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December 16, 2005

Open Thread 56
Posted by John M. Ford at 04:14 AM *

Because, ninety years ago today, Albert Einstein Published the General Theory of Relativity.

Or maybe because the last OT was over 600 messages. (It’s not closed, so someone can still have message 666, if the General Theory doesn’t do anything in your non-Euclidean eldritchy frame of reference.)

Comments on Open Thread 56:
#2 ::: Melanie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 05:40 AM:

I'm trying to decide if there's irony in the notion that I'll be finishing most of my astrophysics grad school applications today. Mmmm, relativity.

But, alas, no. Your subjective and imprecise methods of time measurement do not impress me!

#3 ::: Kinsley Castle ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 07:34 AM:

Hmm. I wonder if Santa takes advantage of the time dilation effect when he's out in the sleigh on Christmas eve? Do you think that flying reindeer can achieve a relativistic speed?

Have a very Infernokrusher christmas. ;-)

#4 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 08:53 AM:

The Stendhal Syndrome at Universal Studios link in the particles was a hoot. I just wanted to bring that up.

#5 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 08:54 AM:

Ah good, open thread

Maybe the font of all knowledge that is Making Light can help me with something.

When I was at school I remember reading or hearing an anecdote about math. The premise of this anecdote was that an uneducated person, (for some reason I think they were an inhabitant of india or asia) found a children's arithmetic text book and worked out all of algebra and some of early trig based only on the basic arithmetic in the book. While this was impressive, as all the math had already been done before thousands of years previously it is nothing but a footnote in history.

Now my whole life I've subconsciously believed this anecdote and I've related it many times. It seems to say a lot about fate, and timing, and math. Recently I wanted to confirm a few parts of the story, so I began to search for a copy or an account.

So far I have been unable to track down any version of the anecdote, or to figure out its source or veracity. Usually my google-fu is pretty good, but in this case I am thwarted due to the extreme vagueness of my memory of the story. It doesn't matter if the story is true, I'm just looking for confirmation that it is an anecdote that others have heard, and would love any reference to somewhere it appears in print or an account with more actual details.

#6 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 08:57 AM:

Kinsley,

Here's >the old Physics of Flying Reindeer bit, proving that Santa and his sleigh move at 650 miles per second, 3,000 times the speed of sound, in order to reach all the children of the earth in one night. I'm not sure if relativity enters into it but at those speeds, it just might.

#7 ::: grackel ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 09:38 AM:

Leah- your anecdote probably refers to Srinivasa Ramanujan, a mostly self-taught Indian mathematician who I think worked in number theory. Before his 'discovery' by western mathematicians (to one of whom he had written) he reproved a number of well-known theorems which he did not know had already been settled. Biography easily found on web.

#8 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 09:40 AM:

Here's the old Physics of Flying Reindeer bit, proving that Santa and his sleigh move at 650 miles per second, 3,000 times the speed of sound, in order to reach all the children of the earth in one night. I'm not sure if relativity enters into it but at those speeds, it just might.

Not terribly singificantly-- that's something like a third of a percent of light speed. Relativistic effects don't reach the 1% level until you get to about 14% of the speed of light.

#9 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 10:00 AM:

Did someone say Einstein? Relativity? Latkes?

I've been waiting for an excuse to share this:

"Historians of science agree that Einstein was led to the special and general theories of relativity by consideration of the special and general relative merits of the latke and the hamentash. When he was a child, he asked his mother which is better, latkes or hamentashen. His mother's reply, "Albert, everything's relative," seems to have made a deep and lasting impression on him."

--Edward Kolb

http://home.fnal.gov/~rocky/latke_2.pdf

#10 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 10:11 AM:

Wikipedia's bio of Ramanujan is here.

As you know, Bob, he was the inspiration for the movie "Good Will Hunting" and the character Yugo Amaryl in Asimov's "Prelude to Foundation".

#11 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 10:16 AM:

Ah, Ramanujan! I remember reading about him when I was (mumble) years younger than I am, and one anecdote stuck.

He was in the hospital in England, and his friend and patron G.H. Hardy (who is, I think, the man to whom grackel is referring above) came to visit him. Hardy noted that the cab's number was 1729, which he called boring. Ramanujan rebuked him, noting that it is in fact the smallest integer that can be formed as the sum of two cubes, in two distinct ways. (1^3 + 12^3 or 9^3 + 10^3)

#12 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 10:18 AM:

I was reading Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynmann the other day and was astonished to discover quite a bit about how he used to go to titty bars where he's sit and do physics and look at the pretty girls, and sometimes try to pick them up. When a local bar that he went to five or six times a week was having trouble with licensing, he went to court and testified that he thought it was a valuable part of the community.

Now that isn't slumming.

#13 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 10:23 AM:

I don't know if any of you have been following this, but the current U.S. administration has been chastising our Canadian leaders for bringing a bit of anti-U.S. sentiment into our election campaign. Just this week, the U.S. ambassador gave a speech warning our leaders that they were on a "slippery slope". It's typical Bush-Cheney bullying.

Anyway, what's interesting about all of this is that the Globe and Mail has a comment section for articles on their website. My wife and I were observing the comments regarding the article about the U.S. ambassador's speech, and noticed that 90% of the comments (even from conservative readers) were pro-Canada, anti-U.S., with most saying that the U.S. should stay out of our business.

Then, almost like clockwork, the comments turned pro-U.S., as if some of the wingnuts heard that there was some U.S. bashing going on up here and organized the troops to come up and do some rah-rah in a foreign country (much like that Pentagon document from yesterday). Anyway, I find it interesting how the right wing is skilled at spreading this thought virus.

So, if you get the chance, go visit the Globe and Mail and read some of the comments regarding this issue. See if you can notice when, exactly, the right-wingers start to venture into the fray.

The article is here.

#14 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 10:24 AM:

It was ninety years ago today,
Albert Einstein taught the world the way
That gravity's a warp in space,
And light bends round a heavy place.
So may I introduce to you
The bending way of space and time.
Albert Einstein's General Relativity.
It's Albert Einstein's General Relativity,
Which tells you all you need to know.[...]

---


Picture yourself on a sheet made of rubber,
Dimpled by planets past which light flies.
You have to imagine you have two dimensions,
And follow the laziest way through the skies.
Spiralling starstuff of yellow and green;
Rubber that's stretched 'til it tears;
Look for the sun with the infinite size,
And she's gone.

Gravity's a warping of space-time! (x3)


#15 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 10:27 AM:

"Historians of science agree that Einstein was led to the special and general theories of relativity by consideration of the special and general relative merits of the latke and the hamentash. When he was a child, he asked his mother which is better, latkes or hamentashen. His mother's reply, "Albert, everything's relative," seems to have made a deep and lasting impression on him."

"BLACK holes! BLACK holes! Zoll zein, zoll zein BLACK holes!"

#16 ::: John Aspinall ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 10:33 AM:

This old canard, about Einstein being the first to realize that "it's all relative", may be cute, but it's wrong. The concept of an observer-related coordinate system goes back hundreds of years earlier; Einstein's huge contribution was to realize that the coordinate system to be transformed was 4-dimensional spacetime, not 3-dimensional space.

But enough physics pedantry; here's to curved spacetime! Happy 90th! (And happy 235th to Ludvig van Beethoven, too.)

#17 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 10:45 AM:

Not wanting to burden the previous Open Thread any further, I'll switch to this one for thanking Laura Roberts for the link to that great Hekate website -- some of the info was exactly what I hoped I'd find!

I plan to write a novel about an odd afterlife for died-young artistic types a la Orpheus, and a Hekate who's more than just witchy seemed like a good patroness to set things up Way Back When. (Mike, I want to go further back than the burgeoning age of reason in old Greece, 'cause it's gonna be a fantasy.) Incidentally, the idea never worked with famous folk just getting yanked into heaven/hell, but I've finally figured a way around that and the place is beginning to seem "real" to me.

#18 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 10:46 AM:

"I was reading Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynmann the other day"

So was I, in fact! I'd only really heard of Feynmann diagrams before encountering discussion of Feynmann here in MakingLight. My favorite line was in the beginning, when he mentions drinking a massive amount of Coke to disprove an urban legend, and ended up staying up most of the night and working out his diagrams. I laughed aloud.

#19 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 10:51 AM:

Jo Walton: I was reading Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynmann the other day and was astonished to discover quite a bit about how he used to go to titty bars where he's sit and do physics and look at the pretty girls, and sometimes try to pick them up. When a local bar that he went to five or six times a week was having trouble with licensing, he went to court and testified that he thought it was a valuable part of the community.

"Sometimes" is probably an understatement.
There are a number of stories floating around about Feynman that put him firmly in the SKANK! category.

#20 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 10:59 AM:

You're welcome, Faren. I have not read the whole Hekate page (unfortunately too busy at the moment) but I loved their Persephone page. They seem very comprehensive.

Good luck on the novel.

#21 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 11:05 AM:

I don't know if any of you have been following this, but the current U.S. administration has been chastising our Canadian leaders for bringing a bit of anti-U.S. sentiment into our election campaign. Just this week, the U.S. ambassador gave a speech warning our leaders that they were on a "slippery slope". It's typical Bush-Cheney bullying.

Good lord.

OK, is there anyone in Canada (hopefully, Toronto) who has job openings for a former English major with a whole lot of secretarial experience and a former Psych major who plays with computers? 'Cause I'm tired of being ashamed of telling people what country I live in, and persuading Liam to move to Canada will be a matter of letting him know him I'm packed.

Yes, I am exaggerating slightly, but one wonders whether the entire "Bush" administration combined has enough brain power to blow its collective nose.

#22 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 11:17 AM:

For anyone who hasn't already noticed, Typepad is down; Typebad blogs are displaying content rolled back 5 days.

#23 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 11:21 AM:

Consider the following sentence:
"Dinosaur sodomy," he said.

I realize that punctuation always goes inside the quotation marks. As a programmer, it always seemed to me that the quotation would be better served by including within the marks ONLY the part actually quoted, and leaving the retrofitted punctuation outside it. "Dinosaur sodomy", he said.

Aside from tradition, why is it that the punctuation goes inside?

P.S. Speaking of dinosaur sodomy, Ajay, I didn't notice your double-dactyls in the previous open thread until recently. Nicely done.

#24 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 11:25 AM:

It is odd, especially when you consider:

"Dinosaur sodomy?" he said.

#25 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 11:28 AM:

Sorry - I meant the odd thing IMO is adding the comma, or replacing the period which would have been part of the original sentence with a comma.

"Dinosaur sodomy" he said.

#26 ::: Michael Falcon-Gates ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 11:28 AM:

OK, is there anyone in Canada (hopefully, Toronto) who has job openings for a former English major with a whole lot of secretarial experience and a former Psych major who plays with computers? 'Cause I'm tired of being ashamed of telling people what country I live in, and persuading Liam to move to Canada will be a matter of letting him know him I'm packed.

Don't move to Canada quite yet, please. There's still the possibility of a change of administrations in the '06 and '08 elections... and if there *isn't* one, Canada is going to be the next-door neighbor with all those lovely oil sands, so I suggest New Zealand.

#27 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 11:42 AM:

I also think that only quoted punctuation should go inside quotation-marks. There are some cases otherwise ambiguous:

He said "No peanuts?"

vs.

He said "No peanuts!"?

#28 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 11:45 AM:

And in titles the quotation marks may be omitted altogether, as in the long-running series Dinosaur Sodomy, She Wrote.

#29 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 12:03 PM:

What struck me as more interesting about Feynmann and topless bars was his theory about the science of picking up women there.

Sandy: I do not favor putting commas and periods outside quotes, though you will find that this is done in Britain a good deal. I believe the original reasons for it have to do with how metal type fit together back in the days when everything was done in letterpress.

#30 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 12:20 PM:

The rules on punctuation are that it goes outside unless it's part of the quote OR it's a period or comma (sometimes a semi). (And the comma substitution is its own thing that has to do with continuing the sentence...the close-quote is not a strong barrier between the quoted and quoting sentence.)

Computer people always want the quote to be absolute. This is because it has to be for a computer to figure it out correctly (barring some fairly sophisticated programming). Humans are much better at it, and English writing is for humans, not computers.

BTW, when I use single quotes (unless as nesting doubles), the punctuation goes inside ONLY if quoted. That's because single quotes to me represent citation rather than quotation. Frex

"You're bonkers," he said. BUT
After uttering the word 'bonkers', he collapsed.

#31 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 12:34 PM:

Question: are there any collections containing a significant number of stories by various Making Light posters?

Because if there's not, you know, there should be.

#32 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 12:59 PM:

Laura Roberts,

The guy who writes "Dodger Thoughts," a baseball blog, just published a collection of the entries and comments for the past two or three years. He used Lulu.

Not the same thing, but for that audience at this time of year, a pretty clever business idea, I thought.

#33 ::: Peter ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 01:25 PM:

Hi, just recalling a reference to a magic/science/gift shop site from ML within the past few months, but for the life of me cannot remember what it was.. I recall the brass ball moving up and down a string, and some magic mirrors, but the rest sits locked in the recesses of my mind, apparently wedged behind some large furniture..

anyone's short-to-medium recall memory better than mine?

#34 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 01:29 PM:

Xopher: In modern American standard usage, a semicolon at the end of a quote is never inside a quotation mark.

As for your usage of single quote marks, in your own writing you're of course welcome to write as you please, but in standard U.S. style, your second sentence would be:

After uttering the word "bonkers," he collapsed.

Otherwise, I like your thoughts on writing for humans vs. writing for computers. I might add that lawyers sometimes put punctuation outside quotes, for much the same reasons.

#35 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 01:34 PM:

Well, since this is an open thread and since it started with the observance of GRT, then I don't mind modestly plugging my first book, which just came out, on Einstein, GRT and Lemaitre.

(I will now duck out of the way of any flying pies)

Happy Holidays to everyone here!

#36 ::: Tom S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 01:39 PM:

Peter, I think you want the November 16th entry "All beautiful and some obviously magical"

#37 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 02:23 PM:

In the category of relativistic reporting:
After 25 Years, Novak Leaving CNN for Fox News

CNN is claiming it had nothing to do with Plame. In fact, it appears that Novak's contract with them ends on 31 December. (There's this niggling doubt ....)

#38 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 02:47 PM:

Can I just bang my head against my keyboard here, in sympathetic company? Approximate quote from romance mailing list: "I don't think feminists have done anything good for women. Yes, if women *want* to work, they should get the same pay as a man doing the same job, but..."

Just how many women are there in the US who do not understand that feminism got them the vote, something approximating equal pay, the right not to be beaten and raped by their husbands, and on and on and on for things they all take for granted? And how many of them do know that those things were won by feminism, and *that's* what they're objecting to? Because they think it is a setback for women to have those rights?

#39 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 03:06 PM:

Ouch, Julia!

Stop banging your head! Just because someone should bang their heads together is no reason for you to damage either your cranium or your keyboard.

What I don't get? This:

Yes, if women *want* to work, they should get the same pay as a man doing the same job, but..."

Of course I don't want to work! I want to spend my life travelling in the company of interesting and intelligent people, studying things, dancing, and wearing gorgeous clothes, cooking gourmet meals in a well equipped kitchen and having someone else clean up the mess, and solving the world's problems.

I have to work. I have to eat. I have to pay rent. The compensation I receive for the work I do should be determined by the nature and quality of the work, not by my gender, my sex, my lifestyle, my skin, hair, or eye colour, or my taste in books.

(And yes, I'm fortunate to live in a time and place where I can earn my living doing something I mostly like, thanks to the feminists who made it possible for me to take for granted that I could do so.)

Someone out there has a really effective PR machine, and it doesn't appear to be the feminists.

#40 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 03:17 PM:

It took me a few minutes, but I realised why this specific example freaked me out so much.

It was on a readers' mailing list.

One of the rights that women and her cheerleaders took for granted was the right to learn to read. That right is so invisible to them that they're not even aware that there have been times and places where the notion that all women (indeed, all men) should be taught to read was considered highly subversive.

#41 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 03:22 PM:

Julia: indeed, even today it's still around in places (eg from only a few years ago: the Taliban's Afghanistan).

#42 ::: Hamadryad ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 03:56 PM:

Laura Roberts said:

Question: are there any collections containing a significant number of stories by various Making Light posters?

Because if there's not, you know, there should be.

Hmm. A Making Light anthology. I think I'd enjoy it. It would be an interesting collection.

#43 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 04:34 PM:

In case you're not tired of Christmas shopping yet, someone on Livejournal wants a water buffalo for Christmas, via Heifer International, an organization out to make the world better one flock of chickens, fruit tree, or beehive at a time. So I'm spamming y'all.

#44 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 05:28 PM:

You know, I read "Surely You're Joking..." again just a little while ago, and Feynman's visits to the titty bar kept popping into my mind while that slumming thread was going on here.

Eh, I don't think Feynman was slumming. He was enjoying himself, using the bar for the purpose it was meant (i.e. drinking and looking at titties), not as a means of defining himself in contrast to the other patrons. It seems clear to me that he didn't have much time for airs and graces, and thinking he was better than anyone else.

#45 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 05:34 PM:

In previous years I've bought plural goss and a hogshead of chicklets through Heifer Intl.

The whole catalog deal is all kind of twee. I'm pretty sure it all goes in a fund and gets used as needed, which is fine by me.

#46 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 05:49 PM:

Last year an aunt gave me two heifers in Afghanistan as a gift. I thanked her for them.

#47 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 06:34 PM:

For several years, my wishlist has included things like livestock from Oxfam Unwrapped and bikes for midwives from the Good Gifts Catalogue.

I have so much already.

#48 ::: Kinsley Castle ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 06:39 PM:

"...the current U.S. administration has been chastising our Canadian leaders for bringing a bit of anti-U.S. sentiment into our election campaign. Just this week, the U.S. ambassador gave a speech warning our leaders that they were on a 'slippery slope'."

Bush tried to pull the same stunt a while ago during the Australian elections. He said, gee, it would be kind of swell if all you guys voted for that nice Mr Howard again. Only, in that case, he was obliged to come out later and say that, no, he wasn't trying to influence the democratic process in Australia.

But Howard still got in, because the other guy wasn't up to scratch.

#49 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 07:04 PM:

"For several years, my wishlist . . ."

Oooh . . . hey.

You know, I hate the idea of springing a charity- gift-in-your-name *on* someone. It reminds me too much of that Seinfeld episode. Or the coffee-plantation lady in Bleak House.

But ASKING for one is a neat idea.

That would make a nice thing for Amazon to arrange.

#50 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 07:22 PM:

But ASKING for one is a neat idea.

Unfortunately, this too can arouse hard feelings at the holidays. My parents-in-law have reacted badly every time my husband has requested that instead of a gift, they make a charitable donation of some sort in his name. My MIL considers it a personal rejection, it seems.

So instead, we're just "very hard to shop for" and they send us a check, some of which we turn around and redirect to worthwhile causes.

#51 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 07:41 PM:

Yes, it makes a difference if you ask for it--I was very pleased to get an Oxfam goat (i.e., a card saying they'd bought a goat for someone in my name) after mentioning to a friend, last Christmas, how cool I thought it was that he'd gotten someone else a goat.

That also avoids the possibility of person A getting person B a contribution a charity that B doesn't actually care for, for whatever reason (whether because B doesn't think the cause is good, or because B has been told that the charity in question is dishonest or biased).

#52 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 07:51 PM:

Is anyone else on ML paying attention to the NYT story about Bush and the NSA? If you haven't looked, look at the story, and DailyKos, and a post by Hilzoy that Kos links to. This could be a very big deal or everyone may just shrug... I'm transfixed. Check it out.

Sorry. Politics. Gotta love it.

#53 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 07:52 PM:

Leah, I invented calculus when I was six. You can imagine how annoying it was when I found out other people already knew it.

#54 ::: LizT ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 08:46 PM:

The Einsteins' Theory of Relativity:
Just sayin. Scroll down to Maria Maric Einstein. Always have to mention these things when I think of them, in light of the feminist discussion above. I only found out about this a few years ago - never had a women's studies course. So many things they never mentioned in school.

#55 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 09:06 PM:

Lizzy:
I was going to post that here too.

It appears to have been a big enough deal to the Senate that it just shot down the Patriot Act renewal at the last moment. I had thought the Patriot Act renewal was a done deal. I'm too stunned to celebrate.

Also, Bush has caved in to Congress on the torture issue. That's something of a nice Xmas present, only 4 years too late.

#57 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 10:33 PM:

Yes, Happy Birthday, G.R.T..

I have to add, though: I have a basic beef with the rubber sheet: I think people (including me, before I Knew Better) get a bit confused at the end of it, where they see the marble rolling down the curved rubber funnel as being due to the gravity in the room. This is not right, except in the sense that the marble is constrained to the sheet by gravity and friction; it still implies that there is a "force" pushing it down.

Much better would be to show a marble (or bubble) embedded in the sheet---it moves along the sheet because it has nowhere else to go. Maybe something like the beaded seet coushions New York (and Snowcrash) cabbies use.

The strongest feeling I got studying the subject was when I first understood that objects move in lines that are locally straight, and "natural" to them...all kinds of vague karate/Dao/FreeMarket thoughts associated themselves with this. Misner, Thorne, and Wheeler imagine two ants at the mid-line of Newton's apple, who start walking up it. Initially, they're separated and parallel; eventually, they meet at the top. They're physicists, so they decide there must be a force at work....

(And Feynman's horn-doggedness might have been his attempt to carry on in the tradition of Einstein...beside, he Lost His One True Love, so he had a passable excuse for never being content thereafter. Nice guy, for the most part, though, except when he was in a mood.)


Oh, and if anyone in Canada (esp. Toronto/GTA or Vancouver) knows of a job for a physicist/programmer (Java, Smalltalk, C[++], multimedia, would like to do wireless) who doesn't want to wait for Massachusetts to join the United States of Canada....

#58 ::: hamadryad ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 10:58 PM:

Oh, and if anyone in Canada (esp. Toronto/GTA or Vancouver) knows of a job for a physicist/programmer (Java, Smalltalk, C[++], multimedia, would like to do wireless) who doesn't want to wait for Massachusetts to join the United States of Canada....

You could check out the University of Waterloo. I have no idea what kind of programming jobs they have right now, but I've seen postings there in the past.

Also, there are a lot of spin-off businesses around the Uni. They seem to be hiring all the time. Pretty high-tech area, what with the Uni, the Perimeter Institute and all the tech companies in the area.

It's not too far from Toronto, either.

#59 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 11:14 PM:

I wish I could get my head around relativity. I've tried, and I can't. As soon as you tell me that the speed light reaches you doesn't change whether you're going toward or away from it, I lose it completely. I know that to be true, I know it is attested by unimpeachable evidence, and still there's something that says, no, it can't be true, that's impossible, and you aren't allowed to go further.

#60 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 12:00 AM:

It scrunches or stretches as required, I seem to recall, but details elude me.

Andrew Williams did a Relativity 101 presentation at Swancon a year or two back which I found illuminating at the time, but the main thing I remember about it now was my annoyance when he used "complementary" to describe a relationship where the key significant thing about it was that, counter-intuitively, it *wasn't* complementary. (To a stationary observer, time on the very fast train has slowed down. On the hand, to an observer on the train, time for the stationary observer has... also slowed down.)

#61 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 12:58 AM:

Dave: guy on the back of a truck is holding one end of a slinky. He's gonna throw the other end to you. It's going to arrive in your hand in a fixed amount of time.

If the truck is going away from you, the slinky stretches out. This lowers its frequency (that is, the number of loops per unit time that come to your hand). That's the Red Shift.

If the truck is being backed up toward you at significant speed, the slinky gets scrunched up instead of stretched out. Increases its frequency, but the slinky still gets there in the same amount of time. This is the Blue Shift.

But in that scenario, the most important shift is the Ass Shift: shift your ass out of the way, because the truck is backing up toward you, fool!!!!

#62 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 05:02 AM:

"For several years, my wishlist . . ."
Oooh . . . hey.

I could pretend to virtue, but my wish list also includes books, DVDs, bookbinding equipment, etc. Charity items are only a part of it.

We've run electronic wish lists on our blog for a couple of years now, which saves an awful lot of trouble with far-flung family. It's taken a while to settle in: for a couple of years, in an effort to "surprise us", family members would buy anything but the items on the wish lists. After the disastrous year of the spa day gift (I am not a beauty treatment person), they have begun to realise we put things on the list because we want them.

This year's innovation is to use shared-access pages on backpackit.com to get the family to update what they're giving us and prevent duplication. (I run a page for the Hub's gifts and he runs one for mine.)

Some of the people I've explained this to think it robs Christmas of the magic. But my definition of magic does not include the exasperation of returning duplicate items or getting something totally unwelcome.

#63 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 10:34 AM:

Bertrand Russel, in The ABC of Relativity uses the analogy of a plain with a few mountains sticking up, and it's night, and all you see from a balloon are the lights of the travellers as they take the easiest route from place to place.

He makes something of Newton's view being dominated by touch, while Einstein's is dominated by vision. And we can feel a force, but we can't see it.

#64 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 10:44 AM:

Something has just occurred to me, whose prior invocations I must've missed because I can't've been the first to think of it-- surely Dinosaur Sodomy is the ne plus ultra of all things Infernokrusher. Or could be; I suppose it's certainly possible to envision bishounen apatosaurs with long, swoopy necks entwining in misty soft-focus yaoi romance, but now I'm trying to imagine "Brokeback Shale" and my brain cell has just exploded *foom*

#65 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 10:56 AM:

For those who are interested in maps and how people view the world:

www.commoncensus.org

#66 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 11:36 AM:

Anyone need bulk yardage for pre-stained tablecloths or wardrobe items? I have to assume that these are usually intended for testing laundry detergents and such, because, well, I hate to think of the alternatives.

#67 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 01:40 PM:

We should all go out and buy the November Esquire if still findable, for the sake of this essay, mirrored here:
Greetings from Idiot America

I think it neatly captures the heart of so many discussions in the past year about "what's wrong with this country?"

#68 ::: Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 02:14 PM:

Julie L: I suppose it's certainly possible to envision bishounen apatosaurs with long, swoopy necks entwining in misty soft-focus yaoi romance, ...

"When Brontosaurs Fall In Love" by Dr. Jane Robinson. Alas, most of the lyrics have left my memory, leaving only snippets:

"A thrill ran down all seventy feet of his saurian nerves."

#69 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 02:22 PM:

Clifton - Several weeks ago, I was sitting on an airplane reading that article and I didn't know to cheer (for someone finally telling the truth) or to cry (for the direction my idiot country is heading in).

Regardless, it was enough for me to send in a subscription card.

#70 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 03:00 PM:

Clifton: Thank you, thank you for that link. What a piece of work. The image of Adam, brainless and dickless, is going to stay with me for a while.

And this morning George Bush made clear in his radio address that (shades of Nixon) anything he does is "lawful" because he's the Presdent, and since we didn't throw him out last year, we can't question his judgment. We had our chance and we blew it. "Law" is whatever he wants it to be. Oh, and God clearly wants him to be Presdent because he IS.

Will the Democratic party please take its head out of that bag, and do something useful?

No, probably not.

#71 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 05:03 PM:

Here's a brief quote (in bold) from an ABC News article on the Internet.

Bush said the program was narrowly designed and used "consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution." He said it is used only to intercept the international communications of people inside the United States who have been determined to have "a clear link" to al-Qaida or related terrorist organizations.

Now it seems to me that if those individuals have a clear link, then it shouldn't be impossible, let alone difficult, to get a court-authorized wiretap. What Bush is doing subverts our Constitution and our system of courts. Looks like it's almost time to greet Bush with "Heil Bush", doesn't it?

#72 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 05:31 PM:

If someone tells you 'the President needs this power to fight terrorism', ask if they want Hillary to have it.

#73 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 09:35 PM:

DHS agents are monitoring your reading habits, and will 'pay you a visit' if you request dangerous literature

I resent the way my government makes paranoid conspiracy theorists seem sane.

#74 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 09:54 PM:

Sheesh.

I recently purchased a book on making rocket motors.

I suppose I'm on the Round Up list now.

#75 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 11:31 PM:

Aren't the same people arguing for secret arrests and interrogations the same ones that were saying a few years ago, "I love my country but I fear my government"?

He's taking the Ollie North route: "I love this country so gosh darn much, I'll do anything to protect it."

#76 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 11:53 PM:

Alan: Yes, they were so afraid of Bill and (worse) Hillary that they are now in the position of getting what they were afraid of, by their own choice. (Hillary is actually pretty conservative, for someone in the Democratic Party.)

#77 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 01:16 AM:

Thank you everyone who referred me to Srinivasa Ramanujan. His actual story is a lot more life-affirming and hopeful than my memory of the anecdote, which is both cheering and a little disappointing, as I often used that as an example of life's at its most ironic.

Marilee's post is more akin to the kind of sensation I always used the anecdote to illustrate. I myself figured a few neat bits of geometry as a kid, and was slightly annoyed when I found out that everyone had known about them for millenia.

#78 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 02:37 AM:

I heard some of the talk given by the Constitution-disparaging turkey turd schmuck (see http://www.capitolhillblue.com/artman/publish/article_7779.shtml ) on Saturday morning.

"You lying sack of shit" applies, in spades. Just how can spying on US nationals retroactively do anything to prevent the mass murder attack on 9/11 which was committed exclusively by Middle Eastern nationals, most of them Saudi Arabian?

Had the Schmuck's Misadministration's incompetent/corrupt/gagged FBI managers -allowed- the field agents who wanted to investigate what looked like suspicious activities of Middle Easterners in the USA getting extremely expensive flight training in the USA for flying commercial jumbo jet passenger planes without any apparent interest in becoming commercial pilots and not caring about learning how to land the planes and with the finances being smelly (where and why was all that money coming from and going to send the suspicious characters to jumbo jet flying school? and why where they in the USA to do this?) to investigate, the world would be a different place today--the suspicious foreign nationals the field agents wanted to investigate and were blocked by the people they reported to from further investigation of, included perpetrators of the 9/11 atrocities who used that flight training to turn planes full of civilians into guided missiles with warheads of thousands of pounds of aviation fuel to ignite and explode flown at full throttle into buildings.

Then there was the woman who discovered that the FBI had been using a translator who took documents sent by CIA operatives for translation and some mistranslated, and others annotated that there was nothing worth translating in them... her translations read otherwise. She went up her chain of command concerned about the mistranslations and that there was information in the documents that she thought bore on terrorist operations against the USA; she was told that the was being disloyal to the rest of the FBI in raising any objections. She went further up, and was fired. She sued.. and some stinking corrupt Bush crony judge threw the case out claiming that classified information about be revealed if ther ewere a trial and that national security demanded that the court case be thrown out.

Stinking fascist Star Chamber slime etc. etc. etc. Baron Harkonnen and his nephew Beast Rabban look democratic and open and decent compared to what's infesting the Oval Orifice and their buddies on federal benchs....

Schmuck bleated that revealing classified information is a crime, imputing that the news media alleging that he had fiated spying on US citizens with any court warrant or requirement or need for court warrant, was revealing classified information and a crime. He didn't mention of course Karl Rove and the allegation that Karl Rove and others who work for -him- directly or indirectly, -deliberately- gave the news media Valerie Plame Wilson's name with malice aforethought, outing her and the entire covert intelligence-gathering operation she had setup and run, and endangering every person involved in the operation, US citizen or foreign national, compromising both the safety of the sources, and compromising all the channels of information (translation, Rove and buddies in Imperial Presidency Political Pique and Vengeance, blew an important intelligence operation skyhigh, and everyone who participated in it has been revealed as a US Government collaborator/snitch. So much for relying on the US Government for protection and support and assistance and decent treatment....).

Karl Rove and Mike Brown are still skimming up taxpayer dollars, Rove as Schmuck's Chief of Staff despite allegations and still with a security clearance despite the Exceptionally Grave allegations (there's a reason I'm using that term), and Brown as a Consultant to FEMA. Me, I think that both of them should be up on charges of malfeasance at the least, and in Rove's case, high treason.

Schmuck was very insistent that spying on US nationals and the 9/11 atrocities have correlations that spying on US nationals would prevent 9/11.

That's some of the WORST fantasy I literally have heard. It's either totally delusional, or the speechwriter(s) think that they can with complete impunity and immunity promote Big Lies. I have no clue if Bush actually belies the stinking vile noxious lying excrement he was spouting. It was I have to admit a VERY smooth speech, it was the best presentation vocally that he has done, he wasn't droning away like the dry [maybe...] drunk/reputed cokehead braindamage case there allegations he is, there were inflections in his voice, and the vocal presentation had dynamics to it and vocal earnestness to it. Conman slime are at their most convincing when they have first persuaded- themselves- that the lies they are telling, are reality....

The 9/11 attackers were all foreign nationals, not one US citizen involved as an operative, not one. But the Schmuck's bombastics bleatings spun his actions fiating secret spying on US citizens without court orders or other oversight beyond the Schmuck's Presidential Authority as galactic trump card, as proper and legal and appropriate blah blah blah to prevent 9/11 attackers from committing terrorist acts in the USA.

The 9/11 operatives were not US citizens. How does spying on US citizens intercept communications between foreign nationals in the USA and their conspirators in other countries? Spying on the foreigners might intercept their conversations, but the FBI wasn't interesting in doing that... and wasn't interesting in translating what Middle Eastern suspected terrorist were saying, either, as demonstrated by the FBI's hostility when a translator dismayed at mistranslations and nontranslations done of intercepted material, asked questions about why the mistranslations and nontranslations happened and why was the FBI not remedying the situation/interested at all apparently in remedying the situation/attacking her for trying to get attention to the situation.

======

How about nationalizing the Schmuck's ranch in Texas and Cheney's spread in Wyoming, and making them into national cemeteries to bury the soldiers and contractors dead in Iraq and Afghanistan?

#79 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 02:47 AM:

Out of curiosity, when did Valerie Plame become Valerie Plame Wilson? I've only heard her called that name in the last two weeks, and it reeks of Hillary Rodham turning into Hillary Rodham Clinton.

#80 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 04:48 AM:

I wrote "Valerie Plame Wilson" to avoid the issue of "just what name was she going by, anyway?" That particular piece of obfuscation, whether she was "Valerie Plame" or "Valerie Wilson" is about as Important/relevant as "Do you refer to Senator Kennedy as Teddy Kennedy or Edward Kennedy"? when discussing That Incident at Chappaquidick, or "Is it Robert Burns or Robbie Burns?" when discussing a certain Scottish poet's works, or '"Just What Is Scooter Libby's actual first name?" when discussing the Grand Jury accusations against him."

Ambassador Wilson's wife was pointed out to reporter the Ambassador Wilson's wife, and that Valerie Plame was the name she had gone by before marrying Ambassador Wilson was a sufficient condition to unambiguously identify her publically whether she was being called Valerie Plame, or was being called Valerie Wilson.

My sister uses both her maiden last name, and her husband's surname, depending on the situation--she was listed twice in a garden club, once with the last name "Lieberman" and the other listing with her husband's last name. People in a number of fields have different names that they use--authors with pseudonyms may or may not use the pseudonym at a science fiction convention, or may have both the pseudonym, and the name the person is otherwise known as, on the name badge.... some people use one or more names professionally and those are different from the names they use socially among friends and family....

So why is there this big cowflap over Valerie Plame/Valerie Wilson/Valerie Plame Wilson and name designation? Valerie Plame married Ambassador Wilson. By some social conventions that made her Valerie Plame Wilson... but the journalists knew or could find out very easily that the Valerie -whatever-the-last-name-being-used was, was married to Ambassador Wilson, they were TOLD that Ambassador Wilson's -wife- worked at the CIA etc. It was not a secret that Wilson's -wife- had been Valerie Plame before marrying Ambassador Wilson, regardless of whether she was going by Valerie Plame, Valerie Wilson, or Valerie Plame Wilson forward after the marriage. It's like, again squabbling over Teddy versus Edward, or Irving versus Scooter, instead of the -issues-.

It's Republicrap dead stinking poisonous obfuscatory red herring distraction. I had a boss one who used the term "Baffle with Bullshit" abbreviated to BWB. In the case of the Republicrap Noise Machine, it's more like Distract with Bullshit, and slimeoles Hannrity [spelling] and O'Reilly and Limbaugh etc. do it all the time.... and the Chief Thief/Blunderbush/Wargasm/Hubris Boy/the Schmuck does it constantly.

And it's being done here. The bottom line, is that Irving Scooter Libby is under indictment for lying under oath, for obstruction of justice, etc. One of more journalists has publically cited Karl Rove as a source outing Ambasssador Wilson's wife as a CIA operative. Testimony from neighbors of the couple cited that the neighbors did not know she worked for the CIA. The coyness about not giving an exact name, is utter sophistry. The identification was unmistakable, there was no "plausible deniability."

If I tell someone to that Teresa Nielsen Hayden's husband is a Tor editor, and works in the Flatiron Building, that is a clear and unambiguous identification, even -withouth- naming Teresa's husband--their being married is public information. Their residence in the same dwelling unit is public information I think. It it not a secret.

Someone claiming that I didn't "reveal" Patrick Nielsen Hayden's identity as a Tor editor because I didn't give his name, that instead I referred to him as Teresa Nielsen Hayden's husband rather than saying, the Tor Editor Patrick Nielsen Hadyen," is an exercise in sophistry. "Teresa Nielsen Hayden's husband" and "Tor editor" narrow down the possibilities to -one- persion, Parick Nielsen Hayden, known spouse of and cohabitant with Teresa Nielsen Hayden for years and years and years.

Getting back to Ambassador Wilson's wife, a member of the White House Team telling a journalist that someone's spouse is a CIA employee, when the person is a public figure and their person's spouse is out in public with them, reveals the person who is the spouse as a CIA employee, is an outing of the CIA employee.

Regarding classified information, the rules that government people are supposed to live by, is that if the information is classified, regardless of whether or not e.g. Aviation Week has published something, or the New York Times has, or the Washington Times, or The National Enquirer, anyone who is not an official speaker to the press of policy stuff speaking officially as a policy speaker, is supposed to keep their mouth shut and not discuss/speculate/elucidate/comment to journalists or anyone else who doesn't "have the need to know."

There were lots of things that showed up in Aviation Week that I wouldn't talk about, because I had the access and need to know and what I knew on the topic was classified and not informnation which I was anyone authorized to "confirm or deny" or otherwise comment on to people beyond those I knew were "cleared" for the information.

Sometimes there were things in Aviation Week that were wrong. Sometime there were things that were accurate. Either way, commenting on them to "uncleared" persons was out of bounds, beyond things like "I can neither confirm or deny" or "No comment" or some indication that this an off-limits topic.

I typed "Valeria Plame Wilson" to have both identifications in there.

Regarding Hillary Rodham Clinton, the eoneocons raised Giant Stink that she went by Hillary Rodham, instead of being a proper wifey-poo who was supposed to live vicariously through her husband's and children's achievements and have a life of domesticity and not profession/career out in public--she was supposed to be in the purdah-equivalent's reflection in Religious US World. Islamic extremists push shari'a and locking the women in purdah and letting them out only swathed head to toe in cloth and with a male guardian monitoring them, and denying them any right or privilege of free speech, of working for pay other than the "wages" of servicing the husband sexually, birthing children, running a household, and being restricted to inside the house unless, again, accompanied by a male guardian.

The beliefs page of e.g. the Southern Baptists (www.sbc.org or some such, and it's on some of the pages on that -large- website, picking on SBC because of their official faith statements' attitudes towards Jews, free speech, gender relations, etc., which intensely offend me (I am a target for their proselyzation activities, regardless of how offended I get by that or how repellant I find it. They disrespect me, I hold them in comtempt for their refusal to accept my lack of attraction and my extreme distaste at their presumptions and attitudes about letting other people live their lives unharassed and proselytizer-free) put women as subservient and supportive and submissive and subordinate and adoring of her Master her husband (welcome to Gor.... except the husband part wasn't relevant. Women=submissives and masochist om Gor, and the former at least is required for SBC faith statements compliance.)

The Southern Baptist Convention tenets point at women belonging inside the house and slaving away in the kitchen, c/l/e/a/n/i/n/g t/h/e b/a/t/h/r/o/o/m b/o/w/l a/f/t/er t/h/e h/u/s/b/a/n/d a/n/d e/a/c/h s/t/r/a/p/p/i/n/g s/o/n h/a/s p/i/s/s/e/d a/l/l o/v/e/r i/t a/n/d s/p/r/a/y/e/d a/l/s/o t/h/e s/u/r/r/o/u/n/d/i/n/g/s [oh, oops, that was merely the -most- offensive and obnoxious of the "Mama keeps the house fresh with the magic of Clorox [wipes]" all of which showed or voice a braindead bimbo Happy Housewife dancing around the Feelthy Area cleaning up the noxious disgusting messes left by the utter inconsiderate lazy ignoramus husband and offspring). Hillary Rodham not only wasn't submissive, she wasn't taking on the vicarious life requirements, she still showed as a careerist woman of financial non-depedence on her husband, and a life outside the kitchen and diapering and laundry and vacuumsi.... Public opinion cause the use=name change, it was social pressure...

#81 ::: Laina ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 09:47 AM:

DHS agents are monitoring your reading habits, and will 'pay you a visit' if you request dangerous literature

There are things in this story that make me doubt its accuracy. We have the professors saying that the student said that these agents told him the book was on a watch list. A professor says that DHS is monitoring InterLibrary Loans, and no one asks the library? A picky point - The UMass Dartmouth LIbrary ILL form does not ask for Social Security Number, it asks for a Student ID #

If DHS were monitoring Interlibrary Loans, which I don't believe they are, I doubt they have the resources to send two agents to talk to someone who wanted to read the official translation of The Little Red Book. I'll be interested to see if there are any follow-ups to this story.

#82 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 10:02 AM:

The only excuse I have for this is that it's an open thread.

I just came away from watching Opera Australia's production of "HMS Pinafore" and "Trial by Jury", and I haven't enjoyed a stage show as much since I saw the RSC's "Midsummer Night's Dream" lo these many years ago.

The voices were splendid, the music spot on (G&S is actually fiendishly difficult, at least in part, but this looked laughably easy) and the acting astonishingly good. Both the leading ladies were solidly constructed women, not waifs or famine victims, but both (apparently) effortlessly portrayed their roles, one ingenue, one femme fatale, with so great an expertise that it survived close ups - and this in a filmed stage show. And the lead tenor - same bloke in both - was a perfect Rafe Rackstraw and an excellent spiv in a shiny suit within minutes of each other.

As Barbara Windsor once remarked, "Its called acting, Syd." Bravo. Sheer exhilaration.

#83 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 11:14 AM:

Liana, student ID #'s are frequently the same as your social security #.

If DHS were monitoring Interlibrary Loans, which I don't believe they are, I doubt they have the resources to send two agents to talk to someone who wanted to read the official translation of The Little Red Book. I'll be interested to see if there are any follow-ups to this story.

I'm not unskeptical, but if you read the article, you'd note that the phone and net conversations with people in the middle east and Chechnya in adition to the book are what the professors allege tripped the scale.

Given how surveylance software systems work, it's feasable that there's some sort of points system that gets you a visit from some DHS agents if you have a certain number of hits for suspicious behavior. This is what programs like Carnivore do as a matter of course.

#84 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 12:29 PM:

The US Government does lots of arbitrary and capricious things, and the last time I was paying attention the NSA had the plurality of the world's computer power, used for among other things capturing, screening, and filtering communications traffic of all sorts of different types to snag "content" of "interest"....

That the US Government has a number of extremely stupid rule and procedures, is a result of two centuries' plus accreted laws, rules, and regulations enacted for reasons that might have been reasonable (depending on one's interpretation of "reasonable" -- the current bankruptcy law has been nicknamed the MBNA Bill by some people, who point out that it appears to have been bought and paid for by the credit card companies with the fattest profit margins who want to make them even fatter by preventing people who are in debt over their heads from being able to get out of it by not paying off credit cards which the credit card companies charge usurous interest rates on and allow the creditors to charge payments for goods far far beyond the income level of the debtor.... the credit card companies's response to someone who is in debt and charging and in negative cash flow territory, is to raise the credit card limit! I was unemployed for great majority of the period April 2002 - the next to the last day of October, 2005, and yet, I got letters from credit cards companies raising my credit card limits.... negative income, and there they were, encouraging me to owe them -more-, at of course interest rates way above what they paid out as interest to anyone one else.... )

when enacted, but with all the social and economic and lifestyles and technology changes and values changes over the years... the rule and laws are far behind all sorts of things. And there are lots of culture and values clashes, with parts of the rule and laws written by special interests to provide them special consideration and screw over their competitors/debtors/people outside of their particular special interest area.

I'm incensed at the propping up of Texas cotton growers-- MY job in 2002 evaporated, no one gave ME any government handouts for existing beyond the Unemployment Payments which came out money contributed from taxes which I had been a contributor to and my employer had contributed to. My job in 1989 evaporated with the end of the Cold War and the booting of hundreds of thousand of defesne industry workers. Nobody gave ME any federal payment beyond Unemployment. So why are there Texas cotton growers getting "income redistribution" from the rest of the country?! Texas gets lots more money contributed to people in Texas from federal coffers than people -in= Texas pay to the Federal Goverment. Masssachusetts gets a lot -less-. Talk about greedy bum "welfare queens," the Red State beneficiaries of Federal "income redistribution:" programs of Big Corporate Farming, of cotton farming, the sugar growers, etc., lead the pack of Federal Gimme Robber Barons.

#85 ::: Laina ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 12:51 PM:

Josh said:
I'm not unskeptical, but if you read the article, you'd note that the phone and net conversations with people in the middle east and Chechnya in adition to the book are what the professors allege tripped the scale.

Josh, My reading of the article was that the professor was the one who made phone calls to the people in the middle east, not the student.

My understanding of the Patriot Act is that DHS can go to a library and demand information about what a specific individual has checked out. (There are reasons why most automated library catalogs can't tell you what you checked out in the past. Once a book is checked in, the most you can usually get is the last person who had it checked out, and that's there in case you discover damage after you've checked it in.)

Library lists have had a lot of discussions about the portion of the Patriot Act that applies to libraries. I don't believe that even the Patriot Act allows DHS to require that libraries report any individual who requests specific books.

#86 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 02:39 PM:

The "Whose church is it anyway?" particle reminds me of the story I just heard on This American Life, about the charismatic evangelical preacher Carlton Pearson, who decided that hell doesn't exist. Unsurprisingly, he became a pariah and went from a congregation of 5000 to a few hundred. Not available on the web yet, but it will be.

#87 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 02:51 PM:

Paula Lieberman: So why is there this big cowflap over Valerie Plame/Valerie Wilson/Valerie Plame Wilson and name designation? Valerie Plame married Ambassador Wilson. By some social conventions that made her Valerie Plame Wilson.

Is there a big cowflap about it? Sorry, I've been avoiding the news lately, because it makes me throw up repeatedly and that's bad for my overall health.

I was just curious because like Ms. Plame, I did the default in the State I was married in and didn't change my name (it was a huge hassle to change it, so whatever; I was already used to spelling my own name for everybody and explaining where it came from and why no, it has nothing to do with my actual ethnicity and all that), and I find that few people acknowledge that my preference in the matter of my own name might have some bearing on it. I know Ms. Rodham had a name change forced on her, and I wondered if everybody had decided that Ms. Plame needed one, too, to make her more worthy of protecting.

There was really no need to go off on a tear about womanhood and all that. I was just curious why you were using the extra name, because in the last couple of weeks I've heard a couple people do that.

#88 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 03:03 PM:

The problem with the rubber sheet metaphor is that it encourages you to think about curved space rather than curved space-time. And it's mostly the curvature having to do with the time part that leads to gravitational force in everyday life. Even for light beams it's half (exactly half) of the story.

#89 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 04:55 PM:

Carlton Pearson also has a website for his "Gospel of Inclusion" theology.

#90 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 05:45 PM:

To whip back to an earlier part of the thread, something that annoyed me (in my childhood, but still) about the question 'How does Santa visit all the children in the world in just one night?' is that, well ...
He doesn't.

Among those countries that are Christian or have substantial Christian populations, and where those populations do celebrate Christmas with gift-giving, many of them open gifts on Days Other Than Christmas: Christmas Eve, Twelfth Night, St Nicholas Day (Dec 6), and probably others.
Then you consider the countries where he subcontracts or contracts out to other traditional characters, like Black Peter or la Befana, and well, Santa's workload gets a lot lighter. Though it would probably be more challenging to map his route.
-Barbara

#91 ::: Kinsley Castle ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 06:12 PM:

"To whip back to an earlier part of the thread, something that annoyed me (in my childhood, but still) about the question 'How does Santa visit all the children in the world in just one night?' is that, well... He doesn't."

I guess it's easy to falsely assume that everyone around the world does things exactly the same. And then you realize that, actually, the majority of the world's population isn't even Christian.

So when you pose the question, "How does Santa visit all those houses on Christmas eve?" the majority of the world's children are going to say, "Who's Santa?"

#92 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 08:22 PM:

And belatedly I see that there has already been a thread on St Nicholas's Day.

A question, since this is an open thread, or rather, a request for advice, please.
I'm on a couple of online writing forum/workshop things. A couple-three people have found my critiques sufficiently helpful or relevant that they have asked me whether they could pay me to review or edit something longer than a workshop sample.
I'm not published and have no credentials whatsoever in the publishing world. I have a fairly sound grasp of grammar and syntax (though my punctuation is not faultless) and I would consider myself, at best, a reasonably attentive and articulate reader.
Do I have any business taking someone's money? If it is a legit business, what would that sort of feedback be worth? (I know one answer is 'Whatever someone is willing to pay', but that's not the helpful answer.)
If there's a standard rate-sheet online somewhere, with a category for clueless newbie freelance editor, could someone point me to it?
A short course on how to do this ethically wouldn't hurt, either.
-Barbara

#93 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 08:56 PM:

To be fair, the above-linked Physics of Santa piece does in fact take into account the reduction of workload represented by the non-Santa-believing portion of the world's population.

#94 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 09:30 PM:

I heard the same NPR program about Carlton Pearson suddenly realizing/discovering that God doesn't make hell, we do... I loved it, and found it frightening at the same time: I really didn't realize that fear of hell was so central to some Christians' worldview.

#95 ::: S. Dawson ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 09:49 PM:

My first response to the St. Margaret of Antioch Particle was:

"Mommy, if I'm really really really good, can I have a pet dragon?"

#96 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 10:13 PM:

Leftovers from Open Thread 55: I wish to convey my very belated thanks to those who found interesting links for my Phrygian cap hunt. I knew you'd be able to help! I'm sorry it took me so long to say thank you.

(What's the blogging equivalent of "mark all read"?)

#97 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 11:31 PM:

Anyone need bulk yardage for pre-stained tablecloths or wardrobe items? I have to assume that these are usually intended for testing laundry detergents and such, because, well, I hate to think of the alternatives.

BAHAHAHAHAHAHA Oh Julie, Thank You! I was doing ok with this until I hit blood, followed by cocoa, followed by wine. Olive oil, tea for high temperature, coffee, tea for low temperature.... the order of this list amuses.

#98 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 11:57 PM:

Greetings from Idiot America

Several weeks ago, I was sitting on an airplane reading that article and I didn't know to cheer (for someone finally telling the truth) or to cry (for the direction my idiot country is heading in).

I had somewhat the same reaction. I'd chuckle, then the realism behind the humor would hit me, and I'd get teary. This combination was repeated several times throughout the piece. I think this is going to haunt me for a long time.

#99 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 12:04 AM:

I myself figured a few neat bits of geometry as a kid, and was slightly annoyed when I found out that everyone had known about them for millenia.

My reaction, on the other hand, was "oh boy! It comes in a SET! And there's MORE!!"

#100 ::: Janet McConnaughey ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 12:34 AM:

Leah Miller:

>I myself figured a few neat bits of geometry as a kid, and was slightly annoyed when I found out that everyone had known about them for millenia.

For me, it was writing a poem in which "the clouds are low" was a refrain. I thought nobody'd ever noticed that phenomenon before. My father told me it was a cliche.

O, the embarrassment.

#101 ::: Mikael Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 06:43 AM:

Peter: Could it possibly be Grand Illusions? I cannot remember where I got the URL from - so it could have been here - but they carry the ball-on-a-string, as well as a very slow-rolling ball (one of this years X-mas gifts!), gaussian guns, an updated enigma from some swiss manufacturer and lots and lots of coolness. :)

#102 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 10:22 AM:

FlyLady sent this out today, and I thought that some people here would find it interesting, because of the discussion of mistletoe in another thread.


It's Christmas time and I wanted to wish you all a wonderful holiday.
I thought I'd merge an age-old tradition with 21st century science and
give you a few words on the healing power of mistletoe…..

Mistletoe or Viscum album as it's known to botanists was first thought
to be part of the pagan holiday of "Hoeul". Used to inspire passion by
those who kissed under its berries; today it may very well save your
life. There are generally two broad classes of mistletoe: an American
version known as Phoradendron and the European mistletoe from the
Viscum album class. Growing about 2-3 feet tall, mistletoe most often
lives as a parasite on tree limbs of host trees such as apple trees,
poplars, willows, lindens, and hawthorns.

It was popularized for its ability to alter blood pressure and
stimulate intestinal movement in the early 20th century. There is
growing evidence that an extract from mistletoe known as Iscador is a
viable anti-cancer agent. Both the American and European versions are
considered toxic. However, after over 250 cases of accidental
exposure, no one has died or had significant symptoms. I wouldn't
recommend eating the stuff, but after it is properly extracted,
Iscador, the active ingredient in Mistletoe, may be an agent your
doctor wants to use if you're fighting cancer. While it is
traditionally used in Europe, it is available here to your doctor if
he so chooses though most are not familiar with it.

In one study published this year comparing over 300 malignant melanoma
patients who received Iscador for 30 months or longer to those who did
not receive Iscador, there was a roughly 25% reduction in metastasis
of their tumor to the brain and a 50% reduction in spread of their
tumors to the lungs. Both groups received standard therapies for their
tumor in addition to Iscador. (1)

In another study published last year (2004), evaluating 1442 patients
roughly half of who received Mistletoe Extract and conventional
therapy for breast cancer versus the other half who received only
conventional therapy alone ( chemotherapy, radiation, etc.) the
incidence of treatment related symptoms like nausea, shortness of
breath etc was lower in the group receiving mistletoe extract than in
the group that did not received it. (2)


Lastly, another study that was not well controlled from a statistical
point of view, but whose results were quite dramatic showed that out
of a group of 396 matched pairs, (one group of patients with a
specific cancer type who received standard cancer therapy "matched" to
another group that received both standard cancer therapy and mistletoe
extract), the average extended length of life was 40% or roughly 4.23
years versus 3.05 years. This is significant and should not be
ignored. The various types of tumors included rectal carcinoma, colon
carcinoma, breast carcinoma with and without metastasis (tumor
spread), stomach carcinoma, and lung cancers. (3)

So what's the bottom line? There is increasing evidence that when
combined with traditional therapies, mistletoe extract may extend life
and lessen side effects associated with cancer and its treatment.
That's good news this Christmas for those of you who might be fighting
this ugly disease.

I hope you enjoy your holiday and take time to love on your family.
Every day is a gift, no matter how far we come with fighting cancer
and other terminal diseases. Don't take those days for granted! Have
a safe, blessed, and prosperous New Year.


To Your Health!


Dr. Neal


References:

1) Augustin M. et al, Safety and Efficacy of the Long-term Adjuvant
Treatment of Primary Intermediate-to High-Risk Malignant Melanoma (
UICC/AJCC Stage II and III) with a Standardized Fermented European
Mistletoe ( viscum album L.) Extract., Drug Research 55, No.1, 38-49,
2005.

2) Bock, PR, et al, Drug Res 54, No8 456-466, 2004.

3) Grossarth-Maticek, R. et al, Use of Iscador, An Extract Of European
Mistletoe, In Cancer Treatment:Prospective Nonrandomized and
randomized Matched-Pair Studies Nested Within a Cohort Study. ,
Alternative Therapy, May/June 2001, Vol7, No.3 pp 57-75.

#103 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 11:56 AM:

All that, and it kills gods too.

#104 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 12:44 PM:

"Out of curiosity, when did Valerie Plame become Valerie Plame Wilson? I've only heard her called that name in the last two weeks, and it reeks of Hillary Rodham turning into Hillary Rodham Clinton."

I don't know when Valerie Plame got identified as such.

I saw Joseph Wilson give a speech on CNN a couple of months ago [wonderful speaker] and he said something to the effect of, "My wife has been Valerie Wilson since we got married, [n] years ago. Some good has come out of the constant misidentification of her as Valerie Plame, though; we got in touch with a branch of the family that we'd lost touch with a long time ago."

And then he went back to ripping the Bush administration seven new holes. Which -I speak as a citizen of America, here- they deserved.

#105 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 12:53 PM:

And what I originally meant to post:

I thought I asked this, but apparently not:

What was the correct name for Mithras's holiday celebration? I'm guessing "Mithrasmas" is Right Out.

#106 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 07:06 PM:
What was the correct name for Mithras's holiday celebration?

I believe that it is something like "Dies Natalis Sol Invictus", or in English "Birthday of the Unconqerable Sun".

But I could look it up.

OK, I was close:


Dies Natalis Solis Invicti

#107 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 07:16 PM:

What was the correct name for Mithras's holiday celebration?

I suspect it depended who you were (and what language you spoke), but the Romans would probably have called it Mithraea. Although I don't think there is actually any record of there being a special day set aside as his birthday. Someone may be able to correct me on this. I frequently abandon books and chapters which talk about Mithras because so much of it is pure speculation based on fundamentally unhelpful sources. As far as I know, no-one wrote any of it down.

Shameless self-promotion: there is a partial calendar of Roman festivals here, which I co-wrote. It doesn't cover everything, and the explanations are quite short and incomplete - but it *is* aimed at 12-year-olds. But I can vouch for the amount of sheer bloody research it took to sort it all out. Especially for festivals after July, when Ovid's Fasti peters out.

There are other calendars around on the internet with more details. This one is quite nice.

#108 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 07:19 PM:

Maybe the Republicans in Congress -- naah. Can't count on them. (The rest of that was going to read -- will remember that this is a republic, not a monarchy, and that they have some responsibility for it. Clearly I'm out of my mind.)

Every time I think it can't get any worse, it gets worse. But we owe a big THANK YOU to the NYT, even though we can also be mad as hell at them for sitting on the story for a year.

#109 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 07:27 PM:

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti

Well, only if you identify Mithras with Sol, which I think is difficult to justify. It's true that Mithras was associated with the sun, but also with the horoscope, and I suspect also with any other source of power or knowledge you might care to name. Aurelian's adoption of Sol Invictus didn't need any help from Mithras (and was largely a symbolic matter anyway).

The wikipedia article on Mithras is not bad, actually, except for describing Pelagianism as a gnostic cult. But fundamentally, everyone since Cumont has been guessing on the basis of a few inscriptions, a few references to mystery rites, and a bunch of paintings in cellars. We can say for sure that it may possibly have involved bulls in some capacity. And there was maybe some link to astrology.

Sorry, back on my pet subject again.

#110 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 08:31 PM:

I saw Joseph Wilson give a speech on CNN a couple of months ago [wonderful speaker] and he said something to the effect of, "My wife has been Valerie Wilson since we got married, [n] years ago. Some good has come out of the constant misidentification of her as Valerie Plame, though; we got in touch with a branch of the family that we'd lost touch with a long time ago."

Even more curious, because every news report I read that mentioned her called her Valerie Plame until only a couple of weeks ago, then a few started with the "Valerie Plame Wilson" business.

Well, Wikipedia had a footnote that explained it: she uses both names, Plame professionally and Wilson (mostly) socially, but Wilson is her legal last name. I guess it makes sense for a CIA agent to play fast and loose with the aliases.

#111 ::: Paula Kate ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 09:35 PM:

Perfect for TNH: a facsimile of part of Holinshed's Chronicles with 16th century proofreaders marks discussed.

"Holinshed's Chronicles contains one of the few accounts of Elizabeth's reign written during her lifetime. A contemporary history, it was subjected to censorship by the Privy Council. This facsimile edition, a compilation based on this portion of the Chronicles in copies in the Huntington's collection as well as the British Library and Cambridge University Library, documents the censorship and demonstrates that it occurred in three stages.

"The Chronicles, a scrupulously produced monument to Elizabeth, is also a rich source for the study of printing practices. The base text chosen by the editors, an unusual copy in the Huntington Library, contains the largest sample of proofmarkings that survive from the sixteenth century. The proofmarkings are examined in light of contemporary printing-house practices and in relation to other copies of the work in libraries around the world."

Only $325 from the Huntington Library Press.

#112 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 10:10 PM:

And now the announcement that an author has actually taken PA to arbitration. An account can be read at http://www.publishamericasucks.com/arb.html

#113 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 11:41 PM:

I thought I saw it start to seep in after Joe Wilson's speech, wherein he gently corrected Every Reporter In America. It might be a "You see what you're looking for" thing, though.

#114 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 11:50 PM:

Sorry I haven't been around much. I'm trying to finish something I'm writing for John Scalzi.

You see a lot of strange stuff on the Web, but I thought the Islamic swimwear I particle'd today -- just another odd thing I ran across -- was as weird as anything I've seen this year.

What did it for me was that perfectly appalled moment when I realized that their first swimsuit -- the one that's a matching set of heavy tights, long-sleeved turtleneck sweater, and balaclava, worn under a striped sundress -- is the racy, daringly abbreviated option. They even apologize for it: "Jelbab.com doesn't claim any Fatwa for using this suit; please use your own judgment."

The other suits look like foul-weather gear or HAZMAT protective suits. The descriptions are all at pains to say that they're made water-resistant materials. Their like has not been seen since the Victorians decided they didn't actually need whalebone stays in their bathing costumes.

#115 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 12:41 AM:

Re: the Islamic swimsuits - All of the models have the same "lack of fatwa" disclaimer. I read it as meaning that the entire idea of women swimming where they might be seen by men is slightly scandalous.

I used to work with a woman who converted to Islam. She told me that when there were guaranteed to be no men around, women don't wear all that, and have a wonderful time.

I don't mean that sexually. She said that there is always a concern about men in the back of our minds, and that she hadn't realized until she didn't have to worry about it how pervasive it was. She also said that the full Islamic robes are wonderfully freeing. She could go about her daily errands without worrying about how she looked, about how stylish or expensive or not her clothes were, etc. She also said that in Cairo, where there are subway cars reserved for women travelling alone, she felt safer than she has ever felt in a large American city. She specifically mentioned going to the swimming baths and not having a care in the world as a wonderful reason to convert to Islam.

I thought it was odd, but interesting.

#116 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 01:32 AM:

Matt Austern occasionally posts here. He's probably too busy just now to put a notice, so I'll do it: Alice Rebecca Lafler-Austern has entered the world.

#117 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 02:38 AM:

For them that's interested in online discussion of PublishAmerica: Neil Gaiman replies with characteristic courtesy here to someone asking for advice on how to promote her PA fantasy novel. You have to scroll down a little.

#118 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 03:32 AM:

The no-fatwa disclaimer read to me as the site saying they hadn't had the suits checked out by an imam or anything, and weren't claiming they conformed to any specific set of rules for bathing garments. So if a buyer is looking for something that has been gauranteed in that way, she should keep looking.

But yeah, 'water-resistant'? How comfortable is that? Though one was reassuringly printed all over with a giant floral motif. What's a line of swimwear without honking big flowers somewhere?

#119 ::: Sigrid Ellis ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 07:23 AM:

I heard this morning driving home from work that the transit strike in New York City is a go. You who live there most certainly know that already. :) Good luck and best wishes to everyone who has to get into, out of, or around the New York metro in the near future.

#120 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 07:33 AM:

I've seen Muslim women wearing swimming costumes like that in Malaysia.

Scuba-diving.

So you put on tights, ankle-length robe, headscarf, weight belt, BC, tank, knife, mask, snorkel, dive computer and fins, and then you try to swim. They weren't moving very fast, but they did look quite graceful - like some sort of strange alien plant.

#121 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 07:57 AM:

Quoth Teresa:
The other suits look like foul-weather gear or HAZMAT protective suits. The descriptions are all at pains to say that they're made water-resistant materials. Their like has not been seen since the Victorians decided they didn't actually need whalebone stays in their bathing costumes.

Hey, some of us still swim in those! I have a perfectly nice bathing outfit - calf-length dress, bloomers, stockings, shoes, and adorable hat. And I swim in the ocean in it once a year, as do many other eccentric people. We get a lot of tourist attention when we do this at a public beach.

Ours aren't waterproof - wool or cotton, usually, depending on one's level of dedication/insanity. Once the whole suit is wet, it isn't difficult to swim in. Coming out of the water, though, the whole thing is extremely heavy (especially the wool ones.) You have to make sure to get the salt out afterwards, too, or when it dries it will leave salt all over everything.

In 2003, a set of us got together in the ocean off Newport for tea and then bathed and swam through a couple of quadrille figures. There are a few pictures from that event starting here (hit the forward arrow to scroll through the set), though most seem to be have been taken before we all got soggy and less photogenic. No good shots of me, but I think I'm in the water in the background on one.

Next time we need to bring lobsters.

#122 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 08:22 AM:

Dave Luckett:
I just came away from watching Opera Australia's production of "HMS Pinafore" and "Trial by Jury",

Oh, I saw that one when it was in Melbourne! It was brilliant. I meant to do a write-up of it on my LJ, but I never got around to it, and I don't know where I put the notes. They made good theatrical sense of the overture, too, which almost never happens.

Josephine was arch, as opposed to a complete idiot, which was nice. And the Bosun had a more important role than I remembered. Corcoran and Ralph were great too.

And the orchestra was good - I remember seeing OA (back when it was AO and OV) productions of G&S where the orchestra seemed to fall down and get sloppy just because it was comic opera.

That was the first time I'd seen HMS Pinafore *since* reading any of the Aubrey/Maturin books. They improved it. I kept substituting Aubrey in for Captain Corcoran in my mind.

#123 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 04:12 PM:

Contra the Islamic swimsuits, this beautiful set of underwater photos (NSFW, if nudity is NSFW for you) (via)

#124 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 04:17 PM:

Judges 2, Idiots 0

As you probably heard, the judge in Dover has permanently enjoined the school district from prescribing the teaching of ID in science classes. And that's the least of the goodness there.

And a judge in Brooklyn has held TWU Local 100 in contempt of court and fined them $1m/day. Go, judge! (Not that the MTA is a set of angels, but the TWU has been blustering and bullying and set themselves up for a fall, and here it is. Now end the strike, and sit down so BOTH sides can negotiate in good faith, which neither has, fully, yet.)

#125 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 06:45 PM:

"Strike strands millions of riders."

Wowsers. Definitely getting some muck boots if I visit New York anytime soon.


#126 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 06:48 PM:

Well, the decision in the Dover case has cheered me up. Although from the account of the trial in the New Yorker, it always seemed likely to end up that way. Presumably there will now be appeals, though.

I was in Cairo once, and I found I had enough money left over at the end to spend a day at the pool of the Marriott hotel (having never stepped inside a five-star hotel in my life, I found this quite an exciting prospect). I had to buy a swimming costume in Heliopolis first, but luckily I'm male and it wasn't a problem.

But I remember a mixed group of Egyptians arriving, the girls in full Islamic wear; who then proceeded to change clothes and swim in entirely westernised costumes (and seemed to enjoy themselves too). When done, of course, they dressed up soberly again and went back out into the streets. I don't want it to seem like I had any prurient interest, or that I'm falling victim to any ideas about the exoticism of the middle east or anything. It just struck me for some reason. I can't quite articulate it even now.

No doubt certain imams would not have approved. They would have approved even less of the afternoon I spent in the al-Azhar mosque, where I found myself explaining to two Egyptian law students that I had come to Cairo to look at the Coptic churches. Of course, I then had to explain large chunks of Christian history. In a mosque, attached to the university. This was all slightly disconcerting, although I suppose reassuring too.

Everyone was pleasant enough, as you might expect. There wasn't a war on at the time, though.

#127 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 08:01 PM:

At the top of the thread there was a link to Eric Raymond's writing, which no one has responded to so far.

I find him ranging from the brilliant to the not-worthwhile. Sometimes incredibly creative and insightful and sometimes arch-libertarian goofy.

#128 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 08:31 PM:

Erik, if you like ESR, perhaps you'd be interested in reading
something I wrote.


#129 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 08:56 PM:

If anyone here is a fan of Digby, he/she has an urgent request.

#130 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 12:04 AM:

As you probably heard, the judge in Dover has permanently enjoined the school district from prescribing the teaching of ID in science classes. And that's the least of the goodness there.

Oh my, yes. I followed Neil's link to skim the text of the decision; it's remarkable how many times he uses the word "lie" in connection with the defendants, including two variations of "outright lie[ing] under oath", along with other vigorous phrases and a direct attack on the slanderous term "activist judge". It's even making me dream about perjury trials, although Pennsylvania probably won't bother; as has been noted in discussing Scooter Libby and the Plame case, perjury is very difficult to prove, and the testimony of the fundamentalists on the Dover school board isn't a national security matter in and of itself.

#131 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 12:55 AM:

I have just discovered (the story is long and not interesting) that, three years ago, Alex Cox filmed The Revenger's Tragedy with Christopher Eccleston, Derek Jacobi, and -- wait for it -- Eddie Izzard (as Lussurioso, the bad Duke's equally bad heir). It's set in contemporary, run-down Liverpool, and the reviews range from Pretty Good to Alackaday For a Ha'porth o' Popped Corn. But it is out on DVD, so i may have to do some shopping. Along with doing some shopping.

#132 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 03:25 AM:

Well, the decision in the Dover case has cheered me up. Although from the account of the trial in the New Yorker, it always seemed likely to end up that way. Presumably there will now be appeals, though.

I don't know that there will be. My understanding is that the only people with standing to appeal are the school board. However, the school board now is not the school board then, what with the intervening election and all.

#133 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 04:35 AM:

I read the learned judge's opinion, judgement and judicial orders with pleasure and, in retrospect, increasing awe. Though the effect takes time to build, it is time enjoyably well spent. Judge Jones should consider writing professionally. In other fields, I mean.

It would be beyond my own skills to so coolly and lucidly demolish so dishonest a proposition while giving only the faintest and most subtle shading of righteous anger. Confronted with the transparent mendacity and blatant hypocrisy of the defendents to this action, I would be hard-pressed to remain calm. My prose would reflect my outrage, or in my effort to control the latter, would become bloodless, stilted and pedantic.

His Honor avoids both pitfalls. He writes with cold, deliberate dispassion, but time and again his direct, vigorous language strikes home. I especially recommend the last section before his orders, where he reviews the actions of the Dover School Board and its creationist members. It is utterly devastating. Overwhelming. Crushing.

#134 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 08:52 AM:

To make the Dover School Board decision even more special, Judge Jones is a Republican, or so I'm told.

To change the subject entirely and completely, my change from the drinks machine yesterday included a West Virginia quarter, which is new and shiny and very pretty. Can the West Virginians here comment on whether the scene is depicted correctly? The US Mint has altered a lot of local geography on these quarters, in the interests of "better coin design" (sic).

#135 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 10:04 AM:

It's pretty good. In fact if you look here: http://www.rifrafters.com/about.html you can see that the quarter matches the shot pretty closely.

Here's the official website: http://www.nps.gov/neri/bridge.htm

If you're interested, and nearby, you can go to Bridge Day. Oct 21st next year.

#136 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 10:11 AM:

I liked this part of the decision:

In fact, one unfortunate theme in this case is the striking ignorance concerning the concept of [Intelligent Design] amongst [School] Board members. Conspicuously, Board members who voted for the curriculum change testified at trial that they had utterly no grasp of ID.

(including one board member who referred to it as "intelligence design" in her testimony.)

#137 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 11:28 AM:

Thanks, Michelle--I think this may be one of my favorites, right up there with the Rhode Island quarter, but I like looking at bridges.

#138 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 11:35 AM:

So far I've found one flaw in the judge's opinion. He misspelled 'kindergarten'.

Otherwise...so far it's just an absolute delight. I'm going to finish it later, but I'm really enjoying this. It's as satisfying, in its way, as Sunday's Doonesbury.

It'll be called Kitzmiller, right?

#139 ::: Sarah G. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 08:12 PM:

Open thread, open question: Has anyone here gotten the Serenity DVD yet? I have to wait until Christmas for mine, as it was on my list.

So... deleted scenes? Special features? Go ahead and tease me with the possibilities, it's only four days till I have mine!

#140 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 08:57 PM:

Wait till Christmas.

(I'm doing it.)

#141 ::: Harriet ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 08:59 PM:

Xopher -

one other tiny flaw: on page 10, where the judge describes the Defendants' objection to use of the Endorsement test on the grounds that it should refer only to such limited Establishment Clause cases as

"...an overtly religious group or organization using government facilities, the provision of public funding or government resources to overly religious groups engaged in religious activity, or the permission of an overtly religious practice.
[emphasis added]

.

#142 ::: Harriet ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 09:02 PM:

Oops! Either one too many or one too few " marks.
Good think I don't proofread for a living. :-)

#143 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 11:07 PM:

I dunno, Harriet...'overly' seems to make sense in that context!!!

#144 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 02:11 AM:

If one believes what Steve Gilliard is saying, there's something like 55% support for the TWU in this transit strike (so far). What say the New Yorkers on the ground there?

#145 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 04:59 AM:

fidelio,

The judge is a conservative Republican and a Bush appointee.

I am as impressed by the ruling as an affirmation of science as I am by its affirmation of the law. I hope the students affected get a chance to read its lucid definitions of both.

#146 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 08:44 AM:

I think it's not a coincidence that the ruling is written in language that any reasonably intelligent high school student can understand.

#147 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 08:57 AM:

We have GOT to do a better job in conveying to the school-age population the distinguishing characteristics of science (empirical, testable, refutable) and teaching them to apply that knowledge in the "real world".

As my husband so sagely pointed out: the theory of evolution is testable, refutable, and predictive. It has led to a huge amount of practical, useful knowledge (e.g. an understanding of the development of drug resistance in bacteria, and how we might combat it).

ID doesn't show much promise as a useful replacement.

#148 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 11:00 AM:

I bought the Serenity DVD on Tuesday (first time I've ever bought something the day it was released). The extras are limited but worthwhile, especially one of the deleted scenes when Mal and Inara are escaping in the shuttle.

#150 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 11:33 AM:

Ah, Mal and Inara.

"Did you see us fight even once? Trap."

#151 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 01:12 PM:

This New Yorker supports the TWU--the MTA didn't bargain in good faith, and it seems likely that they violated the Taylor Law (by trying to insist on the pension changes) before the union did.

I'm glad that I can work at home through this, and that I live in walking distance of my drugstore and an acceptable supermarket. At the same time, seeing the railroad trains across the river is reassuring--trains are good.

#152 ::: Mike ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 01:52 PM:

Not sure if this was a good idea, but I volunteered to host the last Carnival of the Vanities of the year. Instead of asking webloggers to submit links to entries from this week, I'm asking them to submit their best short entries and excerpts from entries from all 2005.

No one seems to be paying attention, and I'm still getting links to long entries from self-described-libertarians named "bulldog." Can the webloggers here please review your favorite entries from the year for me? Imagine the shake-up of an entry of just your William Carlos Williams parodies.

Thanks.

#153 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 03:21 PM:

open thread topic

Lawsuit may put the crimp on civilian companies hiring themselves out as corporate mercenaries to do the Pentagon's dirty work.

yahoo story here

#154 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 03:25 PM:

I read through the whole decision yesterday evening, pointing out some choice bits to my wife and daughter. It was quite a joy.

It will prove very important that he deliberately chose to rule specifically that "Intelligent Design" is not science, based on the evidence and legal testimony presented. While that is not binding as precedent in other jurisdictions, this means that when similar cases come up in other jurisdictions (and you can be sure they will) the judges in those cases should be able to reference his decision on the matter, rather than having to waste their resources deciding that issue all over again.

BTW, I found the analysis of the history of the "Pandas" textbook particularly and enjoyably damning. I think most of us knew that ID was just a code word for creationism. However, learning that after the Supreme Court ruled that you can't teach "creation science" as science, the draft of the textbook literally had every instance of "creation science" changed to "intelligent design theory" via search-and-replace... well, that was just too choice for words.

#155 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 05:40 PM:

AAAAAAaaahhhhh!

And they LIVE IN PORTLAND!

http://rickandsidney.com/

Please gimme a woodchipper for Christmas santa!

#156 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 07:34 PM:

Linkmeister: Neither side bargained in good faith. The strike was illegal. Toussaint grandstanded and then caved when it appeared he'd actually have to do time. Unfortunately, it appears the MTA will be caving on the issues of pension and healthcare and retirement age. (I would maintain retirement at 55 for union members whose work was on the tracks for 2/3 of their time in, and raise it to 62, as it is in the real world, for the remainder.)

If I had to award points for sympathy from my corner, I'd score it MTA: 40, TWU: 10, commuters: 50.

(Disclaimer: I work weekend overnights and so was not affected in the slightest, workwise. Likewise, my better half got to telecommute this week. All of which was fortunate because we and our kids were all sick as dogs all week.)

#157 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 08:11 PM:

I have a friend who is making beautiful polyclay dragonlings. Here's one I bought & made up.

#158 ::: gaukler ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 08:29 PM:

The Muldoon joke on the Fish Eaters page goes back a bit. There is a a 14th century version in the Fasciculus Morum, a sermon manual:
When [the vicar] was censured by his bishop for giving burial to his ass, he answered: "Dear lord, do you not know how much my ass has left for you in his will?" As the bishop replied, "No," the vicar said: "Forty shillings, to be sure." At which the bishop answered: "May he rest in peace!"

#159 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 09:07 PM:

"I have a friend who is making beautiful polyclay dragonlings. Here's one I bought & made up."

That's polyclay? It looks like silver-and it's beautiful!

#160 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 02:53 AM:

So far I've found one flaw in the judge's opinion.

I spent my week grading student papers and then turned to reading the Dover decision. (It's great, and I only wish there were some way of making it apply to whatever the creationists will come up with next. It should at least put paid to any form of creationism as science.)

Anyway, the result is that I kept a tally of the writing errors. I missed 'kindergarten', but in addition to 'overly' there is 'must less' (53) and, fantastically, 'Secretary' for 'Secretory' (76 - giving the impression that there exists at least one bacterial flagellum with its own support staff). Also three missing commas which make sentences unhelpfully ambiguous (19, after 'Christian Fundamentalism'; 80, after 'must have been designed'; 86, after 'design theory'). Plus the ungrammatical 'cannot ... be able to explain them tomorrow' (72) and a badly constructed sentence at the bottom of page 70.

Sorry, I can't seem to turn off the proofreading bit of my mind. I even had to stop reading Jared Diamond's 'Collapse' the other day because of the spelling error on the first page ('teaming' for 'teeming'). Pedants Anonymous indeed.

But what I wanted to ask the people here on ML was: what exactly do you think Michael Behe meant when he apparently claimed that "the inference [from complexity to a designer] still works in science fiction movies"? The judge, reasonably enough, seems to have regarded this as simply stupid. But I can't see at all what Behe meant.

Perhaps someone should make a movie of John Sladek's "The Reproductive System".

#161 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 09:04 AM:

Gaukler, my dad once told me the following joke:

Q: When a rooster wakes up in the morning, why does it stand on one leg?
A: Because if it picked up the other leg, it would fall down.

I subsequently found the same joke in the "Laughable Stories" of Mar Gregory John Bar-Hebraeus, head of the Jacobite Church in Syria in the late 1200s.

(A quick search just informed me that Gorgias Press published an edition of the book in 2004! So it's back in print. E.A. Wallis Budge did the translation.)

#162 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 10:06 AM:

"The inference ... still works in science fiction movies"

I think that reflects Behe's inability to separate sci-fi logic from real-world logic. i.e. Behe is saying that if it worked in the movies, it must be true.

I believe "Contact" is one movie that ID folks say shows their argument. If you sit and listen to radio waves from space, how do you know if you're listening to the results of completely mechanistic stellar events (stars emitting periodic radio noise) or if it is Gluflnor from planet Buuz trying to say "Hi"?

The argument is that there is some sort of science to detecting whether there is intelligence behind a radio signal or not. That analogy is then extended to argue that there is some sort of science to detect whether there is some sort of intelligence behind the existence of life on earth.

That's what I think they're arguing anyway. Not that I buy any of it. But I know "Contact" is cited by ID people a lot. So maybe that's what Behe was referring to.


#163 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 12:43 PM:

they could have done the joke different by emphasising the why on standing up, and not the why on standing on one leg.

bawdy joke follows:

Q: When a rooster wakes up in the morning, why does it stand on one leg?
A: because one should always get a cock up in the morning.

#164 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 12:46 PM:

'That analogy is then extended to argue that there is some sort of science to detect whether there is some sort of intelligence behind the existence of life on earth.'

if we find something like the theorems of euclidean geometry encoded in our genes I am going to start believing in intelligent design.

#165 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 02:23 PM:

Melissa, yes, I have some friends who are real artists with polyclay. However, the link up there is to my friend Cat (I have tons of her sculptural pendants & cabs). The dragonlings are made by Celia.

#166 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 03:20 PM:

Greg London: But I know "Contact" is cited by ID people a lot.

If this is indeed the case then Carl Sagan is spinning in his grave fast enough to affect local spacetime.

#167 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 05:13 PM:

Polyclay is the most amazing stuff. I made a model of the main character of my first novel out of it once.

But I've never done anything close to that good!

#168 ::: Kinsley Castle ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 06:09 PM:

"if we find something like the theorems of euclidean geometry encoded in our genes I am going to start believing in intelligent design."

Actually, I'd consider that to be unintelligent design. You'd be encoding something in the genetic material that serves no direct purpose, as far as the organism is concerned.

It would also imply that Euclid was God.

#169 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 08:41 PM:

"It would also imply that Euclid was God."

Not quite-discovering or describing something isn't the same as creating it.

#170 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2005, 10:45 AM:

"Not quite-discovering or describing something isn't the same as creating it."
nor is it the same as using a bunch of mathematical theorems to prove an intelligent communication as opposed to random noise.

#171 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2005, 11:39 AM:

E.A. Wallis Budge did the translation.

AAArrrrgghhh! He's an awful incompetent idiot! He just puts in whatever he thinks ought to be there, leaves out anything he thinks shouldn't, and gets a lot of things outright wrong!

Now maybe this translation doesn't suffer from the same criminal negligence as his "translations" of Middle Egyptian texts. But there's a reason why all modern Egyptologists ridicule Budge.

#172 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2005, 12:12 PM:

A question for the Making Light Brain Trust:

Does there exist a bibliography of science fiction about mercenaries? (Yes, military sf is sort of a code word for sf about mercenaries, but still some of it isn't.) Failing that, where are the best bibliographies of military sf?

In SF, what is the history of the Good Mercenary?

#173 ::: S. Dawson ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2005, 12:27 PM:

What, no Christmas game this year?

#174 ::: Tim May ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2005, 03:24 PM:

Lila:I subsequently found the same joke in the "Laughable Stories" of Mar Gregory John Bar-Hebraeus, head of the Jacobite Church in Syria in the late 1200s.

Translations (by an amateur) of selected passages are online here, with a transcription of the original. The translator* included some interesting commentary, but unfortunately chose to put it in inline images which were not picked up by the Internet Archive, and now his original site is gone they're no longer accessible.

* Now dead, I believe. In fact, looking around, it seems that he had died even before I found his site a couple of years ago, which is rather eerie.

#175 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2005, 08:49 PM:

OK, you all may know about this. If not, I feel certain it will delight the hearts of several people here.

#176 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2005, 09:24 PM:

Xopher: Lovely. Thanks.

#177 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2005, 06:39 PM:

The Vatican is apparently (per the NY Times) considering consigning limbo to, well, limbo.

#178 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2005, 08:04 PM:

...and, natch, somebody's already claimed vacant possession and sold it on eBay.

#179 ::: jhlipton ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2005, 10:10 PM:

I just received an e-mail from Jan Schneider (running for Congress in Florida's 13th Congressional District). I had thought her a typical "take no chances" Democrat, but her letter convinced me to contribute, and I am spreading the word.

She sounds like the anti-Hilary we need in Congress, and I hope she wins.

Jan Schnieder for Congress

#180 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2005, 11:01 PM:

Paul A: As-is, I presume? (How they can guarantee anything about it, including title, is beyond me. It probably involves angels and pins....)

#181 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2005, 11:31 PM:

Relating to nothing in particular, I just ran across the title of this blog in this evening's bedtime story... We're reading Kate DiCamillo's The Tale of Desperaux; our hero, a mouse, has at the end of Book the First, been spared a gruesome fate. Why? His ability to tell stories: stories are light, and he can 'make light' in the depths of a foul dungeon.

I highly recommend it - it's fun stuff, with a great, faux 18th century-ish narrative voice, complete with theatric asides to the 'dear reader'. Great use of language, too: the vocabulary is complex, but DiCamillo also takes the time to briefly explain the hardest of words. "Perfidy", for instance. When was the last time you ran across that in a children's book?

#182 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 02:31 AM:

So I was musing on Jane Austen and alliterative titles, and the following popped into my head:
Pride and Prejudice
Sense and Sensibility
North by Northwest

#183 ::: jhlipton ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 03:12 AM:

"It is a well-known fact that when one is well-dressed, if a triffle scruffulous from shaving with a too-small blade, in the middle of a cornfield, one will be beset by a cantakerous bi-plane. Should this occur, as any follower of fashion must know, the only course is to head for the nearest oil tanker."

#184 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 11:48 AM:

I can't find where this was discussed before, so I'll put the follow-up here:

The university student who reported that his interlibrary loan of a Mao book led to a visit from the Feds has recanted.

--Mary Aileen

#185 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 03:53 PM:

This is a request for kindness. I have a 12 year old friend who has become an enthusiatic comic creator. Every day for the last year he has drawn a strip, inspired by Peanuts but distinctively his own. In a rash moment I offered to put them up on the web so his relatives in farflung lands could see them every day. And I have come good on the offer, starting on 23 December, the anniversary of his actual first strip. But after three days' worth of the strip had gone up, I came away from home and the plans I had made for the strips to go up each day of my absence have come unstuck. As my young friend has Aspergers Syndrome and consequently a very low theshold for frustration, this has given rise to huge emotional turmoil.

If anyone feels so inclined, do go and visit what there is of the strip so far, here and if you see anything you like leave a comment saying so. This will not only be encouraging an artist in the making, it will bring a degree of peace to his ultra-harassed mother (whom I suspect to be the author of the anonymous comments posted so far).

#186 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 11:24 PM:

Re: "the world's flags given letter grades" Sidelight

Contrasting Papa New Guinea and Singapore, one discovers that one can get away with five stars only if the fifth star is very, very small. Unless you are Comoros. Poor Comoros!

His grading criteria seem a trifle uneven. Norway, with a primarily light blue and yellow flag gets a "Bad colours" notation, but Barbados, with a flag with nearly identical colours, gets a "Good colours" notation. And is it just me, or is the grader's colour sense totally off the map generally speaking? Last I checked, red and green went together quite well, and light green and yellow did not.

I suppose I nitpick.

#187 ::: Shawn Bilodeau ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2005, 12:11 AM:

Heresiarch -- if you nitpick, then I do, as well. Several of the flags he graded as "Bad Colours" I'd be quite happy to hang on the walls of my office. [Said office having roughly four or five examples of every color in the rainbow in it, and a few that never got near the rainbow.]

Admittedly, I have an unusual sense of color -- it looks just fine to me that a) my right sneaker has a neon orange lace and b) my left sneaker has a neon yellow lace.

#188 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2005, 12:37 AM:

Shawn:

Neon orange and neon yellow, you say...? Hm.

Enemy of an enemy and all that, I suppose. Welcome to the team.

#189 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2005, 04:11 AM:

It would appear that the person assessing national flags has a thing for deep primary colours, bilateral symmetry and single stripes. He or she would also seem to be ignorant of the facts and the importance of history, and thinks of flags as if they were items of decor. Meh.

#190 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2005, 09:05 AM:

Mmmm . . . Tolkien on Elf sex. Made my day.

#191 ::: Shawn Bilodeau ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2005, 01:14 PM:

Heresiarch:

Neon orange and neon yellow, you say...? Hm.
Yes, yellow. You see, there's an "r" in orange and an "l" in yellow... ;) Of course, the orange lace is in the left sneaker, and the yellow lace is in the right one. :D Then there's the pair of sneakers I keep at the office -- the right one has the neon orange lace and the left one has a hot pink lace, both of which look quite wonderful against the navy blue and dark gray of the sneakers themselves.

Enemy of an enemy and all that, I suppose. Welcome to the team.
A team? Oh boy! Do we have uniforms? If not, can I design the color scheme? ;D

#192 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2005, 01:47 PM:

He does seem in a few cases to give very similar colour schemes good colour and bad colour designations - and he is right that the exact shades of yellow and green, or of red and green, do matter (in the examples you link to, the second looks better to me in those exact shades than the first, but adjust either just a little way, and I'd change my mind)

The one I wonder about is why particularly long, thin flags get knocked for "Shape". They don't seem any worse a shape than the slightly more square ones.

Dave Luckett: Yes, some sense of history is lost, but you must admit, there is an argument to be made for fewer deeply confusing tricoloured bar flags (Horizontal or vertical), whether or not they wer created based on a history of ownership. One thing flags are meant for is easy identification at a distance.

Personally, I liked the comment that the maple leaf in Canada should somehow be *more* stylized.

#193 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2005, 03:32 PM:

Shawn: A team? Oh boy! Do we have uniforms? If not, can I design the color scheme? ;D

Why would you need a uniform? You have your shoelaces for easy identification at a distance.

My criteria for flags always went something like: Can a kindergartener draw a recognizable version of it?, Does it look good when done really small next to the names of Olympic athletes?, and Would I be embarassed if this flag represented my nation to the world? See, I always had a rather high opinion of Brazil's flag, because I had only ever seen it drawn very, very small and I thought the starscape thingie in the middle was just a blue circle. Now that I know, it violates criteria one, and, sadly, criteria three.

#194 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2005, 04:10 PM:

The Space Show has started the Deep Space Communications Project, which gives one person every other month the chance to have a message beamed out into deep space. Sam Dinkins of Transterestrial Musings was the first winner with this entry:

We taste terrible.

Sam apparently has a great combination of a) having seen all the same movies I have; and b) having his resulting priorities in good order.

#195 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2005, 08:51 PM:

Lenora: You may be right about tricolours. I would agree that many seem to be tenuously connected to the nations they represent, and insufficiently distinctive.

But a country's flag is not only an abstract pattern, no matter how pleasing or otherwise. Criticising it as if it were is profoundly wrong-headed, and at bottom presumptuous.

#196 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 01:42 AM:

Dave Luckett: Something similar could be said about art in general, and yet people criticize art on any damn grounds they please. That it has meaning besides pure aesthetics is not, to my mind, a defense. How successfully it communicates that meaning is also rather important.

#197 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 01:54 AM:

Somebody shoot me...I've just found Cute Overload. If "Kitten War" was teh crack, this is clear-quill thionite.

#198 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 06:23 AM:

Heresiarch: This is a wonderful example of how two minds may reach the same conclusion by different routes. A national flag does indeed communicate meaning, and how successfully it does that is of course the most important thing about it. Therefore, I would have thought that criticising flags as if their purpose were purely aesthetic or decorative is wrong-headed; but that is what this site is doing.

#199 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 09:50 AM:

For the Making Lights list of Links (far too many Ls in that opening!), Anna Tambour now has a blog as well as a more general website. Go to http://medlarcomfits.blogspot.com/,

#200 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 05:06 PM:

It ain't over 'til it's over dept.:
Tropical Storm Zeta Forms in Atlantic

Let's see now: alpha, beta, gamma, delta, epsilon, zeta ....

#201 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 08:54 PM:

Cute Overload has destroyed my mind adorably. Though it does make me happy to think that among all the less savory activities the internet has enabled, it has also given people the ability to share cute pictures 'round the world.

#202 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 10:43 AM:

My latest Mondegreen: "Peroxide blonde in a hot tub on the floor."

(Really "Peroxide blonde in a hopped-up Model Ford.")

#203 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 10:51 AM:

A pair of ox-hides not rubbed on the floor?

#204 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 11:46 AM:

So I have a new project. I composed a letter demanding impeachment, and I'm sending it to every rep and senator whose email contacts work (so far, just over half of them work).

Text of the letter is here.

What would happen if everybody who felt the same did the same?

#205 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 12:16 PM:

And, on a side note about gerrymandering: my town is so gerrymandered that my zip code, which covers half on my smallish home town and a little bit on the edge, is split between two Representative districts.

This happened on the Democrats' watch, but I think there must have been some back-room deal-mongering, because when they split up Santa Cruz County and stuck the most influential and most poltically active and most progressive and reliably Democratic section of it in with Palo Alto, where it disappeared from the political landscape, and split it off from the rest of the Monterey Bay Area, which is sort of swingy in its politics and in which Santa Cruz activism can be really effective, they basically did the Democrats a minor bit of damage.

And did us a not-so-minor bit of damage.

So I was tempted by the redistricting proposal that was on the special elections ballot and had to read it closely before I was convinced it was even more dangerous than the present system.

#206 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 11:28 PM:

post-Katrina horror story

Not the best way to end the year. :(

#207 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2006, 05:37 PM:

Is there anyone here who knows how to get bleeping MSWord 11.1 for the Mac to stop automatically highlighting the whole bleeping word when I've only dragged my mouse over a portion of it?

Also, does anyone know how to make it stop adding a space or a paragraph break at the end of text I've cut-and-pasted, when I didn't highlight said space or paragraph break?

Not putting fist through screen. Yet.

#208 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2006, 06:06 PM:

I'd suggest looking and seeing what you're Preferences are set at, I just looked at mine because I'm being annoyed by it self-correcting on my new work Mac. (I often have numbers as the start of a line, I do NOT want to add one to the previous number when I make a line return.

#209 ::: Zvi ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2006, 07:07 PM:

Teresa:

Word > Preferences.
Select 'Edit'.
Turn off 'When selecting, automatically select entire word.'

This is version X. I hope it's the same in version XI.

#210 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2006, 10:07 PM:

Paula, Zvi, the Preferences/Edit thing is the same in this version, and I have it turned off, but the program is still grabbing the entire word.

It's infuriating. Microsoft went to a lot of trouble to build this brain-dead feature into Word. What idiot thought it was a good idea to break the rule that you highlight text by dragging your mouse across it, and that commands apply to the text you highlight?

Grumble ...

Lis, that's a terrible Katrina story. Such a simple, basic task, yet no one took care of it. You know that if they messed that up, there are uncountable other tasks they've also left undone.

I'll bet you already know that FEMA jobs were handed out to a lot of the guys who participated in attacks on vote recounts in Florida in 2000. I'll bet you also know that Bush & Co. have always regarded FEMA as an arm of their PR operation. When Florida was repeatedly hit by hurricanes during the run-up to the last presidential election, FEMA agents got there practically before the hurricane hit. They empowered people to act for them on an extremely casual basis, and pretty much ladled money out over the heads of the hurricane victims. (Also non-victims: FEMA paid for a good many funerals of people who weren't killed by hurricane; and by more than one report, it was enough to take your banged-up car in and claim it was damaged in the hurricane to get it repaired on the federal dime.)

The difference between FEMA's behavior in Florida before the election, and in Louisiana after it, was so striking that I'm surprised it hasn't gotten more attention. Of course, the difference between FEMA's behavior in Florida before the election, and in Florida after it, has also been worthy of comment.

There's the thing I wish red-state diehards would notice: It could have been them. FEMA's being run by members of the buccaneer's crew, they don't know what they're doing, and now that George doesn't need our votes, the only thing they're interested in is giving out lucrative contracts to friends of their operation.

The disaster could just as easily have been widespread forest fires in Idaho, or another New Madrid-type earthquake in the Mississippi Valley, or a volcanic event along the continental Pacific Rim, or a massive brownout in the Southwest in July, or a killer ice storm in the Carolina Piedmont. FEMA would have screwed it up just as badly as they screwed up in Louisiana.

You know that cynical and untruthful line about how a conservative is just a liberal who's been mugged? I'm hoping some newly-minted centrists will be conservatives who've suddenly noticed that the us-and-them line has been drawn a lot higher than they thought it would be, and that it's well above their heads.

#211 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2006, 10:54 PM:

There's also a remark that a liberal is a conservative who's been arrested. Well, I've been arrested and I've been mugged. Net: liberal.

The thing that's getting me about it is how utterly shameless these people are. DOJ is investigating who leaked the story about the illegal wiretaps!

Again:

Me: Dubya should get life without parole.
Them (shocked): Good heavens, why?
Me: Simple. I don't believe in the death penalty.

#212 ::: Janet McConnaughey ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2006, 11:17 PM:

Teresa -

I have Word on PCs. Especially at work (no, I'm not sure why), I often find that to highlight only part of a word, I have to hold the shift key down and use an arrow key to move the cursor the exact number of spaces I want it to move. If I use the trackball, it insists on highlighting the whole word.

janet

#213 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2006, 11:41 PM:

I was just suggesting they've piled so much crap into Word I've frequently been bamboozled. I've not been happy with all the crap they've been piling into Word since about 6.0 (which worked on Mac Os 7.5).

On the other hand, I can put up a formatted book to lulu.com, apparently with artwork and they can run with it.

#214 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2006, 04:58 AM:

After this long a delay, and after so much effort to tell the authorities where the body was, it can't just be the fault of FEMA.

But, even if the City of New Orleans is making a mess of things, they're dependent on Federal money. Their local income is negligible.

And I wouldn't be surprised if the Federal money is being doled out drop by drop for very specific jobs, effectively making it impossible for the City to react quickly to anything not in the plan.

Natural Disaster as a way of giving the Executive Branch unsupervised control.

#215 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2006, 05:04 AM:

Looking at the Thirteen Things Which Don't Make Sense in PNH's Sidelights...

The Placebo Effect does remarkable things.

And, a few items down, Homeopathy seems to work incredibly well.

Nice story, but did anyone happen to put two and two together on that one?

#216 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2006, 06:46 AM:

Word 6 is definitely the way to go, if it will open the documents you want to work with. I also have Office97, which I think is a little better than the current versions.

If you find this behaviour annoying, though, I'd recommend *not* switching to openoffice, which has the rather annoying behaviour of switching off underline for the entire current word if you're currently on underline mode and press Ctrl+U. So, if you decide you need to insert an underlined word in the middle of a paragraph, you put the insertion point where you want it to start, press ctrl+U to start underlining, type it, see your underlined word joined with the next one in the sentence, then press ctrl+U again and the underlining disappears. Highly irritating, and I have no idea what practical purpose it *could* serve.

#217 ::: Laina ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2006, 07:00 AM:

Looking at the Thirteen Things Which Don't Make Sense in PNH's Sidelights... The Placebo Effect does remarkable things. And, a few items down, Homeopathy seems to work incredibly well. Nice story, but did anyone happen to put two and two together on that one

Dave, The way I read the story on Homeopathy, these were tests done in labs on human white blood cells. Did I misread the story or are you suggesting that cells in a test tube are subject to the placebo effect?

#218 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2006, 08:50 AM:

Jules --

Open Office 2.0 doesn't do that here for either linux or win32, so I suspect what you're seeing is a bug. (I'd further suspect that it's applying the underline per-one-or-more-words, rather than per-character, and when you turn underlining off it goes ok, and turns underlining off.)

Unlike your experiences with Word, OO really does tend to get better with incrementing version numbers....

#219 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2006, 11:36 AM:

Also, a good double-blind experiment eliminates the placebo effect by comparing groups with the drug or a placebo; no individual knows whether they're getting the drug or not, and the experimenters don't know who is and who isn't. Thus all the subjects are equally subject to the placebo effect; that's why you see the words "compared to a placebo" in the studies' writeups.

This could be done with a human trial of homeopathic medications. Some of the patients get the statistically-unlikely-to-contain-a-molecule solution; others get a solution that has never come in contact with the relevant molecule, but is otherwise similar. Make sure no one knows who is who (randomly assigned numbers in the computer keep track). Then compare the two groups. That would effectively distinguish any homeopathic effect from the placebo effect.

I'm surprised that stochastic resonance isn't on that list. Has it been explained?

#220 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2006, 11:51 AM:

Also, a good double-blind experiment eliminates the placebo effect by comparing groups with the drug or a placebo; no individual knows whether they're getting the drug or not, and the experimenters don't know who is and who isn't. Thus all the subjects are equally subject to the placebo effect; that's why you see the words "compared to a placebo" in the studies' writeups.

This only works if the subject can't detect the drug effects directly. I've done a number of double-blind studies in which I could tell within moments if I was getting the study drug(s) or the saline solution. Certainly by the final day of the study (of four to six days covering each possible combination) I would have it all sorted out.

I've no idea how they wrote these studies up.

#221 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2006, 12:02 PM:

That's arguable. If you can actually detect the effects directly, you may ascribe more effect to the test drug than it actually has; but the people who get the placebo shouldn't know what effects anyone else is experiencing. If the subjects have contact with one another, that's a flaw in the study. So the control subjects' reaction would be "subtracted" from the test subjects'.

And if you can tell you're getting the real drug - the placebo effect amplification becomes part of the real effect of the drug! They're trying to figure out if the drug is better than a placebo, not eliminate the effect itself. The placebo effect is very useful, and doctors use it to treat patients all the time. And it works.

#222 ::: Nancy ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2006, 12:37 PM:

Lucy, I'm not sure how well that would actually work. Particularly with "corruption" spelled wrong.

Sorry for nitpicking, but I'd hate for it to fail just because of that.

#223 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2006, 12:39 PM:

Here's the thing w/ homeopathy: in large clinical trials of homeopathy vs. placebo or homeopathy vs. placebo vs. pharmaceutical, homeopathy doesn't perform well at all. There have been mixed results, but by and large homeophathic remedies perform about as well as placebo.

The studies mentioned in the article (BTW, good article, Patrick) are measuring physical responses in the lab... The placebo-enabling factor (the brain) has therefore theoretically been taken out of the loop, which is what makes her results so interesting.

#224 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2006, 01:41 PM:

Xopher writes:
That's arguable. If you can actually detect the effects directly, you may ascribe more effect to the test drug than it actually has; but the people who get the placebo shouldn't know what effects anyone else is experiencing. If the subjects have contact with one another, that's a flaw in the study. So the control subjects' reaction would be "subtracted" from the test subjects'.

There's no contact between subjects and we are all control subjects in the sense of not having the condition (schizophrenia) for which they are trying to find treatments. I should clarify that the studies involve pairs of drugs - one to induce dissociation and one to try to put your brain back together again.

And if you can tell you're getting the real drug - the placebo effect amplification becomes part of the real effect of the drug! They're trying to figure out if the drug is better than a placebo, not eliminate the effect itself.

The combination of placebo effect with induced dissociation may make this a little less simple since they're messing with your brain. With two drugs involved, they want you to 1) not know if you are getting the dissociative drug (K), and 2) not know if you're getting the second drug. I apparently get fairly mild effects (compared to other people) from the K, but it's still unmistakeable - the bolus is like falling off a cliff. The counteragents work or don't work to various degrees, but they're generally almost as obvious. And there are only four possible combinations in the typical study (one day is K/placebo, one is K/study drug, one is study drug/placebo, and one is placebo/placebo.) I can always tell if I get the K, and I can deduce the other by whether the K effects are mitigated at all and whether I get other peculiar symptoms that are not typical of my reaction to K. Even if the first day is "blind", by the third or fourth day I know what I'm getting just by process of elimination. Maybe the study designers assume their control subjects are all incapable of logical thinking?

The placebo effect is very useful, and doctors use it to treat patients all the time. And it works.

Apparently not for schizophrenia; trying to induce an essentially mental effect on people whose mentos is not entirely compos seems a little more...unpredictable.

#225 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2006, 01:44 PM:

Susan - just because someone has schizophrenia doesn't mean that you have to compost their Mentos. They're just as entitled to minty refreshment as anyone else. (Smirks and slinks away...)

#226 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2006, 01:52 PM:

*pelts Larry with sappily-advertised European candies*

Susan...while I'm sympathetic to the economic concerns that may have led to it, they should not have reused you in multiple studies, for exactly the reasons you cite. And I agree that double-blind studies for psychotropic drugs are difficult to conduct.

#227 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2006, 02:38 PM:

Xopher:
Susan...while I'm sympathetic to the economic concerns that may have led to it, they should not have reused you in multiple studies, for exactly the reasons you cite.

I was able to figure out which drug combination was which in the first study I did - the difference between normal, normal with ferociously tingling nose and nausea, dissociated, and dissociated with ferociously tingling nose and nausea are not exactly subtle. I'm not sure how one can miss these little details sufficiently to maintain the blind at all.

I know they had a high-level debate over whether I could do multiple studies and eventually came down on the yes-at-certain-intervals side. I think this was partly a reality-check on their ability to blind the study at all from the subjects' perspective and partly a decision that my ability to remain verbally coherent and give detailed descriptions of sensations while dissociating was worth something in and of itself. It may also have been partly because they have a real problem finding reliable subjects who fit their restrictions. These studies take a lot longer to complete than you'd think for something that essentially pays people to take drug trips - they can't find enough warm bodies.

I'd hope they discuss the difficulties with the blind in their writeups.

And I agree that double-blind studies for psychotropic drugs are difficult to conduct.

I'm not sure how one sets up such a study - at least at these dosages - and expects the subjects NOT to notice they are being given something more exciting than sugar.

#228 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2006, 04:55 PM:

Xopher said:

others get a solution that has never come in contact with the relevant molecule, but is otherwise similar

So would you have to synthesize this water especially for the experiment? Because otherwise, how the hell would you know whether or not it had ever been in contact with a molecule of whatever you're studying?

This is one problem I have with homeopathy: all the water on earth has been in contact with all sorts of things, from dinosaur crap to nuclear-test fallout to Bill Gates' dandruff. If homeopathy works as described, all of us are constantly getting medicated with thousands and thousands of preparations every time we drink a glass of water.

(Similarly, I have a hard time explaining why, if reflexology works as advertised, stepping barefoot on a bee doesn't make your gall bladder explode or something.)

#229 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2006, 05:13 PM:

Homeopathy is weird. I'm not going to defend it. I used to, before I realized the degree to which they dilute the solutions. Because absent that, allergy shots and vaccines would be homeopathic, wouldn't they? I was just trying to come up with a way to do a valid clinical trial, but I give up.

I know nothing whatsoever about reflexology. I have, however, been poked with pins by a licensed acupuncturist, to strongly beneficial effect (and yes, that's anecdotal, but the effectiveness of acupuncture is no longer doubted by the medical establishment). How does THAT work? Is there an accepted scientific explanation for it?

I don't know. But there's a difference between things we don't understand, and outright bullshit. Homeopathy appears to be moving from the latter category into the former, which surprises me as much as anyone.

#230 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2006, 06:56 PM:

I can identify IV meds by the taste that turns up in my mouth. I used to scare the nurses.

#231 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2006, 09:44 PM:

Seems like someone here ought to be amused/dismayed by inaccurate fonts in movies as discussed in yesterday's New York Times article.

#232 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2006, 10:16 PM:

xopher from way way up:

My latest Mondegreen: "Peroxide blonde in a hot tub on the floor."

(Really "Peroxide blonde in a hopped-up Model Ford.")

my favourite most recent mondegreen was when the radio i was half listening to referred to the "molting of the continents in the spring" ("motion of no confidence in the spring").

that image has been a beacon of hope for me this dark vancouver winter. i can't wait.

#233 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2006, 12:34 AM:

A quick question for the Latin fans here: I was talking to Kaja Foglio, and one of the "Sparks" in Girl Genius uses the motto "Don't make me come over there." She'd like it in Latin, but can't remember enough of here high-school Latin courses to be sure she's writing it correctly. I told her that if there's anywhere on the Internet she can get a good answer it's at Making Light. Any suggestions?

#234 ::: Aquila ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2006, 03:28 AM:

My Latin these days is too weak to be much help, but this must be the right place. Googling "make me" Latin imperative brings a Making Light thread up as the first result.

#235 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2006, 12:38 AM:

The most elegant thing I can come up with is "noli me compellere aggredi" (= do not compel me to approach [you]). Note that the imperative is actually "don't".

Yes, I do teach Latin for a living, but I've left my dictionary at work, so I may have one of the verbs wrong. I used to work on a Latin textbook support project, and entirely random people would occasionally ring up and ask us to translate Latin for them on the spot. One conversation I remember ran in its entirety:

Me: Hello, [whatever] Latin project.
Him: You know "memento mori" is a reminder of death.
Me: Yes.
Him: What would you say for a reminder of life.
Me: Er, "memento vivere", I suppose. Here, I'll spell it for you.
Him (suspiciously): Why doesn't the new bit look like "mori"?
Me: Well, because "to die" is a deponent verb. I suppose it's because life is something you do, whereas death is something that happens to you. Hang on, I'll look it up.
Him (unconvinced): No, never mind. (Hangs up.)

Needless to say, this is Not What We Were There For.

#236 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2006, 04:56 AM:

"There's also a remark that a liberal is a conservative who's been arrested."

most of the current Republican party are liberals?

#237 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2006, 05:00 AM:

Hey, this here Open thread's looking a bit lonely. How's this for a reminder of Auld Lang Syne? <lights blue touch paper & retires>

Worlds largest prime number identified, aka Grid Discovers Largest Known Prime Number, or Distributed computing enjoys prime success

The number is expressed as 2 to the 30,402,457th power minus 1, a 9,152,052-digit numeral. Reportedly, the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (GIMPS) found another VLP (Very Large Prime) back in February, but neither reached the 10 million digits needed for an Electronic Frontier Foundation $100,000 prize.
Note: The reporting seems to have its own number problem, having described the computers/power used as: "an international grid of about 70,000 computers", "the collective power of more than 200,000 computers", and "more than 700 computers ", as well as about 4,500 years solo work on "a brand new Pentium 4 computer".

It's available as a large text file

#238 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2006, 02:56 PM:

The geeky letter frequency page is fun, as in "I haven't seen this sort of thing since I took that cryptanalysis [CS elective] class".

#239 ::: jhlipton ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2006, 08:43 PM:

James, from the Cylert thread:

The fact is, Cylert is both safe and effective. I don't think there's any debate on that. It's also necessary. Emphasis mine.

I think there's a fair amount of debate on whether Cylert is safe. It would appear to not be safe for children with ADHD; it may or may not be safe for Theresa and Xopher, but is necessary for them.

This may be a nit I'm picking, but it seems to me that we need to honest about the drug (and Nader -- if Nader isn't part of Public Citizen and/or the letter they sent, we should drop his name from the complaints, pronto).

#240 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2006, 08:47 PM:

All safety is relative.

I think that, with one case of liver damage being documented in six years over 10,000 patients using the drug, that safety has been established.

#241 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2006, 09:20 PM:

Okay, I asked the good people on the latinstudy mailing list, and from the things they've said I think this will serve to translate "Don't make me come over there":

Noli me cogere istuc venire.

A literal re-translation would be something like, "Don't compel me to come thither". I think that's close enough for a throwaway gag in the strip.

So how come Kaja isn't asking this sort of thing on the yahoogroups mailing list? I'm on there as well as here....

#242 ::: Jake McGuire ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2006, 09:48 PM:

Nader founded Public Citizen. It's his baby. And this type of stuff (beating up on drug companies for their "unsafe" products) is one of the primary reasons for its existence. There's good money in it. Venom directed his way is richly deserved.

#243 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2006, 01:05 AM:

candle: thanks much.

David: thanks much as well. The reason Kaja hasn't mentioned it on the mailing list is that she's snowed under with work on the new collection. She happened to mention it to me when I was at their New Year's party, and I said I'd ask around.

#244 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2006, 03:50 AM:

"with one case of liver damage being documented in six years over 10,000 patients using the drug, that safety has been established."

IIRC that is the exact same percentage of people actually getting hit by lightning immediately after committing blasphemy.

#245 ::: jhlipton ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2006, 01:29 PM:

James, I hold you in great respect. I sent your comments on "How to Do a Triage" to our Fire Warden here.

In the case of Cylert, I think you're wrong, but in deference to you, and, moreso, to our hostess, I'm not going to persue this.

#246 ::: Glen Fisher ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2006, 04:55 PM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden wrote:

I have [the "select entire word" preference] turned off, but the program is still grabbing the entire word.

In the "is it plugged in?" spirit: are you starting the selection by single-clicking or double-clicking? Double-clicking (in text) means "select in word-sized chunks", and any properly-written program will extend the selection by entire words if you start by double-clicking. There's no way to turn this off (except perhaps by getting some enterprising programmer to write a "haxie" to change the standard behavior).

However, if you're single-clicking, then you're definitely seeing Word being "helpful". You might try turning the preference on, clicking "OK", then reopening the preferences and turning it off again. I've found that to "unstick" balky preferences sometimes.

If that fails, you can bring out the heavy artillery by forcing Word to ignore saved preferences. (The relevant setting may have gotten some screwy value somehow, which Word shows as "off" but treats as "on".) Do this by renaming the file "com.microsoft.Word.prefs.plist" in ~/Library/Preferences/Microsoft (the folder "Microsoft" within the folder "Preferences" within the folder "Library" within your home folder, in case the path notation isn't instantly clear). Simplest is to change it so it ends with something other than just ".plist" (".plist_", for example). Make sure Word isn't running while you do this. You'll lose some (probably annoyingly large) subset of your preferences by doing this, but the "select word" setting should start behaving properly. (You could also just move the file to the trash. Renaming it lets you get the settings back easily if things go seriously wrong. You can always delete the file later once you think you won't need it anymore.)

If that doesn't work, try renaming "com.microsoft.Office.prefs.plist" in the same folder. The nuclear option is renaming the folder itself.

Experimenting with the “select word” preference, I discovered that you can at least tell it after the fact that you don’t want the automatic selection. After Word has selected to the end of the word, drag in the other direction until the selection shrinks some, then resume dragging in the original direction.


[D]oes anyone know how to make it stop adding a space or a paragraph break at the end of text I've cut-and-pasted, when I didn't highlight said space or paragraph break?

Turn off “smart cut-and-paste", also in the "Edit" preferences.

#247 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2006, 04:58 PM:

Glen: Thank you for the part about fixing smart cut-and-paste! I'd been wondering about that one myself.

#248 ::: Glen Fisher ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2006, 06:00 PM:

Glad to be of help. I spent some time tracking that one down however long ago, having found it quite annoying myself. (I think the only automatic action I have turned on is the "smart quotes" one, being something of a typography fan.)

As a rule, the first thing I do for any program is go through turning off as many automatic actions as I can. It's a rare program for which the author's ideas of what's "helpful" and mine are anywhere near the same.

#250 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2006, 03:36 PM:

TSA doesn't trust active duty in uniform with travel orders and security clearances. Most of the regulars will be familiar with GinMar's experiences (recently mentioned on her LJ) and some will know this story from Alex Wakal of 18 months ago:

I'm at the airport fairly regularly, dressed to blend in here in West Texas (BDU and a M9 in a flap holster), since my base requires weapons custodians to "escort" deploying weapons (they don't care much about the NCO's and Airmen, but they worry about the poor widdle weapons, but that is another story).

So there I am, two weeks ago, standing in front of the ticket counter with the poor deploying senior NCO and her locked Pelican case complete with M16A2. The counter boy announces to her that she will have to unlock the gun case and send it to the back for "inspection." Normally, I fill in for the passenger and escort the case to the back and unlock it, then relock it after it has been 'checked' (for cooties, I suspect, but I digress). However, Counter Boy announced that NEITHER of us were allowed to accompany the gun, and that the case MUST be unlocked.

Well, I didn't get an arm full of stripes by being unprepared to do deal with ignorance, apathy, and general ill will (I've been stationed on Navy bases, after all). I had issued my traveler my "Flying With Guns FAQ", which...oddly enough...has printouts of all the applicable regulations. The same ones that My Hero Jeff OTMG referenced in this very thread.

Counter Boy didn't believe the printouts, and had to get his supervisor. Wow. Double the ignorance, double the fun. After Counter Boy told me to "quit arguing", and I informed him that I was stating facts, not arguing...since arguing with an idiot just annoys you and confuses the idiot (that one made a cute 'whoosh' noise as it went over Counter Boy's pointy head, although his boss wasn't amused)...things got more interesting.

Counter Boy finally ran off and found the head TSA agent assigned to the spacious San Angelo Hair Care, Tire Sales, Chinese Restaurant, and Airport. Said agent read the regulations, announced that "...my regulations are classified" (which amused me, since I had his regs printed out, and carry a higher security clearance than most folks know even exist), and then said that "...no case would be locked in MY airport."

I, in my polite and calm fashion, honed from years of dealing with Airman...and Marines...offered to show him the Hooked on Phonics section the local library...and further offered to help him sound out the larger words as he worked through the lessons.

"Whoosh"

And this level of ignorance is when dealing with a uniformed and armed member of the citizenry. I shudder to think how they abuse citizens on a regular basis.

FWIW, I was finally allowed to carry the case back to the inspection section, unlock it for inspection, and relock it afterwards. Which I had done eight times in the last six weeks...at that same Airport. Note to travelers: don't even bother locking the cheap gun cases with the integral locks. At the San Angelo Tire Ca...well, you know what it is...Airport, one of the TSA agents has his own personal set of keys that will open most standard cases. He thinks it is funny that folks rely on standard locks. If a guy at an airport this small has keys like that, I suspect that every airport on the face of the planet is the same way or worse...


#251 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2006, 05:18 PM:

OK, I'm trying this out here because if someone here doesn't get it instantly, it's probably way too hard for the general public.

What property do all these words have in common?

fans ivan boob lyre serf cap'n thug rely nearly bore
Of these, three have an even more delightful property (a special case of the first property):
fans serf thug
What are these properties?

#252 ::: ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2006, 05:29 PM:

Speaking of common/uncommon words in English, can anyone help me decide on a new recall command word? (For dog obedience.)

I want something: easy to remember, one or two syllables, distinctive sound, never or extremely rarely used in everyday dialogue. It'd be nice if it somehow related to "come", but that part is more optional.

TIA.

PS. Xopher, I have no idea. But I had fun pondering.

#253 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2006, 05:36 PM:

Speaking of common/uncommon words in English, can anyone help me decide on a new recall command word? (For dog obedience.)

Any particular reason it has to be an English word? Is that under the "easy to remember" part?

I'm not quite sure what a recall command is. "Stop what you're doing and come here now"?

#254 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2006, 05:49 PM:

Xopher: gurve yrggre-cnvef ner erirefrq jura ebg-guvegrrarq, naq gur fcrpvny pnfrf ner fcryyrq onpxjneqf.

Now how did you figure that out?

#255 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2006, 05:52 PM:

Xopher: Um, they all have a letter with a closed curve?

Command word for dogs: how about that old Vulcan standby 'kroykah'?

#256 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2006, 06:20 PM:

"BELAY!"

#257 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2006, 07:33 PM:

My favorite Latin moment arrived last year, when some powerful bureaucrat decided he absolutely positively needed the date of my BS degree. Month and year won't do, gotta have the day. Many people just make things up*, but there's that nagging feeling of lying to an Federal Government Official that made me want to be reasonably certain of any date I supplied.

Fortunately, I found my diploma. Unfortunately, the only datelike information on the thing was "SUBSCRIPSIMUS PRID. NON. IUN. ANNO DOMINI MCMLXXIII". Thank goodness for Google and informative pages about the Roman calendar--I'd never have guessed what it meant, and the explanation was so weird I needed to read it in two places to believe it. I'll let anyone who wants go on their own snipe hunt; anyone who just gots to know can send me e-mail.**

----------------

* I once invented a certainty that I didn't intentionally jump off a bicycle and knock myself out, when the truth is that the minute of amnesia preceding the accident was enough time that I might have decided to jump. I can't imagine why, but my belief in free will says it's possible. At least I think that I probably didn't brain myself intentionally, and I know the person reading my affidavit wasn't interested in questions of free will and epistemology, so I signed.

** Oddly enough, I've told at least one individual several times that information that I was not posting on Making Light was available by sending me e-mail, only to see him request the information on Making Light. Anyone who gots to know had better gets it right, or Mr. Passive Aggressive will emphatically abandon them to the kindness of Somebody Else.

#258 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2006, 03:04 AM:

Alex Wakal is reported to have written: ...I shudder to think how they abuse citizens on a regular basis.

Like he really cares. No skin off his government-issued nose, now is it? (I'm sorry. That was uncalled for. I'm just bitter about all the new airport security theater, and I'm lashing out at anyone who even seems remotely related to its perpetuation. My bad.)

An acquaintance of mine went through an extremely harrowing experience at LAX about a year ago. He's a U.S. citizen, permanent resident of NZ, and he flew into California with an antique rifle, declared, in his checked luggage (with some extremely odd caliber and no accompanying ammunition). He says he followed all the applicable regulations in both NZ and USA to the letter. They arrested him, kept him in jail overnight, confiscated his rifle and threatened him with deportation (a U.S. citizen). They still won't give him the rifle back, I'm told— and an immigration and customs lawyer is telling him he should just forget about even being compensated for it. I don't know how much of his story to believe.

Here's my TSA hassle story. And here's another of my observations on post 9/11 air travel.

#259 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2006, 03:25 AM:

TexAnne: Lrnu, V unq va zvaq gung gur ebg-guvegrraf ner nantenzf, naq gur fcrpvnyf ner fcryyrq onpxjneqf. V jnf whfg cynlvat jvgu n ebg-guvegrra rapbqre. V ernyyl jnag gb svaq n gra-yrggre jbeq gung ebg-guvegrraf gb vgfrys erirefrq! Naq...ubj'q LBH svther vg bhg?

#260 ::: jhlipton ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2006, 04:11 AM:

Xopher, and TexAnne:
Bayl gur "fcrpvny pnfrf" ner erirefrq; gur bguref ner nantenzf. V'z thrffvat Kbcure pnzr npebff gurfr juvyr cynlvat va gur Sbeghanqb guernq.

#261 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2006, 05:23 AM:

jnlipton: Ab, ohg vg tnir zr gur vqrn.

#262 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2006, 09:23 AM:

JH Woodyatt: if he flew into LAX, the city council got up in arms about potential hijackers with weapons (or possibly potential terrorists with weapons) and decided that no one could take firearms, even if disassembled, through the airport. Fscking idiots. (I live in the city. The city government is minimally functional.)

#263 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2006, 09:50 AM:

Xopher: Because it's been on my brain lately. If we hadn't been playing with it in the Sbeghangb thread I'd never have guessed.

#264 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2006, 10:10 AM:

Sbeghangb

My mind keeps trying to parse this as 'shebang', as in 'the whole shebang'.

--Mary Aileen

#265 ::: ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2006, 10:28 AM:

Any particular reason it has to be an English word?
Nope, as long as it is easy to remember.

And yep, a recall command is exactly 'stop what you're doing and come here right now.' Very useful.

"Kroykah" could work. Hmm.

#266 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2006, 10:43 AM:

I was going to try to think of one, but 'kroika' (never saw it, so I spell it Slavic) sounds great. It's got two k's in it, which makes it easy to hear. Also two different vowels, which is good for distinctiveness.

#267 ::: B.Loppe sees agreeable spam on Open Thread 56 ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 10:08 PM:

Also, I like the name, "Godpharmacy"

#268 ::: Juli Thompson sees strangely happy spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 11:10 PM:

At least it isn't hostile.

#269 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 08:24 AM:

"I want to agree with everybody!"- wouldn't that include both Obama and Bachmann?

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