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March 18, 2006

Open thread 61
Posted by Teresa at 11:26 AM *

Flood in the basement.
Washing machine’s overflowed.
Damp cardboard. Damp books.

Comments on Open thread 61:
#1 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 11:35 AM:

If that isn't an obscure literary allusion, that's bad news.

#2 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 11:39 AM:

If books get damp they have to be dried immediately, otherwise they'll become mouldy and, eventually, will have to be discarded.

#3 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 11:50 AM:

Oh, dear.

Consider pallets?

#4 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 12:02 PM:

Wet books smell funny.
Cat sniffs from the doorway, then
Stalks away. No fish...

#5 ::: Betty ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 12:09 PM:

I've heard that freezing them is the best way to deal with damp books, sublimation being neater than evaporation.

The folks who hang out here may not have seen Faust's SASE, but will certainly appreciate it.

#6 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 12:16 PM:

Oh, damn...there were a lot of books in that basement. This is bad.

#7 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 12:25 PM:

And consider that there are huge desert areas, dry as... well, as a desert... where you could store your books for hundreds of years without getting them damp.

Ironic, no?

#8 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 12:34 PM:

Books in the freezer.
Pressed under the penny jar,
The last batch I froze.

#9 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 12:51 PM:

I lost half my books
In a spring flood long ago.
Heartfelt sympathies.

(Had to rework that to put in a season.)

#10 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 01:00 PM:

We had a smaller-scale disaster with an overflowing window A/C unit once; we lost about 50 books that way. My sympathies.

#11 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 01:20 PM:

Wow, Fausts Rejections are based on real ones. I recognize the one from Asimov's. When I got back the story with it, I reread my manuscript and decided it was poorly written, derivative crap, and never submitted it again.

Never submitted anything else either. That needs to change.

#12 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 01:39 PM:

Hey, I've gotten some of those rejections!

Sorry to hear about the books. I hope they can be saved.

#13 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 02:06 PM:

I once dropped a book
Right into a swimming pool:
This is so much worse!

#14 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 02:11 PM:

Too ambiguous!
Your situation, I meant,
must be so much worse.

#16 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 02:21 PM:

Given that this is an open thread, perhaps I'll be forgiven a radical change of topic to ask the following question:

Aside from this one, what are the best SF blogs?

By this I don't mean blogs by people who happen to also write/edit/whatever SF. I mean blogs that talk about what's going on in SF these days. (And by "SF" I mean mostly "written SF", although I certainly wouldn't mind discussions of other media.)

Any recommendations? thoughts?

#17 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 02:29 PM:

Basement floods, all books get wet.
Potential disaster? You bet!
But what's really nice
Is to put them on ice,
The best way to protect from regret.

#18 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 02:45 PM:

I was just planning to move some books and tape down to our basement, as it's been dry since we moved here 4 years ago. On the othe hand, as experience testifies....

#19 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 02:54 PM:

I've read a few Walter Scott novels in my life, such as The Talisman and Quentin Durward, but never Ivanhoe, for some reason. Have you? I am curious about Ivanhoe's attitude toward Rebecca in the book. Considering when it was written, he probably acts nobly and all that toward her, but never entertains any romantic ideas because, well, they are of different religious backgrounds. I don't know about the book's depiction of her character, but in the Robert Taylor movie, Rebecca comes off as so much more interesting than Rowena, and Ivanhoe comes off as an idiot for not thinking of Rebecca in a romantic manner, religious differences notwithstanding. And yet... Some time ago, I noticed that the movie's last scene shows wall-flower Rowena looking adoringly at Ivanhoe who's just staring straight ahead, away from her. Maybe Ivanhoe wasn't a total idiot after all.

#20 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 03:25 PM:

There once was a lady who screamed:
"My books! They are floating downstream!"
A helpful lad cried, "I'll save them!"
He dived -- and came up with a fistful of bream.

#21 ::: Amy Rye ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 03:28 PM:

Lost best cookbook to
Sewer backup in basement.
Found new copy (used).
Nearly wept with joy,
Bought it immediately.
Attic keeps my book.

#22 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 03:28 PM:


That's really awful. I'm very sorry.

John Farrell,
I was just planning to move some books and tape down to our basement, as it's been dry since we moved here 4 years ago. On the othe hand, as experience testifies....

If you were going to put them on bookshelves, just don't put books on the bottom shelf. That's what we've done, even though we haven't had water in the basement since we treated the walls when we moved in 4 1/2 years ago.

Or, put the shelves on bricks or cinderblocks to increase their height from the floor.

#23 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 03:35 PM:

If you have books in a basement, you will eventually need to know this: the best way I ever found to get basement-smell out of books is to put them in an attic for several years.

#24 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 03:47 PM:

Faust's rejections made me jealous--mine are never that long. But now I really, really want someone to paint magnificently tacky cover art of my novel on black velvet. Really.

#25 ::: Dan Lewis ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 03:49 PM:

Some more open thread weirdness:

Snakes on a Plane, starring Samuel L. Jackson. Saw it on Eschaton.

#26 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 03:51 PM:

I noticed a letter in the Guardian yesterday which mentioned the poet John Clare (1793-1864), who rarely provided punctuation. It ends: "three letters from the asylum in Northampton survive, in which he omits all the vowels."

Voluntary auto-disemvowelment, eh? Nasty.

#27 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 04:12 PM:

I once dropped a library book into the bathtub.

Freezing was surprisingly effective in salvaging it.

Or I'll assume so, since the library didn't charge me to replace it.

#28 ::: Steve ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 04:13 PM:

When we moved into a new house in 2001/2, we put as many of the boxes of books as would fit into the original master bedroom of the house with the intent of declaring it the (primary) library. We did so, because the downstairs level of the house had flooded from a nearby creek rising several years before we bought the house. We thought that putting the primary library on the second floor was sensible.

Until a branch fell, poked a small hole in the roof, and during an unseasonably heavy rain the leakage caused the soaked-through sheetrock to split and fall in.

#29 ::: jane ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 04:33 PM:

Oh dear,oh dear. (Runs in circles, flaps dodo wings, weeps.)

I can think of few things I would hate worse to have happen at my house right now.

Oh dear,oh dear.


#30 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 05:40 PM:

TNH - Argh. This is a second run in with a wet basement, albiet in new environs, no? Sorry to hear this and hope you get everything appropriately re-dessicated.

Dan Lewis - The authoritative source for Snakes on a Plane has to be via Jeffrey Rowland's always excellent Overcompensating.

I bought the T-shirt and you can too.

#31 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 05:56 PM:

You have my sincere sympathy, the more so as we lived in a tiny, poorly ventilated house without air conditioning in Georgia for several years. The humidity was so high the books moldered on the shelves. Not in the basement--we didn't have one. In the main part of the house.

#32 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 06:01 PM:

Wrecked books... Argh... Sorry that this happened to you two.

#33 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 06:03 PM:

I've had good success with freezing paperbacks, even totally saturated ones. Freezing can warp the boards of hardcovers, though.

#34 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 06:47 PM:

Aauuuggh! How awful!

Books is preciouussssss!!!

#35 ::: Kylni ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 06:56 PM:

So, the most recent post on scamming agents managed to prompt me to look at that list of things TNH's said about writing. I made my way back to the entry on fanfiction. I'd read it before (months ago, when I first discovered Making Light and was trawling the archives as an amazing source of interesting, insightful things to read) but I found it interesting to look over again. I'm in fandom, and I greatly appreciated the post and the discussion in the comments, then as now.

However, rereading bits of it, I'm reminded of the thing that nagged at me when I was reading it the first time. That is, that people in the discussion seemed to be using two different definitions of slash fanfiction. The two categories overlap, but they're definitely not the same. They are:

1) Fanfiction involving explicit sex scenes; and
2) Fanfiction involving a male/male relationship.

Slash is definitely defined as (2), there's no question about it. No one knows why. (Okay, I can relate the classic story of how it started with Kirk/Spock; but that doesn't explain why it's only used for male homosexual relationships. People write, say, Buffy/Angel as well. But it's not called slash.)

Slash can have graphic sex or not. So can femslash, the slightly less original term for the female equivalent. So can het, the term used for heterosexual relationships if you're moving in circles where that's not assumed to be the default.

There are certainly issues to be discussed in response to both homosexual relationships and explicit sex in fanfiction, but they're not the same issues, and calling the latter 'slash' only confuses the issue.

It's really an exercise in switching your mental conceptions back and forth to read through the comments to that thread.

On the one hand, you've got fandom people using the terminology with the ease they've become accustomed to - Ellen Fremedon says "there is a lot of badly written, poorly motivated slash *and hetfic*" - and on the other hand you've got non-fandom people, intelligent and interested but mistaken about what 'slash' means. Jonathan Vos Post explicitly mentions "purely homosexual slash and purely heterosexual slash," but the way others phrase their statements implies they have the same idea.

Nowhere that I can see was the definition clarified, which I find somewhat mind boggling. Hopefully someone who was a regular at the time can tell me that I just missed it?

[Yes, this post is very out of left field. But that's what open threads are for, right?]

#36 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 07:12 PM:

Flood? Oh, dear.

Did the Great Basement Shuffle last month at least make it better than it could have been?

#37 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 08:40 PM:

"Intelligent and interested" aren't the first two words that come to mind when I think of J******n v*s P**t.

#38 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 08:48 PM:

tears from the mountain
running through my basement walls
peaches for breakfast?

#39 ::: Kylni ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 08:51 PM:

James D. Macdonald:

Heh. Alright - if it makes you feel better, I picked his quote because of the explicitness of his misunderstanding, rather than any particular esteem I have for him personally. (Which I wouldn't feel qualified to comment on, anyway.)

"Intelligent and interested" was a general statement meant to make it clear that I wasn't implying that everyone with an incorrect conception was just being obtuse or deliberately ignorant.

I'm still relatively new here, so I don't want to spark any conflict inadvertently...

#40 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 09:02 PM:

re: slash

I used to do miscellaneous work for an artist that made herself popular with really good portraits of various fantasy/SFactors (I think she had the US license for the BBC things like Robin of Sherwood). She also had a link to Star Trek and did some lovely artwork in that universe before the studio turned into assholes about fandom.

She is really nice, devoutly Catholic (so much so that I think, if she didn't have their art talent, they'd have become a nun.)

She got invited to a convention that didn't go into detail what the artist was going to in terms of panels, etc. They took her artwork, gave her her convention badge and the agreed per diem and gas money, and said, "we'll do set up for you, don't worry about it." She went up to her room, freshened up and went back down a couple of hours later to the convention area.

Her artwork had been set up on easels and free-standing displays in the doorway of the art room, you had to walk 'around' them to go into the room. The rest of the artwork on display was graphic K/S porn artwork. My friend says she spent the rest of the weekend in her room. They'd invited her to have 'nice' artwork to put across the door to keep other guests in the hotel from getting upset.

I wish I could go back in time (she didn't tell me about this until we'd kown each other for a while) and just smack the committee for scaring the hell out of her.

#41 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 09:16 PM:

My understanding of the origin of "slash" refs fan fiction is that it simply referred to two existing characters having a sexual relationship in the tale. The name came from labeling the story as being "Character A/Character B" (sometimes names, sometimes initials if it was obvious who was meant). It didn't have to be explicit, and it could be het; I do believe that it did not apply to characters who actually had such a relationship (at least, not a significant one) in the source work, since part of the point of writing such a piece of fanfic was to present encounters that wouldn't have appeared in the source. Which helps to explain the association with non-het works, since many of those relationships weren't going to be allowed in the originals, however much they might have been suggested subtexutally.

The label was obviously useful as shorthand, briefly indicating content for purposes of location or avoidance, depending on one's taste. I can recall other indications of the, uh, relative humidity of the story.

The fact that the word is used by different people to mean different things isn't at all surprising, given that it emerged from casual usage rather than being specifically created as a label.

Virgule fiction: unofficial stories in which two characters who are primarily known for time in the sack find something else interesting to do.

#42 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 09:28 PM:

I had books get damp enough to mildew sitting on concrete slab a foot about the outside ground level. Apparent cause: the wall was an addition to the existing house, and didn't have a mud-sill equivalent (it probably stopped at the level of the slab) so water seeped under it when rain hit it. I didn't find out in time to freeze them, and ended up using bleach to kill the mildew. (I still have the books; they survived the treatment.)

My brother lost a box or two in his garage due to leaks. If you put them in a grarge, use shelves, and maybe put the boxes inside trash bags.

#43 ::: Kylni ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 09:47 PM:

Paula Helm Murray:

Arg, that's horrible. Totally aside from the fact that slash and explicit content are things where you definitely should be told what you're getting into, to use her art in that way without telling her is just... callous and nasty. If you ever get your hands on a time machine, I'll join you in the smacking.

John M. Ford:

The thing is, I've been in online slash fandom for four or five years now, and I've never seen 'slash' used to mean anything but "based around a homosexual relationship, sexual or not, 'canon' or not."

It is, of course, possible that I've just managed to avoid everyone who uses it any other way; but it seems unlikely. It's also possible that that's just how the term has settled in recent years - it's been around since the '70's, so maybe it had slightly different connotations then. But still - four or five years seems enough time to consider it the current official usage.

People use '/' for writing pairings of any kind, of course, but the term 'slash' is different. (As a side note - I've also never seen anything used to distinguish between pairings which are present in the source work and those that aren't - the latter is more popular to write, of course, but there's not any notation difference I've ever seen.)

There is, I suppose, a possibility that I've been overly influenced by the anime fandom term, 'yaoi,' which has slightly different connotations. (Another fun thing anime fandom does occasionally is use '+' or 'x' instead of '/', with '+' implying affection/a relationship and 'x' implying actual sex. [This is particularly fun in Gundam Wing fandom, where character names are abbreviated as numbers - "You'll never look at multiplication tables the same way again!"])

Still, I'd be interested to see any example of usage of the term 'slash' (particularly in the past 5ish years) that differs from what I mentioned above.

Also: "Virgule fiction" made me snicker.

#44 ::: Kylni ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 09:56 PM: appears to have an interesting discussion of the topic in their slash fiction article. Lots of good info. In particular:

Due to increasing population and prevalence of slash on the internet in recent years, some have begun to use "slash" as a generic term for any erotic fan fiction, whether it describes heterosexual or homosexual relationships. This has sparked mild concern among writers of heterosexual fan fiction. This concern is sometimes based in bigotry and intolerance of homosexuality, and manifests itself as offense at the notion of being compared to homosexual subject matter. It has also caused concern for slash writers who believe, that while it can be erotic, slash is not by definition so, and believe that defining erotic fic alone as slash takes the word away from all ages suitable homoromantic fanfic, and may cause confusion, when the quite unambiguous words 'erotica', 'adult', and 'porn' already exist.

Which implies that 'slash' as a designator for all erotic fiction is actually a recent phenomenon.

#45 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2006, 10:29 PM:

Ack, wet books again!

I used to know a guy who told us one night that he had dropped a book in the water while he was in the bathtub. Then he said "It was Red Mars, so it was fine." It wasn't, of course, but it's a good joke.

#46 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 12:18 AM:

I have read all
the books
that were in
the freezer

and which
you were probably
to salvage.

Forgive me:
they were deliquescent
so wet
and so old.

[xeger's mention of peaches is to blame for this]

#47 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 12:34 AM:

This is just to say
I have laundered
the books
that were in the basement

and which
you were probably
to reread

Forgive me
they sat nearby
so dusty
and so absorbent

   --Mei Tagg

#48 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 12:48 AM:

I somehow feel beaten to the punch, but,

This is just to say

I have freeze-dried
the books
that were
in the drywell

and which
you were probably
for compost

Forgive me
they were ancient
too wise
to feed mold.

#49 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 12:58 AM:

I have set fire
to all your
bourgeois learning

which probably meant
to your false consciousness

Forgive me, but
Long live The Revolution!

#50 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 01:01 AM:


Please note:
I have done something
having the value of X
to some specific object Y

That you were probably
saving to do X to

apologies are in order
the logic was inescapable.

#51 ::: jon H ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 01:28 AM:

V for Vendetta was pretty good*, with a nice portion of awesome, modulo some clunky expository lumps. At least, if you don't mind your propaganda being driven home like a blunt corkscrew applied with a 5 lb sledge.

I hope someone's able to put out 'V' costumes this Halloween. For one thing, it might get the themes back in discussion right before the election. And might just get the Bushies to crap their pants if the costume sells particularly well.

Hell, it'd be really cool if lots of people wore 'V' costumes to the polls on election day. (They'd probably have to remove the mask in the polling place.)

- JH

* where 'pretty good' is defined on the Hollywood Movie scale, on which Star Wars 3 was a definite 'suck'. Or, to put it another way, I felt I got my $11 IMAX admission's worth.

#52 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 01:34 AM:

jon - As long as the V for Vendetta has nothing to do with V the lizards ("She's a V!"), it has potential. Although needing to remove a mask is somewhat ominous.

#53 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 01:36 AM:

Well, since we're talking movies:

I saw "Night Watch" this afternoon.

It is an adaption of the first novel in a Russian urban fantasy trilogy. It's set in current-day Moscow, which appears to be a mix of modern shopping areas and horribly shabby apartments.

The setup is really dippy. There's a sort of clandestine cold war going on between the forces of Dark and Light. Humans with special powers -- "others" -- must choose between good and evil when they realize they're different. Each side has a bureaucracy and cops to keep things in line. (In a nice twist, the forces of Light use the Moscow power company as their HQ.)

The "Night Watch" of the title are the forces-of-good cops; the movie begins in 1992, with a sting on a shady witch hired to do what amounts to a psychic abortion. As she is arrested, her client, Anton, is discovered to be an Other; a seer. Fast-forwarding to 2004, we see Anton working for Night Watch, tracking down a vampire trying to entrap a kid.

I'll leave the summary at that.

Overall, this was pretty good. Not particularly smart or original, but fun, with lots of action and a well-maintained sense of tension.

The subtitles deserve mention. They're not just words superimposed on the bottom of the screen. They shift around and get covered over by the characters and (for example) pulse red to indicate a vampire's psychic compulsion.

The second part of the trilogy is already out in Russian.

#54 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 02:39 AM:

Larry Brennan: V for Vendetta is based on the Alan Moore comic book, and is not even remotely related to that television show about alien lizards.

#55 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 03:23 AM:

I hope someone's able to put out 'V' costumes this Halloween.

It's far more traditional to put them out five days later.

Of course, times have changed. Last time I was there for the event, "penny for the Guy" was up around 20p. A couple of them were very fine Guys, however.

I do intend to see the film, but if it doesn't put across the significance of the outfit, and the mask, then that's a significant failure of the script.

I suppose it's too much to hope for it to contain a performance of "This Vicious Cabaret." I'd likely pay for a good video version. Not quite sure who should sing -- Nick Cave? Henry Rollins? Bowie? (Yes, I'm old.)

#56 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 03:31 AM:

JMF - If wanting to hear Henry Rollins makes you old, sign me up for that distinction, too.

#57 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 05:16 AM:

>I do intend to see the film, but if it doesn't >put across the significance of the outfit, and >the mask, then that's a significant failure of >the script

Well, it starts 400 years ago with the original gunpowder plot and the execution of Guy Fawkes, so the connection is made with him. They don't mention the specific significance of the mask, but then I don't recall that Moore'd graphic novel did either. V for Vendetta started out in WARRIOR and was intended for a British audience, remember, so this was knowledge it was just assumed everyone would have. And for those non UK citizens who might be puzzled, the explanation is that Guy Fawkes has been burned in effigy on bonfires across the land on every November 5th since 1605, to the accompaniment of fireworks. Children make their own Guys out of old clothing an the like, but the face is almost always a printed cardboard mask, bought from a toy store. I wore one of these while playing as a child. I'm sure most British guys of my age did, too. Nowhere near as elaborate a mask as V wore, of course, but Guy masks have strong cultural resonance for us.

Oh, and I really enjoyed the movie, btw. I thought they did a creditable job of adapting the graphic novel for the screen. From the reviews, it seems like those who didn't object to the politics were nonetheless disappointed it wasn't more of an action movie or that it was too didactic. Well, the GN was also didactic and low on slam-bang genre action pieces. In this, the film was true to its source material.

#58 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 08:30 AM:

Saw V for Vendetta. I've never read Moore's graphic novel so I don't know if one problem I had with it was also in the original.

It tells, but doesn't show much.

We're told that this is a very oppressive society. And yet, when they show the society, they undermine their own premise. Hell, when Stephen Fry's comedy-show actor takes Evey to his home's secret room, she sees a piece of art that had been banned for making fun of the Chancellor because it depicts the Chancellor wearing the same hairstyle as Queen Elizabeth II. And yet, when Fry uses his TV show to run a Benny-Hill-like skit that ends with cops shooting the 'Chancellor' to death, I thought "OhmyGod, he's committing suicide", but all he expects is that he'll be fined. Guess what, that's not what happens to him after that.

#59 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 08:46 AM:

There's an interview with Alan Moore from Sep 2005 online in two parts (part of "MILE HIGH COMICS presents THE BEAT at") in which he talks a fair bit about the history of the 'book' and film of V for Vendetta, as well as other things. He's not altogether happy with it. He also remarks that in the last few years he hasn't seen Guy Fawkes masks for sale, so that reference may be more obscure now to young'uns.

I hope the damp-book news isn't too bad. Sometimes it's just one thing after another.

#60 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 09:20 AM:

I have learned with some sadness
no air conditioning
makes moldy summer basements

leaving for a hot month trip
returning sorrow
blue fuzz everywhere on books

do not even get me to
start on the presence:
spring termites in the garage

never again boxes
on concrete floors damp
or not Paper falls to doom

#61 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 09:23 AM:

oops an error mine
early morning miscounting
dyslexic haiku

that was too easy
for a spring day, post again
and again with joy


#62 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 09:24 AM:

People who write and read fanfic generally use "slash" to mean non-canonical same-sex pairings, usually male-male (hence, as pointed out, "femme slash").

I don't remember if the definitional issue came up in that post, in the Mary Sue post, or elsewhere, but it is a constant presence in non-fanfic-writing-circles and I'm sure I remember having it here sometime. (Sorry--computer being stupid--will look for references later if someone wants.)

#63 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 10:25 AM:

Paula - your time machine:

Ori, A. 2005. A class of time-machine solutions with a compact vacuum core. Physical Review Letters 95(July 8):021101. Abstract available at

#64 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 10:39 AM:

Answering a question from further up the thread:

Given that this is an open thread, perhaps I'll be forgiven a radical change of topic to ask the following question:

Aside from this one, what are the best SF blogs?

Just off the top of my head, here are four that I read occasionally:

Emerald City Weblog:
The Mumpsimus:
Bowing to the Future:
Notes from Coode Street:

I haven't made actual links, since that would make this look too much like comment spam for my taste, but you can cut and paste the URLs if you want to check them out. (They might be linked on the main page as well.)

#65 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 10:57 AM:

Just saw V for Vendetta last night, and I've been a little... what is the word... tilted since then.

Part of me was thinking, "wow, f-ing amazing." Another part is having trouble with some of the things some characters did to other characters and thinking "that's crap" (to avoid any spoilers, that's about as specific as I can get). and part of me is just walking around, feeling a bit off kilter, thinking "huh?"

Anyone else have that experience? Just curious.

Right now, I'd rate it worth the price of a full-evening ticket. but part of me is wondering if it shouldn't be "wait till its free on HBO"

#66 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 12:42 PM:

John M. Ford writes: "It's far more traditional to put them out five days later."

In Britain, yes. In the US, it'd be a better fit for Halloween - I can't imagine Guy Fawkes' day taking off in the US because of a single movie.

#67 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 01:26 PM:

Serge: my 9th-grade English teacher's summary was that Rebecca was much too interesting a character to be left with the title drip; Rowena was as much as Ivanhoe deserved (and vice versa). I don't think this was Scott's intention; he might have been doing his version of Age of Innocence, or of the modern trope where the shady characters are more enticing.

JMF: the first several references I saw to "slash" were \all/ "K/S", which appears to have fascinated some female Trekkies from way back. If you have countering citations, NESFA would really like to have them, as it's been asked to provide support for the OED's additions of fannish and stfnal terms.

Stephan: A good summary, except that IIRC the witch was caught on a fair cop, not a sting (although we're never told how Andrey found her). Note that people should be wary of sitting too close to the screen, and maybe bring earplugs; I sat in my usual middling position and left with a headache from the flashy cuts and the sound system run at 11. I'm interested in seeing what happens with the situation this part ended with (unlike my reaction to many trilogies these days...), and wonder if we'll ever get an answer to the vampires' question.

#68 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 01:50 PM:

CHip... So, Ivanhoe in the book was as much a drip as Robert Taylor's version was? I almost wrote that maybe then his way of playing Ivanhoe wasn't all his fault, but I think that his acting abilities have something to do with it. I saw him in Knights of the Round Table on TCM last weekend and it was, to put it mildly, a dreadful bore. He did have some good lines at the very beginning when his fellow knights, a bit hungry, come to an abandonned farm and go after the last remaining chicken, at which he exclaims "Three men against one hen...Chivalry, hide thy face." It quickly goes downhill after that. At least, Ivanhoe had Elizabeth Taylor and George Saunders to save it.

#69 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 02:09 PM:

The theater where I saw "V" showed a coming attraction I had hopedhopedhoped they'd show. The moment it played the familiar music's first notes, my hopes were fulfilled. After it was over and after I had stopped squeezing my wife's hand hard, she pointed out something that I hadn't realized because I was too busy taking it all in: the look of Superman Returns appears strongly influenced by the art of Alex Ross.

#70 ::: Anna ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 02:53 PM:

Just realized while reading the William Carlos Williams remixes upthread that the original can be sung to the tune of this song, Dark as a Dungeon -- which the internet tells me is by Merle Haggard, although the version I know is Johnny Cash.

I'll include all the lyrics, since I didn't know the song by its title. Plus some of them are sadly evocative of the basement book predicament...

Come and listen you fellows, so young and so fine,
And seek not your fortune in the dark, dreary mines.
It will form as a habit and seep in your soul,
'Till the stream of your blood is as black as the coal.
It's dark as a dungeon and damp as the dew,
Where danger is double and pleasures are few,
Where the rain never falls and the sun never shines
It's dark as a dungeon way down in the mine.
It's a-many a man I have seen in my day,
Who lived just to labor his whole life away.
Like a fiend with his dope and a drunkard his wine,
A man will have lust for the lure of the mines.

I hope when I'm gone and the ages shall roll,
My body will blacken and turn into coal.
Then I'll look from the door of my heavenly home,
And pity the miner a-diggin' my bones.

#71 ::: Anne ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 02:57 PM:

er, Merle Travis, not Merle Haggard.

#72 ::: hp ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 04:13 PM:

Re: Slash

Fandom and fan fiction, almost exclusively, tend to use "slash" as a label for fiction about homosexual relationships--whether explicit or implicit in description. Yes, there is such a thing as "G-rated" slash nowadays. Once in a while, you'll come across someone in fandom using "slash" as label for explicit sexual relationships: generally, those people are new to fandom OR very against adult (explicitly sexual) fiction of all forms and the usage is a mistake based on limited exposure. (In most cases I've seen, they're looking for a simple, singular term to define everything they don't like, which is both het and homosexual explicit fiction, and decide that the definition of slash == everything I don't like; they run with it for a while, until they throw a fit at someone for presuming that some explicit het fiction is "acceptable" and then it becomes even more amusing.)

In academia, the currently accepted fannish definition of "slash" has been used since at least the late 1980s.

From what I've seen and heard from others, in the early 1970s "slash" could be used for ANY non-canon romantic relationship. But the overwhelming amount of same-sex non-canon relationship fiction (partly due to the lack of good female characters in the TV shows whose fandoms popularized fan fiction) narrowed the definition and it was generally accepted to apply only to same-sex, non-canon relationships by the end of the 1970s/beginning of the 1980s.

I'd say that Internet fandom has widened the definition slightly again: making non-explicit fiction with same-sex relationships more firmly part of the "slash" label, and making CANON same-sex relationships part of the "slash" label.

#73 ::: hp ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 04:23 PM:

Re: Basement flooding

Oh, how awful. Back when I was a tween, my parents had a house that was half full-height basement, half crawl. The house itself was a split level (tri-level) with the middle level above the full-height basement, and the crawl beneath the lower living level. The crawl's floor was about three feet lower than the basement's flood. The house was older (~30 years) and the crawl had--as far as we knew--always been dry, and had been set up as storage (lots of built-in shelves) by a previous owner.

What we didn't know was that the crawl was ALSO intended for water overflow if the sump pump failed (it was actually quite a intelligent design: it kept the finished, full-height section of the basement from flooding for hours after pump failure; it could hold A LOT of water.)

While the library was under construction, the boxes of paperback books were stored on one of the shelves in the crawl (about 2 feet off the floor). The sump pump failed during one horrid thunderstorm.

#74 ::: hp ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 04:24 PM:

than the basement's flood

Ah, instead: than the basement's floor.

#75 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 04:37 PM:

Tomorrow at 3pmPST on TCM...

Adventure in Iraq (1943)
Americans are captured by Arabs working for the Nazis.
Paul Cavanagh, John Loder, Ruth Ford. D: Ross Lederman. BW-65m

#76 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 04:41 PM:

It's been a long time since I've bothered wtaching Crossing Jordan. I'll probably take a look tonight because Miguel Ferrer, one of the cast members, is directing the episode. Oh, and his buddy Bill Mumy is a guest star. Here's an excerpt from TV-Guide's mini-interview...

Bill Mumy plays in a band with you. Does he ever settle conflicts by threatening to unleash the Robot or send someone into the cornfield?

It's the cornfield that really gets everybody! Nobody buys the Robot anymore.

#77 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 04:52 PM:


HP, if I understand you right, you lived in a house that would flood if a pump failed?

I mean, it actually needed a pump running all the time to keep from flooding?

Is this practice common where you come from? Because from where I'm standing it sounds just totally bizarre. I mean, I don't understand why anyone would build a house like that.

#78 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 05:29 PM:

Sump pumps do not as a general rule run all the time, just when there is a lot of rain, or other source of water.

#79 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 05:50 PM:

I live in a swamp, er, a gravel pit, er, Michigan. Full basements are de riguer, since this is the midwest, not the backwards south. However, due to the local geography, and lax building codes, it is common to hear the sump pump kick on at 3 minute intervals during periods of rain or melting snow. Otherwise; 1d6 hour intervals.


#80 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 07:52 PM:

please note that I was attempting to gently tease both midwesterners and southerners in the previous post. No actual prejudice was intended.


#81 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 08:10 PM:

Charlie Stross expresses incredulity: you lived in a house that would flood if a pump failed?

I'm reminded of the mention in Gangs of New York? or maybe in Luc Sante's Low Life, of NYC apartments that would flood twice a day, when the tide came in.

Come to think of it, that's starting to sound like our hosts' apartments.

#82 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 09:11 PM:

Last year there were apartments - aboveground - in the complex where I was living that flooded one day when it rained multiple inches and the (very dim) management didn't lower the pool level as various agencies had advised. Following which the management expected the tenants to air the places out and get rid of the mildew (some of the apts had no cross-ventilation without the unscreened door open).

#83 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 09:14 PM:

For those who haven't heard, David Feintuch died on Friday night, at age of 61 years old.

Michael Burstein blogged the details

#84 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 10:09 PM:

Charlie Stross: HP, if I understand you right, you lived in a house that would flood if a pump failed?

I mean, it actually needed a pump running all the time to keep from flooding?

Is this practice common where you come from? Because from where I'm standing it sounds just totally bizarre. I mean, I don't understand why anyone would build a house like that.

I will make the connection no one has yet made--major cities have needed pumps, or barriers, or both to protect them from flooding. Their books got wet, too.

#85 ::: hp ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 10:11 PM:


HP, if I understand you right, you lived in a house that would flood if a pump failed?

I mean, it actually needed a pump running all the time to keep from flooding?

Is this practice common where you come from? Because from where I'm standing it sounds just totally bizarre. I mean, I don't understand why anyone would build a house like that.

The basement would flood if the sump pump wasn't running during heavy storms. This is pretty common throughout the upper midwest in the United States (Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan).

How it's set up is that the foundation of the house has drainage tiles which collect the rainwater that gathers around the foundation. The drainage tiles direct the rainwater into the sump pit, which is then drained by the sump pump, either into the far reaches of the yard--or, if you live in a nice town that allows you to do it, directly into the municipal storm drain system. If the pump fails, the pit can overflow.

At our former house, the sump pump running was pretty much a every half hour occurrence during light rain; a every five minute occurrence during heavy storms. The current house does have a pit and a pump. We make sure that the pump continues working, just in case, by draining the basement aquariums into it. We've never had it run during a storm, but we got really lucky with the foundation on this house.

Throughout much of the midwest, a basement is basically a concrete bowl set in clay. (Or, a concrete bowl set in swampy areas.) You have to be able to move the water away from the foundation, or the foundation is eventually going to become the place of least resistance. Houses up here are expected to have basements--we're within 50 miles of a pretty major tornado alley.

(In fact, there's a new subdivision going up a few miles from us, and we were interested because they were selling "estate-sized" lots--lots of 1/2 to 1 acre. But it's right on top of a damn swamp--not just swampy ground but a REAL swamp at the headwaters of a creek, and the town is requiring *all* the homes to be built with full basements. Knowing the massive problems homes already in that area are having with basement water, that's where I'd build on a slab, but they're not being allowed to.)

#86 ::: JennR ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 10:54 PM:

Charlie says: HP, if I understand you right, you lived in a house that would flood if a pump failed?
I mean, it actually needed a pump running all the time to keep from flooding?
Is this practice common where you come from? Because from where I'm standing it sounds just totally bizarre. I mean, I don't understand why anyone would build a house like that.

Only the part below ground level floods. :)

You gotta build somewhere, and if you don't dig a full foundation (below the frost line), the house will crack apart in the spring as the ground heaves (from thawing) under the slab. The water table here (MI/IN/OH/IL) is usually quite high. (e.g.: They dug a 6' deep hole for the foundation at my folks' house. When they came back the next day, there was 35" of water in the hole. Their sump pump runs every hour, every day, all year.) You have to keep the water out of the basement somehow, and you do it with a sump pump. Many counties require sump pumps for all houses, even those well above the water table.

We used to live along a ravine with a creek at the bottom, and the sump pump ran from the time the snow started to melt until the ground froze again in the fall, as the water ran downhill toward the creek. One melt season (of course, it was the one with 250" of snow, not the season with 180") the pump failed, and we got a 12" deep stream of water running through the basement (fortunately, no books were involved).

(My condolences on the soaked books.)

#87 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 11:14 PM:

The corner of Minneapolis where I live (just south of downtown) used to be ponds. In the early 1900s, almost all of these were drained by land developers (one remained, in Loring Park, though it's now fully artificial). The buildings here have half-depth basements -- there's a flight up to the "ground floor."

My building is still in a low spot -- you can see the street climb both ways -- and during extremely heavy rain the basement will flood, to eye level. This happened once just before I moved in -- the high-water mark was still on the wall -- and has occurred three or four more times in the eighteen years since. The last time, we tried sandbagging the doorway, which I think helped a little.

I live on the third floor, so this really doesn't affect me -- we don't even lose power -- but there's a basement apartment, which is usually occupied, and I wonder what the owners tell prospective tenants.

And, too, during a very heavy storm, some friends parked in front of the building, and though our basement didn't flood, their car did, and wasn't recoverable, though it was insured.

#88 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2006, 11:23 PM:

Charlie, in KC, it depends where you live. In our first real house, the neighborhood had a high water table and a shallow storm sewer system. Having a sump pump that clicked on when the tile drainage system filled up the hole was vital. We didn't know this and we had a power outage because of an ice storm. We lost some of the bottom self row of books, plus some boxes of comics that were on the floor.

Our current house is a 1912 job, we don't keep anything vital directly on the floor in the basement because we have a couple of trickles that always come in when it rains hard. BUT we don't have a sump because the general neighborhood water level is below our foundation. Plus the storm sewers here are at about 19 foot down.

Pallets are your friend in a slightly wet basement (like ours now). They also kept everything down there above the savage flood when we had the house to main sewer line fail a couple years ago (eeuw.....)

#89 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 01:00 AM:

Speaking of water damage, you may have heard on the news that there was a breached dam on Kauai this past week; here's an article about it, with a timeline.

More stories can be found at the Star-Bulletin and at the Advertiser, if you're interested.

There are seven people missing and/or confirmed dead.

Besides that heartbreak, this has caused all manner of consternation about the number of (mostly earthen) dams there are on various islands (over 60 on Kauai, and a dozen or so on Oahu), whose responsibility it is to ensure they're properly maintained, and the effect of more than a week of continuous rain we've had out here.

#90 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 01:37 AM:

Is it Anna or Anne or is that just a coincidence and it's two people, one correcting the other?

Anyway, Johnny Cash did cover "Dark as a Dungeon," as did a bunch of other people. Merle Travis recorded "Folk Songs From the Hills," a bunch of songs for kids about growing up in the mountains, and that song, believe it or not, was on the record which I may still have somewhere. "Sixteen Tons" was on the record, too, and "Don't You Hear That Whistle Blow?" and "I am a Pilgrim," and "Nine Pound Hammer." None of the internet sites mention the collection being for kids, but he addressed kids directly in the introductions to the songs.

Something I should have known but didn't was that the FBI warned radio stations not to play "Sixteen Tons" because it was too Red and so was Merle Travis, who wasn't, but he had some class consciousness, which was enough.

I have tried to put the nndb link in this bit three times and it always disappear when I preview it. Spooky. I guess yoall will have to do your own googling.

#91 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 02:02 AM:

See those typoes at the end? They were not there before I submitted. Stuff is getting dropped out. I wonder why.

#92 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 07:58 AM:

I'd find it interesting if Guy Fawkes had dropped out of the American collective consciousness, because of course the US is where the transition from 'guy' meaning 'effigy of Guy Fawkes' to 'guy' being a synonym for 'male person' happened.

From e.g

guy (2)
"fellow," 1847, originally Amer.Eng.; earlier (1836) "grotesquely or poorly dressed person," originally (1806) "effigy of Guy Fawkes," leader of the Gunpowder Plot to blow up British king and Parliament (Nov. 5, 1605), paraded through the streets by children on the anniversary of the conspiracy. The male proper name is from Fr., related to It. Guido, lit. "leader," of Gmc. origin (see guide).

(I had a book flood when the attic cold water tank overflowed due to a faulty washer. Of course it never overflowed while I was in the house because I was using cold water; so it happened when I was out, and saturated a whole bookshelf. I still wince thinking of it.)

#93 ::: Patrick Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 09:55 AM:

I wonder how many good songs are ignored because people cannot stand the singer.

For example, "oops, I did it again" is a reasonably good song, when not done by Britney Spears. Richard Thompson did a cover of it for his "One Thousand Years of Popular Music" CD which was excellent.

#94 ::: Patrick Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 10:04 AM:

Greg London: I've not seen V as a movie yet, but I felt a lot off kilter for a day or so after reading the graphic novel. I attributed it to letting my brain process it all.

I need to see this movie...soon.

#95 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 10:46 AM:

Ooo! Has anyone here seen any more information about Gedo Senki, as noted on the Hayao Miyazaki website (via). Also there's an translated interview and other related stuff, mostly still in Japanese, at a fan site This version was mentioned briefly in comments here back in January as 'rumoured'. With luck it may eventually arrive in Australia.

Hmm. I'm reminded by some nearby comments there that I never got my timelines and other info sorted out into a comment to point out that Pre-Cambrian English would very much precede any dinosaurs or even crabs, and was unlikely to have included "RAAAAAAAAWWWR!!! (hiss)" due to its submarine nature and the style of organisms present.

#96 ::: Jim Henry ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 01:09 PM:

I'm working on a story in which one of the main characters is an EMT or paramedic. I've got some questions about emergency medical procedure; I've been able to find out some of what I need to know from the online sources I've checked (starting with Wikipedia articles on Paramedic and Emergency Medical Services), but not all.

What kind and amount of education and training do EMTs and paramedics get relative to other medical professionals? The preliminary web searches I've done suggest that courses in various places can be anywhere from 8 months to 2 years for a full paramedic, 1 month to 8 months for EMT-Basic; and not surprisingly they generally include internships. What do EMTs and paramedics typically earn relative to other medical professions?

Do emergency response workers typically work 8 or 12 hour shifts? I imagine this varies from one place to another and if I set this in a specific real city I'll need to do local research; but if I'm making up a setting, what is most typical?

What is the procedure to be followed when an accident victim dies in an ambulance en route to the hospital? Google searches on phrases like "dies en route" and "dies on the way" + hospital don't turn up anything definitive. Does this vary from one state or locality to another?

If an EMT or paramedic passes out for a couple of minutes (near the end of a long, busy shift), but their vital signs are pretty normal (except maybe slightly low blood sugar) and an E.R. physician can't find anything obviously wrong with them, are they likely to get a referral to one or more specialists? (An endochronologist? A neurologist?) Would they be given medical leave for a few days until they can be examined by a specialist? I suspect they would be told not to drive for several days, at a minimum.

How long does the eardrum typically require to heal after being neatly punctured? If the EMT were found to be deaf in one ear when examined, would that change the answer to the previous question?

And, finally:

What is the better past tense of "sleepwalk"? "Sleptwalked" or "sleepwalked"? Ghit counts suggest "sleepwalked" is more popular (50K+ Ghits), anyway, but my native speaker intuition wants to say "sleptwalked", which with 607 Ghits is maybe acceptable. (This is relative to 766K Ghits for the base form "sleepwalk", in which Google apparently includes inflected and derived forms like "sleepwalking".)

#97 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 01:51 PM:


I got certified as an EMT way back in another life. The training was something like one very long night a week for 6 months or so. Towards the end, we got to go out into a salvage yard and run the Jaws Of Life for a night, prying open cars. (it wouldn't be our usual job, the fire department generally does that, but it was cool.) I ended up leaving the state soon after getting certified because I was changing jobs (ah, I still think wistfully of the heady days of contract engineering. sigh.) Since I didn't go on any calls, I felt that reimbursing the squad that paid for my training was the right thing to do. I was planning on serving on a small-town rescue squad that was an all-volunteer force, so no one got paid any money. People would be "on call" for a day or half a day or something, and would do their normal thing but carry a pager. might get one call every couple of days, so with rotating volunteers, you wouldn't get interrupted too often, and could hold a full time job.

EMT's can't do intravenous stuff. Nothing with needles, except, maybe an epinepherine pen. You need a paramedic for IV's. My memory says that a lot fo the training was splints, spine boards, neck braces, and how to apply all of them to someone who is in a car, upside down, and you can't get the door open yet. But my memory has been wrong before.

speaking of equipment, the new defibrulators are being used by EMT's, they used to require a paramedic. And though the training required you to get someone's bloodpressure with a stethascope (at least, way back in the day they did), everyone in the field used the automatic cuffs, which were a lot nicer because they would work even if you were bouncing down a noisy highway.

I looked at getting on an squad in my current residence (major metropolitan city). But the pay was abysmal compared to being an engineer, they only hired people full time, didn't want part time volunteers, and they had something like a two year waitlist just to do the training and get certified, so I decided to pass.

Beyond that, anything I tell you would be stuff I read about rather than had any direct experience in. Hope that helps a bit.

#98 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 01:57 PM:

I saw V this weekend (twice), and I loved and loved it. I have one or two questions that might be answered by the comic, but other than that, I thought it was great - marred only by Natalie Portman's crummy approximation of an accent.

The only review I can really give is that if you like the kind of movies I like, you'll also enjoy it. My tastes run toward swashbuckling melodramatic epics (Gladiator, SW, Indiana Jones), bonnet movies (Pride & Prejudice) and of course, upper-middle-brow SF (Serenity, LOTR, V for Vendetta, Nightwatch). If a preview has one or more shots of Our Hero flying away from a ball of flame, I'll skip it. (the MI:3 trailer had no fewer than three of these shots.)

Yes, there are plot holes (that one Serge mentions with Stephen Fry), but I find V interesting because he's very much an almost-villain, rather than an anti-hero. While parts of him definitely fit into that charming anti-hero role, he does some things that are truly reprehensible (and I'm not even talking about the blowing historical buildings up).

I saw the film twice and felt differently about the characters each time I saw it. I suspect next time I see it, I'll change my mind again.

#99 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 02:00 PM:

"I can't imagine Guy Fawkes' day taking off in the US because of a single movie."

You say. Stop you till they rechristen it "Anti-Terrorist Day".

Jim Henry: ah, let me think: The Earworms From Mars, right?
Not being a paramedic myself yet, I can only recommend, the online diary of a London paramedic. But unexplained unconsciousness would be a bit worrying if bp and blood sugar were normal - depending on the other symptoms and length of unconsciousness, it might be a sign of epilepsy or something else neurological.

I would say "sleepwalked". You don't say "sleepingwalking" instead of "sleepwalking".

Incidentally, the definitive book on the forensic aspects of sleep is by Alexander McCall Smith, better known for the Precious Ramotswe detective stories. He has plenty to say on sleepwalking, including murders and other crimes committed while doing it, and the criminality thereof.

#100 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 02:17 PM:

The idea of an "endochronologist" is pretty swell, from a science-fictional standpoint -- someone who looks after your internal time. Would be applicable to time travelers and people who do a lot of relativistic spaceflight, though in the latter case the patient would probably outlive a whole series of doctors.

Re punctured tympanic membranes: the Merck notes that in cases where the eardrum is left to close on its own, if it hasn't done so within two months, it's time to consider surgical repair.

#101 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 02:22 PM:

he does some things that are truly reprehensible

(avoiding spoilers as best as possible)

So, I'm pretty sure I know which thing you thought were reprehensible. And I keep flipping between, yeah, reprehensible, to well, I'm not sure. If the recipient of an act doesn't consider the act reprehensible, then how exactly can I? If they consider the act to be actually a good thing, then how can I condemn it? Granted extreme risks were taken that could have turned out extremely badly and resulted in something clearly reprehensible, but this is fiction and it gets to turn out exactly the way the writers want it to turn out, so its a weird limbo for me: in the fictional world of the story, fine, good job. In teh real world it would be an unacceptable risk.

Then there's the "life-coach" part of me that just thinks, it was reprehensible, and that there are much better ways to achieve the same result without any of the risk, and it was just poorly written. But then there are Zen Koans that achieve enlightenment through what is essentially similar means only on a much smaller scale. So, what do I know....

I think that the movie was first and foremost intended to make you feel uncomfortable, because comfort leads to indifference and together they produce the sorts of governments that you see in the V for Vendetta world. (and in certain governments in the real world that shall remain nameless) This intent at discomfort seemed almost directly spoken in V's recorded monologue played over the TV, blaming the people of britain. And if a certain reprehensible act made the viewer feel that same discomfort, then it was pure genius in writing. Whether it was intended that way, I'm not sure...

#102 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 02:25 PM:

Serge: Ivanhoe is actually the only Walter Scott novel I've read. Unfortunately, I read it fifteen years ago, so my memories of it are minimal. I do remember that I found it a bit tedious, and that the anti-Semitism was disturbing -- Scott was clearly down on people who persecuted Jews, but Rebecca's father was, as I recall, a fairly blatant stereotype in the Shylock mold. Rowena was pretty much a non-entity: a virtuous, dull wallflower. Rebecca was also terribly virtuous, but more interesting; at the very least, she got to demonstrate some intelligence and a lot of courage. Elements of romance between Ivanhoe and Rebecca were either barely hinted at or pretty much nonexistent.

I've never seen the Robert Taylor version you mention, but I had previously seen a TV movie version (from 1982) with Anthony Andrews and Olivia Hussey (with, I think, Sam Neil and James Mason as well). As in your Robert Taylor version, Ivanhoe comes off as a bit of a fool for ending up with Rowena when Rebecca was far more interesting (the fact that I had a bit of a thing for Oliva Hussey had, of course, no bearing on this artistic judgment whatsoever). They did at least kiss in that version.

Having said that, I should mention that there was a superb miniseries done about nine years back, in which a combination of judicious rewriting and inspired casting (someone named Victoria Smurfit) remade Rowena into a feisty, spirited, living character, enough so that you could understand Ivanhoe being torn between her and Rebecca. Actually, all the casting was excellent: Ciaran Hinds as Brian de Bois-Guilbert, Christopher Lee as the Evil Templar (Lucas de Beaumanoir), even Sian Phillips (who played Livia in I, Claudius) in a wonderful cameo as Eleanor of Acquitaine. The length also allowed most or all of Scott's various subplots to unfold and several secondary characters (particularly Prince John) to become interesting. Highly recommended.

#103 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 03:04 PM:

Greg -

I do believe we're referring to the same thing here. I'm pretty sure the screenwriter/director intended to make that aspect uncomfortable. Beyond character motivations which when analysed, make complete sense - but explain rather than fully justify - I think the question is meant to be a variation on "do the ends justify the means?" both in reference to this individual reprehensible act, and also every other act in the film.

While the overall "message" of the film can be summed up as the rather simplistic and cliche "facism is bad", it's the little acts (the dominoes) that I'm going to be turning over in my mind for the rest of the week.

Addressing two previous comments - yes, they have made the Guy Fawkes connection rather explicit, specifically for the American audience I wager, and disappointingly, they've excised the Vicious Cabaret.

Also annoyed that the LA Times has reported that the film is #1, on accounta all those precious Male viewers who have now Saved The Cinema by deigning to buy a ticket. According to the article, 60% of the audience was male, which is less than an overwhelming majority if you ask me, though I'm no expert in statistics. Never mind that my friend (also a female) and I saw the movie twice in the theatre. Maybe we're just male and don't know it.

#104 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 03:22 PM:

My wife and I saw V together. (it was my turn to pick.) I didn't think she'd like it at all (then again, I wasn't sure I'd like it either.) In the end, she said she loved it. I am guessing that Evey's character helped her get into the movie. I also think that Valerie's Letter and her story was key to appealing to women viewers.

#105 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 04:13 PM:

What I'd call a reprehensible act on the part of V is how, after blowing up London's Old Bailey, he takes over the control room of a TV station to broadcast his revolutionary message then, to facilitate his own escape, forces some poor front-desk guy to go out wearing his mask and costume, with the predictable result that the cops shoot the old man to death. Yes, sure, V is fighting against an oppressive society and so must resort to desperate measures. That's when I ask "Says who?" People who aren't going to join the omelette against their will, that's who.

(By the way, was anybody else amused by John Hurt playing the evil Chancellor after playing the main character of 1984?)

I still think that Stephen Fry's character is the best and saddest in the whole bunch.

#106 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 04:22 PM:

Having read the novelization but not the graphic novel - what V is doing is getting even with the people who made him what he is. Nice, no; he does whatever he wants to get the results he wants. (There was a throwaway line in the book, in the doctor's journal from Larkhill, about V's eyes. It makes things more interesting if it's kept in mind.)

#107 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 04:22 PM:

Wasn't the tv guy in the comic working in a government propaganda studio?

#108 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 04:22 PM:

Peter Erwin... Thanks for the stuff about Ivanhoe. I did see those other two mini-series adaptations your mentionned, but I wasn't sure anybody else remembered them. Sian Phillips was great as Eleanor of Aquitaine, but she's great in everything she does, even in something as small as George Smiley's wife in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. And it did finally give Rowena some personality. Unfortunately Steve Waddington as Ivanhoe was something of a bore. I think I prefer the 1982 adaptation although Anthony Edwards as Ivanhoe is rather icky. And it seems like his character spends half the darn story lying on his back as he recovers from the first joust's wounds. But this version indeed had Sam Neill as Brian de Bois-Guilbert, and Neill almost manages to make you feel sorry for the obsessive bastard. And James Mason was absolutely great as Isaac of York,

#109 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 04:25 PM:

Yes, bryan, the old man was working for the propaganda bureau, but he was shown being kind to Evey, and he was trying to survive in a world not of his own choosing. That didn't make him deserving of dying like that.

#110 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 04:39 PM:

forces some poor front-desk guy to go out wearing his mask and costume, with the predictable result that the cops shoot the old man to death

Wasn't the tv guy in the comic working in a government propaganda studio?

he was shown being kind to Evey, and he was trying to survive in a world not of his own choosing. That didn't make him deserving of dying like that.

I think V's prerecorded message to the masses says that he blames the people in part for going along and getting swept up in the hysteria. Which sounded to me like V wouldn't buy the shtick that the old man was "in a world not of his choosing". Which means V is consistent in his thinking.

And I'd have to say there's a difference between working for the government in their propaganda office and not opposing the government while you work in a factory or something.

"The poor shlep was just following orders" style excuse sort of falls flat.

#111 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 04:42 PM:

V was indeed consistent in his thinking, Greg. As for the old man who was just following orders... I'm NOT going there.

#112 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 05:07 PM:

Hmmm... While Greg and I might be in agreement, Serge and I are not thinking of the same Reprehensible Act, so I am going to have to resort to ROT13:

Gung jr ner gnyxvat nobhg gjb ragveryl frcrengr Ercerurafvoyr Npgf fhccbegf zl gurbel gung I vf yrff n gbegherq nagv-ureb guna n flzcngurgvp Ivyynva. Vg'f zl bcvavba gung ur zrnag sbe rirelbar va gur znfxf gb rzretr ng gur fnzr gvzr, naq gurersber nibvq univat whfg gur bar bs gurz fubg. Vg vf, ubjrire, cerggl nzovthbhf. Gur obzo irfg ur jrnef gb tnva npprff gb gur argjbex vf nabgure ovg bs nzovthvgl - V pna'g gryy vs vg jnf npghnyyl n obzo, be whfg n pyrire pbhagresrvg, fvapr uvf oybjvat uvzfrys nybat jvgu gur GI fgngvba xvaq bs qrsrngf uvf checbfr bs trggvat gur jbeq bhg - gung V guvax V zvtug cersre abg gb xabj sbe fher. Gur ovg bs rkcynangvba - juvpu V'z abg fnlvat whfgvsvrf nal bs I'f npgvbaf - vf urneq va gur fprar jura ur gevrf gb znxr rkphfrf gb Rirl: "Gurl gerngrq zr zbafgebhfyl!" gb juvpu fur ercyvrf dhvgr znggre-bs-snpgyl "Naq gurl znqr lbh n zbafgre." Naq urer V unir gb tvir cebcf gb Angnyvr Cbegzna'f qryvirel, juvpu xrcg gur erfcbafr sebz orvat n syvc erwbvaqre, naq zber n fvzcyr fgngrzrag bs snpg.

Zl qrfvtangrq Ercerurafvoyr Npg vf gur bar n yvggyr yngre - I'f flfgrzngvp oenvajnfuvat naq gbegher bs Rirl, naq ure riraghny tengvghqr sbe vg. V guvax gung'f npghnyyl gur pehk bs gur zbivr - lrf, fur unf rzretrq n fgebatre crefba naq ol ure bja nqzvffvba, fur nyjnlf jnagrq gb or srneyrff. Ohg ng jung pbfg? Va uvf qrsrafr, I qbrfa'g erzrzore nalguvat gung unccrarq gb uvz orsber uvf bja gbegher; vg'f gur bayl jnl ur xabjf ubj gb tvir ure jung fur jnagf. Gung qbrfa'g znxr vg evtug. Ohg gurer vf fbzr gval fbzrguvat va gur svyz juvpu xrrcf Rirl'f pbagvahrq qribgvba gb I sebz orvat abguvat ohg Fgbpxubyz Flaqebzr - whfg nf gurer vf fbzr bgure yvggyr jungabg gung xrrcf gurve fprar va gur Ghor ghaary jurer ur yrnirf ure sebz orvat gur ynfg fprar bs Pnfnoynapn.

Lrf, vg vf hapbzsbegnoyr, ohg gung'f jung xrrcf zr guvaxvat nobhg vg nyy qnl.

Oh, and may I just say that V just might be living in my dream home? While I would prefer maybe some southern-facing windows in there, his taste in art is just about my speed. Not to mention I fear his book-infested bedroom is what mine is ultimately destined to be.

#113 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 06:11 PM:

Whoa... When 'you' posted this, nerdycellist, were you temporarily possessed by Mr. Mxpltz, Superman's impish tormentor from the 5th dimension?

#114 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 06:18 PM:

In addition to the songs Lucy K. mentions, Travis also wrote "Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)," "Reenlistment Blues," "No Vacancy," "Cannonball Rag," and "Too Much Sugar For A Dime."

He was also a brilliant and innovative guitarist; Chet Atkins was an early disciple, and in fact originally came to prominence as "RCA's Merle Travis." Doc Watson named his son "Merle" as a tribute.

He's not as well-known as he should be.

#115 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 06:37 PM:


OK, there's no way to avoid spoilers at this point, so I'll have to encode to rot13 too.

V unq gjb ceboyrzf jvgu I'f gbegher bs Rirl. Svefg, V pbhyqa'g gryy ubj ybat ur unq orra qbvat vg, naq vs vg unq orra fubeg rabhtu bs n qhengvba, gura V pna yrg vg fyvqr. Gb fbzr yriry, V svther gur frperg cbyvpr jbhyq unir pncgherq ure riraghnyyl, (V jbaqre vs gurl jbhyq unir pncgherq ure ng ure oblsevraqf ubhfr vs vg unqa'g orra sbe I, bs vs fur jbhyq unir tbggra njnl ba ure bja. ohg gura, jbhyq fur unir orra noyr gb fgnl "hapnhtug") naq jung ur qvq punatrq ure fb gung fur jbhyqa'g rira or erpbtavmrq ol ure pbjbexre.

Gur bayl jnl V pna oryvrir Rirl'f nccerpvngvba bs jung ur qvq jbhyq or vs vg jrer fubeg rabhtu crevbq bs gvzr. Naq V unir ab frafr bs ubj ybat fur jnf va gurer bgure guna vg jnf ng yrnfg frireny qnlf, onfrq ba gur ahzore bs zrnyf, ahzore bs gbegher frffvbaf, rgp.

frpbaqyl, naq zber bqqyl, juvyr jngpuvat Rirl orvat gbegherq, V gubhtug vg znqr gbegher erny sbe gur nhqvrapr, naq fubjrq engure guna gbyq gur ivrjref whfg ubj rivy gur fgngr gung I jnf gelvat gb bireguebj jnf. Jura vg ghearq bhg gur gbegher unq orra qbar ol I, vg eboorq gung natre ntnvafg gur fgngr naq qverpgrq vg ng I. Guvf vf zber sebz n jevgvat cbvag bs ivrj, engure guna sebz n "I vf ercerurafvoyr" be "I jnf abg ercerurafvoyr" cbvag bs ivrj. N ybg bs rzbgvbany raretl qverpgrq ng gur fgngr jnf fhqqrayl erqverpgrq gbjneqf I, naq vg jnf bayl orpnhfr bs fbzr jryy jevggra qvnybthr naq npgvat va gur pbairefngvba orgjrra I naq Rirl evtug nsgre fur pnzr bhg naq ernyvmrq vg jnf I gung gur jubyr guvat qvqa'g vzcybqr ba vgfrys. Gur natre jnf qvshfrq njnl sebz I gb fbrz rkgrag, ohg gur natre gbjneqf gur fgngr trarengrq ol fubjvat ubj rivy vg jnf, jnf ybfg orpnhfr vg jnfa'g npghnyyl gur fgngr. Nf ivrjref, jr gura unir gb erireg zber gb orvat --gbyq-- gung gur fgngr vf rivy.

#116 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 06:49 PM:

Patrick Farley has an interesting analysis of "V for Vedetta" here:

I'm still undecided about going myself. Lots of really good reviews, lots of tepid and even bad reviews.

#117 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 08:19 PM:

Greg, automatic blood pressure machines almost never work on me. It annoys some of the Kaiser aides a lot. Once when I was at Urgent Care, the RN in charge moved me to the bottom of the list to be seen because I insisted on a stethoscope BP measure (the machines tend to leave giant bruises on my upper arms and if they're going to do that and not work, I don't see any reason to even try them, just in case).

#118 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 08:30 PM:

Serge writes: "What I'd call a reprehensible act on the part of V is how, after blowing up London's Old Bailey, he takes over the control room of a TV station to broadcast his revolutionary message then, to facilitate his own escape, forces some poor front-desk guy to go out wearing his mask and costume, with the predictable result that the cops shoot the old man to death."

In the film, the old guy appeared to survive. Or at least he was still alive after the shooting.

Further, V didn't single the old man out - he put V costumes on *everyone* there. The guard was just the first one the police saw.

#119 ::: jon H ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 08:31 PM:

nerdycellist writes: "and I'm not even talking about the blowing historical buildings up"

Bah, the Parliament building isn't actually very old. 19th century, I believe.

#120 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 08:33 PM:

Lots of really good reviews, lots of tepid and even bad reviews.

Putting this as mildly as I can, how does this make the picture different from any other? David Denby went on for three pages about how much he disliked it (with a sneer about "comic-book" creators being responsible for the material), but I long ago ceased to care what Denby said about anything. (He's still better than Stanley Kauffman, who usually reports events that occurred nowhere in the film I saw.*) In the same magazine, I can pretty much always determine from an Anthony Lane review what actually goes on in the picture (or book), and make decisions accordingly.

Reviews -- of anything -- are most useful if one knows what that reviewer likes and dislikes relative to one's own tastes. The tone of the review itself only points a direction, and one may choose to follow that or head directly opposite.

#121 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 08:51 PM:

in re: sump pumps - they're pretty common here in Seattle, too... particularly if you're built on a hillside.

As for V, Steven Barnes has posted some thought-provoking commentary on the racial implications of the film...

#122 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 10:25 PM:

Jon H - not only am I American, but I am also a Californian; here it's considered a tragedy when an historic hot dog stand is demolished.

So as far as I'm concerned, Parliament is Old.

Greg, in response to gur gbegher vffhr va gur svyz does intention play into your perception at all? Honestly, I don't think there's a right or wrong answer to this conundrum; please no one think that my views toward this movie, this character and this issue are at all transferrable to certain similar issues in Real Life.

ohg gur snpg gung I jnf hfvat gur bayl gbbyf ur xarj ubj gb rssrpg n punatr va Rirl znxrf uvf gerngzrag bs ure n gval ovg orggre guna gur npgvbaf bs n fgngr zbgvingrq bayl ol cbyvgvpny cbjre-tenoovat. Uvf erzbefr vf nabgure fznyy tyvzzre bs uhznavgl va.

V qba'g guvax guvf znxrf uvz n Tbbq crefba, ohg sbe zr, vg qvssreragvngrf uvf npgvbaf sebz gur fgngr.

It's also what keeps him from being a dashing anti-hero, makes the character ambiguous and interesting, and makes me seriously disturbed that I have a crush on him. ;)

#123 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 11:10 PM:

Answering a question from further up the thread:
Aside from this one, what are the best SF blogs?

Thanks, Wesley!

Anyone else who wants to chime in please do...

#124 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 11:11 PM:

Rats. Where DID I put that ROT-13 decoder?

#125 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2006, 11:16 PM:

nerdycellist - Here in Seattle, we wish we had buildings as old as the typical California hot dog stand. The oldest buidlings here are newer than the house I grew up in in Brooklyn.

And it sounds like I'm going to have to go see V this weekend, if only so I can un-rot13 all of the comments above.

It'll give me a chance to test out my newly lasered eyeballs. Now that's an application of technology no one really anticipated, and not a bad trade off for the absent flying cars. I'm still wating for my shiny silver jumpsuit, though.

#126 ::: Jim Henry ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 12:30 AM:

Greg London, ajay, John M. Ford: Thanks for the comments.

ajay: Yes, that's about right. I think I have a moderately interesting twist on it, and some backstory that will make the basic idea a bit less implausible than in some other incarnations. Anyway I'm fairly happy with the the draft so far -- but it was written in a spiral-bound notebook when I had no access to the Internet or library, based on guesses and tentative assumptions about how paramedics work, and I figured I should do most of the needed research before I start typing/rewriting, so I can (as far as possible) correct the errors in the draft, and adjust the plot as necessary, all at once.

The endochronologist is another story for another time. I figure he is a maverick who prefers some experimental treatment method to the thiotimoline-based drugs his colleagues tend to prescribe.

#127 ::: Jim Henry ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 12:36 AM:

It's been a long time since I read Ivanhoe. I have a vague recollection that it wasn't as good as Quentin Durward, which I read a good deal later; but on the other hand I remember being pleasantly surprised at how much I did enjoy it -- it was probably the oldest book I had ever read, outside the Bible, when I first read it at about age 12. I remember the minor characters were more interesting to me than Ivanhoe or Rebecca.

#128 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 12:47 AM:

Xopher: There's a Mac OS 10 widget called "ROT 13 [de/encoder]"available at

#129 ::: Steve ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 01:11 AM:

Xopher, perhaps you left it here?

#130 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 01:39 AM:

One simple enough to remember:

#131 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 02:11 AM:

Reviews -- of anything -- are most useful if one knows what that reviewer likes and dislikes relative to one's own tastes. The tone of the review itself only points a direction, and one may choose to follow that or head directly opposite.

Actually it's for this reason that I like Roger Ebert's reviews so much. I can pretty much always tell whether I'm going to like the movie from his reviews, however good or bad he concludes it is, because he gives a proper account and explains his reasoning. The same with Anthony Lane, I think, although I may just be getting seduced by his writing.

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who dislikes David Denby, though. (Even if I think Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian is worse.) On the other hand, if I didn't already agree with John M. Ford I would be very tempted to pretend that I did.

[flashes back 15 years]

Hey, Mike! The Yellow Clearance Black Box Blues was fantastic!

#132 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 02:18 AM:

Further to sump pumps: does this mean people are building in places where it wasn't realistic before such luxuries?

Or are they just expecting dry basements where earlier centuries used them as a sump to stop water flooding into inhabited areas, or priming rising damp? I've heard this was one of the original functions of castle dungeons.

I wonder what will happen if/when fuel gets to luxury prices? Perhaps they'll get linked to 'alternative energy' supplies.

#133 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 07:01 AM:

Paula wrote:Our current house is a 1912 job, we don't keep anything vital directly on the floor in the basement because we have a couple of trickles that always come in when it rains hard. BUT we don't have a sump because the general neighborhood water level is below our foundation. Plus the storm sewers here are at about 19 foot down.

There are solutions to such trickles; my neighbor had a new drain tile - sump system put in. It is a somewhat expensive and mildly uncomfortable experience. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of doing so; in fact I shall resort to bold and italics,
please have a sump/draintile system installed (or other waterproofing of your choice.)

The reason: mortar and concrete have a much much lower compressive strength when damp. (and water has a habit of carrying away lime and other chemical binders in mortar and concrete.) Ponder all the possible values of "lower compressive strength" in the context of "since 1912", and you'll get my drift.

One method for drying out a basement is to install draintile underneath the foundation and perimeter next to the foundation wall on the inside; the path of least resistance for the water becomes around and underneath the foundations instead of through.


#134 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 07:03 AM:

Jim Barnes: sounds interesting. You might also want to take a look at Carl Zimmer's book "Parasite Rex" (and his weblog at for a bit more gen on parasites and how they affect host behaviour - if you haven't already.

(Especially creepy fact: ichneumon wasps lay eggs inside paralysed hosts; in order to prevent the host's immune system attacking the egg, they also inject a dose of an HIV-like retrovirus, which normally lives asymptomatically in the wasp's ovaries. It knocks out the host's immune system. So, maybe HIV is also the product of Something which is parasitising humans...)

Steven Barnes is black? I didn't know that. Funny; because after reading that article about how the black guys never get any luck in fiction, I thought of the only book of his that I've ever read, "The Legacy of Heorot". That has exactly one black character in it, and - surprise! - he doesn't make it very far either...

#135 ::: JennR ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 07:11 AM:

Mez: It's possible, but I think that it's mostly a change in expectations. Sump pumps made finished basements possible, at least in the Midwest. Used to be you'd dig a shallower foundation (but still past the frost line), and expect it to be damp to wet, and not use the floor for storage or finish the basement at all -- bare rock foundation walls and dirt+rock basement floors (aka Michigan basement). In areas with lower population density, build where the water table is lower, and you'd only have to worry about surface water. You'd have drain tiles around the foundation and a dry well for the water to run to, and that would keep the rain/melt water out of the crawlspace.

#136 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 09:06 AM:

Sump Pumps -- the thing non-North American readers need to bear in mind in all this is that the houses everyone is talking about are made of wood. That's why they have these problems and need these pumps. Weird as it seems, even modern houses are usually made of wood. (This is a continent in which the story of the Three Little Pigs somehow never stuck.)

#137 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 09:32 AM:

I must admit I find that disturbing, coming from a country where "a building made of wood" would imply "a garden shed, or possibly a dog kennel". Is this just a tradition thing, or what?

(Personally I find even brick unsettlingly flimsy. I like my houses built out of piled stones, as we've done since the ice retreated.)

#138 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 09:47 AM:

Back when England was just a couple hundred years old, they had a lot of wooden houses too. Same with France.

Wait for a thousand years of fires.

#139 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 09:49 AM:

Patrick Farley has an interesting analysis of "V for Vedetta" here:

Ah, that's it. V isn't hero or villian, he's a trickster character. duuhhh.

#140 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 09:53 AM:

Wood is a composite, from a materials science technical perspective. Even unmodified hardwood acts like a composite on a small scale, I'm not talking about the mix of wood and glue that's called "composite board." That can make wood stronger than ceramic in tension. So a reasonably well-constructed wooden building won't fall down in a minor earthquake. It also tends to be better at not falling down in high winds.

If you want to build a *tall* building, it's more efficient to use concrete reinforced with steel. The weight of the upper stories put a lot of compressive load on the lower part of the building. Stone or brick would be at risk of cracking when anything pushed the building sideways. But of course you can also use huge quantities of ceramic and pray nothing will load it in shear. North American architecture is aware of huge forests, windy plains, and quite a lot of places where sensible people build in expectation of minor earthquakes. (And very few big bad wolves.)

#141 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 10:05 AM:

For the moment, I have decided that the movie was worth the full-evening price. I have to disagree with most of the rest of Patrick Farley's review. Once I realized that V was a Trickster character, someone who achieves their goals through Chaos, it all makes perfect sense.

to nerdycellist: er: gur gbegher vffhr va gur svyz: qbrf vagragvba cynl vagb lbhe creprcgvba ng nyy?

Lrf. Vg qbrf. Vg'f pyrne gung I hfrq gur bayl gbbyf gung ur xarj, juvpu jnf gbegher. Nf n yvsr-pbnpu, V'ir jbexrq jvgu crbcyr jub fgnegrq bhg yvxr Rirl fgnegrq bhg, nsenvq bs nyzbfg rirelguvat, naq raqrq hc gur jnl Rirl raqrq hc, pbhentbhf. Ohg, naq guvf znl fbhaq n ovg jrveq, V qba'g guvax gur zbivr vf ernyyl fubjvat I'f yvzvgngvbaf, V guvax gur zbivr vf fubjvat gur jevgre'f yvzvgngvbaf. V qba'g guvax gur jevgre xarj nal bgure jnl gb trg gur fnzr erfhyg.

Uvf erzbefr qvq nyfb uryc. Nyfb, bapr Rirl sbhaq bhg jung unq ernyyl unccrarq, fur nyzbfg ybfg rirel orarsvg fur unq tnvarq, naq I jnf noyr gb oevat ure onpx gb ure arj sbhaq pbhentr.

V'ir qrpvqrq gung I vf n Gevpxfgre punenpgre. Naq Gevpxfgref qba'g npuvrir gurve tbnyf guebhtu tbbq be rivy fb zhpu nf gurl npuvrir vg guebhtu punbf. Va gung yvtug, I'f npgvbaf znxr cresrpg frafr nf n yvgrenel punenpgre.

Ntnva, va gur erny jbeyq, vg'f gbb evfxl, ohg va svpgvba, vg jbexf. Abj, gur bar naq bayl bgure ceboyrz V unir vf gur arkg yriry bs nofgenpgvba gung unf gbegher orvat fubjrq orvat hfrq sbe "tbbq" erfhygf. Nf n punenpgre va n fgbel, vg svgf. Ohg bire gur ynfg srj lrnef, V'ir orra abgvpvat ubj zhpu svpgvba fubjf gbegher naq gbegher-yvxr fprarf va n "tbbq" yvtug, naq V jbaqre whfg ubj zhpu bs gung ehof bss ba gur nhqvrapr. Ohg yvxr V fnvq, gung'f nabgure yriry bs nofgenpgvba.

V guvax I pbhyq unir qbar jung ur qvq, npuvrirq gur erfhygf ur npuvrirq, naq creuncf fbzrubj unir vg cerfragrq zber pyrneyl nf "I vf zrffrq hc. guvf vf nyy ur xabjf." Juvpu jbhyq vzcevag gur nhqvrapr jvgu gur zrffntr "qba'g gel guvf ng ubzr".

#142 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 10:10 AM:

I've traveled to Denver several times for business and pleasure, and am intrigued by the high percentage of brick buildings found there. Are Rocky Mountain conifers unsuitable for structural lumber and cladding? Or were bricks a means to control fire damage back when fire departments were slow to respond and in-building suppression nonexistent? Or was there something else behind the pref for brick?

#143 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 10:10 AM:

that I like Roger Ebert's reviews so much.

Hear, hear. I pretty much check Ebert's review to properly set my expectations before going to a movie. I don't mind seeing a C movie if I am expecting a C movie. I was planning on skipping "V" and wait till it came out on rental, but Ebert gave it a "B", and having now seen the movie, I'd say he's about right.

#144 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 10:13 AM:

Weren't the houses of parliament so seriously damaged that they were effectively completely rebuilt after WWII and the Blitz?

They're not particularly old; just replicas of buildings that were.

#145 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 10:21 AM:

It's interesting to watch Turner Classic Movies, especially when we compare yesterday's mores to today's and we see what was considered important or unimportant back then. I find the adjustment fairly easy to make. Usually. Then, on March 5, I came across the following Elizabeth Taylor in their monthly guide...

RHAPSODY (1954): a wealthy socialite is torn between the classical violonist who excites her and the pianist who needs her.

It makes me feel old to see what movie subjects were around the year before I was born, and that the only way this plot would work today would be as a comedy, possibly with Ben Stiller.

#146 ::: Niall McAUley ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 10:33 AM:

Wooden houses are increasingly common in the UK and Ireland. At the bottom end there are mass-produced wood-frame houses, and at the top end the imported-from-Scandinavia jobs.

#147 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 10:37 AM:


I don't have any particular knowledge of Denver, but my guess would be that the local building code is (or was) primarily concerned with structural fire protection, and not thinking about earthquake or windstorm. Building codes can be an incredible mishmash of conflicting local authorities.

There are a great many non-structural ways of protecting a city from fire. Firefighting, as you mentioned, is a good one (but fragile -- it only takes one bad day to make them seem useless.) There are also code requirements like smoke detectors and sprinklers, and less combustible insulation. Public education about things like smoking in bed are also fairly effective.

Yet it's hard for a local city council to agree to REMOVE a fire safety precaution their grandparents wrote into the building code. Even if they would never include such a precaution in a building code they were writing from scratch. They're afraid somebody is going to come to a council meeting and ask why they want the city to be less safe from fire? Are they in the pocket of big business? Um, well, they leave the old parts of the code alone, and only pile on new bits.

#148 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 10:52 AM:

Before about 1930 there are more brick buildings. In California, that's the point (actually about 1933) where they begin disappearing. There was this earthquake ...
Brick is mostly used as a facing or as pavement here; structurally, it has to be reinforced, and it's much easier (probably also cheaper) to use concrete (aka cinder) blocks. Wood actually has enough flex in it that wood-framed buildings generally survive shaking without too much damage (except for soft stories and buildings with inadequate shear walls). You see a lot of brick (and tilt-up concrete slab) buildings with 'Frankenstein bolts' from seismic-safety retrofits.

#149 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 11:12 AM:

Adrian and PJ, thanks for the observations. Most of the brick buildings I've seen in Denver seem to have been constructed prior to WW2. I would've thought, however, that stick-built homes would've been less expensive to construct than homes of brick, given Denver's proximity to the forests of the Rockies.

As a Californian, I very much appreciate the flexibility of wood when the ground begins to shake.

#150 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 11:24 AM:

The April issue of National Geographic has a long article on earthquakes (in honor of S.F.'s centennial of The Big One, natch) with a lot of interesting info on good and bad building practices in quake zones. There's also a creepy piece on Chernobyl and a wondrously ghoulish thing on dragonfly and damsonfly sex, so it's an interesting mag this time.

#151 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 11:40 AM:

Mez: No, not really - our house was built in 1914, for instance. Sumps become a lot more necessary once you want to reclaim your basement as living or work space. And if you're doing an earthquake retrofit to your house (for a timber-frame house, this mostly consists of bolting the frame to the foundation so that it doesn't slide off - as someone else above mentioned, the frames themselves are quite resiliant), you might as well add a drainage channel & sump pump if you don't have one already.

Our pump goes off probably every couple of hours during the rainiest months. Otherwise, whatever water there is can usually drain out of the sump itself...

Seattle has a fair amount of brick as well as timber-frame homes. The brick homes were built around the turn of the century and in the 20s & 30s - the timber frame homes date from the early 1900s to about the 1920s. Post-WW2 construction is a mix of brick, slab concrete & timber buildings. Wood is the preferred framing material for contemporary single-family homes, though composites may be used for siding & roofing.

One fire-related irony: Seattle also had its own 'Great Fire' in 1889 that devastated the downtown/business district. Many of the timber-frame Arts & Crafts bungalow homes in our neighborhood (built about 20-30 years later) use the fire-distorted "clinker bricks" as decorative elements - the heat was so intense that it changed the color of the bricks, warped them, and actually in some cases caused them to glaze.

#153 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 12:48 PM:

Greg: Maroon beret == paratrooper. Combining Class A's with jump boots is tolerated for Airborne/Special Forces/etc. - you'll also see color guards like this. I've also seen an Armor officer wearing tanker boots w/ his Class A's - but only once.

You'll also sometimes see Armored Cav & Cav troopers wearing Civil War Federal Cavalry-style brimmed hats and leather belts over their BDUs. IIRC, neither combo is officially sanctioned, but both are tolerated to a certain degree, particularly on post (and even more so on posts where that's the dominant unit culture...).

#154 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 01:21 PM:

Civil War Federal Cavalry-style brimmed hat?

Ya mean the ol' I love the smell of napalm in the morning hat?


#155 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 02:01 PM:

Yup, that's the one... FWIW, the guys I met who wore them did so for the historic associations more than anything else - though I was dealing with treadheads @ Ft. Knox (home of the US Armor schools) and not Air Cav. Can't speak to their motivations...

#156 ::: Jim Henry ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 02:28 PM:

In Hal Clement's Through the Eye of a Needle (sequel to Needle), the human host's immune system and some other systems gradually break down and his symbiont has to take over more and more of the work his body is supposed to do, until it gets to the point the host will die quickly if the symbiont ever leaves.

I wonder, if a parasite/symbiont deliberately knocks out a host's immune system to protect itself from getting rejected, but then puts in place another immune system of its own that's as effective or more so -- how likely is it to be detected? Maybe the host might be temporarily more subject to various infections immediately after the symbiont/parasite implants itself, but will recover surprisingly quickly once the symbiont's replacement immune system kicks in.

#157 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 04:23 PM:

Thanks, everyone. I meant this one:

#158 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 04:51 PM:

I saw V for Vendetta last night.

V gubhtug gurl znqr gur shpxrq-hcarff bs I cerggl pyrne, npghnyyl. Ur jnf pregnvayl ryrtnag, ohg ur jnfa'g, ol nal fgergpu bs gur vzntvangvba, n fnar zna. Jub jnf vg jub fnvq gung nyy cebterff vf gur jbex bs haernfbanoyr crbcyr? V perqvg gur zbivr jvgu guvf: vg znqr oybjvat hc Cneyvnzrag (rira - jnuu! - Ovt Ora) frrz yvxr n ernfbanoyr guvat gb qb, tvira gur pvephzfgnaprf.

V guvax Rirl jnf whfg rknpgyl npphengr jura fur fnvq gurl'q znqr uvz vagb n zbafgre. Gurl qvq; ur jnf. Ohg ur jnf gur zbafgre bs gurve bja xnezn. Naq ur pbhyqa'g yvir naq qvqa'g jnag gb bapr ur svavfurq uvf gnfx.

V jbhyq fnl gung vs pvephzfgnaprf ner rkgerzr rabhtu, oybjvat guvatf hc orpbzrf n ernfbanoyr erfcbafr, ps gur Serapu Erfvfgnapr. Ur xvyyrq vaabprag pvivyvnaf ohg qvqa'g gnetrg gurz. Naq V guvax vg'f rkgerzryl hayvxryl nalbar jnf va gur Cneyvnzrag ohvyqvat jura vg jrag hc (gubhtu bs pbhefr gur fnzr pbhyq abg or fnvq bs gur Byq Onvyrl).

I'll buy my V mask, hair, and cape before Halloween, but what I'd really like to do is have a whole lot of people wearing them converge on the nearest public approach to the White House on the evening of November 5. Conveniently, that's a Saturday, and it's two days before the election!

#159 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 05:42 PM:

converge on the nearest public approach to the White House on the evening of November 5


#160 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 05:56 PM:

I'm de-ROT13-ing a non-spoilery bit of your comment, Xopher:

"I thought they made the fucked-upness of V pretty clear, actually. He was certainly elegant, but he wasn't, by any stretch of the imagination, a sane man. Who was it who said that all progress is the work of unreasonable people?"

You're right - his complete loonines is pretty clear. I suppose all of my analysis may be an attempt for me to assuage my guilt at finding the character at times so damn attractive - not neccesarily in the physical sense, but in an overall logic-and-personality way. And while I am certain the creators of the film intended for V to be compelling, I'm still disturbed that I am personally compelled.

But then I saw this film with a friend whose favorite SW character was always Darth Vader, and as a kid she was deeply upset at Vader's redemption at the end of ROTJ. (the less said about the prequels, the better) She is rather unapologetic about liking V, and finds him much more of an anti-hero than a sympathetic villain. I believe we may have found common ground with the Trickster identity.

I was thinking the same thing about the mass of Guys descending upon the White House, but given the lack of coverage of the giant protest marches this weekend (the LA one snarled up my neighborhood in Hollywood ten times worse than the Oscars - and was represented in the LA Times by one small pic of a person with a no-bombs pictogram painted on hir face) and people being arrested for wearing T-shirts (albeit politically charged ones) to SOTU addresses, I suspect it won't have the desired outcome. Shame, really.

#161 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 06:05 PM:

Well, that's no excuse for not TRYING.

Plus: one of the great things about mass actions is, if you're all doing exactly the same thing it's damned hard to arrest all of you. Especially if no one will believe them when they say it was you, and none of the other nearby and identically-masked people, who did whatever their pretense for arresting you was.

#162 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 06:16 PM:

The Oregonian yesterday published a letter from a delusional sock puppet declaring that the anti-war movement was dead because only 10,000 people showed up for Portland's rally, and only 200 in NY. He went on to suggest that this meant we were all behind the president COUGH! 33% approval rating COUGH!

I hadn't even heard that L.A. had a rally.

Maybe wearing masks *should* be the next step. That would be #$^T@#%$ hard to ignore.

#163 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 06:32 PM:

he wasn't, by any stretch of the imagination, a sane man.

Jryy, gur ceboyrz orpbzrf gung va gur jbeyq gung I jnf va, gur "fnar" crbcyr jrer rvgure gur ceboyrz (gur punaprybe naq pebavrf) be jrer npdhvrfpvat gb gur ceboyrz (gur choyvp). Va juvpu pnfr, gur erfhyg bs "fnar" zra jbhyq or gb qb abguvat. Fb, V guvax gung va I'f jbeyq, dhrfgvbaf bs fnavgl ner ceboyrzngvp.

V'yy fgvpx jvgu I orvat n gevpxfgre punenpgre. Fnar znl be znl abg nccyl, ohg hapbairagvbany. V qba'g xabj jung gur tencuvp abiry vf yvxr, ohg va gur zbivr, I'f zrgubqf erfhygf va ab qrnguf bgure guna gur qrnguf bs rirel crefba ehaavat gur pbapragengvba pnzc naq gur qrnguf bs n ahzore bs "yvar zra" (jnf gung jung gurl jrer pnyyrq, V arire dhvgr znqr bhg gur jbeqf) naq cbyvpr/fjng thlf. Bu naq gur qrngu bs gru punapryybe/glenag naq gur frpbaq va pbzznaq.

Vf gung penml/vafnar? Ur oyrj hc gur Onvyrl ohvyqvat ng zvqavtug, V nffhzr, fb gung ab bar jbhyq or va vg. Ur gbyq gur jbeyq gung ur jbhyq oybj hc gur cneyvzrag ohvyqvat, V nffhzr, fb gung vg jbhqy or rinphngrq. Gur jubyr guvat znl or haernyvfgvp, ohg I frrzf gb or cbegenlrq nf fnar ohg hapbairagvbany gb zr.

Gura ntnva, frevny zheqreref ner bsgra qrpynerq "fnar", fb gung vfa'g fnlvat zhpu ol vgfrys.

#164 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 06:45 PM:

somewhere, some guy with a ROT13 converter page is scratching his head, wondering why the sudden surge in bandwidth...

#165 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 06:56 PM:

Greg London: Get Firefox, you can add on a Rot-13 converter (indeed a converter of and into a lot of codes).
.yekteeL dellac s'tI .elpmis etiuq yllautca s'tI

#166 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 07:00 PM:

Fragano, regarding that bit of text towards the end....


#167 ::: hp ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 07:01 PM:

Further to sump pumps: does this mean people are building in places where it wasn't realistic before such luxuries?

Or are they just expecting dry basements where earlier centuries used them as a sump to stop water flooding into inhabited areas, or priming rising damp? I've heard this was one of the original functions of castle dungeons.

I wonder what will happen if/when fuel gets to luxury prices? Perhaps they'll get linked to 'alternative energy' supplies.

I vote for a newer "expecation of dry basement": the Victorian-period houses that my parents have otherwise owned (otherwise from the one with the flooded crawl when I was a tween) had basements that were intended to be damp and intended to drain freely if wet. We never thought about finishing any of those--those basements are going to be wet without major $$$ being spent on a tile+pump system. (I and the husband had a partial new system installed at our former house as the old system was failing--it was only new drainage tile around 1/3 of the basement exterior. That cost us almost $4000.)

Sump pumps are cheap to run: they're just tiny pumps (in a pit about 18-24 inches across) that run off electricity. As energy becomes more expensive, I'd be far more concerned with our tendency to leave lights on when not needed (or, the heaters that heat our 18 aquariums).

Our old house also had a battery-operated backup system (a second pump) in case of power outage during storms--it was rated to run frequently over many days if need be. The battery wasn't that large.

You could probably hook a sump pump + battery combo up to a smallish solar panel and have it recharge/store enough to run through multiple stormy days.

#168 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 07:11 PM:

dnim reven ,ho

#169 ::: hp ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 07:12 PM:

I'd be far more concerned with our tendency to leave lights on when not needed (or, the heaters that heat our 18 aquariums).

Or, thinking about it again, the 4-5 computers that run 24/7 in our household. Turning off one of those for a month actually does have a noticeable impact on our electricity bill.

It's curious to see what can affect the electricity bill: for a while, we were keeping a friend's 75 gallon saltwater aquarium with full spectrum lighting that needed to be on for 12 hours a day. We didn't notice the bill went up when the aquarium was installed, but we certainly were surprised by the amount the bill went down when the aquarium was returned to her. The tank didn't have a heater (??) and the pump system wasn't much different than anything we use. So, all we could figure was that the lighting for the tank was sucking down all that electricity. (Many of our fish live with room lighting. The things you can get away with when you have freshwater fish . . . )

#170 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 07:22 PM:

More open thread madness.
Bush says Troops will stay in Iraq for years. He says it will be up to future presidents to decide when to bring them home.

I assume this means that someone clued him in that invading Iran would be the death of the United States, so he decided the only way to have perpetual war for the next couple elections is to stay in Iraq.

Never mind the bollocks, here comes the election-quagmire.

#171 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 07:41 PM:

The President, First Lady and Dick Cheney were flying on Air Force One.

George looked at Laura, chuckled and said, "You know, I could throw a $1,000 bill out of the window right now and make somebody very happy."

Laura shrugged her shoulders and replied, "I could throw ten $100 bills out of the window and make ten people very happy."

"That being the case," Cheney added, "I could throw one hundred $10 bills out of the window and make a hundred people very happy."

Hearing their exchange, the pilot rolled his eyes and said to his co-pilot, "Such big-shots back there. Hell, I could throw all of them out of the window and make 210 million people very happy."

#172 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 07:53 PM:

Greg London: I see you got it.

#173 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 08:20 PM:

Stefan Jones, thank you. I hadn't heard that one, and it made me laugh for the first time today. Misadventures with the dog poking her way through our fence and resultant fastening of wire mesh had made me pretty grouchy.

#174 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 09:22 PM:

Not sure where to post this, but wht the hell.

in 1981, a bunch of analysts came up with the concept of fourth generation warfare.

The first generation being state-based warefare, guys with swords and shields fighting in formations, within arms (or swords) reach of the enemy. Armies were so large that a nation/state was required to support them.

Second generation warfare being war that emerged from teh invention of the rifle. Trench war. large formation fighting gave way to small unit tactics and ground cover. still involved large armies requireing a nation/state.

Third generation warfare being mechanized war. Germany's Blitzkreig of WW2. maneuvarability being teh key to survival. generally involved large industrialized armies requiring a nation/state to build them.

Fourth generation is a return to stateless warefare. weapons are now cheap enough that they no longer require a nation/state to support them.

No point to this post other than to make the information available. Given the topic of a number of threads, it seems relevant. Whether it is useful or not, don't know. I discovered it a couple years ago, and found it interesting.

#175 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 09:33 PM:

The "Civil War Cavalry-style hat" is often known as a "Hardee hat," (though it is technically a variation thereof) and also as the "Jeff Davis hat," because it was approved for use by the United States Cavalry by the US Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis . . . who went on to do other things of some note, and was definitely a man who knew how to dress. (Extremely off-trail period joke.)

-- From the monograph If You're Gonna Stick Your Head Out and Get It Shot At, You Might as Well Look Good Doing It: A History of Military Headgear from Ancient Times to the Cygnus-Carina Arm Campaign (forthcoming)

#176 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 11:09 PM:

"Hardee hat"... Duly filed away, Mr. Ford, duly filed.

#177 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2006, 11:32 PM:

The reason: mortar and concrete have a much much lower compressive strength when damp. (and water has a habit of carrying away lime and other chemical binders in mortar and concrete.)

Actually, water is quite good for concrete, so long as you're not dealing with freeze thaw cycles or really bad concrete where water can flow through it.

The cement portion of concrete needs water to cure, and can do so for remarkably long times so long as it stays wet. In a former job, I had to obtain concrete (and mortar) cores from the (inside) bottom of the 520 floating bridge, where the concrete on the outside was in continous contact with the water of Lake Washington for 30+ years. This concrete was about 3 times stronger than anyone had expected (12+ ksi for both the concrete and the mortar like grout, v.s about 4 ksi expected), and far better than most concrete that you could order in most parts of the country, even if you loaded up the cement and got really hard aggregate.

However, this was probably reasonably good concrete to begin with, seeing as it was supposed to float. Residential foundation concrete generally is more like soup when poured and quite porous once cured.

#178 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 01:25 AM:

In New Zealand, everything is made of wood. Even the original Parliament was wooden.

Partly, this is a cost issue. When the first settlers arrived, there were a lot of trees just standing there. From then on, it became a traditional thing.

Also, in an earthquake, wood flexes. Brick crumbles.

#179 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 08:17 AM:

just saw Teresa's particle about the $100 laptop, with the accompanying particle to Bill Gate's opinion on said $100 laptop.

Found it interesting that the $100 laptop article was full of hope and filled with the idea of making the world a better place, both immediately through making information like weather and news, available to the poor in rurual areas, and long term, by increasing and encouraging education, thus lifting the minimum level that the world has to work with. The article concluded with the even loftier goal of world peace, that world peace is not achievable until education is globally available.

Meanwhile, Bill Gates is saying "It can't be done", that it would be stupid to have a laptop without a harddrive, that hardware isn't the whole equation, that software is needed (the $100 laptop will use Linux, etc, to keep costs down), and that Microsoft could provide that software for a low, low price. Then, Bill takes the opportunity to hawk a laptop that Microsoft is involved with that will be available for $500 to $900.

On one hand, we have worldwide education and world peace, and on the other hand we have "buy my shit". Nice, eh?

#180 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 09:13 AM:

A lot of the brick houses built here at the south in the last 80 years or so are in fact brick veneer over a typical wooden frame structure--the brick finish is preferred, partly because it's traditional in this part of the country and also because a brick house (veneer or solid) needs a lot less painting than a clapboard finish does.

The typical progression was log to brick, in a lot of places down here--I'm sure there were several reasons for this but I am not a historical architecture specialist and so cannot list them for everyone's edification (I'd say entertainment, but not everything edifying is entertaining all the time).

The Shakers who set up shop at South Union and elsewhere in Kentucky had considerable difficulties with the inspectors/auditors sent down from the settlements in New England, because down here, all their structures were built of brick (because that's all anyone knew how to build down here) and had lots of trees around them (because you want something to keep the sun off), and these were interpreted as signs they had succumbed to Wordly Vanities in the very worst way, instead of doing their best to adapt to local conditions. Once the auditors made it through a southern summer, they were willing to let the trees stay. I suspect the brick stayed because it would have been too expensive to replace it all, and being thriftless would have been even worse than being ostentatious.

#181 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 10:22 AM:

Presumably in connection with the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival - there is about 48 hours free online intro to the OED,,27709,00.html
Explore the online editions of the OED and the ODNB - free until March 24
Oxford English Dictionary

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

#182 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 10:33 AM:

Re the $100 laptop particle - interesting to notice CNN illustrates the comments by Bill Gates with a picture showing a high resolution color display on the claimed $110 personal laptop rather than the asserted black and white (Apple - who needs color when you have resolution?).

#183 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 10:33 AM:

Greg - the more I've been thinking about the $100 laptop project, the less I'm convinced that it's likely to work. I was composing a lengthy reply to you when, during breakfast, I saw this article from yesterday's Seattle Times that neatly summarizes my thoughts on the matter - and has some data to actually back it up ;-)

(For anyone who wants to read the article after it's behind the Times' paid firewall, Google "Kristi Heim" with "digital divide" - you can usually get to their 'premium' content through Google's cache...)

#184 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 11:02 AM:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

I was not consciously aware that there was an Oxford Dictionary of Biography, but I dreamed about it last night anyway. In the dream, I was going through a pile of discarded items and found several volumes of the OED and the Oxford Dictionary of Biography.

I was so happy and excited. Is that a geek dream or what? My only concern was how to get all those heavy books home.

In what passes for real life, I enjoy checking out the OED Newsletter online. It gives a glimpse into what the OED crew are up to, and it's free.

#185 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 11:12 AM:

protected static: Web-capable mobile phones can be used as data carriers by connecting them to computers, except where the cellular providers have intentionally blocked that functionality. I can imagine one data-capable phone, hooked to one $100 laptop, which then shares out the connection over wireless. Slow? Sure. Faster than nothing? Heck yeah.

#186 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 11:15 AM:

static, from that article:

supply of computers, Internet hosts and secure servers became more narrowly distributed among a core group of countries. Mobile phones and Internet access, by contrast, proliferated to become more evenly distributed around the world.

Well... duuuhhh. The guy who wrote the article isn't thinking like the companies that sell PC's versus the companies that sell mobile phones.

mobile phone companies are selling a subscription service. Phones are given away, because the money is in a two year contract at $50 a month, not in the $100 phone. Pressure is then placed on the cost to manufacture a phone to its absolute minimum, and companies are even willing to give the phones away, knowing the 2-3 year contract will more than cover it.

PC makers are selling a self-contained one-shot product. Once the product is sold, there is no more money coming in. This means that companies want to make as much money as they can on the product. the market currently seems to have a weird "sweet spot" around $500. Rather than see computers maintain the same level of technology, but get cheaper and cheaper, companies are adding more technology, so the botom price over the years floats around $500. It would seem that $500 is the amount of money that consumers are willing ot pay for a PC, at least consumers in developed countries.

To test this economic theory look at printers. They used to be a one-shot product, prices bottomed out around $200 and features kept being improved to maintain the price. But now, printers have become a subscription service. You can buy a new printer for $50. But, when you run out of ink, you'll find that replacing the ink cartridges will run you... $50. Printer manufacturers haven't figured out a way to enforce a 2-year contract for ink, so instead, what they've done is put encryption in their ink cartridges so that competitors can't sell compatible ink cartridges. The printer can tell it is from a different company and will refuse to print (even though it could). This encryption scheme is then legally enforced by the anti-circumvention clause of the DMCA. It is illegal for competitors to try and decrypt the ink cartridges and make their cartridges so the printer thinks its original equipment.

supply/demand around laptops seems to point to a $500 minimum price point for the last few years, and I wouldn't be surprised to see that price maintained for the next few years.

Whether the $100 laptop will bring world peace through access to information and education, I don't know. But the guy who wrote the article isn't thinking like a tech company thinks. Capitalism alone won't guarantee prices continue to go down indefinitely. for the forseable future, it looks like features will continue to be added to justify maintaining a constant price.

#187 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 11:24 AM:

oh, and by continually adding new features and new hardwary, companies not only justify maintaining a minimal price point around $500, they also create their own type of "subscription service" by creating hardware that doesn't exist and is incompatible with older hardware, forcing users to upgrade.

CD burners kept getting faster and faster over the years, 10x, 20x, 30x, 40x, 50x, because then it encourages people to buy the new one. The only reason they've plateaued at ~52x is that if you spin the disc any faster, they start disintegrating in the drive.

#188 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 12:46 PM:

I can't argue with the overall thrust of your analysis - but when I read about projects like this one, it makes me think that mobile devices might be a better way to go than laptops, however inexpensive they might be...

I don't see it as a zero-sum game - there is also a role for less-expensive computers to play in this (and Open Source software will play a huge role), but I think that the buzz around the $100 laptop is mostly about making Western techies feel good. For instance, there don't seem to be any plans to provide an infrastructure that these computers will use; the computers themselves will just be doorstops without comprehensive plans to deploy them.

Technology deployed in a vacuum will then be money pissed away - and half-a-billion US$ spent on procuring laptops for every school-aged child in a small- to mid-sized developing country could arguably go a lot further towards reducing educational imbalances if it was spent on teachers or educational materials.

That's what makes me think that taking advantage of technology that's already in wide use makes more sense. It isn't scepticism about the laptops per se.

#189 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 01:31 PM:

static, when you say "mobile" do you mean devices with a wireless connection to the internet? The $100 laptop is certainly mobile in a portable sense of the word. Apparently it will come with a hand-crank generator built in that will provide an hours worth of electricity for 2 minutes of cranking by hand.

But I didn't see if it had some sort of wireless connection to the web. I have a clamshell cellphone that is also a palmpilot. It has a data connection to the web. I surfed for a week when I first got it, then haven't touched that part of it since. Too slow, too clunky, too painful to get data in and out.

Come to think of it, I thought I read something about peopel being able to use the $100 laptop to get weather information. I would assume there is some sort of connection to the net, or at least an access port if there isn't anything wireless.

The storage is flash memory, which would suggest that you'll need some way to get data in and out of teh thing, and the net would be teh best way.

I still don't know if you'll get world peace out of it, but I think it's plausible enough to give it at least one try.

#190 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 03:54 PM:

Per the article, the computers will have

wireless broadband enabling networking between physically close computers

Which I think means you get them close enough together and you have instant LAN. That's not the same as the 'Net, but if you have Net access, you're in.

I think they would be fun - but then, I did most of my university coursework on a Mac Plus which was sold minus any hard drive (or high density disk drives). If you don't bloat your ware, you can do an amazing amount in very little space. I used to keep MS Word (a version so old they hadn't invented numbers yet), a dictionary, and three essays on each floppy disk through careful options selection.

If they're ordering them in million-computer lots, I guess there's no chance of my buying one at an inflated (subsidising) price, like they did with the clockwork radios?

#191 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 03:59 PM:

There's been a lot of fiesty debate about the $100 laptop at

"I guess there's no chance of my buying one at an inflated (subsidising) price . . ."

A significant number of people who hear about them ask that same question.

#192 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 04:25 PM:

wireless broadband enabling networking between physically close computers

Aw, man, that's da bomb. I would think it would be fairly easy to drop in wifi hotspots as compared to dropping in the infrastructure needed for a cellular tower.

I've heard rumors of some cities in the US going wifi, meaning the city government pays for covering the whole city with wifi. Don't know if any of them have done it yet.

#193 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 04:30 PM:

If the $100 laptop included a headphone jack and basic sound-card functionality, combined with wifi, you'd have voice-over-ip in these things, which, at the very least, would prevent them from becoming doorstops for the doubters.

#194 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 04:40 PM:

I just received word that Madeleine Pelner Cosman has died. Dr. Cosman was the author of the notorious pseudo-medieval cookbook Fabulous Feasts, among other claims to fame. Her obituary is interesting reading, especially the very last line. The bit about her inability to cook anything but hamburger was related to me many years ago by her daughter, Marin.

#195 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 04:57 PM:

That $500 pricepoint is interesting though, because to me it seems a relatively newly stabilized one.

For a *long* stretch of time, throughout the '80s, it was stabilized at somewhere around $2000 - I'm thinking of CP/M and early PC systems here. That held for quite a long while (though oddly there were some separate $2-300 and $6-800 niches for less "serious" computers like the C64 or Ataris, which generally could do a lot less.)

During the '90s that $2K "basic computer" price niche very slowly edged down to about $1200, then to a $1000 niche. Then fairly suddenly it dropped into the $500 range we see now.

I think eMachines was the price setter there, with Dell following rapidly in competition. When someone sees enough short-term margin to be made in the $250-300 range - maybe in the next couple years - I expect to see another price drop. AMD is promoting a $2-300 (sans monitor) computer design about the size of a trade paperback, but I don't think they're planning to sell it into the US; they're more aiming at Brazil and similar industrializing countries.

Laptops are where the action is now - this past holiday, basic laptops dropped into that $500 range for the first time. For $800 I picked up a pretty nice Dell 15" with Wifi/Bluetooth for my consulting work.

The PC industry is still hoping Windows Vista will be enough of a pig that it forces people to upgrade PCs again, but it just got delayed until 2006.

#196 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 05:28 PM:

Greg: by 'mobile' I was thinking along the lines of cellphones. Much of the developing world already has far more cell coverage than broadband; in some nations (Brazil, IIRC), cell networks have almost entirely replaced

CNET has a good article from last month examining the pros and cons of the competing low-cost systems. Don't get me wrong - I want this to work, and I'd cheerfully pay more than $100 to get one and help subsidize the project. It's just that there are known (non-technical) interventions that improve education that cost less than $100/child to implement; OLPC is highly speculative, and the track record of cheap tech for developing nations isn't terribly encouraging.

I look foward to being proven wrong ;-)

#197 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 05:30 PM:

"...cell networks have almost entirely replaced copper lines." he wrote, finishing his sentence from earlier.

#198 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 05:50 PM:

Clifton, I bought a Radio Shack Color Computer with 64k of ram, a cassette tape for programs, and a 180k floppy drive when they first came out for.... well, an embarrassingly large amount of money. You're right that the $500 price point is recent on the grand scale of things.

I also noticed the CNET article said that in China, people get a linux PC and then install a pirated version of Windows over it. Bummer. There is too much stuff that Linux has become locked out of implementing through a combination of the DMCA, software patents, and ever changing standards.

Kill the DMCA and software patents and Linux at least has a chance to outrun windows. Probably would be the next killer app, really.

Only problem is that Linux doesn't donate millions and milions of dollars in political contributions every year like Microsoft does. So sometimes, the politicians do what's best for themselves, rather than whats best for the people they represent.

#199 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 06:30 PM:

Greg London, Google "city installation wi-fi." You'll find all manner of announcements about cities planning to do it, including London, New Orleans, Philly, and others. In the US some of the telcoms are fighting tooth and nail to stop it, but I think they're on the losing end.

#200 ::: a kate ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 06:44 PM:

*scans upwards* Don't think this was mentioned, and I dunno if this is of general interest, but Cecilia Fire Thunder, Oglala Sioux Tribal President, is kind of annoyed at South Dakota's recent unpleasantness. So she's hoping to establish a Planned Parenthood clinic on the Pine Ridge Reservation, which is of course sovereign territory and no subject to South Dakota law (in this case and many others). Planned Parenthood clinics are, of course, good for much more than just abortions.

Ways to donate, in case you want to help with this.

#201 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 07:58 PM:

I don't think OLPC is a panacea. I think that, if the connectivity is there, that it's going to be a very useful tool. I'm cautiously optimistic.

#202 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 10:50 PM:

Back to basement drainage. My house has stood since 1912. The water is coming in 1) down the 'dorothy door' basement hatch and 2) where a bad downspout is sending water under our porch and through a place where we have an oubliette room. It isn't affecting our foundation, it appears to have been doing this for longer than we've owned the house. Like maybe since it was built.

After we finish paying for a city-demanded trim/soffit/boards fix and painting, re-doing the driveway, fixing the gutters so we can have a rain-garden in the back (a city-wide request, could be cool) are part of the next remodels.

Even if you add the cost of the new windows (after we bought/before we moved in), the sewer repair and other house repairs, y'all don't want to know what we paid for it. Above the basement we have around 3,500 sq. ft. and part of the basement is habitable (i.e., 'not' engine room/function utility room). And I loves it so!

We're five minutes from downtown, the Freighthouse District, 18th & Vine, Westport and the Plaza. And we live in a forest, the trees were planted when the houses were built (aprox. 1895-1912), with birds and the odd possum or raccoon. Plus the barn owl that uses the corner of my house to scout for mice etc.

#203 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 11:16 PM:

wrt to the surprise at houses built of wood: note that wood is faster to put up than stone, brick, or blocks, and cheaper if you haven't already wiped out your forests (or locked them up for building warships). Compared to Europe, North America is still relatively sparsely populated, so there's a lot of land still producing timber (not just pulpwood for paper), so much so that Canada and the U.S. have been in court over whether Canada is unfairly subsidizing its lumber and undercutting U.S. cutters. Cultural differences may also be a factor; home ownership is more touted in the U.S. than in Europe (from what I've seen -- IIRC there's no European equivalent to Levittown), so homes that people can buy out of a reasonable salary have an edge over long-lasting capital requiring more investment.

#204 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2006, 11:20 PM:

a kate: thanks for that, that's the best news I've heard in a while.

#205 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 12:21 AM:

Shameless plug, go to LiveJournal and look up dragonet2's current post. (3/22)

that's all. I hope to one day publish it as a volume with Bill Warren illustations, but I need money more.

All except one story has been published before. Teresa or Patrick, trash this if I'm out of bounds.

#206 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 01:22 AM:

wrt $100 laptops, they're economic nonsense. The level of poverty in the areas I assume they want to serve will guarantee that the laptop will get sold immediately. A truly remarkable number of people in, say, Somalia, earn less than $2 a day. The average incomes in India and China are small, but measurable. However, that's the average, and the disparity between rich and poor affects the median. Not to mention all of the various ways that this can backfire culturally. If the idea is that the _kid_ owns the laptop, that's true nonsense. Most of these places _women_ can't own property, much less children.

The third world doesn't need computers. It needs clean water, educated women, and fertility control. In that order. And educating the girls is not something that computers can help with. What with ownership issues, they might well make it worse.

#207 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 05:02 AM:

One per kid - bad idea. One per village - fantastic idea. Just the sort of thing the Economist goes squee over - like those microcredit schemes and mobile phone entrepreneurs. There are a lot of things that a fishing village in Bangladesh can do with a laptop - weather forecasts, fish prices, disaster preparation, easy communications. Your next task: get the Bangladeshi government on line. And good luck.

#208 ::: Valerie Emanuel ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 05:58 AM:

A great summary of the Bush Administration, in my opinion, here.

#209 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 09:47 AM:

Arriving late to the haiku fest

Agitated books.
Rinsed and tumbled, but not dried.
Yarn, at least, makes felt.

#210 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 10:02 AM:

(palm) (forehead)
A haiku!
Dawn breaks on Marblehead.

#211 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 10:23 AM:

Canada and the U.S. have been in court over whether Canada is unfairly subsidizing its lumber and undercutting U.S. cutters.

So they're undercutting the cutters by overcutting? They should cut it out!

#212 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 10:23 AM:

While I'm in the neighborhood,
I've been reading "100 Years of Solitude"
(Not finished yet, so please avoid any spoilers
if you can.) I just looked the book up on
Amazon and saw that it is listed under
"classics" and "literary".

Part of me is thinking it should more accurately
be listed under "Fantasy", but another part of
me is thinking, "no, that isn't it either".
I don't think there is a category for "Surreal"
though, unless, maybe, "Literary" is a code word
for "Surreal"?

could someone explain why the book isn't under the
Fantasy or SciFi genre? And what does Literary
mean if it isn't code for "none of the above"?
And where do all the "Surreal" books go?

"Naked Lunch" is categorized under "classics"
and "science fiction" but not "literary"?
so confused. I feel the need to go around
and put labels on everything when the
forgetfullness of insomnia kicks in.

#213 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 10:28 AM:

Where do the surreal books go?

A fish!

#214 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 10:31 AM:

How many surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb?

Guerr: Bar gb ubyq gur tvenssr naq bar gb svyy gur ongugho jvgu oevtugyl-pbyberq znpuvar cnegf.

#215 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 10:38 AM:

As someone who has used computers for work since the early '80s (yay, Tandy!), I'd like to add a counter-intuitive opinion: The average First World household does not need a computer. My impression is that families purchase these machines mostly in the hope that their kids will develop skills useful in this age of information management. Other than that, computers serve only as a slightly more robust way to file recipes, balance the checkbook, and keep in touch with far-flung relatives and friends. It's not at all clear if such benefits outweigh the sum of upfront and recurring expenses.

Seems to me both ajay and Lydy are on to something profound a few posts up.

#216 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 10:39 AM:

Wow, I wish I could do ROT-13 in my head—not just be able to read it like Teresa can, but actually generate it. It would make a great code language.

But wait; a code language would require another person who agreed on the pronunciations for letter combinations like 'jvgu', and more importantly was willing and able to do something as ridiculous as learn to speak ROT-13ed English.

Oh well.

#217 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 10:46 AM:

Greg, critics seem to have hit on "magical realism" as a way to describe 100 Years of Solitude and similar works by Latin-American writers. I'm not sure it's meant to be a genre, but such books contain elements that are fantastic / surreal. So perhaps "Literary" is appropriate...

#218 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 10:56 AM:

via Jane Yolen's online journal; David Stemple has passed away.

#219 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 11:04 AM:

Regarding the $100 laptops, I heard a bit on NPR earlier about them. They're using them instead of books for school, and they're going to put internet access in the school, and then wirless cards in the computer to create a wireless netwrok that will allow the computers to access the internet through the network of computers. So person A will connect to person B will connetct to person C who pulls the interest from the school.


#220 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 11:11 AM:

thanks for the answer, Richard. I'm still not exactly sure what separates "magical realism" from "science fiction". They feel kinda different, but I still can't describe why.

Btw, did you get my answer to your older question?

#221 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 12:24 PM:

Greg and Richard: Back when I was an undergraduate studying Latin American literarure the concept of magical realism (or 'marvellous reality' -- 'lo real maravilloso') was a central issue.

This particular form of surrealism is an attempt to describe the actual, complex reality of a multicultural society in which the meaning of everything is contested. That's what makes it *not* science fiction.

#222 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 12:32 PM:

Here is a short discussion of Dan Brown's legal brief in his plagiarism case. What makes it interesting is that he discusses his literary theory and writing techniques. (Insert your own Dan-Brown-lack-of-literary-merit joke here.)

#223 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 12:41 PM:

This particular form of surrealism is an attempt to describe the actual, complex reality of a multicultural society in which the meaning of everything is contested.

(ponder) (ponder) (ponder)



#224 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 12:48 PM:

Well, working with cheap, buggy laptops will create some computer geeks in the student population. (I got my start by purchasing a semi-functional IBM PCjr in 1986. I originally thought I was going to use it just to compose rock and roll reviews for BAM Magazine. When I discovered the computer had insufficient memory, a non-standard graphics system, and no hard disk support, I joined a user group in self-defense. The user group taught me how to program in Basic and 8086 Assembler, and how to make system board modifications.)

But I already knew how to read and write, and there was a user group for me to join. Obviously, *substituting* a junk computer network for a decent primary education system is not an optimal development. (I don't know whether or not Cory will agree with this, or what that school was like before the computers.)

#225 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 12:54 PM:

Dan Brown lacks literary merit.

#226 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 01:29 PM:

"It needs clean water, educated women, and fertility control. In that order."

And no singing, dancing, pets, spicy food or fancy colored clothing allowed until these needs are met!

#227 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 01:46 PM:

Jo Walton: The thing non-North American readers need to bear in mind in all this is that the houses everyone is talking about are made of wood. That's why they have these problems and need these pumps. Weird as it seems, even modern houses are usually made of wood.

This topic came up in my circle as we were helping one of our number to re-floor his house. I heard about a Turkish friend of a friend who was amazed at the impermanence of wooden American houses. His family has been living in the same stone house for the last few hundred years.

That observation prompted an interesting question in the conversation: are This Old House-style home-renovation shows less popular and/or relevant in places like Europe because so many homes are made from stone and concrete, which are not as amenable to do-it-yourself modifications?

#228 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 01:50 PM:

I assume (and I realize the dangers in making assumptions) but I assume that the $100 laptop is not intended to replace an entire educational system. I would also assume that said laptop would not be intended to replace a clean water supply, sewer system, food production, housing, or hospitals. A laptop is not an infrastructure, even if you build a million of them. Finally, I would assume that same said laptop is not intended to turn tyrants into democratic systems, sexists into equalitists, or slave traders into humanists. We are talking about a laptop.

If you're in a god-forsaken country, ruled by a sadistic tyrant, surrounded by desert, and forced to live in your own filth in a "refugee" camp, then I think its safe to say that you've got bigger concerns then wireless access and storage space on a harddrive.


Given all that said laptop won't do, I'm not entirely convinced that it won't help either. If you've got a struggling semi-democratic government, and if someone is already trying to improve the food/water/sewage problems, then it would seem that the next level of infrastructure would include schools/education and other higher order processes.

The question then becomes one of focus. Should everyone focus on the worst countries and fix them first? Or can some outsider find a place they can help that isn't the darkest place in the universe and contribute something there?

On what grounds do you look someone's gift horse in the mouth and say "that won't help my people, take it back"?

#229 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 01:52 PM:

Fragano, once the flames die down, I'll ponder your "magical realism" post some more. It seems to be overtaxing my brain.

#230 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 01:53 PM:

Eric's question prompts me to enthusiastically recommend:

How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built
by Stewart Brand

My review is in the "Spotlight" section.

#231 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 02:18 PM:

Freeman Dyson's public lectures often an include an anecdote -- also found in essay forms in Infinite in All Directions as I recall -- from his daughter's experience as a development worker in western Africa.

She was working in a village that wanted to deal with its water problems.

After a lot of effort, they came up with two proposals, which they would then use to put together a grant request:

Proposal A: Hire a guy to drill a well. Install a communal tap.

Proposal B: Build a pipeline to bring in water from (X). Lay in pipes to bring water to all the houses in the village. (At least, all the important houses.)

Proposal B would cost many times what Proposal A would cost. "Hey," noted Dyson, "The government will never pay for that! It's a totally impractical overreach . . . why not go for the sure thing?"

The villagers replied: "Well, sure we know the government will never go for it. But the effort of putting the request together and showing it around will let us meet lots of important people who can help us next time around.

Besides, the well digger is a [dismissive]Fulani[/dismissive]."

* * *

Moral: Even thirsty people think about politics.

#232 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 02:47 PM:

Moral: Even thirsty people think about politics.

And other, less savory forms of group identity...

Who's idea was it to leave the trees for the grassland again?

#233 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 02:58 PM:

I would have been happy to read the Sidelight "Alternate geek history," but the little clock that constantly circled near my mouse pointer (swirling and re-formed when I moved it) drove me away immediately.

(Win2K, Opera 8.5, plugins and Java off, Javascript on.)

Web authors, take note.

#234 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 03:02 PM:

Kate, I didn't notice the clock until I moused over something. I think the part that most bothers me is the month and year whirling around the outside. (You can find this sort of thing as a Javascript download. I'd only use it - minus the month/year part - on a really dull static page.) It belongs to the elastic-mouse-trail school of tricks.

#235 ::: OG ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 03:40 PM:

Paula Helm Murray:

Rain gardens are cool, if I'm thinking what you're thinking. (Small landscaped "ponds" that hold 6" to 1' of storm runoff. We use them to control pollutants before it gets to the waterways.) I'm currently designing a parking lot that has rain gardens between the rows of spaces where you normally see landscaping/sidewalks. Much more attractive than the traditional retention basins.

#236 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 03:52 PM:

Greg, IMHO, bringing computers into the classroom makes sense if an economy already has computers as an increasingly important part of its business or govt'al infrastructure. (Although I may be getting into a chicken-and-egg dilemma here.) In impoverished Third World countries, however, I would think that the critical work involves dealing with such basic constraints as lack of school facilities, lack of teachers, lack of standardized curricula, and lack of supplies like books, paper, and pencils. No doubt, though, that there are situations where laptops (or cell phones) will improve things.

Back in the '80s, the notion of "appropriate technology" was relatively big (IIRC) in international-development circles. Dunno if that philosophy, which largely derived from E. F. Schumacher's Small is Beautiful, was effective or is still influencing aid programs.

Basically, you should ask the gift horse to take something back when the benefits that gift generates are too small in relation to the associated costs. Which comes down to context, I suppose. Far wiser, it seems to me, is to identify specific problems and deal with 'em -- one by one -- using tech that's simple for that society to understand and maintain. It ain't a revolution, but over time the accumulation of small changes could have big results.

And yes, Greg, I read the post of your answer. Thanks.

#237 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 04:01 PM:

Yet another development in the ongoing struggle to suppress the prescription of psychoactive drugs.

#238 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 05:01 PM:

school facilities, lack of teachers, lack of standardized curricula, and lack of supplies like books, paper, and pencils.

if you're dealing with a country where food/water/sewage/shelter is beign dealt with and they are trying to work out the school system, then I think cheap laptops could be a benefit. The final decision I'll leave to whoever is paying for the equipment (as to whether they want to pay for it) and who is recieving the equpment (as to whether or not they want to recieve the equipment).

for my part, I'd probably buy one if it helped the project.

#239 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 05:05 PM:

OG, that's exactly what I'm talking about. The city sent out brochures that they'd like us to make / use them, When we can afford to get our driveway restructured, I'm gonna have them drain it backwards or something (we have one particular downspout that goes out onto the drive then down into the cellar stairway... politely to the drain, but damitall.) and I could landscape a bit for the birds in my bit of a backyard too.

#240 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 06:30 PM:

Greg, I guess the first question I'd ask is whether PCs in American schools provide significant educational value. (I recognize, BTW, that as a research tool, the Web might be somewhat more effective than, say, the World Book Encyclopedia.)

[Hunches up out of chair and points cane skyward] When I was a young whippersnapper we wrote our homework on bark, using charcoal. And we were glad to do it. Harumph.

#241 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 06:39 PM:

Richard - You had charcoal? We had to collect the grit that piled up on the windowsils and reconstitute it with earwax and spit. And we were glad to have it!

#242 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 06:49 PM:

Your landlord let you keep your earwax? We had ours collected and sent to the blacking factory to paste the labels on.

#243 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 06:52 PM:

You had windowsills??? We had to go out and mug little old ladies for their dandruff flakes!

#244 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 07:40 PM:

Richard Anderson, I was able to convince the therapist, but not the psychiatrist, that my interaction via computer qualified as socialization.

#245 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 07:52 PM:

Victor Papanek's Design for the Real World, which came out three years before Small is Beautiful, was not the bestseller that Schumacher's book was, but it was extremely influential with people who were actually designers and engineers. That's not a criticism of Schumacher, but I would argue that Papanek was at least as important in the actual implementation of what gets called "appropriate technology."

While I'm obnoxicating,* I don't and never have liked that term. As more than one person has said, who's going to argue for inappropriate technology? Good design answers a need without creating a new problem, or transferring the problem elsewhere; if it fails those criteria, it's bad design, even if it creates a localized benefit.

*A nonce word. At the most, two nonces.

#246 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 08:11 PM:

John, I wasn't aware of Papenek or his book, but from your description it may have had a different audience. Schumacher's ideas, IIRC, were oriented more toward economic development policy, but also dovetailed with notions of community and personal empowerment and radical enviro ideology that were floating around at the time.

#247 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 08:34 PM:

Greg: a possibly divider (in place of Fragano's explanation of MR as such): in SF there's an assumption that everything can be explained, even if the explanation requires the supernatural (gods, high-tech, ...). In MR some things don't make sense; they just are. (This is an observation based in rather modest amounts of data; you may find a better one for yourself.)

#248 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 09:11 PM:

Greg: Alternative explanation: It's the water in the Caribbean Sea (which bites, according to Nicolás Guillen).

#249 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 11:07 PM:

Ah, Freeman Dyson. He is said to have observed to Bomber Command in 1943 that many more aircrew successfully baled out of shot-down Halifax bombers than Lancasters (the latter being Bomber Harris's preferred type, because it carried a bigger bombload), probably because the escape hatches on the former were larger. He recommended the minor alterations that would have enlarged the Lancaster's hatches, and the memo was promptly binned by Harris. As usual, Harris disdained to state his reasons - certainly not in writing, Harris being fairly close to functionally illiterate - but he seems to have thought that as the aircrew would have been baling out over German territory, most likely, they were lost to the war effort anyway, so it didn't matter.

Next to Field Marshal the Viscount Haig of Ypres, Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris was the man I would most have liked to see removed from command in disgrace and put against a wall. Alas, like the former, he died ripe in years and in bed.

#250 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 11:41 PM:

in SF there's an assumption that everything can be explained, even if the explanation requires the supernatural (gods, high-tech, ...). In MR some things don't make sense; they just are.

ya know, that's just crazy enough to work.

At the very least, it put the fire out in my brain caused from attempting to process a paradox and getting stuck in a loop. I really hate when that happens.

But really, yeah, I can see that.

#251 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 11:45 PM:

This being an open thread, and me hoping that it hasn't already been seen, here's a strangely mesmerising video of Big Dog, the quadruped robot:

and is the story about the Philip K Dick robot going missing really true? Is there really a PKD robot?

#252 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 11:55 PM:

whether PCs in American schools provide significant educational value.

My experience was this: at some point in grade school, the high school acquired three TRS-80 Model 3's. (the big, monolithic unit that had phoshor monitor, keyboard, and two floppy-drive slots all in one piece of plastic.)

this was a small town, around 35 students per grade. A few of us got to go up to the highshchool during math class, and work with the high school math teacher writing simple programs in BASIC.

It made me think in more formal logic than I ever had, and it also bit me with the computer bug so that I wanted to learn more.

The way I look at it, $100 laptops won't change who these kids are, but some of them might tap into the otherwise dormant geeks and inspire them in a way not otherwise possible. And if they use their education to become a success, then that becomes an inspirational story to others.

And if those success stories create jobs requiring education, then it permanently alters the economic situation for the better, creating a loop that feeds on itself.

probable outcome? Don't know. Possible? Sure.

Worth the money? Dunno. But, I'd probably buy a laptop to help the project and because the things sound like they might be cool to play with.

#253 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2006, 11:57 PM:

"He is said to have observed . . ."

Dyson described his journey from idealistic teen pacifist to working as a mathematician for the RAF Bomber Command in a couple of essays, reprinted in Disturbing the Universe and Weapons and Hope.

The latter's entry was printed in The New Yorker as "The Sell-Out." It's wrenching stuff. Um, here:

I felt deeply my responsibility, being in possession of all this information which was so carefully concealed from the British public. I was sickened by what I knew. Many times I decided I had a moral obligation to run out into the streets and tell the British people what stupidities were being done in their name. But I never had the courage to do it. I sat in my office until the end, carefully calculating how to murder most economically another hundred thousand people.

It ticks me off terribly that most SF fans only know about Dyson because of, um, the Sphere thing, but never read any of his essays on technology and nature and disarmament.

#254 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 12:54 AM:

Just saw V for the second time. first of all:

Engure guna n Gevpxfgre punenpgre, I nyzbfg erzvaqf zr bs Xvat Xbat, n zbafgre jvgu hapbagebyynoyr entr jub svaqf fbzrguvat vafvqr uvz nsgre snyyvat va ybir jvgu gur tvey. Arvgure Xbat abe I pna rfpncr gurve rffragvny ivbyrag angher, naq obgu raq hc qlvat orpnhfr bs vg. Bu, naq juvyr I serrf Rirl guebhtu gbegher, V'z abg rknpgyl fher jung Xbat qbrf gb uvf srznyr fhccbegvat npgerff, ohg V vzntvar gung fur raqf hc jvgu na nccerpvngvba sbe gur ovt tbevyyn. fb gurer lbh unir vg.

I've decided that the movie is indeed worth a full price evening ticket.

Oh, and lastly, Natalie Portman had better win an oscar for her performance. she is amazing in this.

#255 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 12:58 AM:

In my town you could look at the housing materials in a paleological way. Spanish-era houses were adobe, which is a kind of unfired brick of native clay mixed with fibrous material (horsehair or straw, or other) and sometimes other materials, with door and window frames in wood, covered with thick plaster (they melt if the plaster falls off). Then Americano houses were imitation East Coast wood frame houses. The there was a fire. Then the next layer of houses were bricks. Then there was an earthquake. The next layer was wood again. This pair of layers repeats, I think just one more time but it could be two times. Then you get stucco houses in the early twentieth, and wood frame in the late twentieth, and now you mostly get either stucco or imitation wood.

Not much in the way of basements to pump, though. Certain neighborhoods, like mine, are largely high-water bungalows, because there used to be a lot of floods.

#256 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 01:00 AM:

in SF there's an assumption that everything can be explained...

Alternatively: in SF there is handwaving which helps to drive the plot; in magical realism the handwaving takes the place of the plot.

I didn't like One Hundred Years of Solitude. Can you tell?

#257 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 01:01 AM:

Oh, and I have four nice outfits of women's size 24 or so to give to someone who can use them. I'll probably take pictures of them this weekend, but the link goes to pretty extensive descriptions.

#258 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 01:05 AM:

$100 laptops: They aren't going to change the world. They can't hurt, and they might help.

In developed countries, I feel that computers are almost always a waste of time in schools. The kids usually know more about the machines than the teachers do, and there is a strong tendency to use them as glorified typewriters. (And before anyone says that atleast the output'll look good, we have teachers that think Comic Sans MS is a good font for exams...)

Of course, if used well, they can help. Several thousand dollars worth of help? I don't know.

#259 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 08:06 AM: appears to have an interesting discussion of the topic in their slash fiction article. deserve no credit for anything interesting in the article, which is quoted verbatim from Wikipedia.

This has been an automated public service announcement.

#260 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 08:25 AM:

Xopher: Hah! Where I lived, all the little old ladies had already died of neglect! We had to hunt down feral dogs in the street for our dandruff flakes.

But tell that to kids today...

#261 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 09:22 AM:

in re one of Teresa's Particles, belatedly:

Snakes in a Drain!

#262 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 10:13 AM:

This story was reported today in a Sydney paper (extracts below). It may only apply to the United Kingdom; I'm not sure how similar Australian libel &/or defamation laws are, since we've diverged over the years. Certainly US libel laws are different. Has it had much publicity in the UK, the USA, or elsewhere? I thought since there's been some discussion of legal aspects of online/computer subjects here, and, over time a few trollings, discussion thereof, and reminiscences of flame-wars of old that verious denizens could

A political argument in cyberspace that descended into vicious name-calling could lead to a spate of libel actions by contributors to internet message boards. The case is one of the first of its kind between two private individuals to go to court, said lawyers.
The action was brought by Michael Keith-Smith, chairman of the Conservative Democratic Alliance, which bills itself as "the leading voice of the radical Tory right." He said he was moved to sue after a woman with whom he was debating the merits of military action in Iraq in 2003 on a Yahoo! message board began a campaign of name-calling that started by describing him as "lard brain" and culminated in accusing his wife of being a prostitute, and labelling him a "Nazi", a "racist bigot" and a "nonce"[*]. "She was very pro-Bush," he said.
He claimed to have settled with a second poster for a sum "in the region of £30,000". "They started saying I was on a sex offenders' list and that people shouldn't let me near their children".
Judge Alistair MacDuff in the High Court ordered Tracy Williams, a college lecturer, to pay £10,000 ($AU24,000**) in damages, plus Mr Keith-Smith's £7,200 costs, and told never to repeat the allegations.
Some legal experts said the case should be taken as a warning that the laws of libel applied on line just as they would if the comments were published in a leaflet or newsletter. Others said the case should trigger a wider debate about whether the libel law was best suited to deal with such cases, questioning whether they should ever reach court if a chatroom was self-moderating and had a limited circulation.
Interesting that a strong Bush supporter would be attacking someone of the "radical Tory right."
*I could understand objecting to ponce, but nonce isn't too bad AFAIK.
**Strewth, that's my annual pay! Better keep quiet about people in Britain.

#263 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 10:20 AM:


combining this with Godwin's law,

As an online discussion continues,
the probability of someone sueing someone else
for calling them a Nazi approaches 1.

This should generate an infinite number
of lawsuits until the entire internet and
legal system implodes upon itself into a
black hole. All thats left to do is set
up some lawn chairs, grab a beer, and

#264 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 10:53 AM:

Many thanks, Mr. Ford, for that splendid word "obnoxicating"! It can happen when threads temporarily devolve into personal podium-thumping or long, mostly two-person, debates -- and anyone (anyone with the sniffly morning grouches, at least) can find some examples here and in other threads. I recall one poster to this site who got "banned" (or did it to himself, after protests arose?) for the practice.

There's no point in making rules against it, since skimming is such an easy option, but I'm delighted to see you pin it down so nicely.

[Best wishes from the sniffly morning grouch.]

#265 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 10:56 AM:

"The New New Gore" is the lightning bug.

"The Way New Gore" would've been the lightning.

#266 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 11:03 AM:

Gore as lightning? And is it true that Hillary Clinton is the top contender for 2008, with 48% of people surveyed approving of her? Considering her overall spineless as a Senator, I find that hard to believe...

Meanwhile, Diane Duane's site quotes a funny review of Dark Kingdom by someone who doesn't seem to realize that this is based on something that existed BEFORE Wagner's Ring Cycle, and before Kirk Douglas's The Vikings.

Finally, today's column by Jon Carroll is about the response he got from Monday's column where he talks about his lesbian daughter and her adopted child. Lots of supportive response. But also the predictable opposite, with things like "With a father like you, no wonder your daughter hates men."

#267 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 11:20 AM:

I don't approve of Hilary running for President, but the idea of Bill as First Husband is very amusing.

#268 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 11:21 AM:

I don't get it. Why is the cover of the sheet music for "Hie Away Ole Satan" worthy of being a particle? What am I missing?

#269 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 11:37 AM:

Thus far Epacris: *I could understand objecting to ponce, but nonce isn't too bad AFAIK.

'Nonce' is British slang for 'child molester'.

#270 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 11:47 AM:

Yeah, Laura, Bill being back in the White House would be amusing. And it would be quite the New York Salute to Republicans. But... Won't happen. Hillary & Bill would be great perfect lightning rods for the GOP who tell their troops to donate lots of money or else these two will be back in and we can't have that.

That, though, isn't why I don't care for Hillary. Her record as a Senator hasn't been a demonstration of great courage. I do wonder if she's been acting this way because she wants to say she's NOT really a Lesbian Feminazi Radical. The problem with that is that, if this is an act, it won't convince any Republican. It might convince some Democrats, but it'd convince them that she has no guts.

Is Feingold considering running? And what's going on with Wes Clark?

#271 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 12:21 PM:

I didn't like One Hundred Years of Solitude either, but have to wonder what Oprah's Book Club made of it as a selection. ISTR hearing/reading an interview with Garcia Marquez in which he explained the book in terms of the nonsensicality of "consensus reality"; the specific example I remember is the beautiful girl who was bodily assumed into heaven from her bathtub, which the author said was simply what her family told everyone after she had really run away from their village with a man, and all of the neighbors nodded and smiled and pretended to believe them. Unfortunately, I have no idea when/where this interview was and can't find it now.

#272 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 01:33 PM:

FYI, re: "Hie Away Ole Satan": I don't know, but The Anachronist might. And he's posting again. Yay! (He wrote an article for last Sunday's Times about old recordings that looks good.)

#273 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 02:04 PM:

CHip: on the contrary, it seems to me that it's much easier to live without owning a home in North American cities. The respectable rental sector -- that is rented apartments not for students, the very poor, or in housing project equivalents -- is minute in Britain. (I don't have stats, far less for the rest of Europe. But anecdotally, I know the same kind of people in Britain as I do in North America, and a far higher proportion of them in Britain own their homes -- I'm subconsciously always surprised when I hear about editors and teachers and other professionals continuing to rent in America.)

I suspect it may be easier to buy houses in Britain because people don't have the enormous drain of paying for their medical costs.

#274 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 02:09 PM:

OK, I give up. During the end credits of V for Vendetta, they play Street Fighting Man by the Rolling Stones and then they seque into some industrial-sounding music that I cannot, for the life of me, identify. There are some spoken parts mixed over the music. It reminds me of White Zombie, AstroCreep 2000. Anyway, I've been googling all over the place, using different words and phrases, tryign to find some reference to what it is.

Anyone know what I'm talking about and what it is?

#275 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 02:21 PM:

Tonight, on the Skiffy Channel, Doctor Who... As their ad says:

The year: 1869.
The place: London.
The problem: the walking dead.

Don't you hate it when that happens?

#276 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 02:35 PM:

Serge - Heh, sounds like the White House since Jan, 2001. Only with more fresh brains.

#277 ::: Sharon Mock ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 02:37 PM:

Greg: What you're looking for is here.

Well, not exactly, because not all the rights to the quotes have cleared yet. But the "speechless" version, at least.

#278 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 02:43 PM:

Soundtrack from the official site. There's also a "talk-back" section at the top of the page which looks to be a way of posing a question via e-mail.

#279 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 02:44 PM:


Lo, my Google-foo is strong today! From Astralwerks, the record label:

"* The song played over the end credits is a new compositon titled "BKAB" by Ethan Stoller, created exclusively for use over the film's end credit and does not appear on the physical soundtrack."


#280 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 02:49 PM:


That's it!
BKAB?!? wow, no wonder I couldn't find it.
variations of "V for vendetta" and "music"
with or without "credits" wasn't doing it.

Thanks, it'll do until teh DVD comes out.


#281 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 03:21 PM:

Maybe, Larry... In the Oval Office anyway...

#282 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 03:31 PM:

And that Doctor Who info is wrong. It's not happening in London. That story is set in Cardiff, as is another one in the series which follows on from it.

#283 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 03:32 PM:

Larry... I meant to write "BUT NOT in the Oval Office anyway".

#284 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 04:11 PM:

I've started reading a great book- Donald Knuth's Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About- a series of lectures on his faith. He's a wonderful thinker and it's lovely to watch.

This is about the $100 laptops, in case it's not clear yet.

So he talks about how people think, and why "Computer Science" is a specific endeavor, and he says that, consistently, about 1 in 50 people seem to think like computer people. He has gone through and read all these various bits of theology and spotted the people that would have been computer types, if the computer had been available to them.

The $100 laptops will be available in lots of 1 million. Say, optimistically, that only half of them will be stolen, broken, sold, wasted.

They're going to make programmers out of some of the poorest people in the world, and they're going to do it in batches of 10,000. Those are literal myriads.

Is it appropriate for me to go "Squeeee!" in here?


#285 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 04:37 PM:

From the New York Times review of Toronto's new Lord of the Rings musical, which I think I will be skipping:

"...the show's must-have fashion items are clearly the springing shoes worn by some of the evil Orcs (at least I think that's what they were), who look like a squadron of vengeful houseplants trained in the martial arts."

#286 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 04:48 PM:

He has gone through and ... spotted the people that would have been computer types, if the computer had been available to them.

I've often wondered about that - what that type of person did in the pre-computer days. Hopefully some of those skills are transferable to other areas. Otherwise there would have been a lot of frustrated and unhappy proto-hackers scattered throughout history.

#287 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 05:12 PM:

Sandy, you can say Squeee wherever you want.

computer types before the days of computers? Hm, I'll put a claim on Da Vinci. One mechanical engineer thinks that one of his drawings shows a "robot" that rolls on wheels powered by wound-up springs, and that the steering could be programmed by a wheel with various notches in it. Apparently Da Vinci built some animatronic armor that was fixed at a table and moved as if it were eating. But the robot thing was apparently the size of a roomba, self-propelled, and programmable.

John Harrison who built a mechanical, spring powered ship's clock that was accurate enough to win the Longitude Prize.

Two obvious contenders righ there.

#288 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 05:34 PM:

In old Europe, they probably would have been monks. Gregor Mendel probably would have been a killer programmer.

#289 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 05:58 PM:

My dismay at learning that the SpaceX Falcon 1 was lost on its initial flight was slightly assuaged when I noticed that the spokesman for Spacex was vice president for business development Gwynne Shotwell.

Herb Caen may be gone but namepreaks live on!

#290 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 05:59 PM:

The $100 laptop will only result in kids becoming programmers if there's an easily accessible and well documented computer language on the thing.

I think the village street will find their own uses for the things.

Some of these will be unwholesome (419 scams), some selfish and mercenary (but if they allow a poor woman to make a living, who am I to complain), some surprising and helpful.

* * *

There's another cheap techno gimmick I'd like to see built by the tens of millions and given away in the third world:

A solar-chargeable LED lamp.

Imagine a dessert-plate sized solar collector with a hook on top and a detachable LED flashlight with a removeable diffuser on the bottom. Hang it outdoors during the day. After eight hours in the sun it has enough of a charge to keep the lamp lit for, say, four hours, providing enough clean-smokeless light to do some sewing or studying or food prep.

#291 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 06:09 PM:

Stefan, aren't very similar devices available at any local home improvement store. My front walk is lit by solar charged lights.

#292 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 06:17 PM:


Absolutely. The difference would be in the packaging of the components. And a bias toward brightness rather than duration. They must be usable as reading lights.

FWIW, those solar lights have gone from being a pricey item to a Made-in-China commodity.

#293 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 06:24 PM:

$100 laptop will only result in kids becoming programmers if there's an easily accessible and well documented computer language on the thing.

the radio shack color computer had an operating system, a BASIC programming language compiler, and an editor, in 32k of ROM, no harddrive full of libraries. I think something could be put together that would allow these things to have some sort of simple language. A tiny, embedded C maybe?

#294 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 07:23 PM:

Very neat study . . . the top ten cities you want to live in or near during the next oil crisis:

1. New York City
2. Boston
3. San Francisco
4. Chicago
5. Philadelphia
6. Portland
7. Honolulu
8. Seattle
9. Baltimore
10. Oakland

(In the bottom ten cities, men will have to resort to selling plugs of testicular tissue to StemCellCo, LLC to afford to gas up their S.U.V.s.)

#295 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 07:53 PM:

Stefan Jones: FWIW, those solar lights have gone from being a pricey item to a Made-in-China commodity.

And on a related-gadget note, the other day at Costco I scooped up several hand-cranked LED flashlights for $20 a pair, in preparation for our next power outage. Look Ma, no batteries to die while sitting in the kitchen drawer. Used to be these things were high-priced survivalist gear that didn't work all that well anyway, but with low-power LEDs and cheap Chinese manufacturing, now they too are an impulse buy.

#296 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 07:59 PM:

Oooh, thanks Eric. I will have to look for those.

(I've managed to not go bonkers with my new Costco membership. The only error I've made so far is simultaneously buying big bags of frozen meat balls and "Normandy Vegetables." I had to do a lot of shuffling to get them into the freezer. Ended up defrosting the last two containers of blackberries, which got turned into cobbler.)

#297 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 08:59 PM:

Eric, did you boggle at Honolulu's presence on that list that Stefan Jones presented up there above your comment?

All our lighting and gas comes from oil shipped in from off-island, and we have a bus system as mass transit. We are anything but accustomed to riding in anything other than our own cars. I'm gonna have to go look at the website which compiled that data to see what supports the conclusion that we're even close to the top ten.

#298 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 09:03 PM:

Here's the story about top ten cities prepared for an oil crisis that CNN/Money picked up. Honolulu is barely mentioned, and that one parenthetical sentence is no positive. Hmm.

#299 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2006, 09:49 PM:

Greg: The laptop appears to be going to use Squeak, a Smalltalk implementation.

If it is going to run Linux, there are a lot of compatible programs out there. Mind, nowhere near as much as if it were running Windows, but I doubt the $100 laptop people would touch Windows with a bargepole.

(Re: Oil Crisis. NZ is going to be screwed, at least economically. We happen to rely on overseas trade for a lot of the economy. That's going to hurt. On the other hand, at least we'll get lots of cheap lamb...)

#300 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2006, 12:09 AM:

Linkmeister - I boggle at Seattle being on that list. We have a weak bus network unless you want to go downtown.

Sure, I can telecommute, but I'd have a hard time relying on transit here. Minimum commute time is about an hour by bus, which is pretty much the maximum by car. And surprisingly, there's only one express bus route from Seattle to ReallyBigCorp's campus, and it's only a one-seat ride if you live downtown or right by the bridge over the lake.

#301 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2006, 12:59 AM:

Costco is one of the reasons I'm glad we have a chest freezer in the basement. As well as the fact that our local grocers sometimes have Meat Wars, which puts nice steaks, etc. in our freezer to be enjoyed later.

#302 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2006, 01:14 AM:

Got my hand-cranked LED flashlights (good tip!) and TWO AND A YEARS worth of Splenda packets.

The flashlights . . . man, they'd make swell props for a cheap SF movie. Ergonomically shaped death rays!

The dog is already scared of them. She edges away when I pick one up. I think I'll keep one by the table and show her it when she sneaks close at dinner time and puts on that enthusiastic "Go on, drop something" expression.

#303 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2006, 02:22 AM:

Larry, I can telecommute too; in fact, my free-lance biz is all done that way, but I'd be hard-pressed to keep anything in the fridge/freezer or go out to the local Safeway (which would be having similar problems) if the oil supply dried up.

A very strange list. The methodology wasn't detailed in that article, which makes me wonder just how the research was done. I'm not ascribing nefarious motives, but...

#304 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2006, 02:38 AM:

... our local grocers sometimes have Meat Wars ...

"I find your lack of filet . . . disturbing."

#305 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2006, 10:24 AM:

Many of those oil-crisis cities would also be less than optimal if the crisis came along with more global warming -- though the Oakland Hills would probably survive.

#306 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2006, 11:04 AM:

Faren - Wow, front-yard boat docks in Piedmont. Talk about making already-expensive property even more valuable.

Seattle would probably do OK, but we'd lose some flat spots, like Pioneer Square, SoDo and Georgetown. Really high seas might overtop the Ballard Locks and make Lakes Union and Washington brackish.

In the big oil crisis, I'd miss my airlifted-from-Greece fancy-pants yogurt, but I guess we'd still have apples, potatoes, blackberries and mushrooms. And our merely-OK local wines. Then again, warmer weather might produce better Washington reds.

#307 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2006, 12:49 PM:

re: rising sea levels... Have y'all seen the Google mashup, Flood Maps? Pick an amount by which the sea rises, and see if you now have beachfront property...


#308 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2006, 12:52 PM:

"and see if you now have beachfront property..."

When I was at the U of A in Tucson we used to joke about California falling into the ocean along the San Andreas fault line, thus giving us the opportunity to go surfing off the coast of Yuma.

#309 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2006, 01:37 PM:

Jo: a frequent claim in the US is that owning one's own living quarters is much more common here than in Europe; the claimants are usually plausible, but I'd like to see real numbers. One of the reasons given is that mortgage interest is deductible as (we're told) it is not in Europe; this may balance against health-care costs. OTOH, I still haven't grokked the financial arrangement Brian&Caroline have, which sounded like it might have a similar effect.

It's possible that the respectable renters you know are thinking of mobility. Also -- are condos and co-ops catching on in Canada? Without them, living close-in (i.e., in a multi-unit building) and ownership are incompatible.

#310 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2006, 01:47 PM:

well, I just checked googles flood map. Our house and property is OK up to 14 meters (the highest number you can try). So, I guess that means that this whole global warming thing is someone else's problem. Think I'll jump in my Humvee, buy a bunch of dirty coal and burn it in the street.

It feels so nice to be relieved of the worry...

#311 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2006, 02:11 PM:

Greg London wrote: The Radio Shack Color Computer had an operating system, a BASIC programming language compiler, and an editor, in 32k of ROM, no harddrive full of libraries.

That was my first "serious" computer
(beyond a programable calculator), before PCs or Macs.

An editorial in Doctor Dobbs Journal
suggested the Color Computer was a superb hacker's machine,
with regards to small languages and hardware add-ons which were available.
And what you could do with the standard hardware ports
used for joysticks, serial I/O, and tape cassette storage.
(Not why I bought the machine, but it confirmed my suspicion that it had been a good choice.)

The Color Computer had a pair of left and right joysticks,
each of which were basically an XY pair of potentiometers.
I built a digitizer suggested by an article in Robotics Age,
which had a solar cigarette lighter with a photocell at the focus (for the light intensity),
attached to the end of a joystick (for the XY values), all mounted on a small tripod.
You waved the joystick/photocell arm around, and painted in an image.

An article in Byte suggested ways that the same potentiometers
could be used to make a small weather station,
by attaching thermocouples and an anemometer.

I think something could be put together that would allow these things to have some sort of simple language. A tiny, embedded C maybe?

FORTH had been a good language for that machine, when I was ready to get beyond Basic.
The 6809 processor which it used was considered by some to be an ideal match to FORTH,
in terms of its memory space and number of registers.
The language was designed not to take up too much room in a 64K memory space.

[ Considering the Macs long history with Motorola processors,
I've told Mac friends that the Color Computer was the true ancestor of the Mac,
rather than the Apple II.

FORTH used Reverse Polish notation and a stack for data.
'1 + 1 = 2' would be handled as '1 1 +';
you put data on the stack first, followed by the operator.
This style of arithmetic had been common at the time with HP calculators.
It avoided the complexity of parsing out parentheses by not allowing them.
FORTH had been described as a language which used the human brain as a pre-processor.

FORTH allowed access to pretty much anywhere in the memory space,
and trusted that you knew enough not to do something 'inappropriate',
such as store some piece of data into the memory space some executable code was using.

Programming was managed through a couple 'block buffers' in memory
(each buffer 1024 bytes), which got swapped in and out from storage.
Storage could be another area in memory, saved off to a tape cassette
(in one implementation of the language), or a disk drive.

This kept the disk operating system simple.
No file management built in; the human was responsible for keeping track of the blocks.

You programmed in blocks, typically 16 lines with 64 characters per line,
in a manner I've though of as 'programming on recipe cards'.
For functions, you defined 'words' using previously defined 'words', operators, and stack manipulation primitives.
The words went into a 'dictionary' (either a default dictionary, or one you created for the task).

FORTH had been popular in the 70's in the astronomics community for telescope control.
It was used by the University of Rochester for their Laser Energetics Lab.
Its most famous offshoot was PostScript,
which was written by John Warnock
to control imaging of the laser printer page.

[ In a bit of name-dropping appropriate for the SF community,
I recall an article by Vernor Vinge in one of the FORTH community publications,
describing his experiences teaching a university class on FORTH.

Before I was done with the Color Computer,
I had a 10 Meg hard drive connected through a SCSI adapter in an expansion port,
which I could use through drivers I had written in FORTH.
I also had a 512K memory card,
which I could also access through through my own drivers as a ram drive.

[ It hadn't been a big deal to do this;
both devices had interfaces where values could be written to specific spots in memory
to control their operations, define which blocks were to be used on the device,
and where in memory to page these blocks in and out of.
Since FORTH used that approach, it had easy to make use of these devices.

Along the way, I had picked up an old Sony videocam and some cheap digitizing hardware and software.
This did slow scan digitizing; you could make some interesting images
by standing in front of the camera and bobbing your head as the image was scanned.

[ Doug Adams has a self-portrait done in this fashion on one of his books,
using something similar which had been available on the Mac.

This digitizer was designed to work with a cheap graphics app named Graphicom,
which as it turned out had been written in FORTH,
and which stored images to disk in a manner
which made them easy to get at in FORTH.

I wrote some graphics routines which used paging mechanisms
to write to images far larger than the Color Computer 'hi-res' (256x192),
and screen dump routines to print out full page graphics
on a couple of different dot-matrix printers.

I did some rotation animations
where I digitized some art, projected it onto a sphere,
saved out a 256x192 frame on the ram drive,
incremented the rotation and did the next render...
and when a full rotation sequence was completed (typically 24 hours later),
ran the sequence through and recorded the results
(via the Color Computer's TV based display)
onto my Betamax VCR.

... time passes ...

All that was a couple of decades ago.
And all that said, I'm don't think that FORTH would be an ideal language for teaching programming.
But it had been ideal for actually getting something done with a small machine.

All of this work was inspired by Ted Nelson's Computer Lib/Computer Dreams,
which I read in 1977.

This work was being done on my own time and my own dime,
while I worked as a freelance illustrator.
I was looking for tools which would assist in 'comping type' for ad layouts
in the various faces specified by art directors
(using the video digitizer to scan type samples),
and to make 3D models which I could use as illustration aids.

Fortunately, I didn't have to complete the project on my own...

When I got Corel Draw 1.1 for my PC,
that took care of much of the 'type-comping' need,
and provided a useful graphics tool.

It took a while longer before I found a useful modeling application,
but I have been working with Maya for much of the past ten years.

... back to the piece of the thread I jumped in on ...

I had sometimes wondered whether someone might buy the rights for the Color Computer design,
and make a cheap, updated version.
I have seen an updated version of the old Atari computer, used for 'retro gaming',
where the works have been miniaturized to fit into one of the Atari joysticks.

Hopefully these $100 laptops will allow some useful interfaces with the analog world.

#312 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2006, 02:24 PM:

I don't understand what Oakland is doing on that top ten cities list. While I love Oakland, our public transit is ... less than optimal. My guess is that the people who did the study were impressed by the BART system and didn't realize that BART stations aren't convenient for a lot of people.

#313 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2006, 02:45 PM:

Yes, I do recall how cool the pot/joysticks on the Coco were as compared to the switch/contact/joysticks were on other machines around at the time. I never hacked the machine though, I spent a long time scrounging my allowance to buy it and didn't want to fry the thing.

Hopefully these $100 laptops will allow some useful interfaces with the analog world.

wifi is a bit over the top for low level hacking. it may not have any other interface though, since everything adds to the cost. And hacking isn't the purpose of these things, so much as it is to generate interest in higher learning...

I think I'd still buy one though...

#314 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2006, 03:24 PM:

BART's kind of weird. It seems to me it's kind of a supplement to public transit - it lets you go city-to-city quite conveniently without a car, which most public transit systems don't do, but it's not much good for the kind of day-to-day transportation that most public transit systems take care of.

I got along on the Honolulu bus system for my first 7 years here; if you are patient, you can use it for home-work commutes and most shopping. Once I had a kid, we decided we really needed a car.


On the broader topic:

Hawaii is going to be a very difficult place to be once the combination of global warming and permanently higher oil prices hit. We may have ended up on that list because we do have a fairly usable bus system, or because a lot of people live in the city proper, near downtown. Hawaii also has a good climate for alternative power generation - between sun, wind, and ocean thermal sources we could probably supply 100% of our electric power needs, with enough capital investment (the big catch.) But all that electric power would not bring one boatload of food over here, nor one planeload of tourists. Our current tourism-based economy is going to go away completely and almost nobody is ready to talk about that yet.

Right now we import a lot of food; we could switch over to growing a lot more here than we do - with a very limited selection - but agriculture is tricky here. One week of heavy rains like we just had can wipe out a whole season's crops, and there are many crops that simply won't grow in the tropics. If global warming results in making extreme weather more intense, as generally predicted, then the food supply could become pretty tenuous year over year. Then there's the question of what happens if we take a major hurricane hit, Class 5 or 6.

And then there's the sea level problem. Our house is up a valley, high up above any 30 foot rise in sea level - but most of Honolulu isn't. Neither is the airport. Nor can the harbor be, naturally. Neither is much of the good farmland.

Interesting that the conversation here headed this way. I have been thinking about this a lot in recent weeks, and just had a conversation with my wife about it this morning.

I had once thought to spend the rest of our lives here - I'm no longer sure that's feasible unless I want to risk turning them a lot shorter. Maybe southern Oregon near the I-5 corridor, where my brother and mom have moved, would be an OK place to live post climate-change. It's far enough north that it shouldn't move warmer than sub-tropical, and inland far enough that it shouldn't be submerged. And you can grow food there; being on the coastal side of the mountains it's unlikely to turn into a desert even if wind patterns shift. (It's also not right by an active volcano, unlike Portland.)

Thinking about all this, I was reminded of some SF writer (Heinlein?) who had a parable about a university professor in the '30s who could see WW II was coming. He figured Europe would be pretty much torn up, and the US would be drawn into it, and probably Japan and China would be at war, and he wanted to be somewhere safely out of the way when this was going on. So he took all his savings, and moved to a tiny Pacific island - named Guadalcanal. The moral is blunt, but one still has to do ones best to plan.

#315 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2006, 04:14 PM:

(coming in late as my internet connection went down yesterday just as I was about to post this:)

Nix: my favorite citation of "guy" is from "The Mikado", in the list of people who will not be missed if they are executed:

"And the lady from the provinces who dresses like a guy/Who doesn't think she dances, but would rather like to try."

When I was a kid I thought she was a crossdresser rather than someone who didn't know how to coordinate an outfit.

Protected static, Larry and anyone else from Seattle: I'm visiting Seattle for a couple days next month; any tips on what to see besides the Space Needle, the Fish Market, and Fremont? I would love to check out a good thrift store (my preferred means of finding cheap souvenirs for myself).

#316 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2006, 05:07 PM:

Thiink of BART as heavy intercity rail. You use it to get to the point where you can catch a bus or some other 'local' transportation. (LA has Metrolink for this, although the bus connections are more problematic: the MTA doesn't quite get it yet.)

#317 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2006, 05:23 PM:

I wrote the "City Transportation" section of the upcoming WorldChanging book. Got exposed to all sorts of interesting concepts.

In addition to being places where rides catch busses, BART stations have become pick-up stops for casual carpooling. Someone who wants to drive into the city, but doesn't have enough bodies to get in the HOV lane, stops at a station and picks someone up. No chit-chat, just a ride to the city.

#318 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2006, 06:34 PM:

Lila: I live near Fremont, so you've pretty much covered it as far as I'm concerned ;-) You can definitely get your thrift-junk-junque shop fix there, too... (There's also some good funky shopping on Capitol Hill but I'm far less familiar with the neighborhood.)

Oh, and if you're serious about getting some fish, don't go to Pike Place Fish (the guys who throw the fish...). Go to City Fish instead, also on the main arcade of the Market. IMLTHO, both their fish and service are better.

#319 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2006, 09:26 PM:

I checked: The java SDK I have is 55 meg [zipped] and 80-some meg [unzipped]. Also free.

I bet they could get it down in size somewhat, for a million potential users.

#320 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2006, 09:56 PM:

Lila - If you want to get the feel of the city, also consider a jaunt out to Ballard. The locks are neat, and Ballard Ave has a lot of nice old buildings in various states of preservation/decay with some useful shops, including a very good second-hand sporting goods shop. I don't know too much about other kinds of thrift shops, though.

Gasworks Park is a don't miss sight, both for the park and for the views of Downtown across the lake.

The Underground Tour has just the right level of bubbling cheese to be worthwhile, and you might also consider a ride to the top of the Smith Tower, which was once Seattle's tallest building (check for their opening hours).

I don't know what kind of sights to recommend otherwise, not knowing your interests and being a relatively new transplant myself.

#321 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2006, 10:10 PM:

Oh, and no trip to Ballard is complete without a trip to Archie McPhee!

#322 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2006, 07:37 AM:

The following link will offend certain people, no doubt about it.

What you're not allowed to say on the BBC.

#323 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2006, 08:36 AM:

Thanks for the tourist advice--Archie McPhee looks a LOT like my hometown's The Junkman's Daughter's Brother. Alas, they don't have a website, but they got a mention in the L.A. Times:

Place to shop for someone who has everything: The Junkman's Daughter's Brother, 458 E. Clayton St.; (706) 543-4454. A cavernous, incense-infused space with an eclectic mix of merchandise, including bulldog cookie jars, plastic herons for the garden, Piggly Wiggly T-shirts and insect-eating plants.

#324 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2006, 11:43 AM:

Lisa (belatedly): if you think Oakland's transit is bad, try my new home in Prescott AZ -- where there's no bus system at all! Just a few shuttles between shopping centers, and some of the senior homes have their own vehicles for residents. I'm just glad "civilization" (bank, supermarket, UPS place, my doctor's office) has arrived in my part of town. Everything else is over an hour's walk away -- on short-person legs, anyhow.

#325 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2006, 12:37 PM:

Lila - Another sight to think about is the Museum of Flight. If you like airplanes, this is the place for you. It's in the southern reaches of the city, adjacent to Boeing Field. Between the historic airplanes in the main building and the big birds outside (including a Concorde and Air Force One), it can easily take a whole day to visit.

If you have a car, or are an adventurous bus user, you can stop at the nearby Hat and Boots, in the Georgetown neighborhood. (The second link goes to a set of photos I've taken since I moved here in Jan '05. If anything catches your eye and you want to know more, just email me.)

Oh, if you're carless in Seattle, you can plan bus trips here:, and pretty much all schedules are available at the downtown library (a don't miss sight on its own) and at the University of Washington Bookstore. The bus system goes almost everywhere, but there are too many similar routes with infrequent service so often knowing the details can save you a lot of time. Oh, and the buses are free during the day in the downtown core.

#326 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2006, 03:29 PM:

Stefan, that kind of organized-but-impromptu carpooling sounds like what they call "slugging" in the DC area. One of the big driving forces there is the "high occupancy vehicle" or carpool lanes, which allow full cars to bypass traffic jams. They might also bypass some tolls - I'm not sure. So if a driver is driving to work alone, there's a significant incentive to stop at a slug station and fill the car. In cities that don't have restricted HOV lanes (or don't enforce the restrictions), I don't think there would be a critical mass of participating drivers.

#327 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2006, 04:03 PM:

Stefan and Adrian - In the East Bay, it's an institution called "Casual Carpooling" and has formal pickup points where you can collect passengers and zip (for some value of zip) through the Bay Bridge toll plaza for free in the diamond lane.

#328 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2006, 04:16 PM:

Adrian, no tolls, at least not yet.

Larry, slugging here is definitely informal, yet the local governments tend to make it easier.

#329 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2006, 04:24 PM:

There's a "slug lines" web page for the D.C. area where you can learn about pickup points.

My WorldChanging piece mentions attempts to bring technology to slugging.

#330 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2006, 07:16 PM:

FWIW, Mr. Chaucer's blog has moved from the link provided in the Particles to a new location.

#331 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2006, 03:54 AM:

And oh, that Praying Drunk in the particles. That is good, good poetry. "As I fall past, remember me".

#332 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2006, 08:00 AM:

Jo: a frequent claim in the US is that owning one's own living quarters is much more common here than in Europe[...]One of the reasons given is that mortgage interest is deductible as (we're told) it is not in Europe

I don't know about Europe, but they did a study of the US [deductible interest] vs. Canada [not] and they found that deductible interest just raises the cost of the house. People spend what they're willing to spend per month, and the real estate prices orbit around that.

(This fits with another recent discovery of mine; between 1964 and 2004, the amount that Americans spent on shelter, as a percentage of income, was essentially unchanged.)

I didn't look up numbers on "live" vs. "rent" because I am lazy.

#333 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2006, 08:17 AM:

I was watching The Colbert Report the other day and something occurred to me half-way thru the opening credits.

How does he manage to quickly and dramatically remove his glasses one-handed, without bending the frame?

#334 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2006, 10:49 AM:

Serge: can't speak for Colbert, but my wire frames have springs that give both ways... They won't fold outwards, but they will flex quite a bit.

Or it could just be CGI 'n' greenscreens. ;-)

#335 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2006, 11:02 AM:

Thanks, protected static. I'm due for a new eye exam this year so maybe I'll ask for frames like that, especially for my sunglasses. I want my taking them off to carry as much existentialist weight as when David Caruso does it on CSI: Miami.

(CGI and green screens... My, oh my... Another reminder that I'm an old fart because, when I was young, we had only blue screens to help with the removal of our glasses.)

#336 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2006, 11:35 AM:

Serge, I have wire frames made by a well-known athletic shoe company. They're very flexible and can also be easily removed with one hand. Unfortunately, they come with the brand's logo -- which jacks up the price.

#337 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2006, 11:59 AM:

Afghans Protest Decision on Christian

I'm a little confused here. Why is this guy in jail? The article says "Rahman was being prosecuted for converting to Christianity 16 years ago while working as a medical aid worker for an international Christian group helping Afghan refugees in Pakistan. He was arrested last month after police discovered him with a Bible."

So glad we invaded this country and established a sound government...

#338 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2006, 12:09 PM:

Greg London, as I heard it on NPR, the charges were a tactic in a child custody suit.

#339 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2006, 12:25 PM:

Thanks, Richard.

On a different topic... Tonight, the Skiffy Channel is showing Part One of Duane & Morwood's Dark Kingdom. It's got greed, jealousy, sex, violence. And Julian Sands.

#340 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2006, 12:33 PM:

Serge: I don't know if you've got kids or not - but not all that long ago, I had to explain to my not-quite-6-yr-old why it was called 'dialing' when the phone clearly has buttons...

He also looked at me like I was an alien for our discussion about record albums. "Yeah, there were these plastic discs with scratches in them - they came in different sizes, and if you spun them at different speeds..."

"But how did they play on an iPod?"

Hand. Staple. Forehead.

#341 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2006, 12:40 PM:

Stanislaw Lem has died:

#342 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2006, 12:56 PM:

No kids, protected static... But I've come across this amazed surprise from computer co-workers only 10 years younger than me when I tell them I used to program with card-punchers.

As for your iPod comment...

That's my cue about the biggest laugh I got out of the 2nd episode of Dr. Who, the one set 5 billion years into the future. At some point, one of Humanity's descendants brings up a jukebox as a present, which it understands is a reproduction of what used to be called an iPod.

#343 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2006, 01:08 PM:

as I heard it on NPR, the charges were a tactic in a child custody suit.

Really? Well, it explains some things at least. Their saying he may be mentally unfit to stand trial now.

#344 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2006, 06:19 PM:

Greg, I think the "mentally unfit" is a way to not-kill him which will appease the US, but still put him in prison.

#345 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2006, 06:58 PM:

Lila: As a sometime visitor to Seattle I second Larry's recommendation of the underground tour. If you have a car and the inclination, you could also go a few dozen miles north to Boeing's final-assembly plant for jumbo jets; they had a well-narrated overhead tour.

Marilee: putting him in prison/asylum has the benefit(!?!) of keeping him away from imams who want to lynch him.

#346 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2006, 08:41 PM:

Open thread comment: I just have to say that I absolutely despise computers right now. I've had to reboot almost a dozen times today. arrrrrrgggh.

In happier news, two dirty bombs were snuck into the country in two failed border security tests. gives you a warm fuzzy, glow in the dark feeling all over.

#347 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2006, 09:28 PM:

I'm not a Catholic myself, but I couldn't help being moved by this post:

Yesterday's joyful celebration of inclusion at Our Lady Queen of Peace made me feel hope again in the intersection of my faith, my religion, and my politics for the first time in a long time.

#348 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 12:42 AM:

Another thank-you for "Praying Drunk." That's strong, lovely stuff.

#349 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 06:01 AM:

As a sometime visitor to Seattle I second Larry's recommendation of the underground tour.

I did that tour just before Cascadia last year, CHip. It was quite interesting. Still, I was quite disappointed to learn that the real history of Seattle had nothing whatsoever to do with we were told in the 1970(?) TV show Here Come The Brides.

#350 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 12:05 PM:

Thanks to my sister, who sent me this:
knitted bendy sea monster!

#351 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 01:18 PM:

Creepy, P J...

#352 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 01:32 PM:

Linkmeister: Eric, did you boggle at Honolulu's presence on that list that Stefan Jones presented up there above your comment?

I have noticed that national surveys in the USA often implicitly assume that all the states are located on a single contiguous landmass. As a result, I don't give 'em much weight when it comes to their conclusions about Hawai'i or Alaska.

#353 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2006, 02:08 PM:

Clifton Royston: Hawaii is going to be a very difficult place to be once the combination of global warming and permanently higher oil prices hit. [...] Our current tourism-based economy is going to go away completely and almost nobody is ready to talk about that yet.

Just like nobody in Hawai'i really wants to talk about population growth, or about how we're close to maxing out on fresh water consumption, either.

Right now we import a lot of food; we could switch over to growing a lot more here than we do - with a very limited selection - but agriculture is tricky here. One week of heavy rains like we just had can wipe out a whole season's crops, and there are many crops that simply won't grow in the tropics. If global warming results in making extreme weather more intense, as generally predicted, then the food supply could become pretty tenuous year over year. Then there's the question of what happens if we take a major hurricane hit, Class 5 or 6.

Growing food in the tropical Pacific has never been an easy proposition. It only looks like paradise here. Hurricanes, droughts, and floods happen fairly regularly. Historically, famines were a part of life in old Polynesia. People used to store surplus food to buffer against crop failures -- for example breadfruit was mashed into paste and kept in pits where it fermented and stayed edible for years. Doesn't sound that great, but it's better than starving.

What worries me more is, what if global warming messes up the regular tradewinds and Hawai'i ends up with less rainfall as a result? We'd have to go to desalination for drinking water and maybe even for agricultural irrigation. It would cost an arm and a leg, and that would violently alter the economy.

And then there's the sea level problem. Our house is up a valley, high up above any 30 foot rise in sea level - but most of Honolulu isn't. Neither is the airport. Nor can the harbor be, naturally. Neither is much of the good farmland.

There's still a lot of good farmland above the 30-foot contour... but you'd have to rip up a lot of suburban houses to get at it. It could happen, but only if we really, really need to. As in, collapse of modern civilization "need to".

#355 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2006, 09:21 AM:

re. "The Jokes on UU" in the Particles:

How neat to see "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Unitarian" again! I remember reading that in our church newsletter when I was a child in Dallas and memorizing the first part. I've been making filker friends giggle with that much for years; maybe they'll be pleased to hear the whole thing.

If anyone actually wants to know the origin and meaning of the "candle in the cocktail glass", there's an explanation here.

#356 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2006, 01:23 PM:

Protected Static, the Flood Map mashup is riveting. At ten meters, the waterline bisects my block.

London and New York get hit hard. Boston is just scary. The south end of Louisiana and the east end of North Carolina dissolve into huge fractal-bordered salt swamps. The Sea Islands simply disappear, along with half the Delmarva peninsula, the south end of Florida, and much of the Caribbean.

The Baja Gulf swallows up the Salton Sea, stopping not far short of Palm Springs. San Francisco Bay expands south to San Jose and north to Napa and Novato, floods the area north of Grizzly Bay, and breaks through into the valley beyond to drown Stockton and Sacramento, stretching from Modesto almost all the way to Yuba City.

Then there's Bangladesh, and the Low Countries, and the Maldives, and the Indonesian archipelago.

This is a great piece of propaganda. Of course, it helps that it's also true.

#357 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2006, 01:37 PM:

Apropos global warming, I love Bruce Sterling's line of bumper stickers, especially the one about polar bears.

#358 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2006, 01:49 PM:

The "Flood Map" does seem to have some bugs - it keeps leaving out Rhode Island, which should become considerably more water than it already is. And I don't think that sea-level rising will have much effect on Death Valley, given that the terrain between it and ocean is well over the 14-meter contour.
It's certainly interesting to see what could happen with enough more water for the fish.

#359 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2006, 02:41 PM:

P.J., RE Fish:

In the short run, I suspect it would be very bad, because fishy spawning grounds (coastal wetlands) would get disrupted. And there'd be a lot of pollution leaching out of the ruins of drowned cities. And ocean currents would be all bollixed up.

#360 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2006, 03:15 PM:

Wouldn't global warming shut down the Gulf Stream? In that case, things would get quite nippy in the British Isles.

#361 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2006, 04:04 PM:

Serge: : Wouldn't global warming shut down the Gulf Stream? In that case, things would get quite nippy in the British Isles.

That's what they say. Not just the UK, either. People would have to start thinking of Scandihoovia as a Cold Place. (I have Norwegian blood, tan easily, and have fond memories of my visit to the Norsk Riviera.)

#362 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2006, 04:43 PM:

Thanks, Michael. I think that the Gulf Stream's shutdown was also the premise of a short story by Stephen Baxter in this collection published by NESFA.

Meanwhile, in Frostbite Falls, Minnesota...

#363 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2006, 04:49 PM:

The Gulf Stream has serious problems in Fifty Degrees Below also, although it doesn't actually stop as far as I can tell.

#364 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2006, 05:07 PM:

regarding some previous threads about God, Science, knowing, and belief, among other things, a scientific study has found that praying doesn't affect heart patients.

#365 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2006, 05:14 PM:

Speaking of God and Science, Greg...

Sue, my wife, often goes to Panda's Thumb, a site that talks about Evolution and other 'theories' about the existence of Humanity that have been proposed as 'alternatives' to Darwin's. On March 22, they posted an item taken from the online edition of South Carolina's Greenville News. In it, a Bible literalist pointed out the following:

The theory of evolution does not and cannot explain so much about the universe that we know.

After that incisive comment, the writer went on to ask:

For instance, when and how did water evolve?

#366 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2006, 05:35 PM:

Since I don't know where else to put this-

I loved the garden pictures!

#367 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2006, 05:51 PM:

For instance, when and how did water evolve?

Oh god...

#368 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2006, 05:55 PM:

Hm, from the panda thumb's site, it says: On Aetiology, I have a discussion running about certainty, and the “I know what I know; do not confuse me with the facts” mentality that many of you accustomed to dealing with IDers/creationists will recognize.

A man after my own heart. Sounds like he's pegged Creationists use of "know" to mean "certainty of belief" rather than physically verifiable facts, or, as I'd say, certainty of knowledge.

Glad to see someone's fighting the fight. It's worn me out. I pass the baton...

#369 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2006, 07:42 PM:

Gosh, Greg, you're missing a whole bunch of good anti-creationist thought if you don't try PZ Myers. Just be ready for the squid photos, and the giant mouse-crunching centipede, and the...

Oh, you get the idea.

#370 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2006, 08:21 PM:

Chronicle, a program on WCVB TV in Boston , interviewed authors of very recently published books about James Bulger, master criminal and murderer of several dozen people and involved in the murders of several dozen more, who made a chump of the entire FBI for decades, and discusses Bulger with them. He's still out on the loose, despite having been turned on by former associates, who quite in the game found got burned by Bulger's attitude regarding honor among hoodlums.

The FBI role in this egregious noxiousness has never gotten deeply investigated; when Congress stuck its nose in early in the regime of the Schmuck, the Schmuck put a Presidental gag order on anyone going into FBI records digging out any dirt about the situation, classifying the material and banning access. There are many reasons why I despise Schmuck, and that's one of the many.

J. Edgar Hoover seems to have been involved, and perhaps Schmuck's Daddy, considering, again, the Schmuck put a Presidential Order ban on even Congress investigating too deeply.

Now, for scurrilous satire commentary.... James Bulger apparently has a taste for boys, used to patronize a transvestite bar, and WCVB showed a picture of his dressed up as "as third [member] of the Brokeback Mountain [people]." Perhaps he and J. Edgar Hoover were having an affair, or three ways with minor children young men, one of whom was a young Schmuck? Maybe J. Edgar Hoover had the goods on the Schmuck from his drunken youthful "experimentation" days?!!

#371 ::: Ed Gaillard ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2006, 09:22 PM:

Regarding "The Received Skiffy Future", I have to admit I would certainly buy a book called _Zeppelins Of Phobos_.

On an unrelated note, have you seen the Squid Blog?

-ed g.

#372 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2006, 11:01 PM:

Obviously a novel by a dilettante, as Zeppelins of Phobos would by signification be an alternate-history novel, not sciencelike fictionism. Tech period would be somewhere between Victorian and Edwardian brasstech,* probably with pre-WWI imperial politics. Lowell grass** a distinct possibility.

Plot must involve airship assault on something, somewhere, probably to include aero-infantry wearing personal gasbag/hang glider combinations, and of course leather helmets with goggles, armed with rapid-fire small arms (product of Vickers or Krupp, depending). No trenches; battle is fast-moving and fun for everybody who doesn't die.

Names for Martian cities chosen for easy national identification: Tombstone, New Grinstead, Ploetzlich bei Stumpf, Novaya Ladoga.

Book concludes with Romantic Couple standing in cover-painting pose as moons hurtle like all get-out and full Earth hangs large enough in sky to create Roche limit problems, while discussing future of Mars (promise to rebuild Olympus City sealed with handholding).

Pulp is like Legos. You can build really swell things out of it. Or not.

*The shiny fittings and decorative plumbing of steam with the operating qualities of internal combustion, i.e., none of the cantakerous
complexity of actual steam power.

** Plant, genetically engineered by Old Martians or Upstart Humans, intended to concentrate water and drip it on Martian soil, releasing bound oxygen, meaning that martiforming is in progress and people can do without helmets (impediments to kissing) in low-lying areas. Traditionally planted along lines of canali.

#373 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2006, 11:17 PM:

"*The shiny fittings and decorative plumbing of steam with the operating qualities of internal combustion, i.e., none of the cantakerous complexity of actual steam power."

According to, alas, our late local historian, a garage in my neighborhood had a turntable to accommodate a steam car. (My neighborhood was the second chichi neighborhood in KC, MO after the Old Northeast). I think we have that garage within two blocks of us, it's an insanely huge one,with two doors and the house also has two paved driveways. (Steam cars only went one direction, forward.)

The car in question was also one of the first car accidents in the US, downtown at about 12th and Grand. At a grand speed of about 5 mph. Woot.

#374 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 12:26 AM:

Slimeball bigot Scalia being a slimeball skuz in public when asked a question on separation of church and state.... and the HERALD dinged him on it!

#375 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 02:21 AM:

No, I'm not really planning to take Greg's bait on The Whole Knowledge Thing again, but I just wanted to recommend J.L. Austin's Sense and Sensibilia.[*] You don't often get in linguistic philosophy that sense of exhiliration when someone makes a perfectly clear argument that also makes perfect sense; and I don't often laugh out loud at linguistic philosophy either. In one case in part for the wrong reasons - how's about this for a footnote?

Suppose that tits, all the tits we've ever come across, are bearded, so that we're happy to say 'Tits are bearded'. Does this *entail* that what isn't bearded isn't a tit? Not really. For if beardless specimens are discovered in some newly explored territory, well, of course we weren't talking about *them* when we said that tits were bearded; we now have to think again, and recognize that perhaps this new species of glabrous tits. Similarly, what we say nowadays about tits just doesn't refer *at all* to the prehhistoric eo-tit, or to remote future tits, defeathered perhaps through some change of atmosphere.

Also, as you can probably tell, it is about as far from creationism as you can get.

[*] Yes, my library copy has been hard-bound with the spinal legend "Austin - Sense and Sensibility".

(This has been offered in the spirit of open-thread-ness, and also in the spirit of unreasonable enthusiasm.)

#376 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 03:50 AM:

From the annotated garden picture at the garden pictures particle, I learned that Ornithogalum is spelled Ornithogalum and not, as I had previously believed, Ornitholagum. I must have had Ornithology in mind.

I suppose it's not surprising that words read but never said aloud acquire these mispellings/mispronunciations. For several years as a child I thought there were two different words, suttle and subtle. Once my pronunciation was corrected (by laughing siblings) I realized that in fact suttle and subtle did actually mean exactly the same thing, even though I had never connected them in my head.

#377 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 05:23 AM:

Space:1889 -- just right for Zeppelins of Phobos, as one way of getting high einough for an ether propellor to work is hydrogen lift.

The sea-level rise map is interesting. Locally, it shows the old villages unflooded, and modern housing developments well under.

#378 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 05:23 AM:

Space:1889 -- just right for Zeppelins of Phobos, as one way of getting high einough for an ether propellor to work is hydrogen lift.

The sea-level rise map is interesting. Locally, it shows the old villages unflooded, and modern housing developments well under.

#379 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 05:48 AM:

Many variations on your experience are common to early readers. I used to think that confused people could be referred to as being "missled", or perhaps "mizzled". What a shock to find that I had been mis-led. Then there were the numerous problems the British seemed to have with something called "drawts", but oddly spelled like "caught" - their houses were full of them, as were their beer and their boardgames.

#380 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 07:28 AM:

Back in 1984, L.A.con attendees were able to buy slightly cheaper admission tickets to DisneyLand - on specific days, I think. Does anybody know if the same thing will happen this year? I haven't seen anything about it on the worldcon's site, nothing obvious anyway.

#381 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 08:19 AM:

The one that got me was "epitome", which I pronounced about as you'd expect. And the mysterious disease p-new-monia.

#382 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 08:25 AM:

Candle: Reading Austin's "A Plea for Excuses" was one of the intellectual highlights of grad school. This leads me to ask: have you shot my donkey by accident or by mistake?

#383 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 10:15 AM:

My big error was 'doc-ile' (with a hard 'c'). When I got 'dossel' in a sixth-grade spelling bee, I very nearly flubbed it because I'd literally never heard the word before. Fortunately, the rules of this particular bee allowed one to ask for a definition, and I made the mental connection in time.

--Mary Aileen

#384 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 10:57 AM:

At nine, I lost marks on a spelling test over the word "futile", which I spelled "feudal".

I appealed, with my parents' support. As they argued, how many nine year olds know the word "feudal"?

Moving to the UK, I confused people with "solder", which I pronounced "sotter" in the American fashion. (Here, it's pronounced as spelt.)

#385 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 11:01 AM:

Am I the only one who thought "misled" came from the verb "to misle"? I once read an article wherein the word "mizzled" was laughed at--and I triumphantly thought to myself, "Well, duh! It's MYzled!" O the embarrassment.

#386 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 11:04 AM:

TexAnne: Hardly!

#387 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 11:23 AM:

Abi: I want to assure you that 'solder' and 'spelt' are pronounced very differently.

#388 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 11:25 AM:

I must confess that I was also mizzled by misled. Also by 'lepers', which I pronounced 'leapers' until corrected.

#389 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 01:31 PM:

Glad y'all enjoyed the flood maps - I was surprised at some of the gaps in the coverage (someone mentioned RI, which I also noticed - I spent a goodly chunk of my summers in and around Westport, MA/Little Compton, RI and wanted to see what would be gone, baby, gone.).

Seattle was pretty interesting - you could really see the areas that have been built on landfill (Goodbye, Boeing/Renton/etc...). My house would be no more waterfront than it is now (damn), though my workplace would be well within Lake Union's watery embrace.

NYC was another one of the places I checked out. All things considered, I thought Manhattan came out quite well for an island... and I wondered if all of that NJ/Bronx/Brooklyn real estate that was under water was also built on landfill/backfill.

#390 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 01:48 PM:

John M. Ford remarks on

The shiny fittings and decorative plumbing of steam with the operating qualities of internal combustion, i.e., none of the cantakerous complexity of actual steam power.

Apropos of which, I am pleased to say that Girl Genius Volume 4: Agatha Heterodyne & The Circus Of Dreams, containing 128 pages of glorious paper, arrived in my mailbox yesterday. It bridges the period in which the Foglios made the scary leap from paper comic books to Web publication.

By now the epic, having taken a couple of years to get preliminaries out of the way, is in full blossom. Having escaped from "Castle" Wulfenbach, which is a really big airship, Agatha makes her way across the wastelands of Europe by joining the company of a traveling Heterodyne show, while minions of the Baron seek her.

I've read it all before, but I'm really enjoying it.

#391 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 01:58 PM:

My family has long joked about "hot-feeted breath", which is how my brother pronounced it when he read it in (I believe) a Tarzan book at the age of 10 or so.

#392 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 02:08 PM:

Before Star Trek TNG, the words 'futile' and 'feudal' were pronounced the same by everyone I know. Now, of course, the former is pronounced as if referring to not many flat ceramic things, in the British fashion. 'Missile' seems to have avoided this somehow and is still pronounced identically with 'missal'.

That ambiguity results from the reduction of both /t/ and /d/ to flap /D/ is rare, but you can find incidences of it. For example, the words 'latter' and 'ladder' are both pronounced /læDr/ in casual speech in America. The answer to "Do you need me to bring the stepladder, or can you make do with a chair?" can be ambiguous if it's "The /læDr/."

#393 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 02:46 PM:

TexAnne, you are not the only one. I had "misled" wrong for about 15 years.

#394 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 02:50 PM:


Spelt is a kind of ghoti, isn't it? I think I meant spelled, or perhaps soul-der.

Serves me right for commenting when kiddies are about.

#395 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 03:07 PM:

Whew, I'm glad to know others were misled too. We won't mention how long it took me so long to figure out that I'd never seen other forms of that verb, such as "I misle people on a daily basis"...sigh. And uh-oh. I just realized that I still "hear" that word as "myzled." I will just go hide now.

Tracie: "hot-feeted breath"?

#396 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 03:18 PM:

The song "Miss Lead" helped a lot of people, I suspect.

#397 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 03:24 PM:

Dave Bell: Space:1889 -- just right for Zeppelins of Phobos...

I imagine that all the uniforms would have a row of useless hook-and-eye fasteners running down the outsides of the sleeves,then.

Phobos would be undoubtedly be blasted out of it's orbit by a giant boiler explosion. And one of the characters would be able to turn herself into primitive industrial products at will.

#398 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 08:18 PM:

My Word of Embarrassment was that cute little dog, the dash hound.

My mom still blushes when telling about how, when reading in front of class, she read about a hero who was deeter-minded to reach his goal. (She's determined to forget about this someday, herself.)

#399 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 09:35 PM:

Abi: No, 'spelt' is how I learned to spell the word, not being Amurcan. It's also a grain:

I've been chided by Americans for writing 'learnt', as well...

TexAnne: Some feet just have a foetor of their own.

#400 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 10:03 PM:

'foetor' - now there's a woefully underutilized word.

#401 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 10:59 PM:

Paula: (Steam cars only went one direction, forward.)

Why? Steam locomotives had reversing gear; why not cars? Perhaps this was an exception?

#402 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 11:00 PM:

Fragano: I don't know 'A Plea For Excuses', but I shall seek it out. I discovered Austin by reading 'How To Do Things With Words' in my college library, purely on the basis that I liked the title. Meanwhile, I presume you are asking me whether or not I meant to shoot someone else's donkey.

Which brings me to ask: They Shoot Horses, Don't They? Now there's a phrase I've never understood: I know it's a movie about marathon dancing, but where in the sentence am I supposed to put the emphasis?

My constant verbal embarrassment is 'hyperbole'. I still get it wrong occasionally, which is especially embarrassing now that I can actually read Ancient Greek. And yes, I'm English: so it's "few-tyle", "sol-der", and "fee-tid". And "drafts" (for checkers, light breezes, and servings of beer). But some of these may not be Anglicisms so much as wrong.

I've also surprised people by pronouncing "prima facie" with conventional (UK) Latin pronunciation, as "pree-ma fak-ee-ay". Which confuses everyone I know, since evidently the world at large pronounces it "pry-ma face-y". Not that it gets said by anyone very often.

#403 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 11:10 PM:

steam cars - i''m guessing it was a scale thing, you can reverse if you've got a sufficiently large vehicle to add on the hardware. I'm not positive. I just know what Jane Flynn said about the cars and the incident, she was our beloved local historian.

Hot, 'feeted' breath is what comes from my cat standing on my hair, sniffing my face at 6 a.m. then meowing loutly. It's strangely fetid, too. (GAAAR, no, it's icky. and she has good teeth.)

#404 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2006, 11:21 PM:

I seem to remember a house (okay, mansion) in St. Louis that had a massive turntable in its (carriage-house-sized) garage - also for a steam-powered car. Perhaps it wasn't so much an inability to go in reverse as an unwillingness to perform the billion-point turn required to turn such a behemoth about.

Come to think of it, I recently saw a house on the market here in Seattle with a turntable-equipped garage. It was in the Phinney Ridge neighborhood, and it wasn't a terribly large or ostentatious house - just a 1920's-ish, upper-middle-class, 2-story Craftsman Bungalow. The house was, however, situated on a lot that only allowed for an extremely narrow driveway; since steam cars were pretty much dead tech when this house was built, it was probably a matter of convenience.

#405 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 10:18 AM:

that cute little dog, the dash hound

I have a friend who still pronounces it like that, no matter how many times I correct her. (I've pretty much given up by now.) One of those pronunciation blind spots.

From my own youth, I insisted in the face of all evidence to the contrary (mother, older brother, dictionary) that 'zany' should properly be pronounced 'zanny'. Took me several years to get over that one.

--Mary Aileen

#406 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 10:26 AM:

Candle: You have to read it to get the point -- which is about the distinction between 'accident' and 'mistake'.

I've never seen the film.

I pronounce 'prima facie' as 'prima facey' mostly because that's what American lawyers do (I generally add 'prima fa-ki-e if you know Latin) and I would otherwise confuse my intro American Gov't students.

#407 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 10:27 AM:

Protected Static: I agree, and it's a lot shorter than it's usual equivalent.

#408 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 01:52 PM:

I just remembered that I also mispronounced that beautiful orange bird, the Baltimore Or-o-lee.

#409 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 02:42 PM:

candle: The emphasis on the title should be on "horses" (and is, as the line is spoken in the film). The movie's not "about" marathon dancing, it's about desperation during the Depression, and the main action is at a dance competition entered by people who are only in it because they need the money. I'm trying to avoid a spoiler (though the picture's been out for a long time and the ending is not much of a secret) but the reference is to the fact that when a horse is worn out, hurting, and useless, you shoot it.

#410 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 07:27 PM:

Fragano: fair enough, I shall have to read it. On reflection, I ought to have replied that although I shot your donkey purposefully, I didn't do so purposely.

John M. Ford: Thanks. I think at one point that explanation had occurred to me but, frankly, I had no idea. I shall now have to watch the film, of course.

Did anyone ever hear the (apocryphal, I presume) explanation of how the movie Johnny Mnemonic kept its title even though some people at the studio thought that "mnemonic" was too hard a word? The makers convinced them that Americans are good at accepting foreign surnames and that they would just assume that the hero was Serbian...

#411 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2006, 08:34 PM:

Candle: I shall have to keep my donkeys out of range of your shotgun.

#412 ::: Spam Deleted ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2007, 11:43 AM:

[Spam from]

#415 ::: Serge sees SPAM ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2010, 04:14 PM:

Rumours that 'la rue meurt'?

#416 ::: Xopher sees same damn, Spanish Spam ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2010, 01:46 AM:

Yeah word for word on another thread and many places around the intarweebs.

Smaller type (our default)
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