inflatable mosquito/man/alien the scientologists had on display just outside of the premises.)

#119 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 11:36 AM:

1/137.036 is the fine-structure constant of electromagnetism; in natural units used by particle physicists, it appears in many formulae describing the strength of the electromagnetic coupling to charged particles. Arthur Stanley Eddington once claimed to have proved that it was exactly 1/136; then when it was found to be closer to 1/137, he proved that it was exactly 1/137. But it isn't that either, though it's close.

#120 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 11:40 AM:

My favorite unimaginably large numbers are the busy-beaver sequence: these describe the number of steps taken by the Turing machine of N states that halts, but goes the longest before halting (there are slightly different variants, but that's the gist). This sequence increases so rapidly that it cannot be computed; the proof is that if that were not true you could solve Turing's Halting Problem.

(Let's see if the content filter accepts this version of the post...)

#121 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 11:48 AM:

I'm partial to 137, which in addition to being the fine structure constant (? reciprocal?)

OK, what the heck IS the fine structure constant? I don't mean the actual number. What's it govern or determine? What things is it a ratio of? Or whatever?

#122 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 11:49 AM:

Sigh. I had my edit screen up too long. Thanks, Matt.

#123 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 11:50 AM:

Turing's Halting Problem sounds like the way Windows operates.

#124 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 12:13 PM:

Whatver a hack is eventually defined as, I suspect L. Ron Hubbard is it's archatypal incarnation.

#125 ::: Dave MB ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 12:29 PM:

[fondness expressed for the non-prime number 15]

IBM were quite proud a few years ago to have factored 15
with a quantum computer. They had reasons to be proud
of this, but explaining them would take us too far afield and
be too much like work.

Returning the theme to fiction writing, what is your favorite
page of a novel to read in isolation as a sample of the writing
style? I think there was a ReaderCon panel sometime back
about the "page 117 test". But 117 is not prime either...

#126 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 12:29 PM:

Last week, the subject of Charles Stross's beard came up. Then I saw a Locus report on the Glasgow worldcon with photos of the bearded one. It doesn't quite look like the one worn by Monty Python's intro character so I presume that this is the post-passport one, on its way to full recovery.

#127 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 12:41 PM:

Serge said:

I think this trend in French comics started in 1975 when the magazine Metal Hurlant was born. If you ever bothered reading its American offspring Heavy Metal . . .

Doesn't "Metal Hurlant" mean something more like "Screaming Metal"? Do francophones use that same phrase to refer to heavy metal music?

#128 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 12:42 PM:

17 is my favorite prime. It's been called "the first random number." It has few if any associations (unlike 13), appears in no nursery rhymes, has an extra syllable adding unwieldiness and is a low enough number that, when asked to shout out a random number, people will tend to pick it.

Terrible movies being better when you don't understand the language: I've experienced this. We were watching a really GREAT Jet Li movie on one of the Spanish HBO channels. After about half an hour we switched to the English version of the movie and it was dreadful.

And, for the twelve-year-old in you:
David Bowie's Area

#129 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 12:56 PM:

Yes, Laura, 'metal hurlant' does mean 'screaming metal'. As for what French-speaking people call heavy-metal music, I don't remember, if I ever knew. I presume that this music label came from the magazine. Still, no matter what the label's origin, if things follow the usual pattern, even francophones probably refer to heavy-metal music as heavy-metal music. But don't quote me on that.

#130 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 01:02 PM:

In re: Firefly

Yeah, only 1/2 of a full season.

If you're a huge fan or have a lot of time on your hands, there are a couple of scripts for unproduced episodes of Firefly floating around on the internet. They were readable but nothing spectacular, IMHO.

There was a comic book tie-in with the Serenity movie that filled some gaps between the original Firefly episodes and the film. IIRC, the storyline (and possibly the actual text) of these was provided by Joss Whedon. I haven't read it or talked to anyone who has.

Slightly off-topic, there have been serious stirrings about seeing the further adventures of Buffy's Spike and Angel's Ilyra in made-for-TV movies. Joss Whedon and the actors (James Marsters & Amy Acker) were dropping a lot of hints to that effect during the pre-Serenity hypefest. It remains to be seen whether the will actually happen and, if so, to what degree Joss Whedon will be involved. You probably already know that Whedon is currently signed to do a Wonder Woman movie.

Digging deeper:

If you're a deeply, insanely hardcore fan of all things even peripherally Whedon, Marti Noxon (one of the creative forces behind BTVS) had a short-lived series called Point Pleasant last year. It was a pretty seriously flawed variation of a typical teens-on-the-beach soap revolving around a girl who was the devil's daughter. I watched maybe half of the aired episodes. I can see why the show didn't do well, but there were a couple of good bits in most episodes, and one or two episodes aired that were actually pretty good by any standard. The total series, including some unaired episodes, is now on DVD but, again, I haven't seen it. My understanding is that the unaired episodes were among the best of the series in that they dropped most of the smooching on the beach to make more room for evil.


#131 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 01:25 PM:

Oh, gosh. I'm suddenly reminded that in my old Penguin Classics edition of The Three Musketeers* they had an article by some Scholar or other who was also puzzling over Athos' extreme reaction to Milady's trefoil scar. He came to the conclusion that the scar was actually Dumas' symbolic represention of the fact that Milady was a transvestite, i.e. a man dressing as a woman, and that discovering this was what set Athos off.

The passage of time has not made this idea seem any less weird.


*Tangential note: I just bought a copy of Civilization III (it was cheap), and the thing keeps building "musketmen" when I discover gunpowder. I wonder what was wrong with musketeer.

#132 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 01:44 PM:

trefoil = transvestite ?

#133 ::: Brooke C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 01:52 PM:

I bought the Serenity comic books. I understand that they sold very well among the comic-book-buying populace. The covers were pretty darn neat--several big-name artists did their renditions of the major characters. The insides, however...well, first of all, it's always a little weird looking at a comic rendering of a specific person's face. It looks...wrong. Inara especially looked like she'd had major reconstructive surgery. And then...it wasn't that the writing was bad; the dialogue was pretty standard Whedon/Firefly chatter, which I obviously love.

It just...didn't go anywhere. It was one A-plot stretched out into three issues--I kept waiting for something to happen. A few pages from the end, Shepherd Book was standing next to a stooping Simon with some heavy machine tool in his hand, and said something like, "Don't remind me I'm a man of God. It only makes this harder." I was so expecting him to clock Simon. That, my friends, would have been plot progression. (Not that I don't adore the good doctor. 'Cause I'm right there with Kaylee) As it was, I think that little mini-series has to be regarded as a marketing ploy, pure and simple. That wouldn't surprise me coming from anyone but Joss, but OMG have you read his "Astonishing X-Men"? It's...it's...wow.

(For the true Whedon fans--he had a cameo on last night's "Veronica Mars." Which, if you aren't watching, shame on you. Best show on TV right now. Season 1 is out on DVD--friggin' Netflix it or something.)

#134 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 01:56 PM:

I also was not impressed with the _Serenity_ comic.

Here's a link to an unfilmed _Firefly_ script called "Dead or Alive". If anyone else has links to more, please do leave them here.

#135 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 01:58 PM:

Yes, 'wow' is something one can definitely say about Wheadon's X-men comics.

#136 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 01:58 PM:

He came to the conclusion that the scar was actually Dumas' symbolic represention of the fact that Milady was a transvestite, i.e. a man dressing as a woman, and that discovering this was what set Athos off. . . . The passage of time has not made this idea seem any less weird.

Nor have the events of Vingt Ans Plus Tard. Unless "Lord" de Winter was actually . . . no, this is starting to sound like an X-Men Annual.

Although a book called Les Mousquetaires: un Travesti might just . . . aaaaah, I've got enough to do.

#137 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 02:01 PM:

Ew, ew, ew...Marti Noxon's work is not at all my thing. As far as I'm concerned, she made Buffy unwatchable, to the point that I didn't even watch the last season, not even when I found out that Fillion was in it.

#138 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 02:07 PM:

17. For reasons having to do with the summer I was 16.

(I was going to say other things, but have forgotten them in the lengthy discussions of Dumas, an author whom I have not actually read, Mr. Brust's related books notwithstanding.)

#139 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 02:08 PM:

I wonder where Milady's henchman Rochefort fits in...

#140 ::: Christina Schulman ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 02:39 PM:

I gave my copies of the "Serenity" comic book away to a fellow fan, but I did love those covers. I wish they'd gone somewhere. I was expecting a lot more fill-in for the developments between the TV series and the movie. More plot would also have been nice.

Whedon's X-men comic is glorious because he's pulling in all kinds of loose threads and references from twenty years ago; he's writing the 80's X-men with Whedon dialogue. Throw in some Talking Heads music and I'm liable to start having high school flashbacks.

I can very much do without Spike and Illyria as buddy cops, thank you. ("He's a resurrected vampire. She's a resurrected demon-god. They fight crime!")

#141 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 02:43 PM:

Now, if Wheadon could find a way to keep HIS X-men cast from ever wearing those stupid tights...

#142 ::: cicada ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 02:45 PM:

Totally off on another topic (hey, it's an open thread, right?) does anyone know anything about the origins/history of the phrase "A fungus among us"?

Thanks!

#143 ::: Brooke C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 02:56 PM:

He came to the conclusion that the scar was actually Dumas' symbolic represention of the fact that Milady was a transvestite, i.e. a man dressing as a woman, and that discovering this was what set Athos off. . . . The passage of time has not made this idea seem any less weird.

Wow. No kidding. You'd think D'Artagnan would've noticed when they were in bed. I mean, it was dark, but still. Not to mention Athos...although I was a little unclear on how he could have been married to her for however long without ever seeing her shoulder bare. Or, actually, why you'd be loosening someone's sleeve when they fainted.

Nor have the events of Vingt Ans Plus Tard.

What does happen, anyway? Due to my Dumas issues I've been reluctant to wade through a book usually described as not of his best, and I can't find a Cliff's Notes version. I understand Milady's son is featured as...a nefarious priest? Okay...? Wasn't he supposed to be Lord de Winter's heir? What is he even doing in France? Although I suppose once he was revealed to be illegitimate...boy, is that ever a childhood trauma. "Well, your mother was a spy who was killed by her real husband who you've never heard of which means that even though you're my blood nephew I'm disowning you. Why not look into the Catholic Church as a profession? So you're only five years old. Stiff upper lip, kid."

#144 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 03:48 PM:

Apropo of Rob Cockerham, famous for "How Much is Inside":

166,500 = number of flooded buildings in New Orleans, given:

If this distribution of 111 buildings per twenty-fifth square mile is a good sample, 60 square miles will contain approximately 166,500 flooded buildings.

that is all
-r.

#145 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 03:56 PM:

Okay, I'll go out on a limb and declare that my favorite prime is -5. That's right - negative numbers can be prime too, and -5 is. (All integers are either primes, composites, units, or zero)

The standard rule of "is something prime" that's stated as "it has no factors other than 1 and itself" is a little misleading; after all, I can say that 5 = 2.5 * 2. Really, saying that something is prime depends on what the universe of all numbers is that you're talking about. Normally, when talking about primes we use the positive integers as our universe of all numbers and in that context, "-5 is prime" doesn't make any sense, since -5 is outside the universe.

So what if we say that the universe is all integers. Then, the traditional definition becomes "p has no integer factors other than 1, -1, p, and -p". Or, stated another way that is easier to generalize: "p is such that if you have two numbers multiplying together to give you p, you know that one of them is either 1 or -1."

If I didn't allow for -1, then I'd be able to say that 5 isn't prime because it is (-1)*(-5). And that would be silly. We like having 5 prime.

Note that if you expand your universe of all numbers further, to encompass all rational numbers, you no longer have any primes. Everything (that isn't 0) is a unit. (A unit, in the sense I'm using it here is a number that you can get anywhere from by multiplication, in the sense that there's something out there you can multiply your unit by to get you to any arbitrary result) (porn pun unintended) This turns out to be rather uninteresting.

Far more interesting is if you expand your universe of all numbers only a little bit, so as to include the Gaussian integers. You still get an interesting structure, and some things remain prime (such as 2) but, alas, neither 5 nor 53 remains a prime in that universe. (But 7 is still prime there, so that's good. Maybe I should go with -7 as my favortie prime.)

However, at this point I'll let those that care go find out more by following that link.

#146 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 03:56 PM:

I think I've just pulled off the blog equivalent of when, halfway through a novel, the author turns and directly addresses the reader. It is a post I'm rather proud of because of its manipualtion of blog narrative POV.

#147 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 04:03 PM:

I'm a moderate Whedon fan, by the standards of my wife anyway. I developed the impression in the later years of Buffy that there was a lot of scapegoating of Marti Noxon. I then discarded all useful data from which I developed this impression, leaving me unable to defend it.

#148 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 04:12 PM:

cicada: I'd always thought (though I have no proof) that it was a military joke re: athlete's foot and/or other such fungal nasties that arise in such settings.

#149 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 04:22 PM:

Brooke C.: I always thought the brand was on the front of her shoulder (think bra-strap area). So when she fainted, Athos ripped..er, loosened her bodice. As for why he'd never noticed before, she was pretending to be a priest's sister, so a little extra modesty wouldn't have been out of place.

#150 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 04:35 PM:

This just in (amazing timing): chud.com is reporting that Joss Whedon just announced a new string of Buffy comics. Partial quote:

"But the best news was that Whedon announced he will be writing a four issue storyline for a new Dark Horse Buffy comic that will take place after the end of Buffy and Angel, and will kick off with the Slayer living in Italy with nasty guy The Immortal. Once Joss’ arc is done he will maintain supervision over the title, something I can’t imagine he will have time for."

Full story here.

#151 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 04:57 PM:

I liked most of the episodes Marti Noxon wrote, and The Wish was one of my favorite BtVS episodes.

I think criticism of her centers around her leading the show to ruin in season 7. Maybe there's something to that, I don't know. I wasn't super-fond of season 7, and I guess to whatever degree she was responsible for that I, sitting here in my living room, disapprove. I'm sure she cares deeply.

My understanding of Noxon's role in the Buffy recipe was that she contributed a lot of the darker elements of the stories, even the ones she didn't personally write. That was one of my favorite aspects of the show--they had the cojones to get truly bleak from time to time.

To be fair, though, even bad Buffy is still better than most other filmed entertainment.

#152 ::: Kathy Li ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 04:57 PM:

I prefer reading Joss Whedon's post. Primary sources. :)

#153 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 05:14 PM:

Bah. This is the internet. Rumor, speculation, and hype are the very lifeblood of the medium. If people start taking the trouble to verify their sources the whole thing will collapse. Are you some kind of communist or something?

Besides, I was first.

#154 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 06:15 PM:

My favorite prime number is 4.

Now, I'm sure there are some of you out there who are on the verge of pointing out that 4 isn't prime, but I must respectfully submit that you're full of crap.

Proof:

1. Consider my dog Mooky Scoots. Dogs, as we all know, have two legs in the back and forelegs in the front. 2+4 = 6.

2. Six is an even number in that it is divisible by two with no remainder. However, I think we're all in agreement that 6 is also a very odd number of legs for a dog.

3. The only number that is both even and odd is infinity. Therefore, by 1 & 2, Mooky has an infinite number of legs.

4. By definition, a prime number is one that is divisible only by one and itself. Because infinity is both even and odd, it can necessarily only be divided by one and itself. It is therefore prime.

5. However, it's easy to show that my dog has only four legs. Q.E.D. here. (Mook is middle right).

6. Therefore, 4==infinity. Because infinity is prime, four is also prime.

#155 ::: Kathy Li ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 06:40 PM:

Scott H wrote: Besides, I was first.

On the internet? I rather doubt that. :-) I wrote my first USENET post back in 1985...

#156 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 06:46 PM:

A cute puppy, but I dispute that this photograph by itself proves that your dog has only four legs. For one thing, and not to accuse you of anything, additional legs could have been PhotoShopped out.

But even assuming that it's an unaltered photograph (and we're way into woo-woo land by assuming that) additional legs could be tucked behind the body of the (admittedly adorable) pooch, or even (if small enough) hidden in Mookyums' (sorry, having a Cute attack) fur.

Not to get too metaphysical, but since you attest at (3) that Mooky has an infinite number of legs, it is easy to demonstrate that that many legs could not possibly be simultaneously visible in a photograph; either they would be too small to see (infinitely small, in fact) or the photograph would have to be infinitely large (in fact at least infinity * (minimum visible size of a leg) large) to show them all.

Therefore, QED, some of Mooky's legs are not visible in that finite-sized photograph. But four legs are clearly visible, which in fact proves that Mooky's number of legs 4!

#157 ::: tortoise ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 07:27 PM:

Daniel:

Alternately, you could define -1 to be prime (though you need to interpret "unique factorization" slightly differently). My understanding is that this is a good idea from a number-theoretic perspective, but a bad one from an algebraic perspective (this should however be taken with a grain of salt, as I am neither an algebraist nor a number theorist).

#158 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 07:38 PM:

a while back, Xopher asked:

OK, what the heck IS the fine structure constant? I don't mean the actual number. What's it govern or determine? What things is it a ratio of? Or whatever?

The fine structure constant, usually represented by the Greek letter alpha, is the ratio of the electron chrage squared divided by Planck's constant times the speed of light. It gets its name because it first popped up as an important factor in determining the exact wavelengths of some spectral lines in early quantum models of the atom. These lines are separated by very small amounts relative to the lines of the Balmer series, hence "fine structure."

In a fully quantum theory, alpha turns out to be very important as a measure of (loosely speaking) the relative strength of the electromagnetic interaction between atoms. In quantum electro-dynamics, you treat the forces between charged particles as arising from the exchange of photons in all possible configurations, and each time you add another interaction to your spiffy little Feynman diagrams, you reduce the contribution of that diagram by a factor of 137 and a bit.

This is why the whole Feynman diagram thing works-- alpha is roughly 1/137, so each set of diagrams is something like 1% as important as the previous set (very roughly), and before long, you can ignore them altogether. I think that the calculations of the anomalous magnetic moment of the electron go to about sixth order in alpha, and that calculation goes to twelve or thirteen decimal places.

#159 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 07:45 PM:

Teresa, bless and curse you for the textile site. Now I want to go play...and I have commissions, papers, and NaNoWriMo this week!

#160 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 07:58 PM:

Scott H: congratulations; you've re-invented the pejorative calculus.

Kathy Li: 1985? Whippersnapper! (January 1980 (Arpanet) for me, and I expect someone here dates even further back.

#161 ::: jhlipton ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 10:41 PM:

From waaaaaaaay up-thread:
My favorite "Shrink-Lit" type verse is from "That's Entertainment", wherein Hamlet is summed up thusly:
"A ghost and a prince meet
And everyone ends up mince-meat".

I think I am the only person on God's Green Earth to love Firefly and be "meh" on Serenity. It was OK, but no HHGG!

As the definition of "prime" I'm most familiar with is "Any integer [perhaps number] not divisible by any integer other than itself and 1", -5 would indeed be an integer. The highlighted "integer" is necessary, ot any number is a prime, rendering the definition useless.

#162 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: November 10, 2005, 11:00 PM:

Daniel Martin wrote: Okay, I'll go out on a limb and declare that my favorite prime is -5. That's right - negative numbers can be prime too, and -5 is....

Yes, but in that sense -5 is the same prime as 5, as their primality is based on the ideal they generate, which is the same prime ideal of the integers. But 5 is the principal representative, just as it is the principle representative of sqrt(5). It's not quite as ambiguous as whether the principle representative of sqrt(-1) is i or -i. There's no way to tell which sqrt(-1) is which.

I think the alternative use of -1 as a prime occurs in some very specialized cases, but I don't remember where. It's a lot narrower than "number theory".


#163 ::: JohnD ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 12:27 AM:

Favorite prime: 41. Because it's almost the answer to life, the universe, and all that.

Going all the way back to Dan R's post: I got really excited about primes, their differences, Riemann zeta, interesting properties of primorial numbers, etc. a few years back, until I came across shifted sieve theory and finally understood why no consistent pattern can be found in the primes and the gaps between. I still think there must be a really cool fundamental irrational number in there though, most likely a transcendental number, but I don't have the skills to prove it, or at least not the time.

I look forward to retiring just so I can spend time on stuff like that. Just 30 more years, ahhhhh...

#164 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 01:23 AM:

SCREAM!!!!

Pat Robertson has just informed Dover, PA (I think the town's name is Dover...) that by voting out the school board which insisted on intelligent design being taught as a scientific theory and an alternative to evolution, they (the voters) have terminally insulted the Almighty, and they might as well stop praying, He won't listen. Oh, and they're headed for disaster. Flood, famine, pestilence, war. Or something like that.

Aargh, grrr. Where's Buffy when we really need her!!

#165 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 01:54 AM:

Lizzy, PZ Myers has a nice post about Robertson. He thinks Robertson has mistaken Christianity for an extortion racket.

#166 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 05:10 AM:

jhlipton: I think you'll find that definition of primes specified positive integers. And that -5 is in fact divisible by an integer other than 1 -- to wit, -1.

#167 ::: Alexis Duncan ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 07:32 AM:

Favorite prime: 37. Mainly because of this novel.

#168 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 09:34 AM:

Okay, but I still would like to know... Except for the goofup about Nobel's non-existent wife, how is numb3rs where mathematics are concerned? I understand that the show has an actual mathematician to advise them so that, unlike CSI, this show may be fanciful in its applications of its subject but doesn't make things up. Hey, I'm just asking. It's only a few years ago that I got over my severe case of Math Anxiety. I've been playing catchup since then.

#169 ::: Mikael Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 09:36 AM:

Daniel Martin: In that vein, I think I'd want to raise the issue of x as a favourite prime as well. Sure, it's not a prime in Z (not even an element) - but it is a maximal (and thus prime) in Z[x], and definitely prime in all of Z[x,y,z,...]

#170 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 10:39 AM:

Pardon me for what's going to sound horribly commercial, but if I don't take a few seconds and tempt Teresa, I'm just not doing my job.

There's an auction of 30,000 comics over at Lot Auctions from a comics pro who's liquidating his entire collection-- daughter going off to college, you know the drill.

Anyway, there are complete runs of Justice League, Vext, Heckler, and other Giffen books. So are a lot of Valiant books, and other things to tempt you with. You can bid on full sets or cherry pick what you're missing. And the opening bids are ridiculously low.

Tempt, tempt. Yes, I'm a horrible enabler, evil pusher, etc. etc. and you knew that already.

#171 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 10:44 AM:

What, Teresa loves comics? Ah hah... This bit of information has been safely stashed away for future use.

#172 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 11:56 AM:

Ah, science marches on. I just ran across On the Effectiveness of Aluminium Foil Helmets: An Empirical Study, produced by four students at MIT. The abstract:

Among a fringe community of paranoids, aluminum helmets serve as the protective measure of choice against invasive radio signals. We investigate the efficacy of three aluminum helmet designs on a sample group of four individuals. Using a $250,000 network analyser, we find that although on average all helmets attenuate invasive radio frequencies in either directions (either emanating from an outside source, or emanating from the cranium of the subject), certain frequencies are in fact greatly amplified. These amplified frequencies coincide with radio bands reserved for government use according to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Statistical evidence suggests the use of helmets may in fact enhance the government's invasive abilities. We theorize that the government may in fact have started the helmet craze for this reason.
It's got pictures and everything. And no, it wasm't released on April 1.

#173 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 12:24 PM:

Serge: It's crap. The episode I watched (before saying "CRRRRAP" and turning off the TV in disgust) had the math geek calculating the probability of various suspects being the actual murderer. Once he got all the weighting factors, the person with the highest probability of being the killer was, in fact, the killer.

This makes as much sense as...I can't think of anything that makes that little sense. People do improbably things all the time. No mere mathematical model can predict the behavior of an individual. Even an individual electron is more predictable.

#174 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 12:38 PM:

That bad all the time, Xopher? Me, I looked at it thinking of Charlie as one of Hari Seldon's ancestors.

#175 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 12:44 PM:

I watched one episode. Now, I tend to manage to catch the worst of anything on the first try (the first Dick novel I read was The Zap Gun), but if they let an obvious howler like that go by, they obviously aren't into the science of the thing.

#176 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 01:01 PM:

Drat. I guess I'll have to look at numb3rs as complete SF from now on.

#177 ::: Eimear Ní Mhéalóid ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 01:13 PM:

I always assumed Milady's brand meant she was a convicted prostitute, hence the fastidious and honour-obsessed Athos' revulsion. But I haven't read T3M in many years.

#178 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 02:35 PM:

The link to the comics collection auction caused me to wonder...

Is there any market any more for back issues of SF magazines?

When I was a lad, after we cleared the basement of mammoths, we lusted after complete runs of Astounding, Galaxy, and many other now-departed (or renamed) publications. Is this no longer the case? I check EBay every now and then, and I checked the site with the comics "lot." Not much if anything there, and prices just above recycled paper.

Does the new generation not collect? Or is there no new generation where SF magazines are concerned?

#179 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 02:54 PM:

The brand is explained if I remember correctly as being that of a convicted thief, although her original crime was not just theft but theft and seduction - both of which involved religious connections. I don't see the problem with the revulsion given the time period. Furthermore her actions from that point were certainly enough to raise even greater revulsion.

Mata hari was a famous beauty of an extemely bad reputation, although old and ugly when executed. At her execution members of the firing squad reportedly fainted.

Milady was young and incredibly beautiful, she had furthermore a sexual connection to two of the musketeers. I don't know, maybe I'm a freak, but I'd find it difficult to execute someone I had ever had sex with even if their crimes had been especially great.

Anyhow, I consider these theories explaining the inexplicable supernatural doom of that particular part of the three musketeers pretty damn stupid. Maybe not as bad as Bacon was Shakespeare but definitely stupider than Marcellus Wallace's soul is in the briefcase.

#180 ::: Brooke C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 07:24 PM:

I think Athos says Milady's crime (for which she was branded) was stealing communion vessels from a church. He doesn't give any details, not even of how he found out ("Hi, is this the Bastille, records department? Hi, yeah, there's this pretty blonde I just killed...I'm not sure what her real name is, but I was married to her for a little while before I found this scar on her shoulder. Anyway, I just executed her, and what I want to know now is, what was she punished for? Okay...uh-huh...ah. I see. Am I all right? Oh, sure. I think I'll just pretend to be dead and live under a false name, the better to mope about how I was betrayed, and maybe savagely beat my manservant every now and then. Whenever he doesn't understand what I want without being told. You know. Anyway, thanks for all your help! Okay, bye.") but assumes (I think he actually says it's just an assumption) that the "curate" who was posing as her brother was actually a lover who was ready to get rid of her; he hits the road before Athos can catch up with him.

Bryan: I consider these theories explaining the inexplicable supernatural doom of that particular part of the three musketeers pretty damn stupid. Wha? Supernatural doom?

"I do not know, sir, whether Bacon wrote the plays of Shakespeare. But if he did not, it seems to me he missed the opportunity of his life." -- Someone whose name I can't remember, sadly.

#181 ::: Brooke C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 07:43 PM:

In other news, I really wouldn't have thought anything Dubya could do would shock me at this point. But now apparently he thinks he's Richard the Lionheart. From Yahoo! News:

In a Veterans Day speech, Bush offered a forceful defense of the war in Iraq, saying it is the central front in the war on terror and that extremists are trying to establish a radical Muslim empire extending from Spain to Indonesia.

W. TF?

#182 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 11:11 PM:

apropros of nothing (his is an open thread), Jim Murray shaved his whole face to add verisimiltude to his scary impersonation of Carol Channing in our annual adult relaxacon's vaudeville show.

Photos can be found here:

http://www.livejournal.com/users/starstraf/417070.html?#cutid1

More will be posted as I get my (new) camera downloaded.

And the 11-11 and Great war threads started an essay that I'll post a link to once I get it done the way I want (it's so unusual a piece of writing for me that I want it right before I put it out there)

#183 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 11:29 PM:

In a Veterans Day speech, Bush offered a forceful defense of the war in Iraq, saying it is the central front in the war on terror and that extremists are trying to establish a radical Muslim empire extending from Spain to Indonesia.


W. TF?

That's the whole 'Al Qaeda Wants To Reestablish The Caliphate' thing.

George really gave that effort a big boost by removing a major obstacle: the Caliphate was based in Baghdad.

With Saddam out of the way, Al Qaeda needn't be stuck out in the boonies of Afghanistan.

#184 ::: Paula Kate ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 11:31 PM:

“Well, one day when she was hunting with her husband,” continued Athos, in a low voice, and speaking very quickly,” she fell from her horse and fainted. The count flew to her to help, and as she appeared to be oppressed by her clothes, he ripped them open with his poinard, and in so doing laid bare her shoulder. D’Artagnan,” said Athos, with a maniacal burst of laughter, “guess what she had on her shoulder.”

“How can I tell?” said D’Artagnan.

“A fleur-de-lis,” said Athos. “She was branded.”

Athos emptied at a single draught the glass he held in his hand.

“Horror!” cried D’Artagnan. “What do you tell me?”

“Truth, my friend. The angel was a demon; the poor young girl had stolen the sacred vessels from a church.”

“And what did the count do?”

“The count was of the highest nobility. He had on his estates the rights of high and low tribunals. He tore the dress of the countess to pieces; he tied her hands behind her, and hanged her on a tree.”

Chapter 27. The Wife Of Athos

#185 ::: Paula Kate ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 11:45 PM:

Or if you prefer Chapitre XXVII: La femme d'Athos

#186 ::: Paula Kate ::: (view all by) ::: November 11, 2005, 11:50 PM:

Sorry, wrong link: Chapitre XXVII
La femme d'Athos

#187 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 12:17 AM:

Brooke C, Jon H: (Bush said) extremists are trying to establish a radical Muslim empire extending from Spain to Indonesia.

Bush has been pushing this idea for a month or so now as the current rationale for our attack on Iraq. The best analysis of this idea that I've seen is at John Roger's Kung Fu Monkey

Highlight:

John: But he's citing that desire as a basis for our strategy. You can't cite your enemy's delusional hopes as a basis for a rational strategy. Goals don't exist in a vacuum, they're linked to capability. David Koresh was utterly committed to being Jesus Christ. See how far that got him.
Either Bush is making strategy based on a delusional goal of his opponent, which is idiotic; or he's saying he believes his opponent has the capability of achieving this delusional goal, which is idiotic. Neither bodes well for the republic.

Tyrone: Reading here, the speech boiled down to two points --

John: Who cares? The Spain-to-Indonesia thing should automatically invalidate the whole speech. I don't care how good your investment advisor is, he can spend three hours reviewing mutual funds, as soon as he says "And of course, we can put your money into the Easter Bunny's Egg Upgrades", he is out of --

The entire post is well worth a read.

(Found via Slacktivist, who cited this post for unrelated but equally brilliant reasons.)

#188 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 12:24 AM:

And with a working link:
Kung Fu Monkey

I really must learn to test (or at least proofread) my links.

#189 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 05:11 AM:

So here's my new definition of "too much time on their hands": the person who managed to design the Blue Ball Machine.

#190 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 06:47 AM:

Somewhere I've got a short story by Conan Doyle. Two aristocrats of the Eastern Roman Empire meet for dinner at the villa of one of them, overlooking the Bosphorous. They speak of business. One has just returned from Arabia Deserta, trading for spices. There he met an oddly impressive camel driver who told him that even Constantinople itself would one day acknowledge him, the camel driver, as the true Prophet of the One God, and its lands would belong to his followers. The other aristocrat, of course, finds this ridiculous. Laughing, he reminds the first of the enormous power and wealth of the eastern Romans. The idea that an Arab camel-driver could say such things was only proof of his insanity.

Maybe Bush is wrong to think that the ambitions of Al Qaeda are even remotely possible. Maybe they are ridiculous. But stranger things have happened.

#191 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 10:16 AM:

Dave Luckett:

Yes, and I can think of stranger things that have happened right here in the States.

For one: 50-some-odd million Americans apparently voted for our current government in 2004 - despite their record of disasterous failures in their first term.

#192 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 02:11 PM:

' I consider these theories explaining the inexplicable supernatural doom of that particular part of the three musketeers pretty damn stupid. Wha? Supernatural doom?'


it has been some years since I read the three musketeers, and even longer since I read the original articles arguing that there was something fishy about milady but if I recall the fishiness was based around a feeling that the whole disgust at her, in combination with the heightened emotions of her death scene were somehow untrustworthy, that they must have had some other cause in their author's mind than the ostensible cause he gave them, as is the usual case with such second-guessing some cryptic quotes were brought out to bolster the theory.

Well I do think that the death scene is really quite an amazing bit of writing, and in using the phrase supernatural doom I was trying to convey the feeling that the scene gives to me. Nonetheless the theories of whatever extraneous to the book have never managed to dislodge my personal acceptance of the narrative as is.

#193 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 07:24 PM:

Another "Technological Civilization: When Do You Think It'll Actually Get Here?" moment:

There was just a commercial for a financial-services company, with their people doing all kinds of Swell Things With Money. We had a young woman, clearly not rich, with a nice guy setting up the lady's first home computer.

Nice Guy: "I'll set the password as your name, okay?"

Cue the creepy music . . .

#194 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 07:52 PM:

Just saw Capote.

The movie was ruined, totally ruined, for me by the blatant, anachrositic use of a telephone handset with an RJ-11* type connector on the end of the spiral cord.

Well, not really. A very enjoyable, well done, very well acted film. Just don't go expecting a feel-good movie.

Stefan

* Um, wait, that's not right. An RJ-11 is used to connect the phone to the service; a smaller, similarly shaped connector is used to link the phone to the handset.

#195 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2005, 11:45 PM:

It sounds like Dumas was romanticizing. (Well, duh....) Would a count have the privilege of administering "justice" for any past crime, regardless of time or location? And I keep finding claims that droit du seigneur (going a few paragraphs back from your cite) was rather more fiction than fact.

One of the amusing bits of Twenty Years After is the point where Dumas admits, albeit as a way of trashing Mazarin(?), that Richelieu was at least a man of suitable scope.

#196 ::: Mina W ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2005, 12:02 AM:

Teresa — That textile site is wondeful —dangerous to the budget, that is. Thank you.

Open thread, 2 things:

Was wondering what would be the correct collective noun for a bunch of books (besides library, that is), and thought of course, the one traditionally used for cats: clowder. I believe it meant clutter. Very appropriate for those of us who never have enough bookcases, and live with piles of books with cats roosting on them.

Also, just thought of this: "Intelligent design — it falsifies science and trivializes faith".

Perhaps in this form: " Falsify Science & trivialize Faith, promote 'intelligent design' ".

(I think I thought of it. If I read it somewhere, it would be somewhere referenced here — please let me know. The high school English teacher always said not to paraphrase in our notes, since we might reparaphrase back to the original in our final draft because it sounded right. No guarantees relying on human memory.)

#197 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2005, 02:05 AM:

Open thread personal Woot. got a new G4 iBook laptop today from Nebraska Furniture Mart. Unfortunately, between them, the Apple store on the Plaza and Micro Center,they put my favorite guys, Mac Hardware (the one in Merriam, KS) out of businss. (MH was a great source for pieces/parts for used Macs, new and used Macs, good advice and so-so prices for software,)

Am teaching new machine new tricks. Again, WOOT.

#198 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2005, 08:32 AM:

A lovely piece of Photoshopery. Well - that or proof of time travel:

http://illusionsetc.blogspot.com/2005/10/recursive-news-optical-illusion.html

Scroll down about one screen to the picture of the woman reading the newspaper on a train.

#199 ::: Stephanie ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2005, 11:14 AM:

Some time ago there was a thread here about web traffic analysis... Google bought Urchin, the company with the best service, and has made it free as Google Analytics.

#200 ::: Carrie ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2005, 12:01 PM:

*Tangential note: I just bought a copy of Civilization III (it was cheap), and the thing keeps building "musketmen" when I discover gunpowder. I wonder what was wrong with musketeer.

"Musketeer" is the name of the French special unit.

Each civilization gets a unit that only it can build, which replaces some other generic unit; the special unit is slightly better than the generic. For the Persians, it is Immortals, replacing swordsmen, with I believe 1 more point of attack. The Russians get Cossacks replacing cavalry, the Americans get F16s replacing fighter jets, etc. For the French, it's the Musketeer, which replaces the generic musketman.

#201 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2005, 12:43 PM:

"I just bought a copy of Civilization III (it was cheap)"

Yes. "Cheap." Like that first taste of smack.

There is help, my friend:

CivAnon

#202 ::: sharon ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2005, 10:28 PM:

a small plea for assistance from a very occasional ML participant:

I'd to try out google mail, but if I once had a gmail invite, I don't have one now. Does anyone have a spare?

#203 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2005, 01:52 AM:

sharon, I've got 100; I think I can spare one. ;)

Drop me a line with your address:

Linkmeister@gmail.com

#204 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2005, 06:11 AM:

Folks around here might appreciate the ED SF Project:

SciFiction is ending after five and a half years of great fiction. I don't think we should let this go without, at the very least, showing our appreciation for the site and the work Ellen Datlow and so many talented writers have done....

By my count there are 320+ stories archived at the site. I'm willing to bet that there are that many SF writers/critics/fans/what have you who have some sort of presence on the web. So I'm thinking, let's all of us write an appreciation of one of the stories.
Just if anybody's interested, you know?

#205 ::: Paul Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2005, 06:58 AM:

Ex-wargamer geekery:

For the Persians, it is Immortals, replacing swordsmen

Which is odd, as the Immortals were armed with spear and bow, though I imagine they carried swords too.

For the French, it's the Musketeer, which replaces the generic musketman.

... and the French Musketeers (the famous ones at least) were heavy cavalry.

#206 ::: sharon ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2005, 10:31 AM:

Many thanks, Linkmeister - email is en route!

#207 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2005, 12:00 PM:

The link connected to the "Lar-" in "Clarence Larkin's dispensational charts" appears to be broken.

I'm just sayin'.

#208 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2005, 12:18 PM:

And for those of you who care about these things, the Capclave thread is the number one hit if you google:
dinosaur sodomy

#209 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2005, 12:46 PM:

I can't imagine dinosaur sodomy would come up much elsewhere.

I hope.

Please.

Mighty Sauros, give me the strength not to look.

#210 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2005, 01:45 PM:

whoa, did you see the image google search!!?!?

that's got to be some sort of crime.

#211 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2005, 03:05 PM:

Paul, Civ isn't a historically precise game, and never has been. The "Swordsman" is, in game terms, the Better Infantry Unit that arrives when you get the technology for iron weapons (plus, in Civ III, a source of iron), and the "Immortal" is a superior form of Swordsman that the Persians build; the Musketman is the new unit that comes with early gunpowder (and a source of saltpeter). In wargame-geek terms, thy're both "the guys that require this technology, cost this much to build and use this strategic resource, have this much defense, and kill this good," not precise historical representations of anybody. It's a bit clearer in the modern era, where at this scale of abstraction a jet fighter is pretty much a jet fighter no matter who builds it, and the "F-16" the Americans get is just a "slightly hotter jet fighter." Also in wargame-geek terms, one can build Slightly Better Units, not World-Stomping Supermunchkins.

#212 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2005, 05:27 PM:

"WASHINGTON, Nov. 15 - Investigators at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting concluded today that its former chairman repeatedly broke federal law and its own regulations in a campaign to combat what he saw as liberal bias."

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/15/business/media/16cnd-broadcast.html?hp&ex=1132117200&en=8d0dfed3147b78e2&ei=5094&partner=homepage

For cripes sake, nail the bastard! Threaten him with jail and make him talk!

Forcing Rove to resign, shed his human form, and flee back to Boskonia would make up for a lot.

#213 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2005, 06:24 PM:

Not to change the subject, but...

after a couple of months on jury duty, I'm finally back. Anyone miss me? Don't answer that question. Anyway, I don't know what the karma system is trying to tell me, but it sure does show up in interesting places.

The lesson for you writers out there: it ain't nothing like you see on TV. None of it.

We now return to our regularly scheduled program...

#214 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2005, 06:40 PM:

OK, what IS it like, Greg?

#215 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2005, 06:44 PM:

"We now return to our regularly scheduled program..."

Law and Order: Jury Room?

#216 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2005, 07:19 PM:

John Marshall onna stick, next you're going to be telling us that the role of defense counsel isn't to make the Actual Guilty Party scream out a confession in the middle of the trial he or she has unwisely chosen to attend.

What I always wondered is, does DA Burger get to prosecute all guaranteed-guilty cases, or do they go to the B-squad prosecutors? The other good question is, what kinda actual you-know evidence do you need for a Murder One indictment in that part of California? (Cue Jack McCoy: "I'm not taking this crap to trial for the same reason I'm not gonna get drunk and drive the BQE at rush hour. I'm gonna end up in a bloody heap if I do.")

Next week on CSI: Barsoom:
"It looks to me like he crashed a flier out in a desolate part of the planet and ran into something adventurous."
"Eighth one today. Anything else?"
"It's a little hard to tell, but my guess is that he's swallowed some kind of critical plot device, but we can't get at it until we find a way to remove these explosive radium bullets."
"Hey, that's only the third time this week."

#217 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2005, 08:13 PM:

Lis, I complained (nicely) to feedback@scifi.com You never know, they might bring Sci Fiction back.

#218 ::: Kate Yule ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2005, 09:21 PM:

Harking back to something five days upstream --

Surely potato chips are flavored, while crisps are flavoured!

#219 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2005, 11:16 PM:

"Yes! I did it, and I'm GLAD I did it! Hahahahah!!!"

My only acquaintance with trials has been as a witness in a drunk-driving accident. It was actually quite interesting because it was obvious, from comments by one side or the other, that there had been heavy discussions in the judge's chambers and I was just there to give a public account of what I had seen.

Until then though, I had never thought that, in real life, they do not let witnesses hear another person's testimony. Which makes perfect sense.

As fo juries, I've never made it beyond the original notification. I don't expect it'd be something like 12 angry men.

#220 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 01:46 AM:

I spent the better part of two weeks on a jury once. The local courts do administrative work on Fridays, so no trial that day. Much of the rest of the time was a whole lot of sitting around waiting for the court to decide whether to hear the case that day. Once it finally got going we had three days of lawyer's arguments and evidence presentation. Then we spent about six hours deliberating, during which one guy kept coming up with more and more outlandish ideas why the defendant wasn't guilty (it was a criminal trial with video evidence from a bank night depository); we finally persuaded him that we had to vote on the evidence we'd seen, not what might have been.

We found the guy guilty, and the judge (who met with us after we'd pronounced our finding) said he'd have found him guilty as well, based on what we saw.

We had 10 people who really wanted to get it right and two dorky Beavis and Butthead kids (although it was before that show came on) who took nothing seriously at all. It reinforced my desire to never do anything which would put me in the hands of a jury.

#221 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 06:25 AM:

Oh dear. Someone has come up with hitherto unsuspected incarnations of habanero peppers, as well as a citrus which I'm pretty sure TNH has not yet encountered as such.

At some point, I also spotted a relatively straightforward Anubis somewhere in the artist's other galleries, but I'll be darned if I can find him again to point out for Xopher-- however, page five or so of her "Digger" webcomic does have a lovely statue of Ganesh. ("You're the god Ganesh?" "No, I'm a statue of the god Ganesh.")

#222 ::: Paul Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 07:47 AM:

Paul, Civ isn't a historically precise game, and never has been

Oh I know, I've played Civs I, II and III, it just amused me that they'd add that little extra historical touch but not get it quite right.

I think I'll avoid Civ IV: I'm not sure I can stil survive the "It's nearly time to get up, perhaps I should go to bed first" effect.

#223 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 07:54 AM:

Remember all those times that Bugs Bunny would shove his finger in Elmer Fudd's gun which would then literally backfire on Elmer? Well, tonight, the MythBusters put that to the test.

"...Can electric shock therapy or homeopathic tongue tinglers cure seasickness? Does driving your pickup with the tailgate down save money? Can shoving your fingers into a gun barrel save life? The results may surprise you..."

Or they may not.

#224 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 08:01 AM:

Julie L.: You're thinking of Ursula Vernon.

#225 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 08:23 AM:

And for those who, like me, watch Smallville only once in a while... Tomorrow's episode is supposed to have a teaser for Bryan Singer's eagerly awaited movie.

And someone who played a villain in Superman ii will show up to rescue Martha Kent. Hmmm... Who could that be? Gene Hackamn doesn't do TV. I don't know what Jack O'Halloran, Valerie Perrine and Sarah Douglas are doing these days. On the other hand, Terrence Stamp has been the voice of Jor-el on this show, so...

And apparently the very drafty Fortress of Solitude will get trashed.

#226 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 11:36 AM:

Mike, do you still watch Law & Order? I used to never miss an episode until that jerk Fred Tompson became part of the cast. (Give me Mission Impossible's Steven Hill any day.) I much prefered SVU before Richard Belzer got relegated to the background. (Remember him in The Flash, which also had what was probably Angela Bassett's first acting job?) The only L&O I still follow is Criminal Intent, especially now with Chris Noth on board.

Anyway, my favorite scene in the original L&O was when a defense lawyer asked a forensics expert about an alternate interpretation of the fact:

"Isn't it possible?"

"Yes, it is possible. It's also possible that the victim was killed by a death ray from Mars. It's just not likely."

#227 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 11:37 AM:

For no other reason than I think some here would enjoy it, and I don't remember seeing it mentioned...

The 2006 Calendario Romano, otherwise known as the pretty priests calendar, is now available. With new pretty priests!

#228 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 11:43 AM:

Do they have a nun-version, Julia? Then again, maybe I shouldn't ask, based on the nuns I dealt with in my Catholic youth. They weren't as bad as the nun in The Blues Brothers, but not much better. They did use the rod, but at least they had no telekinetic power I was aware of.

#229 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 12:04 PM:

The links page has a link to several other calendars, including a "nuns having fun" calendar. But the nuns calendar was done by someone else, and the cover doesn't suggest that the nuns were chosen using the same criteria.

#230 ::: Squrfle ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 12:27 PM:

Julie - There's an Anubis under Painfully Old Work

#231 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 01:11 PM:

I wondered what the market for the "Nuns Having Fun" calendar was when I saw it in the bookstore. It was next to the "Buff Gondoliers" calendar, which I also wondered about, but then realized that they'd been putting scantily clad ladies on hoods of cars for ages - I should be glad they are now using attractive (if depressingly similar) members of my preferred gender on modes of transport to catch the eye of the discerning female.

Oh, come on - they can't all be aimed at gay men!

Strangely enough, on the Hot Priest Calendar page linked above, there is also a completely different gondolier calendar. These guys are mostly dressed, and are perhaps actual gondoliers.

I had no idea the market for religious authority figures and gondoliers was so large!

#232 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 01:36 PM:

The Potrzebie System of Weights and Measures.

Wow. I remember thinking that was really cool long before I found out that Don Knuth was Donald Knuth. His first publication, too.

(Anyone up for 43-Man Squamish?)

#233 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 05:40 PM:

Serge wrote: "what IS it like, Greg?"

There have been a couple of sci-fi conventions that have had panels to the effect of "Does romanticized war in fiction make people more likely to support a war in real life because they think real war will be like fictional war?"

The answer, of course, is yes. Romanticized war is always neat and clean. There is no collateral damage, there is no suffering of innocents. I just read somewhere that the helicopter that had been shot down in Somolia and was the basis for "Blackhawk Down" actually landed on and killed a little girl. I don't know if it is true, but it sure didn't make it into the movie.

The corallary is that fictional shows like CSI give a romanticized view, neat and clean, open and shut, view of criminal investigation, and that just isn't reality. Reality is a whole lot messier.

But to say what jury duty IS like is like trying to say what war IS like. I don't know if there is anything I can say in a short post that will give an honest view of either. I'll just say that both are messy, bloody, dirty, boring, exhausting, serious, silly, scary, bureaucratic, and emotionally draining.

#234 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 05:48 PM:

So, Greg, 12 angry men isn't THAT inaccurate?

#235 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 06:03 PM:

I was on two trial juries.

One:

Check kiting case. Nitwit young mom bought stuff from Toys "R" Us / Kids "R" Us via bad checks, returned stuff for cash before bad checks had a chance to bounce.

Lots of tedium and minor challenges with every bit of evidence introduced. The defense attourney was all set to cast doubt on every bounced checked. (e.g., was that REALLY her signature?).

There was also to be a challenge to the notion that Toys "R" Us / Kids "R" Us were the same entity. If they were, the crime would be grand larceny since the woman bounced a total of more than $5,000 worth of checks.

She pled out after a week or so.

Two:

DWI/DUI. Middle aged engineer got pulled for driving a bit erattically; police took his keys and license and told him to go home. He returned with an expired out-of-state license and spare keys, made scene at a bar, got stopped again. Refused a breathalator, but the video from the station showed him a bit slosh'd.

This one went through to the bitter end. Given the lack of hard numbers, and the video, I think it would have been fair to give him a DUI, but other jurors forcefully suggested he would have been far more lit up an hour before, when he was actually stopped, so we ended up handing out a DWI.

I was foreman and got the treat of reading off the verdict. Not fun.

The judge and lawyers all grilled us afterwards. I think there was surprise involved. Made me wonder if we'd done the right thing at the time . . . but after reading multiple stories of licenseless drunk drivers killing people, I feel less bad about the likely jail sentence.

#236 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 06:19 PM:

I haven't seen "12 Angry Men" so I can't compare. Sorry.

#237 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 06:26 PM:

In the drunk-driving case where I was a witness, nobody got killed. They simply ran over our mailbox and embedded their car into the neighbor's chainlink fence. The driver, a young man, made three mistakes that didn't help his case: 1) He confessed to me that he was driving under the influence. 2) He then went on to say that he wasn't really driving and that a friend of his - one other than the one who WAS there - had been driving and had run away after the collision. 3) When the cops showed up, the driver's buddy said it was some guy he'd just met at the bar that was driving.

I pointed the inconsistency to one cop, who immediately warned his buddies to keep the two guys separate so that they couldn't fake their stories into a consistent tale.

It was late at night, so it's not likely they'd have killed somebody in that spot. But elsewhere? I was never told how that turned out, but I expect the driver got rapped on the knuckles by daddy, big time.

As for Stefan's case, I guess you did the correct thing, since that man was arrested for his second offense, where he was indeed less drunk. Still, I might have wanted to throw the book at him.

#238 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 06:29 PM:

You've never seen 12 angry men. Greg? It's probably one of the most action-packed movies I've ever seen. It definitely is a case of a story where they did not confuse movement with action.

#239 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 06:30 PM:

nerdycellist: somewhere in the pretty priests website it mentions that most or all of the guys on the priests calendar are actually models (though in real ecclesiastical garb), but the gondoliers on the other calendar from the photographer are the real thing.

The priests seem to be popular with all sorts of people, not least because it's nice art photography even if the models aren't your gender of choice for drooling.

#240 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 06:37 PM:

What about the nuns, Julia?

#241 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 10:06 PM:

The trial lasted a couple of months. the charges were a bit more serious than drunk driving. and if "12 Angry Men" is romanticized, then I probably will think it trivializes the process, and if it's realistic, then a couple months on the real deal is enough ugliness for me that I don't feel the need to watch more. So, I think I'll have to pass on it either way.

I've been watching a lot of spongebob lately. pure escapism.

#242 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 11:27 PM:

Awhile back you had a Missionary Cake recipe. Do you pour the liquid off the pineapple, or just let it thin the pie filling??

Thanks

#243 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2005, 12:18 AM:

The folks over at Penny Arcade have unleashed a, well, something. They've had running jokes in their comics and commentaries about imaginary fantasy cycles, kid tv shows, comic books -- and they set up a wiki to begin to tie together some of the jokes they'd made, and opened it to their constituency -- and now we have, in the space of a couple of days, the comprehensive Epic Legends Of The Hierarchs: The Elemenstor Saga encyclopedia. Created in utterly anarchic, collective fashion, from scratch.

It's the best fun, and I can think of some people who need fun right now.

#244 ::: Aquila ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2005, 04:58 AM:

It doesn't begin to compare to the careful detailing of fictional fiction (thanks for that fascinating link, Lucy) but I haven't seen this posted here and thought it might be of interest.

Old English for computers

#245 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2005, 04:04 PM:

If an elephant is a mouse designed by a committee, what does that make a hyrax?

#246 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2005, 04:27 PM:

Just seen at BoingBoing-- an all-knitted wedding: This knitting club celebrated a member's wedding by knitting the entire service -- booze bottles, confetti, dresses and a top-hat, the wedding cake and the train.

Lots of photos, way cool.

#247 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2005, 04:38 PM:

Greg: I wouldn't say it's realistic, although I've never sat on a jury so can't be sure. But it certainly isn't romanticised. Dramatised is possibly the best way of putting it -- I mean, for a jury to be out for just an hour and a half for a murder case is, I think, extremely rare. But it certainly doesn't trivialise the process; it's theme highlights the responsibility that jury service brings on random people from different backgrounds, then throws them together to sort it out.

Also, it's possibly the most powerful use of dialogue I've ever witnessed. Watch it from a technical perspective, if not for entertainment.

Oh, and Stefan: a week long trial for bouncing cheques? The murder trial I once watched from the public gallery only took four days!

#248 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2005, 05:03 PM:

Indeed, Jules... Sure, things happen quite fast in 12 angry men, but it's dramatic license. That helps it make its point that Justice is NOT perfect or impartial and one has to think twice before sentencing someone to Death. Justice making mistakes... I wouldn't be surprised that some people thought the very idea unAmerican. TV execs sure did in the Sixties when they were approached about this proposal for a series called The Fugitive.

#249 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2005, 05:06 PM:

"Oh, and Stefan: a week long trial for bouncing cheques?"

It was horribly tedious. The defense attourney doggedly questioned everything. The DA was a enthusiastic newbie. There were lots of recesses and late starts.

At several points, the judge rested his chin on his hand and glared at the attourneys. A very sit-commish get ON with it glare.

The most vivid memory of the trial:

I'm standing in the men's room, head out the window to get some air. (The jury room and courtroom were stifling.) Judge comes in, whirls aside his robes (revealing an ordinary looking suit and a pistol in a shoulder holster) and takes a leak while commisserating about the lack of air conditioning.

#250 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2005, 06:04 PM:

From a TV ad for a product-liability law firm:

"If you have used the Fentanyl pain patch and suffered injury or death, call the number below."

While enough Fentanyl will definitely make you a zombie, I presume this also involves having one of those snazzy new phones, like the Motorola Samedi or the Vodafone Vodoun, that feature Post-Volitional Dialing.

#251 ::: Aquila ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2005, 07:14 PM:

If an elephant is a mouse designed by a committee, what does that make a hyrax?

The result of the gradual changes that happen to anything that's designed by a committee when exposed to real world pressure to fill a mouse role?

(Allowing for the fact that for everything that manages to evolve, many more things blow up in the committee's faces instead.)

#252 ::: Brooke C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2005, 07:29 PM:

I want a Motorola Samedi! (And a rock hyrax. But I said that.)

I was on the freeway the other day, and saw a shiny black Cooper Mini with dealer plates that said "Azrael Mini."

That's right, folks, the Angel of Death has a car dealership. Is it weird that I find this endearing? Perhaps Minis have a hyrax-like mind-control Power of Adorable that automatically makes me like anything connected with them. Or maybe it's just because I like imagining a dark angel trying to fold its wings up, as it climbs into the passenger seat for a test drive.

#253 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2005, 09:41 PM:

I was never told how that turned out, but I expect the driver got rapped on the knuckles by daddy, big time.

An unwarranted assumption; the parents of some people stupid enough to drive drunk are seriously indulgent and/or willing to believe any cockamamie story about whose fault it really was. At least these idiots were caught; the worst accident I've been in (we were the first of at least 4 cars hit, fortunately with no serious injuries), the occupants left their monster in the growing pool of water from the hydrant that finally stopped them, and the cop on site said they'd probably already reported the car stolen by the time he could call it in.

I've sat just one trial. (I was shortlisted for ~3 others as a consequence of the Massachusetts system, but either got challenged or was deeper on the queue than the number of qualified jurors.) It was almost as tedious as Stefan's even if the courtroom part only lasted a day; half that time, the counsels were conferring with the judge about admissable evidence.

#254 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2005, 09:55 PM:

I was on the freeway the other day, and saw a shiny black Cooper Mini with dealer plates that said "Azrael Mini." That's right, folks, the Angel of Death has a car dealership

Right next to the Ahura Mazda dealership, no doubt.

#255 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2005, 11:13 PM:

That makes the hyrax Elephant ver. 5.2

#256 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2005, 12:27 AM:

In the small town of Oak Hill, Ohio, there is an establishment named Kali's Pizza. I have never stopped there. If the proprietor has more than two arms, or the Wednesday special is a medium thin-crust with sausage, mushrooms, and human fingers, I don't want to know.

#257 ::: dagny ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2005, 04:26 AM:

Re the Calendario Romano.
I overheard this anecdote in a movie theatre:
"I was in Rome, in this little bookshop, and I saw this sexy priest calendar, and I thought, I have to get this, so I took the calendar up to the counter and this priest walked in. He looked at the calendar, and then at me, and asked, "Are you buying that calendar?"
And I said, a little embarrassed, "Yes."
And the priest looked me dead in the eye and said, "Father March is divine!"

#258 ::: cd sees comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2006, 09:31 AM:

Currently #258, by one "Douglas". Who cna't speel.

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