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January 29, 2006

Open thread 59
Posted by Teresa at 07:17 PM *

What would happen to an unwrapped bar of Ivory Soap in a vacuum?

Comments on Open thread 59:
#1 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 07:33 PM:

I'm pretty sure that's been tried.

I would think it would foam up like a microwaved marshmallow.

First post in a new open thread. I feel special.

#2 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 07:48 PM:

Second post, not so special.

Nothing to add, really, except that I couldn't get the Baroque Armor link in the sidelights to work.

#3 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 07:50 PM:

Beg pardon, in Teresa'a Particles, I should have said.

#4 ::: rwellor ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 07:51 PM:

I would worry more about the vacuum. They aren't intended to pick up items as large as bars of Ivory Soap.

Normally something that size would already have been cleared off of the floor before vacuuming even began.

I'd hate to see how messy your house is.

#5 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 08:01 PM:

What WOULD happen if a human got shoved into the vacuum for a brief period? No, I don't expect something like Outland's in-space-no-one-can-hear-you-explode. I suppose ther'd be severe frostbite and capillaries rupturing, but beyond that?

#6 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 08:04 PM:

Serge --

Your lungs work in reverse, so all the oxygen comes back out of your blood; you lose consciousness in about 15 seconds and you die quite promptly thereafter, long before you have time to get cold.

This happened to a fellow in a pressure chamber; someone hit the panic button in time, so he lived, but you lose consciousness fast.

#7 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 08:04 PM:

rwellor, you beat me to it. I read the opener and said, it depends on how big the hose is for the vacuum.

#8 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 08:07 PM:

Huh, rwellor... Groan... Your post reminds me of the Far Side cartoon showing the typical Gary Larson woman with the freaky beehive hairdo, walking down a deep dark forest and clutching the handle of her vaccum cleaner. The caption says:

Zelda belatedly realizes that Nature abhors a vacuum.

#9 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 08:10 PM:

Thanks, Graydon. Fifteen seconds? That's awfully fast. I guess Kubrick's 2001 was stretching it a bit. Still, not as silly as Outland. (Ah, if THAT were the only silliness in that movie...)

#10 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 08:12 PM:

it would get really, really big and melt even faster.

#11 ::: Rachael de Vienne ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 08:21 PM:

In 1990, there were about 15,000 vacuum cleaner related accidents in the U.S.

Approximately 30 billion cakes of Ivory Soap had been manufactured by 1990.

One wonders if these two facts are related.

#12 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 08:21 PM:

Research question!

I'm writing a text adventure set in a computer camp, circa 1980.

The protagonist is maybe 12 - 14 years old.

What kind of bands might he have listened to?

#13 ::: kenzie ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 08:21 PM:

A whole bar of soap in a vacumn? Amazing. Mine starts sparking and making noises if something as large as a penny gets picked up.

Did you know you can use woolen worksocks as replacement vacumn bags in a pinch?

That's what really happens to those missing socks.

#14 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 08:26 PM:

*Sigh*

It is an utterly miserable rainy day in Portland. The lawns are turning to mush, the bark landscape mulch has floated away leaving mud everywhere where there isn't grass, and the sidewalks are rivers.

Now, I can take rain. (It rains more in Pittsburgh, where I lived for a year. It's just more spread out.)

But man, where's the LIGHTNING AND THUNDER? Flashes and bangs made rainstorms interesting.

Is Portland especially well grounded or something? I think I heard one thunder-rumble all last year.

#15 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 08:29 PM:

No, kenzie... All those missing socks wind up on a shelf in Wong's Lost & Found Emporium.

#16 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 08:29 PM:

What you want is one of those big industrial vacuums, like the Paris street cleaners use to suck up all the dog-doo.

#17 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 08:32 PM:

Didn't the MythBusters once build a hovercraft surfer board using a superduper vacuum?

#18 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 08:33 PM:

My daughter's crazy daffodils come out early: the first one opened on New Years Day. Since then a few Snowdrops have come up, and a Cyclamen is flowering too, and the daffadowndillies are up to a crowd of 20.

So, tonight we're expecting a hard frost, 5 or 7 degress below zero. Say 20-25 F. Stupid flowers: it's NOT SPRING YET!

#19 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 08:36 PM:

One of my favorite episodes of the tv show Charmed had the sisters cast a spell for the return of lost objects. I forget what they were looking for, but at one point, one sister walks into the kitchen to find the table and counters covered in, among other things, sox. Lots and lots of sox.

#20 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 08:49 PM:

"I'm writing a text adventure set in a computer camp, circa 1980."

WERE there computer camps in 1980? The protagonist is about the age I was then, and I never touched a home computer until college.

Of course I wasn't very technology-minded, either.

#21 ::: Shane ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 08:52 PM:

Stefan, regarding your research question:

I was 15 in 1980, and a major computer geek; my favorite bands were:
Talking Heads
Kraftwerk
Devo
The Cars
Pink Floyd
Sex Pistols

Hope that helps.

#22 ::: Jack Heneghan ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 08:54 PM:

Does it have to be Ivory? what about Dove? I bet that would expand into a bird.

Stefan, I don't know what sort of music your camper listens to, but if it is pop, http://80music.about.com/library/pop/bl_1980.htm can give you an idea of what was popular back then. Google for top 40 music 1980 and lots of stuff will appear, most of it irrelevant.

#23 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 09:23 PM:

It would get all covered with that gray dirt that vacuums collect, doncha know.

#24 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 09:35 PM:

Thanks Jack & Shane.

I'm pretty sure there were computer camps in 1980, but it is worth looking into. The exact date isn't important. In fact, a year or two later might be better, because I want there to be time for the camp's original lab full of Commodore computers to become obsolete, setting the stage for the discovery of a PET cemetary off in the woods.

(google google) Aha, the first computer camp opened in 1977:

http://www.nccamp.com/history.html

And the PET came out in 1977 too. So 1980 would work.

(Backstory: The place was once Camp Lose-a-Lot. The character went there as a chubby pre-teen. I'm not sure if this has any plot implications.)

#25 ::: JennR ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 10:43 PM:

Melissa: Yes, there were computer camps in the 1980s. My very first paying job was as a counselor at a computer day camp. (Summer of 1982. Somewhere I still have my t-shirt.)

We mostly listened to the AOR stuff (Floyd, Journey, Boston, Chicago, Styx, AC/DC, ZZTop, The Cars, etc). No disco, not a lot of the Top-40 pop stuff. FWIW, that's what the band geeks at music camp listened to, as well.

#26 ::: Meredith ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 10:44 PM:

The computer geek I live with, who was 12 in 1980 listened to Fleetwood Mac and Jethro Tull at the time. But he was weird even then.

Shane's probably got a more reasonable list, to which I would add Blondie since they were all over the charts at the time.

#27 ::: Electric Landlady ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 11:04 PM:

I thought socks were the larval form of wire coat hangers?

I wish I could help with the music question but I don't think I'm of any help at all pre-1986.

#28 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 11:16 PM:

kathryn from Sunnyvale

In the thread on flu packs you said that you have a set list of food that you buy/donate to food banks on a rotating schedule.

Would you mind sharing your shopping list? It sounds like a good idea, and I'd like to see what sorts of things you buy to help plan my own.

You can e-mail it to me if you think it's too unwieldy to put in the comments.

#29 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 11:21 PM:

Ivory soap, because it has more air bubbles incorporated into it than other kinds (that's why it floats).

I think the bubbles would expand; compared with the brittleness from the extreme cold, I think you'd end up with something like a stomped-on package of freeze dried ice cream (you know, that Astronaut Ice Cream they sell at Space Camp).

#30 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2006, 11:38 PM:

Well, nothing to do with soap, or vacuums. My father, Otto Sheller, died today. He lasted a little over a year after the death of my mother Ruth. Since he'd been failing fairly rapidly recently. it's not a great surprise.

Some of the regular posters here may remember them - they went to quite a few cons from the mid-80's to the mid-90's, including several Minicons and Marcons. Daddy's body is going to the University of Iowa med school, where Mama's went just before Christmas 2004.

#31 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 12:01 AM:

1980 was in the disco music era. Saturday Night Fever made it to Thule while I was there in 1978, and the soundtrack of it was from the BeeGees or some such.

Disco, ugh.

#32 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 12:16 AM:

Wikipedia's entry on the year in music, 1980 may give you a nice overview of what was going on. I see a lot of singles mentioned on that page that I didn't discover until my cousin opened up my ears in 1982 or 83. (Oh, KQAK, how dearly you are missed.)

I'd say your kid's list needs some Gary Numan on it. The Pleasure Principle was released in 1979. Ooh, and maybe some Kate Bush...

#33 ::: Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 12:35 AM:

Graydon wrote: Your lungs work in reverse, so all the oxygen comes back out of your blood; you lose consciousness in about 15 seconds and you die quite promptly thereafter, long before you have time to get cold.

That may be a bit pessemistic, and depends in part on how much oxygen you have in your system and how abrupt the pressure loss is. Wikipedia quotes USAF numbers of 9-12 seconds Time of Useful Consciousness, meaning how long you can still function more or less intelligently, but notes that that complete unconsciousness takes longer. However, Clarke's estimate of a minute or more in _Earthlight_ and the sequence in _2001_ are decidedly optimistic.

Ivory soap, however, will lose consciousness immediately on exposure to vacuum.

(Now you've got me wanting to dig out a vacuum pump from the garage and experiment....)

#34 ::: Meredith ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 01:00 AM:

Andrew, I don't think any American 12-year-old, no matter how geeky would have heard of Kate Bush in 1980. In 1985, sure, but in 1980 the only way any Americans without a direct connection to the UK had heard of Kate Bush was if they'd happened to catch her one and only appearance as musical guest on Saturday Night Live.

#35 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 01:14 AM:

On 80s music, there's always Flashback Radio. Of course, if you're looking for 1980 specifically, you'll have to be really picky, picking from their archives.

#36 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 01:30 AM:

The Ivory would sublime into the ridiculous.

I hope you all know this will be on the final. Bring two wrapped bars, a #2 pencil, and a pressure suit. "I used one of my bars to check for leaks" is not an acceptable excuse.

#37 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 01:32 AM:

Stefan Jones: Meredith raises a point I was working toward: when you ask for "bands he might have listened to" in 1980, are you looking for the pop music of the era that he would have heard on the radio, or for something 'alternative' that will mark your character as someone with precocious taste in music?

As Meredith noted, "Wuthering Heights" had already been a huge hit in the UK, but I would add that it was not unknown here: college radio was certainly playing the hell out of her. So it's extremely unlikely but not impossible for your fictional 12-year -old boy to be listening to Kate Bush.

And now, a tangent: Is the new Kate Bush any good?

#38 ::: Leonid Korogodski ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 02:38 AM:

Anne, sorry about your loss. May your father rest in peace.

On an unrelated subject, here's something from the less known news:

http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2006/01/b84f149f-7911-4f94-b7cd-a43808f2fdb3.html

I served in the Russian army myself, still in the Soviet times. Things really are that bad.

#39 ::: breeamal ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 03:13 AM:

When I bought my first house last fall the first thing my mother bought me was a sixpack of Ivory soap. I thought it was a really strange gift as I own my own soap business.

#40 ::: Rob T. ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 03:48 AM:

On the 1980 music question: I was 15 that year, not a computer geek but an sf fan, would have been more into gaming if there were more local gamers in Branson High School at the time. Heavily into certain "progressive rock" bands--Styx, Kansas, Queen, and Heart were particular favorites, also (among their predecessors) Yes, The Moody Blues, and of course the Beatles. (I'd probably have been a Rush fan as well if they'd gotten more local airplay.)

I also favored some of the smarter (or maybe just artier) "light rock" outfits--Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac, the Steve Miller Band. Didn't get into punk/new wave for a few more years (after moving to "the big city," which in my case was Tulsa, Oklahoma), didn't get into disco or r&b for a few more, and didn't get into country music (very popular in the Ozarks, not to mention Tulsa) for quite a few more.

(It occurs to me that rap was just then beginning to catch on in New York, though "Rapper's Delight"--the first national rap hit--would not appear on record until very late in the year. Might be fun to have a supporting character from the South Bronx trying to explain what this rap business is all about, with his fellow campers laughing and saying it'll never amount to anything.)

A fair number of sf/gamer/hacker types I knew at the time (after I moved to Tulsa, anyway) collected sf/fantasy soundtrack music, especially John Williams's scores for the "Star Wars" and "Superman" movies (and "Indiana Jones" later on). I may have known someone with the soundtrack from Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" TV series as well, but the show started running September 28, a little too late to figure in a summer-of-1980 setting. (Summer of '81 might be just right, though.)

Sorry for going on at such length; your question brought back memories!

#41 ::: Frank D Shannon ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 03:53 AM:

I haven't been paying much attention to music lately.

I know this is kinda spammy, but if you feel like taking a minute to answer, I'd apreciate it.

Currently I have Sprint as my provider and an old samsung n400 as my phone. My contract is up and I am considering switching. I thought I would ask for some advice. I don't get Verizon here unfortunately. What cell provider do you use and why? What phone do you use and why? How much should I expect to pay?

I only need regular phone service, but I am thinking about trying something more exotic, like a high bandwith modem capable cell, or some other fun techno-toy. Thanks

Oops the link to my blog is on my name. So you don't clutter Making Light.

#42 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 05:26 AM:

I wonder how Clarke's _Earthlight_ and _2001_ scenes fitted with the real knowledge at the time they were written? I certainly wouldn't be surprised to learn that the oxygen loss through the lungs was a later realisation.

I'm now going to have to time the movie scene.

#43 ::: John Hawkes-Reed ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 05:57 AM:

Music in 1980? I was that hardcore, graceless, 14-y-o spod and I probably mumbled 6502 opcodes in my sleep. I listened to Kraftwerk ('Computerworld' had just come out. I had to buy it on general principles.) and a lot of two-tone (Madness, Specials, The Beat) because that's what was popular.

The singular delights of The Peel Programme were about a year into the future.

#44 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 06:04 AM:

To Anne Sheller... My condolances about your dad. Mine went suddenly and I never got to say goodbye to him.

#45 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 06:14 AM:

What about Pat Benatar? ABBA?

Rob T's comment about listening to sf/fantasy movie soundtracks... I used to listen to them a lot too, probably because in those days, VCRs were not common at all and there weren't many ways to relive a specific movie's experience when I wanted to, on my own terms. One other thing I did circa 1970 was take my hardcover-sized cassette-tape recorder and put it in front of the TV if it happened to be airing a movie I really liked. That way I taped the whole soundtrack, music, sound effects, dialogs, the works. I'd then play the movie back to myself again and again and again. That's something I had thought of on my own. But so did my wife who's also an sf/tantasy fan. How many of this site's pre-VCR posters also came up with that idea?

#46 ::: Paul ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 06:15 AM:

Anne, I'm sorry to hear that. Surprise or not, it's still not nice. Hope you and your family are okay.

Regarding music, I was too young at the time to be of much use, I just wanted to say it's the first time I've ever heard someone say Queen is prog rock... I suppose Bohemian Rhapsody, maybe.

Paul (currently listening to La Villa Strangiato, from Rush in Rio, and liking it a lot; much better than the album version)

#47 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 06:30 AM:

Hmm. Question for Jordin and Graydon: do you suppose you could reduce or stop the O2 loss through your lungs, if you knew you were going to be spaced, by drowning yourself first? I'd expect a couple of lungs full of water would take quite a while to empty in vacuum, and while there's water in the way the diffusion rate is going to be a lot lower -- same pressure gradient, but the exposed surface area goes from something like a couple of tennis courts down to a couple of square centimetres.

Of course, recovery afterwards (when they hook you out of the airlock) is going to be a bitch ...

#48 ::: sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 07:49 AM:

Wuthering Heights! I loved that song but I had never heard of Kate Bush at the time. Pat Benatar had a cover version of it on "Crimes of Passion" which I adored. That would have been around 1980, if memory serves correctly.

It was probably 10 years later that I finally heard the original Kate Bush version; my immediate impression was that someone had put the record player on the wrong speed.

#49 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 07:53 AM:

I think it was Greg Bear's moving Mars that had a scene where someone's spacesuit loses a glove. The person doesn't die because the rest of the suit immediately seals the forearm from the rest of the body. But when they bring him (her?) in, the arm's skin is very red because all the capillaries ruptured.

#50 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 07:55 AM:

Eighties music... The Police? Queen?

#51 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 07:58 AM:

Had Annie Lennox started doing her thing by 1980?

#52 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 07:59 AM:

Drowning yourself sounds like an . . .interesting way to stop the vacuum problem. I don't know how easy it is to breathe in and hold water, given the amount of fuss your body makes about even a little water in the airway normally.

What other gasses will come out of your blood under "zero" pressure? If you held your breath after your lungs were emptied, would they refill before your blood ran out of gasses? [And would that give you pressure problems again?]

Do your lungs, when exposed to vacuum, collapse and stick to themselves? Or is there enough gas from the "boiling blood" remaining to keep them open?

In a less gruesome light:

I was 10 in 1980.

1) Computers went obsolete slower then, I think.

2) I listened to my older sibs' music in the 1978-83 years (Scarsdale, NY for reference purposes.) Sister: The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, and similar [well, similar to me. She had six linear inches of Dead records.] Brother: Meatloaf [Bat out of hell was '78], Tom Petty, the Outlaws, Blondie, Pink Floyd, Zeppelin. My sister bought "London Calling "and I think she listened to it once. I still listen to it, so that's the direction MY tastes went in.

I somehow avoided the Grease soundtrack that "all" the kids from my year were into.

There were definite, clear categories and identities. Metal was around [Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest] and even though the metalheads and the very few New Wave types both hated middle-of-the-road overproduced cheezy rock, they also hated each other.

I hope this helps.

#53 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 08:00 AM:

Charlie: do you suppose you could reduce or stop the O2 loss through your lungs, if you knew you were going to be spaced, by drowning yourself first?

Sounds like "The Abyss" meets "2001". The water would boil off, of course, as soon as it was exposed to vacuum, but that would still take some time to happen, as the only exposed surface is the water/air boundary at some point along your airway (as you say, a couple of square centimetres).

I don't have the expertise to work out how fast the water would boil away. Water's liquid at body temperature down to about 0.01 bar, so a little vapour pressure in the airway (from initial evaporation or residual air) would be enough to keep the water in the lungs liquid. You could keep your mouth and nose shut against a 0.01 bar differential (not so a 1 bar differential) so simply letting most of the water vapour escape through your lips might be enough.

Better still, use oxygenated perfluorocarbon with a higher boiling point (or rather a triple point further down and to the left on the chart), so it would stay liquid at lower pressures and also keep you conscious. That works a lot better.

Anyone with more expertise care to comment?

#54 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 08:33 AM:

serge, My memory of the re-entry scene in 2001 was that 15 seconds would have been enough. I think the time in vacuum was quite short. OTOH, it was in slow motion, so it's hard to calculate. I won't have time to find my DVD copy & check until tomorrow night at least.

A friend has just journeyed the 1,000 km (by bus) from Sydney to Melbourne to see the Stanley Kubrick Exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image which finished yesterday. We didn't find out about it until last week, despite it being on since November 2005, so they're obviously falling down on publicity, because with more notice I'd have been there too, and possibly a few more friends who can't just drop everything and go.

Apart from the exhibition, it included showings of his early shorts and other hard-to-see films of his. I remember being quite miffed that when boxed sets of Kubrick films were brought out, they only included big, well-known ones. You'd think they could put in one or two rare films one one disc in a whole set. Or perhaps there's a plan to only have them available in an expensive collectors' complete set, or high-priced 'education resource'.
(This sort of links into the "Life Expectancy of Books" thread.)

#55 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 09:10 AM:

I remember hearing Dire Straits for the first time in the fall of 78. Stopped me in my tracks but as i was living in Brussels, it took a while to find out who the group was. The Police were big. As were Talking Heads. But I was still going to Dead and Bruuuuuce concerts, after I returned to the states in 79.

BTW, and utterly off onto another topic, I was hoping that our hosts would have some comments on the James Frey brou ha ha particularly wrt the actions of his agent and editor... I found the following elsewhere, but think that more could be said.

http://fablog.ehrensteinland.com/

#56 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 09:43 AM:

Sigh. Meredith et al. are right--a 10-year-old American Kate Bush fan in 1980 would be a long shot at best. I suppose I was trying to give the kid the head start on cool that I wish I could have received myself. (Bob O., Aerial is almost entirely great, and intermittently fabulous. It's worth your money, but it's not Hounds of Love [1985].)

In that vein: Eurythmics didn't hit the States until 1983; in 1980, Dave and Annie had just finished being the Tourists, and your kid definitely wouldn'a heard of them.

#57 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 10:06 AM:

Interesting, but form your own opinion: http://www.canstruction.org/indexi.html

#58 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 10:20 AM:

Stefan,
In 1980 my geeky friends and I would play DND and listen to Bauhaus.

#59 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 10:28 AM:

Anne Sheller, sympathies on your father's death. Better for it not to be a complete surprise, I think, but an unhappy time either way.

I must have been at several Minicon's with him, at least, but I have no recollection of having met him, and I guess it's too late now.

#60 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 10:31 AM:

Anne, my condolences. Your folks went to a bunch of Minicons that I was at, too. Donating one's body to a med school is a pretty cool gift to the future.

Meredith, I was a remarkably under-informed person in 1980, even compared to the other Wisconsin/Minnesota farm town kids, yet I had heard of Kate Bush -- by 1977, even. I believe there was an article about her in some US magazine that I would have read. This limits it to mainstream magazines, at that point, and I cannot recall which. I do remember that whatever it was, it mentioned her vocal qualities in a way that interested me.

#61 ::: cleek ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 10:33 AM:

i was 10 in 1980. and IIRC, I really liked AC/DC, Pink Floyd, Blondie, Tom Petty, Tommy TuTone, Greg Kihn, etc..

#62 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 10:40 AM:

Read on Salon.com that Dianne Feinstein intends to support a filibuster on Alito's nomination. I guess all those phonecalls made a difference. I haven't heard how much effect my call had on my own Senator.

#63 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 10:43 AM:

If thrown from a normal pressure environment into vacuum, wouldn't you also get the bends?

My understanding is that the common way of getting the bends is ascending too quickly from a SCUBA dive. In order to inhale at depth, the gas you're inhaling needs to be at high pressure. When you begin your ascent, the nitrogen that you inhaled under high pressure begins to expand as the water pressure around you decreases. The expansion of the gas is potentially a problem as your body isn't built to contain high-pressure gases.

If you ascend slowly enough, the now-expanded nitrogen can be exhaled. If you don't ascend slowly, the expanding nitrogen still has to go somewhere. What happens is it boils inside your veins, a painful and potentially fatal phenomenon known as the bends.

I would assume that something similar happens to the nitrogen in your blood when you go from sea-level pressure to zero pressure. (?)

#64 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 11:27 AM:

Oh, hey, in 1980 Billy Joel was not yet "Easy listening." I remember being eight or nine, in the way back of the station wagon, with "Movin' out" playing on the radio. Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel had not yet gotten rich and become implied jokes to 13-year-olds.

In short, while it is attractive to make YOUR 13-year-old from 1980 listen to Devo and the Clash, it doesn't ring true.

Another question: I've been assuming this camp is in the US. Is it?

#65 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 11:34 AM:

ScottH: you're talking about a 1 bar pressure gradient (Earth ambient to vacuum). IIRC, you get roughly an extra atmosphere of pressure for every ten metres you go underwater. You'd really have to ask a diver, but my understanding is that for short dives to that kind of depth, decompression stops aren't required. NASA do slow decompression of shuttle astronauts before EVA (5 hours to go from 15psi oxy/nitro mix to 5psi pure oxygen), but remember they're taking the partial pressure of nitrogen right down to zero and they want the astronauts to be able to work for several hours in low pressure. (The low pressure makes it easier to build flexible spacesuits.)

I'd tend to assume that worrying about nitrogen microemboli forming when you go into vacuum, as opposed to the slight lack of oxygen, is a bit like worrying about your ingrowing toenail when your leg is about to rot away due to gas gangrene.

#66 ::: Meredith ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 11:46 AM:

Bob O., Aerial is quite wonderful, particularly the second disc. The first disc has some wonderful moments, but also two immensely silly tracks. It's well worth getting. (I was just gratified to hear that The Red Shoes was indeed an aberration.)

#67 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 12:00 PM:

The nature abhors a vacuum joke was by Farley. There was such an outcry over the strip that he had to bring back the character, to show that she wasn't killed. Ms. Velma Melmac became a regular character in the strip. You can see her on the cover of the most excellent Fur and Loafing in Yosemite. And yes, right next to Yosemite National Park there really is a Hoover Wilderness.

#68 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 12:01 PM:

I would tend toward the "Astronaut Ice Cream" hypothesis...except I wonder if there's a glazed layer on the outside that might prevent this.

Which brings me up to an old question on my part: Can you make a lighter-than air material by creating the equivalent of an aerogel in a vacuum, sealing the outside with a much less permeable material (not very significant for big enough spheres)? Has anyone tried?

I call dibs on the names "VacuGel(tm)" and "Cavorite(tm)" for it, and for that matter on the name "Nullkido(r)" for aikido adapted to a micro- or null-gravity environment.

#69 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 12:05 PM:

Bring two wrapped bars, a #2 pencil, and a pressure suit.

Surely a grease pencil would be better than an #2?

(My first thought reading this thread was that the soap would quietly vanish away. My second was that it's too bad I don't have my father's home-made vacuum chamber to try it out.)

#70 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 12:09 PM:

True, TomB, the Nature/vacuum joke was in the Farley comic-strip, but it also showed up in the Far Side. I dread to say the following because somebody will probably looking it up, but I wonder how many cartoonists have used that joke since the first vacuum cleaner came to be.

#71 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 12:10 PM:

What, Michael, no upsidaisium?

#72 ::: Vardibidian ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 12:15 PM:

I would guess that the computer camp kids in 1980 would include three major types: (a) the kid with older sibs who listens to stuff above his/her head, all hip and whatnot, DEVO, Elvis Costello, Boomtown Rats, the Cramps, the Ramones, etc, etc, (2) the kid who listens to whatever the radio plays, which you would get from the sites linked to, and who would neither particularly care what was being played or particularly care if there was a radio on at all, and (iii) the kid with no sibs and no life who listens to his parent's records, so is hip to cool jazz and bad classical pops.

In any case, wouldn't the musical tastes of the counselors would almost immediately and totally overwhelm that of the kids? My own experience, as an elevenish nerd in 1980, at summer camp that had a computer room tho' not a computer camp, was that the counselors picked the music, and we all tried to be hip and pretend that we knew that stuff. I wouldn't extrapolate from that to a general rule, but there it is.

The one thing I remember we all agreed on, on the boys side of the camp anyway, was Dr. Demento.

Thanks,
-V.

#73 ::: Dave MB ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 12:17 PM:

Changing topics -- I just saw on CNN that playwright Wendy Wasserstein has died at 55 from cancer. The PBS version of her play Uncommon Women and Others was my first introduction to Mount Holyoke College, just before I went to school next to it at Amherst and later married an alumna of it. She was a great thinker and a great speaker -- I was fortunate enough to hear her in the summer of 2004. Probably some of the NYC readers here knew her...

#74 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 12:21 PM:

In 1985, sure, but in 1980 the only way any Americans without a direct connection to the UK had heard of Kate Bush was if they'd happened to catch her one and only appearance as musical guest on Saturday Night Live.

I saw that! She sang "Roll in the Ball," right? I thought she was wonderful. But I wasn't 12.

#75 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 12:31 PM:

In zero gravity, would a bar of Ivory soap float?

#76 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 12:36 PM:

{whining}

I wish the color the links turn when they've been clicked was actually a different color than they are before they've been clicked. It is almost impossible to find the last post I read. (I read threads by clicking the most recent post and backtracking to the last one I clicked, a method recommended by another poster here. It worked, previously.) When threads get to be more than about 100 comments, it isn't worth it to try to figure out where I was, so I'm sure I miss some good stuff. I also can't tell if I've clicked links in a thread or not.

None of this is going to ruin my life, but it is annoying. Is there a reason this is set to a slightly different shade of the same color?

{/whining}

#77 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 12:36 PM:

I think that in 1965, the hit parade included the Rolling Stones's can't get no satisfaction and Petula Clark's downtown. It's hard to imagine two such different styles making it today on the same hit parade. Especially if you remember who Petula Clark was.

#78 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 12:49 PM:

To get absurdly physical, my guess is that not much would happen to the bar of soap. The tensile strength of the soap is probably enough to resist the internal pressure of the air trapped in small bubbles. After all, Pop Rocks kept the CO2 in quite nicely, despite the even larger pressure gradient.

#79 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 01:01 PM:

Ann Sheffer: My condolences; the loss of a parent is hard to take. I was fortunate that I was able to say goodbye to my father a few months before he died.

In 1980 I was listening to Peter Tosh, Bob Marley, Burning Spear, Jacob Miller, Judy Mowatt and The Mighty Sparrow....

#80 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 01:07 PM:

Continuing on decompression: as pointed out, if you were on an oxygen atmosphere you wouldn't get the bends. It is true that going from 2 bar (at 10m depth) to 1 bar at surface does not generally require decompression stops, but it's not a question of the absolute pressure; it's the proportional change. You do the last bit of the ascent much more slowly, because if you go from, say, 30m to 20m, you are reducing external pressure by 25%, while from 10m to surface it goes down by 50%, and so you have to take much more care not to blow out an eardrum - or get bent - because any trapped air bubbles will double in size in your middle ear in the last 10m.

But: what pressure would your blood be under if your skin were exposed to vacuum? The tension of the skin and blood vessels would still have it under some pressure (guess: less than 1 bar, but not much less). If 0.3 bar is enough to survive in a pure-02 atmosphere, I'm not sure dropping to 0 bar would do that much more damage in terms of bleeding, etc. (obviously bends not a factor)

You might lose both eardrums in vacuum. Watch out for that. Suggest you scream loudly as you are chucked out the airlock, to equalise the pressure.

#81 ::: hrc ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 01:36 PM:

Dave Kuzminski:

Re can art. When I was at Macalester College in the early 70's a couple of 'proto geeks' built a pipe organ out of coke cans. They called it a Cokenfloete, and it worked! IIRC, they got at least one tv appearance out of it.

#82 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 01:40 PM:

Mike Ford writes:

The Ivory would sublime into the ridiculous.

"...because it is as pure as the sky itself!"

I hope you all know this will be on the final. Bring two wrapped bars, a #2 pencil, and a pressure suit.

Will travel.

#83 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 01:52 PM:

Re: James Frey -- Someone called the library where I work and said that they didn't want the James Frey book we were holding for them, and that we could pass it on to the next person on the list. When I got home that night I heard about Oprah's denouncing Frey that day, and I figured out that the patron* had called pretty much at the exact minute Oprah's show ended.

* Yeah, we call them patrons. Well, they're not customers, and some of them do patronize...

#84 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 02:14 PM:

Anne, I'm sorry for your loss.

The rapidity with which the topic turned from Ivory Soap in a vacuum to unprotected human bodies in a vacuum reminds me of my recent experience on a river cleanup.

We found a car in the river. Parallel with the bank, roof of the car about 6 inches under the surface.

The first thing to pop into EVERYONE's mind was, "I wonder if there's a body in that car?"

(Not being equipped for either swimming out to look or hoisting the car, we contented ourselves with photographing and reporting it. Never heard back any more info on how it got there or the presence/absence of cadavers.)

#85 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 02:36 PM:

Thanks for all the responses RE 1980 music.

I'm not going to get too specific RE what the viewpoint character listens too. He is necessarily somewhat a cypher, since the player to some extent fills his shoes.

I'm more interested in what music might be heard drifting out of the camp counselors' cabin, what band names might appear on stickers or graffiti . . . that sort of thing. What I've read above should help.

Right now I'm working on the dream-sequence prologue, to practice NPC automation. It begins with the character walking into his Junior High homeroom in his pajamas and ends with him being chased down a corridor by a faceless, chainsaw-wielding clown.

#86 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 02:38 PM:

...chased down a corridor by a faceless, chainsaw-wielding clown...

We all have days like that. But sometimes a clown is just a clown, and not a symbol standing in for one's boss.

#87 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 03:13 PM:

Lila, we had a case like that out here 10 days or so ago. Unfortunately, there was a body in the car.

#88 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 03:28 PM:

TNH if this is too much of an ad, please accept my apologies and delete at will (not that you need my permission . . .).

I wanted to point to Amazon's 4-for-3 sale; thousands of paperback fiction books, SF/Fantasy/Mystery/Teen/Romance/Kids in a huge list, searchable and divided into genre--buy four, pay for three.

Lots of really great books are on the SF/Fantasy list. It's an easy way to try out someoene new you've been meaning to read for a while. Do check out the Teen list--some often overlooked but worthwhile books are there. Also a lot of what looks to me like manga. Lots of classic mystery authors, as well as newer stuff. And they've got little checkmarks by the titles to make it easier for you to go crazy.

#89 ::: Eric ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 04:12 PM:

Speaking of the 80's, I got a hold of the State of the Union Address a bit early and I thought I'd share it. Enjoy.

"My fellow Americans: Once again I come before you to speak of the state of our blessed union. I am happy to say that there are bright times ahead.

In the past few years, our great nation has been under siege by men of cowardice and evil. We are not a people to take things lying down. In the face of terror we stood up and took the fight to the enemies of freedom and liberty all over the world. Today, we are safer as a nation. When we started the global war on terror, I told the American people that “we will fight them there, so we won't have to fight them here.” Our actions overseas have been a resounding success. Some would have us pull troops out; have us cut and run. As long as I am President, the United States of America will not run. We will increase and expand our efforts in the name of democracy and freedom. WAR IS PEACE.

Our economy is getting stronger. The stock market has recently regained the strength it lost after the cowardly acts on September 11th. This is in no small part thanks to tax cuts I have given to large companies. This freed capital allows businesses to create more jobs, and compete in a free market with global labor. Some companies have also taken the initiative by reducing or removing health and retirement benefits. I plan to follow suit in order to repair a broken and failing social security and medicare systems. America is a land of employment and opportunity. Evidence of this is plentiful. Every day, people are scrambling to cross our borders in search of work. Giving corporations the power to thrive is key to growing our economy and keeping it the strongest in the world. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY.

Defeatist voices in our midst would tell us that our military actions cannot be sustained. They would say that our presence breeds terrorism. They would ask for all our dealings to be transparent and public. They would divide us against ourselves. In essence, they would give aid to our enemies. Unwarranted and unnecessary criticism hurts our troops and emboldens our enemies. Defeatists would have us ask terrorists permission to investigate them. Reckless media speak of civilian casualties, torture, and kidnapping caused by the American military. In order to safeguard the citizens of this great country, and in order to win the global war on terror, we must stand as one. We must not squabble over partisan politics. We must support the brave men and women overseas. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.

Finally, using powers given to me by congress during wartime, I have made us safer by ordering the NSA to conduct warrantless wiretapping inside our borders. Had we acted sooner, perhaps we could have stopped the tragic events of September 11th. Now, we can survey and gather intelligence on terrorists faster, with less red tape. Those evil doers with secrets have no where to hide. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU.

Thank you, and God Bless America."

(Sorry, I just needed to vent. Yes, I have too much free time.)

#90 ::: Audrey ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 04:25 PM:

Stefan: Portland definitely suffers from a shortage of thunder and lightning to go with the rain, but we did get (a small amount of) rumbling from an earthquake the other night. A third of a mile from my apartment, even. I was certain the upstairs neighbor had dropped something until I heard a report on the radio (which mistakenly gave the epicenter as being in the West Hills. Not sure how they got the wrong half of the city at first.)

#91 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 05:09 PM:

Clipped, without modification, from a Starwood Hotels e-mail:

Experience True RedemptionSM

Halle-verbal infix-lujah.

#92 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 05:10 PM:

Rob T.: "Rapper's Delight" actually came out in the fall of 1979, not in 1980. I remember well sitting in the car parked in a DC alley with some friends, smoking a you-know-what. We were about to turn off the car radio and go indoors when "RD" came on. "Oh, wait, I love this song," I said. But instead of playing the short radio edit, which was all I'd ever heard, they played a full-length (8:00 or so) version, the existence of which was thitherto unknown to me. Thus ensued a classic sort of Cheech & Chong reaction among us all: "Wow, man, I don't remember this song being this long..." descending into giggling as it went on and on and on...

#93 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 05:12 PM:

Anne, I'm sorry to hear about your father. How are you faring?

Ivory soap: I keep thinking about the interacting processes. All the bubbles would have to pop, right? The bubble walls wouldn't be strong enough to maintain atmosphere. At the same time, the water content would be sublimating. And would the soap freeze before it dried out, or vice-versa? Would a crust of freeze-dried soap form before the bar expanded to maximum volume? Would you get outgassing, or jets of extruded material breaking through the crust? Would the soap's final form be a large soap-popcorn, or a cloud of soap dust?

Furthermore, wouldn't exploded hyperexpanded freeze-dried marshmallows constitute a Damned Weird confection? Why hasn't NASA tried this?

Yog, what's your take on Charlie's "drown yourself to survive hard vacuum" scenario?

Music, 1980, geek: Shane's list sounds right to me. Other possibilities: Steeleye Span, Brian Eno, and the Grateful Dead would be my top picks; also Warren Zevon, Elvis Costello, Patti Smith, Peter Gabriel, Television, The Tubes, The Knack ("My Sharona"), Shark Sandwich, The Clash (London Calling), and Richard and Linda Thompson if they're into folk. More mainstream: Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, Dire Straits, The Police, Queen, Fleetwood Mac, and a lot of AOR. The Eagles and the Bee Gees were riding high, but they weren't really geek fare.

Stefan, I don't know why the Pacific Northwest doesn't get violent thunderstorms, but I surely missed them when I lived there.

Niall, my rosemary has only lost the tips of its tallest branches, which is Not Right for this climate.

Lin, I once had a dream about the apocalypse in which lost things were found again, but what turned up were all the lost cats.

Leonid, that's appalling. Why does that go on? What's the point of it? If it keeps happening, someone must be benefiting from it; but damned if I can see how.

#94 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 05:17 PM:

Just a note: I'm tuned to Firedoglake for real-time news reports about the battle at Dagorlad plains.

#95 ::: Beard5 ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 05:29 PM:

Quick thing about music, slightly alternative bent. 1980 was when I first heard Martha and the Muffins "Echo Beach" and started my 12 year quest for the album (yes, vinyl) "Metro Music"(picture repeatedly going into record stores, and being told "There isn't any such band as Martha and the Muffins, someone's pulling your leg" by the end, I had at least 9 of their albums) Also heard Police "Walking on the Moon." Blondie was big. Wall of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio" was almost an anthem for the band geeks (I was one) and also Dire Straits "Sultans of Swing" Billy Joel was very popular with the same crowd, I think "Allentown" was around 1982

#96 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 06:12 PM:

Marshmallow aerogel. Mix with comet dust for a Kuiperfluffernutter.

My suspicion about the "drowning to live through outgassing" is that it wouldn't buy you enough time to make it worth doing (and it sure wouldn't improve your chances of making it to cover on your own). Back when HAL and Dave were having their little set-to, the estimate being knocked around was that you could survive about four minutes (which is longer than breath-holding time).

This doesn't mean you couldn't make use of it in a hardish skiffoid yarn, to buy the Essential Eighteen Seconds (and "Take a Deep Breath" appeared eleven years before "2001"), and of course it is on the Short List of Generally Applicable Rules that if you're confronted with an absolutely, positively Fatal Situation, (vacuum, immersion in molten steel, chosen to beam down with the Captain) then anything is worth trying. The Mythbusters have pretty clearly established that sticking your finger in the 12-gauge bore is useless, but it might be considered a bravura gesture.

#97 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 06:23 PM:

One for the movie nerds... I just found from my cubicle neighbor that his maternal grandfather used to work as a character actor, mostly in silent movies. His nom de theatre was Bull Montana and usually played the bad guy's goon although he sometimes ventured into SF (of a sort), playing an ape man in the Wallace Beery version of The Lost World, and a monkey man in 1936's Flash Gordon.

Meanwhile I've been wondering if I could find a link between myself and 1973's Flesh Gordon. Took me less than 5 minutes, thanks to my having met various people involved in the original Star Trek. I once met George Takei, who worked with Leonard Nimoy, who worked with Sally Kellerman on the pilot episode. From there we take Kellerman to The Outer Limits's episode The Bellero Shield, where John Hoyt played the alien who's made of light. Hoyt played Flesh Gordon's father.

#98 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 06:34 PM:

Fannish links to Flesh Gordon aren't terribly hard, since Tom Reamy worked props (and wrote a very entertaining essay about the making of the flick for Trumpet of fragrant memory) and Bjo Trimble did makeup.

#99 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 06:34 PM:

Stefan Jones: what band names might appear on stickers or graffiti . . . that sort of thing

End of the '70s stickers? In 1977, Epic really got behind Elvis Costello's debut album "My Aim Is True", and sent out yellow stickers with the name and title.

When we opened the mail and discovered them, there was a race to put them up in my radio station's mens' room.

I'm sure they they were still there in 1980.

Andrew Willett, Meredith: thanks for the verdicts on the new Kate Bush. There had been a flurry of publicity that it was coming, and then a few mentions that hey, it, errm, has a song about doing laundry... but no real word about whether that was a good thing or not.

Beard5: I'm glad someone else outside Toronto has heard of Martha & the Muffins. If you're a completist, you should know that Martha's put out some children's records.

#100 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 06:41 PM:

I knew that Trimble had worked on Flesh, John, but I tried a less obvious approach. Tom Reamy was there too?

#101 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 06:44 PM:

Was Donna Summer still popular by 1980? I've caught her Last Dance on my local gym's TV monitors, twice, all within one week. That brought up weird memories.

#102 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 06:45 PM:

About the MythBusters, John, did you see the recent episode where they showed that one can start a fire using ice?

#103 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 06:56 PM:

At this point, I'm wondering if anyone around here has access to something that could make a near-vacuum and a bar of Ivory. (I'd supply the soap if needed.)

The next step would be to talk NASA (or maybe the Russians) to send up a bar to see what might happen in actual space. All in the name of Science with a capital S, of course.

#104 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 07:21 PM:

Would somebody kindly tell me what Larry Brennan looks like, so I can hide if he comes looking for me? I wouldn't like to find out the hard way how far his dedication to Science with a capital 'S' goes ...

#105 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 07:43 PM:

I was 12 in 1980...not the best years of my life, to say the least. One thing nobody has specifically mentioned is "Casey Kasem's Top 40 Countdown" which could be heard on many many pop stations every Saturday morning (I'm pretty sure it was Saturday, not Sunday). They actually did play most of the songs, so it ran for several hours. I have to confess that one song I loved that year was "The Pina Colada Song", though fortunately a friend soon introduced me to more new wave and alternative music....

#106 ::: Robin Z ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 08:07 PM:

As long as we're talking about outer-space related issues, I'll mention that a professor at my university is experimenting with boiling water in microgravity (click on "ug Boiling" button).

#107 ::: Cassie ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 08:12 PM:

I have no doubts that people here have access to soap and vacuum-making-things. I'm not sure whether the gradual evacuation of a vacuum pump is exactly what we're aiming for, though. I could blow my chances of ever graduating by testing it-- but I'd rather drop it out the airlock and see what happens immediately.

#108 ::: Lux Fiat ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 08:33 PM:

Does it have to be Ivory? what about Dove? I bet that would expand into a bird.

Which leads one to speculate about an alternate creation myth involving Elder-of-the-Universe types flitting about just after the Big Bang, seeding the universe with (proto)protoplanets by visiting appropriate spots in the accretion disks of various stars and chucking bars of Lava out the airlock.

#109 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 09:01 PM:

Well, here's one Larry Brennan picture (via), and another group photo (via).

These may be of some aid to both fans & avoiders.

#110 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 09:16 PM:

Serge: And George Barr did the movie poster for Flesh Gordon.

#111 ::: Jeff VanderMeer ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 09:32 PM:

This made me laugh. From soap in a vacuum all the way to Flesh Gordon.

Jeff

#112 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 09:36 PM:

Lux Fiat: and a bar of Irish Spring every so often to jumpstart the process? (No, I don't use it: too much perfume for my tender airways.)

Mike, surely leaktesting the p-suit requires liquid Ivory?

#113 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 09:42 PM:

>computer camp, circa 1980.
>The protagonist is maybe 12 - 14 years old.

Holy geek alert, batman, do I get a royalty
if you're writing my life story?

>What kind of bands might he have listened to?

In order of supergeek to less geeky:
Pop Muzik - M
Cars - Gary Numan
Funkytown - Lipps Inc.
My Sharona - The Knack
I'm Alright - Kenny Loggins
(Caddyshack was released July 1980)

and of course, there would be the geek anthem:

Whip It - Devo (1978)

Also, in a completely geektoid related
bit of trivia, Empire Strikes Back was
released 21 May, 1980

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080684/releaseinfo

So, one of them might have the soundtrack
to the first movie in their cassette library.
At which point, "Luke, I am your father"
becomes the standard geek greeting, and the
true geekphreak would probably start playing
the cantina song from Episode 4, on their
tinny sounding portable. Soon thereafter,
a simulated lightsaber fight would erupt,
and would not end until someone lost a hand.

or... at least... that's what I would imagine
it would look like...

Greg

#114 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 10:08 PM:

While I'm at it:

> What would happen to an unwrapped bar
> of Ivory Soap in a vacuum?

Upon re-entry, just before it vaporized,
it was heard to mutter
"Oh no. Not again."

#115 ::: erik nelson ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 10:32 PM:

> What would happen to an unwrapped bar
> of Ivory Soap in a vacuum?

It would evaporate and precipitate again as Ivory Snow

#116 ::: Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 10:46 PM:

Michael Turyn: Can you make a lighter-than air material by creating the equivalent of an aerogel in a vacuum, sealing the outside with a much less permeable material (not very significant for big enough spheres)? Has anyone tried?

Yes, and yes. Lawrence Livermore Labs developed a lot of aerogel technology, much of it during the years I was there, despite JPL getting more press. Among other things, they came up with an organic variant called SEAgel, made from seaweed (agar), which could indeed be made with a mean density less than air at STP and still support 15 psi.

I forget which tech show it was where I helped staff LLNL's booth, but we had an inverted empty fishtank with some pieces of seagel in it, floating at the top. You could (gently) tap them down and they'd float back up.

It's not a very useful technology for balloons, though; the density is only just a little less than sea level air, so even at sea level it has only a fraction of the lifting power of a helium or hydrogen balloon, and the lifting power goes to zero at a few thousand feet.

#117 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 11:04 PM:

Epacris - Happily, not me, although I may resemble the one on the left.

Indeed, none of the images on Google Images is of me.

Charlie - You need not worry about my dedication to capital S Science. At least not until you give up on the writing thing...

#118 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 11:34 PM:

Jordin -- I immediately thought of three variant ways to use the blimp aerogel for Evil (by which I mean genuinely bad things, not, you know, Fun Evil), but then, that's what I get paid for.

Of course, as you note, if Tommy Lee Jones simply stared hard at the stuff it would disintegrate, so we're probably safe.

And besides, Evil, like many science fiction writers, is a lazy bastard. It's far easier to throw a brick through a window than to first figure out how to make an aerogel carry a brick through a window* and then make the stuff, just so you'll get a bit of grudging admiration on BoingBoing.

*No, I don't have a way to do this, though I'll bet there'd be a nice DARPA grant in it if I did. High risk and payoff, as they say.

#119 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 11:49 PM:

To get absurdly physical, my guess is that not much would happen to the bar of soap. The tensile strength of the soap is probably enough to resist the internal pressure of the air trapped in small bubbles. After all, Pop Rocks kept the CO2 in quite nicely, despite the even larger pressure gradient.

Soap has tensile strength? Viscosity, maybe, but I have trouble seeing it take any sort of load. Ivory is particularly soft, but I wouldn't expect any soap to have the resistance of Pop Rocks.

Niall, my rosemary has only lost the tips of its tallest branches, which is Not Right for this climate.

The Boston Globe said that so far this month has been 6 degrees above average, which I find believable. (That may even have been before the mild weather this past weekend.) OTOH, I've never seen anything like my first winter off campus: several January days over 60.

#120 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 11:50 PM:

That should be μg, not ug.

Oh, well...

Randolph the Picky

#121 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 11:58 PM:

About the MythBusters, John, did you see the recent episode where they showed that one can start a fire using ice?
"Fire and Ice" is a Pat Benatar song from the very early 80s. I knew we'd be able to connect the two halves of this thread eventually!

#122 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 11:58 PM:

An earlier text adventure I wrote can be downloaded from here:

http://home.comcast.net/~stefan_jones/Radley.z5

It is a haunted house adventure, rated PG-13 at most.

Running it requires an interpreter:

http://www.inform-fiction.org/zmachine/windows.html

#123 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 12:10 AM:

I had to wait until Xmas to listen to the new Kate Bush album - I was advised with dire threats not to go buy it for myself. My opinion is that it is Very Good Kate Bush, but not quite up to Supreme Kate Bush, which would be Hounds of Love or The Dreaming.

I happened to be discussing it with my ex-officemate yesterday, while I was in the NOC dealing with a server crisis (now as a paid conslutant, thank Bob.) We both agreed that this is one of her better albums, despite one slightly embarassing kind of song. I thought it was as good as The Sensual World, he thought it was much better than that, but it turned out the reason for that difference is that I like The Sensual World much more than he does. It's much better than The Red Shoes, in my opinion.

Finally, I should note that Kate Bush singing the digits of Pi in her breathiest and most sensual voice is like pure hardcore porn for an old math geek.

#124 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 12:16 AM:

Finally, I should note that Kate Bush singing the digits of Pi in her breathiest and most sensual voice is like pure hardcore porn for an old math geek.

Sold.


#125 ::: Wim ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 02:17 AM:

Ivory soap has tensile strength --- pick up a bar and pull on its ends. Unless you pull pretty hard, it stays in one piece. Tensile strength.

Putting Ivory soap in a microwave produces a very nifty flaky-fractal-flower expanded soap object. It also produces a very strong smell of the fragrance they put in the soap. Other than the smell, it's a fine party trick.

I assume that if you put the soap in a vacuum and heated it enough to soften it, you'd get a similar flaky-fractal appearance. Maybe even if you didn't heat it.

#126 ::: NIall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 04:47 AM:

Oh he love, he love, he love
He does love his numbers
And they run, they run, they run him
In a great big circle
In a circle of infinity

3.1415926535 897932
3846 264 338 3279

Sadly, it appears that Kate loses it after only 53 digits.

#127 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 07:07 AM:

Right, Bruce, I had forgotten that George Barr had made the poster for Flesh Gordon.

As for going from soap in a vacuum all the way to that movie, Jeff, it wasn't that difficult of a transition. Don't you remember the scene where our heroes gets trapped by Wang the Impotentate in his Royal Flush?

#128 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 08:17 AM:

Flesh Gordon, hey ... My most-clear memory of that is Gordon's spacecraft encountering the dangers of the moronosphere. That must have really struck a personal chord.

Many times I think its boundaries must have greatly expanded & diffused since then.

#129 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 09:03 AM:

Anyone seen This article, about a Norweigian filmmaker proposing that "J.K. Rowling" is a pseudonym for a writing conglomorate of some kind? Why is it that people think it's easier for a committee to write a good book than for an individual? Haven't they been in meetings with committees before?

#130 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 09:04 AM:

The moronosphere, Mez? Must be like the Far Side's cartoon that showed the Earth surrounded by a shell made of clowns, a layer called the bozone layer, whose function is to shield the Universe from Earth.

#131 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 09:39 AM:

Huh oh... It's that time of the year. It's time for Will Durst's George W Bush 2006 State of the Union drinking game... Me, I don't have the stomach - or the liver - for it. I think I'll go and watch my tape of last week's episode of Battlestar Galactica since House and anything else worth watching will have been pre-empted.

#132 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 09:52 AM:

Teresa, doing OK. Drove to Iowa yesterday, the funeral is tomorrow.

This is the man who used to claim he wanted to get a donkey and name it Maxwelton, as I mentioned on the thread where we were talking about names.

#133 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 10:13 AM:

now as a paid conslutant, thank Bob.

Conslutant. I love it.

#134 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 10:17 AM:

Another thought regarding pop music in 1980: when kids get into high school (and maybe even before high school, depending on community) they become somewhat tribal in their musical allegiances. Along with these allegiances come modes of dress, slang, and so on -- all of which can differ by region, and all of which can make the film-maker's task of attaining verisimilitude a little more difficult (and interesting)....

#135 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 11:25 AM:

Coretta Scott King is dead. She was a great lady in her own right. She was 78.

#136 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 11:53 AM:

IIRC, one of my kid brothers once dated one of the Muffins.

#137 ::: Meredith ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 12:25 PM:

Lots of people not from Toronto know who Martha and the Muffins are. (Warning: one can very easily get lost in this site ... and yes, full disclosure, I am sort of involved with its creation.)

As for Kate Bush losing track of Pi after only 53 digits, we hardcore types posit that she had to make some adjustments to fit the meter. :}

#138 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 12:35 PM:

Other kinds of soap wouldn't work. The lovely bizarre effect Wim describes only happens when you microwave a bar of Ivory soap. It's stickier than the average soap when it melts, but its really pertinent property is that it's whipped full of tiny air bubbles -- which is why it floats.

Serge, if you're into playing Hollywood connect-the-dots, you can always try routing through Patrick's brother.

#139 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 12:45 PM:

Oh yes, Teresa, I definitely am into Hollywood connect-the-dots. I usually drive my wife nuts with that. If ever I meet you or Patrick, then I'll be able to add Patrick's brother to my reservoir to links. Oh, and by the way, how many degrees of separation are there between you and Kevin Bacon?

#140 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 12:53 PM:

That's a different brother from the one mentioned earlier, I hasten to clarify.

#141 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 12:54 PM:

About Kate Bush... When I visited my buddies & buddettes up in Quebec after a 9-year absence, we found ourselves listening to some of her singing and getting all dreamy about it. I wonder what our host & hostess's 16-year-old daughter thought of us late-40-something folks...

#142 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 12:56 PM:

"Why is it that people think it's easier for a committee to write a good book than for an individual?"

so they're claiming it's a good book?

#143 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 01:15 PM:

Are we celebrating Patrick's Brother Day?

I just want to say that the Mentos Fountain demo is in my opinion Right Up There with the exploding whale and the liquid oxygen barbecue.

#144 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 01:22 PM:

...the exploding whale and the liquid oxygen barbecue...

He sounds like the Unknown MythBuster. Or the Heterodyne Boys's Brother that nobody ever talks about.

#145 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 01:35 PM:

Teresa wrote I just want to say that the Mentos Fountain demo is in my opinion Right Up There with the exploding whale and the liquid oxygen barbecue.

And the children can do it without too much supervision, unlke the LOX barbecue, or blowing up large dead things.

I am going to be such an evil great-aunt.

#146 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 01:37 PM:

Hmmm... we're replacing our microwave next weekend. Maybe I should add Ivory soap to the shopping list, along with marshmallow peeps (for jousting!) for the old microwave's farewell performance. I'd love to see what Ivory does in the vacuum of space, but then, I'd love to see what many things do when chucked into space. I'm not sure, but I think this is similar to my desire to see items - especially fruit - dropped from high places.

Like many people here, I am related to Flesh Gordon through Bjo Trimble. Unlike many people, I am related to Ms. Trimble through her daughter, who is my hairdresser.

#147 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 01:40 PM:

Here, Serge. I don't guarantee that all the links still work, but if not, it'll give you enough clues to find working versions elsewhere.

#148 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 01:50 PM:

.-- .... .- - / .... .- - .... / --. --- -.. / .-- .-. --- ..- --. .... -

http://www.westernunion.com/info/osTelegram.asp

#149 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 01:51 PM:

"I wish the color the links turn when they've been clicked was actually a different color than they are before they've been clicked."

With lots of HTML viewers you can override that. There will be a menu somewhere labeled something like "Preferences" and you choose the colors you want for unread links and read links. Then when a site doesn't specify, you get it your way.

And if the site does say how they want it, you can override that -- except you might be overriding a lot of other things at the same time. It varies with the software you happen to have.

There's a fair chance you won't like your default colors as well as you like the Making Light colors, but you can probably get the links visible and then you can spend as long as you like adjusting everything else.

#150 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 01:53 PM:

Thanks, Teresa.

#151 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 02:19 PM:

Is the phrase Everything is physics familiar to any of you? Sunday's episode of Cold Case, set in 1968, was about a young woman who's way more interested in science than in the debutante thing and at some point she says that phrase. My wife and I thought it sounded like something Feynman would have said, but a google search yielded nothing. Any idea?

#152 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 02:22 PM:

If you're getting rid of a still-working microwave, I would definitely try the plasma spheres (=home-made ball lightning) experiment. I've always wanted to do that one. Google around for it.

Laura: conslutant is old geek/BOFH slang, not original to me. (To the further uninitiated, BOFH=Bastard Operator From Hell, protagonist of an old set of Usenet stories by Simon Travaglia.)

#153 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 02:40 PM:

I have a complaint and a proposed solution, and I'd like to get hints toward software that does some of what I want. (And critiques of the proposal, if you like.)

My complaint is with political blogs, a complaint I had with political newsgroups and with political BBSes before that. An original poster puts up an interesting question. People start arguing about it. Pretty quick they get bogged down in ad hominem arguments. They take cheap shots. They criticise each other's spelling. After a few days the thread gets old and they quit reading and responding to it. Similar threads run in parallel in various other places (other BBSes, other newsgroups, other blogs), and they repeat the same arguments in general but with different people doing the ad hominems, different cheap shots, and different spelling errors. Weeks or months later a very similar thread gets started and the same general arguments, ad hominems, cheap shots etc get recycled. Usually nobody actually makes any useful points, and if they do their points are ignored. I'd like to see something with more focus and a longer attention span.

So I want a technology that encourages such things. The BBS/newsgroup/blog format does not. You have either a list or a tree of responses. When it gets too big it tends to choke off because nobody wants to look at that much. It mostly quits anyway when the topic scrolls off the front page.

I want something like a wiki. The stuff stays, and you can use a keyword search to find the topic if you don't find a link on the home page. But if it's political argument we can't assume that wiki cooperation will work, so I'd like a lock so people can only edit their own pages and nobody else's. (I've seen a wiki where you can put a password on your text when you write it, and then only people with the password can change it. That's probably enough.) When you edit your old post the original stays in a history file, but most people won't be interested in that.

So you look at the topic and you make your best shot at a good answer. It's usually better to make a great second post yourself than to attack somebody else's post -- if your attack is so good that they rewrite their argument to be more effective, what have you accomplished?

But if lots of people are making second posts, what's to keep it from overloading the readers? My thought is to let members join "factions". For each thread you pick a faction you generally agree with. And when somebody from your faction writes something, you get to rank it among its competitors in that particular niche. (Incidentally, there should be nothing wrong with plagiarism in this context. If you want to make changes in somebody else's post and then re-post it, that's *fine*. See how many members of your faction think it's an improvement.)

You might get similar polls by members of other factions and by independents. So a casual visitor might choose to look at the posts that got the most votes, or the posts that got the highest ratio of favorable to unfavorable rankings. He could look each faction's posts that they like best, or the ones that people who're officially independents like best, or the newest ones, or whatever. So people don't get drowned in detail unless that's what they want. And they can post their own ideas and hope either that those ideas will get a lot of votes, or that they'll get adapted by somebody popular.

So what I'm looking for is something a lot like a wiki, but people only get to edit their own stuff. And there should be some way to vote their approval of posts that compete. Ideally people should have some way to join "factions" (and some way to throw out people who say they're in a faction but don't act like it). Extra nice if the factions can vote separately.

Has anybody heard of something kind of like this? I've seen several blogs where people are supposed to vote on posts and maybe comments, but typically a post would get only a few votes before it scrolled off. Most people didn't bother to vote. So then they'd give incentives for voting, and a few people would be incentivised to vote a whole lot. And of course partisans would vote high for anything by their side and low for their enemies.

#154 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 03:54 PM:

I just noticed the Gibson guitar particle, and I have to point these guitars out to Patrick. A blogging friend now works there keeping the books, and they're gorgeous instruments. If I played more frequently, I might consider trading in my 30-year-old Rickenbacker for one of them.

#155 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 03:55 PM:

That would be the "Admirable priorities" particle, I should add.

#156 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 03:58 PM:

Jordin: about the aerogel spheres - how resilient were they? One of my PhD mates over in the physics department here occasionally uses aerogel, and I got the impression it was very fragile.

#157 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 03:59 PM:

Clifton said:

Laura: conslutant is old geek/BOFH slang, not original to me.

I have read all the BOFH I could find, but didn't notice that spelling before.

(To the further uninitiated, BOFH=Bastard Operator From Hell, protagonist of an old set of Usenet stories by Simon Travaglia.)

New BOFH stories appear regularly on The Register.

#158 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 05:03 PM:

Clifton Royston: If you're getting rid of a still-working microwave...

Yeah, it's fun to do the plasma ball thing, but I've taken to directing still-working items that I no longer need to http://www.freecycle.org/. It's a slight PITA to use, but at least I know that I've kept something out of a landfill for at least a while.

#159 ::: Meredith ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 05:32 PM:

I know the question wasn't directed at me, but I can't resist: I just recently discovered that I am two degrees separated from Kevin Bacon. (One of my good friends used to be The Bacon Brothers' manager. :)

#160 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 05:37 PM:

The Bacon Brothers, Meredith?

As for myself... I once met George Takei. Who worked with Leonard Nimoy. Who was in 1978's Invasion of the Body Snatchers, directed by Philip Kaufman. Who directed The Right Stuff, where Gus Grissom was played by Fred Ward. Who appeared in Tremors with guess-who.

Not as good as your rating, I know.

#161 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 05:55 PM:

"Fire and Ice" is a Pat Benatar song from the very early 80s. I knew we'd be able to connect the two halves of this thread eventually!

"Some say the thread will end in fire
Some say in ice..."

#162 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 05:58 PM:

Tomorrow on MythBusters... In "Helium Football", Adam and Jamie test out a myth that footballs filled with helium will fly further and hang longer than ones filled with regulation air. This one has an aroma of flubber. As for the episode's other myth, it sounds on the same level of silliness as what happens if you shove your finger in a gun's barrel, but worse... In "Catching a Bullet in your teeth", the build team undertake tests in the firing line. You go first.

#163 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 06:36 PM:

I'm not sure, but I think this is similar to my desire to see items - especially fruit - dropped from high places.

M&Ms, when dropped from a suitable height onto pavement, leave lovely bits of colored shrapnel all over the sidewalk.

#164 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 07:24 PM:

according to The Oracle of Bacon,

George Takei has a Bacon number of 2.

George Takei was in Oblivion 2: Backlash (1996) with Jimmie F. Skaggs
Jimmie F. Skaggs was in Hollow Man (2000) with Kevin Bacon

#165 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 07:31 PM:

I'm sorry, I have to add this because it makes my personal life a far better place:

Francis X. Bushman has a Bacon number of 3.

Francis X. Bushman was in Story of Mankind, The (1957) with Dennis Hopper
Dennis Hopper was in Top of the World (1997/I) with David Alan Grier
David Alan Grier was in Woodsman, The (2004) with Kevin Bacon

Completely aside from being Humphrey Bogart's dreadful father in Sabrina, Francis X. Bushman was the first (silent) Messala in Ben Hur. He made the first of his 209 movies in 1911.

Go Francis (X).

#166 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 07:34 PM:

Candle: I've long thought that the poem is a pun on the poet's own name.

#167 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 07:39 PM:

"I wish the color the links turn when they've been clicked was actually a different color than they are before they've been clicked."

With lots of HTML viewers you can override that. There will be a menu somewhere labeled something like "Preferences" and you choose the colors you want for unread links and read links. Then when a site doesn't specify, you get it your way.

And if the site does say how they want it, you can override that -- except you might be overriding a lot of other things at the same time. It varies with the software you happen to have.

There's a fair chance you won't like your default colors as well as you like the Making Light colors, but you can probably get the links visible and then you can spend as long as you like adjusting everything else.

Thank you. This was helpful. I'm using Safari, and after poking around a bit, it looks like I'll have to figure out how to put together a style guide. However, that seems doable.

Thanks again for the help.

#168 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 07:42 PM:

And following Linkmeister's lead, here's a link to the Exotic Guitars website.

I can't say how well they might play, but they're definitely cool to look at!

#169 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 07:44 PM:

Does anybody know whence came the 4-line version of "Fire and Ice" where the last 2 lines are:

From what I read on the AP wire
I think the world will end in fire
It is not from The Space Child's Mother Goose, where I just checked for it.

#170 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 07:46 PM:

So, that's who Bushman was, julia. Hmm... What did you dislike about his role in Sabrina?
And thanks for the shortened Takei-Bacon connection. It makes my own rating even better.

Say, is there something like the Six Degrees of Separation from Frank Thring?

#171 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 07:50 PM:

A few weeks ago, there was a sub-thread about Pride and Prejudice that made me realize that there are a few people posting here who know quite a bit about costumes and about sewing. Maybe one of you could tell me of a good web site where one can buy fabric, for example lightweight grey wool.

#172 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 07:52 PM:

Oh, I loved him as Humphrey Bogart's dreadful father. The character was just a dreadful old snob.

#173 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 08:31 PM:

I'm hoping my microwave holds out until early April because that's when the city recycles electronic stuff (also in October).

Anybody need a chocolate deity?

Yesterday's WashPost reported on a study showing that the more you hate black people, the more likely you are to be Republican.

#174 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 08:51 PM:

Grateful Dead lyricist and EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow also has a Bacon number of 2.

John Perry Barlow (I) was in Endangered Species (1982) with Paul Dooley
Paul Dooley was in Telling Lies in America (1997) with Kevin Bacon

#175 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 08:51 PM:

Re: Wendy Wasserstein-- I met her a few years back at Lynne Thigpen's combination birthday/Hannakwanzaamas shindig. (Lynne won the Tony appearing in Wendy's An American Daughter.) Everybody was supposed to bring an ornament for the tree-- I brought a talking Darth Vader ornament, since Lynne had done numerous shows with James Earl Jones.

Wendy didn't bring an ornament. At a momentary loss, she reached into her handbag and pulled out an empty prescription bottle for Valium. She poked a hole in the lid, put a hook through it and hung it from the tree.

Great party. Neat ladies. I'll miss them both.

#176 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 09:01 PM:

western union just stopped sending telegrams? Who the heck were their customers last year? Vacuum tube salesmen? Punch card maintenence people? Just makes me wonder what the heck took them so long.

#177 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 09:25 PM:

Meredith - thanks for the M+M link. Looks like I missed Modern Lullaby.

One side effect - I can't actually say that it's an adverse effect - of hanging out here is that I keep getting book and music recommendations to add to my shopping lists.

(BTW, your Bacon Number = Three.)

#178 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 09:47 PM:

Oh, that's what you meant about Bushman, julia. Yes, he was quite good as an old snob in Sabrina.

#179 ::: JennR ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 09:57 PM:

Serge: Finding lightweight wool in grey this time of year may be tricky. A lot of it depends what you want it for.

My usual sources for fabric of all sorts are Fashion Fabrics Club, Fabrics.com, and Denver Fabrics. I've also gotten some nice stuff from Trim Fabric, but their site is annoying, and they tend to be slow in shipping. (Once it gets shipped, it's fine, but they take a few extra days to get the stuff out of the warehouse.)

Realise that these are fashion fabrics, and if you're looking for fabric suitable for men's dress pants, you may want to look elsewhere, and I'm sure someone will be able to come up with a better suggestion.

If you're looking for re-enactment style fabric, that's another kettle of fish entirely.

#180 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 10:57 PM:

"Western Union just stopped sending telegrams? Who the heck were their customers last year? Vacuum tube salesmen? Punch card maintenence people? Just makes me wonder what the heck took them so long."

The last niche for telegrams: Birthday greetings and urgent messages to congressfolks.

#181 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2006, 11:46 PM:

In 1980 I was listening to both Martha and the Muffins and The Muffins. But I was 17, not 12.

There was a pretty strong progressive rock contingent among computer geeks at the time, though; it wouldn't be that surprising to have the counselors listening to ELP or Tangerine Dream.

#182 ::: Alex Read-Brown ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 04:58 AM:

from a physics perspective I think one of two things might happen; 1.) assuming there are little bubbles of air or other gasses within the soap and they are of sufficient volume, then as they expand outward to try and equalize pressure they would explode the bar of soap. 2) or if the gas pockets are of insufficient volume then even when the gas expands there won't be enough of it to overcome the tensile strength of the soap and nothing would happen.
of course it's been awhile since I had classical mechanics and it is almost 5 in the morning here so I may be out on a limb here.

#183 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 05:52 AM:

Thanks, JennR... I was asking about fabric stores because I've been thinking of having a hall costume made for the next con I attend, something a 'gentleman' of 1880 could have worn at an evening event. I've got the pattern already. I've got the seamstress. Just don't have that kind of fabric here in Albuquerque.

#184 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 06:04 AM:

Would there be a difference in how butter reacts to the vacuum of space, compared to margerine's behavior?

#185 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 06:18 AM:

So, was the State of the Union speech more of the same? Sounds like it, from what they said on Salon.com. For those interested, Tom Tomorrow has the Pirate Talk version available here. Too bad they couldn't get Robert Newton to deliver the speech. Yarrr!

#186 ::: Jen Birren ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 06:26 AM:

Serge, wouldn't 1880s evening wear have been black? A light grey would have been morning, country or sports wear, and less formal- at least that's my intuition about it.
The costume will doubtless look great, anyway, and "less formal" in Victorian terms looks extremely dressy in ours!

#187 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 06:34 AM:

Probably, Jen, but if I went for an all-black outfit, I'd feel like Mandrake the Magician. So I thought of going for grey. If I had my druthers (meaning if my wife let me), I'd go for a bright-red jacket with a yellow trim, kind of like Dr.Strange's outfit in the Straczynski re-invention of that comic-book. (What is it with me and those various Masters of the Mystic Arts?)

#188 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 07:00 AM:

Serge: have you tried checking with historical-reenactment types for prefabs? Depending on whether you're aiming for more of the Victorian Empire look or the Frontier West, you may have to fine-tune your searches a bit, but as a more or less random example, it's possible to buy (more or less) ready-to-wear stuff like this.

#189 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 07:13 AM:

Thanks, Julie. It may turn out to be cheaper for me to buy the fabric and have that seamstress make the costume. No matter what, that site has some stuff that I'd need, like suspenders. (I can't find my dad's.)

Speaking of fashion and costumes... Have you and JennR ever seen a 1991 British show set in 1920 called The House of Elliot? My wife Susan bought the DVD set for a book she's working on and it's pretty neat. I got a laugh out of realizing that the photographer's dippy receptionist was Minnie Driver.

#190 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 08:16 AM:

Haven't seen House of Elliot , but then I'm more of a distant voyeur of frockage than a participant. (Got spooked when trying to learn how to use a sewing machine which kept snapping needles at me, apparently a regular occurrence when sewing over pins.) I have been thinking of getting an existing garment copied, though-- how does all of this seamstress stuff work, anyway? If you're providing the fabric, is the charge strictly on a hourly basis for labor (including measurements/fittings), a flat rate per garment based on estimated difficulty, or some combination of both?

#191 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 08:25 AM:

Not sure what criteria that seamstress follows, Julie. I'd have to ask my wife. It probably has to do with the complexity of the project.

As for my own sewing skills... I can mend socks. And sew a button back in place. With lots of thread. No falling off ever again once I've gone thru it. I like sturdy. Must have some German Engineer among my ancestors.

#192 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 08:42 AM:

Hah. Your button-replacement skills may slightly outrank mine if you use actual thread instead of (unwaxed) dental floss, which is terrifically sturdy but is sometimes unhappy about staying in knots. IIRC I did learn how to sew hems, buttonholes, French seams etc. by hand, but it's a hideously slow process and my eyesight is bad enough as it is.

#193 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 08:45 AM:

Sewing with unwaxed dental floss? There's GOT to be a really bad joke somewhere in there.

#194 ::: JennR ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 09:02 AM:

Serge: If you can find the right color at Fashion Fabrics, it'll probably work fine for that purpose. Some of their fabrics are acceptable for CW re-enactment, and some of them aren't. Since you're not looking for really, truly, 'authentic', you've got more flexibility. You could call them and ask. I know that the owner hangs out on a couple of costuming lists, and is willing to help. (She's a little swamped right now, by her own admission, but that should settle out once they get moved.)

And I did see and enjoy The House of Elliot. It helps that I really like many of the styles that came out of that era.

#195 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 09:19 AM:

So, JennR, the fashions on that show are fairly accurate? I was surprised by the women wearing pants on more than one occasion.

#196 ::: Barry Ragin ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 09:43 AM:

So, was the State of the Union speech more of the same? Sounds like it, from what they said on Salon.com.

You mean, besides the fact that one of his speech writers has been reading Cordwainer Smith?

A hopeful society has institutions of science and medicine that do not cut ethical corners, and that recognize the matchless value of every life. Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research: human cloning in all its forms, creating or implanting embryos for experiments, creating human-animal hybrids, and buying, selling, or patenting human embryos.
#197 ::: JennR ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 09:48 AM:

There were patterns for 'outdoor wear' trousers/pants for women in Godey's Ladies' Book in the 1880s. They were intended to be worn while bicycling, as they were far safer than the skirts of the day. (They were very full, but they were trousers.) I wasn't too surprised to see the 1920s fashionistas wearing trousers. By 1930, as I understand it, they were reasonably common among the fashion-forward, although reserved for more informal occasions.

#198 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 09:51 AM:

Sure, pants were safer, JennR, but that often hasn't been of primary concern where fashion is concerned.

#199 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 09:57 AM:

Cordwainer Smith, Barry? Too bad they couldn't get Cordwainer Bird instead.

Human-animal hybrids... They're really getting desperate if that's the best non-issue they can come up to distract The People.

#200 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 10:11 AM:

Barry, did Chimpy mention that we have to arm ourselves to the teeth because of the Spider Overlords hiding on the other side of the Moon?

#201 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 11:09 AM:

Of course, he was very specific - only cloning and human-animal hybrids will be outlawed. Altered animals - AOK.

"You see, Prendick, those campaign contributions were not wasted. The President understands what we have achieved here on my island."

Recently-confirmed Supreme Court appointee Samuel Alito commented: "Not to interfere in the President's executive power - that is the Law. Are we not Men?"

#202 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 11:10 AM:

"We are Devo."

#203 ::: Barry Ragin ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 11:15 AM:

serge, i missed that part of the speech, actually.

Howard Dean was in town for the SOTU viewing party that the local Dems had organized, and i was busy helping out with that, so i didn't pick up on the Underpeople reference till i got home and found it being discussed on message boards and blogs.

a review of the transcript yields no mention of the Spider Overlords, alas, but the entire speech reflects an alternate reality that i really don't want to spend any more time in.

#204 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 12:31 PM:

Serge beat me. Devo, absolutely. (Which ties discussion of the State of the Union address back in with the 1980-music thread...)

Bush's reference to "human-animal hybrids" made me think of the Devo movie, where the boys are daydreaming about someday having their very own recombo-DNA lab, so that they can build their own "bubble-eyed dog-boys."

#205 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 12:36 PM:

Ok, still an open thread, and at least one other Devo-tee here.

This is clearly another sign of the Apocalypse: Disney has re-invented Devo. (Caution: link is NSFSanity.)

#206 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 01:08 PM:

Damn you, Bob. I'd managed to put that out of my mind. Devo 2.0 indeed.

* * *

I spent the SOTU speech tromping around in the rain, radio-less, waiting for the dog to take a dump.

No matter what he meant, Bush's being down on human-animal hybrids is sure to lose him the furry-fan vote.

#207 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 02:13 PM:

Weirdly enough, the Island of Dr. Moreau came up at lunch just now. In the musical context.

So aside from Devo and Oingo Boingo's "No Spill Blood". . . are there a LOT of Dr. Moreau songs out there?

#208 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 02:15 PM:

I have my doubts as to whether Bush was really talking about this research in particular, but PZ Myers has some info about human-to-animal research which may help us to understand Down's Syndrome.

#209 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 02:44 PM:

That textile artist does have issues. But I enjoyed the 'tattooing a Powerbook' page.

#210 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 02:48 PM:

Of all movie versions of the Moreau story, the Charles Laughton is considered the best, right? I remember the Seventies version as so-so, but it did have Barbara Carrera in it. As for the Nineties version, well, David Without-Thews has ever been much of a draw to me and so I can't tell if it sucks as much as I've heard...

#211 ::: Eric ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 02:55 PM:

The Human-animal hybrid mention isn't as strange as you might think. I'm sure I've read about modified mice that are given some human genes, so that they can be used to test drugs etc. that aren't read for real human testing.

Ah, here it is.

#212 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 03:15 PM:

My unstoppable writing career takes a mighty leap forward:

http://www.mcsweeneys.net/links/newfood/

Second item down.

#213 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 03:40 PM:

I just realized that I have a Bacon number of only 5, as my mother's boyfriend's father starred in a movie with John Wheeler, who starred in Apollo 13. My father used to claim that he went to school with Michael Nesmith, which if true would also give me a 5, but which I don't consider nearly as credible.

I would have expected a much larger number until I got to thinking about it.

#214 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 03:50 PM:

SF question for the assembled brains:

A friend asked me a couple days ago whether there had been any SF written based on the idea that the asteroids were the remnanta of a destroyed planet. I said I remembered it being a common idea in early SF, perhaps in the '30s, but when he asked me for any books or stories that had used that idea I blanked. Can anybody remember any specific SF novels or stories which involve a destroyed 5th planet somehow, either as plot point or background?

#215 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 03:51 PM:

Well I was in a punk band once called the Grateful Dicks, for which I wrote a song called The Cheverolet of Dr. Moreau.

#216 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 03:55 PM:

For the particles link labelled "a textile artis with serious issues", the actual artist's home page is http://patriciawaller.com/

#217 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 04:03 PM:

Clifton... I think that Don Wollheim once wrote a young-adult novel about that. Can't remember the title.

#218 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 04:06 PM:

Clifton: Space Cadet has a chapter about the boys surveying the asteroid belt and finding evidence that the dead planet's inhabitants had blown themselves up.

#219 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 04:10 PM:

Heinlein's Space Cadet has a visit to an asteroid involving finds of fifth-planet artifacts as the middle third, IIRC.

And on preview, I see TexAnne's beaten me to the punch. Woe!

#220 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 04:20 PM:

CNN's Wolf Blitzer just announced the public swearing-in ceremony of Alito. My brain heard "public swearing ceremony." hmmm, can I contribute?

#221 ::: Jeff Lipton ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 04:26 PM:

Two questions for all assembled:

I have a book (Around the World in a Flying Machine by the redoubtable Mr Verne) which is so brittle pages are breaking.

1) How do I reverse the "brittlization"? I'm thinking that I'd want to add moisture to the pages without encouraging mildew and the like. Perhaps some kind of steaming process would work?

2) How can I put broken pieces back on a page? I know regular (Scotch) tape will turn brown and will eventually fall off.

Any ideas would be appreciated. If desired, you can mail me: j dot lipton at verizon dot net

#222 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 04:30 PM:

Jeff Lipton: library-supply places sell transparent rice paper and starch paste for sticking pages together. I don't know how you fix brittle, but there is stuff to fix acid in the pages (Wei-To spray).

#223 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 04:59 PM:

P J Evans - that sounds like the Wei-To go.

#224 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 05:22 PM:

Gaylords' has "Bookkeeper Deacidification Sprays" under Books & Pamphlets>Repair & Maintenance Tools. It's fairly pricy, but if you need to deacidify something .... (Active ingredient: magnesium oxide.) Wei-T'ou seems to mostly have disappeared as a product.

#225 ::: eriknelson2002@yahoo.com ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 05:52 PM:

There was a story I read once where a rival intergalactic empire sends a space ship back in time to destroy Earth before humanity comes into being, but they blow up the wrong planet, and so Earth goes on its merry way.

It was in a paperback anthology, which I don't know the title of because the front cover was missing on the copy I found. It was a collection of first published stories by writers who made it big.

It was called E__ or something like that, I think.

Sorry I can't be more substantial.

#226 ::: erik nelson ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 05:59 PM:

Must clarify: my previous comment was in response to the query by Clifton Royston about stories about the asteroid belt being a blown-up planet.

The story I mentioned might have been by Damon Knight. Or maybe he was the editor of the anthology.

#227 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 06:35 PM:

PJ Evans: Gaylords' has "Bookkeeper Deacidification Sprays"

I read that as "Bookkeeper Deadification Sprays" which might or might not be useful now that (US) tax season is upon us.

#228 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 06:52 PM:

Stefan - Today, McSweeney's, tomorrow, the world!

#229 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 07:14 PM:

There's DVDs of The House of Elliot? I loved that show. :::making a new tab for Netflix::: They've got both series!

#230 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 08:57 PM:

Thanks for the quick answers; I know I have read Space Cadet and that's probably what I was thinking of. (I wound up recommending 'Blowups Happen' due to the lunar history part of it, and am using that as the foot in the door to get him to try out several short story collections - Heinlein, Bester, Silverberg, LeGuin - and find which authors he likes enough to read more of.)

#231 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 11:17 PM:

Clifton: I don't remember that section of Space Cadet at all (for some reason I remember the training and the landing on Venus), but the MacGuffin in Nourse's Scavengers in Space turns out to be a map showing the 5th planet exploding and the inhabitants leaving by starship.

Wollheim also mentions the exploded-planet theory in passing, but I don't recall any dependence on it; what I do remember is the nonsensical basic physics (hitching a ride on an asteroid?!?) in The Secret of Saturn's Rings.

#232 ::: Mina W ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2006, 11:48 PM:

Eric — Loved your take on the state of the Union. I was surprised and relieved when 1984 arrived and it was nothing like. But here we are halfway down the slope.

Of course I did not listen to the state of the union last night — I can't stand non-stop lies, like I knew would be happening. (Do you suppose his buddies the pharmaceutical companies are happy about their blood pressure medicine sales?) But I heard this passage on the news tonight, and looked up the text. While I was listening to it, it occurred to me that it was equally true, or rather much more true, with just a few words changed....


STATE OF THE UNION 2006 george w. bush
"No one can deny the success of freedom, but some men rage and fight against it. And one of the main sources of reaction and opposition is radical Islam – the perversion by a few of a noble faith into an ideology of terror and death. Terrorists like bin Laden are serious about mass murder – and all of us must take their declared intentions seriously. They seek to impose a heartless system of totalitarian control throughout the Middle East, and arm themselves with weapons of mass murder. Their aim is to seize power in Iraq, and use it as a safe haven to launch attacks against America and the world. Lacking the military strength to challenge us directly, the terrorists have chosen the weapon of fear. When they murder children at a school in Beslan … or blow up commuters in London … or behead a bound captive … the terrorists hope these horrors will break our will, allowing the violent to inherit the Earth. But they have miscalculated: We love our freedom, and we will fight to keep it.

In a time of testing, we cannot find security by abandoning our commitments and retreating within our borders. If we were to leave these vicious attackers alone, they would not leave us alone. They would simply move the battlefield to our own shores. There is no peace in retreat. And there is no honor in retreat. By allowing radical Islam to work its will – by leaving an assaulted world to fend for itself – we would signal to all that we no longer believe in our own ideals, or even in our own courage. But our enemies and our friends can be certain: The United States will not retreat from the world, and we will never surrender to evil."


STATE OF THE UNION 2006 george w. bush altered words from the point of view of the rest of the world

"No one can deny the success of freedom, but some men rage and fight against it. And one of the main sources of reaction and opposition is radical fundamentalist Christianity – the perversion by a few of a noble faith into an ideology of terror and death. Terrorists like Bush, Cheney, & Rumsfield are serious about mass murder – and all of us must take their declared intentions seriously. They seek to impose a heartless system of totalitarian control throughout the Middle East, America, and the world, and arm themselves with weapons of mass murder. Their aim is to seize power and oil in Iraq, and use it as a safe haven to launch attacks against Iran, Syria, and the rest of the Middle East, and the world. ... The terrorists have chosen the weapon of fear. When they murder patients at a hospital in Fallujah… or blow up commuters in Baghdad … or torture and kill a bound captive … the terrorist Bush administration hope these horrors will break our will, allowing the violent to inherit the Earth. But they have miscalculated: We love our freedom, and we will fight to keep it.

... If we were to leave these vicious attackers alone, they would not leave us alone. They would simply move the battlefield to our own shores. There is no peace in retreat. And there is no honor in retreat. By allowing radical fundamentalist Christianity to work its will – by leaving an assaulted world to fend for itself – we would signal to all that we no longer believe in our own ideals, or even in our own courage. But our enemies and our friends can be certain ... we will never surrender to evil."

#233 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 04:09 AM:

Heinlein also used the idea of a destroyed fifth planet in Stranger in a Strange Land -- his Martians had done it, hundreds of thousands (I think) of years ago.

#234 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 07:10 AM:

Yes, Marilee, The House of Eliott is available on DVD. We've already got the first boxed set, and ordered the 2nd set that's available. As far as I know, there's nothing more after that.

#235 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 07:15 AM:

CHip... Wollheim's The Secret of Saturn's Rings is the one I was thinking of when I brought it up as an example of the exploded-planet story. You're right, it wasn't really that important to the story, but, for some reason, that's one of the few things I remember from a long-ago reading. In fact, the only other thing I didn't forget was the hopping around, which I think was thru the rings of Saturn. Didn't seem silly back then, but I was young and foolish.

#236 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 07:19 AM:

My cubicle neighbor did have the stomach to watch the speech, but the thing that really drew his attention wasn't so much the slap in the face of the manimal voters but a comment about making alcohol from woodchip. I guess that's what one should expect from a 25-year-old. Still, what was that about?

#237 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 08:50 AM:

For months now I've been mooning over the Australian-Region House of Eliott Series 1 DVD set. History of Costume was one of my favourite subjects at school.
I do have difficulty justifying the $AU120 (~$US90) with the recent batch of medical & other bills, especially since there are other, cheaper, things I'm also after.

#238 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 09:11 AM:

House of Eliott's first set costs that much in Australia? This is rather steep. It can't be just because an edition of the set had to be released just for the Australia region, can it?

#239 ::: Paul Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 09:19 AM:

There was a story I read once where a rival intergalactic empire sends a space ship back in time to destroy Earth before humanity comes into being, but they blow up the wrong planet, and so Earth goes on its merry way.

That might be "T" by Brian Aldiss. I remember it from the collection Space, Time and Nathaniel, but a bit of poking around in the ISFDB suggests that you might have read it in First Flight, edited by Damon Knight.


#240 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 10:35 AM:

PJ Evans: Gaylords' has "Bookkeeper Deacidification Sprays"

Larry Brennan: I read that as "Bookkeeper Deadification Sprays"

And I have twice mis-read it as "Bookkeeper Deification Sprays". There should definitely be a spray for that.

#241 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 10:50 AM:

Speaking of Heinlein, have any of you sampled the posthumous extended editions of Stranger in a Strange Land, Puppet Masters, etc.?

I'm toying with the idea of picking them up, but I've had mixed reactions to expanded editions by other authors. I'd hate to spoil my memories of the Heinlein as, sadly, they're not making any more of it.

Last but not least, what about "For Us, the Living?"

#242 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 01:30 PM:

Back to an earlier question about the pronunciation of "protesters"--I guess it was in the last open thread--my authority for this is Marilyn vos Savant, if memory serves, but I as remember it English usage is to put the accent on the first syllable when the word is a noun, and on the second when used as a verb.

CON-test, con-TEST. PRO-test, pro-TEST.

Which I read to say persons taking part in a PRO-test would be referred to as pro-TEST-ers.

#243 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 01:47 PM:

Also on the pronunciation of "protesters": In Geoffrey Nunberg's Going Nucular, a collection of witty and astute weekly columns about linguistic matters, he discusses how the pronunciation of that group of words changed in the US in the middle of last century as the meaning of the word changed. I no longer have access to the book, but it's worth a look, and not just for that.

#244 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 02:18 PM:

Clifton: A friend asked me a couple days ago whether there had been any SF written based on the idea that the asteroids were the remnanta of a destroyed planet.

I believe Fredric Brown also used this idea as background in his story, "Letter to a Phoenix". What a great short story writer that man was!

#245 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 03:14 PM:

cmk - it's not that simple. There are two different nouns 'defense', for example, as well as 'offense'. Stressed on the second syllable, they have common, everyday meanings. Stressed on the first syllable, they are sports jargon for parts of a (US) football team.

BTW, I wrote a story theorizing that the Belt was the remnant of a destroyed planet when I was in fifth grade. Nor was that my first science fiction story; that honor goes to "Sparky in Space," which I wrote in (I think) 3rd grade. Or maybe earlier. It was about a cute little puppy who finds a flying saucer in the woods, and accidentally launches it into orbit. Then he accidentally lands it in exactly the same place, the aliens (who never appear) are none the wiser, and Sparky lives happily ever after.

Well, whaddaya want from a third grader?

But I digress.

My current theory about the Belt is that it's the Sun's ring. Now that it appears to be a rule that all gas giants have rings, why should the Sun be different just because it was massive enough to "light up"?

#246 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 03:25 PM:

Some of the all-about-the-solar-system books I read in elementary school suggested that the asteroids were the remnants of a fifth planet that was ripped apart by Jupiter.

I found this very impressive at the time.

Later, I read other books noting that this fifth planet would have been very, very small, since all of the asteroids together don't have anywhere near the mass of, say, Mercury.

#247 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 03:45 PM:

suggested that the asteroids were the remnants of a fifth planet that was ripped apart by Jupiter

I understand they now think that some of those asteroids are really comets captured by Jupiter - Patroclus is the one name I remember. At 70+km diameter, you still wouldn't want it to hit your planet, even if it is ice.

#248 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 04:45 PM:

English usage is to put the accent on the first syllable when the word is a noun, and on the second when used as a verb

As incidentally pointed out in the Wipers song "Dimension-7" (I think - it was covered by Nirvana as "D-7"), which contains the two lines:

de-FECT, DE-fect
re-JECT, RE-ject

My feeling is that "protestors" probably wouldn't conform to any rule about the two-syllable words but would fit in with rules for three-syllable words. Only I don't know what they are. FWIW, stress-on-second-syllable sounds right to me, but I *am* English.

What would you call a group of people who were protesting in favour of testing? Pro-testers?

#249 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 04:53 PM:

For once, French is simpler than English. No emphasis on one syllable in la langue de Moliere. On the other hand, it does have accents written over some vowels. (Put the wrong accent over 'peche' and you'll wind up with the French for peach, or fishing, or sin. At the wrong time.)

#250 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 05:01 PM:

Serge: that reminds me. How do you say "tongue-twister" in French? My Collins-Robert says only "une phrase très difficile à prononcer," but surely the people who invented the archduchess' socks have a more interesting word.

#251 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 05:14 PM:

I can't think of one, which doesn't mean there isn't one. I'd have to ask my French-born buddette Elisabeth Vonarburg. If there is such a word, she'd be more likely to know. But I bet you it'd have as many syllables as the sentence you mentionned. You should see how much thicker an American science-fiction book is in French. Mark Twain once said of German words that they're so long they have a perspective. French can be a bit voluminous at times.

#252 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 05:25 PM:

My feeling is that "protestors" probably wouldn't conform to any rule about the two-syllable words but would fit in with rules for three-syllable words.

There very easily could be a principle that I'm forgetting that applies to three-syllable words as such; my reasoning was that we're talking about [verb]ers, not [noun]ers, so the pronunciation would carry over from that.

#253 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 05:49 PM:

Yes, fair enough. I suppose I'm thinking of the awkward case of "controversy", where I stress it differently when it is extended to "controversial" (not true in US English, if Prince is anything to go by). But really I mainly encounter this problem when it comes to syllable lengths in Latin. I think I know how they work, but I can never explain them to my students.

#254 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 05:54 PM:

Well, whaddaya want from a third grader?

My slippers, my pipe, and that book I was reading. Now go away kid, ya bother me...

#255 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 06:03 PM:

Well, whaddya know? They just released The Time Tunnel's first 13 episodes on DVD.

The U.S. government has a US$ 7 billion project to build a device to allow traveling in time. A senator is sent by the congress to the installation in order to inspect the situation at that moment and to decide if the government should spend more money in it. As the senator seems to be disappointed, prof. Tony Newman takes his chances and uses the "Time Tunnel" in a trip to the past to demonstrate the device efficiency. He arrives aboard the "TITANIC" in 1912 a few hours before it sunk. Prof. Douglas Philips go to rescue him, but the things go wrong and both become lost in time.

Seven billion dollars to build a time machine? And you notice that's in US dollars, not that funny Canadian money. Wow. Isn't that near what's spent in Iraq in just a few months? Damn that inflation...

#256 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 06:07 PM:

I have the barest, vaguest memories of The Time Tunnel. The only episode I remember -- a scene, really -- concerned a bunch of pirates swarming into time travel HQ via the tunnel and menacing the technicians.

Scared the pee out of me.

#257 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 06:21 PM:

I don't remember that episode, Stefan. I remember the one set during the Civil War, and our heroes find out that Macchiavelli (yes, that Machiavelli) is working for the South. And there was one where Robert Duvall plays a tech who's planted a bomb in the Machine then gets whisked with Tony & Doug into a far future where Humanity is organized like a hive, then all three get thrown back into the far past, right next to a hive of giant prehistoric bees (heck, why not?), but Tony & Doug get snatched away by the Tunnel, leaving Duvall to be stung to death.

#258 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 07:20 PM:

Scott H, after I read the extended editions of RAH, I was very thankful for editors.

And Serge, The Time Tunnel DVDs are also now on my Netflix list. Have any other good ideas?

#259 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 07:21 PM:

Serge -- hopping from one ring stone to another wasn't silly, and may even have fit with guesses about the rings' nature at that time. What was ridiculous was saving fuel by landing on an eccentric asteroid and riding it outward -- because if you actually match velocities closely enough to land on an asteroid you're already in its eccentric orbit (so landing doesn't help), and you've probably wasted fuel trying to catch it instead of taking the most efficient direct route.

#260 ::: Jeff Lipton ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 09:36 PM:

I've scanned a few "book repair" sites (with emphasis on brittle books), and it seems my little gem is beyond [very expensive] repair. I might invest in book repair tape (only $9.00 for more than I could possibly use), and hope for the best.

It's cheesy (doesn't that go, somewhat, with Verne?) but fun!

#261 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 10:31 PM:

The few Heinleins I've read unedited seemed not that much different.

But I was extremely disappointed to reread Puppet Masters after all these years.

There was the scene where an agent was looking all shook up and the narrator tries to cheer him up. The guy had just shot half a dozen mostly-unarmed secretaries who were attacking with staplers and letter-openers and such because they were being mind-controlled by space aliens. So he tries to tell the guy that he did the right thing, there was nothing else he could do etc. The agent replies that he could easily kill his own mother if the mission required it. But he shot these people and they kept coming. What freaked him out was that when he shot them they didn't fall down, and then when they did fall down they kept crawling after him.

So then compare that to the narrator's own behavior. He was a nice guy through and through. Every time he had a choice between completing the mission or being polite to a little girl he chose the little girl and the mission failed. He didn't belong in that organization at all.

And then it turned out he was the director's son. Sheer nepotism. And his father excused him because after each fuckup where he put other agents in danger, he personally made it out alive. Somehow I missed that theme when I was 12.

And yet, it was necessary to have somebody like that as the narrator. If Heinlein had used a real agent as narrator his audience would have been utterly repelled.

#262 ::: Mina W ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 10:54 PM:

candle — A biology professor I had used to say "We USually accent the antepenULtimate SYLlable." (US)

#263 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 10:54 PM:

the thing that really drew his attention wasn't so much the slap in the face of the manimal voters but a comment about making alcohol from woodchip.

And now we finally discover why Bush clears all that brush on his vacations -- he's probably been hoarding woodchips for years. (For gasoline, of course -- not what you're thinking.)

#264 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2006, 11:14 PM:

This thread's getting pretty long, but I'll ask anyway. I'm getting serious about teaching my older offspring to program (she's 11, I think it's time) and had the epiphany that back in the Stone Age, when I learned to program, the entire context was a heckuva lot simpler. I did my first "real" programming on a Hewlett-Packard whateveritwas. It was basically lap equipment, with a 25x40 screen but an actual graphics mode. I liked that graphics stuff. And Zork. I liked Zork. And I liked all that 10 PRINT "HI!" : GOTO 10 stuff.

But now, I have Perl and Python under Windows. The context is way harder to do anything fun. Until tonight, I'd been at a loss as to how to start showing her how cool programming can be.

Anybody else here a programmer, wanting to teach a child how to *really* code? How have you started? Or have you started?

Here's how I started. I tried to think of simple things and simple contexts, and came up with this:

print "? ";
while (>) {
   chomp;
   if ($_ eq "bye") { last; }
   if (/blah/) {
      print "This is boring.   You're just blahing.\n";
   } else {
      print "$_\n";
   }
}
print "It was fun!\n";

And we went from there. She quickly realized you can program the computer to find any kind of words, and I showed her a taste of what regexps can do. And man -- she immediately started to say, "hey, let's try this! and that!" and started blocking out her first interactions.

Anyway: any ideas from people? I think we've got a start, but I don't know what else might be out there. (Yes, I do know about LOGO and such -- I've never gotten much traction out of it with my kids, dunno why.)

#265 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 12:07 AM:

I agree with what Michael just said. Computers now contain so many distractions it's hard to focus and there's so much stuff that it's harder to figure out which stuff is important and concentrate on one thing at a time.

So the barrier to learning is figuring out which of a jillion things is the thing to try to learn.

#266 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 12:37 AM:

It doesn't help that standard Windows doesn't come with any programming languages.

Not even BASIC.

#267 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 12:58 AM:

My daughter's high-school taught programming in Flash. That seemed to work OK, while letting them get some flashy (pardon) results with a modicum of effort.

(I didn't try to teach her programming, because I had a feeling that would go South rapidly. I did teach her how to build computers, though, and she made some spending money in high school building PCs.)

#268 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 01:48 AM:

Stefan Jones: It doesn't help that standard Windows doesn't come with any programming languages.

Well, as a good corporate citizen (although I'm speaking soley on my own, making no claims on my employer's behalf, etc, etc) I feel compelled to point out that you can go and download the Express edtions of Visual Studio which are free through 11/7/06. They provide an excellent learning environment and there are on-line learning resources available.

So, while languages don't ship with the OS, they're readily available, along with a development environment. There's even a free Express edition of SQL Server 2005 so you work with a robust database, too.

OK - commercial break over. (Even if it's all free stuff.)

#269 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 01:56 AM:

Michael - You might want to check out http://www.kidsprogramminglanguage.com/.

I haven't used it myself, but it looks like it might be useful for your educational purposes.

#270 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 05:49 AM:

Squeak might also be worth a look. It seems to be suitable for both kids and grownups (at least grownups who like Smalltalk).

#271 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 06:11 AM:

Other DVD recommendations? Well, Marilee, it depends on where your tastes run.

I understand that The Rat Patrol has also been released, but I have only vague memories of it. They're good memories though, as in the case of The Naked City, which has been out on DVD for some time, I understand.

Oh, and there is Gerry Anderson's puppet show Fireball XL-5. Set in 2063, it tells the adventures of ace starship pilot Steve Zodiac, whose crew also includes Dr. Venus and scientist Matt Matic. Oh, and a robot co-pilot entirely made of transparent plastic. I especially like the first episode, where some villainous aliens have been launching superduperatomic missiles at Earth. Our Hero of course puts a stop to that with some daring piloting. By the end, Venus exclaims that's it's no wonder he's known as such a great pilot. His response?

"You're pretty cute too."

The end. I try not to think of the moment the cameras go off, and the two puppets start having sex with each other, especially with all those strings getting in the way.

#272 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 10:20 AM:

Michael, if you're teaching her Perl, you can try Impatient Perl. It's free. I wrote it as a plain, straightforward introduction to useful perl.

BTW, I learned programming on a Radio Shack Color Computer with built in Basic. So, I can identify with the frustration with all the complexity of today's computer environments.

#273 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 11:14 AM:

Michael

The question of how to teach your child about computers is interesting, but my answer would have a lot to do with exactly what you're trying to accomplish.

Are you just trying to just get her more-than-usually comfortable with the technology, or is your end goal a more formal knowledge of computer science?

In either case, I'd suggest that you start by setting up a Linux machine. Linux distributions have a couple of advantages as teaching tools:

1. They come with every imaginable variety of programming language for free.
2. The source code for just about everything is easily available.
3. Unlike windows, you can get pretty good performance from a Linux distro on an aged piece of hardware.

As a first course of study, I'd suggest having her build her own web site. (You can have the Apache web server installed for you automagically when you build the Linux system.) My experience (I taught Comp. Sci. for 4y) is that kids are a lot more enthusiastic about web sites than they are about character I/O.

Get her familiar with navigating the OS, opening files, and the command line by building a smallish static HTML site.

Depending on what you're trying to accomplish, from there you could look into a lot of stuff.

Personally, I'd start her off with short survey of TCP/IP networking--maybe set up a small LAN in your house? That will give her background knowledge that would be useful for just about everything else she does.

As far as programming, Java isn't a terrible language to learn on, and there are a whole lot of good tutorial sites out there. If not Java, I'd suggest something object-oriented.

Once she's got the basics of programming, hit her with some of the math--Big-Oh notation, analysis of algorithms, sorting and searching.

When you get a chance, databases are an interesting field of study as well. MySQL and Postgres both come free with Linux, and they're easy to learn & use. Pay attention to normalization and other design principles when she's getting started, as it's easy to fall into bad-but-functional design habits that are difficult to unlearn.

That ought to keep her busy for a year or two, anyway...


#275 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 01:42 PM:

Well, James Wolcott's blog is cheerful today. Not.

God, the 21st Century sucks even worse than I thought it would, back in the early Seventies. At least then I only thought the world would be like Soylent Green.

#276 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 03:05 PM:

Sorry, posted this in the wrong thread. posting it here where it belongs.
---------------------------


I think you can install a complete programming environment for Perl on your Windows PC by installing a single tarball from ActiveState, for free.

download

Alternately, if you have Linux, I believe you get perl with the standard installation.

#277 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 03:36 PM:

Java . . yeah. It's free, it's famous, and it's mighty useful and. . .mighty.

My dad set up a very simplified wargame in C- the kicker was, you couldn't play, just program your tank.

He had a subroutine for his tank's behaviour, I had a subroutine for my tank's behaviour, and there was a main routine that handled the turns and the results.

It evolved. He put in something that fired at his last location if he hit; I put in code that moved me if I was hit. He put in nonrandom firing; I put in code that moved me into his last shellhole. I put in a berserker routine so, if his tank was nearly dead and mine was OK, I fired nonstop. Obviously, there was no data hiding. . . there were questions about "Should you know my tank's health?" and the like.

This sort of thing may not work for your child, but it worked for me.

#278 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 03:47 PM:

On the subject of Perl ...

Over a period of a couple of years I wrote a lengthy Perl tutorial for PC PLUS magazine. Contractual reasons (cough, cough -- the publisher the Perl book contract is with was taken over, gobbled up, the entire editorial department moved to another continent, and don't publish that stuff any more anyway, but it's still a contract) prevented me from turning it into a book and publishing it, but I retained all ebook rights to any book I might write about Perl, and I kept non-exclusive rights to the stuff I did for Future Publishing, so the results are here.

They're in plain ASCII and I haven't added the example files yet -- one of these days I've got to find the time to turn it into a free (Creative Commons) ebook. But Perl is what I'd been doing for a living for a few years at the time I wrote these articles, so hopefully it'll be of use to somebody.

The level they're pitched at is of someone who has some programming experience, or who's got to grips with the Llama book ("Learning Perl", Randal Schwartz) and wants to go a bit further. Each article digs into a different aspect of the language and hopefully explains how to get stuff done using it.

If you like, think of it as my non-fiction trunk book.

#279 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 03:52 PM:

Rebol is very good for teaching kids of about the early teens a programming language http://www.rebol.com/ the major reason is that it makes it easy to do some things that kids that age might want to do - http://www.rebol.com/nutshell.html paraphrasing examples:

to send an email
send blah@nospam.com "don't spam me, I won't spam you!"

send a webpage via the email
send blah@nospam.com read http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight

and so forth, it's something of a lisp lite, has a good number of quick examples and the community is about evenly divided between people who have CS chops and people who are just making things work.

#281 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 04:17 PM:

Throwing in a couple of notes --

I use Perl in my job. A lot. I wouldn't teach it to my kid, if I had one, as a first programming language. Perl is a collection of Effective Ancient Unix Evil, and while I love it, that's not the place to start a kid if you want them to understand what they're doing. (If you come to it understanding what you're doing, it's great stuff. But all in all it's like learning detachment by taking up Shao-lin long fist; if you keep at it for a couple of decades and get seriously good, yes, you'll learn detachment, but that's not what it's generally held to be for.)

(Active State does have single-download free instances of perl, python, and tcl for Windows, and they do Just Work.)

Also in my job, I sometimes make hiring decisions about programmers. If they can't write code on a white board -- which is something you apparently have expunged from your brain by using Visual Studio, to the point of motorboat noises -- they don't get hired.

If I were going to teach a kid to program, I'd start with either Python or Ruby; modern, powerful, easy to get immediate results from, and designed, rather than grew, so you learn about how to imagine structures of organization as well as how to do things.

#282 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 04:29 PM:

"We USually accent the antepenULtimate SYLlable." (US)

I fear that contraDICTS my conVICTions when it comes to underSTANDing syllABic pronUNCiATion. But I am only a beGINNer at linGUISTics. (I know contradiction doesn't prove anything, but my suspicion is that the rules are particularly poorly understood in this area. I'm not convinced that it's much of a tendency, is what I'm saying.)

In the discussion about introducing programming languages to beginners, are we risking throwing PERL before swine?

#283 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 04:35 PM:

In the discussion about introducing programming languages to beginners, are we risking throwing PERL before swine?

No, it's just SmallTalk.

(FWIW, I started with Fortran IV and then learned assembler, Basic, and Pascal. C was a bit too late for me, although I can usually follow it.)

#284 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 05:13 PM:

I learned RPG II by doing. I once took a Novell Netware course with a woman who was working in C++; she tried to explain it to me, and I was lost in minutes. It kinda put paid to my (admittedly naive) idea of "transferable programming skills."

#285 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 05:43 PM:

Young whippersnappers!!! When I became a programmer, the language was COBOL. And we used punch-card machines. Steam-powered too.

#286 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 05:48 PM:

I remember that, Serge. Oh, those poor CompSci students with their COBOL printouts all over the hallway outside of the terminal room, crawling over all those lines of code, praying no one came along and kicked their stack of punch cards....

#287 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 05:50 PM:

Serge: I could never get COBOL programs to work. Where did you meet steam-powered punchcard machines? That's really impressive! (One thing learned with the mark-sense cards used in 1984 was, don't print the boxes with black ink. The other thing was that, always, someone will not read the instructions. And one set came back with proofreading marks on it for correcting the marked votes!)

#288 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 05:54 PM:

Actually, PJ, the card-punchers were really modified pedal-powered sewing machines. And we had to walk to the data center, two miles in the snow, uphill both ways. It was rough in those days, kids.

#289 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 05:56 PM:

Just got permission to share this:

Rhi on the Road

A former co-worker, an environmental engineer, left recently to work for FEMA in New Orleans.

#290 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 05:58 PM:

"Programming in COBOL is like trying to drive a large dead whale along the beach at Daytona." -- a friend of mine, who got paid to drive whales.

Mais ou sont les chards d'antan?

Oh, and wrt the "Things I Learned from My Patients" Sidelight, and the most interesting of the "patient tried to eat the drug evidence" stories, I usedta live in University City (Philadelphia), and in another college town for ten years before that. One must understand that college is more than books you haven't read and TAs who speak a dialect of Old Martian. It's about acquiring life experience, and breaking down the barriers that separate the resident's forceps from your viscera.

#291 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 06:09 PM:

COBOl isn't as bad as that, Mike. It's just that, unlike the unix servers owned by each team, the company has one mainframe,a big expensive machine where everybody has stuff going and so you're not allowed to make changes on the fly.

On the other hand, that weakness is a strength. I set up my team's mainframe system 10 years ago and that darn thing never breaks down, unless of course it's provided with data that the other teams said we'd NEVER get in a million years, like a negative amount. Meanwhile, our unix-based system...

#292 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 06:13 PM:

Graydon wrote Also in my job, I sometimes make hiring decisions about programmers. If they can't write code on a white board -- which is something you apparently have expunged from your brain by using Visual Studio, to the point of motorboat noises -- they don't get hired.

Well, I hope it doesn't do horrible things to Sasha, but he asked for Visual C++ and that's what he's getting (or gotten, it may have arrived by now).

Of course, he's not job-hunting just yet.

#293 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 06:34 PM:

Vicki --

Games companies, who more or less universally are looking for disposable code monkeys who will accept horrid hours for the thrill of working on games, are quite happy to hire Visual Studio programmers. And since Sasha's interested in games, it's probably better to get it out of his system before it's a job.

Visual Studio, IDEs as a class, are not a general bar to employment so much as a general bar to understanding what you're doing.

Kinda like lego is cool but doesn't teach you structural engineering or how to drive nails.

#294 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 07:46 PM:

If you want to teach a kid programming, it's good to get some idea what he wants. Then find some way to encourage him to branch out from there.

Everything's black boxes, and you might get him to open some of them.

If he wants to learn about how computer software works, he could do a lot worse than pick up Forth. Forth is easy if you haven't learned something else yet. There's a great online manual.

http://home.iae.nl/users/mhx/sf.html

You get a simple virtual machine. A simple compiler and a simple interpreter. A simple programming language. Usually it includes a simple assembler. Often a simple file system. You can get a simple OO system. Since almost all of the system is written in Forth and can be modified, you can learn about compiler design and use, database design and use, OS interface stuff, practically any low-level issues you get interested in, all in a simple model system that's easy to understand. But it's all text. You can do graphics with it, but people don't. You can do TCP/IP and generating web pages is very very easy, but building a more-or-less-standard GUI interface is less easy.

Besides giving people a sense of what's inside a lot of black boxes, the thing Forth is best at is developing programming intuition. When you get that sense that you're climbing a mountain of glue or a mountain of glass, it means you have hold of the wrong end of the problem. Go back and get a clearer sense of the goal and a clearer sense of the useful system calls, and think more clearly about how to organise it all. Also, testing will get you through times of inadequate compiler safety a lot better than compiler safety will get you through times of inadequate testing.

TCL has some of the same virtues on a different level. A reasonably simple virtual machine at a much more abstract level. Great symbol aanipulation, and you can do fine GUI stuff. A rich feature set that doesn't always work intuitively. Much much easier to pick up than Perl, with enough hard stuff to reinforce that sense of when things aren't working and need a simpler approach.

I've heard good things about Flash for getting flashy results quick. I haven't tried it, but if that's the outcome you need it's worth a look.

If at some point you want to open one more black box, you might try Verilog. You can design little integrated circuits, test them on your PC, burn them into an FPGA and test them there for real. There are people putting little microprocessors on small cheap FPGAs. It's no harder than programming and if you need something special that's slow on a PC you can design a circuit to do it fast.

#295 ::: Mina W ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 09:03 PM:

candle—hmm. Well, he was a biology professor. Maybe he was talking about Latin and Greek species names? Or not.

Anyway, even if there were a standard system of emphasis, it would be overridden by the much more interesting subject of emphasis altering meaning, as was mentioned above. My sister and I used to play a game with simple sentences—seeing how many different and contradictory meanings we could get out of one sentence by altering the emphasis:"He gave that to me." But I don't remember that we ever considered 2 syllable words where the different meaning is accompanied by different emphasis.

This is a good place to check an assumption. We were in England in 1960. The other kids could not hear the difference between "uh HUH"and "UH uh". I had assumed that even if that were generally true then elsewhere in the world, by now, with movies, English speakers would all hear that. But are there non-US places where English is not so much a language of emphasis?

#296 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 10:15 PM:

Linkmeister - The great thing about RPG is that the geniuses at IBM actually thought that it would enable businesspeople to do their own coding, thus eliminating the need for programmers. I've still got my RPG reference card around somewhere - how I hated RPG.

My first real assembler program that people actually used was written in Wang VS Assembler - which was pretty much /360 assembler with ASCII coding - thus making string handling curiously different.

Oh, and our card readers were powered by thousands of hamsters running in little wheels, and we had to punch the holes with our incisors which had been filed into precise rectangular shapes.

#297 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 11:14 PM:

Mina, you might try the British on the difference between "oh AYE" and "OH aye", which is analogous, the former being an agreement and the latter a statement of disbelief.

#298 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2006, 11:44 PM:

Maybe he was talking about Latin and Greek species names? Or not.

I think there actually *are* rules for Latin and Greek - and I ought to know them, seeing as I am supposed to be a classicist, but I never learned the accents properly - but that's largely because they are dead languages. In English you can change the emphasis on monosyllables easily enough, and I suppose there are instances where emphasis changes the stress pattern without changing the grammatical function of the word (ie. verb => noun). But I don't really know. I was just being awkward anyway. Sorry!

The other kids could not hear the difference between "uh HUH"and "UH uh".

If these are pronounced the way I think, then isn't there a difference in aspiration (I mean pronouncing the H)? That feels to me more prominent than the stress difference. But in any case, I wonder if all this is largely a result of English being a language in which stress and pitch are not generally a factor in meaning, so that when a new phrase can mean both "yes" and "no" it takes a while to register that stress is what makes the difference. If that makes any sense.

There must be some proper linguists here who can deal with this. Perhaps this was all resolved when this question came up before.

#299 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 12:59 AM:

In Latin in High School, my teacher taught us that everything is sounded out, but we don't know the emphasis.

It's late at night for me and I'm not remembering any complex sentences in Latin that, if they were in French or Spanish would have a different emphasis.

On the other hand, having learned Latin (at the same time as I was learning French) has helped a great deal with understanding/reading Spanish and Italian, though my spoken Spanish is farked up from the French education, even though I know the way Spanish is different from French and know the right words. I just pronouce them wrong (French).

Sigh

#300 ::: Andy Wilton ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 04:20 AM:

On teaching kids to program: coming at it from an old-school games programming point of view, I've started with machine code with my oldest (9 y.o.) and we'll be working our way up to assembly language shortly. The rationale of starting so low is that it lets you really understand what a computer is. To my mind, C/C++ is a horrible mess as a first approach to programming, but makes perfect sense as a kind of better assembler once you’ve tried writing small programs in assembly language and experienced the problems for yourself.

Target platform is the Nintendo Game Boy Advance: the ARM’s a nice docile CPU, there’s plenty of documentation on how to get started, and the hardware is cheap. Anyone interested in going down this route should check out Jeff Frohwein’s excellent site.

On stress in English: it’s the kind of thing native speakers tend to do quite unconsciously, but (in the UK at any rate) people use stress to differentiate between similar-sounding numbers. Frex, the difference between ‘nineteen’ and ‘ninety’ in the spoken language has almost nothing to do with the final ‘N’: when there’s ambiguity, people typically exaggerate the stress difference to try and resolve it. (“Is that nine-TEEN or NINE-ty?”)

More generally, I think stress patterns are more important for comprehension than we tend to realise. My wife’s a non-native English speaker, and when we misunderstand each other (in a linguistic rather than a Mars-and-Venus kind of way) it tends to be for reasons of stressing rather than word choice, grammar etc. I suppose this makes sense from an information theory point of view: a bad phone connection can swallow consonants, but the prosody still gets the message across.

#301 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 05:53 AM:

I remember once standing in line at a snack counter in an airport behind a French-speaker trying to order "aPELpe". Having taken some French in school helped me to (eventually) decipher this as "apple pie". I can still remember the "Aha!" moment when I got it. I wound up playing interpreter, asking the Francophone if he wanted his pie heated....but at least I'm not still in that line.

#302 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 06:46 AM:

Gawd... The assembler language... I did learn that in college, along with the venerable COBOL, and FORTRAN, but I never could get the hang of it. And promptly forgot it all because nobody used it in the a business environment. The same thing happened with FORTRAN, although I did like it. And so, for me, it was COBOL. (In spite of what my earlier posts suggested, in those days we did not do computing with Jacquard looms.)

Around 1998, I got myself a book about the C language and taught myself the basics, which came in handy when an opportunity came to transfer to a team where C++ was the language. Now I deal with PL/sql and PERL.

Back to COBOL... As far as I know, its acronym stands for "Common Business-Oriented Language". That's the official story anyway. Does anybody know otherwise? I'm asking because of Galactica's planet Kobol and the original show apparently had plenty of Mormon elements snuck in it. Or so I was told.

#303 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 10:08 AM:

...am now trying to remember where I first heard the story about the French celebrity who was asked what she wanted out of life, and replied "Only 'appiness." With the emphasis on the second syllable.

#304 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 10:30 AM:

Ah. Programming questions. :)

Michael:
I'm getting serious about teaching my older offspring to program (she's 11, I think it's time) and had the epiphany that back in the Stone Age, when I learned to program, the entire context was a heckuva lot simpler.

But now, I have Perl and Python under Windows. The context is way harder to do anything fun. Until tonight, I'd been at a loss as to how to start showing her how cool programming can be.

I don't have any kids (I'd be a disaster with them!) but if I did, I'd probably start with Python rather than Perl because Python has a much cleaner syntax that is easier to read, which is even more important at the learning stage than later -- most of what the kid'll be doing to start with is reading your programs and trying to figure out why they do what they do. I can't think of anything that's much better than Python -- it has many of the same advantages as Smalltalk and other languages that were designed with educational purposes in mind, yet has the benefit of being a language that's in active use for modern applications.

Also, using (e.g.) wxPython, you can set up a very simple framework for graphical programs. Hide it in a module to start with, then later explain what modules are later and show her how to make her own. That could be a rather fun avenue to explore.

Stefan:
It doesn't help that standard Windows doesn't come with any programming languages.

Not even BASIC.

Windows comes with 2 programming languages: JScript and VBScript. Both are functional, full programming languages at least as powerful as the BASIC implementations that came with most home computers in the 80s. If you're on the Windows9x family still, you also have the DOS 'QBASIC' interpreter.


Clifton Royston:
My daughter's high-school taught programming in Flash. That seemed to work OK, while letting them get some flashy (pardon) results with a modicum of effort.

That's a good idea, although the software to do it is a little pricy. The language you program Flash in is a variant of JavaScript, so is pretty functional, but you get the added nicety of very simply playing with visual objects. Does anyone know of a free Flash editor, or are we stuck with macromedia's?

Tim Walters:
Squeak might also be worth a look. It seems to be suitable for both kids and grownups (at least grownups who like Smalltalk).

Smalltalk's an interesting language, and worth a play with. I haven't looked at how it's evolved with Squeak, but I've only heard good things about it.

Sandy B:
My dad set up a very simplified wargame in C- the kicker was, you couldn't play, just program your tank.

He had a subroutine for his tank's behaviour, I had a subroutine for my tank's behaviour, and there was a main routine that handled the turns and the results.

Sounds like C-ROBOTS or its more recent reimplementation, C++ Robots.

Hmm. Perhaps it's time for Python Robots. :)

Other things you might want to try:

  • A declarative language, like Prolog. Putting in some statements and seeing how prolog can make a chain between them to draw conclusions is enlightening as to how computer logic works.

  • If the kid's mathematically inclined, try a functional language. Python can be used as if it were functional, and has most of the features you'd need for this, but you may want to try a pure-functional language anyway. (Interesting note: some universities have begun using functional languages as the language they teach in their 'introduction to programming' course for CS students. The theory is that the way of thinking you learn with functional programming is a better way of thinking for other kinds of programming, too)

#305 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 11:28 AM:

There's a very good reason why French people speaking English drop their Hs. That's because that letter is never pronounced in French either.

#306 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 11:35 AM:

Oh, and the French 'TH' is always pronounced 'T'. The English 'TH' is a real tongue-twister so it's not surprising if it comes out as 'zee'. I think I've got the sound right, or fairly close. And no, I don't sound like Inspecteur Clouseau of Zee French Surete.

#307 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 11:44 AM:

Marilee... Back to the DVD of The Time Tunnel... After two 13-hours days in a row at the office, I decided to treat myself so I bought the set yesterday and found that I had made a mistake in my original post. The set contains the first 15 episodes, not 13. And it contains a longer version of the pilot.

In case you're interested, Marilee, there apparently is a DVD of the series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. I saw that show years ago, with the episodes out of order, so I can't tell if the first season was relatively straight SF. Not-straight SF would be having Blackbeard's Ghost pop in, or the ghost of a Nazi submarine taking over the Captain (or was it the Admiral?), or lobster-men from outer space, or the Captain getting irradiated and turning into a werewolf. Didn't they also have mummies? And Victor Buono - although he didn't play King Tut?

#308 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 11:51 AM:

Michael, if you do decide to go the Python route, one of my colleagues, Allen Downey, has written a book called How to Think Like A Computer Scientist on Python for beginners. The book is available as a free download in a variety of formats, under a GNU Free Documentation License. You can also buy hardcopies, if you are so inclined, from either Green Tea Press directly or from Amazon, where you can also read the comments.

#309 ::: Ellarien ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 01:07 PM:

Serge:

Season 1 of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was the relatively-straight SF, black-and-white one. S2 had a somewhat James-Bond flavour, with interludes of corny aliens. The mummies and werewolves were mostly in S3; S4 was even weirder/sillier than that.

#310 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 01:16 PM:

The 4th season of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was even more silly, Ellarien? Ouch. I remember a few years ago, getting up before 4am and feeling like it too, so I turned the kitchen's TV on and found myself looking at what was either German Cinema, or the epitome of a Voyage episode: someone is hiding in the airducts of the submarine, which is deserted, except for a luger-carrying dwarfish clown who looks very angry.

#311 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 01:30 PM:

I love the "Uh'uh" topic, because it's one of the two (US) English utterances I know of which actually use a glottal stop as a consonant. (The other one is the variant "Nah'ah".) The glottal stop is that sound in between the two syllables, which English speakers don't normally consciously perceive as being a consonant or even present.

Since the glottal stop is a standard consonant in pretty much every Polynesian language, if you want to be able to understand or speak Hawaiian (or Tongan, or Samoan, or...) you must be able first to hear it and then to say it. Bringing up "uh'uh" gives people an anchor to get them to really listen to how they say it and hear it, and learn to recognize it.

Southwestern Polynesian languages like Samoan or Tongan also have "ng" without the hard "g" (as in "ring" or "singer") as a consonant, including at the beginning of words, but that's easier to pick up. (If you see written Pago-pago, Samoa, it's pronounced more like "Pongo-pongo", but with a soft "ng".)

P.S. I am not a linguist so I'm probably explaining this poorly.

#312 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 01:36 PM:

I remember watching 'Voyage To See What's On The Bottom' (what we called it) as a kid. It got to where we were categorizing the plots as 'monsters' and 'dolls' (including robots), generally alternating.

Programming: if you can find it, for learning Pascal is good; for sheer weirdness in a real language, try TECO (a text-editing language).

#313 ::: Ellarien ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 01:56 PM:

Serge:
someone is hiding in the airducts of the submarine, which is deserted, except for a luger-carrying dwarfish clown who looks very angry.

That sounds like the late S3 episode, 'The Wax Men'. S4 brought us the Leprechaun, the Abominable Snowman, the Lobsterman, and the episode simply titled 'Terror' in which the world was menaced by evil red Amaryllis flowers.

#314 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 02:01 PM:

Voyage To See What's On The Bottom

Coughgagsplutter.

PJ, in your opinion, which Irwin Allen is it that had the highest weird factor? Voyage was out there, but I think that Lost in Space wins easily. It is rather hard to beat the episode with the Arabian Knight who, chasing after his girlfriend trapped in a bottle, is zipping around the universe in a steam-powered asteroid. Or the episode where Dr.Smith psycho-analyzes the god Thor and convinces him that all his problems stem from his childhood even though he didn't have a childhood.

#315 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 02:06 PM:

(The other one is the variant "Nah'ah".)

Er, what does that mean exactly? In UK English I would probably interpret it as someone saying "nutter". It's not far from how I would say it myself. But obviously these phrases don't require a glottal stop like "uh uh".

My native accent, if that's the right phrase, is filled with glottal stops. I take particular pride in pronouncing "glottal" as "glo'al". It also means that it's very tough to distinguish between my saying "can" and "can't".

Also, why do people here (in Oregon, at least) fail to pronounce the "h" at the beginning of "herbs" or "herbal"? This wasn't a difference in UK/US pronunciation that I had ever heard about before.

#316 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 02:08 PM:

We mostly didn't watch 'Lost in Space'. (Of course, we thought it would have been greatly improved if Dr Smith had gotten what he deserved.)

#317 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 02:31 PM:

Cows with Guns was funny but would be a damn sight funnier if the animators had realized that only female cows have udders.

MKK

#318 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 02:39 PM:

Candle:
I just remembered the one which I usually count as second is much more common: "Uh'oh" when something has just gone wrong. Usually I count, "Nah'ah" as a distant third. "Nah'ah" also means "No". I think it's US regional.

Wow, your comment is absolutely right. Now that I think about it, I have heard UK accents where as a consonant shift a t gets replaced by '. What cities or regions does this accent come from?

#319 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 03:28 PM:

"Also, why do people here (in Oregon, at least) fail to pronounce the "h" at the beginning of "herbs" or "herbal"?"

I do it too. (I'm from the Albany, NY area.) I always thought that was the difference between "herb" and the name Herb.

"only female cows have udders."
For that matter, only female cows are cows. (as opposed to bulls.)

#320 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 03:41 PM:

Also, why do people here (in Oregon, at least) fail to pronounce the "h" at the beginning of "herbs" or "herbal"? This wasn't a difference in UK/US pronunciation that I had ever heard about before.

I'm pretty sure it is, though.

--Mary Aileen

#321 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 04:19 PM:

We mostly didn't watch 'Lost in Space'. (Of course, we thought it would have been greatly improved if Dr Smith had gotten what he deserved.)

Left the Robinsons an an airless rock,* formed an alliance with the Klingon Empire, and used the Robot to conquer Earth? (This would include conquering whatever Foreigh Power had put him aboard to begin with, but that would have led to the immortal "Kahless Meets Khrushchev, as Reported by Walter Cronkite" sequence.

Mashup fanfic is the new polka-dot.

And of course "Lost in Space" is famously the series that CBS had already acquired, and therefore turned down Gene Roddenberry's space show.

If there's a competition for "weirdest Irwin Allen Moment," though (and I might actually wanna be on the Worldcon panel), I would suggest it is The Story of Mankind, an all-star adaptation** of a book by Henrik Willem van Loon,*** in which Ronald Colman (as The Human Spirit) and Vincent Price (as the Devil) argue about whether humanity is worth not blowing up (with its new invention the H-Bomb) in front of judge Cedric Hardwicke.

There follow lots of bizarre recreations of historical events, played by an even more bizarre collection of actors. Some are actually inspired choices (Peter Lorre as Nero), some are weird-city (Groucho Marx as Peter Minuit, swindling the Indians out of Manhattan, Hedy Lamarr as Joan of Arc), and, well, Dennis Hopper as Napoleon.

Turner Classic has run this (it was from Warners, and doesn't seem to be out on video, further indicating the abject failure of our educational system).

*There are, of course, no airless rocks in space, which is fortunate, since the mission did not seem to have provided spacesuits.

**For certain asymptotic values of the word.

***This is America. No fault attaches to having missed Henrik Willem van Loon.

****Chico and Harpo are also there. The Marxes have no scenes together. Harpo plays Isaac Newton. The prosecution rests.

#322 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 04:28 PM:

"Nah'ah" or "Nuh'uh" is used to indicate, "Very much no," in my experience.

e.g.: "He hit me over the head with a piece of foam, insulted my taste in dress, and called me crazy! Was I going to put up with that? Nuh'uh! So I threw a kipper at him and called his mother."

#323 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 04:30 PM:

The Story of Mankind, Mike? I'll have to keep that in mind.

And I think you should propose a weird-Irwin-Allen-moment panel to the worldcon.

#324 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 04:36 PM:

I meant, Mike, that you should propose that panel to the worldcon because people know you. They'll take you more seriously than they would a fan - even for an Irwin Allen panel. I'm sure quite a few of us would attend.

#325 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 04:51 PM:

Gee, I didn't miss van Loon. We had a fairly extensive collection of books in our house...in 1966 it was 36 1.5-cubic-foot-boxes in volume. (Moving is 'an occasion to prune the collection'.)

We figured losing Dr Smith would allow them to actually get home before they all died of old age (or Smith-induced difficulties).

#326 ::: Madeline Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 05:39 PM:

Clifton Royston wrote: Now that I think about it, I have heard UK accents where as a consonant shift a t gets replaced by '. What cities or regions does this accent come from?

It appears everywhere in Britain, as far as I can tell, although I suppose the stereotypical glo'al-stopper would be a cheery cockney chap.

Here in Manxland I remember that glottal stops were so common at my primary school that one teacher started a bit of a crusade against them. We weren't allowed to go to the toilet unless we pronounced the 't' at the end of the word when we asked permission. And you couldn't get round it by saying "loo" instead. It was "toileT" or nothing.

#327 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 05:50 PM:

Jules notes:
"Windows comes with 2 programming languages: JScript and VBScript."

Ah, yes . . . I've heard that. I don't believe it, though. :-)

Well, I don't *literally* disbelieve it. I know these tools are there. I don't doubt that they are as powerful or useful as you say.

But for the purposes of a parent or kid wanting to teach / learn programming, these scripting languages are invisible.

Really. Try looking for them. Nowhere on the "Programs" tree (at least on my Dell, running XP, pretty much as supplied). Searching via Help brings up a few unhelpful references.

I think this "burial" is deliberate MS policy.

#328 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 05:54 PM:

Could one contemplate a remake of LOST IN SPACE starring Dr. Psmith?

#329 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 06:24 PM:

"Gosh, another new world to land on, explore, and get sent packing by a gigantic something-or-other. It certainly is a crowded old galaxy, isn't it?"

"I sense danger! Danger! Danger, I tell you!"

"Now, you see, that's the whole problem in a perspex-craniumed nutshell."

Could be contemplated, Charlie old bream, but would be most dreadfully housecat-flung in the execution thereof, don't you know.

#330 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 06:47 PM:

glottal stops: My Long-Island-raised college roommate used one in the middle of 'little'. I have not otherwise noticed it on Long Island, however.

--Mary Aileen

#331 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 06:50 PM:

I think that glottal stops are currently used in the UK to denote one's common touch and lack of snobbishness. It's an inverse snobbery thing.

#332 ::: Harriet ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 07:11 PM:

Is anyone else having trouble accessing Blogspot blogs? I keep getting an error message that says "Alert! The document contains no data". I've tried clicking several of my favorites from the 'Friends Relations Cronies and Colleagues' sidebar links, and get this same error on all the ones with blogspot accounts. :-(

#333 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 07:20 PM:

Blogspot has been having intermittent problems for a couple of days now. I think their servers may have died, or something like.

#334 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 07:27 PM:

Harriet: I'm having the same problem.

#335 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 07:52 PM:

Serge, I put Rat Patrol on my list, but I thought Voyage was silly the first time around.

Let's see if this goes the other way: I just added The Red Shoes to the list for a memorial viewing and as long as I'm looking at ballet, I also added The Turning Point.

#336 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 07:55 PM:

Give an open thread a cookie...

I'm not even going to go back and respond to people individually by name because I'm too damned lazy, but I will drop a Hueuuuge thank-you to the lot of you for all the juicy tidbits of leads.

The main reason to "why Perl" instead of Python is simple: I had the laptop at her fencing practice, and while I do my GUI work in wxPython nowadays, for a quick-and-easy fun program in ten lines I could write in a couple of minutes while she was sitting around, Perl was just plain my best bet, due to my own checkered history.

As to text I/O versus Web pages: we've tried Web pages. Didn't click -- and I don't want general computer literacy; she's already OK there (she discovered the Google advanced search on her own -- and frankly, it boggles the mind that for her, the world has *always included Google*!!!) I want to teach programming, and more specifically, I want to teach her the geeky aspects of it that I loved as an adolescent. So far, the experiment seems to be working.

The Kids Programming Language is a new one on me; the offspring says it looks pretty cool (and I concur), so we'll be trying that.

I do want to introduce her to wxPython, yes. She's already proposed writing a simple GUI for the Perl script. I like that for maximum software-engineering cruft (a Python wrapper for a Perl script -- yeah!) -- after all, I wrote a Web comic compiler in Perl on Windows generating SVG from high-level XML descriptions with ImageMagick doing the final translation to a GIF. I like cruft. It's fun. My daughter agrees, so far. :-)

She also liked the idea of writing chatbots to talk to each other, and I'm going to look into C-ROBOTS as well (I saw that one before, long ago...)

Lots of good ideas.

Also: I'm from Indiana and my own dialect has a glottal stop for final 't' and silent 'h' in "herb" and "herbal" but not in the name "Herb." Just so ya know.

#337 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 09:05 PM:

President Bush is pushing math and science education.

I'm . . . uh . . . I really don't know what to think of this.

It's like _____ suddenly advocating _____.

(Fill in the blanks!)

#338 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 09:45 PM:

Oh. My. God. . . .

The Big Bang memo came from Mr. Deutsch, a 24-year-old presidential appointee in the press office at NASA headquarters whose résumé says he was an intern in the "war room" of the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. A 2003 journalism graduate of Texas A&M, he was also the public-affairs officer who sought more control over Dr. Hansen's public statements.

In October 2005, Mr. Deutsch sent an e-mail message to Flint Wild, a NASA contractor working on a set of Web presentations about Einstein for middle-school students. The message said the word "theory" needed to be added after every mention of the Big Bang.

The Big Bang is "not proven fact; it is opinion," Mr. Deutsch wrote, adding, "It is not NASA's place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator."

It continued: "This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most."

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/04/science/04climate.html

Pardon my language, but fuck, fuck, fuck, this is not funny any more.

#339 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 10:00 PM:

This is an addendum to Stefan's post; you really need to read the link he gave, and this one.

#340 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 10:09 PM:

My son the physics major gave me a copy of this book. It is an interesting discussion of how the Republican Party has sought to manipulate, hide, and discredit science.

#341 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 10:10 PM:

Mary Aileen - You're on LI? Listen for the glottal stop in "bottle". You'll hear that more often than in "little".

Once upon a time, a friend asked me if I wanted a "kudJOOma". Turned out she meant "Good Humor". (N.B. - for non USians, it's a brand of ice cream novelties.)

BTW, I'm a Brooklyn boy without a discernable local accent and I've never pronounced the initial H in herb or herbal.

#342 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 10:56 PM:

My wife is Hungarian. I find it a roughly monthly source of cognitive discord to realize that I may flee the repressive regime in the US someday ... for Hungary. Go figure.

#343 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 11:07 PM:

One of the big problems I see with the current administration is that most of them have no background in sciecne, math or engineering, in any form. To them it's probably elitist ... never mind that to reach their publicly stated goals of returning to the Moon, going to Mars, and using less oil, engineers and scientists are going to be the people in the front line. I suspect that at the schools they attended, science and math were not required, or only minimally required, for political-science, PR and journalism students.
(BTW, I found a really good description of the neo-cons the other day: Psalm 10:5-9. Read it and hope we can throw these guys out before RSN.)

#344 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2006, 11:43 PM:

all of this stuff makes my desire to move to Ireland or the U.K. not seem so foolish. Then again, I probably will stay in Kansas City until my dear mom is no longer with us (could be later than sooner, I hope to the Goddess... ). She lives in Lawrence, KS, which is about 35 minutes away from home during non-rush times.

#345 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 12:02 AM:

I'm still rather confused about the idea of the (male pronoun) cow guru with udderly inappropriate plumbing...

#346 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 12:28 AM:

One of the big problems I see with the current administration is that most of them have no background in scie[nc]e, math or engineering, in any form. To them it's probably elitist [...}

I don't think it's elitist, except inasmuch as that word, like "liberal," is a contentless insult, another version of Them. I think it's an attitude that there is no such thing as a fact, that there are merely arguments you have made stick, or been able to convince a jury that your client didn't really do, or that the speaker "didn't mean literally." (It all becomes clear now: the government is a metaphor for an actual government.) "Theory" is, you will note, still being used to mean "guess," and the press is still too damned ignorant to correct this.

It's directly related to my earlier argument about the New Model CEO (which I won't tire people by repeating in full); there's no goal that's beyond the company's means, if your subordinates will only implement your imperial will. (See also Eco's 14 Points.)

I'm not sure we can take the Moon and Mars "programs" as anything but more kited checks, but if there is any serious intent behind them, it comes from men with no comprehension whatsoever of the technical issues. I watched (on NASA TV, uncut) Sean O'Keefe try to discuss the hypothetical Crew Exploration Vehicle with the technical press. These guys weren't being rude, and I'm sure every one of them wanted some good news on a Shuttle replacement, but they were asking serious, informed technical questions about the vehicle's specs, which had obviously been pulled out of some White House drone's backside, and the Administrator simply stonewalled, saying that this was all a proposal and he couldn't discuss specifics. (To be fair, he couldn't have said anything else without lying, but he was also being hishonest by suggesting that anything on the developmental timeline was achievable without the unspeakable A-word*.)

Then, of course, Eco's eleventh point is about mori-ing heroically pro patria, and is there anything else a manned space program run by this crowd could possibly be?

*"Appropriations."

#347 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 01:07 AM:

The UK accent with lots of glottal stops is what is now basically Generic Southern (aka Estuary), and probably involves anyone within 50 miles of London. Which is most of the population, I believe. You will note Tony Blair dropping them in occasionally, too, although I suspect that in his case it is the inverse snobbery which abi was pointing out. (I'm going the other way: my accent started out pure Estuary and then got gentrified in college. And still, unless I am watching my language closely, I will put a glottal stop in every place there could possibly be one.)

As far as I know, though, the usual thing in the UK is to pronounce the 'h' in 'herbs', unless they drop the 'h' everywhere else. I suppose it must be a US convention; I was just surprised I hadn't noticed it before. I wonder if the UK version is a later development, since it would be unusual for spoken pronunciation to move *away* from the written ... but again, I'm just guessing here.

I've never heard "Nuh'uh", but I can now see how it would work. It's interesting how it conforms to the romance-language convention of negating with the pre-positional "ne", n'est-ce pas?

#348 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 01:22 AM:

World O' Crap digs up some gems by George Deutsch, the (ahem) political officer vetting PR at NASA:

http://blogs.salon.com/0002874/2006/02/04.html#a2120

Among other things, he suggests that it was entirely possible that Laci Peterson was killed by satanists.

The upside of dealing with these arrogant Young Republican weenies is that they leave a paper trail. I'm sure the next few days will see more revelations about this boy wonder.

Right now, I'm finding myself really looking forward to going out in the rain and picking up after the dog.

#349 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 02:20 AM:

Here's a 2003 Washington Monthly article which attempts to explain why GWB and Republicans in general don't like/trust science. (One clue: scientists trend Democratic.)

#350 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 03:23 AM:

"It's like _____ suddenly advocating _____."

It's like Homer Simpson suddenly advocating OH! Look, a pretty doggy!

#351 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 06:40 AM:

candle,

I live in Edinburgh, and my kids go to a nursery staffed by locals. The attendants range in local accent from Gilmerton (south of the city) to Portobello (north of the city). No one in the situation has spent any significant time in England at all.

Yet my children come home speaking in an accent that includes glottal stops. I think that it's either local to more than the Sahf, or has spread throughout the country by shows like Eastenders (a long-running soap opera, O non-UK readers).

I've even started using them (unconsciously) as a marker of informal speech, which sounds rather funny in my Californian accent.

#352 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 06:52 AM:

Stefan suggests that, for the Administration, a background in science, math or engineering is elitist. To Mike, they probably are not elitists.

I think they are neither, that they are in fact anti-elitists.

In the days of Bill & Al's 1992 victory, some people said this was the Baby Boomers vs those who came before. When Al was running against Dubya, another Boomer, this was the conflict at school between the brains and the jocks. I have this feeling this was an apt comparison, between those who respect brains, and those who don't have the brains and who hate those who have brains and who needs brains anyway when you have muscle?

#353 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 07:55 AM:

First Draft proves how, if the govt is allowed to spy on the the phone calls of Americans, we will find a link between terrorists and, yes, Kevin Bacon.

#354 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 08:15 AM:

...and Kevin Bacon was in Stir of Echoes, where Kathryn Erbe played his wife and who went on to be the co-star on Criminal Intent and to everybody who ever appeared on one of the Law & Order shows, and that includes Rudy Giuliani, and Fred Thompson, who had a small part in one of the Die Hard movies, which leads us to Bruce Willis, who met with the troops in Iraq.

I tell you, it's all connected.

#355 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 08:21 AM:

As far as I know, though, the usual thing in the UK is to pronounce the 'h' in 'herbs', unless they drop the 'h' everywhere else. I suppose it must be a US convention; I was just surprised I hadn't noticed it before. I wonder if the UK version is a later development, since it would be unusual for spoken pronunciation to move *away* from the written ... but again, I'm just guessing here.

My suspicion is that the US have changed towards a French pronunciation, possibly due to the word's association with French cookery. A quick google suggests I'm right to assume the locale of the change, although I've no idea about the cause:

The majority of Americans early dropped the initial h-sound in such words as when and where, but so far as I can determine they never elided it at the beginning of other words, save in the case of herb and humble. (H. L. Mencken, The American Language, 1921)

I must admit to having found amusing Clairol's series of TV adverts from a few years back for their Herbal Essences range of haircare products. For some reason, they decided to use what I assume were their US adverts in the UK, leaving each one with the tag line "have you got the urge to herbal?", with "urge" and "herbal" being alliterative.

It did leave me wondering what urbling was, and whether or not it was legal.

#356 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 08:33 AM:

Whereas Wikipedia agrees with you, although the data is unreferenced:

Spelling pronunciation has also added /h/ to the Commonwealth pronunciation of herb, /hɜːb/, while American English retains the older pronunciation /ɝb/.

As the more recent source, I'm probably more inclined to trust it.

#357 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 08:35 AM:

My suspicion is that the US have changed towards a French pronunciation...

Oui, oui, Jules, our plan eez working...

#358 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 08:51 AM:

I believe "umble" was the original word, and the aspirate was added later. The umbles of an animal were its (squishy and largely unrecognisable) innards. Hence, umble pie, made from the bits that the aristocratic hunters rejected.

#359 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 08:53 AM:

Say, Dave, does 'humble' come from 'humor'?

#360 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 09:16 AM:

No, sir, but we umorists are very, very umble. And we're all a little Squeers, except thee and me.

#361 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 10:13 AM:

Quaker joke!!

#362 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 10:48 AM:

I think of go'al stops as being particularly Scots, from UK acquaintances and from memory of a Scots folksinger telling of being drilled in the proper pronounciation of "Betty bought a pound of butter." It's interesting to hear of them happening in the U.S. -- even if it's on Long Gisland -- or elsewhere in the UK.

#363 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 11:32 AM:

Jules: My suspicion is that the US have changed towards a French pronunciation, possibly due to the word's association with French cookery.

Yet Julia Child always pronounced the "H" in herbs, and she was largely responsible for improving (and slightly Frenchifying) late 20th Century American cooking.

#364 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 11:41 AM:

Marilee said... I put Rat Patrol on my list, but I thought Voyage was silly the first time around.

To say the least.

I'm ashamed to say I'm not familiar with our recommendations. But if I may make one more SF-related recommendation, all of The Flash came out in one DVD set not long ago.

#365 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 11:47 AM:

Glo'al stops are very common in Lancashire.

I always assumed there were placed they were used in the US, largely from the written form "Lil" for "little" as in "Lil Abner" -- if that's not a glottal stop, what is it?

As for Betty and the butter, try singing as fast as you can:

Mrs Betty Botter bought a bit of butter
But the bit of butter made the batter bitter
If you want a bit of butter that'll make the batter better
Then you'd better get the butter with the Anchor sign!

HTH!

#366 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 12:07 PM:

Humble is Middle English, from Old French, from Latin humilis, low, lowly, from humus, ground. See the Blessed AHD, all praise to Cal Watkins.

I think Dave is thinking of the numbles, a term of venery borrowed from Old French nombles, the edible viscera, as in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

#367 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 12:15 PM:

. . . in other words, the umbles are derived from numbles, not humble, or even 'umble.

Which leads me to wonder why did numbles lose the n--which it did, by at least the eighteenth century, since Johnson's Dictionary has umbles as a lemma.

#368 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 12:25 PM:

the written form "Lil" for "little" as in "Lil Abner" -- if that's not a glottal stop, what is it?

I've always assumed it's literally 'lil', as in 'lily'. But I could be wrong on that.

--Mary Aileen

#369 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 12:40 PM:

I concur with Mary Aileen - "Lil" wouldn't have a glottal stop, but would probably have a vowel shift (not a linguist, don't know the correct term, glide?) if said in either an Ozark or Appalachian accent.

#370 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 12:48 PM:

If I can put in an anti-recommendation:

When I watched the live-action FLASH series on its broadast run, I kept tuning in because I couldn't believe that the writing on the show could possibly be as bad, or worse, than the previous week's episode.

It was bad. It was BAD. It was so bad that saying the plots and dialogue went *clunk* is a gross understatement.

Since Howard Chaykin was on the writing staff, I figure all the other writers were kept so busy restraining Chaykin from trying to turn Barry Allen into a drunk, or a drug addict, or a rapist, that they had no time left for, y'know, actual writing.

(I do not, to put it lightly, enjoy Chaykin's pee-in-the-punch-bowl approach to "updating" old comics characters. I still remember, with shudders, what he did to poor old Tommy Tomorrow -- whose only crime was being boring -- in the TWILIGHT miniseries.)

#371 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 12:53 PM:

"Li'l" is almost-but-not-quite two syllables - it gets drawn out a bit, the way I've always heard it pronounced. (My father was born and raised in OK; his father was from northeastern Kentucky. Can we say back-country somewhere?)

#372 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 01:15 PM:

Bruce... It has been a few years since I saw the Flash TV series and thought it was decent even back then, if taken as a comic-book. (You want bad, try the Black Scorpion TV series of a few years ago.) My feelings may have changed and I may wind up feeling the way you felt from the word go.

I will probably have to work a bit hard at ignoring that Chaykin was involved. Let's put it this way... Back in the late Eighties, he revamped the Shadow into a comic that allowed the character to still be alive today since he started in the Thirties. Margot Lane's daughter gets involved with him, but she hates him for what he had done to her mom. Still, they have sex and next morning she calls him Master. I don't know why I was surprised, since this is the man who once said he used to be a Democrat because the girls were easier to get into the sack. I threw the comic-book away and never looked again at anything by that pig.

#373 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 01:27 PM:

Just checked Wikipedia - they have a good article on the glottal stop: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glottal_stop

Another article describes some of the dialectal pronunciation we've been discussing as being an alveolar flap rather than a glottal: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flapping

#374 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 01:29 PM:

I thought Li'l Abner was pronounced sort of Lih-d Uhl Abner.

#375 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 01:35 PM:

As a computer ignoramus, when I read (skimmed) the program language discussions upthread I kept thinking of Daniel Perl(e) vs. Monty Python, and very surreal images danced in my head.

Pronunciations -- hasn't it been said somewhere that Shakespeare probably sounded more like someone from the Ozarks than a plummy modern Brit?

#376 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 02:05 PM:

Larry: Thanks and more thanks for the "Express Editions" tip! I had been wondering how to start picking up some Windows universe C/C++ coding sk1llz without having to shell out hundreds of bucks. I haven't done any real code for Windows since Windows 3.1 or thereabouts, and I've been really feeling it as a handicap in job interviews lately.

Right now I'm sitting in my son's bedroom with Visual C++ on my laptop, watching my son play with his wooden trains, and just got my "hello world" equivalent to run. A very luxurious Sunday morning feeling.

Now I've just got to get Ubuntu or Kubuntu set up on another partition so I can do the same thing in Linux-land...

#377 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 02:35 PM:

Certainly "humble" comes from humilis; the loss of the "n" in "numble" I think is part of a common phenomenon where "a numble pie" becomes "an umble pie" - it's more difficult to sound the stop between "a" and initial-n, for some reason. As for erbs, the other reason I suspect that the British pronunciation is later is that the "American" accent derives from the 18th century East Anglian / East Midlands accent, owing to the origins of the Pilgrim Fathers. Is that right? The coast of North Carolina supposedly preserves some of this, and that at least is probably closer to what Shakespeare would have sounded like. (But that is just a cliche in any case, I suspect.)

Latin has the "h" in herbs, but Italian and French don't pronounce it - I presume English borrowed it from there and that the UK added an aspiration later. It doesn't stop me from finding the US pronunciation amusing, though. Sorry about that.

I don't associate glottal stops with Scotland at all - my impression of the Scottish accent (which is probably just educated Edinburgh) is that the t's are firmly pronounced. Gordon Brown wouldn't produce too many glottal stops. But then Tony Blair was educated at Fettes, and it doesn't seem to have done him much good. I'd still be inclined to blame the cultural influence of Sarf. But then, I'm a suvv'ner.

What we need here is David Crystal's The Stories of English.

#378 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 02:39 PM:

Pronunciations -- hasn't it been said somewhere that Shakespeare probably sounded more like someone from the Ozarks than a plummy modern Brit?

Thanks, Faren. Now you've got me associating Shaespeare with George Clooney as one of the Soggy-bottom Boys...

#379 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 03:14 PM:

candle: Don't forget that the touted Pilgrims were only one of many English immigrant groups. The Jamestown colony was not hugely successful, but it was the leading edge of immigration to Virginia, well before the Pilgrims. I'd look to that as a more plausible source of the hypothetical "Shakespearean" English in backwoods America. (Which I believe has been somewhat debunked - "closer" may be true, or perhaps just divergent in a different way.)

#380 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 03:54 PM:

"Li'l," as in Little Abner, is pronounced more like "liyul," only not really. It's just barely a diphthong because all you do is drop the flap in the middle: "liddle: without the d, or "lily" without the y.

#381 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 04:18 PM:

Can I draw back in Serge's comments upthread about scientific and mathematical ignorance in the US administration?

When Al was running against Dubya, another Boomer, this was the conflict at school between the brains and the jocks. I have this feeling this was an apt comparison, between those who respect brains, and those who don't have the brains and who hate those who have brains and who needs brains anyway when you have muscle?

In the UK, all of these nuances are conveyed by accent. Gordon Brown, as The Brainy One in the cabinet, pronounces all of his consonants, but Tony Blair tries to be folksy with glottal stops. I find it a lot more comforting, to be honest, to see them getting their down home credibility from accent rather than from trashing science.

And the commonest factor in the Edinburgh local accent (apart from the Fettes College-style pseudo-English assimilationist style of speech *), is the use of a glottal stop for "t" ("Be'er for "better"). It is only used informally, and is often the marker that we have left formal business manners for more friendly ways.

Other Scottish accents vary wildly, between Highland and Lowland and within each region. It appears to be a Lowland urbanism to lose the letter t with glottal stops - I have never heard it from my Aberdonian in-laws, whose vowels and dialect words baffle me more than their consonants.

* Ironically, this is the only accent I can reliably imitate, and forms the basis of my telephone voice. Phones magnify accents, and I had to go at least midatlantic to be understood by all callers.

#382 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 04:50 PM:

abi...

Accents and Class... That reminds me of a woman I knew who was from the USSR when there was still a USSR. She really didn't like Gorbashev, partly because he spoke like a peasant.

About the British Isle... What kind of Scottish accent does Sean Connery have? Probably very influenced by spending so much time among the British... And is it my imagination or does he have more of an accent now than he did back in the early Sixties, when he was probably trying to hide his origins. Or something.

When I visited my family back in Quebec after a 9-year absence, it was tough at first, partly because more than once I found myself speaking in English. I did manage the switch, but I was told that my accent isn't singsong like it used to be, that it's way more clipped than is normal in French.

#383 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 06:34 PM:

Yesterday's WashPost had an article on how political folks keep re-editing Wikipedia to more accurately reflect their views.

#384 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 06:41 PM:

Serge

First, a vocabulary note: Scots, English and Welsh people are all British (the Northern Irish are not. It's complicated, and best explained with Venn diagrams). Don't think about it - just remember it if you ever run across anyone really touchy on the subject.

Sean Connery is proudly, if a little indeterminately, Scottish. I don't know exactly where some of his consonants come from, particularly that s --> sh thing. They aren't from his native Edinburgh. (He was a milkman in Leith for a while, delivering to the road I lived on 30-plus years later. No one on that street talked remotely like him.)

When he was James Bond, he did try to sound a bit more English, or at least a bit more softly Scottish, than he does now that he's rediscovered the Saltire. (For genuine Scots who have made it big in the wider world, you'll hear a more genuine accent and more genuine convictions from someone like Billy Conolly than you will from Sir Sean the Tax Exile.)

I have never crossed the language barrier when I've returned home - we all speak variants of English. Did you stop using French as your home language when you left Quebec, or was it French at home and English at work? I ask partly because we're planning a move to the Netherlands, and I'm trying to get my head around living my public life in Dutch. Experiences of others are appreciated.

#385 ::: Mark E. Henaghen ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 08:18 PM:

Whoa!

Have you heard? Dubbya says Iran has WMD's!

Wait! Haven't we heard this before? Why, in watching the media, does it seem like I'm the only one to whom this sounds familiar? Oh, wait, of course, that must be that "liberal bias" kicking in again, right?

aargh

#386 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 09:51 PM:

I stand corrected. The transposed "n" in "a numble pie" to "an umble pie" is the same event as from "a napron" to "an apron", then. And then they inserted an entirely redundant "h" to produce "humble pie", in mistaken identification with "humble", which really does descend from the Latin. Truly, this is a bizarre language we speak.

#387 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2006, 10:50 PM:

Here is a fantasy novel plot generator to go along with the title generator:

http://www.warpcoresf.co.uk/fantasyplot.php

#388 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 02:10 AM:

Voyage totally lost me in an episode that depended on the calm in the eye of a strong hurricane including a calm sea.

#389 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 02:55 AM:

I quite liked The Flash. Yeah, some of the episodes were bad, and it was waaaayyy too influenced by Tim Burton's first Batman movie. I thought it had good bits, though -- the two "Nightshade" episodes and the two with Mark Hamill as the Trickster come to mind. I liked the heavy use of special effects: I could remember the old "Superman" show where Superman was onscreen for maybe five minutes an episode...they didn't do that, at least.

In other news, I find that Teresa's Particles can be hazardous to my health (or at least my pocketbook) as I am compelled to purchase one of Kevin Pease's elemental t-shirts.

#390 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 05:10 AM:

Dropping t's at the ends of words is common in many Irish accents, parts of Dublin and lots of the midlands for example.

Wha's tha'? Tha's a ca'. It's too fa' to be a ca'! It's jus a really fa' ca', righ'?

Here in Athlone, I correct my kids all the time, so they probably get beaten up at school. No, they probably will end up with two accents, one they only use in front of me, and one like tha' sample I gave.

#391 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 05:29 AM:

I grew up in Edinburgh and never heard anyone talk remotely like Sean Connery. Sean Connery's brother doesn't talk like Sean Connery. Best to just class him as sui generis and move on. (Don't even mention Star Trek.)

Billy Connolly has a more authentic accent, but Glasgow, not Edinburgh - far more glottal stops and omitted consonants, and very difficult to understand, even for other Scots. (I fondly remember a Czech friend stopping a passerby in Glasgow for directions, listening to him blankly and asking me "Was that man really speaking English?") For the real Edinburgh accent, watch 'Trainspotting' or 'Shallow Grave', which are both set there.
A lot of the American accent comes, I believe, from the West Country (think 'pirate accent' and from Ulster.

#392 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 06:30 AM:

Did I stop using French as my home language when I left Quebec, abi? Pretty much, yes, aside from irregular calls to my parents to let them know I was still alive, but, even before I left, I was already reading mostly stuff in English, and watching mostly American TV, so the jump wasn't that drastic.

#393 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 06:37 AM:

abi says about Sean Connery... He was a milkman in Leith for a while, delivering to the road I lived on 30-plus years later. No one on that street talked remotely like him. And ajay says ... I grew up in Edinburgh and never heard anyone talk remotely like Sean Connery. Sean Connery's brother doesn't talk like Sean Connery.

I think somebody once said something that dissimilar about Cary Grant. I guess that's what one gets from moving away from the home turf, but never completely letting go.

#394 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 07:02 AM:

Jon Carroll has an interesting column (then again his column is seldom uninteresting) in today's San Francisco Chronicle about China and Google, especially the part about China letting America think it's still the top dog.

Is this what it felt like for the British Empire in the early 20th Century, this fading away, to be replaced by a country nobody would have seriously thought of as competition?

#395 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 07:45 AM:

Serge: yes, exactly.

Back in 1860, the UK was an industrial superpower as well as a military one -- with about 50% of the planetary GDP. By 1900, that had dropped to 30% of GDP, European rivals like Germany were developing rapidly and had better education and infrastructure provisions, and so on -- and the navy was forced to abandon the Two-Power Standard (requiring the Royal Navy to be equal in power to the next two major powers combined). If that latter sounds familiar, it bloody ought to: until a couple of years ago the US military ran on an analogous rule, requiring it to be able to fight two wars simultaneously on different parts of the planet.

When I pause to consider what's happening in international relations and economics these days, and especially when I look at the relative state of the US, I get a strong sense of deja vu.

#396 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 08:10 AM:

I think the two-power standard was abandoned as part of the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty, which limited battleship tonnage and numbers after the Great War. Britain agreed to the treaty because a) not enough money after the War and b) belief that the War had indeed Ended War.
A look at this in fact shows that, Washington notwithstanding, the Navy was still almost at the two-power standard in 1939, at least in battleships, light cruisers, and destroyers. By 1939, the German surface navy wasn't a problem, numerically: Japan and, oddly, Italy were.

The more worrying implication of your post is that the 1910-1960 decline of the British Empire wasn't exactly a peaceful period. Lots of other nations wanted their place in the sun and thought that they could take it. Fortunately the Germans always attack before they are quite ready.

#397 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 08:12 AM:

Weighing in a bit late on the anatomically-odd male cow discussion, my hypothesis is that the animator did it that way deliberately in order to finesse the "cow well hung" verse - in which, you will note, the male cow is depicted squirting his opponents with milk rather than what the lyrics describe him doing.

#398 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 08:21 AM:

" Sean Connery's brother doesn't talk like Sean Connery."

And my brother doesn't talk like me. I don't know how that happened, but I have an accent[sic] that is not found in any member of my family. So it's not just fakey Hollywood types that do that.

#399 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 08:26 AM:

Pronunciations -- hasn't it been said somewhere that Shakespeare probably sounded more like someone from the Ozarks than a plummy modern Brit?

I heard a radio feature a while ago about the RSC doing a season of one of Shakespeare's plays with reconstructed pronunciation; it didn't sound much like Ozark to me, but there was a definite accent - lots of odd vowels. I don't know English regional accents well enough to pick one that it sounded like.

I remember them mentioning that they did polls to see if the audience was having trouble with the pronunciation, and got a noticeable strand of people who found the play *more* accessible: people whose English was not posh found they related better to Shakespeare now that his English wasn't posh either.

#400 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 09:01 AM:

ajay: the capital intensive cost of regular (as opposed to guerilla) warfare is much higher than it used to be. Indeed, it vastly exceeds any likely yield from looting the victims -- as witness the current mess in Iraq, where the bill for the invasion and occupation is an order of magnitude higher than any likely oil revenue.

Back before mechanisation and artillery began raising the cost of warfare, invading the neighbours looked like a good way to make a quick buck; it has been suggested that Nazi Germany would have been bankrupt by mid-1940 if they hadn't gone on the ultimate asset-stripping spree of all time, and even then it was barely a break-even proposition.

Hopefully this means that future great power conflicts will resemble the cold war -- a lot of sabre-rattling and a lot of baroque arsenals, followed by the economic collapse of the weaker party as it fails to keep up with the Jones's.

(Right now, mired in the short-term, it's looking like the main types of conflict on the horizon are guerilla warfare buttressed by ideological incompatabilities. I'm trying to look 20-70 years ahead, at the likely shape of the end of the American century.)

#401 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 09:19 AM:

Completely off-topic (but isn't that what open threads are for?), but I noticed the 911truestory advert in the right-hand sidebar, and I frowned. From a quick look at it, it looks like the usual crazy conspiracy theory stuff; seeing it on this site, though, makes me think twice about that. So my question, I guess, is: how much of a QA process is there to the ads you accept on this site? I know the usual idea is that running an ad doesn't necessarily mean endorsing its message, but this thing is really a little weird for makinglight. It's almost like running a Publish America ad...

#402 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 09:46 AM:

Besides regular warfare being much more expensive than it used to be, Charlie... I wonder if any empire, even Rome's, could have lasted beyond the invention of powerful explosives. I mean, it's relatively easy to build an empire when your opponent is technologically inferior, but what if the opponent is a schmuck who doesn't mind blowing himself up along with a good chunk of the neighborhood?

#403 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 10:30 AM:

I've been thinking about that "end of empire" thing too, lately, but it got me wondering how much of the 20th century was "American". Weren't we isolationist foot-draggers for quite some time? I know, I know, there were lots of little wars with other countries dating back to the 19th century or earlier, but as a Boomer I tend to think of US dominance as starting in the Forties and turning into a widespread cultural dominion for the next 60-odd years (not counting the Beatles, the "British Invasion" and all that). Meanwhile, most of our wars seemed to turn out badly.

I'm not looking for a lesson on military history -- my husband could provide that -- but for other people's thoughts on the nature of dominant nations past and future (if that's not too grand and pompous a topic for an Open Thread).

#404 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 10:38 AM:

Faren wrote that most of our wars seemed to turn out badly.

Maybe that's because of the story that defines America's creation, which was a revolt against an empire.

#405 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 10:39 AM:

Paul A - "Posh." For some reason I really love that word, although I never use it and don't really know if I like all of its connotations. But, it really sounds wonderful. Posh, even. Thanks for using it - it made me smile as I sit beneath my SAD lamp, trying to drive away the effects of a dreary Seattle winter. (Although it may be nice here for a few days - a cosmic apology for yesterday's game, perhaps.)

#406 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 10:40 AM:

That ambigram particle is cool.

I particulary like:

Have~A
Nice
Day

which when turned upside-down reads:

Go
Fuck
Yourself

#407 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 10:44 AM:

One more thing, Faren... It may also be that America isn't good at empire-building because nobody could build an empire today, what with explosives being so readily available. In other words, we're coming into the game at a time when it can't be played anymore. I think.

#408 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 10:53 AM:

Charlie - I hope you're model's right.

One note about war and it's cost is that right now there's a great asymmetry of cost/value for the US and for the Iraqi insurgents (and Al Qaeda, for that matter.)

On the US side, costs are percieved as high, and the loss of a small number of lives (compared to say WWII) is unacceptable against a benefit (oil?, global stability? democracy for Iraq?) that is perceived as low.

On the Iraqi side, the benefits (self-determination, freedom from invaders, deriving the benefits of their own economic output) are higher than the loss of a few more lives (various insurgents and suicide bombers) in the face of those already dead.

It's not that the Iraqis value their lives less (I hope!), it's that the social utility derived by each incremental life lost is so much higher than for the US.

I think the last time we understood that was WWII, when we really were fighting for our future. The true believers would say that Iraq is the same thing, but the wisdom of mobs says otherwise.

#409 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 11:02 AM:

Faren: the parallels still hold. Imperial powers don't always win wars; sometimes they lose badly, even spectacularly badly. (You might want to look up the history of the First Afghan War some time -- the Elphinstone Expedition and its aftermath. Disastrous doesn't even begin to describe it.)

Nevertheless, the pre-eminent power can survive such disasters -- that's the distinguishing characteristic of a pre-eminent power, after all. When the British government noticed what had happened in Afghanistan, they simply sent another army. Similarly, the USA might have lost the Vietnam war, but there are still US military bases in something like 140 of the 190-odd countries on the planet.

The big difference, when you're not the pre-eminent power any more, is that your military SNAFUs have an unpleasant habit of coming home and camping out in the living room (as Hitler learned the hard way). The UK got a clue, somewhere between 1914 and 1956, and avoided the worst of the hangover. Other folks (France, 1815, Germany, 1945) didn't manage quite so well.

#410 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 11:37 AM:

Then again, Serge, seems to me Faren hit the proverbial nail exactly on its head with her observation about postwar American cultural dominance. We've created a cultural and economic empire largely without having to use explosives. The economic empire now seems to be in decline, but I suspect the cultural empire will remain strong for decades to come, for the simple reason that we seem to be pretty competent at creating and marketing those things -- or that one thing, a sense of freedom -- that youth around the world desire.

But why do countries and empires decline in power, and others rise up? There're numerous reasons (and books) that attempt to explain this phenomenon. My simplistic pet hypothesis is that, everything else being equal (an important qualifier), the country or culture that can most quickly adapt to changing circumstances is the one that will ascend in relation to its competitors, and speed in adaptation is a result of the abilities to process information and then innovate. Reading btwn the lines of Jon Carroll's column, however, the Chinese seem to be operating under a different hypothesis -- speed of innovation isn't as important as the quantity of innovations and a country's / culture's ability to control them for strategic purposes. An anology would be the lumbering tactics applied by the Soviet Red Army versus those of the Third Reich's quicker-to-react Wehrmacht. The Soviets were slower to innovate on the battlefield, but they had the benefits of mass and of geographical space (aka time). Which means I'm hardly sanguine as to the strength of my hypothesis...

#411 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 11:47 AM:

Serge --

Explosives aren't anything new; they're just taking the place historically occupied by setting fires. (All this building in stone and concrete is something of an historical aberration; your historical city, or walled farmhouse, etc., burned very well indeed.)

The fundamental problem with Empire is that it uses military force to introduce market distortions in favour of the ruling class of the Empire. More efficient, and more widespread, markets make the (comprehensively dire) effects of this happen faster.

The Hamurabic "one law, the law is equal for all, service as the highest ideal" empire model has the potential to have a lot of social benefits. This is where the good things about empires come in.

The structure of empire uses military force to maintain relative social (meaning economic; social and economic are fundamentally the same thing) standing in despite of innovation, efforts at import replacement, or good sense in terms of effort or cost minimization; that eventually produces a monumental disaster.

The US is without question headed at the monumental disaster; the question is what kind, and how long it takes.

The novel thing about this disaster will not explosives and suicide bombers, but nuclear weapons and attempts at economic blackmail with same.

Fortunately, nukes require maintenance; unfortunately, in the presence of an existing infrastructure, that maintenance isn't very expensive as such things go.

#412 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 01:04 PM:

True, Graydon, explosives are nothing new, but today's non-nuclear stuff can make even more of a mess. And there are small missiles. And automatic weapons. One person can do a lot more damage today than burning a barn. As for Richard's comments, I was really talking of traditional empires built by military action. I agree that we still have an economic empire, but once it's gone, eventually our cultural empire will fade away too. After all, most people try to emulate the culture that is economically successful.

This all reminds me of the James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever, where Blofeld once again holds the world hostage to his latest thing. He sends an ultimatum to the Soviets and to the Americans, but then he makes a crack to James to the effect that he didn't even bother with Great-Britain.

#413 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 01:13 PM:

Serge --

I was more thinking of Willie Macintosh, and Auchindon, than barn-burning. (And when all your food for the winter is in the barn, and there is no way to get more to you even if you could buy it, burning a barn isn't lacking in magnitude as political statements go.)

The US empire certainly was built by military action; it's a straightforward extension of the Anglo Thassalocracy.

There's been a whole lot of forced market access, for an awfully long time, on the part of the US.

#414 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 01:23 PM:

But Serge, tiny Great Britain is still something of a world power, even if it's only with regard to pop music. When China reaches the top o' the economic heap, I'd be very surprised if its cultural clout exceeds that of the West, 'cause Chinese music just isn't that easy to dance to. ; )

#415 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 01:27 PM:

I remember during the 2004 primaries and how everybody ganged up on Howard Dean for saying that America may not always be on top, or words to that effect. I'm sure he hopes he was wrong. I hope I'm wrong.

#416 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 01:39 PM:

Graydon, I don't disagree that the US has used its political, economic and, at times, military clout to maintain access to markets or keep weaker, strategically important countries in line with our interests. But seems to me that we've been far less egregious at literally planting our flag elsewhere than the Great Powers of the 19th and early 20th century. An interesting question: did we become a world power by design, or by default?

#417 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 01:54 PM:

Richard --

Military has been the default in the Western Hemisphere at least since 1890. Implicit threat of military force has been enormously important since 1945, since only other nuclear powers have any possibility of an effective right of refusal, and even that has to get around the economic clout.

I see no obvious consequential difference between installing local satraps, in the form of brutal, repressive dictators, and taking explicit possession for the purposes of being directly brutal and repressive.

In the US's case, I can argue that avoiding taking explicit possession is a direct result of the Philippine adventure and wanting to make sure the enserfed local population didn't have any possibility of access to US courts. (That's why making everybody in the Roman Empire a Roman Citizen was a big deal -- suddenly, equal access to the courts.)

The possessions of empire tend to get at least some infrastructure and some rule of law; the optimized resource extraction environments don't, and that is why they're not possessions most of the time.

#418 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 02:20 PM:

....Fortunately, nukes require maintenance....

Unfortunately that makes nukes a wasting asset.

Given something like Philip Wylie's smuggled atom bomb - or today's delivery by shipping container - a given bomb is a use it or lose it asset.

I was really talking of traditional empires built by military action

It seems to me empires built by military action don't hold. Not even Conan's. Military empires are I think more like Napoleon's or some of the European Hapsburg/Bourbon/Catholic/Protestant struggles that end up falling into war so often.

For traditional compare with CJ's thumbnail on Rome:
Fiction: Rome set out to rule the world.
Fact:....Rome beat Carthage in three wars and finally got involved in African politics trying to stop this cycle. They wanted rid of it. But every time they tried to dismount the tiger, it turned and bit them.
They were then contacted by several eastern kingdoms whose kings willed the Romans their kingdoms if they'd just save these kingdoms from their neighbors and keep them peaceful.
One of these was Egypt. The Roman Senate tried to reject the gift---the Roman people had had enough of foreign troubles. Julius Caesar stood up and argued for the Egyptian Will...and was voted down.
1. Egypt. See the end of previous statement.
2. the unwarned massacre of thousands [reputedly 50,000] of civilian Roman and Roman-affiliated colonists by an eastern warlord [one of the tyrants the other local countries were afraid of:] outraged the civilized world and prompted Rome to go after the guy---Mithridates.
3. See: the African situation. Once Rome was in there, local politics came into play. Jugurtha of Numidia, invited to Rome on a diplomatic mission to try to settle things, assassinated one of his rivals on Roman city streets---bad news.
An exception to Roman good behavior: the Roman Senate appointed Memmius to handle matters in Greece...and the guy turned out to behave badly. The Romans did not consider him a hero. It was very bad manners to steal the silverware...or Greek art treasures. They considered it justice that his ships sank...and gave us modern divers the Greek bronzes we have: the rest were, ironically, lost to mediaeval plunderers.
3. Alexander had conquered the east and pasted it together. Tyrants claiming his mantle had thus far caused war after war in the area. Once Rome ruled it, there was peace and a reasonable chance of the local peasants living to die of natural causes

A successful empire, IMHO, needs use relatively little military force - send the Marines (from Nicaraugua to the Boxer Rebellion) but not the combined forces - though the combined forces must be threatening enough to forestall action by other powers. The threat is more powerful than the execution (cf. unlit cigars) see e.g. Guatamala -1954? - where four P51's made the difference or Greece after WWII where a squadron of SB2C made a difference. There is a logic of empire quite apart from military adventurism.


#419 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 02:24 PM:

> for other people's thoughts on the nature
> of dominant nations past and future

Buy a copy of "Civilization" and play it a while. you'll get someone's view of dominant nations, put into a playable format.

(as a former Civ addict, you should play with a map size set to "Tiny" and land mass set to "Pangea" if you'd like your games to last hours, rather than weeks, long. If you play a game with a tiny map and a pangea land mass, and you know what you're doing, you can play a complete game in 3 or 4 hours.)

Civ has several ways to "win", including cultural dominance, getting into space first, and others, but all of these can be trumped by simple military might. And military might wins one way: whoever produces the most, wins.

I think that when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and America finally declared war on Germany, Churchill said it was the "beginning of the end" or some such thing, basically saying that the US manufacturing power would win out over any temporary advantage the Germans might have.

Civ also has some interesting game rules about modern warfare. Once any country has the technology to build nukes, ALL countries have the ability. (whether they have the resources, such as access to raw uranium/plutonium, is a different issue) This seems to tie in with the real world in the fact that Iran has the knowledge to build nukes, they are getting hung up trying to acquire the materials.

Tactical nukes, and nukes like those we dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, are pretty cheap to build in Civ. They also don't invoke a nuclear winter scenario, so usign them in onesey-twosey is "no big deal". One thing that does disappoint me is that Civ doesn't have a way to trigger nuclear winter, but oh well.

Another thing that Civ doesn't seem to grasp or model well is stateless terrorism. In civ, production is tied to a city, which is tied to a country, so weapons are all property of a nation. Civ doesn't have a way to model something like Al Queda, which operates outside of national boundaries.

Civ also has a simplistic economics model. You cannot suffer a depression, a stock crash, or massive unemployment. You're either making money or losing money, and you repeat that every turn. But it is interesting to see how you can become filthy rich based on your core, capital cities, even though your outer cities are suffering massive corruption and are losing money every turn. Think New York versus New Orleans.

Another thing that Civ does not model well is forms of government. As the player in Civ, you get to decide if you will be a tyrant, monarch, or president. In real life, the people decide and the rulers either go along or try to fight their own people. Civ doesn't have your people spontaneously fight for democracy once they advance to that level.

It isn't a perfect model of reality, but Civ does one thing very well: it models the use of production and military force extremely well, at least up until you get nuclear technology. If you want to play around with how the world worked up until the end of World War 2, Civ is a hands on way to play.

From the Roman empire to teh British empire to the rise of the American superpower, Civ will give you a feel for how it works.

#420 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 02:34 PM:

Remember that scene from North by Northwest when Cary Grant is meeting with Leo G. Carroll at the foot of Mount Rushmore? Grant says he doesn't like the way Teddy Roosevelt is looking at him. Carroll responds:

"He's probably telling you to walk softly and carry a big stick."

Somehow the sexually inadequate bozos in the White House forgot the part about walking softly.

#421 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 02:34 PM:

The US is without question headed at the monumental disaster; the question is what kind, and how long it takes.

So, any kind of disaster will do, from economic collapse to massive meteor strikes? And on any time scale from days to centuries?

. . . I'd have to agree.

#422 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 02:58 PM:

Thoughts on dominant nations, future:

I keep waffling as to whether stateless terrorism is a new issue or not. I keep thinking of the Barbary pirates and sending in the Marines in 1805, and I can't tell if that is similar or different than, say, Al Queda camping out in Afghanistan, making it their training grounds.

The one difference, of course, is the weaponry available to individuals with enough money to buy what they want on the black market. Another difference is the goals. The Barbary pirates were in it for the money. Al Queda is in it for, well, I'm not exactly sure what they're really in it for, but making it unprofitable for Al Queda won't stop them the same way making it unprofitable for the Barbary pirates would.

I think with nukes, we have entered a phase of history where nuclear nations have become "equals" even if they are only one-one-hundredth the size of a superpower. If north korea has nukes, we won't be using force to solve our problems with them, but then they won't necessarily be usign force to solve their problems with South Korea.

Nukes seem to have set the status quo, and frozen national borders.

The only people willing to use such weapons now are those who operate without borders. Stateless terrorism. Organizations such as Al Queda who operate without a national identity, present no target of reprisal for their actions. Afghanistan was their main training grounds, and their attacks on 9-11 caused the US to try and erradicate them from Afghanistan, but getting rid of them in one country does not get rid of them.

State dominance will occur without direct use of force against fellow nuclear-capable countries. The European Union is a step towards dominance for western europe, achieved without war. Military action will be waged against non-nuclear countries.

Dominance of stateless organizations may rise and fall, but I don't think they'll ever stay dominant. Al Quada became dominant on 9-11, but I think they've been severely weakened, and won't become dominant again for some time. I think anytime a stateless organization attempts to dominate a state, you'll always see a violent state response. The shores of Tripoli. The mountains of Afghanistan.

The thought of stateless dominance is more powerful right now than their actual strength. We're terrified of Al Queda getting nukes, getting WMD's, but they're a phantom menace right now, they live as a boogeyman in hiding, waiting to launch some surprise attack. We relate to them like the shark in Jaws. After WW2, our main military strategy was to defend our country from a surprise attack like the Japanese launched on Pearl Harbor, except it was going to be a suprise nuclear attack from the Soviet Union. Now, we're wrapped up in defending ourselves from 9-11 style terrorist attacks.

As for future dominance in general, I think that dominance has only been possible because of differences in technology, differences in attitudes, that enable the drive to dominate. What I think is going to happen is that the differences are going to evaporate. At some point, we'll all have the same technology, at some point, we'll all have roughly equal economies, and dominance and empire will not be possible. Before that happens, the nations that are currently domiant will have to go through an adjustment phase to bring them on par with non-dominant nations. Poor countries will have to become richer than they are now. Rich countries will have to become poorer than they are now. And they'll eventually find a Q point where they settle into stability. (assuming some knucklehead doesn't nuke us into the stoneage before that happens).

But that's just me.

#423 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 04:56 PM:

In the US's case, I can argue that avoiding taking explicit possession is a direct result of the Philippine adventure and wanting to make sure the enserfed local population didn't have any possibility of access to US courts. (That's why making everybody in the Roman Empire a Roman Citizen was a big deal -- suddenly, equal access to the courts.)

The US debate about possession of foreign conquests is older than that, actually. At the end of the Mexican-American War, there were Americans arguing for taking over all of Mexico, not just the thinly populated northern parts (Alta California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico). This was opposed by (among others) Southern politicians, on two grounds: 1) basic racism (not wanting those brown Mexicans to become US citizens one day); and 2) fear of more free states in the future, since slavery was outlawed in Mexico.

#424 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 05:06 PM:

an update on Civ;

There is an open source, free-as-in-beer version of Civ, called, oddly enough, freeCiv that duplicates the gameplay Greg London illustrated.

Nifty features include being able to play as historical or fictional nations. (I have wasted many an afternoon playing the Dunedain vs. Mordor.)

Nuclear winter, in a limited sense, was implemented even in the original version of Civ; let off too many nukes, and the water level rises, temperate areas become desert or tundra (with associated movement pentalties), cities lose certain kinds of food production, etc.

Civ in any form is not reccomended for:
1. writers
2. artists
3. editors
4. anyone who needs to get things done.
It is the ultimate time sink if you have any obsessive or perfectionistic tendancies. Forget ever being able to finish that novel.

Greg London is quite right about the production concept; staying a dictatorship or a monarchy the entire game and building new cities every single turn will quickly win you the game, where quick=4 to 12 hours of your life you will never get back again.

-r.

#425 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 05:24 PM:

Fans of (a) hagiography and (b) comic books -- and I know you're out there -- will be interested to learn of the upcoming British publication The Flying Friar.

You'll thrill as he soars through the sixteenth-century skies! You'll marvel at his super strength! You'll venerate his modesty and patience! You'll cheer as he thwarts the fiendish plot of the dastardly Lex Luther! (You know. Lex. Great-nephew of Martin.)

I promise that I am not making this up.

#426 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 05:33 PM:

rhandir,

nuclear winter? Really? I never needed to use nukes to win a game, so I never saw it happen. I did play around with some nukes to see what they did, and all I got was some pollution around the target, which I could clean up with some workers.

as for the time sink, yeah, on a normal sized map, it takes weeks to play a game. I then discovered that it is a lot easier to conquer the world, if the world is tiny. I can usually start and finish a tiny map game in 3 hours or so. Still a sink, but way better to get a 3 hour Civ fix, than a 3 week fix.

I think the quickest I conquered the world was something like 500 BC one time. Not too shabby.

One other oddity about Civ is that Railroads seem to be grossly overrated. As soon as I discover the technology to build railroads, I send all my workers out to connect all my cities and then lay tracks to the front lines. Everything then gets free travel. and I dump military units from the furthest cities right into combat. I don't think it works that way in real life, but oh well.

#427 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 05:37 PM:

Greg London: Stateless terrorism. Organizations such as Al Queda who operate without a national identity, present no target of reprisal for their actions.

Greg, if AQ were to detonate a nuclear device in a US city. I wouldn't want to be anywhere near the Kaaba, or anywhere in Mecca for that matter. Not necessarily a response I'd endorse, but one that has a non-zero probability of happening.

#428 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 05:44 PM:

Andrew Willett: Fans of (a) hagiography and (b) comic books -- and I know you're out there -- will be interested to learn of the upcoming British publication The Flying Friar.

Will Mother Superior Bertrille (surely she's risen in the ranks by now) play a Mayor Linseed analog?

#429 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 05:46 PM:

Whoops - got my universes mixed up. Strike Mayor Linseed and replace with a suitable Superman-based figure.

#430 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 05:51 PM:

Greg --

Remarkably close to it. Certainly close enough when you can just send workers to clean up nuke sites.

Sandy --

Not asteroid strikes, particularly. (Given enough time, yes, something wretched will happen; Yellowstone will eventually erupt again...) But on one edge we've got the diverse dire outcomes of "Rummy really does nuke Iran" and on the other edge we've got the diverse dire outcomes of "the Chinese decide it's time to take back Taiwan" and on the other edge we've got the economic consequences of renewed war on the Korean peninsula and on the other edge we've got the climate shift -- current big question, when will Greenland go? -- and on the other edge we've got a US economy that's at significant risk of outright falling over and taking most of the global economy with it.

I can't see any way out of that box that has any real chance of happening. There's a limit to dumb luck, and any attempt to take effective control of events in time to stave off disaster would itself constitute a disaster.

#431 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 05:54 PM:

if AQ were to detonate a nuclear device in a US city. I wouldn't want to be anywhere near the Kaaba

Larry, Iraq had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks. But we went after them anyway because they were "linked" to Al Queda, no, because they had WMD's, no, because they were bad people, insert excuse of the minute here.

Just because some knuckleheaded president might attack the Kaaba because Al Queda sets off a nuke in NYC, that doesn't mean that Al Queda is not a stateless organization. Moronic logic from gunslinging presidents who get their strategy from war movies don't change that. Al Queda is a stateless organization.

#432 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 05:56 PM:

Civ is crack.

Stay away from it.

Even the CivAnon site is a cruel marketing ploy to get people to play Civ IV.

#433 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 06:40 PM:

Two points in Charlie's comparison of the US and UK empires:
- the two-wars doctrine was a Republican noisemaker from Rumsfeld's spiritual ancestors; it was presented as an ideal by the people who now use "We're making you more secure!" as an excuse for any misconduct, but IIRC it was never achieved -- the money just wasn't there.
- Also IIRC, the UK at least didn't sell itself to its successor and its primary candyman. I keep wondering whether it will be the Chinese or the Saudis who first decide to stop wasting their trade surplus buying U.S. debt.

Sean Connery's accent was noticed in old fannish circles; the promo for Outlands included his personal greeting to "Norriscon" (Noreascon 2).

#434 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 06:54 PM:

Graydon, America may be effective at installing satraps, but I'd argue that for a country of our putative power we've been remarkably ineffective at maintaining these satraps over time. IMHO, that's perhaps the primary consequential difference between satrapization and taking explicit posession of -- er, conquering through force of arms -- someone else's hunk of geography. Not that the latter seems all that effective either in maintaining influence over the long run....

#435 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 07:05 PM:

Greg - I didn't say that the scenario I put forward was sensible, or that it reflected any relationship between AQ and any particular state. Or, for that matter that I endorsed it. I don't, but I'm not sure how I'd feel if there was suddenly a hole in the middle of say, Chicago.

The only reason that I think that the nuke Mecca scenario is possible is because of people like General William "My God Can Beat Up Your God" Boykin.

The reason I think it won't happen is because of the degree to which the Bush family is in bed with the Saudi royal family and Big Oil.

#436 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 07:21 PM:

Richard --

No particular satrap has much of a half life. The complete and total inability of anybody to get effective labour laws passed or refuse US definitions of free trade (the mercantile equivalent of unconditional surrender) has been remarkably consistent.

The only guiding ideology to this is profit.

Now, that said, the US is a stunningly incompetent imperial power, considered as an imperial power. But that's not what the US is trying to be. The US is trying to maximize returns for a certain kind of business organization, and that it does very well.

#437 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 07:26 PM:

Charlie Stross - - in your note of 9:01 this morning, you’re making a classic error about imperialism: you argue that imperial looting is no longer profitable, and therefore we're likely to see less of it as a national policy.

But that’s true only if you’re looking at the balance sheet for the imperial power as a whole. That is, that’s true only if the people paying the costs of imperial adventures are the same set of people as those who are reaping the profits.

The people who are collecting hundreds of billions of dollars of public money from America’s attack on Iraq are decidedly NOT the same Americans who are sending their loved ones to fight and die in the desert. Imperialism can be profitable for ruling elites AND a complete disaster for the polity as a whole.

(If the costs and benefits of a great power's foreign policies ARE fairly distributed, you tend to see the principle “Democracies don’t launch wars of aggression.” The United States launched a war of naked aggression. Finishing that syllogism is left as an exercise.)

#438 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 09:12 PM:

The people who are collecting hundreds of billions of dollars of public money from America’s attack on Iraq are decidedly NOT the same Americans who are sending their loved ones to fight and die in the desert.

Yes, it's the Verres problem.

Damn you, Andrew Willett. Now I will have to buy The Flying Friar as a teaching aid for my hagiography class.

#439 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 09:36 PM:

The people who are collecting hundreds of billions of dollars of public money from America’s attack on Iraq are decidedly NOT the same Americans who are sending their loved ones to fight and die in the desert.

That is another real-world feature that is not simulated in Civ.

If the military were purely a commercial, for-profit endeavor, paid for by those who benefit from it, then we sure as hell wouldn't be in this money-pit of a quagmire called Iraq, assuming, of course, that the "you break it, you buy it" rule applied. Haliburton planes wouldn't have bombed the hell out of the power grid in Iraq if they had to pay for it to be rebuilt with their own money.

On the other hand, they probably advised the military to bomb the hell out of the grid knowing they would be awarded the contract to rebuild said grid. insert national infrastructure here.

Btw, there's a Civ 4???

#440 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 09:39 PM:

"Lord of War" comes to mind here. Not a great plot, but when you watch the level of bribes and kickbacks and forgeries and illegal activities going on, it sort makes you think, yeah, that's how it probably works.

#441 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 10:01 PM:

Civ IV: Yes. I've been playing it. It was advertised as a remake from the ground up, but I don't think it goes that far. Desert becomes completely valueless, unless it's river valley or oasis; mountains become untraversable; railroads have a (low) movement cost; there are a number of new resources, and resources generally are easier to find, including the vital strategic ones; the Wonders are comprehensively revamped; and religion becomes important, esp in the early game. And the bells and whistles have been upgraded, with a lot more animation, some really nice music - check out the Soweto-sound during the intro. On the minus side, the spaceship-launch (which brought me to tears in Three) has been excised and replaced with a blah piece of bad action, poorly animated.

On the whole, a bit better, with less micro-management, but as a human player, very difficult to win beyond about level four.

#442 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 10:23 PM:

Charlie: The UK never experienced a serious threat to its heartland due to imperial overstretch (and if the UK learned its lesson between 1914 and 1956 what do you call Suez, the Malay Emergency, the Mau-Mau conflict, the fight with the NLF in Aden in the 1960s, and the little tiff in the Falklands in 1982?) Germany, Napoleonic France (and for that matter Ancien Regime France) and Russia sought to build empires contiguous to their heartlands. The British empire was mostly overseas (the only contiguous territory being John Bull's other island). That's a crucial difference.

#443 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 11:01 PM:

Btw, there's a Civ 4???

Since October.

I think it's an improvement over 3, but the changes are considerable -- probably greater than with 2 or 3, and several of them take getting used to. Some key differences:

-- There are no longer abstract government types. There are five characteristics of a civilization ("civics"): Government, Legal, Labor, Economy, and Religion, and five civics in each group. (This originated with Alpha Centauri.) Most civs go through a turn of anarchy when they change civics, though certain nations are immune. Each civic, as you'd expect, relates to how you want to run the empire.

-- There's a religion system. Whoever's the first to develop a particular tech "founds" an associated religion (e.g., Monotheism founds Judaism). There are seven religions; the manual notes that seven was chosen as best for gameplay, and their names were chosen as familiar to everybody. You can send out missionaries to try and convert other civs (and a civ can have multiple religions); coreligionists are more likely to come over to your side if you're culturally superior. The religions all have real-world names, but they don't actually have any tenets -- your play is unaffected by your religion or lack thereof, though there are advantages in founding them. I sort-of understand why they used real religion names instead of (in Steve Jackson's phrase) The Temple of Gooble the Mostly Omnipotent, but it does look a little odd. It might have been nice if you could have changed the religion names (as you can with the civs and leaders).

-- There are now "Great People," who are generated by cultural achievements. Engineers, Merchants, Prophets, and Artists can be used as specialized citizens to boost a city's stats, or they can be expended to create various things -- an Artist, for example, can be swapped for a "great work" that hugely boosts a city's Culture total. The Great People have real names, which leads to more cognitive dissonance, like when Lao-Tzu builds the Church of the Nativity.

The game is, as one would expect, graphically way ahead of any previous version. It's now fully 3d -- little squads of people run around building roads and killing each other, and there's a seamless mousewheel zoom from a few squares to the entire globe. This does come at a cost; I've got an AMD 2800 with a Nvidia 6200 video card, and it's very slow at the top graphic settings. Runs just fine at "medium" settings, which look entirely okay.

#444 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 11:12 PM:

Ah. Goobleism. They used to advertise in back of Popular Mechanix.

So far I've resisted any temptation to buy Civ 4, and Dave's note that "mountains become untraversable" has furthered my resolve. If the Donner Party can make it through the Rockies, then Settlers sure as heck can!

#445 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 11:30 PM:

Hey, remember when we were talking about aerogel, and, like, evil purposes and stuff?

Buy yours here:

Via Boingboing, naturally. Also, if you decide to buy a box of goodies from United Nuclear, and you get the big neodymium magnets, and some of us with metal bits are in the nabe, ring a bell and shout "High Gauss!" from time to time, okay?

#446 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 11:40 PM:

I'm safe for a few more months; Aspyr is aiming to ship the Mac port of Civ IV in June.

#447 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 11:54 PM:

Stefan, the fact that mountains are now "impassable terrain" bothered me at first, too (of course, the thing I liked best about Alpha C was the terraformer vans -- there was nothing quite like conducting a land invasion of your neighbor over brand new land, or submerging his coastal cities), but, while occasionally frustrating, it's not all that unrealistic -- remember that a Settler isn't ten people and a wagon, it's everything necessary to start a major city.* (I do think Scouts ought to be able to get through, but note that maps are much smaller, in terms of squares, than in any previous Civ; the largest "mountain range" I've ever seen on a standard-sized world is four adjacent squares, so it's not like in Civ 3, where there were vast expanses of mountain country (inevitably where your sole iron mine was located). Iron, incidentally, is much easier to get hold of now, though it's still a "strategic resource," meaning Worth Fighting People Over.

*You can now build "towns" in the radius of cities, which grow over time and greatly increase the city's economic production. They're also fairly profitable to pillage, if that's your thing.

#448 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2006, 11:58 PM:

Fragano: Suez I call one man's madness - Anthony Eden's - but a long way from being a colonial war. What colony were they attempting to obtain or retain there? The Malay Emergency was a model of how to win a war against a guerrilla insurgency. The resulting state is no showpiece for democracy, but it's a damn sight better than Vietnam. The Mau-mau was a lost war, and the outcome would have been better for the people had it not been lost. Consider Zimbabwe, where the British got out voluntarily, coerced the (admittedly redneck) remnants into surrender, and thereby produced a disaster and a basket case, even by African standards. Aden was a holding operation until a reasonably stable regime was established, and maybe a sixty per cent success on those terms. There was never a thought that the British were going to retain it. The Falklands was a just war against a ramshackle tyranny that got its bottom booted past its ears and very right, too. The Falklands is still British, in accordance with the clearly and unequivocably expressed wishes of its people. Gibraltar the same, embarrassing as that may be to the British government itself.

It was a good empire as empires go, and unlike most empires, when they went, they went pretty well.

#449 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 12:16 AM:

Quick - before it goes away - a Google Sets hack.

Go to
http://labs.google.com/sets

Enter in the following and see what's predicted in the set:
- mow lawn
- do laundry
- buy groceries
click "Large Set"

The fourth item should be a doozy.

#450 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 01:19 AM:

Stop it, John! I'm not going to fall off the wagon again.

Instead, I'm writing stuff like:

Object roadkill "roadkill" highway
with name 'roadkill' 'squashed' 'oppossum' 'animal',
bagged false,
initial "There's a squashed animal by the side of the road.",
description
[;
if (roadkill.bagged) "The dead oppossum is securely contained in a plastic bag.";
else "It is pretty chewed up, but you are pretty sure that it is an oppossum.";
],
before
[;
take:
if (plastic_bag in player || plastic_bag in location)
{
print "You use the plastic bag to pick up, and then contain, the roadkill oppossum's leaky corpse.";
roadkill.bagged=true;
remove plastic_bag;
move roadkill to player;
}
else
{
print "There's no way you're going to touch the disgusting thing with your bare hands.";
return true;
}
],
;

#451 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 05:02 AM:

"The only reason that I think that the nuke Mecca scenario is possible is because of people like General William "My God Can Beat Up Your God" Boykin."

see I think it's cause they're evil but stupid, an evil and clever person would nuke medina and threaten to nuke mecca unless they delivered all the oil.

#452 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 08:48 AM:

Bob: what's going on in Iraq isn't classic imperialist resource-extraction; the people taking the profits from the war aren't, for the most part, taking their profits from the conquered nation -- they're taking them from the US taxpayer. To that extent, the Iraq occupation is an excuse, rather than the main event: a fig-leaf to conceal the asset stripping of what's left of the American public purse.

NB: the estimates of resulting oil revenue that Rummy was bandying around before the invasion were on the order of a total $100Bn. Total spent on the Iraq war so far? Including colateral damage to the US economy due to the rise in oil prices since the war, $2Tn. The invasion is deeply unprofitable, in terms of the traditional imperial hostile takeover model. It's something else again, if your objective is to line the pockets of your defense contractor buddies.

Here's a fun gedankenexperiment: what would be the likely outcome of a directive from 1600 Penn Avenue to invade and occupy Iran? Even if it comes wrapped together with a "Get out of Iraq free" card?

#453 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 08:55 AM:

Dave, you haven't been following the declassified 25-year secret files on the Falklands, have you?

It turns out that Thatcher sent her foreign secretary to the Falklands in 1979/80 to try to convince the islanders that they really wanted to become Argentinian citizens, while conducting secret negotiations with the Junta to sell the islands. Then the islanders said "bugger off, we're British". The removal of the South Atlantic fisheries patrol ship had already been scheduled, and the Argentinian Junta interpreted the sudden about-face in Whitehall as a treacherous U-turn on what they'd believed was a done deal, the purchase of the Falklands by the Argentinian government.

It's a lot fishier than it looked at the time ...

#454 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 09:31 AM:

At last... Minelli's Lust for Life, with Kirk Douglas as van Gogh, is now out on DVD.

#455 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 09:42 AM:

Fishier how, Charles? That Thatcher and the then British government were prepared to give the Falklands away is hardly surprising. They cost actual money, after all, which went against their religion.

And of course the vile Galtieri regime interpreted actually taking the islanders' wishes into account as nonsense and treachery. Of course the generals could never have believed that a government could actually be motivated by principle - though they were half-right, in this case. The British cabinet was no doubt perfectly prepared to act without any principles at all, but their little exercise in realpolitik was trumped by a backbench that actually enforced that most tired and dated of shibboleths, the will of the people. Thatcher and her cabinet became uneasily aware that if they sold the Falklanders out, they would most likely not survive the next sitting of an outraged House of Commons. The generals in Buenos Aires of course saw this as division and weakness. It was not the first time that tyrants have made that mistake about the British. Fatally, in this case, and a damn good thing, too.

#456 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 10:00 AM:

Larry Brennan,

Thank you. That made my co-worker and I simultaneously go, "wow."

Made my day.

#457 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 10:01 AM:

civ4, hm, will have to ponder whether to go down that path, for once you start, forever it will hold you. The thing about Civ3 is that I finally got to the point of understanding enough of the game that I could start and finish a game in one evening. New game with new rules means longer games until I figure out the shortcuts, the important things to develop, and whatnot. to quote, the great philosopher, winnie the poo, "Oh, bother."

aerogel: Hm, at a hundred bucks a pop for a chunk that fits in the palm of your hand, its still works out to be just a tad too expensive to reinsulate my house with the stuff. I also noticed that the stuff is fairly transluscent. Wonder if Pella Windows will come out with a version of windows that uses Aerogel instead of glass in a decade or two. It might be neat to get a chunk of it and use it as a soldering iron stand, if I still soldered anything anymore.

I wonder when this company will be selling monomolecular nanotube rope in chunks of a few feet or more. I'm saving up to build my own space elevator you know.

#458 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 12:48 PM:

I have so far been immune to the lure of Civ [well, Civ 2 and 3].

I think it's because I played Master of Magic first and, if I can't drop Doom Bolts on people, it loses a lot of the thrill.

#459 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 01:27 PM:

Sandy, it is a bit fun to play with the Civ Map Editor, which comes with Civ. You can't throw Doom Bolts, but you can turn mountains into oceans, oceans into mountains, green fields into deserts, and prairies into tundra, among other things. I wish you could do that sort of thing during normal game play. When the bad guys start approaching your army, turn the sea into land so you can evacuate, then when the enemy pursues, turn the land back into sea and drown them all.

I suppose it would be all well and good until the computer player did that to me, at which point, it just wouldn't be cool.

#460 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 01:54 PM:

Greg: This could be the basis for a Civ scenario: Civilization -- Exodus.

#461 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 01:55 PM:

Master of Magic was overall a mediocre game, but the tactical module was wonderfully spiffy. Very much like a tiny on-screen miniatures game.

Instead of (as in Civ) smacking units one after the other into an enemy stack, all the units in the battle appeared on the tactical map and could be moved around, retreated, and so on. You could have your cavaly and ground troops advance while supported by archers. Add magic and monsters and things get really fun!

#462 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 03:14 PM:

John: Aerogel is tempting, but pricey. I've occasionally thought of something to do with it, but nothing practical comes to mind right now. Hmm. I was amused to read that "Aerogel is composed of 99.8% air and is chemically similar to ordinary glass." I'd think it would be chemically similar to air. It's 1/3 air by weight, but that means only half the molecules are SiO2.

Hmm. I wonder how you suffuse it with another gas. (put it in a vacuum and see if it acts like Ivory soap?) I read somewhere that H2+Cl2 can be ignited by light. So if you suffuse an aerogel with these gases, then turn on the light, I wonder if it would explode or just burn on the periphery. Makes me long for my basement chem lab, but maybe I should just be glad I survived.

Supermagnets are also tempting, and I guess I could be careful about checking the friends and family for metal bits, but what if the UPS guy has a pacemaker? Sounds like I might not want to play with them at home.


#463 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 03:20 PM:

Stefan: One of the Master of Orion games (2?) had a similar tactical mode. Loads of fun.

#464 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 03:21 PM:

I'm not a big fan of Arlen Specter, but at least he's willing to say Gonzales is smoking Dutch Cleanser. I invite the resident poets to filk the phrase "Bon Ami que fumar" [*].

#465 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 03:39 PM:

MOO is another game I had to give away, for fear of ruining my productivity.

No, not just fear; certainty.

But like a recovering junky, I still like talking about the stuff.

MOO 2 was wonderful. It had just about everything I would have imagined a space game needing. Except, after a while it got stale, particularly the endgame. There was a certain point where, if you played well, all your planets were lush green Gaia worlds with impregnable defenses. The only thing left to do was eliminate those extra-dimensional cliched baddies. After doing that a half dozen times, you noticed the shabbiness of the whole set-up. The artificiality of the subcreation. Disbelief could no longer be suspended.

#466 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 03:44 PM:

Charlie Stross: We're in agreement - but recall that our attack on Iraq was sold (in part) as paying its own way.
(Wolfowitz explicitly made that claim, without really bothering to explain how we would derive the profits from Iraq's oil revenues.)

Note that some large fraction of the "$2trillion" cost estimate really has wound up flowing directly into the pockets of the Bush Junta: for example, note that the oil companies have posted record profits this year. Factors that are "costs" for the populace as a whole are seen as "benefits" by the criminals who have seized control of American state policy.

And the disaster in Iraq doesn't mean that similar imperial ventures won't continue to be used as excuses for future raids on the Treasury.

#467 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 04:15 PM:

Has the whole Iraq mess trickled down to the David Weber school of space opera yet?

#468 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 06:39 PM:

George Deutchs the Bush flunkey attempting to censor NASA scientists writes like an undergraduate because that's all he is; he never graduated. Or at least that's what one blogger claims--that doesn't say much for NASA's HR department though.

#469 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 07:05 PM:

Greg: Civ 4 is shorter to play, even counting developing new strategies, because (as noted) the maps have far fewer squares for a given size of world. I played a standard world, with six opponents, to completion (built the starship) in under four hours, which included eliminating the two civs I was sharing my continent with. (War is still slow and expensive, but having gunpowder, tanks, battleships and bombers -- and, uh, the Maxim gun -- when they have archers helps a lot.)

Interesting new tactic: Seaborne and aerial bombardment of cities don't do any damage to the units inside, but they wear down the defensive bonuses of the city. It's much easier to take a place when its defenders aren't getting an 80% bonus.

A new feature is adjustable game lengths: units move the same, but you can speed up or slow down the rate at which stuff gets built and research is done. I haven't played with this; it seems like it's best for people who want to move armies around a lot. (All games still time out in 2040; it just takes variable numbers of turns to get there.)

#470 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 07:17 PM:

He (Deutsch) was a political appointee, Lisa. HR may have had no choice in the mattter, but I agree that the whole system stinks royally.

One of the blogger's commentators suggests that the whole class of incompetent, resume-padding appointees be called "Brownies."

Don't know why I didn't notice this before:
In one call, George Deutsch, a recently appointed public affairs officer at NASA headquarters, rejected a request from a producer at National Public Radio to interview Dr. Hansen, said Leslie McCarthy, a public affairs officer responsible for the Goddard Institute.

Citing handwritten notes taken during the conversation, Ms. McCarthy said Mr. Deutsch called N.P.R. "the most liberal" media outlet in the country. She said that in that call and others, Mr. Deutsch said his job was "to make the president look good" and that as a White House appointee that might be Mr. Deutsch's priority.

Would anyone at NASA be greatly disappointed if Mr. Deutsch and a roll of duct tape went missing shortly before the next Delta V launch?

#471 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 08:40 PM:

standard world, with six opponents, to completion in under four hours

Wow, that may be worth the upgrade then. I'll check it out.

speed up or slow down the rate at which stuff gets built and research is done

In Civ3, you can double all production rates. I don't think you can double research rates, but man, the production rate thing makes a huge difference. I've never been able to research a new technology in less than 4 turns, no matter how many scientists I have. There are a couple of tech threads that have a whole lot of nothing in between that makes 4-turns-per-stage really boring, but I haven't figured out how to get it to move any faster.

#472 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 09:39 PM:

Stefan Jones: One of the blogger's commentators suggests that the whole class of incompetent, resume-padding appointees be called "Brownies."

Strictly speaking, the name for someone who's unqualified for their job, but who got their position simply due to political machinations is not "Brownie", it's "Bushie."

#473 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 10:45 PM:

Yes, but we need a name for incompetents appointed by the incompetent.

#474 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 10:56 PM:

Bob: there were probably some competent Bushies. Besides, "brownie" is such an obvious line, as in "Brownie, you're doing a great job!"

Dave L: could the parlous state of Zimbabwe have to do with the civil ~war that erupted after the British departure? I wonder who was meddling in that....

#475 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 11:41 PM:

"George Deutchs the Bush flunkey attempting to censor NASA scientists writes like an undergraduate because that's all he is;"

well, I never graduated.

#476 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 11:54 PM:

The usual suspects, no doubt, Greg, though there certainly wasn't much in the way of direct arms, except for the Chinese, and that amounted to very little. The culprit for the enormity of turning a major food exporter and one of Africa's best-developed and most prosperous territories into a horror story of starvation, despair and ruin is the tyrannical, corrupt and murderous Mugabe regime, a cabal of thugs and gangsters whose aim from first to last was to enrich themselves while impoverishing an entire people.

#477 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 12:23 AM:

Damn, that was quick: Deutsch has been shown the door. Granted, he was just a cog in a much larger disinformation machine, but it's a start.

#478 ::: lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 12:29 AM:

Bryan

Do you censor the research summaries and reports of Nasa scientists?

Do you write like a sophmore in a job that requires textual proficiency?

The issue is not that Deutsch didn't graduate; the issue is that he's incompentent, and lacks both the skills and the credentials that one would expect Deutsch to have. It's quite possible to be a top notch writer without graduating from college, or high school--but in such cases the incumbent makes up for any seeming inadequecies by having ability. Deutsch's writing skills are truly sophmoric, and his reasoning abilities, as demonstrated by his published work, exceedingly limited.

Deutsch is not only an ignoramus, he's an uncredentialed incompentent ignoramus with an agenda.

#479 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 01:20 AM:

Thank you, Andrew. You made my day.

So, what's next for the young commissar? My money is on a cushy job for The Discovery Institute*. After all, he has valuable government experience.

* The well-funded creationist^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H Intelligent Design think tank whose plans to remake our culture are detailed in "The Wedge Strategy." (google it.)

#480 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 01:30 AM:

And there was absolutely no way that anyone with any understanding of normal English usage could ever have taken the way the earlier post was phrased as an implied slight at the limited intellectual capacity of people who never graduated.

#481 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 01:39 AM:

Thanks Andrew. That's one less lying Brownie to worry about.

Stefan - I'm continually astounded that the Discovery Institute is here in the fair Emerald City. I could understand if they were in Richland, given all the stray radiation...

bryan - it's not the absence of the degree that counts, it's the willful misrepresentation that counts. FWIW, I was 16 when I graduated from HS, and 32 when I got my Bachelors (mostly because I wanted an MBA, which I got two years later. The degrees mostly only count if you want them)

#482 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 02:20 AM:

I don't believe I've seen it mentioned here, but Deutsch is in simple fact an Aggie. From his performance so far, he might be the prototypical Aggie. 'nuf said?

#483 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 02:25 AM:

The blog of Nick Anthis, the guy who exposed Deutsch:

http://scientificactivist.blogspot.com/2006/02/breaking-news-george-deutsch-did-not.html

Thank you, Nick.

#484 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 05:26 AM:

Aerogel pops up in unexpected places. I present for your edification: "super-insulating shoe insert uses advanced aspen aerogel nano-pore material to combat extreme hot and cold temperatures" ...
This turned up as I was looking for other things entirely at one very well-known online commercial site, you may find it elsewhere. It might be one route to playing with the substance. OTOH, there's also an aerogel hair mousse, so perhaps definitions differ.

#485 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 08:36 AM:

That google sets thing is decidedly weird.

Re the Falklands--this goes back to the question of competency, in part. Thatcher's mistake was to start negotiating with the junta before they'd sold the idea to the Falklanders.

Assuming, of course, that they wanted to sell the islands, rather than wanting a war.

#486 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 09:13 AM:

Apropos of knitting (crochet, actually, but I couldn't resist -- and they get it wrong in the title), the March issue of Discover mag has an illustrated article on mathematician Daina Taimina's representations of hyperbolic space in yarn. I haven't checked the website, but here in the US the issue itself should be readily available. I could have done without some of the spooky lighting, and the black background for the text, but the thing's still interesting.

#487 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 09:45 AM:

One of the blogger's commentators suggests that the whole class of incompetent, resume-padding appointees be called "Brownies."

Why insult a perfectly good branch of the Girl Scouts by using their name that way? Close observation suggests that Michael Brown wouldn't know the Girl Scout Promise if it came up and bit him on the ass.

#488 ::: nobody ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 10:08 AM:

The significance of Deutsch's appointment/lying/firing isn't that he was a crony. It is that Bush appointees are so poorly scrutinized.

If they don't check to see if basic information is true, then how do we know that Al Queda isn't already on the payroll?

I am quite serious. How do we know that assorted bad guys (and allies) don't already have lots of people working in our government? How would we tell?

You don't suppose that Bin Laden is actually, say, working for the U.S. Forest service somewhere in the Rockies, do you?

#489 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 10:09 AM:

nobody: You don't suppose that Bin Laden is actually, say, working for the U.S. Forest service somewhere in the Rockies, do you?

Well, somebody's got to keep an eye on the Unabomber's cabin.

#490 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 10:13 AM:

Nah... Bin Forgotten is working for the Dept of Miscellaneous Affairs.

#491 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 10:13 AM:

Debra - Well, I'm thinking more the malicious, imp-like brownie, not the adorable, cookie-pushing brownie. (Then again, considering the impact of the latter on my diet...)

#492 ::: Harriet ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 10:30 AM:

Eep! Now I can read the Blogspotters, but Kathryncramer.com has gone 404......

#493 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 10:33 AM:

Don't trust any brownie, especially if it looks like Dakota Fanning.

#494 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 10:37 AM:

All wars go back to a question of competency, I suppose: competency in assessing the likely reactions and resources of a given group of people. Thatcher misjudged the Falklanders, not only the latter's obduracy and refusal to countenance their own betrayal, but their ability to appeal over her head to her own party and, I believe, to the British people themselves, whom she also misjudged. That was a culpable failure of judgement, never mind the smiling conscienceless perfidy of contemplating the act at all.

Nevertheless it was the generals in Buenos Aires whose misjudgement of the British was even more disastrous - for them. Here was the true incompetency, and the immediate cause of the war. They judged that the British would not or could not fight. They were wrong.

#495 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 11:48 AM:

David Goldfarb... Recognized a young Angela Bassett in one episode of The Flash? And the actor who played that really slimy TV anchor in a few episodes?

#496 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 11:59 AM:

Well, I have to correct myself this morning. Mr. Deutsch is a failed Aggie - he did not actually manage to graduate from Texas A & M.

#497 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 01:38 PM:

going to take advantage of the open thread to vent. Chirac is a knucklehead and a coward. Rather than call for the intolerant to be more tolerant and for the violent to be less violent, he blames free speech. Nice job, moron.

#498 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 01:54 PM:

An open thread-y random thought. Being adopted, I have had issues with the term "natural parents". What do you call the folks who raise you then; "artificial parents"? It just occured to me that in Girl Genius, Agatha's folks, Adam and Lilith Clay (heh heh - just caught the name joke too), really were artificial parents. Oh, the Foglios must have had fun with that. I'm a little slow on the uptake sometimes.

#499 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 02:05 PM:

And I notice that Agatha is again in a great state of undress. This time, though, it's because she's been taken over by the Other.

#500 ::: Andrew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 02:08 PM:

Entirely random, but someone here is bound to know: What happened to William Browning Spencer?

#501 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 02:10 PM:

Agatha Heterodyne's sense of fashion aside... The expression 'natural parents' makes perfect sense and its opposite could indeed be 'artificial parents'. After all, it's not biology but a civilization that defines those who have adopted you as your parents.

#502 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 02:43 PM:

Oops. I just had a pedant moment.

#504 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 04:07 PM:

Mary: Someone entered that text into the church sign message generator site. It was especially funny in that context.

But now that I know there are stickers . . . hmmmm.

#505 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 04:12 PM:

not me!

(last one to call out, of course, has to do the deed)

#506 ::: Laura Bush ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 04:13 PM:

Not me!

#507 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 04:41 PM:

Larry Brennan is thinking more the malicious, imp-like brownie, not the adorable, cookie-pushing brownie.

So what about the sycophantic, toad-eating sort of brownie with the toffee about the nose? Isn't that the primary qualification for a cronyjob?

It isn't what you know, it's what you nose.

#508 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 04:58 PM:

With Deutsch, I don't think we're dealing with a classic toady or sycophant.

He wasn't hired to be a follower, he was hired to be a specific type of prick. An agenda-driven prick.

We're dealing with a Young Republican.

You know: Walks around college campus in a suit, perpetual smug expression, always ready to leap to the defense of tobacco and asbestos companies, occasionally cries himself to sleep over the unfairness of being born too late to hang around with Ayn Rand.

#509 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2006, 10:58 PM:

Greg: Chirac is a knucklehead and a coward.

I sometimes wonder whether a spine removal is necessary for the top job in France; I remember some years ago when the incumbent censored his own speech, removing all mention of human rights when China was considering buying Airbus instead of Boeing. There's a truly vicious cartoon there (start with La Liberte' on kneepads) that I kept hoping somebody would draw.

#510 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 04:06 AM:

Serge: Recognized a young Angela Bassett in one episode of The Flash? And the actor who played that really slimy TV anchor in a few episodes?

I'm afraid not, on both counts.

Eric Sadoyama: I call them my "birth parents". As opposed to the people who adopted me (at the age of nine days) who are my "parents". As I once noted when discussing my mother in an e-mail to my birth mother, "It feels a bit weird calling her 'mom' in this context, but it would feel weirder not to." (She understood.)

#511 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 05:13 AM:

"it was the generals in Buenos Aires whose misjudgement of the British was even more disastrous - for them"

Even more serious consequences for those at the sharp end — Argentina: 655 killed, 1,100 wounded; UK: 255 killed, 746 wounded (from Wikipedia)

[Was it here I read that the ARA General Belgrano was the refurbished USS Phoenix (CL-46), which had survived the Pearl Harbor attack? That sinking accounts for almost half the Argentine deaths.]

#512 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 07:01 AM:

David Goldfarb... No? The Flash's slimy TV anchor was played by Richard Belzer, the same Richard Belzer who, in one episode of Criminal Intent refered to cats as demonic little furballs. Obviously a cat lover. Really.

#513 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 07:11 AM:

Speaking of 'natural' matters... Why is the process of becoming a full citizen of a country called naturalization? Heck, what was I, before June 23, 1994? An unnatural citizen?

#514 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 09:10 AM:

After checking that link to the commentary on romance novel covers -- stuff like midgets on horses gazing intently into the eyes of a lady with symptoms of jaundice -- I have to wonder who buys the pictures.

Though there's one reason why the skin tones might look odd. We adjust our optical system to comensate for the general colour of the environment. If your looking at a physically large picture, filling your angle of view, that effect starts to come into play. So you tend to bias the skin-tone towards the anti-colour of the scene.

Now put the same picture on a book, and even before you add in lighting effects people will see the scene differently.

As for lighting effects, I wonder if publishers prefer certain colour biases, perhaps because they look right in stores, under artificial light. Supermarkets, I gather, use particular lighting for fruit and vegetables, to get them looking better.

#515 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 09:17 AM:

Serge, isn't there something like "natural person" as a term of legal art, a human as distinct from a corporation. Does "naturalization" have similar roots.

#516 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 09:44 AM:

I don't know where you saw romance book covers like that, Dave, but that doesn't sound like anything I've ever come across, and my wife is a romance writer. Oh, and she's quite happy with the current style which finally went away from the Fabio school of thought. (No jokes about that, it's too easy.) No more clinch poses. And the guys actually wear clothes.

#517 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 10:01 AM:

It's the Smart bitches trashy novel covers Particle on the front page.

I have, in the last year or two, seen several outbreaks of mockery aimed at that general sort of cover. Fabio? I've heard the name, but I can't bring to mind anything specific about the style.


#518 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 10:29 AM:

Fabio? He was the beefcake guy with long blondish hair.

#519 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 10:35 AM:

On the General Belgrano you are perfectly right. Some three hundred hapless Argentine naval personnel were killed when she was torpedoed by the Royal Navy submarine Conqueror (I think it was), while the cruiser was manoeuvering at high speed at the southern edges of the naval exclusion zone, and they are in no way to be held responsible for the fact that the regime they served was a vile fascist junta engaged in a war of territorial aggrandisement. They didn't deserve to die the way they did.

Does anyone?

#520 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 11:50 AM:

Dave Bell: Serge, isn't there something like "natural person" as a term of legal art, a human as distinct from a corporation.

I don't know about legal art, but it's used in the WSFS constitution with that meaning. Ghu knows whether androids, replicants, or clones qualify.

Incidentally, thanks for reminding me of the anomalous uses the phrase "term of art" may be put to. Still life with lawyers. Negligence descending a staircase.

#521 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 11:54 AM:

Completely off on a (possibly non-intersecting) tangent, (what are Open threads for, after all) when I saw this story:
mystery of the alien in the attic
www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1703094,00.html
"When Barney Broom began renovating his cottage he did not expect to be confronted by a pair of black eyes staring from a cloudy jar ... The delicate 30cm (12 inch) figure of a baby alien is stored in a pungent liquid and has a US serial number painted on its four-toed foot ... [it] was discovered stored in an old toffee jar wrapped in a copy of the Daily Mirror dating from October 1947." There's some better photos and a different slant at the BBC site (Alien crash lands in the attic) where you can see/add to comments on the story. (There are some tantalising background details in that one.)
I was immediately reminded of this from 2 years ago.
Pickled dragon mystery
www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/01/28/1075088090949.htm
29-Jan-2004
A pickled baby "dragon", in a sealed jar ... has been found in a garage in Oxfordshire, England ... (The Telegraph, London)

#522 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 12:02 PM:

Epacris's post reminds me of something I once read in the Skeptical Inquirer about alien abductees. There was one case of someone in whose nose the steenkeeng aliens had put an implant. When asked if he'd mind someone looking in there, he said it had fallen out after a powerful sneeze and he had thrown the implant in the garbage can.

#523 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 12:09 PM:

Typical. The Americans get huge ultra-secret underground bases to hide their captured aliens in. We have to make do with some bloke's attic. It's just embarrassing. "Antiques Roadshow" meets "The X Files".
If we ever captured a saucer, it's probably still sitting in a Nissen hut on some godforsaken deserted airfield on the east coast somewhere.
On the other hand, it's a nice 'Ministry of Space'-type alternate history. Attlee Vs The Aliens.

#524 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 12:11 PM:

"Antiques Roadshow" meets "The X Files"...

Could you throw in the Vicar of Dibley, ajay?

#525 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 12:51 PM:

There are several web pages out there with instructions on making your own bottled alien fetus, Deep One baby, etc.

#526 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 01:04 PM:

Here's something that Mattel really has in the works...

Just in time for this summer's Warner Bros. blockbuster, Superman Returns, Mattel gives kids the chance to imagine that they have the strength, the power ... and the physique of the Man of Steel(TM). A dedicated battery-operated fan inflates the Superman(TM) suit, transforming kids into their favorite superhero, all muscle-bound and awe-inspiring.

#527 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 01:08 PM:

David Goldfarb: As I once noted when discussing my mother in an e-mail to my birth mother, "It feels a bit weird calling her 'mom' in this context, but it would feel weirder not to." (She understood.)

I call both of them Mom to their faces; they've never been in the same room so confusion has never arisen. When referring to them in conversation, if it's not clear from context I'll either say "my birth mom" and "my adoptive mom", or I'll append a name to the title, the way you typically do with uncles and aunties. It took me a while to get used to, but I figure that in this age of step- and blended families it's not that weird to have multiple Moms and Dads.

#528 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 02:19 PM:

If we ever captured a saucer, it's probably still sitting in a Nissen hut on some godforsaken deserted airfield on the east coast somewhere.

And this is a bad thing? The only reason the crowd from the Pentagon's Office of Cost-Plus Imbecility hasn't "borrowed" it is that Sgt Benson (the oldest serving NCO in the British military) won't let them touch anything without proper authorisation. "Now, gentlemen, you remember what happened about the Giant Robot, don't you? Those people had 'credentials' here and back again. Also, your Colonel's an Auton with polythene bits falling off."

#529 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 03:37 PM:

I think you mean Sgt Benton.

#530 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 04:35 PM:

My SO has just suggested that we call incompetant, resume-padding, appointed cronies "Fudge Brownies."

#531 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 06:29 PM:

Ooooh . . .

Deutschie is upset and wants to clear his good name:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/10/science/10nasa.html

He's coming out fighting! I suppose this means he'll be cast as a Crusader for Sound Science and be making the rounds of right-wingie talk shows.

#532 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 06:51 PM:

Speaking of Fabio, I saw him on TV the other day. He used to be the spokesman for I Can't Believe it's Not Butter (a pretend-butter spread) but now they have a new and improved spread and the commercial has a new guy taking the pretty lady up in a big balloon gondola to get her ICBINB. She comments on how wonderful the new stuff is and then Fabio leans out of the crowd on the gondola to say something like "Don't forget the original!"

#533 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 07:26 PM:

I love it when items in random headline-news lists line up just right:

DEAD MOUSE FOUND IN SOUP CAN
BULLIED MICE SHOW BRAIN STRESS REACTION

#534 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 08:11 PM:

Dan: I don't know about legal art, but it's used in the WSFS constitution with that meaning. Ghu knows whether androids, replicants, or clones qualify.

That was put in because of a smartass who bought a membership for his pet rock and presented what he claimed was the rock's ballot; the wording was a standard legal form.

The news on Deutsch is amusing; he's trying to graduate from Dumb Prick to Spiro Agnew, but he gets only a passing grade in Media Flogging because he fails alliteration.

#535 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 08:35 PM:

Just read the Deutsch article - it's absolutely amazing to see the Republican technique expressed at the individual level. Claim victimhood. Decry bias. Attack the critics. Never address substance. He comes off like a whiny baby.

Let's see if the media laps it up or squashes him.

#536 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 10:16 PM:

I think you mean Sgt Benton.

You are, of course, correct.

If there's one thing that characterizes runagate Time Lords, it is absent-mindedness.

I know I gave the Enlightnenment a solid goosing a couple of regenerations ago, but there are things, like water clocks, revolutionary movements, and custards, that require constant attention or entropy will have its joke.

#537 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 01:21 AM:

ISTR it was Elan Litt's teddy bear that sparked off the controversy that resulted in that...

Found some relevant documentation:

http://www.sflovers.org/Reference/fandom/WSFS/pre-1998/w1991.htm

The World Science Fiction Society
Minutes of the Business Meeting 1991...

Item B.3: One Person One Vote

AKA the "Teddy Bear Amendment"

Text
MOVED, to insert a new section in Article 3 as follows:
"Only natural persons shall be allowed to cast site-selection ballots for other than ‘No Preference', and no individual shall cast more than one such ballot. (This shall not be interpreted to prohibit delivery of ballots cast by other eligible voters.) ‘No Preference' ballots may be cast by corporations, associations, and other non-human or artificial entities. ‘Guest of' memberships must be transferred to individual natural persons before being cast for other than ‘No Preference’, with such transfers accepted by the administering convention."
Movers
Kevin Standlee, Rick Katze. and David Berry
Brief Explanation
This is substantially self-explanatory. One motivation for voting corporate, "Guest of", etc., site-selection ballots is to become eligible for the initial limited fee for conversion to attending.
Time Limit
30, few-many
20 (default for 92 words), few-many
6, few-many
4, few-many
3, many-few (wins)

=========

Item D.3: One Person One Vote (3 minutes)

AKA the "Teddy Bear Amendment"

Text
MOVED, to insert a new section in Article 3 as follows:
"Only natural persons shall be allowed to cast site-selection ballots for other than ‘No Preference', and no individual shall cast more than one such ballot. (This shall not be interpreted to prohibit delivery of ballots cast by other eligible voters.) ‘No Preference' ballots may be cast by corporations, associations, and other non-human or artificial entities. ‘Guest of' memberships must be transferred to individual natural persons before being cast for other than ‘No Preference’, with such transfers accepted by the administering convention."
Movers
Kevin Standlee, Rick Katze. and David Berry
Brief Explanation
This is substantially self-explanatory. One motivation for voting corporate, "Guest of", etc., site-selection ballots is to become eligible for the initial limited fee for conversion to attending.
Amendment
Movers
Elan Jane Litt and Dick Smith
Text
After the words "artificial entities" insert "Such corporations, associations, and other non-human or artificial entities may not nominate or vote for Hugo Awards and may not vote on any matter put before the Business Meeting."
Ruled out of order
Insert reasoning here (ask Yale)
Appeal of ruling by Stuart Hellinger, several 2nds
Proper parliamentary form of question is "Should the ruling of the chair be sustained?", but it requires a majority in the negative to reverse the chair.
Gary Greenbaum asked for an immediate vote; no objection
Hand vote: 39-39
This result did not include the podium staff. The Timekeeper began an attempt to add their votes to the tally.
Point of order
Rick Katze objected that all who wish to vote must do so at the same time. The Chair sustained the objection.
Request for a standing vote granted by The Chair
Standing vote: 38-52; chair overruled; amendment now in order
Parliamentary inquiry
Rick Katze asked if, in the opinion of the Chair, the passage of this amendment would make the proposed constitutional amendment greater in scope than what was adopted at ConFiction, thus requiring another years delay before ratification would be possible. The Chair ruled that it would.
Vote on amendment: 32-45 (falls)

#538 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 01:51 AM:

IStefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2006, 10:45 PM:

Yes, but we need a name for incompetents appointed by the incompetent.

Yiddish to the rescue--the Schmuck appoints putzes.

from a different post by the same:

Would anyone at NASA be greatly disappointed if Mr. Deutsch and a roll of duct tape went missing shortly before the next Delta V launch?

Yes, they would be, it's tens of thousands of dollars per pound into orbit, and last time I was paying attention, there isn't extra space and mass budget and balance available for sending close to 100 kilos of bozoid into orbit... waste of federal assets. But perhaps there are some medical research projects on the ethically and morally challenged could use test subjects? Or may test subjects for military personal armor... that former congresscreep with the millions in gratuities sounds like a good candidate for testing for shoddy merchandise purchased by the US Goverment from the companies he got all the perks from....

======

Deutsch has been alive half a decade less than Hansen's been a NASA scientist. This time science triumphed over politics--this time. The Noah Flood Created the Grand Canyon treatise book last I heard was still in the science section in the store at the Grand Canyon. Deutsch apparently also was playing Politburo censorship flunky in other parts of the government, redacting material about birth control, too, along with climate studies, and otherwise putting his political stamp onto what were supposed to be scientific research reports...

========

A report is out that Irving Libby told a grand jury that Cheney was behind the outing Valerie Wilson... and one of the other sacks of excrement from Texas, DeLay, Mr how-dare-anyone-restrict-me-poisoning-the-planet (he got into politics angry about EPA restrictions on pesticides he was using...), is not on the House Appropriates Committee and House Judiciary Committee? Why isn;t he in JAIL instead, in a cell a floor or two off from Abramoff, and Cheney adn Bush and Blunt and Ney etc. all belong in there, too.... then again, outing CIA operatives and operations is a CAPITAL crime....

#539 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 05:15 AM:

I suspect Sgt. Benton is a Mythic Archetype. Certainly I've run into several of his avatars. Normally in the Q stores (characteristic utterance: "These are the stores. It says 'stores' on the sign outside. If I wanted to go around issuing things all the time, it would say 'issues', wouldn't it?" which I suspect dates at least from the War of the Austrian Succession).

Ironically, the difficulty of getting the Sgt or his representative on earth to issue anything tends to be inversely proportional to the destructive potential of the item: thus I have spent three quarters of an hour to get a packet of AA batteries, but have obtained a medium machine gun in less than twenty seconds.

#540 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 06:08 AM:

Quoth Serge and Paula: "Would anyone at NASA be greatly disappointed if Mr. Deutsch and a roll of duct tape went missing shortly before the next Delta V launch?" Yes, they would be, it's tens of thousands of dollars per pound into orbit, and last time I was paying attention, there isn't extra space and mass budget and balance available for sending close to 100 kilos of bozoid into orbit... waste of federal assets.

Actual launch seems unnecessary; one could simply place him in an excellent position (that is, supine) from whence to wave bye-bye at its impending departure. After all, surely rocket plasma is only a theory....

#541 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 06:51 AM:

Actually, Julie, one great way to dispose of Deutsch would be to put aside about two months worth of the Iraq War's costs, spend that on the Time Tunnel's $7,500,000,000.00(US) budget and shove him in to join Robert Duvall and those giant bees.

You may ask what about the dangers of changing History. (Yes, you may, really.) But then you'd need to be reminded that what the Assministration is doing right now is changing History plenty already. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to find that Chimpy's victory in 2000 is the result of the manipulations of an evil time traveller. (Maybe Eric Roberts.)

#542 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 08:00 AM:

Actually, Julie, one great way to dispose of Deutsch would be to put aside about two months worth of the Iraq War's costs, spend that on the Time Tunnel's $7,500,000,000.00(US) budget and shove him in to join Robert Duvall and those giant bees.

What is that in US dollars adjusted for inflation? I suspect we'd still have a bargain, but I'd like to know just how much of a bargain.

#543 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 09:00 AM:

$7,500,000,000.00(US) was the Tunnel's budget in 1968, Bruce. I forgot to adjust for 38 years worth of inflation. I guess a rocket launch would be cheaper after all.

#544 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 10:06 AM:

So that's what Fabio has been up to, Marilee? Last I heard about him was a few years ago when he was on a roller-coaster and a seagull collided with his nose.

#545 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 10:15 AM:

But then, the iraq war is now costing more like $10 billion a month. So in 2006 dollars that's only 3 weeks. What's the inflation since 1968? Mmmm. I could get a pound of carrots or a loaf of bread for a nickel. Now the carrots are 55 cents and the bread is 79 cents minimum. A candy bar was a nickel and now it's 55 cents minimum, but I don't remember how big they were -- they seemed huge. A comic book was ten cents, now they're a dollar or three.

I guess it would be more than a couple of months of the war.

#546 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 10:49 AM:

Paula: Two words: flame trench.

#547 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 12:04 PM:

Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 10:49 AM:

Paula: Two words: flame trench.

Two pairs of terms:

Incident report

Accident report

Those can shut down a launch site for weeks, months, or even years.

What about deposition adjacent to concertina-wired fending surrounding some government installation that has armed patrols guarding against intruders?

#548 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 01:04 PM:

Actually, the flame trench was what I had in mind in the first place. Put him in the right spot, and there might not be much evidence.

We could test this on a small scale, by having Deutsch stand in for the blast deflector for model rocket launches:

http://home.comcast.net/%7Estefan_jones/launch_light_rocket.jpg

(MAKE Magazine readers can find the plans for the above in issue #5.)

Of course, you could toss a few Night Train bottles around the to-be-deceased. What a perfect mystery for the pilot episode of CSI: Canaveral!

#549 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 01:55 PM:

Serge: Fabio has also shown up in one of this year's Super Bowl commercials.

(Did remember to check on Crassus, BTW. My memory has betrayed me, and my milSF other half couldn't give me an accurate ID. Sorry.)

#550 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 02:28 PM:

Two pairs of terms:
Incident report
Accident report

I knew I was forgetting something obvious.

*sigh*

What about deposition adjacent to concertina-wired fending surrounding some government installation that has armed patrols guarding against intruders?

Ooo. With wire cutters.

#551 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 02:40 PM:

There are distinct positive aspects to the United States possessing the Time Tunnel, provided that it is constructed precisely to the original Allen specifications.

1. The unit as installed is only capable of moving people randomly between important historical locations. An unspecified component prevents it from bringing them back to zero baseline. The advantages of this are obvious.

2. The selectiveness of the targeting (which was clearly not a design spec; it is still uncertain whether some "temporal nexus hunting" effect (similar to TARDIS Homing) is involved, or whether this is a corollary of Alligator Relativity.* At any rate, the educational potential would be worth a great deal. The downside, of course, is the Sherred Condition,** which will be familiar to many here.

3. A constant dialectic was observed in which Tony would say "You can't change history," and Doug would nod and attempt to change it. However, temporal continuity for "known facts" was always conserved, whether the facts were genuine (Pearl Harbor) or not (Merlin the Magician, who in any remake should be played by Penn Jillette). This means that when prominent individuals are honored by sending them to visit important historical nexi, they won't be able to do a blankety-blank thing. Not only does this preserve historical continuity, it will be a whole lot of fun to watch, say, Dick Cheney at the siege of Acre, or G. W. Bush at the Alamo. The DVD sales alone could offset the project's cost.

*"When you're up to your ass in A. Mississippiensis, time acquires an intensely focused significance."

**"Nobody really wants to know what really happened. Really."

#552 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 02:54 PM:

Actually, Mike, at least once the Time Tunnel sent Tony & Doug to some point that wasn't of great historical importance... Don't you remember the episode where they wind up in the Wild West? No, not at the OK Corral. Instead they come across two aliens (standard-issue Irwin Allen ones, meaning humans with silver skin and tight silver helmets) who are zapping away cow herds for their planet's starving population? Hmm... Strictly speaking, one could say that it IS an important historical location. It's just that it wasn't KNOWN as such.

That being said, this definitely is not Gilliam's 12 monkeys...

#553 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 03:06 PM:

Dick Cheney at the siege of Acre, or G. W. Bush at the Alamo

How about Thermopylae? Or any city in front of the Golden Horde? I want them both in locations of no-surviving-losers. Just so they might have a clue if we bother to retrieve them.

#554 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 03:09 PM:

This reminds me of Kage Baker's Dr. Zeus series. The premise there is: "History cannot be changed, but that only applies to recorded history," which makes me absolutely crazy. I mean, what if you made it your mission to go back and destroy as many historical records as possible? Then you'd have a clear field. And what if two "historical records" give conflicting accounts?

But I've only read the first two books - maybe this gets addressed later on.

#555 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 03:10 PM:

Upon consideration, the Tunnel doesn't have to send anybody back in time to join Robert Duvall and those giant bees. Eating the food of just about any era pre-1900 probably would cause food poisoning severe enough to kill anybody.

#556 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 03:38 PM:

Teresa, thanks for recommending The Damned Engineers so many months ago. I sent away for a copy and finally picked it up after Old Man's War put me in the mood for it.

TDE is an amazing book. Again, thanks.

#557 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 04:11 PM:

It's true that was not Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys. I liked The Time Tunnel, an unashamed riff on every pulp time travel notion ever.

Twelve Monkeys only had one notion, and it was a deeply stupid riff on it.

#558 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 04:21 PM:

Hmmm... What did you think was so stupid about 12 monkeys, Niall?

#559 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 04:33 PM:

Serge, I have a very low expectations for Hollywood SF, but I very seldom actually scream at the TV when I realize how the movie will end. Here, the big surprise was that You Can't Change History.

Only that's not a surprise to anyone who's read more than, say, two time travel stories. It's a cliche, a canard, a really, really dumb thing to pull out after an hour and a half of pretending that the characters and the plot and, you know, the story, actually matter.

I watched a whole movie to see that cliché trotted out at the finish?

YAAAAAAH, I say, YAAAAH with flying Pringles.

#560 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 04:49 PM:

Did I see the same 12 monkeys as you, Niall? I mean, it did end with History being changed, didn't it?

I don't expect Hollywood's SF to be as sophisticated as the real thing. But sometimes a movie comes along that makes me think that whoever was behind the story actually did his homework. I thought that 12 monkeys did a decent job dealing with time paradoxes. OK, not as well as John Varley's Millenium, but certainly better than the 1989 movie made from that book. My real problem was that Brad Pitt's crazy-man shtick went on too long. And the portrayal of the loony house was ridiculous. But overall, I liked it, and didn't feel like throwing things at the movie.

Back to the Time Tunnel... For all my cracks about it, I actually like the show. I have to suspend my disbelief with industrial-strength antigravity generators, true, but I like it - or the idea behind it anyway. And it never went into heavy-duty silliness the way other Irwin Allen shows did, the Merlin episode aside.

#561 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 05:14 PM:

actually the end of twelve monkeys is ambiguous, since we're not sure what happens with the virus carrier and the lady scientist from the future.

Hmm, so one interpretation is nothing changed, since he saw himself die and here dies just as he saw himself do. I can't agree that this a stupid idea, it is evidently a common idea but commonality does not equal stupidity in all instances.

The playing out of this possible interpretation is not particularly stupid either, the boy that sees his future self shot then sees the woman he will be in love with in the future. One very obvious interpretation here is that he will fall in love with her because he remembers her from this occasion, although he only remembers her as the woman of his dreams (why, he is old enough that he should remember that this really happened, or has he [in the future] been experimented upon so much that his memory is fucked). Now this is where it gets tricky, because the woman looks at the boy and gives him that smile that causes her to be implanted in his memory, she of course realizes that this is her future lover because he has told her about seeing her in the airport, running to a guy that has been shot, when he was a boy. She knows. But he also said that he remembered her so well, because of the way she smiled to him, the way he goes into it it's clear this is a big part of her attraction for him. Thus by smiling at him in this way she is not just reassuring him that everything is okay, but she is being the beautiful woman who will haunt his dreams and cause him some years later to become fixated on her.

I am going to have to differ on the subject of 12 Monkey's supposed stupidity. I would like to hear another ending proposed that I would not consider really stupid, I surely hope nobody's thinking it would be preferable if they escaped to a tropical island somewhere.

#562 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 05:17 PM:

History was changed in "12 Monkeys"? I don't remember that. I thought that was the whole point of mentioning teh "cassandra complex", being able to see the future but not able to do anything about it, which translated in going back in time, trying to warn peopel about the future, but being unable to change anything.

Did I miss something?

Or maybe I'm forgetting something. It's been years since I saw it.

#563 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 05:26 PM:

SPOILERS

"Did I miss something?"

Paraphrasing from memory:

Terrorist prick:

"So, what line of work are you in?"

Lady scientist from the future, surprisingly present in seat next to prick:

"Insurance."

Get it?

#564 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 05:27 PM:

The end of the movie: the guy who is going to spread the virus is sitting on the plane, sitting next to him is the woman who is one of the scientists from the future. I am going to assume that this is actually her from the future come back to the past for two reasons:
1. she acts like she knows something the virus carrier doesn't know.
2. Although she does look a little better made up than in the future she doesn't look young enough not to be future self.
3. The statements of the other prisoner from the future to Bruce Willis at the end are also highly ambiguous.

#565 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 05:30 PM:

All of this however does not prove that the past was changed, the plague can still happen. All it shows is that at some point in the future they now know who it is that did the damage. Who knows if they weren't always present in the past when the damage was done?

#566 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 05:35 PM:

After 12 monkeys's bioterrorist makes it into the plane, he sits next to a woman who describes herself as working in Insurance. And she's the scientist from the really crummy future. All of that was enough to imply if not outright show that his plot was going to be foiled. Hell, American films are always accused of hitting their public on the head...

About the main character's recurring vision of what happened at the airport when he was a kid... There's one instance of the vision where the terrorist is clearly shown to be Brad Pitt, but by the grand finale, it's someone else. So either Terry Gilliam cheated or he was 'subtly' indicated that History could be changed.

(Anybody recognized that terrorist as David Morse, who played Jody Foster's dad in Contact?)

#567 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 06:06 PM:

Given that 12 Monkeys was a remake of a 1962 film (Chris Marker's La Jetée), I don't think it could fairly be expected to come up with an original time travel concept.

La Jetée is much better, though.

#568 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 06:54 PM:

How about placement in the path that the flood from the the supersized version of the Great Lakes took, when the ice dam broke. Or, how about placement in one of the places where plagues hit and wiped everyone out... other options might be presence on land that went underwater, under volcanic eruption, or underground with no survivors of the catastrophe, or being in one of the cities razed and the inhabitants butchered in conquest....

#569 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 07:20 PM:

The scientists in 12 MONKEYS (SPOILERS!!) weren't trying to change the past. They were trying to find the original strain of the virus so they could use that to create a vaccine in the future. For some reason, they needed the original germ. It was Willis' job to find the guy with the plague, which they thought was related to the "12 Monkeys" grafitti.

#570 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 07:21 PM:

I'd like to put in a vote for the Yucatan peninsula, where an oncoming bright light from the heavens would surely presage Rapture for *somebody*. Or alternately, the top of Mt. Mazama, just as an uneasy rumble underfoot began to intensify with a whiff of brimstone....

#571 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 07:57 PM:

Bush and Abramoff sitting in a tree . . .

http://www.rense.com/general69/phots.htm

Well, Bush and Abramoff in the Oval Office, admiring a donation check.

#572 ::: Tim May ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 08:08 PM:

Returning to the glottal stop - I understand that it occurs in many American dialects as an allophone of /t/ before [n], particularly syllabic [n]. See how you pronounce "kitten" and "button". I'm not sure just how prevalent this is, but I've heard it in from New York and New Jersey speakers.

#573 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 10:09 PM:

Two Irwin Allen questions:

Time Tunnel: I never saw the last episode telecast. Is it true they set up a closed loop? And did anyone ever see the 2002 TV movie, and if so was it any good?

Voyage to the Bottom Of The Sea: I have a friend who grew up on a reservation and didn't see any television until college. I mentioned the Commander Crane episodes when I saw he had a model of the Flying Sub on his desk (he's never seen the show but he thought it was a neat looking model), and he looked at me as if I'd fallen from a tree. He'd love to see one of those episodes: is there a good way to make this happen without buying the set?

Oh, and in case anyone ever wondered: the reason the Titanic sank is that Phineas Bogg, Jeffrey Jones, Fidgit, Strutter, Og, Wally, Vermin, Randall, Kevin, Dr. Tony Newman, Dr. Doug Phillips, and at least one Doctor Who (can't figure out if he was accompanied by a TARDIS or not--The Doctor's description of events makes it unclear--and I can't find any estimates of the mass of a TARDIS in any event) all landed on the same side of the ship at the same time, causing one hell of a list to develop. (I'm not counting Scrooge McDuck--he bought his ticket and sailed out from the port like the rest of the passengers.)

#574 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 10:12 PM:

Sorry, lost a word: the Commander Craine Werewolf episodes.

#575 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 10:37 PM:

It's been a long time, but I don't recall that the original "Tunnel" had a "final episode." It only lasted one season, and in those days (the Silver Age of Television? Uh, forget about that) it was pretty unusual for any series to have a finale. ("The Fugitive" did, but had it not, Americans would have risen in their wrath and demanded the vitals of Quinn Martin be extracted over four acts and an Epilogue.)

I haven't seen the new-series pilot, but according to someone on imdb (who really didn't like it) they didn't use the "lost in time" idea -- apparently Doug and "Toni" (uh-huh) could just use the thing and go mess around with history.

Don't have a solid idea of how your friend could see it -- Netflix, maybe? Note that the first set (which hasn't quite shipped) seems to be only the first season, and won't have the Flying Sub.

#576 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 11:17 PM:

Bruce, try requesting the show from your local library. If they don't have it, they might try to get it by inter-library loan.

#577 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 11:31 PM:

Lady scientist from the future, surprisingly present in seat next to prick: Insurance

I interpreted that not as a planned encounter by the woman from the future, but as karmic vengeance. All through the movie, the people from teh future are giving Bruce Willis a hard time for screwing things up, not getting the bad buy, and so on, and here the woman who's given him the most grief was right next to the bad guy and didn't even know it at the time.

#578 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2006, 11:46 PM:

Greg:

I'm pretty sure she's there as . . . Insurance. Backup. As in, he's not getting off that plane alive.

#579 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 12:45 AM:

More ugly news from Colorado City, Arizona:

"Doc: Birth Defects Up in Polygamous Area

Thu Feb 9, 7:38 PM ET

SALT LAKE CITY - A rare, severe birth defect is on the rise in an inbred polygamous community on the Utah-Arizona border, according to a doctor who has treated many of the children."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060210/ap_on_he_me/polygamy_birth_defects

#580 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 01:13 AM:

Well, it is an open thread. As I sit here watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Turin, I note that I WANT a hat like the ones the tiny, tiny Indian team wore. (Googling furiously - somebody's got to be selling them!)

Plus, do the NBC commentators *ever* shut up? Too bad the CBC rebroadcast is about an hour further along.

#581 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 02:11 AM:

Yeah Larry (I haven't seen anything about the Olympics, but I am a hat s-l-u-t, I look good in hats). I personally want the cunning Beauxbatons hat that those girls were wearing HP and the Goblet of Fire. Alas I suspect it was a one-off run that won't be mass marketed.

#582 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 02:54 AM:

Have you considered felting your own Beauxbatons hat?

#583 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 03:31 AM:

Hmm, Harry Connelly is right, I'd forgotten that. They wanted the strain so they could get out to the surface again and survive, rebuild the world. This was talked about when they first made Bruce Willis the proposition. However most of the rest of the film follows the tropes of a change the past plot.

"There's one instance of the vision where the terrorist is clearly shown to be Brad Pitt, but by the grand finale, "

No, there's one instance of the vision where the character in the airport that is Bruce Willis is seen to be Brad Pitt, why is this? Bruce Willis acts like he's straining after figuring out his vision/dream, he is also under the assumption that Brad Pitt is the bad guy. So he puts Brad Pitt in the vision and it all makes sense to him. Of course he's wrong, in later visions he does not see Brad Pitt in the vision anymore but notices instead that the woman he is with is the woman in the vision. Because Brad Pitt has already been put in and discarded his putting in the woman is not 100% trustworthy, and thus the whole matter is kept up in the air where Terry Gilliam likes to keep things.

#584 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 03:34 AM:

Meanwhile... life's ironies, Mr Brown ex-FEMA chief, is involved in an As the Worm Turns episode, or perhaps, honor among wolverines... he's been saying that he TOLD the White House that the levees were breaching, the day before ******* announced that New Orleans had dodged the bullet.

Talk about wilful ignoramuses and cretins, one has to -work- to block communications of emergency nature at that level, and have people who are actively involved in what I can't think of as other than censorship, preventing unwelcome information from going anywhere.

That's endemic with he Misadministration, everywhere one looks, from the debacles in Asia (and just where is the head of Osama bin Laden, and the Iraqis have the freedom to get murdered for saying things homicidal sorts object to, and a lower standard of living than under Saddam) to the rewriting of what were supposed to be scientific reports on medical research, climatology, health and behavioral studies, school curricula...; to intelligence disasters; to the outing of Valeria Wilson--Scooter Libby apparently has decided he's had enough taking falls, it's time to get back at the people who fingered him to do the dirty work and take the blame--and that seems to be what's involved with Michael Brown, too.... looks like the snakes aren't dead from being trod on yet and have some venom to bite the other snakes who fingered them as the poster boy targets for shark distraction and misdirection.

I was referring to Schmuck months ago as, among all those other lacking in approbation terms, "Hubris Boy."

#585 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 03:37 AM:

I'm pretty sure she's there as . . . Insurance. Backup. As in, he's not getting off that plane alive.

If it helps, that's the explanation given in the documentaries on the DVD, although I haven't yet listened to the commentary.

I'm not sure I even spotted that it was the same woman when I saw the movie in the cinema, so they really *needed* to hit me over the head with it. But I have very little patience for working out the tricks in puzzle movies. I want things explained to me somehow. If it doesn't make *some* kind of sense on the first viewing - even if there are subtleties to be picked up later - then as far as I'm concerned the story has just been told badly.

(See also: Mulholland Drive. Or rather, don't.)

#586 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 04:17 AM:

"As in, he's not getting off that plane alive."

this may or may not be what they intend, but as it is not demonstrated we cannot be sure if he does or does not get off that plane alive. Therefore as to whether the past can be altered is an open question, it has not, so far as can be proven in the film, been altered yet.

We have instead three possible resolutions:

1. The past cannot be altered. He will get off that plane alive.
2. The past can be altered.
3. The past can be altered, but it is damn hard work.

This is of course all following the tropes of the film, which indicates standard time travel concerns of altering the past. When what they actually want to do, as Harry Connelly indicated, is improve the future.

The phrase insurance does not make that much sense as a word in that context. Perhaps they lied to Bruce Willis' character about their intentions?

#587 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 05:21 AM:

John M. Ford: I was told that the "final" broadcast episode showed first Tony and then Doug falling on the deck of the Titanic at the end of the "Tunnel Effect" rather than the typical 30 second setup featuring the two of them for the next episode. While I know that most TV series of the 60's and 70's never bothered with the expense of a "final episode" since the production companies didn't have enough warning to do so (see Soap. For a bad example of what happens when the production company finds out in time to do something about it, see Quantum Leap.) and since such an episode de-randomizes the rerun schedule when the series is resold (anyone from Seattle who remembers KTNT or The Blaidon Station remembers why), this would have been just cheap enough and sleezy enough (splice in the two original falls to the deck from the pilot) for Allen to do.

Harry Connolly: Thanks for the tip: I'll pass it along to him.

On another Vintage TV matter: by all accounts I've seen on the internet the original episodes of Mr. Terrific were lost in a warehouse fire, but are the movies that were spliced together out of several episodes (like the old Man From U.N.C.L.E. movies) still out there on some of the bottom-feeding cable networks?

#588 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 07:29 AM:

After 12 monkeys's bioterrorist makes it into the plane, he sits next to a woman who describes herself as working in Insurance. And she's the scientist from the really crummy future. All of that was enough to imply if not outright show that his plot was going to be foiled.

But it's not-- well before that, he's shown going through airport security, and they make him open the vial containing the virus. He already released it in the airport, so they can't foil his plot.

What they tell Bruce Willis at the beginning is that they need a sample of the virus. Taking that at face value (and there's no real reason not to), she's there to get a sample of the virus herself, because they know that Bruce Willis isn't coming back.

#589 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 08:31 AM:

Yes, by the end of 12 monkeys, some of the virus has been released at the airport, but, if that woman in the plane indeed is from the Future, then the implication is that the bioterrorist won't be spreading the disease all over the Earth. Of course some of the people at the airport who were exposed might next take a plane out and things will be happening. Yes, a very ambiguous ending. And the plague may be unleashed after all. But... The Future will have a sample of the original virus and will be able to prevent the end of the remnants of humanity.

#590 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 08:34 AM:

As far as I remember, Mike, there actually was a final episode of Time Tunnel. I remember only the ending, where they go thru the customary being yanked away by the Tunnel and after drifting thru Time, they wind up on... the Titanic.

#591 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 08:35 AM:

Car airbags *stink*, especially when you take the full brunt of the thing in the face.

I stopped sneezing propellant powder about two hours post-accident. 4 xrays and 3 prescriptions later, I'm still sore as heck.

#592 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 09:01 AM:

Bill Blum... I think (*) I read an article about air bags a few years ago and the injuries sustained by kids. Ads show the bags inflating in slow motion, not the brutal way they truly expand. I've seen people driving around in a very dangerous manner in spite of young kids being on board and I wonder if they rely on the bags saving their kids from their parental stupidity. Hell, I'd to have an air bag get in my own face, what with my glasses, even though the lenses are made of plastic.

(*) my usual disclaimer against memory failings as one gets older, not against my intellectual capabilities.

#593 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 12:15 PM:

Bill - Youch! Sounds like you're OK. What happened?

FYI, Airbags are inflated with an azide reaction, which is pretty nasty stuff. The powder that you're hacking up is probably cornstarch and it's there as a lubricant to help the bag inflate. If the powder came from inside the bag, you'd probably be in the hospital. Sodium azide is nasty stuff.

Did the thing inflate with good reason? The algorithms for airbag deployment have gotten a lot better over the years.

All things considered, I feel safer in an airbag-equipped car, but I don't think it makes me take any more chances. The thing that seems to bring out the innner speed demon of soccer-mommies everywhere is ABS. I've seen so many kid-filled SUVs and minivans spun out in the snow because mommy or daddy thought that ABS overrode the laws of physics.

#594 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 01:25 PM:

"What they tell Bruce Willis at the beginning is that they need a sample of the virus. Taking that at face value (and there's no real reason not to),"

sure there is, they tell Bruce Willis something he will accept. He thinks the idea of altering the past is crazy, give him a story he will accept and he will do his utmost.

#595 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 02:01 PM:

Bryan, the unspoken law of movies is that anything a character says is assumed to be true unless it's specifically shown to be false.

#596 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 02:59 PM:

"Bryan, the unspoken law of movies is that anything a character says is assumed to be true unless it's specifically shown to be false."

I Don't agree, the law of narrative is that characters are portrayed as being of a truthful nature or not. The truthfulness of characters can be assumed if the narrative posits a largely truthful reality; that is to say that the question of truth of a character or group thereof can be abstracted up one level to the question of truthfulness of reality. There are some movies I see and I trust that the characters are who they portray themselves to be, and there are movies in which I do not trust this, just as there are stories with equivalent measures of trust and distrust.

The scientists were not portrayed as being of a truthful nature, indeed Gilliam's movies are generally ultra-paranoid movies where very little can be relied upon, certainly not anyone in authority. Reality is a tissue of lies.

I'm not saying they were absolutely lieing however, I'm saying it's a highly ambiguous movie. Gilliam may however have made statements somewhere exactly what he was trying to convey.

At any rate I would say the argument as to whether 12 monkeys was a save the future/change the past narrative is up in the air if Pulp Fiction can be discussed with people, on this very blog, arguing as to whether or not the suitcase with the glowing stuff contained Marcellus Wallace's soul!

#597 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 03:07 PM:

Love the anagram Underground map.

Unfortunately, New York is less suited for this with all the numbered streets. Nonetheless, I note that the line I used to use daily would feature stations called:

When Kids Barbecue
Injun Cow Boatyard
Wry Caraway Kapok
-and-
Quasi Neuron

BART would have stations with names like
Bored Camera
Real Limb
Anal Teds Wok
Prank Leg
Tidy Clay
Nasal Drone
-and-
Uppity Abbots Ring

#598 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 03:27 PM:

Oh, and the currently closed Seattle bus tunnel would have the following stations:
Tin Peon Conclave
Elk Waste
Revery Institutes
Queerer Pianos
-and-
Train Leninist Dictator

#599 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 05:16 PM:

The scientists were not portrayed as being of a truthful nature...

As I recall, they were portrayed as cruel, but not as dishonest. What did they do in that specific movie that made you think they were not truthful?

At any rate I would say the argument as to whether 12 monkeys was a save the future/change the past narrative is up in the air if Pulp Fiction can be discussed with people, on this very blog, arguing as to whether or not the suitcase with the glowing stuff contained Marcellus Wallace's soul!

At any rate I would say the argument as to whether 12 monkeys was a save the future/change the past narrative is up in the air if Pulp Fiction can be discussed with people, on this very blog, arguing as to whether or not the suitcase with the glowing stuff contained Marcellus Wallace's soul!

The contents of the suitcase were left deliberately ambiguous in the film. The audience was invited to speculate on the item Wallace wanted.

As I recall, (and it's been some years since I saw the movie) there was nothing ambiguous about the mission the scientists gave to Willis.

But maybe I'm misremembering the movie. I didn't enjoy it all that much, and you'd have to pay me to watch it again.

#600 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 05:51 PM:

How'd it happen?

I was slowing down at the tail end of a line of cars heading for an exit...

Several cars ahead, someone cut into a gap, starting a chain reaction of panic braking.

By the time the minivan in front of me increased her braking, I was already slowing down-- I put a bit more force on the brake pedal and managed to lock my wheels up.

$110 ticket on my part, about $1100 worth of damage to the rear of her minivan, and about $4k worth of damage to the front of my Escort.

We didn't carry comprehensive insurance on the Escort-- '94, with almost 200k miles? Book value was less than the increased premiums. The cost of replacing a deployed airbag alone exceeds the threshold for 'totaling' the car.


#601 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 05:55 PM:

Here in Atlanta, we'd have stations like

Laid Lover

Beach Elm

Bank Hoover

Lex No

Belching Red Rent

Nectar Rest

Penetrate Creche

#602 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 06:16 PM:

I'm glad you're okay, Bill! I had someone cut in front of me yesterday, but I was expecting it. There's a place here where the right lane becomes right-turn-only and there's signs and paint on the road for the entire loooooong block before the turn, but there are always people who think they can just move left, regardless if there are cars there already or not.

So I was ready for the car to move over, I wasn't ready for them to proceed at 20mph in a 45mph zone. Good thing I slowed down fast enough because my van is from 1986 and doesn't have airbags or remote locks or anything like that (I get a "safe vehicle discount" from USAA for it, though).

#603 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 07:27 PM:

outrage of the day, via Boing Boing

Some guy who's worked for the Red Cross Canada for about a year has decided to declare war on trademark misuse of the symbol...in video games. Truly, a worthy way to spend the RC's money.

Quoth Doctorow:
Likewise, it's not obvious how the use of the red cross in works of fiction will undermine the Canadian Red Cross's humanitarian mission -- will combatants open fire on Red Cross workers because their Quake play has confused them about the meaning of the mark?

-r.

#604 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: February 11, 2006, 09:32 PM:

I finally made the Habanero oil. I took all the listed precautions, and kept a bucket of bleach-water nearby, and my contact lens solution out just in case.

I put in a whole LOT of rosemary and the zest of two oranges.

It's congealing in the refrigerator as I type. All the implements are in the dishwasher.

The one thing I didn't expect was for it to smell wonderful during the process. And I tasted it...it burned even my strongly adapted tongue, but it was worth it. That wonderful smokiness...I can't wait to cook with this stuff!

#605 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2006, 01:11 AM:

Bill -- what were you ticketed for? Did they claim you were driving out of control because you had a mechanical failure?

#606 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2006, 01:32 AM:

Up to about two weeks ago, some of the local Stop & Shops were carrying Buddha's Hands citrons, for something like $8.99 each... haven't seen one of them in one of those stores in the past week and a half, though, alas for Teresa.

On the other hand, it;s not unlikely that Logee's Greenhouses in Danielson I think it it Connecticut might have some of the fruit, on their tree(s). I got a picture of three of them on a tree there back around the end of December.

#607 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2006, 02:45 AM:

"As I recall, they were portrayed as cruel, but not as dishonest. "
I would say they were portrayed as being manipulative, and as considering Willis' character as some sort of lesser life form.
So in the context I suppose I imputed untrustworthiness to them.

#608 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2006, 02:55 AM:

Help! I've gotten stuck in subway anagram mode and I can't get out!

Injun Cow Boatyard is also known as
Broody Snake Waterway and
West Ankara Pyre depending on which line you use.

A major terminus in Queens is either:
Interfaith Glumness,
Futile Garnishments -or-
Halftime Insurgents

and the next stop would be:

Potent Willis/Hits Amadeus

It's a sickness.

#609 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2006, 04:06 AM:

I have ambiguous feeling about airbags. For a driver, with the steering wheel in the way, and the flailing around inherent in the design of seatbelts, there's more benefit than for a passenger. And the whole issue of deployment speed and individual weight and seatbelt adjustment, maybe even seatbelt use, means that they have to be a compromise.

I wear spectacles. At a deep, almost primeval, level, the idea of something exploding into those pieces of glass is quite disturbing.

I have, once, driven a vehicle with racetrack-standard internal rollcage and seatbelts. It felt a lot more reassuring that that over-sized steering-wheel hub with that lump of plastic, in which is moulded in not very clear letters, "airbag".

The only way I want to detonate an explosive charge near my face is in a proof-tested barrel, pointing away from me.

#610 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2006, 09:15 AM:

Dave Bell... About airbags colliding with your glasses, I'll quote The Graduate: "Plastic, Marnie, plastic."

#611 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2006, 09:22 AM:

As is the tradition, February is Oscar month at Turner Classic Movies. Lots of good movies of course, but still I stopped paying attention to the Oscars as the standard of true quality in 1983. That's when Bladerunner lost to ET for the FX, and to Gandhi for costume design. And think about it... Not only was Bernstein's score for to kill a mockingbird not given the award, but Cary Grant never won an Oscar either.

#612 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2006, 11:34 AM:

Bill Blum - That really sucks, and getting a ticket (undoubtedly for following too closely) puts the icing on the cake. One thing about the air bag is that when they go off, you don't really know if they saved you from getting seriously hurt unless you walk away from a BIG wreck.

Here's a funny but fake video involving someone who really deserves to have his airbag set off.

Dave Bell - While I don't want to get whacked with my airbag, I don't want to get in an accident either. All things considered, I'm glad it's there, and suspect that I'd like it even more if it saved me from serious injury, eyeglasses and all.

#613 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2006, 05:30 PM:

Dear Ghu, Cheney shot another hunter today. By accident, apparently, and the guy (a millionaire) is going to be fine, but do we really want Dick to have anything to do with bigger weapons?

#614 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2006, 06:26 PM:

After playing around with the fantasy novel name generator, I'd like to present my projected set of interlocking novels, arranged in four quadrilogies and one set of three YA novels in the same universe.

The first series (describing the collapse of a planetary government which has been sustained through the powers of an mysterious gem):

Emerald's Prophecy
Master of the Emerald Earth
The Emerald Rogue
Emerald's Illusion

The second series (which actually provides the backstory to the first series, showing the history of the gem and the rise of the government):

The Lost Emerald
The Emerald and the Sword
The Emerald and the Sunset
The Emerald and the Hero


The third series (the rise and fall of a subsequent government, using another gem):

Aviniof's Crystal
The Seed of the Crystal
The Queen of the Crystal
Crystal's Vengeance


The fourth series (the rise of a third government, which manages to expand into space, leading to a sci-fi/fantasy blended universe. Yet another gem powers this group):

The Vevrissan Ruby
Night and the Ruby
Sun and the Ruby
Ruby of Empire


The juvenile books (each could stand alone, but they provide the history of the discovery/creation of each of the gems):

Emerald of the Spirit Summer
Crystal of the Western Storm
Ruby of the Enchanted Sunset


Now if I only had the stomach to write 2 to 4 million words to create this great body of literature!

#615 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2006, 06:44 PM:

Have you picked out who is going to read the audio book?

#616 ::: Lesley K ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2006, 09:09 PM:

I don't think anyone else who frequents this blog also follows the local news in NW Arkansas, so I thought this might give y'all a nice sense of closure on
l'Affaire Lisa Hackney

#617 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2006, 09:56 PM:

Since this is an open thread:

I've had a song running through my head the last several days, and I'd like to trace it. It's a filk song, and I heard it in either Chicago or Indianapolis in the late 80s or early 90s. The only line I can remember comes, I think, from the chorus

Where Phobos and Deimos go rushin' on by
I wish I was home 'neath that old Martian sky

Does it ring a bell with anyone?

#618 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2006, 01:16 AM:

Dear Ghu, Cheney shot another hunter today.

"Hey, maybe it wasn't such a bad thing that he got all those deferments!"

BAH-Dum-dum-Tissssshhhh!

Thanks, I'll be here all week.

#619 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2006, 03:34 AM:

I was, for obscure reasons, reminded of the Python "Hunting film," in which sportin' gentlemen . . . well, you either remember it or you don't. (In Episode 9, "The Ant," not long after "Look Out, there are Llamas.") The actual sport itself -- it is about as much "hunting" as it is lawn croquet -- recalls a bit from the Upperclass Twit of the Year Competition, not that one would be drawing comparisons. And now for something completely different, the Olympics. Like the holes in the medals, very stylish, except that they look a whole lot like DVDs. Maybe that was the idea; we record your winning performance on your medal.

#620 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2006, 08:22 AM:

Mike, do you think Cheney will plead not-gill-cup?

#621 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2006, 09:46 AM:

Meanwhile, in his blog, James Wolcott compares Cheney to Elmer Fudd.

As for quail-hunting, what a manly way to prove how manly a man is... To be fair, it may be that Texas quails are much more dangerous than the ones that show up near my backyard's bird feder.

#622 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2006, 09:56 AM:

And, in HIS blog, Tom Tomorrow suggests that Dick Cheney’s new nickname will now be “Deadeye Dick.”

#623 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2006, 10:23 AM:

To be fair, it may be that Texas quails are much more dangerous than the ones that show up near my backyard's bird feder.

They're probably bigger. Huge, screeching, ragged-winged behemoth quail, the size of C-17s, with tobacco breath and red-rimmed eyes. The sort of thing Hunter S. Thompson used to see on a good day.

#624 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2006, 10:50 AM:

You mean that Texas quails are like this, ajay?

#625 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2006, 11:15 AM:

Serge: Was that a link for Cheney or for the quail? Because it's sort of hard to tell the difference...

#626 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2006, 11:45 AM:

Stefan, I'm pretty sure she's there as . . . Insurance. Backup. As in, he's not getting off that plane alive.

But the bad guy on the airplane had already exposed the baggage handler at the airport to the virus. I took that to mean it was too late to stop the virus from wiping out the planet.

Plus, I thought the woman was a wuss, desk jockey, and wouldn't have the ability to kill the bad guy.

#627 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2006, 05:52 PM:

I think that there were a few jokers among the people involved in the original Time Tunnel... Last night, I watched the episode "end of the world", which is set in 1910 as Halley's Comet is coming into Earth's neighborhood. At some point, someone walks past a room & board place called Mrs.Peabody's.

#628 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2006, 06:15 PM:

"Everybody run / The Vice-President's got a gun..."

#629 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2006, 06:37 PM:

I could have lost an eye!

http://iwontheinternet.com/dick/cnn.php?firstname=Stefan&lastname=Jones&age=44&occupation=Software+engineer&hometown=Hillsboro%2C+OR&game=Grouse&pronoun1=he&pronoun2=him&imageurl=http%3A%2F%2Fhome.comcast.net%2F%257Estefan_jones%2Faerodart_pose.jpg&Submit=Submit

#630 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 13, 2006, 08:31 PM:

And speaking of getting tickets for following too close, in Russia, a guy got four years in labor camp for being in the way of a government guy who was speeding and in the wrong part of the lane. Yet another point against Russia joining the real world anytime soon.

#631 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2006, 12:10 AM:

Marilee - I think we're rapidly getting into Russia's boat. After all, our Vice President shot somebody with zero repercussions.

#632 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2006, 03:57 AM:

Either that, or he's trying to emulate British politicians. Willie Whitelaw did it long ago.

Goes well with an outbreak of pseudo-monarchism, doesn't it.

#633 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2006, 09:41 AM:

Now the VP's office is saying that Cheney sent a check for $7 to pay for an Upland Bird stamp that he failed to buy for the hunting trip. My only comment is that shouldn't he be buying a Texas Lawyer stamp instead?

Interesting to note that the top google news hit fro the Melbourne Herald Sun has the lede Cheney Victim Blamed. Hey Ozians - is this a reputable newspaper, 'coz it's now on my hit parade for daring to say something no US meida outlet would.

#634 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2006, 10:48 AM:

Larry: the Hun's a tabloid, but it's the main tabloid in Melbourne. It's owned by Rupert Murdoch. It has a reputation for being conservative, populist, and, well, dumb. Its only real local competition is The Age, a broadsheet, which ran the story as Texas lawyer finds himself in Cheney's line of fire. I've got to say, the Hun did a better job this time.

#635 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2006, 11:13 AM:

The Sidelights have a link to "A Very Good Question About The Cheney Shooting".

Actually, it's a lousy question. Men and women on a "hunting trip" together? Must be sex involved!

Sorry, but men and women sometimes spend time together without acting out any sexual thoughts or fantasies they may have, if they have them at all.

Sometimes a hunting companion is just a hunting companion. And unless there's more reason than evident so far, a gentleman shouldn't speculate in public. (Inside their own minds... well, you can't stop that.)

#636 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2006, 11:31 AM:

Hmm... I read the following on the web site of Bill Higgins, aka Beamjokey and aka Bill Heterodyne...

According to New Scientist, the android duplicate of Philip K. Dick has vanished in transit.

The site also includes a photo of the last person seen with the android.

#637 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2006, 11:55 AM:

Men and women on a "hunting trip" together? Must be sex involved!

Sorry, but men and women sometimes spend time together without acting out any sexual thoughts or fantasies they may have, if they have them at all.

Especially when they're as old as Cheney.

#638 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2006, 12:08 PM:

a gentleman shouldn't speculate in public.

According to the actual link: "Before you say it's sleazy to ask this, think about what the press would be reporting if it were John Kerry instead of Dick Cheney."

Actually, I think the argument would be better if they had said Bill Clinton instead of John Kerry.

I don't think they were so much implying that "sex must be involved" as they were pondering how some folks might have reported it if it had been, say, a Democrat, especially if by "some folks" they were talking about, say, Bill O'Reilly or Fox News.

Which, in my opinion, is a fair observation.

#639 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2006, 12:18 PM:

Speaking of gentlemen speculating in public:

I think it's safe to say that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is no gentlman, for his public speculation that people who believe the Constitution would break if it didn't change with society are "idiots".

Perhaps we should toss the last few recent ammendments about, say, racial or sexual equality? Heck, while were in a "originalism" mood, we should just toss all the ammendments to the constitution, including the first ten. That whole bill of rights thing is just more idiocy that wasn't in the constitution.

#640 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2006, 12:26 PM:

One of those wingnuts said "So Cheney accidentally shot somebody. That affects the nation how, exactly?"

So Clinton got a blowjob from an intern. That affects the nation how, exactly?

Notice how they always want to hold us to a higher standard than they are themselves willing to adhere to.

#641 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2006, 01:59 PM:

And just now being reported: Whittington has some of Cheney's pellets lodged in his heart, AND had a "minor heart attack" this morning.

What, they didn't NOTICE the pellets in the heart until now? Or, hey, maybe when they say "minor heart attack" they meant Cheney broke into the hospital room to try and finish the job?

Up until now, this could be passed off as a major personal embarassment. NOW it's a scandal.

#642 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2006, 02:05 PM:

We know Cheney's shotgun was loaded . . . how about Cheney?

#643 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2006, 02:46 PM:

With Cheney's victim having had a heart attack, the comparison to Elmer Fudd has definitely turned inappropriate because Elmer never could hit anything, even at point blank. They won't be able to dismiss the whole thing with a few jokes. To be honest, if this had happened to anybody else, I'd be thinking this was a very stupid accident and accidents do happen. But these are the bastards who constantly hounded Bill Clinton and they'd never give him an even break if he were in Cheney's situation.

#644 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2006, 02:53 PM:

CNN's story says that Whittington had a minor heart attack, but in a link to another story they're calling it a "heart attack" -- quotes theirs. Don't they read their own stories? Why are they trying to downplay this? Why are some members of the media such weenies? (Well, the answer to that one could probably take all day.)

#645 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2006, 03:08 PM:

Lisa, is Cheney a schmuck or a putz? Probably a putz, according to the definition once given by Alan Arkin in 100 Centre Street.

#646 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2006, 03:17 PM:

I can only imagine that Cheney and his immediate staff are busy deciding whether they'd be hurt more by a living Whittington, a dead Whittington, or a Whittington in a persisitive vegitative state. Medical teams are no doubt standing by.

#647 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2006, 03:44 PM:

[in progress...]

Reamed, reamed the American dream,
Lost my Chevy when the levee came apart at the seam,
The DC boys were on vacation and lied,
Didn't care that 1300 had died,
Didn't care that 1300 had died...

=========

What -else- is is the worst misadministration in US history going to get away with....

#648 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2006, 04:27 PM:

It's not so much that he was drunk is that if he was, as the story has it, turning to follow a flying pheasant, it was a very oddly low flying pheasant to leave a standing human in his field of fire.

Maybe they have odd pheasants in Texas. But as a general rule, all the galliform ground birds shoot up like rockets and land away from the thing that scared them. It's a very parabolic trajectory, not a sustained low altitude scuttle over or around the source of disturbance.

Do we know if the bird is alleged to have been in front or behind the gentleman who was shot?

#649 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2006, 04:55 PM:

Graydon: Quail, not pheasant. I thought a covey would launch upward in a similar manner.

But what little I do know about hunting involved wild birds, not pen-raised.

#650 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2006, 06:04 PM:

Hmm, I wonder if Washington is the city that became IMT (International Master Traders), villains in Blish's Cities in Flight series. Why do I say this? There were those things called "spindizzies" and apparently Schmuck's misadministration has spent more than a BILLION dollars on spin.... a dizzying (and dismaying...) figure...

"IMT made the sky fall"

Schmuck has certainly effects a lot of that... failing to care about the threat from Osama bin Laden, appointing nincompoops like Chertoff and that turkey given the boot from public affairs last week and Michael Brown etc., and not caring enough about the plight of New Orleans to cut short his pwecious [misspelling intentional] vacation.... 9 to 5er MBA scum CEO... the incompetent variety that drive companies into bankrupty, like his buddies such as Ken Lay. Was the head of Tyco one of his buddies, too?

The bunch who occupy the Executive Branch make Harding look wonderful....

#651 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2006, 06:48 PM:

I'm not sure of the quality of the information in the press reports. A heart attack could easily lead to a false story about pellets lodged in the man's heart. For the sort of shooting reported, the usual pellet size seems a bit low to have sufficient penetration.

#652 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2006, 07:17 PM:

I'm curious about something: What's Cheney likely to do if Whittington dies after another heart attack?

#653 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2006, 07:40 PM:

NBC News reported that the pellet migrated into his heart and that caused a small heart attack, too small for Whittington to know he had. They're not taking it out yet, they think it might be too dangerous, so it's being watched.

#654 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2006, 07:51 PM:

OG -

If it's quail I'm even more baffled, since I have seen quail launch and they do the high arc thing.

I suppose the ranched quail are perhaps a tad fat for that.

#655 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2006, 07:53 PM:

Paula, you refer to Dubya as a schmuck. I guess then that Cheney IS a putz. According to Alan Arkin, a schmuck is an idiot. A putz is also an idiot, but he's the one driving.

#656 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2006, 10:15 AM:

Jon Carroll's fellow-columnist at the Chron/SFGate, Lea Garchik, had a great opener today:

Bang, bang, and now to the after-party: Steve Finacom, who's been reading Christopher Hibbert's "Wellington, a Personal History,'' compares Vice President Dick Cheney to the first Duke of Wellington. Both believe in the rich as ruling class. Wellington "was considered a most indifferent shot,'' says the book. " ... If pheasants were generally safe within range of the Duke's gun, human beings were not always so. Having peppered a gamekeeper, he once 'had the misfortune' of putting several shots into the face of Lord Granville. ... On another unfortunate occasion, having already wounded a dog and struck a gamekeeper's gaiters, he shot an old woman doing her washing.''

P.S.: Matt Regan's version of the official explanation for the shooting: The victim was shot because he "hates freedom.''

--------------------------------------------------

I've been going back and forth to SFGate too often to provide this other link, but check out the comic "Bad Reporter" for today (look in Datebook or Don Asmussen's archives, since the link in Comics wasn't updated when last checked) for more on Cheney, and spin.

#657 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2006, 10:23 AM:

Faren, I especially like the last panel of Asmussen strip for today, where the fake headlines announce that Liberals have now decided it's OK with Scalia to go hunting with Cheney. Quack, quack..

#658 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2006, 01:38 PM:

Cheney has agreed to do an interview about the shooting incident. Where? On Fox News Network. They'll probably congratulat him for not backing down in the fact of terrorist quails and give him a gold-plated shotgun.

#659 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2006, 01:39 PM:

...in the face of....

oh, never mind...

#660 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2006, 01:41 PM:

Photos of quails being tortured while in US custody will leak out in the coming weeks. Just you wait, Henry Higgins, just you wait.

#661 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2006, 01:42 PM:

The White House issued a statement saying that the quails weren't being hunted because they were muslim, but because of their dedication to terrorism.

#662 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2006, 01:44 PM:

Critics point out that there are large oil reserves under the quails' territory, and cite that as the reason for Cheney's war on quails.

#663 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2006, 01:46 PM:

Haliburton has been awarded the contract to treat Cheney's human victim, Harry Whittington, until he has fully recovered. Apparently, Harry has already required 200 hot meals since the shooting two days ago.

#664 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2006, 01:49 PM:

Sources close to the President have stated that the White House is considering outsourcing all future quail hunts to Private Military Contractor, Blackwater USA.

#665 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2006, 01:49 PM:

Serge -- Okay, now that I have the definition I agree that Cheney is definitely a putz. (Didn't see 100 Centre Street, though I love Alan Arkin.)

Really, though, it's astonishing that, after all this administration's done to the American people, this is what finally makes them sit up and take notice. OTOH, if it gets results, then I suppose I shouldn't grumble. My favorite joke, from Air America -- "Dick, that thing about 'Kill all the lawyers' -- that's just an expression.'"

#666 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2006, 01:53 PM:

A covey of pheasants living in a territory adjacent to Cheney's quails have announced their intention to restart their uranium enrichment program, claiming they need it to generate electricity. The pentagon states that Cheney is already stretched too thin trying to hunt quails and would be unable to hunt pheasant at the same time.

#667 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2006, 02:21 PM:

I don't know, Lisa. I thought that the torture photos would do it, if nothing else did. And yet half the country voted those creeps in for a second round of incompetence.

#668 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2006, 02:33 PM:

YASID. A ship sinks to the bottom of the ocean, with people trapped in air-filled compartments. These people, and their descendants, manage to survive down there for decades before they are discovered by surface dwellers. I think there's a plot element having to do with aquatic aliens, too. I must have read it in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Ring any bells?

#669 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2006, 02:43 PM:

Molly Ivins had an interesting column yesterday about Whittington, who served as red-shirt/target for Cheney's ballistic screwup. She said that he is one of Texas's few liberal Republicans, by the state's standards.

#670 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2006, 03:59 PM:

Eric:

It was by James White, but I forget the title.

#671 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2006, 04:08 PM:

Aha. The Watch Below, by James White. Thanks, Stefan!

#672 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2006, 05:13 PM:

From a cow-orker:

"Cheney Cocktail: A Beer and a Shot."

#673 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2006, 06:30 PM:

Greg, you're on a roll!

My favorite cartoon so far is one of Tom Toles'.

#674 ::: Jeff Lipton ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2006, 07:03 PM:

Stefan:
You work on a dairy?

[hides]

#675 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2006, 07:30 PM:

Cow-orker is one of those things that started as a misspelling and is now milked for humorous effect.

#676 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2006, 07:54 PM:

"and is now milked for humorous effect."

Until such time as it's put out to pasteur.

#677 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2006, 08:04 PM:

Enough with the cheesy jokes.

#678 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2006, 10:38 PM:

And now for something completely different:

The Calamari Wrestler.

You're welcome.

#679 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 15, 2006, 11:23 PM:

Harry - wow, what a wonderfully cheezy looking film!

#680 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 06:19 AM:

Tha movie is from 2004, Harry. I thought the Japanese had stopped making movies like that with the early Seventies's Godzilla vs the Smog Monster. Hmmm... What year was Inframan? Wait. Doesn't matter as that one is a Hong Kong 'tribute' to that sort of thing.

Time for Jet Jaguar's battle song from MST3K?

#681 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 10:05 AM:

Watched Jon Stewart last night, he had two great quotes. One was from Cheney who explained that part of the reason for the delay in reporting the accident was because he wanted to make sure the facts were accurate. The interviewer asked him something, and Cheney responded, "Yes, accuracy was very important to me." Seque to Jon Stewart gaping at the camera. Another one was Cheney explaining that he decided to let the landowner report the accident because she was a former game warden or forestry person or some such thing. At which Stewart asks, "So, you had her do it because she outranked you?"

The other one was a quote by Former Fema Flunkie Michael Brownie, who was testifying before congress and at one point complained to the congressmen "I'm feeling just a little bit abandoned here". The image then switches to a picture of some people stranded on a roof, surrounded by water. Voiceover by Stewart, "Just a LITTLE abandoned, because he wasn't, you know, abandoned on the top of a roof, surrounded by toxic water, with no food or drinkable water for a week."

Oh, good stuff, that.

#682 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 10:11 AM:

Greg: I get the impression that the true story of the Shrub administration could only be told by Gabriel García Márquez.

#683 ::: Dave Levin ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 10:25 AM:

Stephen King will appear on Voice of America tomorrow (17 February) between 1600 and 1700 UTC, which corresponds to a starting time of 1100 Eastern.

#684 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 10:26 AM:

Next year: a leaker reveals that the Administration has been sacrificing infants to Lord Baal in the deepest basement of the Capital Building (or more private ceremonies beneath the White House). Somehow it's starting to seem like it could happen ... and yeah, it already has -- metaphorically speaking.

#685 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 10:39 AM:

Faren, do you think that such a revelation would affect the outcome of the 2008 Election?

#686 ::: punkrockhockeymom ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 11:01 AM:

Sorry to just sort of bust in to an open thread in hijacking gear, but I need advice and know that this is just the place to get it.

I am exploring a very preliminary, not even official in any sense of the word, opportunity to go to a firm in San Francisco. I currently live in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We are a small little punk rock, hockey loving family and "radically" left wing.

So, anyone who wants to pimp living in SF and give me some details? What are the best neighborhoods for folks who plan to rent, we need 3 bedrooms or 2 and an office, no pets. Have an eleven year old son. How are the public schools? How hard is it to drive around the city in the a.m. to get to work? What are the neighborhoods you JUST DON'T MOVE TO (please note, our threshold is very, very high. I just really don't want to be dodging bullets in my living room. We moved to Ann Arbor after years and years in Detroit proper). We've been doing a bunch of research on the internets but need a little more context as I've only visited once and spent most of that in a conference room, the rest at the blasted Huntington.

Any and all advice HUGELY appreciated!

#687 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 12:47 PM:

punkrockhockeymom:

I never lived in SF, so I'm sure you'll get better current reports from SF residents. Maybe Mr. Woodyatt will chime in? But I am a lefty punk-rocker sort of guy and former A^2 kid, and over the years have spent a while in SF visiting with my brother when he lived there. My daughter's now going to Mills College in Oakland, and might stay there when done with college.

The number one thing to keep in mind comparing SF to A^2 is that SF proper is expensive, comparable to Manhattan or Honolulu, for example. Factor that in to whatever you think you might be offered. A lot of people work in SF and live outside the city so they can afford the rent, e.g. in the East Bay or mid-peninsula.

There are a few relatively dangerous parts of SF. South of Financial district used to be, but I hear got cleaned up in the dotcom boom. Mission District is one of the bad neighborhoods but is very vibrant and rents are (relatively) cheaper there; that's where my brother used to live, and I never had any trouble visiting there, though some of his friends got robbed at gunpoint more than once. It's all relative - I would not put the Mission nearly as bad as the worse sections of Detroit, or of Chicago when I lived there.

Streets are nearly gridlocked during rush hour, but public transport is pretty good, probably much better than you're used to.

The intangibles: This is where SF wins big. It's a good place for a lefty - lots of people who passionately believe in radical ideals. Real ethnic and cultural diversity; my ex explained it by saying housing has been so tight in SF for so many decades, that there aren't any strong ethnic neighbourhood boundaries - everybody has been living cheek-to-cheek and has had to learn to get along. Great culture, arts, and music scene. A lot of the artists and musicians are moving across the bay to Oakland where they can afford the rents, but SF is still the center. Concerts - you will get to see a lot of punk bands that would never hit Ann Arbor. I still have fond memories of seeing the Violent Femmes play the Warfield.

I've considered moving to the Bay Area myself. If I didn't have strong ties here, and also love the cultural "feel" of Hawaii, I might well have by now.

#688 ::: punkrockhockeymom ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 01:10 PM:

Clifton, that is so helpful. Thank you!

Re: expensive, yes, yes, and yes. BUT it looks like any offer I may get could be nearly double my current base salary. And we've accepted the fact that if we do this, we are downsizing our living space substantially. That's okay with us b/c we all three think we are probably city people.

I saw the Violent Femmes in Ann Arbor, at Hill Auditorium, in 19....?? I can't remember. 89? 90? I think I still lived with my mom and dad!

#689 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 01:23 PM:

Serge & Faren - I think that such news would only solidify the base for the GOP. If you oppose appeasing Baal, you're with the terrorists!

#690 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 01:32 PM:

more open thread tangents:

Israel considers clampdown on all Palestinians.

Nice to see a preemptive strike being considered against all palestinians because Hamas won the recent elections. It's always good to ratchet up tensions just before the sh*t hits the fan, especially if you can affect as many uninvolved civilians as possible.

Israel decided against cutting off water and electricity to palestinians. But the fact that they considered it simply shows that they're looking at blanket responses that affect innocent civilians as much as a terrorist cell.

Ah, I love the middle east.

#691 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 01:35 PM:

punkrockhockeymom - If you need space and want to be in the city proper, I suggest you consider renting a house in Glen Park, Bernal Hill or Potrero Hill. All are family-friendly without being obnoxiously yuppie (e.g. Pac Heights, the Marina or Noe Valley.) Also consider the Mission and Outer Mission, and possibly even the Excelsior district.

The only area I'd suggest avoiding would be Bayview / Hunter's Point, although it has gotten better, it's still a nexus for shootings.

I could write a lot more, but I've got to dash off to a meeting. Email me if you like - I lived in the city for > 2 yrs and on the peninsula (in Burlingame) for > 3 yrs so I've got the informed outsiders perspective.

#692 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 01:52 PM:

As others have indicated, the SF area has good mass transit, and there are relatively cheap neighborhoods south of the city.

You might want to find out where the best schools are, county / neighborhood wise, and factor in proximity to Caltrain and/or BART.

If the offer firms up I think a family trip is in order. Find a cheap hotel and spend a weekend riding busses and light rail and cable cars and such.

#693 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 02:18 PM:

Faren: Pat Robertson will say that Jesus is the Son of Baal.

#694 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 02:23 PM:

A vote for the GOP is a vote for Cthulhu.

#695 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 02:34 PM:

Clifton: Your daughter's a Mills woman? Neat! We're everywhere (including the House of Representatives).

punkrockhockeymom: As a staunch Oakland partisan, may I encourage you to consider whether commuting into SF for work would be possible? I used to live in SF but moved to Oakland when I started going to Mills. Originally I thought I'd move back when I was done, but I like it so much better on this side of the Bay, that idea went *poof* pretty quickly. The weather is better (warmer and sunnier), parking is easier, rents are cheaper, and (IMO) the people are mellower.

510, baby! :-)

#696 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 02:35 PM:

This is old news, but do y'all remember when Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld were immortalized as slime-mold beetles?

#697 ::: punkrockhockeymom ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 02:42 PM:

Everyone: Thank you so much for all of this info. I'm at work right now but will touch base later tonight. This is all SO helpful. I'm sending Rockgod the spousal type over to review.

#698 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 02:43 PM:

Since it's an open thread, I'm seeking information.

I'm pretty sure I saw it here, but I can't find it (not enough data for a good search). What's that law that says "an entry meant to correct an error will inevitably contain a typo or grammatical error" ?

#699 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 02:54 PM:

Vote Cthulhu or die!

#700 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 03:02 PM:

Fragano - I think that's Vote Cthulu and Die First.

---

punkrockhockeymom - Oh, yeah. Schools. SF doesn't do so great in that department. For HS there's Lowell, which is competitive, but the city has the usual run of urban education ills.

Burlingame has a good rep for schools and is a short Caltrain ride (or a fast drive to Millbrae for BART) away from the city. I used to drive from Burlingame to the waterfront area (east of Potrero) and it seldom took me more than 25 minutes.

#701 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 03:12 PM:

Linkmeister, a quick google found me this reference, which cites three different versions:

Hartman's Law - Any article or statement about correct grammar, punctuation, or spelling is bound to contain at least one eror.

McKean's Law - Any correction of the speech or writing of others will contain at least one grammatical, spelling, or typographical error.

Skitt's Law - A corollary of Murphy's Law, variously expressed as "any post correcting an error in another post will contain at least one error itself" or "the likelihood of an error in a post is directly proportional to the embarrassment it will cause the poster."

#702 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 03:32 PM:

Hartman's is the one. Thanks, Eric. I tried various searches at Google, but I didn't think of the one you tried.

#703 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 03:34 PM:

The slogan should be... If you love Freedom, vote Cthuhlhu... then watch the idiots bend over backward to justify the position. After all, if the GOP (Gods of Providence) says so, it must be true.

#704 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 03:46 PM:

I'd pick Cthulhu over the squamous horrors we have now.

#705 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 04:02 PM:

punkrockhockeymom,

Can I add a vote for the East Bay, which is a good balance of the advantages of the 'burbs and the accessibility of the City? I grew up in Piedmont, a small separately incorporated city completely surrounded by Oakland. House prices are pretty steep, but you get a lot of house for the money, and Piedmont High (public, serves the entire city) tends to run at level pegging with big city magnet schools (we were always neck and neck with Lowell, which had all of SF to draw on.)

Oakland and Berkely have some pretty good areas as well - Montclair, North Berkeley, and Rockridge, for instance. Again, more space per dollar than in the City.

Commuting by BART, bus or casual carpool is not bad - I did it as a paralegal both from Piedmont and Berkeley.

(I miss 510...it took 0131 and true love to lure me away, but I can't help smiling as I type this.)

#706 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 04:04 PM:

Ok, there is something fundamentally wrong about a T-rex that stands pigeon toed in the last frame of this particle.

That boy ain't right.

#707 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 04:08 PM:

Ohmygod... My cubicle neighbor just told me that his wife thinks I sound like the BigFoot in those MythBusters ads. I guess she could have come up with a worse comparison.

#708 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 04:57 PM:

SFGate's Culture Blog has a little WonderCon inspired piece entitled In defense of those dudes who dress up like Stormtroopers.

With photograhps. Recommended.

Maybe I should think about attending a Con...

#709 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 05:28 PM:

Larry: I was trying for a Lovecraftian-P Diddy slogan, but yours is much better.

#710 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 05:31 PM:

In the interest of full disclosure, the Vice President has asked that photos of Mr. Whittington's wounds be released:

http://www.cockeyed.com/images/whittington

Poor guy, looks like it was a very delicate procedure.

#711 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 06:30 PM:

P.S. to punkrockhockeymom: Good luck on that job offer! I really hope it pans out for you.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed too - after five months of scraping by on unemployment and small consulting jobs and slowly drawing down my savings, I have almost closed a five month full-time contract job which should pay much better than my old job. (More than twice as much per month while I'm on contract.) Still waiting on the draft contract from their legal, but I'm supposed to start 2/27 if nothing blows up at the last minute.

They sound like they want to hire me onto salary if the contract period works out, so this is win-win-win.

#712 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 06:32 PM:

Have you hugged your Stormtrooper today?

#713 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 07:54 PM:

punkrockhockeymom -- Another enthusiastic vote for Oakland here. We lived briefly in SF because it was closer to my husband's job, but we missed Oakland, and when we realized we were coming back every weekend (sometimes just to go to our favorite laundromat) we decided to move back. There are great places to hike, the climate is so good gardens nearly grow themselves (or so they tell me, I can't grow a plant to save my life), we have the only representative (Barbara Lee) who voted against giving Bush the authority to do anything he wanted after 9/11. Nearby Berkeley has wonderful bookstores (two sf specialty stores, if you're into that), record stores, theaters.

OTOH, prices are still steep from the silicon boom. The places abi recommended, for example, are quite high. But there are other good neighborhoods that are not quite so expensive, though the schools, unfortunately, are very underfunded.

Good luck!

#714 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 07:54 PM:

I hope the gig works out, Clifton!

#715 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 08:24 PM:

Just to let you know, I sat here for a good five minutes trying to figure out if 510 was some kind of 1337.

D'oh! Talk about trans-bay parochialism.

Although I still have no idea what 0131 is.

#716 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2006, 08:36 PM:

Larry: I believe 0131 is the code for Embra (aka Auld Reekie).

#717 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 04:10 AM:

Larry,

Fragano is correct. It's my (Edinburgh) telephone area code.

The 510 thing (to the extent that it is a "thing") is because we all used to be in area code 415, on both sides of the Bay. But as SF got to be too big, they had to split it. The City got to keep its 415, and we had to change to a separate one, with all kinds of fuss and bother. If it's parochialism to cherish a separate identity from one's bigger neighbor, particularly when it's imposed on you, yeah, fair cop.

#718 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 05:21 AM:

Well, to be completely accurate, it's "Vote Cthulhu and Be Eaten First", according to the infamous Cthick Tract.

abi: I sympathise; currently exiled in 020, I am still spiritually 0131.

"From 01631 and the misty 01770
Mountains divide us, and the waste of seas;
But still the blood is strong, the heart is 01463
And we in dreams behold 01851."

This is what 1337 would be like if no one had invented the computer.

#719 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 06:26 AM:

ajay: according to the excellent firefox plugin 'leetkey', you just said:

abi: I sympathise; currently exiled in o2o, I am still spiritually oiei.

"From oigei and the misty oitto
Mountains divide us, and the waste of seas;
But still the blood is strong, the heart is oiage
And we in dreams behold oibsi."

I'd like to behold oibsi. Sounds good.

(Yrrgxrl nyfb nyybjf zr gb rnfvyl ragre ebg13 pbzzragf)

#720 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 08:58 AM:

Ajay: Stephen Leacock Lives!

From the lone shieling, and the misty island
Mountains divide us, and the waste of seas;
But still the blood is strong; the heart is Highland,
As we in dreams behold the Hebrides.

#721 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 09:06 AM:

All the 01-prefixed numbers make me want to dig out the Greek lexicon when they're de-leeted. (unleeted? They still exist.)

You're more hardcore Scot than me, ajay; I mostly long for 01334 and thereabouts.

I like the idea of phone codes for locations in poetry.

Out over 0131, I look to 01383;
But what is 01383 and its 01463 to me?
020 nor 01620 gie ease to my breast,
The far +33, or the wide rolling sea.

But I look to 01292 when I gae to my rest,
That happy my dreams and my slumbers may be;
For far in 01292 lives he I love best,
The man that is dear to my babie and me.

(It's a Burns poem called Out over the Forth, if that's too annoying a thing to look up.)

Or
This land is your land, this land is my land,
From 415 to 212
From 707 to 727
This land was made for you and me.

#722 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 09:28 AM:

Abi: Why does quoting a Canadian poet make someone more of a Scot?

#723 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 10:43 AM:

From 415 to 212

Or:
From 213 to 212

which has its, um, points.

#724 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 11:12 AM:

abi - I was a 415 and a 650. And I cringed at the 408 on by business cards.

I also got 718ed out of 212 as a young adult, so I feel your pain.

Now I'm 206 by choice, 425 by profession, and my mobile thinks it's in Newark.

#725 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 11:18 AM:

And in the interest of internationalism, shouldn't 0131 be +44131 for those of us outside of +44?

#726 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 12:09 PM:

Good grief! Y'all live in places where different cities have different area codes?

WV still has one for the entire state.

And I thought remembering which exchange to use was hard.

#727 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 12:49 PM:

It's a Canadian poet writing from the PoV of a Scottish emigrant... the codes are Ullapool, Arran, Inverness and Stornoway, as the poem's original descriptions are somewhat vague.

I like the amended Burns verse, abi - I may pass that on to my poetical family members.

But here's one that's hardcore English, just to balance things out-

Before the +39 (0)6 came to 0179722 or out to 0117 strode,
The rolling +44 drunkard made the rolling +44 road.
A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire,
And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire;
A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread
The night we went to 0121 by way of 01304.

I knew no harm of Bonaparte and plenty of the Squire,
And for to fight the +33 I did not much desire;
But I did bash their baggonets because they came arrayed
To straighten out the crooked road an +44 drunkard made,
Where you and I went down the lane with ale-mugs in our hands,
The night we went to 014583 by way of 013043.

His sins they were forgiven him; or why do flowers run
Behind him; and the hedges all strengthening in the sun?
The wild thing went from left to right and knew not which was which,
But the wild rose was above him when they found him in the ditch.
God pardon us, nor harden us; we did not see so clear
The night we went to 0178681 by way of 01273.

My friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage,
Or stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age,
But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth,
And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death;
For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen,
Before we go to +1 775 by way of 020 7402 2749.

#728 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 01:00 PM:

Ajay: You like Chesterton, I see.

When +44 at +1-876's command arose from out the azure main,
This was the charter of the land, and guardian angels sang this strain:

Rule +44, +44 rule the waves!
+44 people never shall be slaves!

#729 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 01:37 PM:

Area code trivia:

Area codes were initially assigned according to how important the city was, in terms of long distance phone traffic.

Favored cities have low digits fore and aft, and a 1 in the middle. Thus, New York City ranked highest, with its 212. Chicago, a close second with 312.

I'm not sure which city or state rated a 909, but it must not have been a place that got many calls.

Why all the fuss?

Back in the olden days, when everyone had pulse phones, it *took longer* to dial the higher digits. A 0 (zero) took the longest of all.

A call could be gotten through quicker if it had lower digit values.

Since then, the middle place of area codes has been opened up to all digits, and digital switching means all calls can be routed in the same amount of time regardless of the value of the digits in the number.

#730 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 01:41 PM:

Good grief! Y'all live in places where different cities have different area codes?

I live so close to an area code boundary that I dial "long-distance" (as I still think of it) to get pizza delivered (or to call my office, for that matter, even though it's less than two miles from my house).


#731 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 01:50 PM:

Stefan Jones: I'm not sure which city or state rated a 909, but it must not have been a place that got many calls.

Heh. Guess so.

#732 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 02:04 PM:

(Small amount of poetic license)

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into 617 town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into 781.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in 978 town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a +44 musket ball.

#733 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 02:06 PM:

At heart, I am still a native of 617, although my hometown has since been shifted to 781, and I am stuck in the land of 860-once-203.

#734 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 02:06 PM:

Well, Eric, you and I share one which isn't a whole lot more popular (808). It's damned annoying to call a friend of mine whose cellphone contract was purchased in Maui; I have to dial the area code for an island a few miles southeast. It costs L/D charges, even though it's in the same area code.

#735 ::: Bjorn ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 03:26 PM:

Area codes, eh? I live in a country without those.
Actually we used to have them, when I was a kid our number was 5181. My brother was 5182 (small area). Now it's all boring 7 digit numbers.

#736 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 03:31 PM:

Pierced by a +44 musket ball.

Wow, that weapon was never in my AD&D manual.

#737 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 03:43 PM:

Rumsfeld, in his infinite wisdom, has declared that our problem does not stem from the fact that we torture prisoners in quantanamo and iraq, that we launched preemptive wars on false premises, and that we act as an imperial power. No, Rumsfeld says, the problem is that we're not good at propaganda. Apparently, we can keep doing what we're doing, we just need to lie about it better. sheesh

#738 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 03:49 PM:

Linkmeister, 808 and 909 may both be in the area code boondocks, but there are a hell of a lot more people these days who'd want to have the first than the second. Hmmm. Honolulu or San Bernadino? Tough choice.

And with modern cellphone plans these days, it seems like long distance charges are almost irrelevant.

#739 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 03:50 PM:

You're obviously part of the reality-based community, Greg.

OTOH, he has a point. The DOD's and State Department's "heart and minds" initiatives are pathetic. Clueless. Low-rent. Unimaginative.

And run by scammers who waxed their resumes:

http://uspolitics.about.com/b/a/207608.htm
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/15/politics/15lincoln.html

#740 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 04:03 PM:

Laura, ajay, I am more than surpassed. I am humbled. I daren't try to top you.

Quoth Larry:
And in the interest of internationalism, shouldn't 0131 be +44131 for those of us outside of +44?

Sounds like we need a highly specialised Firefox extension which determines when someone is using a telephone code, determines our physical locations, and adds the appropriate dialling codes in. (It must also, as you rightly point out, strip the 0 from UK phone codes. I am sure there are other equivalent adaptations for other countries.)

Fragano:

You can write my reaction to ajay's first opus down to the usual 0131/0141 inferiority complex to the 5-digit phone codes of the remotest Highlands.

Bjorn,

My best friend in university (in the UK) had a three-digit phone number growing up. His parents, still living in that house, still do - with an eight digit area code prefixed to it. (The phone company now say it's a five digit prefix and a six digit number, but we know better.)

#741 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 04:25 PM:

Rikibeth, I have moved from 617 to 508 to 978, and still live in the same house.

#742 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 04:36 PM:

How did you get the area code for Paradise?

And to those people waaaaay upthread who try to describe how "lil" is different from a glottal stop: that's what a glottal stop is.

Also, the Anglo-Saxon buckets particle is amazingly cool.

#743 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 04:37 PM:

abi - mine is nothing, really. If I had done it all out of my own head, it would be something.

When I was growing up, we had a seven-digit phone number, but you only had to dial the last four digits for calls within your area. The operator actually came on the line once, to tell me to stop dialing the extra numbers.

#744 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 05:28 PM:

Michelle K, Manhattan has two area codes. They aren't divided spatially, either, so you can't guess the code by where a person or business is. Phone numbers are just ten digits now. And you almost always have to precede them with 1.

As land lines become obsolete, the fact that area codes were once bound to a particular physical place will become historical trivia. "Why are the first three digits of a phone number called the 'area' code?"

#745 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 05:34 PM:

Xopher - Actually, Manhattan has somewhere between 2.2 and 2.5 area codes depending on how you count 917. 212 and 646 overlay solely on Manhattan, and 917, which overlays on all five boroughs and is mostly assigned to cell phones and faxes.

California wisely outlawed overlays, although the phone company still wants to do them.

#746 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 06:38 PM:

It is time once again to retell the story of the Vanity Area Code.

A guy I know, Robert Osband, is both a space enthusiast and a telephony enthusiast. He lives on the east coast of central Florida.

Mr. Osband learned that the Orlando area code, 407, was calving.

Knowing, as a phone guy, where the levers are, he prepared testimony to the Florida Public Service Commission, proposing that the region around Cocoa Beach, Melbourne, Cape Canaveral, and Kennedy Space Center be given a special "vanity" area code.

They were persuaded.

And that, children, is how the Space Coast became Area Code 321.

Ozzie's own phone wound up with 321-LIFTOFF.

#747 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 06:39 PM:

And to those people waaaaay upthread who try to describe how "lil" is different from a glottal stop: that's what a glottal stop is.

Not when I say it. Unless there's also a glottal stop in 'fill'.

--Mary Aileen

#748 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 06:46 PM:

"And that, children, is how the Space Coast became Area Code 321."

My parents bought a trailer home in Titusville, and that's their area code. I'll have to tell them the story behind it.

#749 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 07:28 PM:

I can still remember when there were old signs around listing the phone numbers with their alphabetical prefixes (prefices?). The local one was XM, which translated as 96 - now we have 4-digit prefixes.
That's different to the Area Codes used for "long distance", which cover a large area. In Australia the different prefixes within one area code are all local calls, at a fixed price, but things have been starting to get more "fluid" in recent years. I don't know how long the system will stay.

Advance +61 fair :)

#750 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 07:42 PM:

Abi: I just have a ton of odd poetry rattling around in what passes for my head.

Jo: Having spent a chunk of my life in +1-876 I know it's paradise.

#751 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 08:30 PM:

Michelle K, over here to the east of you, Virginia is full of overlay codes. They eventually would have had to start dividing cities for area codes, so now most new numbers are from one of three overlay codes.

(I took my landline number to my cell phone -- I've had that number for 14.5 years, I didn't want to learn a new one.)

#752 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 08:35 PM:

From the WashPost today:

"ATLANTA -- The Georgia House passed a bill that would require students to notify their parents before joining school clubs and allow parents to veto club membership. Gay rights advocates said the bill would discourage students from joining gay organizations."

#753 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 09:02 PM:

There was a certain heirarchy to the prefixes, too. In NYC, Manhattan prefixes were more likely to describe the neighborhood, e.g. MU7 = Murray Hill 7. Whereas, in the boros, we got stuck with things like "CLoverdale 7" and "NIghtingale 9", both of which I remember from our old rotary phone dials when I was but a wee lad.

I think they abandoned the prefixes when they started to need exchanges starting with things like 95, which simply have no good mnemonics, except perhaps in Klingon.

We also had an old NY Telephone tag hanging on the grounding wire in our basement that indicated the exact date that service had been established in our house (sometime in the early '20s) and the number, which was given as CLoverdale 1637, only six digits. According to my grandmother, they added a new digit in position 3 when they introduced self-dialing but the remainder of the number remained unchanged until we sold the house in '88.

#754 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 10:54 PM:

Hey! I grew up in Cloverdale!

#755 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 11:17 PM:

Marilee, if there had been a parental notification law like that when I was a teenager, my mother would quite possibly have refused permission for me to join the high school creative writing club.

(I get along better with Mom now than I did back then. But while she says she's pleased that I've had short stories published here and there, I'm not sure that she's ever actually read any of them, even the ones I sent copies of.)

#756 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2006, 11:24 PM:

Branching out to zip codes, I had occasion to learn (while listing the codes for our local SCA canton's territorial claim) that 45678 is the code for a wide spot in the road called Scottown. As far as I know its only claim to fame is as the site of a lethal fireworks store fire a few years back.

#757 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2006, 01:17 AM:

punkrockhockeymom,

Rents in San Francisco are pretty competitive with surrounding cities in the Bay Area. Whatever your monthy payment needs to be, you can probably find as nice a place in the City as any you'll find outside the city. There are lots of great neighborhoods. Lowell isn't the only public high school that gets good marks. There are a few others that get fairly decent marks too.

The big public education crisis in SFO is a predictable variant of the standard crisis everywhere in America. Nobody can agree on what to do about the fact that African American students score so much lower on standardized tests than everybody else. The angle in San Francisco that you don't find everywhere else in America is that the largest ethnic population of school-age children are Asian, and for some reason nobody wants to talk about, the white folk seem remarkably more likely to move out to Breedervilles like Pleasanton about the time their first kid is four years old. We have truly excellent private schools, I'm told— mostly by people who think it's worth N-mumblety thousand dollars a year in tuition and books to send their precious sprogs to places where the kids don't score very much better on standardized tests than anywhere else in the City, but at least the class boundaries are respected. (I'll know more about this issue in a couple years. I've got my first newborn sleeping in the bassinet next to me as I write this.)

If you like living in population-dense urban environments, you can't beat San Francisco for quality of life anywhere in the Bay Area. Except maybe San Jose, but you really don't want to volunteer for that commute— it's over an hour away on Caltrain alone. Other towns in the Bay Area have many delightful and wonderful things going for them, and I do not want to slight them— I enjoyed living in Palo Alto and Menlo Park very much before I lived in San Francisco— but, they just don't have the population density to make you really feel like you're living in a City, you know?

Here's the deal with guessing how much monthly rent will buy in various parts of the city. Dollars per square feet tend to be proportional to the following parameters: proximity to the downtown financial district (measured in MUNI transit times) and elevation above sea level. Google Earth is your friend here— it shows terrain and public transit lines. You can spend well into the seven figures for a TIC in a 3-bedroom flat on Russian Hill. Rents are much more reasonable around a half-hour on the MUNI away from the financial district, e.g. Upper Haight, Richmond, Noe Valley. Further out, in the Sunset, you can find real bargains— in exchange for a long bus ride.

Driving yourself in the downtown core is an experience that my out-of-town friends generally loathe, if not fear with a overwhelming passion. I like driving in San Francisco. Riding a bicycle in auto traffic on City streets here is even more thrilling.

Fun fact when visiting San Francisco. Get in a taxicab and ask the driver to tell you where the best intersection is to "catch air" and they will all tell you without missing a beat: Gough and Eddy. Okay, some of them will mention some intersection on Turk Street that featured in Bullitt, and you should just get out of their cab right there. They obviously don't know how to get around efficiently. I spent six months learning from the taxicab drivers how to drive here before I really knew how to cope with the traffic.

Parking. Just get over it. You will pay through the nose to park in public lots. There Is No Such Thing As Free Parking. When you go looking for apartments, ask if parking is provided. If they don't mention parking, plan on finding someplace within a few block that will rent you a long-term space on a monthly basis. My studio apt in the Upper Haight was in a building with a limited number of spaces. I paid $100/mo for a space at the Kezar Stadium lot, five blocks away, for eight months while I waited for a space to open in my building that I could rent for $75/mo. I say again: there is no such thing as free parking. There is parking that you pay for up front, and there is parking that you pay for because its price is secretly folded into something else you're buying. In San Francisco, it's almost always the former and rarely the latter. Get used to it.

There are a lot of little neighborhoods, like the Lower Haight, that I've heard described as "bullets and poets" neighborhoods, as if to say that they're home to a mix of people in varying stages of personal desperation ranging from angstful to seriously fscked up. You sound like you're mostly interested in avoiding the neighborhoods that have bullets but no poets. With the exception of the area around United Nations Plaza, these are all easy to avoid: the MUNI light-rail doesn't go there, they are in the valleys for the most part far away from the financial district. Some, but not all, of the public housing projects, particularly the ones on the southern side of Potrero Hill are reputed to be magnets for crime.

Here's a secret. Look into apartments near San Francisco State University (SFSU) out in the west side. There are lot of them. The University is very well-served by MUNI light rail, which runs a lot faster into downtown than the busses. The area is also a lot more car-friendly than downtown. The Stonestown Shopping Mall is right next door to the University, and it has a huge free^H^H^H^H parking lot they operate at no extra charge. Union Square, it is not, but this goes to show you the difference.

The west side of San Francisco, where I live, is really an urban suburb. (It was a suburb fifty years ago. It mostly still is, if you ask me.) I lived for several years in a 2-bedroom converted from the basement of a Victorian house at 12th Ave and Irving in the Inner Sunset, just down the hill from where I am now. That area is pretty nice too— walking distance from the best attractions in Golden Gate Park— and still not overpriced. (Somewhat long ride on MUNI to downtown though, because the N-line contends with street traffic almost all the way to civic center.)

I'm happy to correspond in email with you if you have questions about any particular area (there's a lot of weirdness I didn't cover). I've lived in San Francisco for ten years now, so I guess I can finally call myself a local. Still, I have a day job way the hell down the peninsula, so I get to spend less time in my adopted hometown than I'd like.

#758 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2006, 03:37 AM:

Quoth j h woodyatt:
If you like living in population-dense urban environments, you can't beat San Francisco for quality of life anywhere in the Bay Area....Other towns in the Bay Area...just don't have the population density to make you really feel like you're living in a City, you know?

I think we've hit another fundamental question. Punkrockhokeymom, are you a city person or a not-city person?

As I mentioned in another thread here once, living - or even staying - in a big city can make my skin itch with the overstimulation of it all. (I can cope with Edinburgh as a city because it's tiny and, for the most part, not very densely inhabited.) And when I mentioned that, the urbanittes here clearly thought I was either clinically insane or just Missing Out.

So I bias toward the less dense areas, among them the East Bay, and my recommendations follow that bias. Others vary.

#759 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2006, 10:31 AM:

Try Concord and Pleasant Hill in the East Bay... They're not actually IN the East Bay. And I know that Tom Hanks left Concord as quickly as he could. And my sisters-in-law who now live in Oakland (one of them in the Hills, not that far from Locus's Lair) avoid going back to Concord as much as they can. But I liked it well enough. And BART makes it easy to go to Oakland, Berkley and SF. When I was living in Concord, I was 3 miles away from the closest BART station, but that's nothing as far as bicycle rides go, and not that big of a walk when it's raining. (A 3-mile walk being nothing? I guess I have again betrayed my East Coast origins.)

#760 ::: Dave Levin ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2006, 10:33 AM:

This thread brings back memories of working in the telecom field, where there was the occasional Dilbert-like incident. One time, management asked a colleague and me to put together some interface volume estimates. They had no particular reason for asking, but they insisted it was urgent. So in the abstract, we stated, "This document meets a critical but nebulous need." No one ever asked us about this.

#761 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2006, 11:00 AM:

From 1983 to late-summer 2000, I lived in the East Bay town that Few Seem to Know: Emeryville. It's a tiny place, with Oakland on at least two sides but up against the Bay, with Berkeley to its north.It's also home to Pixar Studios, and I hear it's now gentrifying at a tremendous rate. (Our long-time rental house was about to be torn down when we left, to be replaced with something fancier, and I just read a review of a new tapas restaurant nearby.) But the weather's a heck of a lot better than S.F.'s Sunset District, and it was an easy drive to Locus. Schools? Haven't got a clue.

#762 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2006, 02:24 PM:

jh woodyatt - That was a pretty good rundown, although I'd differ with you on a couple of things. In particular, parking. Unless you're on Nob Hill or Russian Hill, street parking can be had. You just need to get one of those annoying letter stickers. I had a garage when I lived in Noe Valley, but that was more because I didn't want to deal with broken windows on a regular basis.

The Inner Sunset is nice, but I, personally wouldn't go past 19th Ave annywhere in the city and would decamp to Burlingame instead. It's no further from downtown by drive time or mass-transit time. And the weather is better.

In SF, my bias is towards sun, so that's why I suggested Bernal, Potrero and the Mission, and maybe even Noe, although the stroller traffic on 24th St can be pretty obnoxious (and I love kids).

Lone Mountain - the area north of the panhandle, around and above USF - is also worth considering. Plus, it's where the fog line tends to stop. The area north of Stonestown, centering around Ocean Ave and Stern Grove is nice, too, and one of the few exceptions I'd make to the 19th Ave rule.

Then again, my bias is towards the "Urban Village". Which Seattle is a series of clumped together into a city. It's also why I liked Burlingame, and would have been OK with Millbrae or San Mateo as long as I could walk to the shopping district. I also really liked living in downtown Great Neck in NY.

For me, the list is basically, can I find a nice apartment with some outside space (terrace or yard), walk to stores, access transit, park easily, and feel reasonably safe. If so, I'm a happy camper.

#763 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II. ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2006, 02:26 PM:

One of Jon Carroll's columns had a partial quote from Caddyshack at the end. I couldn't remember the whole quote, so I tried using Google to find where it might be. (It was the "License to kill gophers by the government of the United Nations" speech.) So what appears at the top of the search results?

"Scholarly articles for License to kill gophers by the government of the United Nations"

"The Economic Nature of Wildlife Law - by Lueck - 9 citations
EDITORIAL BOARD - by Beehler - 0 citations
Beyond Freedom and Dignity: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and ... - by Robbins - 0 citations"

I think they need to improve their algorithms...

#764 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2006, 02:58 PM:

I can't think what the neighborhood is called, but my brother at one time lived in the neighborhood just north of Golden Gate Park. His landlady had the downstairs/basement and was the drummer for Polkacide, a hard-core punk polka band. He and his roommates got a great deal on the rent, because they didn't mind that she sometimes felt like practicing drums at 2:00am. But I digress... Anyway from my perspective as an occasional visitor, that was a very pleasant and peaceful part of town.

James: Congratulations on your new child! I am so out of touch.... I should comment, it's in great part thanks to your mentioning Mills that Ellery checked it out. Once she started researching the modern music connection she was half sold.

Marilee: Thanks for the good wishes! I'm sure they will help. It's been a good 4-5 months process; the consulting lifestyle has been great assistance in my attempts to cultivate the Buddhist virtues of patience and equanimity.

#765 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2006, 07:56 PM:

Clifton:

"the consulting lifestyle has been great assistance in my attempts to cultivate the Buddhist virtues of patience and equanimity."

I recognize this, although I hadn't realized what I was doing. It sounds so much better than "flailing about looking for clients between bouts of frustration."

#766 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2006, 12:13 AM:

Clifton, thanks! His name is Leopold. You can see pictures and read all about him here. He's not helping me write my epic fantasy thumbsucker, but he sure is cute— when he's not howling like some darkling mutant. I'm glad Ellery checked out Mills. My giri is repaid.

Faren, I think that area is called "The Richmond" but I could be wrong. Yes, it's very nice. My dentist's office is up there. There are a bunch of other little neighborhoods farther north from there.

Larry, I have no quibble with your addition. I think Bernal, Potrero and Lone Mountain are nice places in the City to live too. Cole Valley, if you can afford it— now there's probably my ideal location. I forgot to mention that.

#767 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2006, 01:44 AM:

And to those people waaaaay upthread who try to describe how "lil" is different from a glottal stop: that's what a glottal stop is.

It would be nice if that were true, but I'm not convinced. I certainly don't use my glottis (top part of the throat, I think) in pronouncing "li'l", so that isn't true for me. For me, the glottal stop is an unvocalised "t", whereas "li'l" has an unvocalised "d". But admittedly I'm not from the southern US, which I think was the prompt for the discussion.

Incidentally - and this might interest abi - my (American) dictionary defines the glottal stop with reference to Scottish pronunciation. So I guess it isn't spreading northwards after all.

#768 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2006, 03:01 AM:

The glottal stop is common in Danish (actually the language is lousy with them). I believe I know what a glottal stop is, the pronounciation of Li'l is not a glottal stop.

#769 ::: punkrockhockeymom ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2006, 01:08 PM:

WOW.

I step away for a few days (the punkrockhockey family has the flu, well, two of us do), and LOOK. THANKS so much to everyone, James, Larry, Clifton, abi, Faren, and everyone, for all of this. I feel a bit guilty for hijacking the thread and disappearing for four days.

We're going to print all of this out and use google earth ad nauseum. The job possibility is still so very hypothetical--I think actually what it will require is me pursuing it, but if I did there would be a high chance of it working out. It is across the country, though, and the hockey thing could really be a deal-breaker.

James, congratulations!!! I love babies.

On our preferences: I think we're city people living in a suburb. I love NYC with a fiery passion. Rockgod used to live in downtown Nashville and liked it but didn't like the outskirts. We hate cookie cutter neighborhoods with no trees. And the "bullets w/o poets" construction perfectly describes the threshold for what we'd like to avoid in a neighborhood. This probably sounds godawful with an eleven-year-old to think about, but the occasional bullets with plenty of poets would probably be an okay balance.

We found Lowell by just bouncing about on the Net for awhile. We are not willing to pay gazillions of dollars for private school, nor do we believe it would do much for "Puppy" aside from isolate him from the city we're moving him to. Also, we STRONGLY support the idea of public schools and I for one would feel a bit icky plopping him into a private school unless I absolutely had no choice. And you know, Puppy is a self-starter and a big reader, and a science geek, and I'm really not worried about him in a school so long as it's safe and has reasonably current resources for him. I want a demanding curriculum and for him to be excited about learning. He's not special-needs and he's a classroom leader right now, so as long as the school's got the basics down, between his own initiative and our resources, we can probably get him into college.

Thank you again, everyone, and Clifton, good luck with the job!!! Let me know how it works out.

#770 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2006, 01:24 PM:

A question for New Yorkers: For some time I've been searching for info on Pendulum (or "Ignatz") clocks. (This is because if you go to the Boy's Life website and try to find the article they ran somewhere between 1968 and 1972 about "An [Almost] Perpetual Motion Machine" you'll find that they have no way of ordering back issues or reprints of articles. Blah--I'd prefer to build one than buy one.)

Anyway, a Flying Pendulum clock is a terribly inaccurate and absolutely mesmerizing clock movement that features a cord with a weight on it wrapping and unwrapping itself from around some posts. I tried a different search today and found references to a miniature version of the clock that had been available from B. Jadow and Sons Inc, NY, NY. It was either called "Micro Flying Model - CM 150" or "Antique Micro Flying Clock." When I tried to find out more about B. Jadow and Sons Inc. I ran into a stone wall: whatever they were they seem to be some sort of holding company now and are unlikely to answer their phones on the weekend. Does anyone here know anything about them, or this little clock? You can see it at here, at the top of the page.


#771 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2006, 01:24 PM:

As a Southerner, my pronunciation of "li'l" involves something resembling the soft "ch" in "ich" and "möchte" for the dialect of German I learned in middle school. The tongue makes the same lift in the back but doesn't make as much contact with the palate, and the throat isn't involved at all.

#772 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2006, 01:40 PM:

punkrockhockeymom, Marilee, et al:

I'm mailing their signed contract back today. It's all working out, and it looks like fascinating work I'll be doing too. There will be one month more "hanging in there" phase before I can bill the initial work, but I've got some income from another soon-to-finish job that will pull us through.

#773 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2006, 02:03 PM:

Xopher,

As land lines become obsolete, the fact that area codes were once bound to a particular physical place will become historical trivia. "Why are the first three digits of a phone number called the 'area' code?"

Maybe for y'all living in big cities, but unless WV takes off as a giant retirement community, I think we'll still have area codes. And exchanges--for my friends with landlines, I can guess approximately where they live by their exchange.

And it boggles my mind that Manhattan has two area codes that aren't even related to location.

And now I feel like a hick, despite that I like in one of WV's more "metropolitan" areas. :)

#774 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2006, 08:57 PM:

S'alright, Michelle. Hawai'i has one area code for the whole state, and guessing locations by exchange is still a parlor game out here, too.

#775 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 01:50 AM:

Larry Brennan: overlays are (IMO) a better solution than splits. Dial-10 in these days of cell phones and programmable phones is no real hardship, and the economic cost of changing half the stationery, signs, business cards, and whatnot in an area is not negligible.

Besides, splits don't work that well. When eastern MA went through the 617/508 split, that was fine. When it went through the 617/781 and 508/978 splits, that was a big hassle—and it just meant we got four overlay codes in the next expansion! (617/857, 781/339, 508/774, 978/351). If the 617/781 had been an overlay in the first place, the state legislature wouldn't have passed a bill to keep three additional municipalities in 617, and it wouldn't have run out quite as quickly....

#776 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 04:43 AM:

This being an Open Thread, I feel compelled to share this blog entry of a friend of mine's in which he reviews a Japanese book on anal constriction exercises. Yes, that's what I said. Anal constriction exercises. I'm just lucky I don't consume beverages when I'm at my computer.

#777 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 05:29 AM:

Jo Walton: +1 775 is Paradise (Paradise, Nevada. I googled 'paradise area code' and that's what turned up.)

A +44 musket ball is clearly fired from a +44 musket, the most powerful muzzle-loading weapon in the world, capable of blowing your head clean off.

Abi: Three-digit numbers? When I was a kid, I visited a tiny village called Renigadale at the mouth of Loch Seaforth. The village had two interesting features: 1) It had one-digit phone numbers. The post office was Renigadale 1, and someone else was Renigadale 2; and 2) there was no way of reaching it by road. It was the last place in Britain without a road leading there; the only way in was cross-country or by sea. No longer true; when I went there they were busy blasting a road through.

#778 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 08:08 AM:

Remember the question about the cost of the Time Tunnel project in today's dollars? Using the calculator at http://eh.net/hmit/compare/ a 1968 dollar comes out with the following values:

$5.43 using the Consumer Price Index
$4.38 using the GDP deflator
$5.68 using the unskilled wage
$8.07 using the GDP per capita
$12.89 using the relative share of GDP

Further math is left as an exercise for the reader...

#779 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 10:56 AM:

ajay: Renigadale sounds like the original for Lisa Tuttle's Appleton, in The Mysteries and a sequel that's on the way. (Won't be reviewing the latter; where the first book mixed in mystery, this veers toward romance -- too far for my taste.)

#780 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 11:05 AM:

On the theme of verse with telephonic numeric substitutions, there was a Sidney Carter song from the time when England was changing over from named exchanges to the numbered ones:

"London Town is Zero One:
GPO, what have you done?
PRImrose is a girl no more,
She's a double seven four.

All the names have got to go
Banished by the GPO
For numbers rule the world today
You and I are in the way
.

...

There is neither SKY nor SUN
In the town of Zero One;
There is neither MAN nor SHE
And the time is One ... Two ... Three."

It did involve the loss of some memorable bits; nobody ever had to specify what was meant when a character in a novel or play said, "Operator, get me Whitehall 1212".

#781 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 11:41 AM:

To reach Russia from Britain, you just pick up a phone and dial 007. I refuse to believe that this is a coincidence.

#782 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 02:11 PM:

I hear on the TV that David Irving has been sentenced to three years in prison in Austria for Holocaust denial.

I'd forgotten he was up for that, so my first reaction was, "Oh, good", especially when the news reported him saying that he'd "changed his mind" and was not an expert on the Holocaust. I suspect that he was dissembling just a bit there.

I'm not sure I'm totally in favour of locking him up, but I think it could not have happened to hardly anyone more deserving.

#783 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 02:13 PM:

I'll try that last sentence again:

It could hardly have happened to a more deserving person.

Does that make more sense?

#784 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 02:27 PM:

I understand PEnnsylvania 6-5000 still works.

#785 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 04:07 PM:

ajay,

You tempt me to say something like, "My gran once knew a place with zero digit numbers," but I resist. You win.

#786 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 04:37 PM:

NelC: I agree with you.

#787 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 05:49 PM:

A few weeks back, a BBC TV series on genealogy had Stephen Fry tracing his ancestry. His Grandfather was a central-european Jew who had come to England in the 1920s to help set up a sugar beet factory in Bury-St-Edmunds. A large and emotional part of the story was his discovery of what had happened to the rest of his grandfather's family, ending with finding the one surviving Jew from the town his grandfather had come from.

One of the side effects of the conscript armies of the European powers is that states had to keep track of where reservists lived, so that mobilisation could be down quickly. And many of the detailed records of just where people lived have survived. Which means the creation of ghettos, and, in this case, the deportation of Jews, is documented in detail. So are the deaths.

And there are still living witnesses.

So, when David Irving claims not to be an expert on the Holocaust, as if that excuses the wrongness of his denials, I ask myself how I can trust anything else he has ever written. Because the denial is such a complete and utter failure of the most basic skills of historical study and research.

#788 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 06:18 PM:

Just doing my bit toward getting this thread up to 800 posts. Only 11 more to go!

--Mary Aileen

#789 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 06:35 PM:

I remember an article (in Skeptical Inquirer?) where they talked about Holocaust Deniers and quoted one as saying the number of victims probably was only half the official number. As the article pointed out, half that many people was still a damn big number of people.

#790 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 07:55 PM:

I regret that I do not agree on punishing David Irving for denying the Holocaust. The views he expressed were offensive, and of course they were and are ludicrously false. But free speech does not consist of saying what is inoffensive; and the remedy for lies is to publish the truth.

#791 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 09:21 PM:

This coming Saturday, on the Skiffy Channel, not a giant-critter movie, but Disaster Zone, or what happens when a volcano erupts all over Manhattan. We get to see Teresa & Patrick's work place in the middle of all that fun.

#792 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2006, 09:58 PM:

Dave Luckett: Deborah Lipstadt agrees with you.

#793 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2006, 01:03 AM:

As a practising historian (which is like being a practising Catholic - it means I am not very good at it yet), I have mixed feelings about the David Irving issue. On the one hand, his work tends to flout the conventions of what we call "history", and so his claim to be an historian at all needs to be considered pretty dubious. On the other hand, I'm not happy with even wrong historical opinions (or allegiances) being punished with prison. Like Dave Luckett said, it is surely a free speech issue.

I think really I'm unhappy with the idea of a law which punishes people for holding a particular opinion. Perhaps we can consider it incitement to racial hatred, which I guess I think is punishable. But at least then it is the act which is being punished. I also prefer the Dover case model: just as ID can be declared bad science, so Holocaust denial might be declared bad history.

I wonder if it would have been more appropriate to ban Irving from Austria (or from public speaking in Austria). The imprisonment will surely be overturned by the European Court of Human Rights. And I'm irritated that now I can't express a dislike for this Austrian law without seeming to support David Irving.

I suppose I'm not conflicted at all. I think the Austrian law is a stupid blunt instrument which will backfire.

#794 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2006, 01:15 AM:

candle: Thank you for saying what I would have said[1], if I were feeling more eloquent and less exhausted.

[1] Except for the historian part, as I am not one.

#795 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2006, 01:20 AM:

candle - You can too express dislike for the Austrian law without supporting Irving - however disreputable he may be. It's like supporting the ACLU for defending the KKK's right to assemble, even though you would never (I hope!) support the KKK itself.

And Dave Luckett - What you said. Exactly.

#796 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2006, 03:59 AM:

"I regret that I do not agree on punishing David Irving for denying the Holocaust."

I realized this morning that I am conflicted on this part. On the one hand I don't like it from a freedom of speech angle, on the other hand I felt something akin to justice when I read it.

#797 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2006, 07:03 AM:

While researching a reply for this thread, I found the following quotation which is both apropos and amusing:

"I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to mis-attribute this quote to Voltaire.
-- Avram Grumer, rec.arts.sf.written, May 2000"

:)

#798 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2006, 10:32 AM:

(found on the MST3K site)

SANTA MONICA, CALIF.--Osa Massen, the Danish actress who often played "femme fatale" roles in 1940s Hollywood films, died at a convalescent home here Jan. 2, while recovering from surgery. She was 91. MSTies will remember her for one of her later film roles as brainy, smokin' hot rocket scientist Dr. Lisa Van Horn in ROCKETSHIP X-M.

#799 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2006, 10:40 AM:

Since the snow thread where I first mentioned Emeryville CA seems to have played out, I'll help those who aim for 800 in this thread with another mention of E-town. SFGate has reported that a "computer pen" designed there as a kids' toy might become a pen-and-paper computing device. Cool!

#800 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2006, 11:17 AM:

Here's he thread's 800th post... Hmm... Nothing? There was supposed to be an Earth-shattering kaboom.

#801 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2006, 01:04 PM:

There is a reason some folks feel that a prison sentence for David Irving is something akin to justice. It's because there is something akin to justice there.

As David Neiwert often argues, the trouble with "hate crimes" is that they're not just simple crimes against individuals or small groups, they're intended to send a terrorizing message to a whole class of people, to make them fear the prospect of exercising their equal rights. That's why there is a rational argument for increasing the penalties for crimes motivated by hate, particularly racial, religious or ethnic hate. It's an argument for protecting the equal rights of all citizens.

That said, I don't think imprisoning David Irving for the 'crime' of denying the Holocaust is a good idea. He's a monster, and he provides a transmission belt for hate among fascists and other dangerous monsters, but I think it would be difficult to charge him with conspiracy in a hate crime. Moreover, I don't think that's the rationale they use in Europe for punishing Holocaust deniers— I think they just locked him up because they don't like his books. (And if we're going to start doing that here, can we please start with Michael Crichton, please please?)

I'm hoping David Neiwert will post his thoughts on the David Irving story soon.

#802 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2006, 02:51 PM:

I've been involved with combating Holocaust denial on the Internet, and with the Holocaust History Project, and 'David Irving' is, as far as I'm concerned, Neo-Nazi for 'worthless p-o-s'. Nonetheless, while I feel a certain schadenfreude at his comeuppance, I'm very uncomfortable with the idea of punishing speech -- even speech that directly offends me (as in Irving's 'nursery rhyme' for his daughter). I don't think that punishing people for Holocaust denial is going either to affirm the truth that it happened (as indeed it did) or persuade racist slime that they ought to become decent human beings. The only cure for bad speech is good speech.

#803 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2006, 08:19 PM:

As Bush prepares to use his first veto ever to block Congressional efforts to stop outsourcing East Coast port security to the government of Dubai, all I can think of are the words of our hostess:

"I deeply resent the way this administration makes me feel like a nutbar conspiracy theorist."

#804 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2006, 08:34 PM:

candle - You can too express dislike for the Austrian law without supporting Irving - however disreputable he may be. It's like supporting the ACLU for defending the KKK's right to assemble, even though you would never (I hope!) support the KKK itself.

Yeah, you're right, but - it takes a whole lot more explaining that way. And not everyone is as sensitive to these nuances as the people here at Making Light (= "you people" - sorry!), er, tend to be. But in this case I want it to be clear that my enemy's enemy is not my friend, but is in fact also my enemy. Only in a different way. And I really begrudge doing anything to benefit him.

Still: I hate the KKK, and I hate David Irving. Or to be absolutely accurate, since I've never met him and don't know much about his personal life, I hate the opinions and actions that have been attributed to him. As long as it doesn't all turn into a cause celebre then I shall be quietly happy that he has had a bad thing happen to him. I guess I can sacrifice my principles now and then.

Perhaps we could think up a more appropriate punishment?

#805 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2006, 08:55 PM:

I'm afraid, candle, that it is already a cause celebre. And reflect on this: the power to silence Irving is the power to silence you. This is not a thin-edge-of-the-wedge argument. The two are one and the same.

#806 ::: Jeff Lipton ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2006, 09:06 PM:

I think the prefix names went out with area codes (before that, 95 could be WaLsh for example, so the actual code wasn't a problem). I recall an old Alan Sherman song on the subject ("The Let's All Call Up AT&T And Protest To The President March"):

"Can you see him smirking and smiling
'Cause they've got us all digit dialing"

"Let's keep those beautiful names alive
Crestview 6! Gramercy 5!"

Full lyrics at Song Lyrics

#807 ::: Jeff Lipton ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2006, 09:12 PM:

Greg:
re Entry at February 16, 2006, 04:04 PM,
Check previous entries on that site. You'll find the boy just ain't right in soooo many ways, only one of which has to do with pigeon toes...

#808 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2006, 09:40 PM:

I saw a bumpersticker with an unequal comparison today:

I'll forgive Jane Fonda
When the Jews forgive Hitler

#809 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 12:15 AM:

That "100 last images uploaded to LiveJournal" link in the Particles is--how you say?--teh crack. Whoosh! A ridiculous amount of time, gone! Like that!

#810 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 12:54 AM:

I'm with Andrew Willett. I love it.

#811 ::: aula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 01:21 AM:

Apropos of an open thread, we got my wireless router connection figured out tonight. Woot! My laptop works video things much better (like trailers) than my cube. And once we get this established, we want to turn the Cube into a household server,

Yay!

#812 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 02:08 AM:

candle:
In an ideal world, a scholar who betrays his scholarship that thoroughly whould have a series of the lower class of illiterate bodice-ripping romance novels unimpeachably attributed to his authorship.

Marilee,
Godwin invades meatspace!

#813 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 06:07 AM:

the lower class of illiterate bodice-ripping romance novels...

abi, I'd normally let that one go, especially with those work deadlines that force me to be here at the office at 4am. But I must object. First... Bodice-rippers haven't been a staple of the romance field for a long time... Second... Illiterate? My wife is a romance writer and so I can vouch for that field having people just as literate and fine as any who works in the genre of real F/SF.

Now that I've got that off my chest, I'll go back to my work's deadlines, and to ignoring the heartburn caused by too much coffee ingested to fight off the insomnia caused by the lack of sleep caused by those said deadlines.

No rest for the wicked and all that...

#814 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 06:26 AM:

"Now that I've got that off my chest, "

ripped directly from the bodice!

#815 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 06:34 AM:

Bryan... Does that comment mean you do not believe what I said about those of us who love real F/SF and yet find themselves working in that other genre?

#816 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 10:31 AM:

Arianna Huffington asks if they were separated at birth.

#817 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 10:45 AM:

Serge,

For clarity, the terms "illiterate" and "bodice-ripping" were used to narrow the field from all romance novels (including the Georgette Heyers to which I am incurably addicted and, presumably, your wife's opera) to those that would be a punishment for an intellectual historian to be associated with.

They were not intended as modifiers for the entire class.

#818 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 10:51 AM:

Okedoke, abi... I consider myself corrected.

#819 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 01:48 PM:

Well, here's a not-too-inaccurate obituary for my father. There's just a few little facts not quite right, which is surprising considering the crap the reporter gave me when she was checking with me(here's a description of the conversation I had with her)

#820 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 01:57 PM:

"Bryan... Does that comment mean you do not believe what I said "

No it meant I was making a bad pun the abstruseness of which was enough to render it pure noise.

#821 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 02:23 PM:

I should have known better, Bryan, better than to talk of male chests in a post about romance... By the way, bare male chests are rather passe too. Men actually wear clothes on the covers, which the writers prefer by far, although my wife is never averse to the sight of Hugh Jackman in his undershirt...

#822 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 02:27 PM:

No matter what, Lucy, yyour father definitely led a full life. Again, my condolences.

#823 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 02:31 PM:

[i]Pierced by a +44 musket ball.

Wow, that weapon was never in my AD&D manual.[/i]

When Hackmaster rules conflict with apparent common sense, use the rules until errata are published.

#824 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 02:41 PM:

100 last images uploaded to LiveJournal

It's a weird, gotta-watch-the-EMT's-pull-the-body-out-of-the-pinto, sort of thing....

btw, Andrew, send me that story, eh?

Anyone: I'm a little rusty here, but a +44 musketball, that means 44 six-sided dice?

...a million voices cried out and were suddenly silenced...

#825 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 02:43 PM:

I'm hoping I can tap the accumulated knowledge here to help with a work-related question. My department is organizing a large (200+ people attending) meeting for late March, and my manager would like to have a Star Trek: The Next Generation theme for the decorations. So far, we've been having very little luck finding ST:TNG-themed party decorations. Beautifully detailed models of the Enterprise for a couple of hundred dollars, sure, but nothing along the lines of printed fold-out centerpieces or that sort of thing.

When I got tapped to help search, it occurred to me that if the folks here don't know where to find such things, said things may simply not exist. So, any suggestions for where to find TNG party decorations? I will be most profoundly appreciative of any pointers anyone can provide.

#826 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 02:49 PM:

Sorry, I don't have any sources for decorations that could help you. but I just gotta ask...

Who the heck do you work for???

The last company party I went to was "Hooray, we haven't gone bankrupt" themed....

#827 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 03:13 PM:

Something themed after Klingons, maybe, Lexica...

#828 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 03:17 PM:

Anyone: I'm a little rusty here, but a +44 musketball, that means 44 six-sided dice?

It means whatever you'd normally do for calculating the damage of a musket ball (not sure exactly what that is... an eight sided die perhaps?) plus an additional 44 points. It'd probably kill just about anything it hit. You might need two or three of them for something particularly nasty.

#829 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 03:17 PM:

Or maybe a Borg Queen theme...

#830 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 03:17 PM:

Lucy - My condolences. Your father was clearly a remarkable man who left a positive impact on the world.

#831 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 03:20 PM:

life sized cutouts of various Star Trek characters, about $25 a pop.

http://www.partypro.com/_gold/items.asp?cc=XYZDSRTR

I'm trying to picture something Star Trekish in nature that is made of that crepe paper stuff that those fold-out thanksgiving turkey decorations are made of. I can't think of anything that you would use it for.

Geordi La Forge's visor, maybe?


#832 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 03:47 PM:

It'd probably kill just about anything it hit.

That depends on whether it's +44 damage or +44 to hit. I assumed it was plus to hit, myself.

Of course, it would probably be a critical hit. And that might kill whatever it was anyway, depending on the system (and in some systems, on what you roll on the crit-hit table).

On the other hand, it might just be something you do to make up for massive minuses. "Oh, I have to hit the fleeing dwarf in the orange-red hat, at my maximum musket range, while he's surrounded by 699 other fleeing dwarfs in bluish-red hats, in a hailstorm at night while standing on my head without my glasses? Nahhh, that's not...what? One-handed? OK, better use the +44 musketball!"

#833 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 03:51 PM:

And for the record, I don't think imprisoning David Irving does any good. When you silence someone you give them martyr credits. That, and the little issue of morality, make me oppose all such laws.

Let him compete and perish in the free market of ideas, I say.

#834 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 03:52 PM:

Xopher,

Is that an intentional riff on the Pratchett scene where the characters try to rig a crossbow shot to have odds of exactly a million to one of success? (Because, as you know, million to one shots succeed nine times out of ten.)

#835 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 03:55 PM:

This role-playing talk reminds me of some Toronto friends when they'd gone to see Excalibur back in 1981... Remember the scene near the end when Mordred impales Arthur on his spear? Apparently the audience fell very silent until someone yelled:

"That must have been at least 500 points of damage."

I understand that much hilarity ensured.

#836 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 03:57 PM:

abi, no, unfortunately it wasn't. Haven't read much in the way of Pratchett, really. It was my old GM spirit moving its feet to the music, though it's long abandoned the dance.

#837 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 04:18 PM:

All of the numbers leave my role-playing instincts cold, because (after my juvenile flirtation with AD&D) I always ran diceless games. I fell into bad company in university, with strong drink and Zelazny novels, you see, and we all played Amber DRPG.

(I did enjoy those days, particularly running the Red Amber con game where the family were tyrants, the books propaganda and the players revolutionaries. Having people bring vodka did not help the plot. See strong drink comment supra)

Now I mostly use those skills to run meetings.

#838 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 04:21 PM:

Also, from what I understand of muskets, a +44 hit bonus puts it pretty much to level pegging with a -5 [anything with a rifled barrel]. Unless you're close enough to use the musket as a club as well.

#839 ::: Jeff Lipton ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 04:31 PM:

I'm sorry for your loss, Lucy. Your dad sounds like a really great guy. If nothing else, the article portrayed him as a loving, caring guy with an easy laugh. Can't ask for much better than that.

That said, I think the reporter was correct -- it's not an article on "hanai" or non-standard relationships, but an obit for a mainstream newspaper (the Chron used to be fairly liberal, but I haven't read it in eons) and any attempt to include such (with corresponding explanation) would have derailed the article. Perhaps there's an article waiting to be written on what was left out?

#840 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 04:48 PM:

Lucy, I'm sorry to hear about your father. He sounds like he would have been interesting to meet.

Relationships in obituaries: one of my uncles had a stepgrandson mentioned in his as a grandson, even though said step was never adopted (his brother was). And one of my cousins who died recently had his stepchildren and his godchildren mentioned, along with his last wife's siblings. Every family is different, looks like. (And I'm not sure my mother ever got over putting the wrong birthdate in my father's!)

#841 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 05:32 PM:

Lucy: Sorry to hear about your father. He sounds like a completely fascinating person.

#843 ::: Mina W ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 05:54 PM:

California's secretary of state, McPherson (R), just before the holiday weekend, recertified Diebold voting machines, including apparently the extremely hackable paper ballot counting machines that are used for "safe" paper ballots. This does not seem to be getting any media attention.

This was done with no public hearings, and after promising to wait for the federal review he asked for.

ref state senator Debra Bowen at DailyKos

#844 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 06:13 PM:

Lucy: I'm sorry about your father's death. He sounds amazing - it must have been an extraordinary family to grow up in!

#845 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 08:11 PM:

punkrockhockymom, apologies for not getting to this thread until long after others had addressed your issues. I don't have much more to add, other than to say that when seeking a place to live, it sometimes helps to walk or drive around the neighborhood(s) you like, because landlords will often place "for rent" signs in their windows rather than rely on newspaper ads or rental agents. (I don't know if Craig's List has rental listings, but it might be a useful resource.)

Keep in mind, too, that despite San Francisco being a city favored by the Left, racial tensions do exist and is one of the factors behind the "white flight" that tends to occur by the time children reach the age of four. I only raise this point because I've seen kids use race to pick fights. A pertinent question is how well San Francisco schools deal with gangs -- unfortunately, I don't know the answer.

By the way, although I moved from San Francisco six years ago (after living there for fifteen years), I can safely say that the city still has a thriving punk-rock scene. Although none of the punk clubs from the late seventies are still around, others have popped up -- and continue to pop up -- to carry the torch. I won't make any recommendations given how long I've been away from the local scene, but I envy you the thrill of exploration.

#846 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 09:39 PM:

Lexica, two suggestions: 1) Lego makes Star Trek sets, they'd be kind of small, but they're fun to play with, and b) Show movies on the walls.

#847 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 11:24 PM:

Lucy, it sounds like there is a lot of good to remember of your father.

#848 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 11:25 PM:

Serge: even sicker than "500 points" was the individual who brought a plaster hand, realistically painted, into a showing of The Empire Strikes Back, and waved it yelling "I got it!" at the obvious moment....

#849 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2006, 11:42 PM:

My sister Pat and I did a special "floral" arrangement for our father's funeral last month. He was always much more a vegetable gardener than flower grower. We went to Hy-Vee and found a lot of the things he'd grown - kohlrabi, sweet corn, tomatoes, radishes, and hot peppers. Took a basket and arranged the veggies decoratively. Our siblings and uncles got it, and thought Daddy would have appreciated it.

#850 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 12:35 AM:

This coming Saturday, on the Skiffy Channel, not a giant-critter movie, but Disaster Zone, or what happens when a volcano erupts all over Manhattan.

Yes, and I understand Disaster Zone II: Glacier In Miami is already in the works.

#851 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 02:01 AM:

Did I ever tell y'all....

That I really love Making Light. right now I'm having work weirdness and a lot of stress, and this is one of my favorite places to see opinions, get fun stuff as well as good, solid information and much interesting information. And get a small validation that the stress is just a passing event.

Wanna hug all of yous. I met a scant few Making Light follk at Boskone, I was busy working on the KC in 2009 bid so i was kind of tied up Saturday during the day working a bid table and our party Saturday night in the big suite of 908 in the Sheraton. I'm one of the Redheads from Hell, we shut down around 4 a..m. on Sunday morning and were the last party standing.

I did make it briefly to the Tor party but because of our hellish flight Thursday night, Margene and I both fairly collapsed at midnight on Friday...

#852 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 06:15 AM:

You're not the only one who feels that way about Making Light, Paula. ("Redhead from Hell?")

#853 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 06:22 AM:

Disaster Zone II: Glacier In Miami, Xopher? Me, I'm still waiting for David Hartwell - Space Cowboy. (Where the Hero is found fighting alien menaces such as humanoid sharks, giant rhino beetles, sabertooth tigers and whatever other sign of a Nature Gone Wild that usually pops in on the Skiffy Channel.)

As for Disaster Zone, I guess its premise is no worse than that of Volcano, where a volcano starts oozing crap out of LA's La Brea tar pit. But the latter has two things that this one doesn't have. First, a great tag line ("The Coast Is Toast"). Second, Tommy Lee Jones.

#854 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 08:58 AM:

Merilee,

1) Lego makes Star Trek sets, they'd be kind of small, but they're fun to play with

WHERE?! WHERE?!

My husband said he buy me the Defiant in Legos if we found it, but I've never come across Star Trek legos. Lots of Star Wars lego ships (some of which he has) but no Star Trek.

The only Star Trek stuff I've seen are the Hallmark Christmas ornaments. (Of which, the Defiant hovers over my compter at home)

#855 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 09:11 AM:

I have a question, and am hoping someone here has the answer.

For some reason--unbeknownst to me--my otherwise innocuous website is the top search if you Google one of my favorite fictional fantasy characters. (I have no idea how this happened, but it's been this way for at least a year)

The author has a book with this character coming out this year.

Would it be untoward of me to e-mail the author or publisher with this, to try and wheedle an advanced copy of the book to read and review? (I write book reviews on my site, for my own amusement, and to help me keep track of what I've read.)

I'd love to get my hands on a copy of the book as soon as possible, because I want to know what happens. (Hey, at least I'm honest!)

Would this be an impolite thing to do? Or would it be acceptable?

#856 ::: Glen Fisher ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 08:47 PM:

Larry Brennan wrote:

California wisely outlawed overlays

If true, Verizon is breaking the law.

#857 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 09:57 PM:

Michelle, it's Mega Bloks, not Lego. I've seen them at ToysRUs and Amazon has some.

#858 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 10:02 PM:

A couple of related notes:

1. Lawrence Watt-Evans has returned from China with pictures.

2. Diane Duane is publishing the third Feline Wizards book in the same way that LWE did The Spriggan Mirror.

#859 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2006, 11:25 PM:

The Story of Barlaam and Josaphat

Definitely strange hagiography: this is the story of Gautama the Buddha! How it got into the Golden Legend would be interesting in itself, but I don't know if that's known.

#860 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2006, 12:57 AM:

Glen Fisher - Well, they (the telcos) must have gotten that overturned somehow.

Overlays SUCK. I don't want to have to dial eleven digits to call across the street, or worse to have to remember whether or not I need to dial a "1" plus area code for a number in my own code for a so-called local toll call, as in northern New Jersey.

Yes, I feel strongly about this, despite the fact that I live in Seattle, but my mobile lives in Newark.

#861 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2006, 06:04 AM:

I live in Seattle, but my mobile lives in Newark...

Is that Tony Bennett's cue, Larry?

#862 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2006, 08:33 AM:

PJ: The Story of Barlaam and Josaphat appears to be based on Christian misunderstanding of stories of the Buddha brought from India to the Mediterranean region by traders.

There's an interesting little piece on 'St Josaphat' in the Penguin Dictionary of Saints.

#863 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2006, 12:23 PM:

....buildings run the gamut from the sublime (the wedge-shaped Flatiron Building is a personal favorite) to the mundane (of which there's plenty)..... emphasis added
John Swanson
IBM developerWorks weekly edition, 23 February 2006

#864 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2006, 08:41 PM:

Larry, only nine digits -- the area code & the number. You only have to use the 1 if it's actually out of your area.

#865 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2006, 11:34 PM:

Marilee - That's what's so confusing. When I visit my friends in Jersey, I have to remember not to dial the 1 - or else the call will go through via their long distance carrier instead of being a free local call. Unless it's a so-called local toll call, which requires the 1, but is carried by the local telco. Totally stupid and hard for customers.

I usually just give up and use my cell phone.

#866 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2006, 02:10 AM:

It looks like February, 2006 is a Really Bad Month for Darth Cheney...


http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/022406Y.shtml

White House 'Discovers’ 250 Emails Related to Plame Leak
By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Report

Friday 24 February 2006

The White House turned over last week 250 pages of emails from Vice President Dick Cheney’s office. Senior aides had sent the emails in the spring of 2003 related to the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald revealed during a federal court hearing Friday.

The emails are said to be explosive, and may prove that Cheney played an active role in the effort to discredit Plame Wilson’s husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a vocal critic of the Bush administration’s prewar Iraq intelligence, sources close to the investigation said...

#867 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2006, 02:47 AM:

This has to do with education, but not in the way it's being discussed over in the "opting out" entry.

Some "prep" schools are nothing more than basketball academies, says the NYT. Ok, dog bites man, but in these cases the degree of fraud is more appalling than the usual. If you see your alma mater listed as a recruiter of one of these kids, you might think about your next donation.

#868 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2006, 07:06 AM:

Whoa... How come I've never heard of this movie until now? Sure, I live in the sticks, but... Anyway, it doesn't sound like it'll go over well with the Gone with the Wind crowd.

#869 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2006, 12:27 PM:

It's an "indie" film, Serge, and a very low-budget one at that. I was aware of it because of (NPR / KBOO / local indie theater newsletters), but it doesn't surprise me that it is below the radar otherwise.

I'd like to see it run on PBS, with lots of publicity, just before the election.

#870 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2006, 12:37 PM:

Patrick Farley's powerpoint presentation on the Dubai port management fiasco is just two slides long, but really, that's all that's neeeded:

http://pfarley.livejournal.com/84950.html?view=572374

Chocolate ducks. Heh.

#871 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2006, 01:11 PM:

Thanks, Stefan. Maybe it'll still be playing somewhere around the Bay Area when I fly there in early April. Maybe at the Castro Theater. I'm not holding my breath though over PBS showing any guts, not with the influence wielded by Southern Republicans. I wouldn't mind being wrong.

#872 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2006, 01:29 PM:

Serge - Netflix knows about CSA, so presumably they'll have it as soon as it's out in video.

Stefan - I thought that ducks were made of wood. Now I'm all confusticated. Somebody please tell me what to think!

#873 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2006, 04:49 PM:

Larry: That's just bad implementation. I realize this sounds like the {socialists,libertarians,etc} explaining why some real-world example isn't a "real" example of Their Wonderful Philosophy, but having 1+10D act differently than 10D, rather than simply allowing all calls to be dialed 1+10D? Stupid. (Of course, the whole intra-LATA toll/long distance thing is pretty stupid, too.)

Then again, you're talking about New Jersey, one of only two states where you can't be trusted to pump your own gas.

#874 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2006, 04:52 PM:

Thanks for the tip about CSA, Larry.

#875 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2006, 05:10 PM:

Remember the story about the bones and other body parts (including Alistair Cooke's) being stolen and transplanted?

The Brooklyn DA's office handed down four indictments a couple of days ago.

#876 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2006, 08:07 PM:

Serge, I just added it to my Netflix Saved Queue, thanks!

#877 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2006, 08:49 PM:

What are you thanking me for, Marilee? Oh, for CSA... All I did was bring it up. Larry is the one who mentionned NetFlix.

#878 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2006, 12:57 AM:

one of only two states where you can't be trusted to pump your own gas.

Is the other one Oregon? Living here without a car means I'm not exactly up on the relevant laws, but I seem to remember being told this.

Meanwhile, sorry for not replying to people who addressed me earlier, but I was in Fresno. And since I was there for a job interview, I have had a lot of practice at agreeing with everything said to me. So: I agree with everyone.

In case they offer me the job, does anyone have any advice about living in Fresno? I already know that it's a big urban sprawl in the desert, but are there any areas one can actually walk around? Is there anything else I should know?

Any help would be much appreciated.


#879 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2006, 09:06 AM:

Darren McGavin and Don Knotts both died.

#880 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2006, 02:36 PM:

I'm sitting here with my (late) morning coffee, watching the Olympic closing ceremonies on the CBC. It occurs to me that these extravaganzas seem very similar to the PBS pledge week specials - a lot of middlebrow pageantry tied to a narrative people are familiar with.

This one is a big, bubbling slab of cheese, but enojoyable nonetheless. I also note that Italy has a rather lackluster national anthem.

Oh well, off to the gym - I'll watch again this evening and see how much worse a job NBC does than the CBC.

#881 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2006, 02:38 PM:

OMG - Now 1,001 Harlequins, with some Kings, Queens and Pirates thrown in are now gyrating to a marching-band rendition of YMCA.

Viva Italia?

#882 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2006, 02:51 PM:

candle,

I don't know much about Fresno, but I understand the Chaffee Zoo is very pleasant indeed.

#883 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2006, 03:10 PM:

I'd really like this to not be true. Does anyone know anything more?

#884 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2006, 03:12 PM:

Patrick, I was just posting the same thing on the theory that if anyone knew, it would be you guys or some of your network.

#885 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2006, 05:04 PM:

I've only driven through Fresno, but the day I did that there were a bunch of elephants walking down the main drag.

What? Ok, there was apparently a circus in town; I don't think it's a regular occurence.

#886 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2006, 06:38 PM:

Serge, I saved it on Netflix before I read down to Larry's note.

#887 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2006, 08:49 PM:

Linkmeister: when the circus comes to Boston, it's traditional to watch the elephants parade from where the circus train parks (on a siding near MIT) to the venue currently known as the TD Banknorth Garden.

#888 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2006, 11:18 PM:

So, Fresno = wild animals? Well, that's a start, I suppose. Thanks, abi and linkmeister. The zoo looks nice, although I suspect I may have been spoiled by growing up within 50 miles of London Zoo, Whipsnade Zoo and Woburn Wild Animal Park. The latter is particularly nice, incidentally.

I've only driven through Fresno, but the day I did that there were a bunch of elephants walking down the main drag.

Funnily enough, this was true of the first time I visited Maynooth, where I worked last year. They seemed especially out of place in rural Ireland.

(Right, I may move this query over to the next open thread since we've been superseded here. Not that I want to discourage replies here too...)

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