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September 1, 2006

Open thread 70
Posted by Patrick at 09:04 PM *

“The whole idea of revenge and punishment is a childish day-dream. Properly speaking, there is no such thing as revenge. Revenge is an act which you want to commit when you are powerless and because you are powerless: as soon as the sense of impotence is removed, the desire evaporates also.”—George Orwell, “Revenge is Sour” (1945)
Comments on Open thread 70:
#1 ::: Annalee Flower Horne ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2006, 09:29 PM:

hey, pretty cool quote. I like that.

sorry, nothing useful to contribute. How are the sapient gurrillas coming?

#2 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2006, 09:52 PM:

So, sour, and best served cold. Alfred Hitchcock said "Revenge is sweet and not fattening," and Juvenal said it was "Sweeter than life itself -- so say fools."

Any other culinary metaphors for revenge? Can we figure out what kind of food this is? Perhaps some kind of low-cal lemon meringue.

#3 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2006, 09:58 PM:

The Village Voice fired Robert Christgau? That's insane. That's like the New Yorker booting John McPhee, which would obviously never happen.

The weird thing for me is that Voice owners the New Times were the first entity to pay me for writing--back when the New Times were a scruffy Tempe, Arizona "underground" headquartered above a package liquor store on Mill Avenue, rather than the evil corporate masters of a nationwide chain of "weekly entertainment papers". (It was a review of Barry Malzberg's Herovit's World. I liked it. They paid me $10. I was 15.)

#4 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2006, 09:59 PM:

Sweet, sour, best served cold, not fattening. I'm thinking some kind of fruit-based sherbet.

#5 ::: Dave MB ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2006, 10:01 PM:

Maybe Christgau should apply for the latest vacancy in the culture-writing world...

#6 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2006, 10:01 PM:

Annalee, if by "sapient gorillas" you mean Grease Monkey, it's doing just fine, and thanks for asking.

#7 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2006, 10:05 PM:

Calorie-free sherbet? Maybe one of those Mexican fruit ices, where all it is, really, is fruit juice and a little sweetener? (Well, some of them have milk. Bananas are a bit low in juice.)

I would have thought sour and cold was more like frozen lemon juice, needing a little help to be really enjoyable. But I'm not really good at revenge.

#8 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2006, 10:07 PM:

as soon as the sense of impotence is removed, the desire evaporates also.

It's interesting to note that people seem quite capable of believing (for some sense of belief) that they are impotent or at least oppressed and powerless when objective fact suggests otherwise. For an example I cite the Christian right in this country, which appears to believe that its faith is being politically and socially harrassed and demeaned and that Christians are powerless victims of a gross, grotesque secular culture -- while polls and such regularly report that Christianity is this country's dominant religion.

#9 ::: Christina Schulman ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2006, 10:13 PM:

Revenge is grapefruit.

#10 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2006, 10:25 PM:

Under the spreading chestnut tree
I sold you and you sold me
there lie they and here lie we
under the spreading chestnut tree

It's amazing how often "answers have not been provided" really means "I didn't get the answer that I wanted".

#11 ::: Anaea ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2006, 10:47 PM:

Is it wrong of me to see discussion about revenge as food and think of Titus Andronicus?

#12 ::: Annalee Flower Horne ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2006, 10:51 PM:

Good to hear about Grease Monkey. I should probably learn to spell at some point.

Lizzy L, I think part of that is justification. They're not 'bullying,' they're 'fighting back.' Casting oneself as the victim is easier than taking responsibility for one's actions. But that's not really powerlessness so much as childishness: "Everyone in this country isn't willing to validate my belief system for me so that I can feel better about being a mindless sheep, so I'm going to throw a hissyfit and say they hate Christianity instead of growing up and acting my age."

#13 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2006, 11:12 PM:

Yes, Anaea, yes it is. Because that would make an especially horrible sherbet.

#14 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2006, 11:15 PM:

On the other hand, that new UK film about the prez being offed (heard of it on tonight's national news) could strike a lot of people as wish-fulfillment fantasy -- at least until they remembered all those handlers and advisers behind the scenes.

#15 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: September 01, 2006, 11:24 PM:

Lizzy, the Christian Right has an odd problem. They are, indeed, politically powerful, yet they are living in one of the most materialistic times and places in history, as well as one when social and technical change has altered many of the assumptions on which they based their social order. And no amount of temporal power will every implement some of their program; their children will never meet their expectations, regardless of threats of hellfire. They are, in fact, powerless against these things, but no amount of bitching about the government is going to fix that. Makes 'em ornery.

#16 ::: sara_k ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 12:03 AM:

Sweet, sour, best served cold, not fattening.

Perhaps mango slices dipped in a mixture of sugar, salt, and chilies. Yum!

#17 ::: Christopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 12:05 AM:

When I find this George Orwell person, I'll make him regret saying that.

#18 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 01:03 AM:

Revenge is like holding a grudge. It surely does not do anything for the person holding the desire for revenge except to raise their blood pressure and leave them sour. And if it's something you are powerless to change, one should just let it go. I've seen people ruin their life to one-up or get revenge on someone and in the long run it just did not matter and was not worth the effort expended.

I pretty much try to hold to the Serenity prayer, because I do have high blood pressure (medicinally controlled but I know when I get pissed it goes up because I have a little mole by my ear that gets harder when the bp is up). If it's something I can do anything about, I do what I can and that helps all around.

Just a few late-night thoughts, ymmv.

#19 ::: sdn ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 01:16 AM:

that is a terrific and true quote. thanks for sharing it.

in other news, i too am reading grease monkey and liking it a lot.

#20 ::: Samantha Joy ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 03:20 AM:

In case anyone hasn't seen this yet:

An image of a neuron vs. an image of the universe

File under "Separated at Birth?"

#21 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 05:44 AM:

Sweet, sour, best served cold

Morning after the night before Chinese food?

not fattening

Oh. Not, then.

#22 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 07:44 AM:

Speaking of the psychology underlying the Christian right ...

My current pet hobby-horse/hypothesis to explain human behaviour is that most of us don't subjectively feel our age internally: we're children or adolescents role-playing our way through adulthood, with greater or lesser degrees of success, guided by the experience we've picked up from observing other people. That is, we do what we're expected to do by those around us, even when it doesn't feel right. And folks who are compelled to conform to the expectations their family and friends and neighbours impose resent the hell out of the imagery all around them of people who aren't conforming. ("Why are they allowed to behave that way when I'm stuck here earning bread for my family?")

It takes a certain amount of self-confidence to strike out for your own, and fire-and-brimstone religions promising all the answers in return for conforming to the one true lifestyle don't give their followers self-confidence; rather, they try to instil a neurotic dependency on the behavioural/ideological safety-blanket, which is not the same thing at all.

#23 ::: sdn ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 07:51 AM:

And folks who are compelled to conform to the expectations their family and friends and neighbours impose resent the hell out of the imagery all around them of people who aren't conforming.

this is why i still get asked "you're really sure you don't want children?" kill me now

#24 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 08:01 AM:

#20: As above, so below.

#25 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 09:16 AM:

Universe = neuron.

What stimulus would cause it to fire?

What would happen if/when it does?

Also, what is the use of an isolated neuron?

#26 ::: Sugar ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 09:39 AM:

Makes you wonder who's doing the thinking.

#27 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 09:41 AM:

Samantha Joy (#20):

Wow -- that's rather startling, even spooky.

(Of course, I have a difficult time imagining any plausible underlying reason for the apparent similarity, since the formation mechanisms are so completely different. But it's a lovely coincidence, if nothing else.)

Lila (#25): To be slightly pedantic, it's "galaxy cluster = neuron".
Unless FTL communication is possible, the Universe is going to be thinking v e r y s l o w l y . . .

#28 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 09:47 AM:

Makes you wonder what's going on in our neurons.

#29 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 09:58 AM:

Makes you wonder what's going on in our neurons.

Let's see: galaxy cluster collapses --> million-degree, X-ray emitting gas + massive black holes and quasar ignition in central galaxies... I hope that's not happening in my neurons!

#30 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 10:20 AM:

Straw poll of Civilisation and Alpha Centauri players: How many of you have ever given a nuclear weapon unit to an ally?

Have you given or sold nuclear technology to another nation, other than being intimidated into it?

#31 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 10:35 AM:

Sweet, sour, best served cold, not fattening. I'm thinking some kind of fruit-based sherbet.

Revenge Sherbert.

(A refreshing and satisfying treat.)

Ingredients:

Appropriate fruit. Grapes for dissapointment, Blood Oranges for family issues, tomato if you really want to confuse them. You'll want about a cup of juice, and some bits.

juice of 1/2 lemon
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. gelatine, soaked in 1tsp cold water

Boil the sugar and water for 20-30 minutes. Add in the gelatine, cool. When cold, mix in the selected fruit juice. Freeze using your partcular method of creating frozen deserts.

Serving. Place into serving glass, insert spoon, hurl at ~50 meters a second through your victim, top with cherry.

Caution: Can be messy. Suggest having hoses and drains handy for cleanup.


#32 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 10:49 AM:

I see no one has gone with the other metaphor for revenge, Bacon's 'revenge is a kind of wild justice'. When I first heard that I wondered why anyone would regard the formal institutions of justice as tame (well, I was 13). Now, having acquired a bit of knowledge on the way, I wonder if I could make any money marketing videos under the rubric 'justice gone wild'.

#33 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 10:52 AM:

Charlie Stross #22: Back when I was in grad school, one of our neighbours in the grad student residential community in La Jolla was a Mor(m)on economist who happened to have the same surname as my then wife. We had children of about the same age, he having a daughter a little older than my older son.

One day his daughter wondered aloud why she had to spend Sundays 'serving the lord' while Roger, my son, did not. I'd suspect that was the beginning of a long resentment.

#34 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 11:52 AM:

NelC#30: no, I've never done that, and don't think I would. Too much chance they'd actually use them, and I prefer to finish with a world that isn't utterly wrecked.

#35 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 12:22 PM:

I think the Mafia, and similar, would disagree with Orwell about revenge. Revenge is something that you do because you are powerful; you cannot let an insult, or injury, or perceived disrespect go unpunished because that would diminish your status.

#36 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 12:25 PM:

And to what extent have the policies of the USA (supposedly the world's most powerful nation) over the last five years been shaped by a desire for revenge for 9/11?

#37 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 12:42 PM:

I think the Mafia, and similar, would disagree with Orwell about revenge. Revenge is something that you do because you are powerful; you cannot let an insult, or injury, or perceived disrespect go unpunished because that would diminish your status.

But if your hold on power is so tenuous that it can be undermined by perceived disrespect, how powerful are you, really?

#38 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 01:16 PM:

Chad, I can imagine you asking Tony Soprano that, and living to tell the tale, but only if it was a good day for him. On a bad day, he'd say something like, "Powerful enough to do this," followed by a scene of graphic violence. Then he'd go and agonise about it, in a very circumspect way, with his analyst.

#39 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 01:28 PM:

Chad Orzel #37: You're right. A revenge ethic tends to be associated with fragile power structures -- as in those of gangs or criminal associations like the Mafia.

#40 ::: amysue ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 02:13 PM:

If I had to pick a food to represent the emptyness and "is that all there is" feeling of revenge it would be:

Sugarfree (insert favorite not typically anything remortely deserving the title of sugarfree dessert here). An example would be the sugarfree Key Lime Pie I was recently served. One bite, a bite where you are expecting a lush tart and sweet mouthful and instead get an acidic and diffident "eh?".

When I was younger revenge was something I thought was not only meaningful, but neccessary to balance wrongs. I got over that.

#41 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 02:36 PM:

Web-neepery time: Is there a reason that Making Light uses <div class="excerpt1"> instead of <blockquote> (or possibly <blockquote class="whatever">)? The DIVs don't show up indented in RSS newsreaders like NetNewsWire.

#42 ::: Ariella ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 02:59 PM:

One of most interesting books I've read this year is William Ian Miller's Eye for an Eye, which discusses the law of talion in ancient cultures. His thesis is that the threat of violent retribution was actually a way to facilitate negotiation and compensation. He argues that in such a culture, life isn't cheap--it is in fact very expensive because the victim gets to determine the cost of his own injury.

Although some of his reviewers would have you believe otherwise, Miller's not really suggesting that we all go back to the world of saga Iceland. However, the book really makes you see bloodfeud and vengeance in a different light, which is really nifty for worldbuilding.

#43 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 03:10 PM:

Peter Erwin: Unless FTL communication is possible, the Universe is going to be thinking v e r y s l o w l y . . .

So, God does exist, but he's very slow. He probably thinks he did it (create the earth) in seven days.

#44 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 03:44 PM:

Well, God is vaster than empires.

#45 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 04:23 PM:

#38: Chad, I can imagine you asking Tony Soprano that, and living to tell the tale, but only if it was a good day for him. On a bad day, he'd say something like, "Powerful enough to do this," followed by a scene of graphic violence. Then he'd go and agonise about it, in a very circumspect way, with his analyst.

Oh, absolutely.
It doesn't really change the point, though. The really big proponents of revenge as a means of retaining power tend to be, like Fragano Ledgister says in #39, fairly fragile criminal enterprises, or governments that are just hanging on.

#46 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 04:53 PM:

I thought it was vegetable love that would be vaster than empires? But the "more slow" would be apropos.

#47 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 05:21 PM:

John M. Ford #44: So the love of God is a vegetable love?

#48 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 05:27 PM:

Fragano 347

Yes. Specifically, an aubergine

#49 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 05:40 PM:

#32 - I see no one has gone with the other metaphor for revenge, Bacon's 'revenge is a kind of wild justice'. When I first heard that I wondered why anyone would regard the formal institutions of justice as tame (well, I was 13). Now, having acquired a bit of knowledge on the way, I wonder if I could make any money marketing videos under the rubric 'justice gone wild'.

Folks are making a fair piece of change with videos of beheadings under the rubric "justice done".

There are those

- obs SF David Drake's Northworld trio with his own discussion of Venegeance and Justice under those titles (Baen. TOR has Fortress of Glass current and Drake's take on the Anabasis - Forlorn Hope - in reissue) -

who distinguish blindfolded Law with fine balances and Justice with a sword. Drake wrote " a highly-devloped legal system in Dark Age Scandinavia....Courts, compromise, and the reduction of injuries to money payments were the tools of the Law. But that was the Law. Laws are made by society and applied by society......Unlike our own civilized place and time, the Vikings also had a system of Justice....."

Mr. Blair is, I think, more right than wrong for a right/wrong culture - sadly the desire for what I might call revenge and another might call justice never goes away in an honor/shame culture. From time immemorial to Dumas to Hammett to Bester to Drake revenge makes fine stories so I'd say revenge is a force of nature.

#50 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 06:10 PM:

#45 - The really big proponents of revenge as a means of retaining power tend to be, like Fragano Ledgister says in #39, fairly fragile criminal enterprises, or governments that are just hanging on.

In retrospect I suppose all governments "are just hanging on." I wonder how to classify The Grave of the Hundred Head? Recessional was surely coming but nobody was turning down invitations to the Widow's parties at the time. Just hanging on at Lidice? Maybe. Certainly just hanging on at Oradour sur Glane

Granted governments today have moved beyond decimate to devastate and dragged the language along but I wouldn't call the government that hung circa 6,000 crucified bodies along the Appian Way just hanging on in 71 b.c.e. though I have my doubts about the morality.

#51 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 06:39 PM:

abi #48: Indeed miraculous! Like the face of Einstein that I sometimes see in the shadows of my bedroom ceiling.

#52 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 06:44 PM:

Fragano #51

Einstein? Lucky you. All I have is a beaver and assorted goblins.

#53 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 06:50 PM:

Clark E. Myers #49: Hmm. That's what one calls a thorny philosophical problem (or even, what a friend in grad school called a 'horny problem'). The idea that justice requires condign punishments rather diminishes it as a concept. The idea that one can take revenge in the name of justice isn't simply a matter of honour/dishonour versus right wrong it is also about me (or any individual) having the right to make judgments in my own case. That can only work when society is fragile. It cannot work if we want a society more complex than one made up of chieftains and followers.

#54 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 06:52 PM:

abi #52: It's the 'popcorn' on the ceiling. It does a magnificent job of producing an Einsteinean mane. Beavers and goblins sound fine to me.

#55 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 06:56 PM:

Fragano #54

We have Artex, which gives more swirls, points and shadows. Thus the goblins. The beaver is a mystery.

#56 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 06:59 PM:

abi #55: Perhaps a visiting Canadian spirit....

#57 ::: Harriet Culver ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 07:10 PM:

John M. Ford #44: Well, God is vaster than empires.

I owe you an incalculable debt of gratitude, sir, since in searching Google for the source of "vaster than empires and more slow"* I found (once I'd scrolled past all the links to U.K. LeGuin) a link to Langford's 1980 TAFF Report, the first-time perusal of which (some 26 years after the events recounted, if not quite so long after the publication of the report) has given me hours of pleasure and amazement (60-cent subway fares in NYC! long lines at customs!) and done much to assuage the week-old pangs of Worldcon-withdrawal.

*I'd read the original poem of Marvellous coyness many times but the brain was temporarily off-line

#58 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 08:16 PM:

abi #48: I had one once, but the wheels fell off.

#59 ::: Vian ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 08:33 PM:

RE: John, #35

(eek- that looks too Biblical for my taste)

OBMorgenstern: Well, you can't afford to make exceptions. Once word goes out that a pirate's gone soft, it's nothing but work, work, work.

I suspect it's not just those who rely on revenge to assert their dominance who are locked into mandatory violent responses - it's everyone who relies on a violent reputation. Speculation on the current administration is welcomed.

#60 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 09:41 PM:

#41: Because we're incompetent. We probably ought not be running a fucking weblog.

#61 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 09:54 PM:

#59 I suspect it's not just those who rely on revenge to assert their dominance who are locked into mandatory violent responses - it's everyone who relies on a violent reputation. Speculation on the current administration is welcomed.

Tit for Tat is the dominant strategy in an iterated prisoner's dilemma (and we all know what dominates a one-off) - there is some belief that life as we know it has much in common with an interated prisoner's dilemma. Compare mutually assured destruction with assured survival and consider the warm - even hot - reception given to the strategic defense initiative.

"It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both." Niccolo Machiavelli.

#62 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 09:55 PM:

#47: So the love of God is a vegetable love?

OBLyric: No love's as random as God's love.

#63 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 10:17 PM:

Ariella - thanks for the book recommendation; I can suggest a leap further past. Try Frans De Waal's Our Inner Ape; the bulk of it is about the group politics of (our nearest evolutionary cousins, the) chimpanzees and bonobos. He makes an extended argument about how revenge and reconciliation, war or peace, are inseparable.

#64 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 11:18 PM:

The photos of neuron and universe are v. kewl, but I wonder if their similarity doesn't have more to do with an inherent sameness in evolution of amorphous-into-functional structures.

Oh, lord, what an awful mouthful.

What I mean is, assume that universe and brains both started out as undifferentiated masses of stuff.

The universe coalesced as it had to, given the laws of physics as humans understand them, around mass. So you would have pinpoints of stable matter trailing streamers of matter that lack enough mass to coalesce.

The brain evolved as it had to, given what humans understand about brain function, around connective and conductive junctions. The trails are bits that enable the function but aren't part of the main, uh, processor parts.

H'mm. Maybe the awful mouthful was better...

I'm pretty much winging it here, since my knowledge of cosmological physics and brain structure/function are definitely lay level. Feel free to take pot shots.

#65 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 11:20 PM:

Sweet, sour, best served cold, not fattening

Gazpacho

#66 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 02, 2006, 11:54 PM:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden fumed:
#41: Because we're incompetent. We probably ought not be running a fucking weblog.

Although it's doubtless going to sound somewhat snide, I'm glad to see I'm not the only one feeling this way tonight. My mitigation involved gin-and-tonic, a hot bath, and 'The Life of Pi'.

It being an open thread, any suggestions on books reminiscent of 'The Life of Pi' or 'One Hundred Years of Solitude'? I forsee a number of days ahead which could use the same balm as today - and have an irrational desire to not associate them with science fiction or fantasy.

#67 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 12:09 AM:

Reminiscent in what way? Magical realism? (I've read 100 Years, but not Pi.)

Just about anything by Jorge Amado, though my favorite is Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands.

Ditto Isabel Allende - fiction that is. Her nonfiction is also excellent, but I try to avoid reading about the Pinochet coup because it leaves me shaking with anger.

#68 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 01:02 AM:

#60: Oh, all right. As long as there's a reason.

#69 ::: Vian ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 01:39 AM:

RE Clark, #61:

The Machiavelli quote that sprung to my mind was (and I'm paraphrasing here, because I'm bone lazy and my copy of Il Principe is in a box somewhere):

If you have to knock someone down, make damned sure they won't get up again. Also, take out their allies with threats or bribes, depending on your means and inclination.

That said, I've decided on a whim that I object to people calling dubya's regime Machiavellian - it doesn't have that sort of brainpower. It's not even CliffNotesMachiavellian. It's more ChickTractMachForDummies, without the illustrations.

#70 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 01:59 AM:

If it were a Chick tract, the last page would show the Wïtless Crüe arriving at Check-In and Pitchfork Assignment,* turning in outrage to Scooter, who pulls off his people mask to reveal a happily leering** devil.

"Told you you guys were going to resent shafting me. Speaking of which . . ."

*"Put all the liquids in the fumarole. NOW."
**Ever notice that the Insidious Missions Force demons in Chick's holy hentai are the only characters who are actually ever happy about anything?

#71 ::: Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 02:16 AM:

#61: Thus Hillel the Elder is the first game theorist.

Actually, I couldn't remember Hillel's name (what'd you expect, being raised by heathen Baptists and all,) so I had to google the "reciting the Torah while standing on one foot" story that I first read in Karen Armstrong's A History of God.

#72 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 02:26 AM:

So "reciting the Torah while standing on one foot" is the first instance of a Nash equilibrium?

#73 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 02:47 AM:

Well "reciting the Torah while standing on one foot" is certainly not a Rambler.

#74 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 03:01 AM:

#42 However, the book really makes you see bloodfeud and vengeance in a different light, which is really nifty for worldbuilding.

Speaking of Machiavelli and worldbuilding the courtroom scene in That Share of Glory builds a world in transition from weregild toward civil order and says something about the justice of violence nicely.

#75 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 03:52 AM:

As Hillel also observed:

That which is hateful to you, don't give me any mishegas about special rendition.

#76 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 04:37 AM:

Strange. While flicking backwards to find where I stopped reading, I repeatedly read the quoted expression God is vaster than empires as God is faster than vampires.

I don't know what this says about me.

#77 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 05:03 AM:

God is faster than vampires.

Except Spike. He drives like a you-know-what out of you-know-where.

#78 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 05:33 AM:

What? Like a Serge out of Heck?

#79 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 06:21 AM:

You saw the "With Glowing Eyes We See Thee Rise" episode?

The moment when Xander shows up nickedly-timedly in a crow suit, announcing, "I got your freakin' daylight right here, who wants a piece?" makes up for way too many tuque jokes.

#80 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 07:11 AM:

Now the Europeans are skipping stones[*] along the surface of the Moon.

[*] OK, ion-powered spacecraft.

#81 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 08:02 AM:

Clark @ #74: Aha! the C.M. Kornbluth story. Like Tiptree's "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" (& several more of his/hers), one I read some decades ago in my teens and which stayed in memory despite the name & author slipping away until the wonders of teh intarwebs restored them.

#82 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 08:11 AM:

Nothing apropos to add, but an hour ago I woke up from the-anxiety-dream-to-end-all-anxiety-dreams. Beat this: I was in the airport in London, reading, when I heard myself being paged. I realized I was going to miss my flight and that I didn't know where my son was. Then I realized I had neither my ticket nor my passport with me. Then my son came running up all bloody, having gotten into some horrible trouble and been set upon by thugs. I realized I'd inadvertently packed my ticket and passport in the bag I'd checked, and since I hadn't gotten on the plane I knew they'd take the bag off and blow it up. It went on from there...

#83 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 09:24 AM:

("Why are they allowed to behave that way when I'm stuck here earning bread for my family?")

That imagery can have a life of its own, without a fact to back it; witness how far Reagan got with his lies about "welfare queens". cf the Ambrose Bierce(? H. L. Mencken?) definition (of what, I've forgotten) as the fear that somebody somewhere is having fun.

Fragano, Chad: if the Mafia is so fragile how come it's still around? I suspect all societies -- the Mafia, modern first-world countries, even Eric Frank Russell's Gands (see "And Then There Were None") depend on a combination of mutual agreeement about performance and sanctions for non-performance. Possibly the answer to my question is the higher rewards for performance?

#64: I suspect your analogy is faulty. The little I know of neurology suggests that the wispy bits \are/ the important part, because they're what make the connections -- the more connections, the better the function. More materially, the brain doesn't coalesce out of chaos; it grows by input from outside, where AFAIK all the non-fringe models of the universe figure it started with all the matter it's going to get.

#74: That's an ... interesting ... reading of the Kornbluth; I would have said that it showed the \limits/ of civil order (cf the end of the evaluation, -"despite indoctrination in nonviolence, candidate showed he could kick ass when needed"-). It also shows the disadvantage of dropping weregild, cf the complaint about jailing the rich being less healing than fining them to fix the damage. (Probably Kornbluth was unaware of what we've since seen, that jail requires a more shame-controlled society; the leaders of violence (who usually haven't committed any themselves since forever) can maintain control from their cells.)

#84 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 10:30 AM:

CHip #83: It isn't that the Mafia is fragile, it is that power in the Mafia is fragile. That's because a lot of power in organisations like the Mafia, or ghetto gangs, or, for that matter, Achæan kingdoms, is based on the appearance of strength and might. If you lose that semblance, then others will take you down. That's why you face any threat of disrespect, dishonour, or violence, with the maximum force you can muster.

#85 ::: Ailsa Ek ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 10:32 AM:

Hi all. "Open thread" means you can say whatever, right? Well, I came across a recipe that sounds like it would be good, but I need help translating it into American from Australian. Specifically, "caster sugar" and "raw linseed." The rest isn't too mysterious, as most of it is standard GF baking ingredients. I feel a little silly, as I know I used to know what caster sugar was, but AKICIML, and people enjoy sharing, so...

#86 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 10:55 AM:

#83: Fragano, Chad: if the Mafia is so fragile how come it's still around?

Pretty much what Fragano said in #84. The phenomenon of organized crime is still with us, but the specific people running things change much more quickly.

Power based on fear and intimidation is fragile, but it's relatively cheap, so there's an endless supply of people using that path to power. As soon as you knock one off, another pops up somewhere else.

Real enduring power is a harder thing to establish, but tends to be based on more positive emotions than fear. I'm thinking here of things like major religions and the US government. Those are insitutions that (the disparaging comments of atheists and anarchists aside) maintain themselves more through the positive feelings of their subjects than through fear and intimidation.

#87 ::: amysue ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 11:40 AM:

#66: Well, I have always loved Moacyr Scliar. The Centaur in the Garden being one of my favorites.

#82: Scary dream. When we were returning from Alaska (via Vancouver and Toronto) last week I got a TSA guy in Toronto who decided my diabetes kit and accompanying stuff needed to be pawed through. On their website they say that the passenger opens their own meds, but this guy with his grubby, gloved (having pawed through countless other things) hand, proceeded to open the little box and poke at my unsealed bottles of insulin. I admit it's my own fault that I never clean with rubing alchohol either myself or my bottles, but it was icky. He also found a bottle of childrens liquid benadryl I forgot to put in the checked bags. So while your dream was scary, I can easily see being in a hurry and not paying close attention to what went into checked and what into carry on.

The last thing he went through was my knitting in progress. For you knitters out there, it was socks on #0 DPNs (bamboo). He held them and flexed them for a good 30 seconds while telling me they could be dangerous. It was all I could do not to laugh. I suppose that if someone stayed perfectly still I might be able to hurt them, but these are half the length of bamboo skewers, thinner and less sharp. He made a show of "letting" me keep them and the benadryl.

Anyway my waking nightmare is that we live now in a bizarre state of panic where travelling becomes fraught with needless anxiety. This is the first time I had to carefully think about everything I took onto the plane. Oh and the inconsistancy from one airport to another is negative (yet variable) reinforcement at it's best. My ice pack (to keep the insulin cool) was fine until that last leg of the return flight and then it was removed.

#88 ::: odaiwai (formerly dave) ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 12:32 PM:

#85: "Caster Suger" is sugar run through your blender/moulinex/cuisinart/+5 Vorpal Sword: http://www.ochef.com/580.htm.

#89 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 12:39 PM:

"Raw linseed" I would think is flaxseed; try a health-food place.
"Caster sugar" is either super-fine or powdered sugar; I understand that it's finer than regular granulated sugar but not as fine as powdered sugar. (Not having a blender or a food-processor, I can't speak to the vorpal sword bit.)

#90 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 12:43 PM:

CHip said (#83):
That imagery can have a life of its own, without a fact to back it; witness how far Reagan got with his lies about "welfare queens". cf the Ambrose Bierce(? H. L. Mencken?) definition (of what, I've forgotten) as the fear that somebody somewhere is having fun.

Mencken, I think, on Puritanism. ("Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.")

#64: I suspect your analogy is faulty. The little I know of neurology suggests that the wispy bits \are/ the important part, because they're what make the connections -- the more connections, the better the function. More materially, the brain doesn't coalesce out of chaos; it grows by input from outside, where AFAIK all the non-fringe models of the universe figure it started with all the matter it's going to get.

Yes. Another way of looking at it is that neurons start out as blobs (cells) which grow dendrites and synapses ("wispy bits") as connections between them; this is also the result of many, many generations of natural selection designing them to do this.

With the universe[*], on the other hand, what you're seeing is the spontaneous growth of local concentrations of matter via gravity, condensing out of an initial near-uniform state. The "tendrils" form about the same time as the "blobs" (galaxy clusters and superclusters), and both grow thicker/denser over time as more nearby stuff falls into them and as some of them merge, as can be seen by looking at images made from earlier stages of the simulation (down at the bottom of the page).

[*] Or the simulation thereof.

#91 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 01:11 PM:

Patrick #60 --

I had a dream the other night wherein I read on Making Light that you had gone on a time-traveling quest to find a rare first edition. You'd blundered all the way back to 1900, and posted from 1900 fuming that your source wouldn't be good until 1973.

If you're competent enough to post to a weblog from the year 1900, I think you're qualified to run one....

#92 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 01:33 PM:

#84 & #86: Perhaps the tendency toward revenge even in holders of real enduring power (neither the United States nor the Church being notable for eschewing its use) can be attributed to the difference between institutions and individuals. Institutions go on, their power changing in tiny increments, untroubled by thoughts of revenge; individuals and small cabals gain or lose power at a dizzying pace, and hence have that Mafia-like interest in showing the power is still there.

I'm reminded of a long-ago column by some op-ed writer (George Will, maybe?) who noted that in a few years, no one would remember who some at-the-time-important-and-Ozymandias-like Presidential aide was. I don't recall who it was, though.

#93 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 01:36 PM:

Re #85/88/89

Linseed is most definitely flax seed. I think we call it flax because linseed oil is viewed as a wood treatment, whereas flax oil is a health food. You can also get flax seed for baking and such at Whole Foods, or a local co-op market. It's usually sold refrigerated because it has a high tendency to go rancid.

Me, I'd leave it out or find some other flavorul, seed-like thing (e.g. poppy seeds).

Here on the West Coast, C&H sells Superfine (a.k.a. Caster) Sugar, at the same price as regular sugar by weight in a nifty 4-pound milk carton container - far and away the best retail packaging for sugar I've ever seen.

#94 ::: Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 01:44 PM:

#87: Paging Bruce, Amysue nails it:

Anyway my waking nightmare is that we live now in a bizarre state of panic where travelling becomes fraught with needless anxiety. This is the first time I had to carefully think about everything I took onto the plane. Oh and the inconsistancy from one airport to another is negative (yet variable) reinforcement at it's best. My ice pack (to keep the insulin cool) was fine until that last leg of the return flight and then it was removed.

There's we've gone beyond theater, there's a spectacle at every TSA checkpoint.

#95 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 04:57 PM:

#85 Ailsa: in that recipe, using normal American granulated sugar won't make a noticeable difference. You don't need to bother seeking out superfine sugar or pulverizing regular. In a custard, it might make a difference.

The thing is, they don't have the American texture of white sugar in Brit areas, not often, just caster and icing (confectioner's) sugar, so caster sugar is often specified where it isn't of critical importance.

And yes, linseed is flax seed. Bleah.

#96 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 05:00 PM:

Flax is what linen is made of. Just connecting them linguistically.

#97 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 05:21 PM:

Thus far Clark E. Myers (#61):

Tit for Tat is the dominant strategy in an iterated prisoner's dilemma

Actually, I recall reading (I think in The Selfish Gene) that the dominant strategy is a variant of Tit for Tat that gives the other player a second chance - Nice twice, then as standard after that. That breaks cycles that most of the Nasty strategies get locked into, and still pays off well on average.

#98 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 05:38 PM:

Larry #93 : Now why does the milk container work so well for both superfine and regular granulated sugar, but really not work at all when it's containing milk? By "not work", I mean "can't open the stupid thing in the first place".

#99 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 05:53 PM:

Bacteria are a much bigger problem for milk than for sugar, so milk needs to be sealed a lot better than sugar. I think. (I sometimes end up using a knife to separate the layers on milk cartons.)

#100 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 06:38 PM:

I haven't been around in a while, so I may be missing something. What does "AKICIML" stand for? Please?

#101 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 07:16 PM:

Lin, the traditional initialism is AKICIF which means All Knowledge is Contained in Fandom.

#102 ::: Ailsa Ek ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 07:17 PM:

All Knowlege Is Contained In Making Light, a variation on AKICIF (... Fandom).

And I believe part of the purpose of flax seed in GF recipes is texture, and it's supposed to have lots of lovely nutrients, too (which is a good thing, since a lot of GF flours don't have too many). So I guess flax seed is next on my list of acquisitions. Sooner or later, I want to get some mesquite flour too.

#103 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 07:25 PM:

It is a fascinating* fact that caster sugar, so called because it can run through a caster (sprinkler), is at least as commonly known as castor sugar, which implies it will run through a beaver.

This may well be true, but it probably violates some wildlife law or other.

*As such things go.

#104 ::: D. ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 08:59 PM:

Re: #103: That implies diabetic beavers, which leads to the question of their insulin supplier as well as their HMO.

#105 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 03, 2006, 11:43 PM:

joann - That's a good point - although these days I buy fancy-pants organic milk with the screw cap on the side of the carton. Works much better, and the city still says to put it in with the recycling.

The basic carton does work great for sugar, though.

Alisa Ek - Personnaly, I take flax oil in capules every day (as per my eye doctor and nutritionist), seek fiber elsewhere, and eat stuff that tastes good, unlike flax seed. For me, flax seed = yuck.

#106 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 07:19 AM:

395 Rikibeth -- ordinary granulated sugar is perfectly available everywhere in Britain and everywhere in Canada I've tried to buy it, which would be Ontario and Quebec. The thing with caster sugar is that it's finer, and therefore you get more air in the cake. It's about half way between sugar and powdered "icing" sugar -- and in my experience, impossible to make in a mixer without making icing sugar by mistake. You can make it in a mortar and pestle though. But you don't need to, as you don't need caster sugar but more air, and so this can be compensated for when using ordinary sugar by beating it some more, and/or by using melted butter/marge/whatever and using a balloon whisk rather than creaming fat and sugar. Likewise, when using recipes that call for "brown sugar" and only want the density and not the flavour, you can use granulated sugar and beat a bit less.

I don't use sugar except for cooking, and was surprised at one point by a friend asking for sugar for his tea. I said I was sorry, I only had demarara or vanilla sugar. He opted for vanilla sugar without hesitation, and then was astonished to find his tea actually tasted of vanilla -- he'd heard "vanilla sugar" meaning "plain, mundane, ordinary sugar" instead of "vanilla sugar" meaning "sugar kept in a gladd jar with vanilla pods for long enough for them to get friendly".

#107 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 07:49 AM:

#95 Rikibeth: They don't have American-style sugar in Brit areas? Is US sugar more like UK granulated sugar then (ie coarser than caster)?

And as it's an open thread, and AKICIML: can anyone recommend any books/textbooks as an introduction to economics, markets, and game theory (or one of the above)? I've an engineering degree, so maths-heavy is OK. I've been reading a fair bit of stuff that touches on these areas recently, and would like to know more.

#108 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 08:48 AM:

I'd guess that our esteemed hosts have had enough of HTML tinkering this week... but if they keep a list of suggestions for future work: How about a thingy on the comment numbers that puts something like "Re: #108" in the Write here box when you click on it?

If you wanted to get really fancy, it would put in "Re: <a href="[comment #108 url]">#108</a>" i.e. a link back to the original comment.

#109 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 08:51 AM:

Mary #82: I've missed flights before, and they didn't blow my checked bags up. (Er, come to think of it, that was probably produced by the dream. Carry on.)

amysue #87: That sounds horrible. And you're right on about the variable reinforcement. It was maybe understandable on the day they put the ban into action, but they've had weeks now and they still don't have their stuff together. Even the signs at different airports say different things, possibly because they date to different eras in the restrictions.

Thus far (seven flights since the liquid ban, all inside the US, one on the day itself -- I'm on the road a great deal for work) I haven't had any TSA experiences out of the ordinary with regards to the security checks. I have yet to have them check my bags when I'm getting on a plane. For the first six flights I also didn't see them checking bags during any boarding process, but then last week flying out of Indy I saw them check a few people at random from another flight, so I guess they must be doing it sometimes. I've traveled with my knitting needles (2.5 mm bamboo sock needles) and my asthma inhaler and they have yet to notice either one.

My guess is that they'll leave the ban in place until after the elections. There's too much about this that seems designed to produce fear.

#110 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 09:09 AM:

Re #97

Tit for Two Tats is the most dominant class of strategy. However, allowing mutations in a series of iterated dilemmas leads to a dominant variation being a TF2T which also takes advantage of players that don't retaliate on defectors.

So, in the simplified world of Prisoners' Dilemma, the winning strategy is to co-operate, forgive and then exploit other players that are too good-hearted.

#111 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 09:17 AM:

It is a fascinating* fact that caster sugar, so called because it can run through a caster (sprinkler), is at least as commonly known as castor sugar, which implies it will run through a beaver.

Is that really true? Sounds like a load of Pollux.

#112 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 09:27 AM:

John M. Ford (#79): You saw the "With Glowing Eyes We See Thee Rise" episode?

What? Huh? That's not the title of any Buffy eps that I know and I have zero memory of any Buffy/Canada crossovers. More info, please!

#113 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 09:46 AM:

Jakob: On game theory, see The Evolution of Cooperation by Robert Axelrod. That's the book from which I learned about the subject.

#114 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 09:51 AM:

Warning to all and sundry: the "Stan Lee's Watchmen" sidelight is evil and will make your brain hurt.

#115 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 11:48 AM:

"Stan Lee's Watchmen" makes me nostalgic for the good old days of 1963: the Red Brain and those epic battles between N-Man and Comrade Cockroach.

#116 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 11:52 AM:

OMGWTFBBQ-on-a-stick!!!
I thought I'd seen some weird things on offer as comestibles at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, but this stuff is just on another level. The fast food industry has quite surpassed itself here, mostly by ingenious use of deep-fryers it appears. It has also surpassed my glancing knowledge of food varieties. Some of the items mentioned are opaque to my understanding, but, like Sherlock Holmes, I jealously hoard my neural space for use on pertinent subjects, and am not going to research them. One hopes the reporter recovers. One also hopes most of these are not coming here.

#117 ::: amysue ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 11:58 AM:

re #109: That's what was so odd. All the other flights (including one 10 days earlier coming through Toronto) no one asked about anything, not the knitting, the medicine or supplies, the legos or anythings else. I honestly don't have a problem with security and the like, but not when it's so random and meaningless.

The reality is everything looked at was handed back to me. If something were wrong with any of those items looking at them wouldn't have told you that.

#118 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 01:17 PM:

re: #79, #112: Wait, Xander was in that Bonnie Tyler video?

--
re: the Orwell quote. Does the desire for revenge disappear, or does it just mutate into vindictiveness once the powerlessness is gone?
---
re: sugar. I buy evil bleached granulated in the paper bag. Recently, the same company started producing these plastic tubs with a snap on lid which I like for its functionality. So I bought one, and then buy the paper bags to refill it to mollify my sloppy environmentalism. I got a kick though when I first opened the plastic one. The sugar was sealed behind a plastic barrier that said something like "Sealed for your protection." Made me wonder why the paper bags don't say "Not sealed for your protection because you didn't but the plastic container."

#119 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 01:46 PM:

debcha: That was, well, a joke, following on abi's line about "Serge out of Heck," which followed on . . . well, we could be here all night.

I could describe the whole plot of the episode, but that's what I do, and I suspect so could anybody else here.

Though it's pleasant to have it taken that seriously.

#120 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 01:46 PM:

Epacris @ 116 - That stuff doesn't count - it's State Fair Food (SFF). All SFF must be easily portable, so sticks are encouraged. SFF must be dramatic looking so people will seek out your booth. SFF must demonstrate the basic value prop of your business the other 51 weeks of the year, but still conform to the above.

Besides, that guy's colleagues did give him a bottle of fiber tablets.

FWIW, my favorite fair food is very New York - a bag full of zeppoli, a sort of quickbread Italian donut pulled fresh from the fryer, plopped into a brown paper lunch bag and sprinkled heavily with powdered sugar. Mmm, zeppoli. A bagful of coronaries gobbled out of a hot translucent paper bag, but delicious.

#121 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 02:14 PM:

Epacris: It has become a particular wossname at the MN State Fair to have more varieties of Food Onna Stick than even C.M.O.T. Dibbler might dream of, and this has resulted in people finding ways to stickulate foods that do not greatly benefit thereby. Some last a year or two and fade, some hang on. A good number, like the fried walleye filets (which are usually excellent) are available either impaled or in a conventional cardboard tray.

And what items are novel to you? I certainly haven't eaten most of the things served at the Fair . . . and wouldn't . . . but I've seen most of them from a safe distance.

#122 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 02:17 PM:

Clearly I was mistaken about availability. I guess I was influenced by all the Brit baking recipes I've seen, which seem ALWAYS to call for caster sugar, with never a mention of standard granulated.

I have never been able to turn granulated sugar into icing sugar in a food processor, but caster sugar is easy. A few short pulses and you're there.

Since I always cream butter and sugar very thoroughly (20-quart Hobarts are good for that, put it in and ignore it a while) I have never felt that caster sugar made a serious difference in final texture. I mainly think it's useful for dissolving more quickly and thoroughly in cold liquids.

If a supplier offered me 50-pound sacks of caster sugar, I might be willing to see if it truly did improve things. I've noticed appreciable differences between brands of "all-purpose" flours that have slightly different gluten contents, and will specify brand if I get a chance.

Nutritional value of raw flaxseed put into a baked good: less than you might think, as many of the good omega fatty acids will oxidize during baking. Still gives you fiber, and some flavor, but not so much with the nutrition. To get its benefits, you really have to eat it raw.

#123 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 02:29 PM:

No one so far has spoken up in favor of flax seed so it must devolve upon me--I quite like its bland whole-grain flavor and add it to various things (started out putting it in oatmeal).

The seed coat is resistant to digestion, so those of us who don't chew each mouthful 100 times are advised to grind it first. I don't know what that says about it as a whole seed addition to bread, although you see that a lot.

Would not have thought it capable of inspiring intense liking or misliking, but it does have a mildly grassy undertone which I can picture might be one of those tastes (like bitterness in cole vegetables) for which there's genetic/physiological variation between individuals.

#124 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 02:35 PM:

No one so far

Sorry, Rikibeth; surprising how long it took to get #123 typed. I was talking about raw flax, which I add eg. to oatmeal after cooking; possibly the reference to a grassy flavor implied that.

I have read that the omega-3 oils are more stable in the seed than after they're isolated, for what I now realize is an unstated value of "more."

#125 ::: Nick Fagerlund ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 03:06 PM:

And hempseed's really better anyhow, if it's Omegas that you're cruising for. (Though it's infuriatingly--albeit predictably--expensive.)

Flaxseed has this funny gelatinous coating on it, which, when activated with water, can sub for eggs in a fair pile of recipes. The way I learned it was to grind a tablespoon of flaxseed and soak in a quarter-cup of cold water, but this variation sounds promising as well. Won't make meringue, but it WILL yield pumpkin bread you can feed to your vegans.

#126 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 03:23 PM:

Nick Fagerlund - I solve that problem by not even trying to bake for vegans. The egg issue is important, but so is the fat issue. I won't use hydrogenated vegetable fat (Crisco, margarine) and butter is dairy, so all that's left is various oils. There goes just about every baked good produced by the muffin method. I suppose snickerdoodles would be possible - but I don't like them and I won't make food I don't like.

If I'm expecting to feed vegans, I'll make all vegetable foods, and possibly my tofu/mushroom chili (which is pretty amazing, BTW). I'll also get a basic bread (no eggs or butter) and hope that yeast hasn't somehow been elevated onto the no-go list as well.

Years ago, I had a vegan co-worker with celiac disease. She didn't like raw vegetables, either. I have no idea how she survived.

#127 ::: sara_k ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 05:39 PM:

Back in the old days when I worked as a bartender, we had caster sugar behind the bar for drinks which needed sugar to be dissolved in them. We also had some other kind of large crystal sugar to add to the rims of glasses.

#128 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 05:48 PM:

American granulated sugar is much smaller-granuled than British granulated sugar. I generally find that I can use American granulated sugar where in the UK I use caster sugar.

Fly fishers and magicians favour caster sugar, of course, but that's neither here nor there.

#129 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 06:33 PM:

Larry, #126

If you ever want a vegetable fat which in its natural state is solid-ish at room temperatures, look at palm or coconut oil. You can find the food-grade versions at natural/health food stores.

Of course, like any other specialty item, they Aren't Cheap.

#130 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 06:56 PM:

Epacris #116: The photographs of boat-type presentations somewhere in the middle of day 10 got me thinking about other foods served banana split-style, with all sorts of mounds of different sauces. Some trompe-l'oeil thing that looked like ice cream with sweet sauces but was really some chili-fire extravaganza would be perfect, I think.

#131 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 07:56 PM:

Geri had us do the consuite in onna-stick one Minicon and now I can't remember the item I had so much trouble sticking toothpicks in. Hmmmm

#132 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 08:45 PM:

abi @128, not to mention orthopedists.

#133 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 08:50 PM:

Thena - palm and coconut oils are tasty, but not exactly healthful, which is the basis of my objection to Crisco and margarine.

My experience with palm oil is mostly limited to Brazilian dishes made with dende oil, all of which are amazingly delicious but tend to involve decidedly non-vegan items like fish and shrimp.

#134 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 09:25 PM:

Larry -

See, my objection to Crisco is that it's partially hydrogenated whatever and you get into all that business with the scary trans-fats. Whereas yes, the tropical oils are saturated, but they started out that way, so they're on the same planet as butter in my dietary universe: OK in moderation, don't think my arteries would forgive me if I sat there and ate a pound of it.

I'm an olive oil sort of person anyway, but it just doesn't make good icing.

#135 ::: Paul Dietz ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 09:35 PM:

Thena - palm and coconut oils are tasty, but not exactly healthful,

I've been told they're known in the trade as 'jungle grease'.

#136 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 09:41 PM:

#103-104: whereas the first thing I thought of was some sort of sugar-as-pest-poison (cf warfarin-laced rat pellets). Definitely a sprained mind at work there.

#137 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 09:57 PM:

Sugar-Coated Exploding Rats!

On a Plane!!

Part of this complete breakfast.

#138 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 10:21 PM:

Coming very late to the conversation, and I don't know if anyone replied to this....

#35: I think the Mafia, and similar, would disagree with Orwell about revenge. Revenge is something that you do because you are powerful;

I don't think that's the sort of "power" that orwell was talking about here:

Revenge is an act which you want to commit when you are powerless and because you are powerless: as soon as the sense of impotence is removed, the desire evaporates also

At least, I think "sense of impotence" can refer to an internal relation to your own power, which is different than mere physical strength. Heavily armed people with the capability to kill can still succumb to the urge for revenge. But that doesn't mean they neccessarily have any personal, internal, sense of power.

It's quite possible to be in possession of large amounts of firepower, with the capacity to use it, and be a complete coward, with no power, and react as such.

And history is full of powerful people who never had to resort to violence.

#139 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 10:31 PM:

Currently, Amazon.com is removing all of the ebooks from their site. One author encountered a message meant for the author/publisher of the author's book asking for whoever owned the digital rights to contact Amazon.com to see about getting it listed as an ebook. This is not a good sign of what may be occurring. P&E has written to Amazon asking for information. If anything is learned, we'll post it.

#140 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 10:34 PM:

In the interests of full disclosure, Crisco now has a "no trans fat" version which is fully hydrogenated. Don't mean to recommend it, only to note its existence.

The situation re: saturated fats is reportedly complicated by the fact that many of the studies assumed all fats which were solid at room temperature were equivalent, whether partially hydrogenated trans fats or natural saturated ones. Last I heard there is a school of thought which no longer accounts tropical oils the lipid equivalent of arsenic.

#141 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2006, 11:11 PM:

John M. Ford (#119): I simultaneously hang my head in shame and prostrate myself in obeisance to your mastery - I missed the Serge-out-of-heck linkage. And, naturally, it occurred to me moments after I posted that it was probably a joke (what's the opposite of esprit d'escalier - the thing you shouldn't have said?)

#142 ::: amysue ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 12:23 AM:

So..apropos of nothing and moving a bit sideways from sugar...what do folks here think of Splenda?

In general, I'm a fairly "bad" diabetic in that I've given up not eating food I like and just try to remember to give myself enough insulin to counteract it. That's a whole other can of worms (leading me to wonder at how 'Snakes on a Plane' and "How To Eat Fried Worms" made it to the theaters this summer...)but, once in awhile in a fit of something healthyish I have substituted Splenda with out great harm. Not this week end though, I made dried apricot,crystalized ginger and white chocolate scones-didn't see the point in using any Splenda there.

Oh and what the heck, there's enough diabetic posters to throw this out:Any cure for the "I just don't want to deal with it anymore so I won't" phases that come about (at least for me)? I know, I should buck up, exercise, eat right and all that yummy stuff, but I'm sick of thinking about it. This never happened with cancer or the other yucky stuff, but maybe it's because diabetes like any other chronic illness is so relentlessly there, day in and day out.

#143 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 01:06 AM:

amysue,

The worst thing about diabetes is all the damned math...

How to deal with the lapses? Ride them out as well as you can, don't try to counteract bad food by eating good food (unless it's, like, lettuce with no dressing), and get out of your chair and futz around every hour or so just to make sure you still can. Be as "good" as you can, as much as you can, and forgive yourself when you can't.

I've been diagnosed as diabetic for ten years, but living in a diabetic household since I was six, when my father was diagnosed. The intermittant slippages in control are inevitable: it's not going to go away, and sometimes knowing that the best you can do for yourself is to deny yourself gluttony and sloth forever gets really tedious. And if you live with people who can eat three times as much as you can and not get fat, let alone sick (I have a 20 year old son in residence) it's easy to get resentful. In my experience, tedium and resentment are the high road to cookies.

However, if it starts being an all-the-time state, you need to talk to your doc about depression.

#144 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 01:45 AM:

I have Type II diabetes. I don't take insulin, I take Metformin instead.

I'm no role model. I'm 90 pounds overweight and I don't exercise. I had a burrito for dinner tonight.

And yet I don't eat sweets anymore, or potato chips, or pretzels. Once or twice a year I'll treat myself to an ice cream sundae, but that's it. I ate a lot of sugar-free ice cream for a while, but have sort of walked away from that, in part because of lactose intolerance -- gas is no fun. Not for me, and not for my wife either. :)

Eating junk food and sweets is a habit, not eating that stuff is a different habit.

I was diagnosed three or four years ago. I'm 45 years old. I'm at a turning point in life now. If I lose weight, exercise (and not even a lot of exercise, just a half-hour of brisk walking five days a week or so), I figure I have a good shot of making it to 100. My doctor says I even have a good shot of getting off the Metformin.

If I keep going the way I have been ... well, I possibly have a good shot of not making it to 60. Or 55. Or even 50. Douglas Adams died of a heart attack when he was 49.

This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately, as you might imagine. But thinking doesn't solve the problem; action solves the problem.

#145 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 02:02 AM:

Mitch - My blood sugar has been hovering around 100, and I have one doctor who badgers me and threatens me with imminent death, and another who says I should be aware, but not freaked out. I tell the badgering doctor to f*ck off, and the other that I'm working on it.

Do what you think you need to do to get past your current crisis. And learn to like getting more excersize. I suppose that's the larger part of hanging about.

#146 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 02:29 AM:

Larry, 100 mg/dl is dead normal BG. (In the UK and other places, the reading is in mmol/L, but that's normal at about 6. Or is your measurement mmol/dL?)

#147 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 02:58 AM:

No, I just have a doctor who is trying to make me freak out. For $$$ of course. Because I have old skool insurance from MSFT.

FWIW, my BP is 120/80, which is too high by current standards, but Bristol Myers Squibb wants me to take medication for that too.

#148 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 04:59 AM:

120/80 is too high?? No it isn't - is it? When I had my induction medical, lo these many years ago, I was told that 119/70 was normal to good. (The key - eat dreadfully, but cycle to work).

Wikipedia says that 120/80 is exactly normal for a resting healthy adult, and hypertension doesn't even start until you hit 140/90. Sounds like either you are misremembering your numbers or your doctor is having you on. I would ask him to check that these are indeed "current standards".

#149 ::: Ailsa Ek ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 06:58 AM:

Adam was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes a while back (my brain says a few months ago, but I think it may have been a bit longer than that by now). He's just started stabbing himself for blood sugar testing and has found that almost every time he feels lousy it's because his blood sugar is not where it should be. We use a fair amount of Splenda in our house.

Food is interesting here. We keep kosher, David has celiac disease, Adam had Type 2 diabetes, and I'm anemic, so my doctor wants me to cut out dairy to improve iron absorption. I'm being the least good about it, but my diagnosis is the newest too, and anemia doesn't seem to have as many nasty side-effects as diabetes.

I do the bulk of the cooking in our household. The celiac restrictions came in first, and I looked at those as a fascinating challenge (besides, they got David to eat, so they were more than worth it). When Adam was diagnosed with diabetes, it threw me for a loop (do you know how hard it is to make something gluten free and high fiber?) and the new dairy restrictions really piss me off. This Thanksgiving, when I also get to deal with my brother, who has no medical restrictions but is a majorly fussy eater, I may go postal. (But at least Thanksgiving is fleishig *sigh*)

#150 ::: amysue ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 07:06 AM:

Yikes. Hey guys sorry for the little pity party there. I need to get over the jet lag.

I am also confused by the different tipping points for BG, BP etc. I understand that for myself it's prudent to treat even mild cholestrol or BP elevation and I take medication for both, but I thought 120/70 and a bg of 100 was fine for a healthy person?

Oh and John M Ford about #137: Could we subsititute chipmunks? I'd be willing to donate a stone walls worth. Only two of my son's sunflowers made it to adulthood this summer.

#151 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 09:54 AM:

100 mg/dL is considered "high normal" for fasting BG, or even "pre-diabetic." It is worth worrying about, especially if you have other risk factors such as overweight or a sedentary lifestyle.

Doctors used to be taught that 120 was the point to get worried, now they are increasingly looking askance at lower numbers, because Type II diabetes is a progressive disease.

#152 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 09:58 AM:

Sugar-Coated Exploding Rats!

Sounds like a Dwarf recipe from Nanny Ogg's Cookbook....

#153 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 10:12 AM:

debcha: (141)
"[W]hat's the opposite of esprit d'escalier - the thing you shouldn't have said?"

esprit d'guillotine?

#154 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 10:19 AM:

Thus far (seven flights since the liquid ban, all inside the US, one on the day itself -- I'm on the road a great deal for work) I haven't had any TSA experiences out of the ordinary with regards to the security checks. I have yet to have them check my bags when I'm getting on a plane. For the first six flights I also didn't see them checking bags during any boarding process, but then last week flying out of Indy I saw them check a few people at random from another flight, so I guess they must be doing it sometimes. I've traveled with my knitting needles (2.5 mm bamboo sock needles) and my asthma inhaler and they have yet to notice either one.

I did a total of four separate flights for L.A.Con (only two passes through security; the other two were just plane-changes) and experimented with bringing through an empty and mostly-empty water bottle. Interestingly, the X-ray at the security check the first time couldn't determine whether or not the bottle was empty. They had to pull it out to check. The second time, it was not entirely empty and they didn't check.

More interesting was that the bobby pins in my hair set off the metal detectors and got me pulled out to be wanded and patted down. They did not, however, actually check my hair to make sure it was bobby pins in there, and I could easily have gotten other things past the pat-down. On the bright side, the pat-down was professional; given the problems reported last summer, I was relieved to not have to start screaming bloody murder in the middle of a security check.

I had my bag searched at the gate for the last of the four flights, and they did pull out the water bottle, but let it go by with a bit of liquid in it.

#155 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 11:14 AM:

Do you all already know that Steve Erwin, the Crocodile Hunter, died?

I find myself surprisingly distressed by this.

#156 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 11:20 AM:

Er, tristesse d'escalier? Or, for the revolutionary context noted above, l'esprit du tombereau, the wit of the tumbril.

#157 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 11:25 AM:

In re blood sugar --

It was explained to me that 100 mg/dL is high normal, if you are an otherwise normal person. (85 is a better estimate for "normal".) If you have Type II, as I do, you target lower as your blood sugar is going to bounce around more. My doctor prefers more than one stick per day, and looks at, for example evening levels a couple of hours after dinner. I am usually in the 90's in the morning, and a bit higher in the evenings. I'm lucky, Glucophage is working well for me.

In the end, Hb1AC is a far better measure, as it gives the overall picture of your blood sugar over the past three months. I'm managing to stay in the low 6's, which keeps my doctor happy.

#158 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 11:44 AM:

I know nothing about Splenda, but thought I'd share an amusing work story.

A co-worker had breast cancer (give it a sec, that's not the funny part). She went through chemo fine and returned to work. For weeks, she ranted on and on about the fact that during gestational diabetes, she switched to Splenda and insisted that the Splenda gave her cancer. She was relentless.

One morning, I came into work and there's a bag filled with boxes of Jello w/Splenda in our coffee room. It was from this woman and the note said "Free! I'm not using Splenda anymore. Enjoy!"

#159 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 12:09 PM:

Sarah (155)

I didn't know that. Swearword other than crikey.

And then there's how he died. I'm unable to think how to comment on that.

#160 ::: sara_k ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 12:35 PM:

I'm diabetic, type II, and regulate with diet and exercise. I was diagnosed 8 years ago and Depo Provera was my trigger; without Depo I was below the warning levels but on it I hovered above the warning limit.

My main problem is carb binging. If my blood sugar starts getting low and I don't eat something with a little protein, fat, or fiber then I start craving carbs. At that point if I eat carbs I crave even more and more and more. And I feel awful. If I start into the cycle then I can usually break it by getting some quick exercise. I bought a treadmill and have found that I can really stop the cravings (even after a peppermint patty) by 30 minutes of strong walking.

I don't deny myself everything sweet or salty but I do limit portion size and try to counteract it with exercise. I'm not that fond of icecream or cheesecake but Burfi is a weakness - I'll have a bite sized piece at a restaurant but I don't bring it into the house. For some reason last month I thought it would be a good idea to make baklava. It was a very bad idea in regard to my self-control. (shrug) It's gone and I won't make more.

I don't care for Splenda because it leaves a taste in my mouth. I prefer to bake with sugar and I use sugar in my daily coffee.

#161 ::: Nick Fagerlund ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 12:51 PM:

On a previous thread fork: Larry(@126), I usually end up using non-trans-fat margarine (Earth Balance is the only one we've found that melts and doesn't taste gross), but for banana and pumpkin bread (and affiliated muffins and fellow-travelers), we discovered that a mixture of canola oil and unsweetened applesauce works startlingly well.

What I'd really like to do is work for some high-level vegan bakery (f'rex, Blue Heron in Oly or the Hard Times in Minnie) for a while, because I just know they're using some really clever tricks I haven't been taught yet. (Some of which are bound to be portable to regular animal-based baking.)

#162 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 01:09 PM:

They used to sell prune puree as a fat substitute - it apparently works best in breads and cookies with other flavors (chocolate? spice breads?). Not a replacement for all of the fat, but a lot of it. There's also a recipe for 'Four Seasons Bread' (zucchini, apple, orange or tomato, depending on season, in a basic spiced quick bread) that has oil as the fat. The one I found on line was missing the quantity, however.

#163 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 01:13 PM:

"In case anyone hasn't seen this yet:

An image of a neuron vs. an image of the universe

File under "Separated at Birth?" "

The mind was separated form the universe at birth? That explains a lot of things.

#164 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 01:15 PM:

It's pretty ironic. He's like the third person in history to be killed by a stingray. And apparently he wasn't even hassling it at the time. What are the odds of Steve Irwin, Crocodile Harasser, being killed by an animal that a) wasn't a crocodile and b) wasn't being harassed? It's like, I don't know, James Bond dying after being knocked over by a Ford Escort.

#165 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 01:20 PM:

Sarah S--
Yes, news of his death was the first thing I saw when I sat down at my computer yesterday morning. I've been sad ever since--I really liked him. He was so over-the-top with enthusiasm, but it was genuine. What a freakish thing to have happen; apparently sting-ray injuries are almost never fatal. I just read that he pulled the spine out himself. Having heard repeatedly over the last 30 hours that the damage doesn't occur when the spine goes in, but when it comes out, I'm sitting here wondering if he might have survived it had he not pulled it out. :( I suppose not--it took them half an hour to get medical attention for him.

#166 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 01:21 PM:

Nick Fagerlund, Yay name-check for Blue Heron! I was living in the mods at TESC when that collective started delivering bread by bicycle in the middle of the night. My husband is addicted to their cinnamon rolls.

#167 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 01:22 PM:

Being an open thread, here's an item from the Religious Kitsch dept.:

Seen at breakfast in a diner at the beach in Wildwood, NJ: Guy walks in wearing a white T-shirt with a waist-up shot of Christ crucified, with the slogan, "HE DIED FOR ME/I LIVE FOR HIM."

It was Sunday morning, so I'm thinking the guy said to himself, "Let's see, I could go to church, or wear this tacky T-shirt. Same thing."

#168 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 01:28 PM:

ajay (#164): It's pretty ironic. He's like the third person in history to be killed by a stingray. And apparently he wasn't even hassling it at the time. What are the odds of Steve Irwin, Crocodile Harasser, being killed by an animal that a) wasn't a crocodile and b) wasn't being harassed? It's like, I don't know, James Bond dying after being knocked over by a Ford Escort.

Or like Sam Kinison dying in an auto accident in broad daylight, when he himself was clean and sober.

#169 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 02:03 PM:

In the end, Hb1AC is a far better measure

A1c.

New York has been trying out a program of requiring the labs in the city to turn over all their A1c results, without identification attached. The idea is to track the general state of diabetics without creating issues of privacy, etcetera. (It's not differentiated by type, of course.) This would count people who don't see doctors regularly, but show up in EDs (as, unsurprisingly, a lot of them do). It obviously can't count those who never get tested, but it's at least some data on the situation.

#170 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 02:12 PM:

Larry @ #126: Tassajara Bread Book - a great book on the mechanics of bread baking in general - has a bunch of oil-based muffin and quick-bread recipes. They work well, though quite a bit denser and less fluffy than what most people are used to. I helped my son make blueberry muffins for his preschool class using their muffin recipe, and they got enthusiastic approval from the kids.

#171 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 02:19 PM:

John M Ford @ #121
I did rather wonder why one would attempt to enstick spaghetti & meatballs, macaroni cheese, or cheesecake.
"what items are novel to you?" Corn dog, egg roll, reuben, fudge puppy, or hotdish, for instance, may be the same as things we have in Oz Ag Show Cuisine by different names, or peculiarly American/regional food entities. It's possible a Pronto Pup is the same as a Pluto Pup, for instance (which is very similar to our 'traditional' battered sav, but onna-stick). Poncho Dogs, though, sounds like a South American themed Hot Dog; does that mean adding salsa instead of mustard and wrapping in a tortilla instead of a bun? Life is not long enough to spend worrying.

But as others have said, it's a 'doesn't count' food area at the Royal Easter Show (or other cities' equivalent), once a year, where I usually indulge in a deep-fried cheese-onna-stick, and adore feasting on the 'specialty' meats you generally can't find, like the ostrich sausages, buffalo burgers & crocodile rolls <ahem>. If only a stallholder had the chutzpah to call his/hers Dibbler's Fine Foods ...
[There was a comedy take on one local Show recently, see 2:15-3:15 here (YouTube) *Warning: Swearing & Regurgitation*.]

Back at #85 and Ailsa Ek's caster sugar/linseed query:
Original recipe was for "Multi-Grain Bread", and included a handful each of poppy seeds and sesame seeds as well as the linseed. I suspect the seeds were there for the texture & nutty taste multi-grain effect, and you could probably substitute all sorts of similar things that appealed to you - I like sunflower seeds, for instance. I don't know if the mixture of flours used - rice flour, soy flour, maize meal & tapioca starch - was also part of getting a different flavour & texture to standard plain white or brown bread, or standard for non-white gluten-free bread. The comments there do say it "has much more taste than GF white bread".

#172 ::: Malthus ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 02:26 PM:

Sugar Coated Exploding Rats

Ingredients:

1 Gummi Rat
2 Mentos brand candies
2 tbsp Diet Coke
1 Wooden skewer/chopstick
2 inch string

Instructions:
Chop the Mentos finely. Poke the skewer thru the rat lengthwise, withdraw halfway. Roll the rat in confectioner's sugar (or not, if you can give up the Sugar-Coated part). Attempt to hollow out the rat, mouth first (I suggest a very small-bore melon baller). Wrap the string around the very tail-end of the rat and the skewer, to try to keep the fluids in. Hold upright, and fill with Diet Coke.

Add Mentos. Carefully.

P.S. Wear dirty clothes before trying.
P.P.S. YMMV.
P.P.P.S. Not for diabetics (or, in fact, anyone over the age of 8).


#173 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 02:31 PM:

Sugar Coated Exploding Rats

Eewww!!! (LOL)

#174 ::: Joe J ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 02:45 PM:

I came across this article today: Physicians group says no medical plans ready for nuclear explosion

The government doesn't have plans for treating people downwind from a nuclear attack for radiation exposure, a report released Thursday concludes.

The study by the Physicians for Social Responsibility also faults the Homeland Security Department for lacking communication plans to tell the public whether to evacuate or take shelter where they are after a nuclear blast.

Which would have been very alarming to me in the sense that, once again, we find that our government is unprepared for a disaster, if it hadn’t been that I’d read Teresa’s particle above.

I don’t think it lets Homeland Security off the hook that they are unprepared for a nonexistent threat, since their reasoning seems to be that they don’t need to prepare for dealing with the aftermath of a disaster if they are actively trying to prevent it from happening:

“However well-intentioned, this report seems to lack a grasp of reality,” Knocke said. “The department is intensely focused on preventing a high-concentrated attack like (nuclear weapons of mass destruction) or a dirty bomb from being detonated somewhere in the homeland. That is our highest priority.”

I don’t know if anyone over there has heard of Murphy’s Law, but don’t they realize that it doesn’t hurt to have a plan B in case everything goes to hell? How hard is it to come up with a “what if” plan?

Who is it that is lacking a grasp of reality?

#175 ::: Dan R. ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 02:54 PM:

Mark (#158):
This reminds me on an interview on the CBC with Elizabeth May, the new leader of the Canadian Green party. A good deal of the interview related to the fact that she didn't have a cell phone: one reason she gave was that she wasn't convinced they're safe. The interviewer kept pressing her on the the fact that she would need to be more available as the party leader. Finally, the interviewer suggested that she let "a young assistant" use the phone.

All Elizabeth would say was [paraphrasing...] "Don't you see the irony in that suggestion?"

#176 ::: JBWoodford ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 02:59 PM:

Joe J (#174) wrote:
I don’t know if anyone over there has heard of Murphy’s Law, but don’t they realize that it doesn’t hurt to have a plan B in case everything goes to hell? How hard is it to come up with a “what if” plan?

It's ironic that DHS is having so much trouble grasping this when other USGov't departments have it down cold. I do safety work for a government lab, and one of the things the Department of Energy hammers on is defense in depth. When the consequences of an accident are severe, we can't just use prevention strategies to reduce the odds of the accident happening in the first place. We have to use mitigative structures, systems, or components to reduce the consequences when/if it does happen.

JBWoodford

#177 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 03:09 PM:

Thanks for the "Kinky" Sidelight, PNH. When I first heard about his gubernatorial bid, I think I grinned as much as the next vaguely counter-culture Texan, but I kept hearing contradictory accounts of his platform and positions. Having a few solid quotes like these may help me argue for a more deliberate process in choosing one's next governor than just saying "Hey, he's an alt-scene music star with a funny name, why not?"

#178 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 03:19 PM:

#174:

Tsk! What, you want the government to do everything for you! Typical liberal whining, expecting the feds to hand out radiation treatment drugs they should have stocked up on themselves.

What else will You People ask for next, guys who wait around all day so they'll be ready to drive to your house to put out fires?

#179 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 03:35 PM:

#167: "Jesus died for my sins and all I got was this lousy t-shirt."

#180 ::: Nick Fagerlund ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 03:38 PM:

[JESR.166] Wow, you were on board from the beginning? High fives.

Blue Heron is SO awesome. I've been seriously considering mail-ordering a big sack of Rebel Crunch, because granola apparently sucks everywhere but the South Sound. (There's always making your own, but mine came out kind of burny the last few times. And I'm not sure how to go about duplicating whatever date-magic they're using.)

Also: Their spinach/feta turnovers. Hot damn.

#181 ::: Edward Oleander (Detox Nurse) ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 03:41 PM:

What else will You People ask for next, guys who wait around all day so they'll be ready to drive to your house to put out fires?

Hehehe... Reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw last year: "Who needs Social Security when you have homeless shelters and food shelves?"

Of course, if the rest of the country is going the same route as Minneapolis, we won't have any of those left soon either. Is it 2008 yet?

#182 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 04:13 PM:

"Sugar free" ain't always sugar free. What affects our blood sugar (glucose) levels is carbohydrates. For example, compare the nutritional information on a box of tasteless "sugar free" cookies with that on some ordinary cookies and you'll see that the carbohydrate and calorie content per ounce are very similar. The same goes for the "sugar free" candy whose wrapper cautions you not to eat too much for fear of diarrhea. This goes into the matter in greater detail. Every time I go to the pharmacy to fill my two diabetes prescriptions and buy more of those #@#%^%&$ expensive test strips, I see "sugar free" candies and cookies at the pharmacy counter. (!) Argggh.

I've given up eating "sugar free" cookies and candy in favor of the occasional real thing. Washed down with diet soda, on the theory that the diet soda cancels out the non-diet treats, right?

#183 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 04:53 PM:

#148, Ajay: blood pressure: you're hypertensive if you're over 150/100. You're in pre-hypertension if you're over about 135/90. Blood pressure rises naturally with age, so 120/80 is pretty good for anyone over 30. IIRC, the risk of a heart attack doubles for every 10 pips over the hypertension level.

I'm hypertensive. It's hereditary, runs in my maternal line, kills males between the age of 45 and 60, and I got a bad dose of it. (My elder brother escaped.) When I was diagnosed I was 250/150. With heavy medication, it's down to 160/95 when I'm exercising/active, dropping to 135/85 when I'm lying down/resting (and lower when I'm asleep).

Sure I'm overweight, but exercising didn't bring my weight down -- it actually packed it on, replacing fat with muscle. While hypertension is often associated with obesity, sometimes it isn't (and I think my family history is one of those cases). My first cousin was skinny as a rake when he died of a stroke in his sleep, aged 48.

#184 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 05:11 PM:

Tracie, the sugar alcohols have low glycemic impact. Yes, they're carbs, but they don't affect your (or rather most people's) blood sugar very much, if at all.

Sugar Free doesn't mean low in impact carbs, of course. I was looking at some Sugar Free cinnamon rolls the other day, and they were 19 grams of carbs each! NET. None of it was sugar, but so what?

About Steve Irwin: it was, in fact, a freak thing...but he apparently yanked the ray spine out of his heart himself, which is what caused his immediate death. I haven't seen the tape (and I hope I never do), but I'd be willing to bet he didn't fully realize what had happened, and shoved the ray away from himself. An understandable reaction, but one which killed him immediately.

#185 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 06:51 PM:

Sugar alcohols can have unpleasant side effects on some people's digestive tracts, so eat cautiously. From upset stomachs through explosive diarrhea. yuk.

I was a DB manager/developer at the local Diabetes education center for almost a year. The co-morbidities are what scared the heck out of me: retinopathy, nephropathy, hypertension, peripheral neuropathy, pulmonary venous deficiency, etc. Especially since I can point to my grandfather and say "See, that's what you did to yourself by refusing to manage your diabetes." He doesn't have days when he's tired of managing his disease (that's human!), he just doesn't do it all. I think the toe amputation scared him straight. Small strokes, quad-bypass, kidney failure: didn't phase him. Lopping off a toe - brought it home. Go figure.

We used fasting BG of >=100 as a pre-diabetes indicator (Impaired Fasting Glucose, Impaired Glucose Tolerance, Metabolic Syndrome X), and tried to teach the clients about what they could do help themselves out before the situation developed into diabetes.

There are some cool new drugs out there, I went to presentations on Byetta and Symlin just before I left the diabetes center. As I recall (I'm not a clinical person!), Byetta had a side effect of weight loss, which is nice change! Symlin is supposed to be a synthetic form of amylin, one of hormones produced by the pancreas (along with insulin) to help process your food into energy.

As with any other chronic disease, find a doctor that keeps up with the literature. We saw some wonderful people that complied perfectly with their docs guidelines. Their docs guidelines hadn't been updated in 30 years. Heartbreaking and frustrating.

#186 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 06:57 PM:

Wikipedia says that 120/80 is exactly normal for a resting healthy adult, and hypertension doesn't even start until you hit 140/90.

That's what I remember as being the canonical value for decades; 15 or 20 years ago there were arguments that this was too high a threshold, and that people should start worrying/treating/... at lower levels. I haven't tracked the arguments closely because hyp\o/tension runs in my family; my mother averaged ca. 85/55 for some years, and 110/70 is the highest I've gotten in a long time. Yeah, it's fun to watch the forms nurse at the blood donor center recheck her numbers -- but graying out when I stand up suddenly is \not/ fun.

Charlie@183: exercise often replaces fat with muscle; even if you don't lose weight, you should see overall measurements go down because muscle is denser. You may also be running into the canard that the BMI is the perfect measure, even though it doesn't work for people anywhere off the average (wide or narrow skeletons, more or less fat than average).

re Steve Irwin -- has any news story been calm enough to discuss the relative demerits of leaving a poison-coated spike in the center of the circulatory system vs yanking it out? He may have panicked incorrectly, or he may have reacted the least-unreasonable way to a venomous type, or he may have been dead either way; my very vague recollection is that serious marine venom is more common in the tropics than in the temperate zones, but I'm no expert on the topic.

#187 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 07:38 PM:

#180 Yeah, I was at TESC back in the very beginning of a lot of stuff, Blue Heron included. They've finally moved out of Mud Bay, long after Shipwreck Beads and Mud Bay Grainery went gigantic; they use the first display cases at the Oly Farmer's Market.

I'm fond of the spelt cookies, myself, although I have to remind myself that just because they're weird and chewy doesn't mean they're not glycogenic.

#188 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 07:45 PM:

What's this Blue Heron you're talking about? Mail order food?

#189 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 07:53 PM:

re: #172 -- I've never seen Gummi Rats big enough, but thanks to Google, success!

9 inch long Gummi Rats


Now, I'm off to find me a 9 year old willing to participate in such an experiment.

#190 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 08:24 PM:

Re Steve Irwin & stingray: As ever, I'll be waiting for the Coronor's inquest to get better information as to what actually did happen, but from what I've read on a number of types of envenomation, they are often intensely painful. Pushing away the fish or pulling the barb out may have been simple reflex, even startlement. Also, since he was snorkelling, so may have been heading up to the surface to gasp in air.

It does seem that a ray sting in a healthy adult is only likely to be fatal if it's in your trunk, which is much rarer than one in a limb. With our spiders, jellyfish, snakes, poison coneshells, stonefish, etc., it's useful to have a bit of basic knowledge, but problems with the first three are far more common, & so better known. Have we had a discussion of treating stings & toxic bites hereabouts?

His type of personality does set my teeth on edge (brings out the turtle reflex), but, unlike others I've known, it did seem to be a natural outflowing and was apparently directed in fairly positive ways. My respect rose when I heard he'd been using some of his wealth to fund protection of lands & wildlife in quite practical ways. So; a shock, and sad, and a reminder of how things can happen out of the blue, but possibly with some positive consequences as people rally round.

#191 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 08:52 PM:

Behold! A Great Blue Heron with a rat. One hopes the rat didn't explode.

#192 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 08:58 PM:

I'd bet a lot of people would choose Steve Irwin's life, even knowing it would end suddenly, and quickly, at the age of 44.

#193 ::: Ailsa Ek ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 09:11 PM:

Not me. That'd only give me two years left, and I have way more things I want to do. But then, I don't like excitement.

#194 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 09:14 PM:

"I'd bet a lot of people would choose Steve Irwin's life, even knowing it would end suddenly, and quickly, at the age of 44."

It's imagining what his family must be going through that breaks my heart.

#195 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 10:32 PM:

Especially his poor daughter, whose show it was.

#196 ::: Nick Fagerlund ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 10:58 PM:

Mary.188: Blue Heron Bakery is a natural-type bakery in Olympia, Washington. You can buy their food at the Farmer's Market, at their bakery out on Mud Bay Road, at the Olympia Food Co-Op, and some other places I'm forgetting. (And through the mail via their website.) I was born in 1982, so their food has been kind of a fixture in my life for, er, ever. Which is why I'm fascinated by JESR having been around when they were scrappy outlaw bread-traffickers.

#197 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 11:11 PM:

Mez @ 191
Yes, they do like the occasional hot meal! (It's surprising how often you'll see one in a field hunting in the grass.)

#198 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2006, 11:25 PM:

I'm getting all sorts of wacky rendering issues on comments in Firefox (1.0.5.6 / Mac). It seems to hang waiting for pagead2.googlesyndication.com.

Safari works just fine, though, as does IE7/Win XP.

Nick - I'll have to remember to check out Blue Heron next time I'm down in Olympia. I'll either love it or find it too crunchy.

#199 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 12:43 AM:

Larry, a lot of Blue Heron's stuff is very crunchy indeed, but it's still great.

Of course Oly, being Oly, has two other great bakeries, neither of which are quite as healthy as Blue Heron: Wagner's, which has been around forever, is a Viennese style bakery and Konditorie, and has amazing soups and sandwiches (on Capital Way two blocks down the Hill from the Capitol Campus), and The San Francisco Street Bakery, at San Francisco and North Bethel on the east side, which is a funky sort of Scottish style sweets/ sourdough bread place. All three have stalls at the Farmer's Market, which is out at the north end of Capital Way.

For a small town, this place is a hotbed of foodies. I don't know if there's anywhere else where people sell chantrelles out of the backs of pickups in October-November.

#200 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 01:32 AM:

JESR (#199) and others: you're making me miss the Oly market. It's a lot farther from Cambridge than from Steilacoom. Sigh.

#201 ::: Edward Oleander (Detox Nurse) ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 01:37 AM:

Wikipedia says that 120/80 is exactly normal for a resting healthy adult, and hypertension doesn't even start until you hit 140/90.

Wikipedia is behind the times. While 120/80 used to be considered textbook, recent test data announced in 2005 suggests that 120/80 (and especially the diastolic 80) should now be considered the high end of normal.

As is often the case, it will probably take years for this data to filter outwards and stands a fair chance of being modified before it propagates throughout the literature.

Sidenote: Another change just entering the health system is the aspirin dosage level thought to be actually helpful in preventing heart attacks. The baby dose of 81mg/day is showing to not be all that effective. Even a 325mg (standard single tablet) dose appears to cover only about 75% of the at-risk population. My MD showed me her study data late last year on this. Those on aspirin: Talk to your docs!

#202 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 01:57 AM:

But as others have said, it's a 'doesn't count' food area at the Royal Easter Show (or other cities' equivalent), once a year, where I usually indulge in a deep-fried cheese-onna-stick, and adore feasting on the 'specialty' meats you generally can't find, like the ostrich sausages, buffalo burgers & crocodile rolls <ahem>.

Just the thing for a barbie by the river...

#203 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 05:11 AM:

Edward Oleander: so, "high end of normal" is still normal, right? As opposed to "abnormal and needs medication"? Do you have a link to this research?

Re the radiation thing: that is absolutely shocking. For the last fifty years the US has been at risk of nuclear attack, and there's no plan to deal with it? I mean, civil defence was supposed to be FEMA's job! Was there never a plan, or has DHS just lost it?

#204 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 08:17 AM:

DHS never had it. They were never intended to increase our security, remember, just our fear.

#205 ::: amysue ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 08:38 AM:

Another random question..what's up with Avian Flu? I went into work yesterday and the administrator who had just met with the local police chief to discuss security issues (I work in a synagogue) handed me a slip of paper with a list of things I need to have on hand "RIGHT NOW" in preperation for the pandemic. He told her that all schools, stores, etc. will be shut down and people needed to be ready. How is it that the water supply would be affected?

#206 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 08:58 AM:

ajay was shocked:

Re the radiation thing: that is absolutely shocking. For the last fifty years the US has been at risk of nuclear attack, and there's no plan to deal with it? I mean, civil defence was supposed to be FEMA's job! Was there never a plan, or has DHS just lost it?

"We will all go together when we go.
All suffuse with an incandescent glow.
No one will have the endurance
To collect on his insurance,
Lloyd's of London will be loaded when they go."
-- Tom Lehrer

#207 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 09:41 AM:

#205 amysue: At a guess: If there is an epidemic you want to minimise your contact with possible disease vectors, so being able to stay at home for a while is good. Also, the epidemic may be widespread enough that it affects water treatment plants due to plant workers being off sick.

All that, plus an (un)healthy dose of paranoia?

#208 ::: RP ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 09:57 AM:

Ailsa (#149), I feel your pain (although I'm not the cook in the household). I have IBS (no red meat, no dairy, low fat) and my husband was recently diagnosed with Type II diabetes. We actually do pretty well by having fish/chicken plus veggies plus grains available at dinner - he concentrates on the veggies, I concentrate on the grains. But there's a surprising number of restaurants that serve only starch + grease and thus are permanently off limits.

I think you have to work cheats into living with diabetes. So long as you're testing your glucose levels, you can see what an ice cream sundae does for you. My husband saw a marked improvement by going on NutriSystem for a couple of months, mainly because that taught him to have a cup of vegetables or fruit with every meal and to eat every 3 hours or so. He continues to eat that way, and has an A1C below 6 (even with the occasional ice cream sundae).

#209 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 11:01 AM:

re: #175
Dan..I like it. Here's another about my mom:

When the DC snipers were loose, my mom was watching the news and they showed a woman pumping gas in the area where the snipers had been active. My mom said: "That woman's crazy. She should make her husband pump the gas."

Kinda tell you something about my parents!

#210 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 11:45 AM:

amysue (205):
Another random question..what's up with Avian Flu? [...] How is it that the water supply would be affected?
The planning supposition is that there may not be enough healthy, capable, and willing people to keep the infrastructure going. The big water tank on the hill in my town will only keep the water flowing for a couple of hours (they are short-term flow management devices). I've got about 25 gal of bottled water on hand (gallon jugs left over from some event or another), bleach, a good waterfilter (in my backpacking gear), and a water-heater full of water (80 gal).
Emergency planners default to worst-case scenarios because it may actually be worst case, and they don't want to be caught not having planned for the disaster when it gets here (Katrina notwithstanding)-- getting people to pay anttention to those plans is much harder. They also want people to, like, actually be prepared for a multi-day loss-of-services disaster. Avian flu is currently a useful hook to hang general preparedness on.

[good thing I copy-edited -- I almost had an 80 gal waterheater in my backpacking gear, I think I'd need a bigger pack]

#211 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 12:14 PM:

In a pandemic, disruption of water treatment is only one of the possible problems. There could be power outtages: not enough people to handle problems at the plants or with transmission wires. Toss in a major storm of any sort and it gets even more interesting.

Fuel delivery may become an issue -- hell, deliveries of every kind will be a problem. Just think -- it's the height of winter and those who depend on oil for their heat might not be able to get their tanks refilled.

In any given U.S. city, there's usually less than a month's worth of food available, in some areas maybe only 2 weeks...

Think about placing an entire state under quarantine for at least a month.

#212 ::: Ailsa Ek ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 12:46 PM:

We generally have a month's worth of supplies on hand, although the meals would get a bit dull towards the end. Water, though, I am really lax about stockpiling. Assuming no disaster between now & moving, I plan to get better about it at the next place. Lehmann's has water storage bags that I rather like the look of. My mom uses old milk jugs as water transportation, but I don't trust them for storage, except perhaps for water that I was planning to use only as thermal mass or for watering plants.

I have this really neat book (Making the Best of Basics: Family Preparedness Handbook) on preparing for emergencies. According to it, one should store one gallon of water per family member per day for a two-week period. It'd be better to have more, of course, in case of emergencies, but the book admits that taking up that much space, especially considering how heavy water is, is impractical.

Granted, if we ever set up that water catchment system we've been fantasizing about, it would be a lot easier, but I'm not sure Adam wants to go to the extra bother & expense of installing filters to make it potable. (He was planning on using it for garden watering, etc.)

I have all these books about preparedness, living without electricity, etc., but I don't consider myself a survivalist. I grew up in a town where the electricity went out a lot, and I've lived in a number of them since. This summer, my neighborhood got hit by what we all thought was a small tornado but turned out to be a derecho, and we lost power for 36 hours (during the worst of the heat wave, no less!) - and of course floods and blizzards and ice storms happen with annoying regularity. So it never hurts to be prepared.

#213 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 12:47 PM:

Not to interrupt the discussion but it is an open thread....

We need mandatory drug testing for national government officials. Anybody who's work is as important as an airline pilot.

Mandatory alcohol tests for national legislators immediately before each vote.

It can't hurt.

#214 ::: Michele D. ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 12:50 PM:

#67: CaseyL, thanks for the Jorge Amado recommendation. He's new to me, and Dona Flor sounds wonderful!

#215 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 01:02 PM:

Ailsa, I used to store water in plastic milk bottles. It worked then. I'd rinse the bottle carefully the first time, and number it. Every month or so I'd empty all the bottles and refill them. Each time the organisms would eat more of whatever waste products the last set left behind. After about 3 months they were fine. I kept them out of direct sunlight, of course, I kept about 30 or so over a tall cabinet in a dim kitchen. Over ten years one of them leaked, slowly, once.

I quit doing it for a combination of reasons. I got a girlfriend who thought it was disgusting. I started buying cheap milk with tops that didn't retighten. I got married and needed to put kitchen gadgets above the kitchen cabinets.

But it does work.The main thing is give it time for the ecosystem to adapt and keep it away from strong light.

#216 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 01:21 PM:

open thread tangent:

Remember back when Republicans were demanding an up or down vote on Shrub's supreme court nominees?

Those same republicans promised to block an up-or-down vote on the senate democrat measure as to whether Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should stay on the job.

#217 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 01:23 PM:

Bad news.
Lea Hernandez (comic book artist, editor, blogger, etc.) had a house fire this morning. She and her kids are fine.

However, she has lost a great deal - pets, artwork, half a house or more.

details here: http://divalea.livejournal.com/376129.html?nc=97

Look in the comments, it seems someone is trying to put together an organized response.

-r.

#218 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 01:41 PM:

Re #172, has Malthus ever tried to "chop Mentos finely?"

They consist of a hard candy shell around a gooey mint center. Chopping ain't in it.

Peeling the shell off, and chopping that, might work. I haven't tried it.

In fact, I never bought any Mentos before this summer, when, for some reason, I have found myself buying quite a few of them. And carrying boxes of Mentos, bottles of diet soda, heavy paper clips, and a cordless drill around in my car.

#219 ::: Frowner ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 01:45 PM:

I'm sorry to hear that about Lea Hernandez.

As a lurker with some knowledge about the blood pressure issue, I wanted to add that although 120/80 has been determined in the US to be the new high-end-of-normal, it is much, MUCH lower than the standard in the UK (and indeed, in much of Europe, iirc). My doctor--who is fantastic--believes that this change is really more about selling pills than treating conditions. And I--working as I do amongst health researchers--tend to believe that lurking in the background of all this is corporate-sponsored research. It doesn't need to be Bristol-Myers (or whomever) giving you $500,000 a year to check on blood pressure standards; it can be the $1.2 million dollar lab at your university paid for in large part by corporate donations, or the $5000 you hope to score from a corporate donor for a small project or extra lab tech. The culture of corporate research makes me very, VERY suspicious when my blood pressure goes from being very good to pushing the margins of treatable overnight.

#220 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 02:36 PM:

It's been established, by the Mythbusters among others, that the hard candy shell of the Mentos is what makes the Explosive Trick work. Tiny pits in the shell cause the gas bubbles to nucleate. Chopping or peeling would make the trick Not Work.

#221 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 03:17 PM:

Can anything else besides mentos be used to make soda erupt?

#222 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 03:33 PM:

Re: the sugar substitute question asked a long time ago -- I started using this thing called Stevia extract, which is, it says here, "an herbacious plant that is grown in countries such as Brazil, Paraguay, Mexico and China .. used for more than a millennium." (Hey, a tie-in to the 1491 thread!) I can't say that it's as sweet as sugar, or that it'll give you that sugar rush, but it's pretty good on its own terms. Trader Joe has it.

#223 ::: Ailsa Ek ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 03:49 PM:

Re: stevia - Taste it before buying a bunch of it, though. I thought it was an excellent idea, but the one time I put some in my coffee, I handed it off to Adam after three sips because I just couldn't drink any more of it. Nasty, nasty stuff.

#224 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 03:54 PM:

#222 Lisa: I've tried stevia extract in tea, and I find it has an objectionable flavor. Certainly worth trying to find out your own taste response, though.

#225 ::: TChem ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 04:00 PM:

"Can anything else besides mentos be used to make soda erupt?"

My little sisters got their soda to bubble over at my wedding using Jordan almonds. If I'd seen the mentos thing at the time I would have grabbed a bottle of soda from the bar and run outside with the kids.

#226 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 04:31 PM:

Eat right, exercise, drink plenty of water and end up like this anyway.

#227 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 04:51 PM:

Has anybody ever watched the series Rome? I've been thinking of buying the first season's DVD set for my wife as an Xmas present. It looks quite good, based on the few snippets I caught. One more thing... Does it have characters who are decent people or is everybody a jerk or a weakling?

#228 ::: Malthus ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 05:32 PM:

I don't think chopping Mentos is impossible, just difficult (although you're right; chopping them finely is probably too much to ask for).

I unfortunately missed that Mythbusters (and it was one I wanted to see, too), so I didn't know that it was the candy shell that was the necessary component. That being said, I don't see that chopping it up would make the experiment fail.

As to other ways of doing this, IIRC, a small amount of salt will cause soda to fizz briefly.

Finally, I _seriously_ underestimated the amount of soda necessary -- you probably want closer to 2/3 cup for any significant effect (which makes it difficult to fit in your standard-size gummy rat).

#229 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 07:20 PM:

John Roger's latest post is good, but the essays his links to are eye-opening must-reads:

Talking with Folk Who Hate You.

#230 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 07:23 PM:

Serge, Rome is totally excellent. We love it at our house.

The two main characters are ordinary legionairres, Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus, and they are very decent and honorable men -- by the standards of Republican Rome. Which means, by modern standards, they're a couple of sociopaths.

At one point (and I don't think this is a significant spoiler) Titus Pullo loses his temper and beats an innocent boy to death with his bare hands and, so far was I immersed into the reality of the series, that I thought to myself, "Poor Titus Pullo. He didn't really mean it. He just has a problem controlling his temper, but otherwise he's a sweet guy. And now everyone will be angry with him!"

#231 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 07:37 PM:

Thanks, Mitch... I'll mention this to my wife and see whehter or not she wants the series for Xmas. (Yeah... That takes the surprise, but my wife is the kind of person who peeks at the end of a book to see how things turn out. That always has me shaking my head.)

#232 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 10:17 PM:

Malthus (#228): the Mythbusters did what seemed to me to be a pretty good job of ascertaining the various contributors to the effect. The smooth-coated Mentos? No effect. Various ingredients of both candy and soda? Various levels of contribution to the effect.

(I'm sure they'll rerun the episode fairly soon.)

I do wonder if squished Mentos (breaking the candy shell and producing even more nucleation sites that way) would have a stronger effect or not. Hmm....

#233 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 10:44 PM:

#230: Rome ! ye gods, yes. Rome! Waiting for the next season to start.

The two main characters are ordinary legionairres, Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus, and they are very decent and honorable men -- by the standards of Republican Rome. Which means, by modern standards, they're a couple of sociopaths.

Given that the entire population of Rome liked to entertain itself by watching men fight to the death, probably thousands in a citizen's lifetime, it is a bit hard to compare Rome apples with modern apples.

Or, maybe, it's extremely easy, depending on your attitude of people's fascination with gun camera videos on CNN.


#234 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2006, 11:41 PM:

Serge (#231): ... my wife is the kind of person who peeks at the end of a book to see how things turn out.

I used to do that myself. I'd routinely read the very last page of a book very, very early on. I don't remember why or precisely when I stopped, and whether I made a conscious decision or just stopped.

#235 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 07:37 AM:

But in the end you got better, Mitch. My wife still does it and she's almost 48. It's sad to see an adult suffering from such an affliction.

#236 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 07:44 AM:

Given that the entire population of Rome liked to entertain itself by watching men fight to the death, probably thousands in a citizen's lifetime, it is a bit hard to compare Rome apples with modern apples.

I was going to object to that, Greg, but you did it to yourself. Besides, was Rome anomalous for its finding entertainment in death, compared to other civilizations of the era? And I'm thinking of societies of the same technological level.

(Meanwhile, I confess that I enjoy silly movies like Quo Vadis and I can't wait for the DVD release. Leo Genn is great. As for Peter Ustinov, well, he is Peter Ustinov and it's so much fun to see him chew on the scenery in the role of Nero.)

#237 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 11:41 AM:

This post got bounced repeatedly for questionable content earlier, then so did everything else I tried to post. Trying again...

Does anyone know anything about holly? I planted a male and a female holly a few years ago, and they had Merry Holly Sex and the female produced lots of berries and all was well. Last year I planted a second female, and the whole poly-holly thing is going somewhat oddly. Last fall the new female berried her little heart out and the senior female produced no berries at all. This year, the senior female is berrying happily. The junior one is berrying and seems to be about a week behind the other one, but she's also lost a whole lot of leaves and the ones that are left look distinctly pale compared to the other hollies'. I'm afraid I'm going to lose her. Anyone have any advice on keeping holly healthy? Or have any idea why a female wouldn't berry consistently every year? Or why one would produce lots and lots of berries and otherwise look like she's about to keel over?

I'm really not a gardening sort of person, but my outdoor plantings have mostly worked out well until now.

On the bright side, my home continues bat-free, my Real Vacation (post-Newport, post-worldcon) actually made me feel relaxed and happy temporarily, and I'm going to my first-ever campaign volunteer meeting with the Lamont folks tonight.

#238 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 12:07 PM:

Susan: Holly is one of the plants that likes a moderately acid soil, so it's possible something has happened to make the soil where the new plant is closer to neutral/alkaline; that would explain the dropping leaves. Or it could be some sort of holly blight, I guess, especially if your new girl is of a different variety. There's also this page, which claims holly is susceptible to something called "iron chlorosis" which makes the leaves yellow out of season.

As to the berrying thing, I have no clue. :) Maybe the wind was wrong to blow the pollen over the older female the year you planted the new one? Especially if you haven't any other holly in the area to contribute when your male was falling down on the job.

#239 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 12:53 PM:

Serge (#235): But in the end you got better, Mitch. My wife still does it and she's almost 48. It's sad to see an adult suffering from such an affliction.

Heh.

I don't think you can compare Roman love of blood sport with anything in America today.

In America, we love simulated violence in our entertainment. It's getting steadily more graphic, but it's still simulated. Real violence on shows like COPS is fairly lightweight, and when we see the occasional real death on the TV news, it's edited to remove the most gory bits.

And all decent people routinely denounce graphic violent entertainment as being corrupting and evil. Indeed, the hatred of graphic violent entertainment is so universal that you have to wonder who's actually watching the stuff.

In Rome, blood sport was considered character-building. Young children were routinely taken to the games to watch gladiators and wild animals kill each other in gorefests. Their parents believed that seeing all that violence and blood helped make the kiddies into proper Romans, and the wisest people in society agreed.

#240 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 12:53 PM:

Also, liquid stevia and powdered stevia taste a bit different. I prefer a few drops of the liquid in my herbal teas; I don't like it in regular/decaf black tea. The powder I cannot substitute one for one with sugar, because it is so sweet.

It is the only non-sugar sweetener I find I can stand.

I have a copious number of packets of powdered stevia somewhere around here; if anyone would like a few, please email me your address at the address linked behind my name (which I check once a week), and I will send you some, if I can find it. I think I know where it is.

#241 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 01:01 PM:

Re: holly (237 &ff). Good points about iron and soil pH, as well as (possibly) different response from different variety.

It's not out of the ordinary for fruit trees to bear more heavily in alternate years; just because the holly's berries are inedible doesn't mean the situation couldn't be analogous.

We had beautiful wild holly where I grew up in Maryland; I distinctly remember that there were heavy-berrying and light-berrying trees, and I don't think I'm making it up when I also remember year differences (I won't go so far as to claim alternate-bearing, at this distance in time).

#242 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 01:06 PM:

In America, we love simulated violence in our entertainment.

I don't know, Mitch. Ducks on the receiving end of Dick Cheney's canned hunts would disagree. If they could speak. And if Dick missed them, since undead ducks aren't a possibility.

#243 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 01:11 PM:

The captive audience screen's word for the day:
defenestrate.

Unfortunately, they had an extremely mundane example, not involving puns in any way.

(FWIW, at the junior college I went to, to effectively defenestrate someone it would have been necessary to throw them through a second-floor window into the cafeteria.)

#244 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 01:17 PM:

PJ... The first time I ever came across the word 'defenestration' was in the Seventies. It was the title of an episode of Kojak. One can easily guess what the episode was about.

#245 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 01:28 PM:

Serge, the example they were using was denestrating someone's clothes. Technically correct, I admit, but really missing the spirit of defenestration, yes?

#246 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 01:37 PM:

ah, defenestration...

I no longer remember the details, but I will never forget Miss Crivelli's enthusiasm in Modern European History (high school c1985) when she talked about The Defenestration of Prague.

I remember more about this little mnemonic:
In 732 at the Battle of Tours
Charles Martel defeated the Moors

#247 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 01:40 PM:

Only their clothes, PJ? Yeah, it does miss the point. I'll stick with the Kojak interpretation. (Which wasn't that difficult for me to figure out because the French word for 'window' is 'fenetre'.)

#248 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 01:59 PM:

"Defenestration's too good for him...throw him out the window!" —cry uttered in some circles after a particularly egregious pun

#249 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 02:18 PM:

Double your geekiness, double your fun: there were two Defenestrations of Prague.

#250 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 02:53 PM:

#241 cmk --

It's not just fruit trees but also at least some kinds of nuts. Around here it's pecans, which bear copiously every other year and hover somewhere between completely non-doing and a few measly nuts the off years. The only thing is, doing- and non-doing-ness are not universal; there are always bearing trees, and there are always non-bearing trees.

So your holly could be doing that sort of thing, although none of the top holly hits suggest alternate bearing.

#251 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 02:54 PM:

#250 -- by "your", I didn't mean cmk, I meant Susan.

#252 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 03:11 PM:

#251: Well, my holly could be doing that too, if I had any.

I thought someone else might remember better than I do the physiological mechanism, but it's in the general realm of "energy levels in the plant at a time this year determine next year's crop." Heavy bearing in 2005 pulls energy out of the plant body and sets the crop low for 2006.

#253 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 03:33 PM:

[Defenestration] was the title of an episode of Kojak. One can easily guess what the episode was about.

"Theo, the guy fell eight stories into a pile of poo-poo. What's the problem?"
"I don't like it. First, it's too simple. Second, this isn't Upper West Side poo-poo."
"You got lab work on that?"
"Crocker, this is my city. My nose is a laboratory."

#254 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 03:58 PM:

Serge (242): Still, ducks aren't people. And hunting is still a sport enjoyed by only a minority of Americans -- and canned hunting by a minority of that group. Hunting is opposed by a wide swathe of Americans.

But in ancient Rome, blood sport was universally loved, and almost nobody spoke out against it.

#255 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 04:42 PM:

Still, Mitch, I think the impulse that motivated the Romans is still around. We simply made it less messy. I think.

#256 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 05:10 PM:

Many moons ago, my then wife (now good friend, let me hasten to add) asked me to provide her with a word for her office's word-of-the-week competition. I immediately came up with 'defenestration'. Her colleagues (this was at a New York City welfare agency) thought it was a perfectly useless word. One week later one of their clients defenestrated himself from five stories up.

(She came home one day laughing uproariously. One of her colleagues had shown her a report from a field worker which stated 'client has been referred to psycho the rapist'.)

#257 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 05:16 PM:

At a community college here in beautiful Metro Smoglanta, a place (the community college that is) where I teach an American government class as reparation for my sins and as a source of butter to put on my bread, one of the instructors bears the ancient Teutonic surname of Fenster. Naturally, he's in a windowless office.

#258 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 05:42 PM:

Serge (#255): Still, Mitch, I think the impulse that motivated the Romans is still around. We simply made it less messy. I think.

Certainly, we're still a pretty bloodthirsty people. And America is in many ways similar to Rome -- it's part of what makes Roman history so fascinating.

Still, I think in America, the impulse to participate in violence, and see it done, has been diluted to the point where it's qualitatively different from what existed in Roman times.

When we watch a Martin Scorscese movie, we expect the violence to be intense, sadistic, gory--and simulated. We expect that the actors are all play-acting. Indeed, we've seen them, healthy and whole, chatting up the movie on Letterman and Good Morning America.

#259 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 05:58 PM:

Open thread tangent: re particle * Wikipedia's lamest edit wars.

Nice to see certain pain in the ass admins are still a pain in the ass.

admins. terms of appointment. two years.

Admins need to be exposed to re-election every couple years to weed out these assholes.

#260 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 06:23 PM:

As Russell Crowe said in the making-of-Gladiator TV special, back in 2000...

"Welcome to Wome."

Yes, he really said that, Mitch. No jokes were uttered about Biggus Dickus, though...

#261 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 07:58 PM:

Serge:
(Which wasn't that difficult for me to figure out because the French word for 'window' is 'fenetre'.)

When I figured out that a lot of the little marks in French words actually signified a deleted letter my ability to read 16thc Italian improved dramatically.

#262 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 08:01 PM:

The Lamont campaign meeting was so packed that we completely overflowed the room and packed the corridors both ways down the hall. They ended up doing all the speaking from the doorway of the room so everyone could hear. I have acquired more yard signs to bestow on friends and made plans to come back one night a week to make phone calls. Politics can be surprisingly exciting when there's a meaningful race.

#263 ::: mary ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 08:59 PM:

Holly is one of the many things that would quickly take over my yard if I didn't yank it and prune it aggressively. I have two immense holly trees, a male and a female, and a smaller female, and there are holly trees in the neighbor's yard. Birds eat the berries and drop the seeds, I guess. Holly seedlings sprout everywhere. I have to wear leather work gloves to pull them because of the sharp points on the leaves. I cut down a couple of small holly trees two years ago and they keep coming back from the roots. I had a holly tree by the front door cut down to half its size and have to prune it continuously to keep it small--it grows like wildfire.

It isn't just the holly--it's everything. Oak, pine, walnut, sycamore, poplar, dogwood, mimosa, not to mention the vines. Ugh--I've just reminded myself of how much work I have to do in the yard. Bah.

#264 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 09:12 PM:

"Defenestration's too good for him...throw him out the window!"

There was a short story by Arthur C. Clarke titled The Defenestration of Ermintrude Inch, published in Tales of the White Hart. I couldn't find a good plot synopsis online, but I found notes by a couple of people saying they love this word, and they first encountered it in this title.

#265 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 09:33 PM:

yup, I'm one of the ones who learned defenstration for Arthur Clarke.

#266 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 10:06 PM:

I tasted a stevia leaf over the summer, courtesy of Montreal's Jardin Botanique, which has a new courtyard full of plants meant to be touched, smelled, and in one corner, with a guide, tasted. It was quite sweet, and had no annoying aftertaste,as far as I or my companions noticed; I don't know how well powdered or liquid extracts reflect that.

I wonder whether all Romans enjoyed gladiatorial games, or whether the ones who didn't quietly stayed home and didn't discuss the matter, to avoid being mocked or worse. I assume someone here knows can tell me whether women were allowed to attend; if not, we can't infer that all Romans liked such things, when at most half of them attended.

#267 ::: Chryss ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 10:09 PM:

Defenestration--there's a spell in AD&D called, I think, "Command," where you can only use one word. For some reason amongst my role-playing group, we were constantly commanding attacking monsters to "DEFENESTRATE!"

The DM decided that they'd run away in desperate search of a window...

#268 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 10:50 PM:

Vicki: Women were allowed to attend, though we don't know what the proportions were. (Admission was free, so there aren't any records of non-prominent people in attendance.) There are surviving mash notes to gladiators from young women, but again, we don't know how representative those are.

There are surviving writings by various philosophical types on the games, but Michael Grant (who is unusually hostile on this subject) notes that most of them are only mildly disapproving, or seem more concerned with making logical arguments than actually changing anything. There were, however, plenty of entertainments in Rome that didn't involve non-playacted death, so those who weren't excited by the games may just have been at the theater.

Curious sidenote: many hundreds of little plaques bearing curses against chariot racers have been found, mostly buried at the hippodrome entrances where the subjects would be likely to walk over them. They say things like "May Agrippa's horses get diarrhea in the home stretch, and oh yeah, his wheels should fall off and an eagle should crap on his head." There is not a single known example of a plaque hoping that someone will win.

Of course, the contemporary street view of Rome is heavily colored by yarns like Ben Hur and Quo Vadis, which present the place as unrelievedly corrupt and nasty and generally icky, unless you became a Christian, in which case you were instantly an advocate for abolishing slavery, the games, and extramarital sex. The fact that, when the Christians did take over, none of those things was abolished (the games were, about AD500) is a different issue entirely.

#269 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 11:29 PM:

So, Susan, does it still look like Joementum might win because Republicans are talking of voting for him? If that's true, then Lieberman indeed has no shame.

#270 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 11:30 PM:

Serge (#260) - Too bad Mel never made History of the World, Part 2. I would have liked to have seen the rest of "Jews in Space."

#271 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 11:42 PM:

And, Mitch, it'd have made quite a double feature, with Hitler on Ice...

#272 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2006, 11:49 PM:

Mike: so is it safe to infer that Roman horse-racing fans were really sore losers?

#273 ::: Josh G. ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 12:04 AM:

Orwell: "Revenge is an act which you want to commit when you are powerless and because you are powerless: as soon as the sense of impotence is removed, the desire evaporates also."

There is much truth to this. It is indeed easier to be magnanimous in victory than in defeat. And mercy is an essential part of wielding power properly. At the same time, I think that the present administration shows the dangers that can occur when this view is taken too far. This administration is made up of recidivist criminals, men who committed serious violations of our Constitution in two previous administrations (Nixon's and Reagan's).

After Watergate, the ascendant Democratic Party didn't want to dwell on the past, or punish those responsible. The party, and the American people in general, wanted to move on and forget about it. "Our long national nightmare is over." Except it wasn't. The same filth returned to high office in Reagan's administration not a decade later, and proceeded to commit the Iran-Contra scandal. Reagan was never held to account for this (though his administration was overhauled and some of the worst offenders sidelined), and when Bill Clinton came to power in 1992, he too wanted to move on and let bygones be bygones. Well, it didn't work this time either. The same criminals and lunatics once again took high office in the Bush administration and have managed, in six years, to effectively destroy the image of the U.S. across the globe - not to mention torturing and murdering thousands of innocent people. They came back from Iran-Contra (Abrams, Reich, Negroponte, Ledeen). They came back from the Nixon Administration (Cheney and Rumsfeld). They came back and proceeded to repeat their crimes and shame America in the eyes of the world. Never again. This time, they must be held to account for their sins. This time, they must not get away.

#274 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 12:12 AM:

I also learned the word "defenestration" courtesy of Arthur Clarke.

I used to see a dentist named "Fenstermacher." (She's still named Fenstermacher but I am no longer one of her patients. No joke. No, she was a good dentist, really. Were there many windows in her office? Not that I noticed, why do you ask?)

#275 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 12:35 AM:

PJ: It's more that very large amounts of money were bet on the outcomes, so they were trying to avoid being losers in the first place.

It's nice (for certain values) to imagine a scene where Chuck Heston buries a little scroll reading, "So, Messala prince of schmucks, you should only fall down and bust your tuchis."

#276 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 09:15 AM:

Just read the Iraq War Timeline particle. I feel like I'm about to throw up now. Thanks.

#277 ::: Ailsa Ek ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 10:15 AM:

I think I am going to swear off news for a bit. The story I ran across this morning about the chassid being thrown off the plane in Canada because he was davening just blew my buffers. It's all just so depressing and I feel so useless.

And at the same time, it's a gorgeous early Fall day here. I was out walking my dog around our little New England town, admiring the grass and the trees and the houses and thinking, "This looks nothing like the way I imagined a repressive dictatorship would look." Here's all this crap going on, and my day to day life has changed not a whit, outside of the stuff I know about and am upset by.

#278 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 10:39 AM:

#268, from John M. Ford:

There is not a single known example of a plaque hoping that someone will win.

Well, that could have been because when you bury those little plaques, you want the recipient of the curse to step on it without knowing that it's there.

On the other hand, if you wanted someone to win you'd be perfectly upfront about giving him a good luck charm, making an offering to the gods or whatever. I have no idea if there's any evidence of those things happening, but it seems likely that they would.

#279 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 11:49 AM:

Since this is an open thread: Lovecraftian Perfumes! http://www.blackphoenixalchemylab.com/poetry.html

#280 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 12:42 PM:

Here's what a web site looking at issues surrounding journalism had to say about Katie Couric's debut on CBS.

#281 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 01:06 PM:

Ailsa #277: Here's all this crap going on, and my day to day life has changed not a whit.

You got it. That's what they want all of us to think/feel. Never mind that just down the road, in that windowless building behind barbed wire that the federal government put up a couple months ago with money appropriated for Homeland Security, someone is being tortured. We just have to learn to put our attention elsewhere, at the TV with its 9/11 docudramas, at the -- oooh, shiny! -- speechifying by the Preznit and his friends.

Someone on DailyKos made a comment that has stayed in my mind, something to the effect that you can't be a war president if you're losing the war. The Taliban is back in Afghanistan and there's a civil war in Iraq; that's two wars Bush isn't winning. Do you think he's going to try for a third?

BTW, the possiblity (mentioned on another thread and on TalkLeft) that some of those folks in CIA custody have been turned into vegetables by their torturers and so cannot possibly go on trial rings hideously true. It is possible. I hope it's false speculation.

#282 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 01:45 PM:

Chryss #267: it's Word of Command, and "Defenestrate!" would work because it made them look for a window...but as it's a transitive verb, they could throw YOU out and still obey the command. "Autodefenestrate!" would be better, but as a DM I'd never let you get away with it.

I always thought my friend Mike's Word of Command "Masturbate!" was pretty effective. Renders most critters hors de combat, the most notable exception being female centaurs.

Josh #273: Aché, Amen, So Mote It Be. From your keyboard to God's (or the gods') eyes. Declare ye this, and let it be heard. Hear, hear. Right on, brother. Preach it.

I wish I could think of some way to make it happen. The Democrats are just too bloody weak. They need to get their hands dirty, methinks.

#283 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 02:06 PM:

Ah, the Word of Command. (At one time it was Clerical Word of Command, but I haven't kept up.)

When "Advanced" Dund came out, they tried, with industry but not much wit, to precisely describe what all the magic spells could and could not do. That they were trying to do this about magic spells is unfortunately characteristic of the TSR mindset at the time.

Anyway, when they got to the WoC, the defining completely lost its internal geometry. The reader was told that you couldn't yell "Suicide!" at the subject, because, quote, "'Suicide' might be a noun."

They then went on to tell you, with examples, the effects of shouting the entirely permissible words "Fly," "Fall," and, uhm-er-okay, "Die," one of the most frequently used nouns in the rulebook. One might imagine a large rotund creature tumbling madly through the adventurers, scattering them quite literally like ninepins, and resting in the chaos with the observation, "Me come up 20."

"Masturbate" is, however, an inspired thought, provided that the creature in question doesn't, you know, produce violent side effects. One wouldn't want to say that to the ever-popular Sodium Golem.

#284 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 02:14 PM:

Xopher... Your comments remind me of the Twilight Zone's Eighties revival, more specifically the episode "I of Newton"... There's this scientist who's been trying to solve a complex problem and, in frustration, exclaims that he'd sell his soul to the Devil in exchange for the solution. Next thing you know, one of Satan's minions pops in and explains that the only way out of losing his soul is to come up with a task he can't fulfill, and then proceeds to list all the things he can do. There basically is nothing the demon can't do. A pretty sticky situation for the scientist until he utters the words:

"Get lost."

#285 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 02:25 PM:

While "I of Newton" was adapted for TZ, the story is by Joe Haldeman.

#286 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 02:29 PM:

Right, Mike. I knew that TZ episode was an adaptation, but I couldn't remember who the author was. I first thought it was Greg Bear then I realized that it was his story "Dead Run" that TZ had adapted: in it, a trucker discovers that the selection criteria for who goes to Hell have been revamped by Christian fundies, with John de Lancie in charge. Brrr....

#287 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 02:40 PM:

Has anyone noticed that since the comments started being numbered, fewer people are quoting the bits to which they are responding, and more people are simply citing the comment number?

Does anyone else find that this makes it more difficult for them to follow the thread of the conversation?

Just curious, not complaining. I noticed in the Valerie Plame thread that I was scrolling back a lot more than usual.

#288 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 02:56 PM:

#285 While "I of Newton" was adapted for TZ, the story is by Joe Haldeman.

... perhaps based on an old joke, in which the Irishman farts and says "catch that and paint it green!"

#289 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 04:28 PM:

#284 -- One of the few episodes I've seen and as I remember, the words on the demon's t-shirt changed in every shot. Or am I hallucinating?

#290 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 04:32 PM:

No, Janet... You didn't hallucinate. At some point, the demon's t-shirt says something along the lines of "3 billion souls served"...

#291 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 05:06 PM:

Quoth the ever-delightful jennie in #287:
Has anyone noticed that since the comments started being numbered, fewer people are quoting the bits to which they are responding, and more people are simply citing the comment number?

Does anyone else find that this makes it more difficult for them to follow the thread of the conversation?

Just curious, not complaining.

I've noticed, and I'll complain, being the grumpy and old-fashioned usenet type that I am. Even though it's now easier to find the referenced post, I dislike the context-free responses and the extra time it takes to scroll back to see what they are replying to. Are numbers and quotes too much to ask for?

#292 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 05:13 PM:

Belatedly reading the beginning of the thread...

Sweet, sour, best served cold, not fattening. I'm thinking some kind of fruit-based sherbet.

Syllabub! Adds alcohol to the mix and might be a bit on the fattening side, though.

I am reminded of our memorable first (and so far only) attempt at a three-layer early 19thc-style trifle. Now we just make the top and bottom layers.

#293 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 05:22 PM:

Malthus, 228: "I don't think chopping Mentos is impossible, just difficult (although you're right; chopping them finely is probably too much to ask for)."

Liquid nitrogen. Shattering. It's worth a try.

#294 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 06:18 PM:

If the Techstore had shirts reading something like:

LN2
It's not just 77 degrees K
It's an adventure*

. . . would anybody be interested?

In other science notes, the closed-caption on the Weather Channel just announced that:

"For the second day in a row, NASA has shrubbed the lodge of the Shuttle."

Next thing you know, they're going to have to cut down the tallest tree in the forest with a herring.

*"The most fun you can have until your fingers shatter" is a possibility, but perhaps too grim.

#295 ::: Trip the Space Parasite ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 06:55 PM:

Xopher #282: Renders most critters hors de combat, the most notable exception being female centaurs.

Apparently today I am That Person, because uh <tiny>I don't get it.</tiny>

#296 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 07:14 PM:

I am as puzzled as Trip.

Is there some kind of lore from the far lands of furry fandom we are supposed to know but really kind of don't want to know but on the other hand . . .

Stefan "Trying real hard not to think of a centaur's personal area on company time" Jones

#297 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 08:51 PM:

Serge @284: Your comments remind me of the Twilight Zone's Eighties revival, more specifically the episode "I of Newton"...

One of my favorites of the series (Sherman Hemsley as the professor, and Ron Glass as the demon wearing the mutable T-shirt). When he's dismissed the demon, the professor returns to the problem on the blackboard muttering “Well, he was no help at all...”

It reminded me of a story in Clifton Fadiman's collection, Fantasia Mathematica (unfortunately, I can't find the title or author of the story I'm thinking of). A mathmatician makes a bet with the devil: he and his wife get perfect health and a long life, unless the devil succeeds at an assigned task within three days (in which case the devil gets the mathematician's soul). The devil agrees to this, but is nonplussed to find his assigned task is to find a proof for Fermat's theorem. The devil nonetheless sets himself to the task, reporting back at intervals on his progress in mastering varieties of esoteric maths (both human and extraterrestrial), but in the end admits defeat.

So as the professor triumphs, he admits disappointment that the devil hadn't been able to crack the problem. Then the devil shows up again, a little embarrassed, admits that he had misplaced his notes, and then starts discussing with the professor: “...do you think Fermat might have tried..?”. The professor motions to his wife to fetch them some coffee, as they sit about the table discussing the problem, and as she does she reflects that the devil has come to resemble just another academic collegue.

#298 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 09:09 PM:

Rob (#297): the story is "The Devil and Simon Flagg" by Arthur Porges, originally published 1954 in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction; it's pp 63-69 in the 1997 reprint of Fantasia Mathematica.

I think there's also a vaguely similar story in which the scientist/professor's wife welcomes the devil into her kitchen and offers him coffee while absent-mindedly letting her robe fall open, leading to the following exchange:

"Cream?"
"Yes, with strawberries. Or rosebuds. Pink ones."
"The robe, Curl--"

The last line is from the husband, who remarks that his wife is casual about nudity because of having been raised by either missionaries or anthropologists, I can't recall which. Possivly a Heinlein story, possibly not.

#299 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 09:18 PM:

That was Ron Glass as the demon, Rob? The same Ron Glass who played the Preacher on Firefly?

#300 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 09:41 PM:

John M. Ford @ 294
If the Techstore had shirts reading something like:

LN2
It's not just 77 degrees K
It's an adventure*

. . . would anybody be interested?

Ooh, shiny!

I remember LN2 in physics. Came in stainless-steel thermoses (thermi?) and was then poured into styrofoam cups for the experiment part of the exercise. The instructor scared us properly beforehand by telling us about his teacher, who did a little sleight of hand involving fingers and hotdogs. Mine simply used a red, red rose (however, it was not in June).

Oh yes, T-shirts. Yes.

#301 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 09:44 PM:

The female centaur (or something more monstrous of roughly that form) simply rubbed her back legs together and continued fighting.

This is ridiculous, to be sure. It was the DM's way of saying "Word of Command 'Masturbate!' was clever for a while, but I'm tired of it, and it isn't going to work any more."

#302 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 10:27 PM:

The female centaur (or something more monstrous of roughly that form) simply rubbed her back legs together and continued fighting.

Um...okay, I don't get it either. And I'm female.

Irene showed up on my doorstep earlier with a CD of 19th-century pornographic prints. No centaurs. We got into a discussion of how useful the prints were as documentation on 19thc underwear. Then I called a male friend and we got into the same discussion about the same particular issues (above the knee or below? to tuck or not to tuck?)

Sometimes I think we might not be normal.

#303 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 10:49 PM:

Susan, remember that 'normal' is a six-letter four-letter word.

Normal? Who, me? I haven't been normal in many years. Average, maybe, but not normal.

Are 19thc pornographic prints useful documentation for undies? I'd assume shifts and drawers would be prominently represented ...

#304 ::: JBWoodford ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 11:07 PM:

Julie L (#298) wrote:
Possivly a Heinlein story, possibly not.

Not Heinlein--it was by Keith Laumer, anthologized in Timetracks; I'm too lazy to go downstairs and dig up my copy, but that's what Google & tabbed browsing are for...hmm...the story is called "The Devil You Don't."

JBWoodford

#305 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: September 08, 2006, 11:16 PM:

Serge @ 299: That was Ron Glass as the demon, Rob? The same Ron Glass who played the Preacher on Firefly?

Exactly so. At the time, I think he was most famous for his role as Detective Harris in Barney Miller.

Here's a link to his IMDb entry; his roll as Sheppard Book in Serenity tops the list, with his appearances in Firefly under #4. The Twilight Zone episode is #33, and his appearances in Barney Miller fall under #37.

#306 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 12:22 AM:

Susan @ #302: Um...okay, I don't get it either.

I read Xopher's second paragraph ("This is ridiculous, to be sure...") as saying that the female centaur's response was an arbitrary decision by the umpire in order to stop things getting any further off track. In other words, there isn't anything to get, in terms of actual physiological realities.

#307 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 12:50 AM:

stainless-steel thermoses (thermi?)

Dewar do not. There is no try.

#308 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 12:56 AM:

Xopher: Aaah, you had a nice exasperated GM. A bad* exasperated GM would have used one of the party members as an aid to stimulation. Probably the "halfling," but that's another story.

"And little schmuck goed smiling."
"Did you have to use that adjective?"
"Uh . . . Thog just pawn in great game of witty repartee."

*Not that I know anybody like that.

#309 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 12:58 AM:

Dewar do not. There is no try.

Seamus Zelazny Harper was right, Mike... Puns are the lowest form of humor, unless one thinks of it first.

#310 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 01:07 AM:

Thermoses (thermi?)

Thermoi, I would think.

#311 ::: Trip the Space Parasite ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 01:27 AM:

Ah, okay. I couldn't tell if I was supposed to know (or be able to visualize) something about equine physiology, or if I was missing a truly horrible pun off "hors", or what. But now I understand, and feel appropriately silly for asking.

#312 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 07:13 AM:

Mike is correct. It's the "sand in the face" principle; the first time you throw sand in your opponent's face and thereby win, it's a clever trick. The tenth time it's boring; the hundredth it's a cliché, and makes the game stupid and repetitive.

I GM'd a GURPS campaign for eighteen years. I had to keep coming up with new things to throw at the (increasingly powerful and experienced) player characters, so they didn't get away with using the same tricks over and over either.

One trick they came up with was using various Dome spells to trap someone. I let this work a couple of times, then I stopped allowing it. I'm a blunt-spoken, straightforward kind of guy, so I just told them that since a Dome spell is intended to protect the person inside, it won't hold them if they want to walk out of it. I actually think this is a correct interpretation of the s/c/r/i/p/t/u/r/e/ spell, but the reason I got to thinking about it was that it was getting to be sand in the face; they used it in every fight, and it was getting stooopid.

The Game Must Be Fun Shall Be the Whole of the Law; Fun is the Law, Fun Under Rules. It has to be fun for the GM too! If I'm bored, it's no fun.

#313 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 07:18 AM:

Trip, I'm adding that pun to my list, but it's your pun, not mine. It's my "you're so ignorant" list: "You're so ignorant you think hors de combat refers to a martial steed" (or something, that needs work) goes along with "...you think au bon pain means 'it hurts so good.'"

#314 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 07:31 AM:

"...you think au bon pain means 'it hurts so good.'"

Use French and the subject will automatically acquire classiness, right, Xopher? That reminds me of the early Nineties when I read about a restaurant called Le Trou in San Francisco. The literal translation is 'the hole', but colloquially it'd be 'the dive'.

#315 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 09:52 AM:

The story is told of a company that planned to attract the young, hip crowd using the slogan

"I thought the Kama Sutra was an Indian restaurant until I discovered [product]"

...until market research revealed that most of the target demographic did think the Kama Sutra was an Indian restaurant.

#316 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 10:24 AM:

I've met commercials referring to the hoi polloi as if it meant the wealthy in-crowd. Those who know what it means probably would avoid that business; it was, IIRC, a men's clothing store.

#317 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 10:55 AM:

They meant hoi aristoi, I take it...

#318 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 11:24 AM:

Susan was amused:
Irene showed up on my doorstep earlier with a CD of 19th-century pornographic prints. No centaurs. We got into a discussion of how useful the prints were as documentation on 19thc underwear. Then I called a male friend and we got into the same discussion about the same particular issues (above the knee or below? to tuck or not to tuck?)

Heh. I distinctly recall somebody showing me an example of turn-of-the-century porn - and my first reaction was "Hah! Look - she's wearing a pair of split combinations with no buttons, and a longer seam in the back." It ... wasn't the expected reaction.

P J Evans wondered:
Are 19thc pornographic prints useful documentation for undies? I'd assume shifts and drawers would be prominently represented ...

In some cases, definitely. You do need to be aware that they were as prone to 'fantasy' pictures as we are, though.

#319 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 02:23 PM:

Are 19thc pornographic prints useful documentation for undies? I'd assume shifts and drawers would be prominently represented ...

In some cases, definitely. You do need to be aware that they were as prone to 'fantasy' pictures as we are, though.

Are you saying the edible bananna-flavored corset with liquorice laces was not a common undergarment?

Thermoses (thermi?)

Thermoi, I would think.

And the ones made from Fimo are Thermoipoly? Or is that just the Greek name?

On another matter: I was given a Video iPod some time ago. Since the budget's been tight I haven't bought any TV shows or films from iTunes. Is there another site that has public domain films available so I can test this out? Thanks!

#320 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 03:38 PM:

Fran Lebowitz once said that she saw a restaurant called "Bonjour Croissant!" It made her want to go to Paris and open a restaurant called "Hello, Toast!"

#321 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 03:41 PM:

I'm just idly wondering if Teresa ever finished her post on Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light (TM). Because, as you know, Bob, she has nothing else to do.....

#322 ::: Trip the Space Parasite ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 03:51 PM:

Xopher #313: I'm adding that pun to my list,

Your brain is mine now! Muahahahaha!

#323 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 04:25 PM:

Julie L. @298: [..] the story is "The Devil and Simon Flagg" by Arthur Porges, originally published 1954 in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction; it's pp 63-69 in the 1997 reprint of Fantasia Mathematica..

I forgot to thank you for nailing the reference for me. I think I've got a second-hand hardcover copy somewhere, in one of the boxes...

A lot of fun stuff in that collection. One story had an entrepreneurial shoe manufacturer trying to save money by rotating right shoes through the fourth dimension to turn them into left shoes (he then only has to manufacture shoes based on one form, rather than two).

There has been some speculation that if you could actually do that, you would also turn them into antimatter...

#324 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 04:51 PM:

Lisa Goldstein #320: I'd be in favour of opening a restaurant in Paris called 'Vôtre Toast' which would, of course, serve only dishes made with habanero peppers.

#325 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 05:02 PM:

I hate to spoil the party, but I just read this at AmericaBlog about the 9/11 ABC piece-of-shit "docudrama":

Okay, I just watched the Sandy Berger scene. It is beyond defamatory. The reports you've read do not do it justice.

We are 1 hour 54 minutes into the film, it is the culmination of the entire first two hours of the film. CIA agents on the ground with Commander Massoud have found bin Laden. They have him pin-pointed in a house. They are looking at the house with binoculars. They are on the phone with the CIA, that has patched in Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger. Berger, like a bumbling ass, sits there, looking every which way, refusing to give them clearance to grab bin Laden who is in their literal grasp. The woman at the CIA has to lecture Berger about how intelligence works, like he's some kind of moron. Berger literally looks like a deer caught in the headlights. He's clueless, an idiot, a moron, unfit to serve in any public office - hell, I wouldn't hire the guy to mow my lawn. After a very long pause, the agents are begging Berger to take some responsibility, stop being such a wuss, stop trying to cover his chicken-shit ass, you see Berger reach forward and the phone line goes dead. Clearly Berger has ended the call. Osama gets away. And Sandy Berger is personally responsible for killing 3,000 Americans and bringing down the World Trade Center twin towers.

Not only is this scene FAR MORE defamatory than any review I've seen to date, this is THE KEY SCENE of the entire first half of the movie. You can't cut it, or a good portion of the movie just makes no sense. But Disney/ABC can't leave the scene is because it simply did not happen. CIA agents weren't on the ground, they weren't with Massoud, nobody had bin Laden in their grasp, and Berger never refused to give the order to get the guy.

The entire culmination of the first half of the show is one big fat lie. This isn't just a small scene with a small error. It's THE scene and it NEVER HAPPENED AT ALL.

#326 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 07:56 PM:

Lisa Goldstein (#320): Fran Lebowitz once said that she saw a restaurant called "Bonjour Croissant!" It made her want to go to Paris and open a restaurant called "Hello, Toast!"

There actually is an excellent brunch place in Toronto called Hello Toast, although I see that it's been renamed to 'Toast on Queen,' which is a far more surreal name if you don't know it's on Queen Street.

and Fragano's followup, #324: I'd be in favour of opening a restaurant in Paris called 'Vôtre Toast' which would, of course, serve only dishes made with habanero peppers.

Fragano, I find you frighteningly learned, so I am hesitant to say this, but I think you might mean Vous Etes Toast (with an accent circonflexe over the first 'e' in 'etes' - how do you do that?), which translates to 'you are toast'. I understand 'vôtre' to be the noun (as in 'you and yours'); 'your toast,' as in the possessive, would be 'votre toast,' no accent. Or, of course, 'Votre Pain Grille' (with an accent aigu on the final 'e'), which, oddly enough, seems just as appropriate for an all-habanero restaurant.

#327 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 08:34 PM:

debcha, you type &ecirc; and it comes out ê.

#328 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 10:01 PM:

Xopher, hors de combat are camp followers.

Lizzy, I'm unspeakably angry at ABC/Disney. I'm sure they expect we'll eventually forget they did this. I won't. I will never again buy anything that puts money in their pockets. If I can avoid it, I will neither speak well of them, nor review any of their works. I will cheer on their enemies. I will encourage others to do the same. And I will do this for the rest of my life.

If the news media don't report this story, I'll conclude once and for all that they're hopelessly corrupt.

Did you know that they explicitly refused to give advance copies to people who are libeled in it, but sent quantities of advance copies to far-right publications and weblogs?

I hope they get their asses sued off. I hope they get nailed under the campaign finance laws. I hope someone flies an airplane into the side of their building.

#329 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 10:12 PM:

Here's what ABC says about objections to the film (that is, that parts of it were made up out of whole cloth):

“The following movie is a dramatization that is drawn from a variety of sources including the 9/11 Commission Report and other published materials, and from personal interviews. The movie is not a documentary. For dramatic and narrative purposes, the movie contains fictionalized scenes, composite and representative characters and dialogue, as well as time compression."

The "other published material" apparently includes wingnut fantasies published at LGF.

This makes me think of someone making a film called The Path to the Reichstag Fire which contained fictionalized scenes, composite and representative characters and dialogue, depicting the Elders of Zion plotting to stab the Reich in the back.

#330 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 10:18 PM:

Teresa, everything you said, except the airplane part. I don't know who I'm more angry at, ABC, Disney, or the chickenshit media who seem to be ignoring the whole story. Lies about 9/11 -- not important; right wing lies blaming Clinton for 9/11, right wing lies blaming Clinton for 9/11 two months before a national election -- not important, yawn, oh look over there, it's another missing white woman -- bullshit. All bullshit.

Excuse me, I need to go punch a wall.

#331 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 10:33 PM:

Teresa, I hope Disney's 'good will' value is heading for red figures.

I'd do a lot of that, but I have no TV and get to Disneyland maybe once in ten years (been twice in the last twenty years, both times on the company's nickel). However, I won't go see 'Pirates' 2 in the theater, or buy it on DVD when it comes out, and Lin and I can not-watch-football-on-ABC/ESPN and do something more useful (or more entertaining), like reading Making Light.

#332 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 10:40 PM:

#273 et al on punishing Republicans: blaming Democrats may let steam off but it doesn't alter the fact that in many cases the Republican administration found ways to immunize their worst offenders against prosecution. Ford pardoned Nixon in advance of any trial; I forget how many Poindexters (e.g.) Reagan and Bush pardoned either in advance or as soon as tried, but IIRC it was well into double digits. It can be argued that some prosecutors did not execute as well as they should have -- Agnew, who actually received the final installations of gubernatorial bribes in the vice-presidential office, was reported to have cut a deal to resign in return for a guarantee of no jail time -- but that sort of weakness is a lot harder to prove than point-shaving.

Deals-with-the-devil stories: I hadn't seen the Haldeman one, but it's possible he was inspired by Niven's "Convergent Series", in which the demon will reappear in the pentacle, break it, and take the summoner (none of this pansy task-he-can't-do stuff -- the summoner is guaranteed gone); gur fhzzbare svtherf bhg gb erqenj gur cragnpyr ba gur qrzba'f oryyl. I too liked the Porges and the Laumer (thanks to JB for identifying); I remember Curl being transformed into a series of historical beauties ending with a sparkly cloud: -"Sorry, I forgot that X was entirely legendary"- (X =? Helen?).

Xopher: "Warning: GM whimsical when bored" has been a slogan for a long time. I made the mistake of suggesting to one who had lots of SF monsters that he really ought to have a vatch (from Schmitz, The Witches of Karres); I was out of D&D by then, but heard from some people who were Not Amused. I expect good gamers will keep coming up with new stuff to irritate the GM; back when she gamed, my wife's character was once dangled over a drop with the following result:
"He's how tall?"
"10 feet"
"And I'm 5 feet tall, upside down, with my feet at his chin. Where are my hands?"
"Uh..."
"Shocking Grasp!"
(Yes, there was another mage in the party to catch her.)

#333 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 11:38 PM:

The WashPost has been reporting on the ABC/Disney movie for the last few days.

#334 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2006, 11:49 PM:

Teresa gave me permission to post this here.

Years ago, Elise Mattheson put a storyteller necklace up for charity auction for a new wheelchair van for a fan. I bought and wore it for years, but no longer have clothes to match, so I gave it to BEADAIDE -- a charity for beaders, in this case, the winnings go to a beadmaker whose husband had a massive stroke and needs full-time care -- for charity auction.

#335 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 12:48 AM:

Re #323, you're welcome, Rob; likewise thanks to JB for #304, though I think I read the Laumer story in a different antho-- Anne McCaffrey's Alchemy and Academe, perhaps. Also, there was at least one sequel to Fantasia Mathematica; The Mathematical Magpie was also reprinted in 1997 but I keep forgetting to get a new copy of it (my old one went missing years ago).

#336 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 02:29 AM:

#332 -"Sorry, I forgot that X was entirely legendary"- (X =? Helen?).

The Egyptian empress dissolved into a nebulous cloud of pastel-colored gas in which clotted star-dust winked and writhed, to the accompaniment of massed voices humming nostalgic chords amid an odor of magnolia blossoms. Another gesture, and Curl stood again before them, looking slightly dazed.

"Hey, what was that last one?" she cried.

"Sorry, that was Scarlett O'Hara. I forgot she was a figment of the imagination. Those are always a little insubstantial."

The Laumer story THE DEVIL YOU DON'T is posted as chapter 17 of The Lighter Side on the Baen Free Library.

#337 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 08:55 AM:

Regarding ABC/Disney, I've just been pointed at a livejournal post by Liz Marcs on the subject. Long, and powerful.

#338 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 09:33 AM:

The San Francisco Chronicle's Don Asmussen has this to say about ABC/Disney's 9/11 thing.

#339 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 11:51 AM:

Debcha #326: I just screwed up. Sorry. 'Frighteningly learned'????

#340 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 11:54 AM:

Here in the UK, last year's Doctor Who season is getting a rerun on BBC3. Wedneday and Thursday for the Hugo-winning two-parter.


#341 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 12:30 PM:

Xopher (#327, on how to do accents): Thanks!

Fragano (#339): I just screwed up. Sorry. 'Frighteningly learned'????

No apology necessary. And yes.

#342 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 01:12 PM:

Sam Kelly @ 337

Regarding ABC/Disney, I've just been pointed at a livejournal post by Liz Marcs on the subject. Long, and powerful.

Thank you for that one. It's worth saving.

#343 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 02:18 PM:

Sam Kelly - Thanks for that link. It encapsulated a lot of how I feel about the whole ABC/Disney debacle.

Now I need to go and make a list of all Disney media properties so I can more effectively boycott them. (And yes, this means no further DVDs of The Tick now that it's a Buena Vista property.)

It also strikes me as odd that this has got me angry enough to ban Disney the way I've banned Exxon/Mobil. Fox is far more consistently pro-fascist, but I'm not boycotting NewsCorp.

#344 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 03:19 PM:

Bruce @ 319: "Is there another site that has public domain films available so I can test this out?"

Internet Archive: Feature Films has a ton of public domain films in a variety of video formats. Also, check out The Prelinger Archives (at the same domain) for fantastic old documentaries and educational films. I've never tried to play any of these on my iPod, though.

#345 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 05:10 PM:

Debcha #341: Now I'm scared!

#346 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 07:13 PM:

- #299: That was Ron Glass as the demon, Rob?
I thought "Demon with Glass Hands" was from "Outer Limits."

- Road to 9/11: They have compressed and telescoped certain scenes. This means they telescoped Bush letting Bin Laden go at Tora Bora back to the Clinton administration.

In my email to Iger, I asked if he was so ungrateful that he'd malign the man who worked hard and well, against terrific opposition, to save his stupid life -- in order to kiss up to the man at the switch who only wakes up for vacations and fundraisers.

#347 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 07:16 PM:

I meant to ask: I have Making Light on my LJ. I am able to see Particles on my LJ. I friended them somehow.

Is there a way to do the same for Sidelights? I sometimes miss things, or at least don't see them until I'm paying a visit here. Sometimes I visit frequently, sometimes not, so I'd like to have Sidelights on my LJ feed too.

Help?

#348 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 08:20 PM:

"Demon with the Glass Hand" was indeed from the Outer Limits, Kip W, and was an Harlan Ellison story with Robert Culp as the Demon. The demon referred to in an earlier post was a literal demon from a deal-with-the-devil story from the Twilight Zone in 1985/86. Sorry for the confusion.

#349 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 09:12 PM:

#287

yes.

yes.

(scurries away)

#350 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 09:57 PM:

Don't know if it'll make any difference, but the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is collecting votes for a "no confidence" vote on Rumsfeld.

URL

#351 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2006, 10:01 PM:

Don't know if it'll make any difference, but the Democratic party is petitioning Disney, which owns ABC, to keep "Path to 9-11" off the air until it's fixed.

URL

#353 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 12:12 AM:

"So, Poirot, this Betjeman chap is some sort of a poet, eh?"
"Yes, 'Astings. Somewhat."
"Good thing there's only a couple of suspects in the case, then."
" 'Astings, for a man who spends his leisure time with the world's greatest detective, your mysterious mind is perpetually stuck in what you call the neutral gear. It is exactly because there were only two Betjeman biographers of note at the time of the affaire d'acronyme that the mystery is so fascinating. What if this obviousness hides an inobviousness within its -- never mind. Suppose that it were someone not in the -- what was the fellow's word?"
"'Fetid swamps.'"
"Yes, what if he were not of the standards of the bog? Suppose it were, in fact, Michael Moorcock?"
"Uhm, I don't --"
"Your supposer is broken, 'Astings. Rub your two little gray cells together in their nourishing mix of gin and IPA. Could it not have been John Clute?"
"Wasn't he in that movie with Jane Fonda?"
"There are days when I only wish you were played by Donald Sutherland."
"Well, if anyone could have written it, then, well, I could have."
"'Astings, I have seen you Googling upon the 'peotry,' and being satsified with the result. In my suspect list, you are between le Voldemort and la V. C. Andrews."
"I say, at least one of them is dead."
"I only 'ope to sell so well when I am dead. Voici, this log of the web. Could not this literary rudite-crudite have been produced by the evil master-mind of the Langford? Or his evil but much shorter and if possible narrower American time-twin?"
"I'm afraid you're in Doctor Who country now, Poirot. And anyway, wasn't the American clockwork fiend's evil twin the Mike Harrison bloke?"
"You 'ave 'idden 'epths, 'Astings. And you will never again be invited to a First Thursday meeting."

#354 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 03:28 AM:

It's been suggested, in a review of one of the other 9/11 programmes being broadcast in the UK, that there aren't any poets who can cope with the scale of the disaster, despite several being commissioned to write stuff.

None have been quite as memorable as this famous disaster poem, by Mr. William McGonagall

Wait, what's this? I've just received an email from somebody in Montana. Apparently, the Tay Bridge Disaster was engineered by the Clintons for the insurance money. They saw it on TV...

Wow, we're living in the wonderful world of Disney.

#355 ::: Ailsa Ek ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 06:07 AM:

#349

Greg, you are evil. Just so you know.

#356 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 06:15 AM:

So, did they air the 9/11 garbage last night? Sue and I stayed away from TV most of the evening and went to see The Illusionist. I'm not sure why it didn't do better with the crowds. Hell, at the end, our audience applauded.

#357 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 06:34 AM:

I heard the most amazing sermon yesterday morning. It has a lot of important insights into how to react to the events of today (meaning 11Sep2006).

#358 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 07:20 AM:

Dave -- I don't know what poets the BBC have available, but surely you've seen John M. Ford's 110 Stories?

#359 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 07:47 AM:

Well, I'm available to the BBC.

Hail, thou Bridge on the northerly Forth!
Twixt Queensferry South and Queensferry North
Bearing high traffic loads on an over-Firth courth.
And after the Tay, which was quite blown away
On a terrible, horrible, rather wet day
And the train out of Scotland was dunked in the bay
Still the builders did say, in their style gravely gay,
That double cantilevering pointed the way.
And so no further locals should fall in the drink,
They brought iron and steel and the oxide of zinc;
And thanks to the girder, the bolt, and the pin
Since the day it was built, it has not fallen in.

. . . well, maybe not that one.

But the Minnesota Orchestra played at the Proms this year, so the quota's probably filled.

Still, per Aspel ad astra.

#360 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 09:24 AM:

Meanwhile, in today's column, Jon Carroll talks of his initiation to the use of his grocery store's self-checkout. I personally like them, especially since I want to run my fist (or my foot) thru the damned contraptions only 25% of the time.

#361 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 09:43 AM:

#294, Mr. Ford, I might, but I'd be even more likely to pay for a chapbook of the various 419 letters you've produced here over the years.

#301 et al. Thermoses, Thermi, Thermoi
try Thermides.

#362 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 10:20 AM:

Thermides would imply a Thermis singular.

#363 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 10:40 AM:

If Thermis goes to Thermides, would Thermos become Thermodes?
(Sorry, I have Latin but not Greek. Also it's still Too Early on a Monday.)

#364 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 11:29 AM:

Jo, it's a 45-minute programme on Five tonight, Rufus Sewell reading a specially commissioned poem by Simon Armitage.

Even allowing for adverts, this seems likely to feel long-winded.

I can see ways how Mike's poem could be handled, though I'm not sure if I would end up adding something that isn't there. It's something that seems to require performance rather than just reading, a montage of voices.

"O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention," and one who woudn't proceed to tumble down the stairs while trying to depict our politically convenient protagonists as "warlike Harry".

Though the "famine, sword and fire" don't seem to be very good at crouching like leashed hounds.

#365 ::: Harriet ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 11:32 AM:

As this is an open thread, and as AKICIML, can anyone tell me what's involved in getting a prescription filled in Canada? Because, as I was looking over the various Rx forms I picked up from my doctor this morning, I realized that I'm going to be in Canada at the end of the week anyway, and it might be an opportunity I shouldn't pass up to save a bit on these uncon$cionable drug fees...

#366 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 11:41 AM:

Returning to read 110 Stories again, prompts
   Once more, we'll all remember where we were ...
Oh yes. Some 'freeze-frames' are there, trapped in a bright moment; other hours blurred in the growing blear of a very long dark spring night, chilled beyond natural by information flowing from the cathode ray screen.
   "You live, is how you learn that you can cope."
I'm not altogether sure this living counts as coping. It comes and goes.

Five years. So much has happened — in my life & across the world — but it can all seem not so long ago. The years spin so quickly past, even as some racking nights & days stretch out almost beyond bearing.

#367 ::: Northland ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 12:37 PM:

Harriet, Canadian pharmacies can only fill prescriptions writen by Canadian physicians. (The mail-order pharmacies get around this by paying doctors up here to "review" the orders.) Maybe if you went to a walk-in clinic, a doctor would counter-sign your scrip?

If you'd like, I can ask a pharmacist friend in Halifax for her advice. I know that she filled scrips for travellers stranded there five years ago, so obviously there can be some leeway.

#368 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 12:58 PM:

Just some follow up on the AN Wilson particle. The Guardian confirms Hillier was the culprit and reveals the acrostic as "AN Wilson is a shit." I love fetid swamps.

#369 ::: Harriet ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 01:36 PM:

Northland -

I'd appreciate it greatly if you could ask your friend -- though I know that in the last few years the US has been trying to close up as many loopholes as possible, presumably so as to be sure Big Pharma here gets its due. And I have better ways to spend my time visiting the, er, Northland, than hanging around clinics and pharmacies, anyway. I just don't want to waste an opportunity if there is one - with no prescription insurance, and meds that take the lion's share of a week's take-home pay, every little bit helps as they say.

#370 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 03:05 PM:

Re: the A.N. Wilson particle -- I don't care what it's an anagram of, I love the name "Eve de Harbin." I see her as somewhat mysterious, a world traveler, a wearer of wide-brimmed hats...

#371 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 04:07 PM:

I see her as somewhat mysterious, a world traveler, a wearer of wide-brimmed hats...

Somebody call Barbara Carrera's agent.

#372 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 04:08 PM:

Lisa: ...a carrier of dire news and glorious. Or maybe that's her husband Gerry.

#373 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 04:22 PM:

# 361: I vote for thermoi.

Also, xeroces, kleeneces, kodaki, and shinolæ.

#374 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 04:47 PM:

No, no, Howard! 'Kleenex' is the PLURAL. Just one is a kleenek.

And I vote for kodachi (coe-DAH-chee).

#375 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 05:01 PM:

328: I hope someone flies an airplane into the side of their building.

Teresa, how is your statement any different from Ann Coulter wishing that the New York Times building be blown up? Please elaborate why you think my wife, an employee of Disney by way of ESPN, should have her offices hit by an airliner.

#376 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 06:06 PM:

Dave Bell: It's something that seems to require performance rather than just reading, a montage of voices.

Glenn Hauman's been there, done that.

#377 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 06:43 PM:

Serge #348: Glass... demon... Twilight Zone...
...never mind.

Jen R #352: Thanks! Exactly what I was hoping for.

#378 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 06:57 PM:

#355

I've been a bad boy.

#379 ::: Vian ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 08:10 PM:

Because this is an open thread.

A colleague and I are having a disagreement about the personality of comic writers. He cites Twain, Thurber and Aristophanes and contends that comic writers are a bunch of misanthropic bastards to a man. I cite Wodehouse, Pratchett and Shakespeare and contend that some of the best comic writing comes from a basic affection for human nature. He doesn't post to blogs, so I'm hoping that posing the question here will give me an edge :)

So - is misanthropy a necessary quality in a comic writer? Feel free to throw names/examples at me.

#380 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 08:39 PM:

Must a comic carry a hatred or mistrust of mankind?

Er, what?

I think the piece missing is the fact that that there is the comic and then there is the audience. It isn't like comics are a species that can be analyzed in a vacuum. Comics that carry a hatred or mistrust of mankind probably play to an audience that also carries a hatred or mistrust of mankind.

Comics that like to make light of the silliness of being human probably play to an audience that is able to make light of their own foibles of being human.

You might as well go to the ice cream section in a grocery store and ask "what flavor best describes all ice cream?" as to ask "what personality best describes all comics?"

"Cookie dough" describes all ice cream as much as "misanthropic" describes all comics.

#381 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 08:41 PM:

If I had to pick, it would be Eddie Izzard & chocolate chip cookie dough.

#382 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 09:18 PM:

Misanthropy warning.

There are quite a lot of people who like the idea that "funny artists," whether they're writers, standups, or actors, are "secretly" SOBs (and DOBs). There are certainly well-known examples of the breed, but they're well-known because (often after the subject is dead) the story gets around that "Hey, did you know Leo 'Big Tsuris' Sprudelmacher only left his grandkids a hundred grand each? I'm sorry now I ever laughed at the cheap bastid." If someone's polite off camera, nobody seems to notice, unless s/he dies broke and forgotten, in which case there will be a headline reading Dorothy Verklempt Dies Broke and Forgotten; Used to Be Funny.

Great actors get married too often, highly intelligent people are crazy,* science fiction writers, UFOs rubber ears Dianetics,** brilliant comics aren't funny all the time, especially when you interrupt them at dinner and demand a performance.

*Especially mathematicians. If you know what a natural logarithm is, you're probably taking antidepressants by the bucketful.
**Well, uh.

#383 ::: Vian ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 09:18 PM:

Comics that carry a hatred or mistrust of mankind probably play to an audience that also carries a hatred or mistrust of mankind.

Comics that like to make light of the silliness of being human probably play to an audience that is able to make light of their own foibles of being human.

So if I like Thurber, Wodehouse, chilli chocolate and proper bean vanilla, either I'm affected with MPD or I lack discernment :)

I can live with that.

Still, a roll-call of sweet and functional comedians would help me win the argument, which is more of an exercise in dialectic than a search for truth.

So: Steven Fry, Douglas Adams, Bill Bryson ... sometimes ... Noel Coward ... sometimes ... Monty Python, alone and in a bunch but probably not John Cleese ... actually, Terry Gilliam's a bit suspect ... Chaucer ... sometimes ... Jasper fforde ...

Damn. Now I'm hungry.

#384 ::: Vian ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 09:24 PM:

*Especially mathematicians. If you know what a natural logarithm is, you're probably taking antidepressants by the bucketful.

I do and I am, but I'm not. Have I missed my calling?

#385 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 09:43 PM:

Still, a roll-call of sweet and functional comedians would help me win the argument, which is more of an exercise in dialectic than a search for truth.

Ah, I misunderstood. I thought this was an attempt to prove all comics were/were-not mysanthropic. But a roll-call is a much easier task of disproving all are mysanthropic by suitable examples that at least some aren't.

But you went from looking for comics who are not mysanthropic to looking for comics who are "functional". I don't know if I can keep up with the ever-changing specifications...

;)

Anyways, I would wager that Eddie Izzard is most definitely NOT mysanthropic. But some might see him dressing in women's clothing and question whether he is "functional". So, depending on which one you're trying to prove/disprove, he might do. A quick perusal of wikipedia didn't reveal any major personal issues, so maybe he's functional too.

I've seen a couple of his standup routines and my stomach muscles hurt from laughing so much.

#386 ::: Vian ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 09:53 PM:

Colpa mea, Greg. I think of misanthropy as a major malfunction. I should have been clearer :) Dressing in women's clothes, however, is a matter of personal choice - I've been known to do it myself. Only on special occasions.

But thanks for reminding me of Ben Elton and Lenny Henry. Don't ask me how, but you did.

#387 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 10:02 PM:

Christopher Walken was f-ing hilarious on Saturday Night Live. The "Continental" skit was great. And of course, "More cowbell" has been absorbed by the american culture. He put a constant grin on my face whenever I saw him in "Blast from the Past".

I think he qualifies as functional. I must confess I'm a bit of a Christopher Walken groupie, though. So I might be a bit biased there.

#388 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 10:10 PM:

Vian: the problem with being a Mad Fiendish Mathematician (even manqué*) is that, while your contributions to the Tidal Overdrive Quiet Flush Valve or Terrestrial Precession Wobblepot may be absolutely vital, building the thing is left up to other people, who will likely not allow you to push any buttons. If you are allowed in the World Domination Special Interest Group Control Center at all, it will be in the back, with a blackboard, and for some curious reason, a lab smock and some glassware filled with Colored Liquids.

And saying "Ah! I shall prove the Poincaré Conjecture! That will show those who called me mad! Bwah-hah-cough**-hah!" doesn't do it, first because, well, it would show those who, etc., and second because two other guys already got there, and they're not mad, just kind of cranky.

*Not "manky," unless maybe you're Paul Erdös and you just opened your brain.
**Darn chalk dust.

#389 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 10:50 PM:

Vian:

He cites Twain, Thurber and Aristophanes and contends that comic writers are a bunch of misanthropic bastards to a man.

Twain didn't start out a misanthrope in my opinion. Tell your colleague you'd like to see how happy he stays if you kill the same amount of his relatives as Twain lost during his lifetime. Especially the children, who ideally would have outlived him.

#390 ::: sara_k ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2006, 11:18 PM:

Neurobiology baby geek

http://www.grumperina.com/knitblog/archives/2006/09/seriously.htm#more

#391 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 12:59 AM:

Greg - re: Walken on SNL, or as we say "Walken after Midnight".

The Inconsequential Psychic, when he spoofs his performance in The Dead Zone, is a CLASSIC.

Vian - IMHO (obviously) comic writers/performers are only considered funny if they find the right audience and are using the form of humor the audience resonates with. Good comedy comes from perceptive and articulate observation of the absurdity of the human condition.

After some more thinking, the only difference - one group manages to maintain their optimism about humanity, and the other does not.

#392 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 01:59 AM:

I saw the Jay Leno Show in the past few hours. James Wood was one on the guests. He talked about having been on a Boston to LA flight where he reported to the flight attendant he though there were hijackers aboard... and that it turned out that two of them were among the 9/11 mass murderers, they were on one of the dry run test flights. And apparently despite him reporting it as suspicious, and the pilots, the FAA blew off investigating because it would be "racial profiling."

And why, yet again, has there never been any new media attention investigating why did FBI office heads tell those two different agents in to different cities to cease and desist when the agents uncovered Middle Eastern nationals taking jumbo jet flying lessons with no interest in learning how to land the palnes, and the agents wanted warranted for search and seizure to search the abode and computers of the Middle Eastern nationals.

WHY were they ordered to cease and desist, instead of getting FBI boss backing for checking out possible threats to the well-being and security of the USA, from suspicious foreigners with no apparent legimate reason/interest for taking lessons flying airliners?

Why were the bosses of those offices cashiered? Why was there no explanation/investigation that the US public might be allowed to see? What about Washingont's comments about what today would be called "open government" and Lincoln called, "Government of the people, by the people, and for the people?"

"A day that will live in infamy...." The tragedies could not have occurred without the actions of Schmuck's misadminstration, in refusing to follow up reports of suspicious foreigners doing suspicious things on airplane flights, without the express refusal of FBI office heads to allow agents to investigate what the agents felt were credible threats to national security, without the utter INCOMPETENCE of the entire national air surveillance and defense system to respond to MULTIPLE off-course hijacked airliners--to not even report the situation!!!, is malfeasance all the way up to the top and back down.

There aren't any excuses or mitigating circumstances. The entire US chain of command failed, it was a complete meltdown of the chain of command and operations.

But how in the world could that have happened? The US military and national airspace surveillance system during my time in the military, I doubt would have futzed it up so absolutely spectacularly and so absolutely lacking in what seemed to be ANY competence. I know how fast futzed up things in the continental USA command and control system set off alarms in Washington and set off a furor durig my time in the military--but no such thing seems to have happened in any sane timeline on 9/11. The entire chain of command and notification system seems to have had a MASSIVE meltdown--and the only way for that to have happened, is for futzing up from the top down, to -prevent- information flow and reponse from happening at lower levels to go -upwards-.

Incompetence, malevolence, credo ruling the top echelons with orders sent downward to only report certain things and certain conditions, and the hell with everyting else, is a less unbelievable explanation than anything else I can think of other than fullblown conspiracy theory that I hope can't be possible. The is, the conspiracy theory would be that there was INTENTIONAL sabotage performed in the chain of command and control/upper echelons of US Government, to ensure that malevolent hijackers wouldn't be interfered with, that the upper echelons of US Government had been infiltrated and corrupted to promote and facilitate the activity of a set of atrocities such at 9/11.

#393 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 11:52 AM:

John M. Ford #382: "If someone's polite off camera, nobody seems to notice, unless s/he dies broke and forgotten, in which case there will be a headline reading Dorothy Verklempt Dies Broke and Forgotten; Used to Be Funny."

"...Her Earlier Stuff was Better."

#394 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 03:14 PM:

Re: Roman Army Folding Knife
Knife, fork and spoon sets are often called hobo sets in modern USA - though of course hobo is likely a very new coinage compared to Roman usage.

A.G. Russell:
The Hobo is a really old design. It actually began as an eating knife and a spike for lifting morsels, sheathed with a larger knife. The next step was to put a fork and a knife in a folder. Then they worked out methods of separating them. No one knows how long ago that was, only that it followed the invention of forks. I have seen really old ones with two tines. I have also seen them with spoons almost as big as ladles.

200 years ago these implements were common, both in the U.S. and in Europe. Many meals were taken on the road as there were few inns; and you probably did not want to use the implements furnished by those inns. .....

#395 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 03:23 PM:

I thought the Warncliffe blade could be pretty reliably dated to the 1830's? Any comments on the dating and blade design of the Roman knife in the sidebar?

#396 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 03:34 PM:

It's a neat early multi-tool. Looks like cavalry stuff: isn't that an awl and a hoof pick?

#397 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 03:35 PM:

Updated Alice's Restaurant:
http://music.metafilter.com/mefi/516

via BitchPhD.

#398 ::: Thel ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 03:40 PM:

I liked the "best 9-11 memorial post" in the Sidelights.

I liked this one quite a bit, too:

These countrymen of mine, these people who are so smug about torture and secret deportations-- invasions and mass murder. These countrymen of mine who come up with convoluted legal arguments to get around the Geneva Conventions, or to hold material witnesses indefinitely-- to my way of thinking, these are people who never knew the stakes in the first place; people who certainly shouldn't presume to tell me about the nature of the threat. The nature of the threat's the same as it's always been. There're some dangerous assholes in the world. But dead is dead, and I try not to let it bother me much. What defines me is what I do. What my choices are.
#399 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 06:28 PM:

The Peabody Essex Museum years ago had a "Great Age of Sail" exhibition. Unfortunately I went much too late to get an exhibition catalog. The exhibit had items that belongs to the British Admiralty--a scale model of HMS Victory, the painting "The Death of Nelson" (which is huge, larger than lifesize and would only fit in someone's livingroom if in a huge high-ceilinged livingroom), and Sir Francis Drake's gold pocket calculator.

#400 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 09:28 PM:

Sir Francis Drake's gold pocket calculator.

(double take)

er, what?

#401 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 09:30 PM:

Is it just me, or did the "AJC rips Bush administration a new one" thread used to say "AJC rips Bush administration a new Cheney".

Gawds, did I imagine the whole thing?

Cause if I did, I'm pretty damn funny and didn't even know it...

caffeine. I need more caffeine.

#402 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 12, 2006, 10:12 PM:

Paula @ 399: and Sir Francis Drake's gold pocket calculator.

Drake's the operator
With his golden calculator

He is timing and astral sighting
He's navigating, triangulating

By twisting on a special cam
It's innards all begin to jam
tick-tock kerrChunk
[/kraftwerk]

#403 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 12:23 AM:

I think my old hard drive is dead. I hooked it up to a new USB IDE drive adapter and plugged it in, and the power light blinks and then stops. The drive starts to spin up, and halts, and does this over and over again. I'm screwed, aren't I?

#404 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 12:42 AM:

Sir Francis Drake's gold pocket calculator.

Hewlett-Pakenham Modell 1. Sir Francis Walsingham had a few of them built for "especial agentes." It could take sun sightings, record dead Spaniards to a perhaps optimistic six digits, and had a Vigenère lattice engraved on the inner lid. Drake's is said to have been later set with a Nicholas Hilliard miniature of "A Comely Ladye of Cheapside," and a concealable cheating device for "I'm From Devon and I Don't Know This Game," a popular quayside entertainment of the day.

#405 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 12:58 AM:

#403

was the drive in an external case before?
was it formatted with anything other than standard windows formatting?
(if so, it probably won't work)
was it formatted with partitions?
(you'll only be able to see the first partition)
was it formatted to linux?
(you won't be able to see any of it)
Can you plug it into a PC as a second drive?
(Most PC's have a cable that will handle two hard drives)
Does the activity light ever blink?
Did you drop it?
Is this the first time you've been in a cockpit?
Do you like gladiator movies?
Ever see a grown man... oh never mind.

No, it doesn't sound good.
I'd try plugging the drive directly into a PC. Crack open the case on a desktop, find an unused connector, double check your jumpers, and boot as if it were a data drive.

Sometimes that'll work, when other approaches won't. It also means you can use Norton Disk doctor and similar applications to try and fix it. If a PC harddrive recovery program can't access it, then an external USB case definitely won't.

I've been playing harddrive musical chairs for years.

#406 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 01:27 AM:

Greg:

Sir Francis Drake has a multi-instrument gold device for navigation and other applications. It was made of gold, and pocket-sized, and involved doing calculations, so yes, it really was a gold pocket calculator.

Ah, found an on-line reference, finally:

http://www.shipsonstamps.org/topics/html/kompass.htm It's a picture of a picture on a stamp, about a third of the way down the webpage, with text, On the stamp to the right the multi-function navigational instrument of Sir Francis Drake is to be seen. It served for the angular measurement, had port and tidal tables, was sundial, had a compass (on the top right), a perpetual calendar and was a 'Nocturno', to adjust at night the polar star.

#407 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 01:34 AM:

adamsj: are you nuts? Don't listen to Greg, that way madness lies. Take it to a professional, let them deal with it. They may be able to salvage the data if you haven't done your back ups, and new hard drives are cheap. Do not make yourself any more crazy than you already are...

You have a good back up system and have been doing your back ups every Friday, right? Right?

#408 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 03:00 AM:

There was some guy who wrote popular books about business management -- Peter Townsend? He recommended that an executive should never have more than two file drawers of old documents. Ruthlessly weed out what you aren't sure you'll need. He said if you keep old routine stuff because you think you might possibly need it someday, you won't find it if you need it. And if you ever get investigated for price-fixing or IRS or something else, somewhere in those old files will be something that looks bad whether you're guilty or not. So trim it down and keep trimming it down. Time spent throwing out files that might not be needed is not wasted time.

Given the way my hard disks run, it's easy to follow his advice. I don't back up anything unless I'm pretty sure I'll need it. OS and important software runs off CDRom regardless, and it's easy to keep a backup of that. Data -- if it's important it's under version control and I back up the archive. If it isn'timportant enough to archive, I don't need it.

#409 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 03:56 AM:

I have an external hard drive that shows that behavious on some USB ports. It seems to be that the port can't supply enough power for the drive as it starts spinning.

So if you have an optional external PSU for the drive enclosure, try that before anything else.

My outline plan for my next hard drive upgrade involves using the spare IDE/PATA connector I still have, rather than depending on an external enclosure to transfer the old data.

"Take it to a professional" is still good advice. There are tricks which can be used, but there's not much that doesn't risk more damage if something is broken.

#410 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 05:00 AM:

#249 TexAnne: Double your geekiness, double your fun: there were two Defenestrations of Prague.

ajay lurches belatedly into the conversation to point out that in fact there were three Defenestrations of Prague. Defenestration 1, in 1419, was the burgomaster of Prague and some councillors, and started the Hussite Wars.

Defenestration 2, in 1618, was of a couple of Catholic ambassadors to the Bohemian court, and started the Thirty Years' War.

Defenestration 3, the most mysterious, was of Czech president Jan Masaryk in 1948, and led to the Soviet domination of Czechoslovakia for the next forty years.

#411 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 06:31 AM:

ajay #410 -- Altho' a small sample of defenestrations, the trendline of casualties is downward with time. I hope this is a good sign.

#412 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 06:38 AM:

Mez -- actually, the trendline is not all downward. The Catholic ambassadors survived, traditionally because they landed in a manure pile.

Though this did (help) start the Thirty Years' War, and the worst destruction in Europe until the Second World War, so it shouldn't be considered a win.

#413 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 08:20 AM:

I like the suggestion that the USB cable/port isn't delivering enough power. Any suggestions for an external enclosure? It's a Toshiba twenty gig IDE drive out of a recently upgraded iBook which was backed up, but incompletely.

(Anyone who wishes to criticize is welcome to apply s/pletely/petently/ --I've been thinking it of myself for some time now.)

#414 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 08:30 AM:

Oh, yes, it's a 2.5 inch drive.

As to the story of me and hardware, well, let me note that Word Two Hundred was actually several, repeated liberally.

#415 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 08:39 AM:

with apologies in advance, but, we're all fans here:

-----------------

September 13, 1999: Never Forget:

"It seems hard to believe, but only 7 years after the Moon was stripped from the sky, the events of Sept. 13, 1999 seem distant and remote -- as if they had happened 30 years ago, not 7."

#416 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 08:41 AM:

Greg London's suggestion would be a good one for PCs.You'd install it as a secondary internal drive. That almost always works -- at least if there's anything you can do yourself. Get your data off of it, and then you can think about how much effort you want to put into a piece of hardware that you can replace for under $50 today and that might not be available at all next year.

IBook. I don't know anything about those. I don't know what kind of machine you can install it into. Another iBook? If you were going to get another iBook anyway you might void the warranty and switch hard disks and see if it works. Even if the disk fails it probably won't damage anything else.

A professional might do that easier, or do something better, but you have to pick the right professional. I can't tell you how to pick the right one the first time.

I can't imagine you'd pay a professional less than $100, maybe significantly more if you live in a high-rent state. If the external enclosure is something you're likely to use regardless then it's a good investment.

Consider how many hours this is going to take. Driving to computer parts stores. Assembling hardware. Choosing a professional. Driving there at least twice. (The one time I tried that they kept it for 2 days and told me it was fixed. When I drove there they demonstrated it and it wasn't fixed. They'd assumed what they did would fix it. So I went home and they kept it a few days more. Three round trips and a week's wait but they did get almost all my data.) Time and money. How much is that data worth to you? What you did since your last working backup....

#417 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 08:58 AM:

adamsj: when you get an external drive enclosure, make sure you have one with a power supply, not just a USB connection. Some 2.5 drives require more power than what a USB cable will deliver.

If that doesn't work, or if it's making chunk-chunk-chunk noises, then it's likely that the disk heads are shot and the disk platter needs to be moved to another box. Don't try this at home unless you have an industrial strength clean room available.

#418 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 11:08 AM:

#406

cool. I want one.

#419 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 11:23 AM:

Ah yes, power. I wouldnt' recommend any external drive case that doesn't have a separate connection to a DC power jack and an included external power transformer. USB power is pretty lame. And if you pooch the USB chip on your motherboard, well, there ain't no easy way to fix that. I always plug a hub between my PC and any other components, with its own DC connector and transformer, so if something blows, it's the $50 hub, not the $500 computer.

I've been playing musical hard drives for years as a drive would crap out, or as I would finally upgrade my motherboard. It was always a pain since I also happened always have a dual boot linux/windows system.

I finally caved in and bought an external, ethernet based, terrabyte, raid-5 storage unit. It's got 4 drives in a case the size of a shoebox, and a little linux system that handles all the intelligence. (picture here) THeoroetically, if I lose a drive, I could power down, order a new blank, slide it in, and the thing is supposed to figure out what happened, and recover the data to full raid capability. So far I haven't had to do that.

(knocking on wood)

Other than a blank replacement like that, the intention is to never have to install my own harddrives in a system ever again. If I buy a new PC, I'll just use the included harddrive to hold the software, and keep my data external.

The one thing I haven't done yet is install some good version control system software. I don't have to worry so much about backing stuff up* now, but I still can't revert a bad edit made at 2 am after it's been saved.

*Yes, I know, back up anyway. Sometimes, I really hate computers.

#420 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 11:28 AM:

in #413 adamsj wrote:

I like the suggestion that the USB cable/port isn't delivering enough power. Any suggestions for an external enclosure? It's a Toshiba twenty gig IDE drive out of a recently upgraded iBook which was backed up, but incompletely.

Pretty much any 2.5" type enclosure will work. You can go with a larger enclosure (better cooling characteristics) if you buy an adaptor to go from the small format IDE to the larger format IDE connector. (Often called laptop adaptors.) The large, 5.25" enclosures by Bytecc are decent, if cheaply made. (cheap=physically wobbly) If you aren't going to take the thing around with you all the time, they are fine, and come in around 35$ on newegg.com They are powered via the usual 120vAC three prong cords - the transformer is internal, so no wall warts.

If you have the money to spend, get a 2.5" enclosure that has a firewire connection - macs can boot off of external firewire drives but not usb ones.* After you recover your data, you could use it as a destination to image your primary drive to, and thus have a warm spare if your primary system drive goes foobar. Nice for macMinis. Three months ago I looked for some and established that they are rare, expensive (relative to ide/sata), and not every one supports firewire booting (though most do.)

Er, going back and reading that link you provided suggests that your level of expertise is sufficient to render my advice redundant. Oops. Good luck anyway.

-r.
*can any motherboard boot off of a usb drive?

#421 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 12:36 PM:

I'll write more later, but for now:

MY WIFE IS SO SMART!

She connected the powered USB hub to the spare iBook, plugged the portable drive adapter into that, and even as we speak is recovering my files.

My wife. I think I'll keep h--mmphhggssh. Dammit, babe, let go of my windpipe!

#422 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 01:44 PM:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14786868/ shows one photo of the surface of Venus. Hopefully this means more will be released soon.

#423 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 02:12 PM:

Rhandir, my PC motherboard claims to be able to boot off a USB item. I thought about booting it off a flash card but I haven't gotten around to trying.

#424 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 02:40 PM:

#406 "to adjust at night the polar star"

Adjusting the Pole Star sounds a trifle ambitious, no?

#425 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 02:41 PM:

Taking advantage of the open thread:

Rediscovering Lysistrata.

#426 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 03:51 PM:

*can any motherboard boot off of a usb drive?

Actually, I think Bruce Schneier recently posted a security hole about USB drives booting on PC's. The idea is to take a USB drive load it with a virus, then scatter them about where someone might find it and plug it in. Oh, wait, it isn't a boot problem, it's an autoexecute problem. The virus autoexecutes as soon as you plug the drive into the computer, and installs itself. then it does whatever damage you want it to do.

#427 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 04:07 PM:

Not being a knitter I don't usually have anything to say on the topic, but have the knitters here seen this?

#428 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 04:11 PM:

Susan @ 427

I hadn't and now I wish I hadn't. Eewww!

#429 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 04:22 PM:

in #423 ::: J Thomas wrote:
Rhandir, my PC motherboard claims to be able to boot off a USB item. I thought about booting it off a flash card but I haven't gotten around to trying.
Let me know if you do. That would be nifty. Right now I'm looking into replacing the noisy HD in my laptop with a compact flash card and a cf card-to-laptop size ide adaptor. The parts are surprisingly cheap, the adaptor is around 10$, and a 2 gig cf card is about 30$. That's adequate for installing a trimmed down version of windows xp. (If you remember to turn off the paging file - otherwise it uses up the read/write cycles on the card pretty fast.) For the curious, you can trim down windows xp pretty small with a program called nlite, which is free and wizard based - just pick what you want installed. When someone creates the equivalent for Linux, let me know.

Of course, the coolness of replacing the HD with a no-moving-parts cf card is mitigated by the fact that I could spend 45$ and get a new 40 gig replacement drive that would be almost as quiet.
-r.

#430 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 04:46 PM:

#427: Yuck. Such a pity that "You Knitted WHAT??!?!" is on indefinite hiatus.

#431 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 05:17 PM:

Susan @ 427: I'm not a knitter either, and man, that thing is ugly!

#432 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 05:22 PM:

Open thread--I inflict my heebie jeebies on you all!

http://www.apple.com/trailers/magnolia/jesuscamp/

#433 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 05:44 PM:

Coming soon: the knitted Leia bikini.

#434 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 06:07 PM:

That knit Leia hat is ugly. Xopher, may I introduce you to What Not to Knit?

[bragging]I've been growing my hair out for a few years, and I can finally get decent Leia buns one on each side, rather than little stubby knotty buns.[/bragging]

And PJ, on the torture thread it didn't seem like the place to say: yeah, I keep seeing the Knit Lights all over the place, at A.C. Moore and my local yarn shop most recently. I'm stubborn about sticking to bamboo, so I doubt I'll spend the money for a set. Also, my current projects are three garter scarves for Christmas presents, and I can do those in the dark anyway. Before I forget: please let me know what type of fiber you're interested in, as the fiber festival near here is fast approaching.

#435 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 06:15 PM:

Nancy, I haven't been thnking about fiber: I'm up to my ears in projects right now. I hesitate to commit to something that may end up sitting for a year or more before I can get to it - and fiber would probably end up in a box in storage (along with two afghans, two jackets, the scarf yarn [JoAnn's, but that nice Italian stuff they sell]).

Yeah, I don't like plastic needles either. Bamboo is nice, and I like aluminum also for circulars and single-points. (Actually, given what knitting has sometimes done to my wrist, it may qualify as torture. Not quite carpal tunnel, but painful. I let it rest for a while and it recovers.)

#436 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 07:08 PM:

PJ, I hear you there about the wrist thing. Between my job (programming) and knitting too much inelastic yarn this past summer, I managed to give myself tendonitis, which thankfully goes away with care, ibuprofen, ice, and switching up knitting with crochet and tatting. Just let me know when you're ready for more yarn, or if there are some notions that you'd like, I can keep an eye out for them.

#437 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 10:15 PM:

Greg, #419, if someone has 1.1 rather than 2.0 USB, you can get a $10 hub from sciplus. (I do, and I bought and use that hub.)

Greg, #426, I use blank memory sticks and between the time the assistant leaves the room and the doctor comes, I check the two ports in the side of the monitor that's in the exam room. I leave them in to see if the doctors notice them. They never do, so I tell them they should watch. So far, the ports have been closed. I'm just amazed that the IT department of a large HMO would buy monitors with USB ports on their sides.

#438 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 10:30 PM:

Rhandir, a rough equivalent for linux is knoppix. Linux booting from a regular CDRom. Customise it as you like, leave out what you want.

Here's a more minimal linux, DSL:

http://www.damnsmalllinux.com

50 megabytes. They leave out lots of stuff but include enough to be functional. I use it. I can boot off a 50 meg CDRom, credit-card size. It's stripped down debian, and it doesn't include apt but you can add apt back in. It doesn't include GTK2. There are a variety of applications you can download, but lots you can't -- new applications have to be compiled for DSL. You can add GTK2. You can add lots of stuff but it quickly gets bigger than 50 megs. I'm at 90 megs plus I have applications I can add from a hard disk. They claim it will boot from a USB flash card. I haven't tried it. I like the idea that I can run the whole system from a CDRom with the hard disk disconnected or frozen by software. It is its own recovery disk.


They run off an older linux kernel since the newest one is kind of bloated. They have a parallel project that involves using the newest kernel and not trying to hold to a set size, but still trying to keep it minimal and simple. THe last time I checked that one was working but it was short on applications; they thought a lot of the DSL apps would run but they hadn't tested many.

Anyway, this is a workable alternative. Instead of looking for things to remove from linux, you can start with DSL or DSL-N and first look for things to remove, and then consider what you want to add.

#439 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 10:42 PM:

Believe me, rhandir, the advice from you and all the other folks who posted was most welcome, useful, and needed.

I know a lot about some things--there's one particular class of server hardware I know quite well--and am strikingly ignorant about others, particularly home, consumer, and small office hardware.

Dave Bell pointed me right at the problem I didn't recognize.

Funnily enough, not long ago I was telling someone about the server class I took where the instructor slipped partly failed fuses into the assembled machines of myself and another guy while we were at lunch. We pissed and moaned and panicked and could not get the damned things up, with the same symptoms--well, okay, similar symptoms, since the boot drive would go but then crap out when the other drives spun up--and till he nudged me, insufficient power never occurred to me.

So many thanks to all, and a double shot to Dave.

#440 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: September 13, 2006, 10:44 PM:

Another good tangent for an open thread.

Methinks I smell another rat in the 'let's scam a writer' market.

http://www.dynastypublishinginc.com/

It appears to be an expensive way to market your pod-produced (can you say Publish America) book for more dough. ... oooh, reading their nifty online brochure says you can produce your book for a hair under $2,000. They offer a range of fees for service.

And they "reserve the right to reject pornography, and edit out materials that might be harmful to the community or Dynasty Publishing."

They've been running a commercial on various cable networks in KC, as well as a whole (3.5 min) commercial on our on-demand channel.

The Web site shows 10 whole titles, so hopefully so far not too many people are willing to 1) be taken and 2) brag about it. One can hope.

#441 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 07:54 AM:

In case you're interested... Today's main article at Salon.com is "Why Johnny can't code (BASIC used to be on every computer a child touched -- but today there's no easy way for kids to get hooked on programming)" The author? David Brin.

#442 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 08:24 AM:

in #438 ::: J Thomas wrote:
Rhandir, a rough equivalent for linux is knoppix. Linux booting from a regular CDRom. Customise it as you like, leave out what you want. (etc...many other helfpul suggestions...etc.)

Thanks J. Thomas - I've worked with knoppix before, (excellent tool) and I'll have to play around with DSL.

What I was hoping for, however, was a menu-driven or wizard-driven GUI interface that would let me assemble a bootable image that I could install later.** I've used Ubuntu's synaptic thingy, and it does a wonderful job of being accessible (provided you don't need to install nightlies of anything, like vlc). However, you can't really use that interface to assemble an image instead of patch your system, you aren't told what memory/disk requirements you've signed up for*, and as far as I know, you can't pick out groups of drivers to package.

-r.
*not a trivial thing to estimate anyway, but one needs to know without a lot of trial and error.
**surely people automate that kind of thing with shell scripts, but I don't know where to look for that kind of thing, and I really prefer a GUI so I can "see" what I'm doing

#443 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 08:45 AM:

I trust everyone's aware that the Leia hat was for a costume, not meant as an actual garment, right?

I did make Liam a Jayne hat for the Serenity opening, though. Used the wrong yarn for it, so I'm going to have to make another at some point.

#444 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 09:14 AM:

DSL doesn't begin to provide that. It's easy to make a bootable image, you just follow instructions for putting together whatever you want, and then one instruction makes the image. But it tells you nothing about the requirements of what you put in.

#445 ::: Stephen Sample ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 09:20 AM:
"Defenestration's too good for him...throw him out the window!"

From (or at least collected in) The Pogo Poop Book, if I recall correctly. Hmm. I should reread that one of these days.

GWB would make an excellent Prince of Pompadoodle.

#446 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 09:32 AM:

I trust everyone's aware that the Leia hat was for a costume, not meant as an actual garment, right?

Of COURSE, Carrie S...

#447 ::: Northland ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 10:05 AM:

Harriet -- I talked to my friend the pharmacist, who confirmed that she can't fill American prescriptions without a Canadian co-signature. And (especially now, because of the recent FDA crack-downs) you're not likely to find a pharmacist willing to bend the rules.

But she said it shouldn't be hard for you to find a Cdn doctor willing to co-sign. She also suggested that if you fib and say you'll be here for a while (school, work, what have you) you may be able to get a 2 or 3 month supply. I leave the amount of deception you are comfortable with up to you.

Hope that helps...

#448 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 10:15 AM:

Greg #401: Is it just me, or did the "AJC rips Bush administration a new one" thread used to say "AJC rips Bush administration a new Cheney".

It's at #11 in that thread.

#449 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 01:11 PM:

With regards to TNH's particle about dying birds at the Texarkana Festival: Somewhere, Tom Lehrer is smiling.

#450 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 01:54 PM:

#448: Ah, that's it. I thought I was losing my mind for a while there...

#451 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 02:14 PM:

Andrew #449: As a resident of the NYC Metro Area for nigh on 25 years, I feel that anything that kills pigeons can't be all bad. Still, poison...how persistent is it? Are other animals eating the dead pigeons and dying too? Someone in that article worried about it, but the article itself was too shallowly reported for me to tell.

Ideally, the pigeon population would be thinned out to a tolerable level by birds of prey. Which are also fun to look at. I think the Freedom Tower needs to be designed with suitable aerie sites on its outer layer. (Bring that up to an architect and watch hir head explode.)

OTOH, one of the worst things about pigeons is that they're not afraid of humans. We can fix that! Pigeon kill-squads; the city should offer a bounty for dead pigeons delivered to City Hall during a particular one-week period each summer, say. They'd quickly cease to be complacent...or more gradually, through natural selection!

#452 ::: LisaJulie ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 02:42 PM:

Argg, I've been earwormed by "Remember, O Thou Man".

In addition, it is a waltz, a splendid one at that. (Fast waltzes can get by on momentum, but slow waltzes require skill. Especially, if the couple is turning clockwise while progressing counterclockwise - ala some Scandanavian waltz practices.)

*wanders off moving in 3/4 time*

#453 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 02:43 PM:

Xopher, Downtown Columbus has a growing population of raptors. There's a nesting pair of Perigrines on one of the State Office Towers, and Redtail Hawks favor the Nationwide complex. I'm told Kestrels like the abandoned warehouses at the edges of the area.

They're catching rats as well as pigeons. One morning as I was walking from my bus stop to work, a Peregrine flew up from the railroad tracks under the overpass to a nearby tree.

My first reaction was "Biiiiig bird --" then "it's carrying a rat -- oh, cool a raptor." It wasn't until it came to rest with its breakfast that I was able to identify it.

We also get some migrant raptors during the Spring and Fall although most tend to go through Pennsylvania rather than Ohio.

#454 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 03:06 PM:

There are peregrines and red-tailed hawks in LA. Downtown. Probably kestrels also, but they're less conspicuous. There's supposed to be a pair of peregrines on the Union Bank building (and I did, once, see one banking off the Arco tower nearby), and I've also seen a pair, possibly the same one, on the MTA Taj Mahal east of Union Station (intermittently). They'll take pigeons up there for lunch or dinner. (Little feathers drifting down from many floors up.)

It's fun seeing a redtail decorating a flagpole, especially when you suddenly remember 'that flagpole doesn't have a finial - what??'

#455 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 03:17 PM:

Glenn is right. I shouldn't have said that, and I'm sorry.

#456 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 03:30 PM:

Rhandir, J. Thomas: I am unfortunately not aware of anything that does quite what you're discussing, either for Linux or for other OS OSes like FreeBSD. Embedded developers would swoon with delight for such a thing. I'm sure lots of shops have reinvented the wheel on this, but nobody's gone public with it AFAIK.

I'd be delighted to be proved wrong. (For one thing I've got this 1GB USB "Cruzer" thumb drive sitting here waiting for me to put a Linux image on it.)

#457 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 03:46 PM:

Serge @ 441 In case you're interested... Today's main article at Salon.com is "Why Johnny can't code (BASIC used to be on every computer a child touched -- but today there's no easy way for kids to get hooked on programming)"

I just tried to point out some resources from Microsoft that are freely available, but got denied for questionable content. :-/

I think the issue is that you have to take an extra step to get programming resources, and computers are now more engaging out of the box than they used to be. You can't look at a video game and say, "I could write that!" anymore.

#458 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 03:57 PM:

Serge @ 441 and Larry @457
"Why Johnny can't code (BASIC used to be on every computer a child touched -- but today there's no easy way for kids to get hooked on programming)"

It takes time to learn to program. Also helps if there's someone around who can help get past the DWIM stage.

A lot of users are totally clueless about what makes computers work - remember the folks who thought Windows wasn't a monopoly because Netscape existed? They have no clue about OS vs app, and they don't really want to: they seem to think 'isn't it all the same?'

#459 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 04:32 PM:

PJ... I think you're describing most people. My wife is smart, but she scares me when she uses her computer. A couple of weeks, she wound up deleting a printer's driver instead of its queue. She'd be an excellent beta tester for softwares, that's for sure.

#460 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 04:47 PM:

It's okay, Teresa. I suspected you were angry, and that it disabled your normal intellectual rigor. Just remember that stoking blind, indiscriminate hatred is their shtick, not yours. And of course, the last thing we want to do is to provide ammunition to those who crow that the left has gone loony.

(See, you are different from Ann Coulter. You showed regret and remorse, and retracted it. Would that Ann was capable of the same.)

#461 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 04:53 PM:

Glenn Hausman: Lovely.

I try not to wish people dead or that misfortune befall them but there are times I wish the Rapture was for real, and that it would get all the Religious Right and their evangelical kin off the face of the planet.

I suspect that should the Rapture really happen, the above mentioned would not be among the Elect...

#462 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 05:11 PM:

Harriet -

To echo what Northland said:
But she said it shouldn't be hard for you to find a Cdn doctor willing to co-sign. She also suggested that if you fib and say you'll be here for a while (school, work, what have you) you may be able to get a 2 or 3 month supply. I leave the amount of deception you are comfortable with up to you.

I've found that it's usually a slightly-higher-than-normal fee to have your prescription co-signed, but not an issue. You may have to ask at one-or-two places, but typically any doctor or walk-in clinic in an area with a high immigrant population will be willing to help.

#463 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 05:13 PM:

LisaJulie #452:
(Fast waltzes can get by on momentum, but slow waltzes require skill. Especially, if the couple is turning clockwise while progressing counterclockwise - ala some Scandanavian waltz practices.)

Did you mean to say clockwise there? Turning CW while progressing CCW was the default for waltzing for the first century of its existence and then some. It's easier than turning CCW while progressing CCW.

Today, I have submitted an abstract for a conference in Michigan and a proposal to teach country dance history in Massachusetts. Now I have to write one proposing to teach waltz in Maine.

#464 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 06:29 PM:

Since it's an Open Thread - the Royal Society has thrown open its archives online until December. 340 years' worth of scientific papers, all freely available in PDF format, here.

I've posted about it on my journal, with links to some of the papers from Volume 1, 1665/6, that interested me. Now I'm going to dive back in and read most of Volume 2.

#465 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 06:56 PM:

Raptors in cities: What I've noticed most often are sharp-shinned and Cooper's hawks, which are easy to overlook because their basic flight profile is so similar to a crow's, and because they tend to launch themselves from inside a tree canopy. I even saw a goshawk in East Portland once, which buzzed out of an arborvitae to snag a crow and popped back into its tight branches to eat it.

When I lived in Seattle, about a block from what is now Amazon.com, there was a redtail which spent a lot of time hunting rats from a big maple tree in the back yard of my apartment building. I was glad it was there.

There are both peregrines (roosting on the top of a cargo crane) and bald eagles in Olympia; the eagles nest within a couple of hundred feet of the governor's mansion. I see the raptors themselves much less often than I see other birds react to their presence. The eagles, hunting, cause the gulls and crows to take off fast, but in an orderly fashion, all of them moving away from the eagle's position; the smaller birds ignore the eagles completely. The peregrine, on the other hand, causes everything from sparrow-size on up to launch into the air in a mad scramble, taking off in every direction and dodging and turning in the air. The little merlin which hunts near my house causes the same reaction; I hypothesize that birds have learned that any hesitation to decide if a falcon is big enough to do you harm may be just long enough to guarantee your demise.

What is new around these parts is the sudden appearance of ravens, which prior to four or five years ago were rarely seen between the outer coast and 3,000ft in the Cascades.

#466 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 07:59 PM:

Downtown Columbus has a growing population of raptors. ... They're catching rats as well as pigeons.

I keep reading "velociraptor" every time someone says raptor. I suppose it would cut down on the jaywalking population...

#467 ::: LisaJulie ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 08:16 PM:

# 463 Susan: re: waltz turning...

Yup, you are right, I meant to say that turning counter clockwise is much tougher than turning clockwise (as you rightfully pointed out!).

I don't know how many varieties of dancing you do, but Scandanavian couple-turning dances rock the house for me. Hambo, polska, schottische, snua, all are wonderful exemplars of what can be done with a shared center of gravity.

#468 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 08:24 PM:

ZOMG! Somebody just sent me a link to a video that included bother dinosaurs and sodomy. (No, I'm not posting the link. It is exactly what it sounds like and very NSFW.)

#469 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 09:06 PM:

Serge, #459, we used to bring in kids to do destructive testing.

#470 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 10:29 PM:

Kids, eh, Marilee? If something can survive my wife AND a bunch of kids...

#471 ::: Thunder Lizard ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 11:10 PM:

Why does everyone here have a thing about dinosaurs and sodomy?

#472 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 14, 2006, 11:14 PM:

a video that included bother dinosaurs and sodomy

"Bother," said Apatosaurus.
"Don't start that again," said Pooh.
"We're losing the light. Not that anyone cares. And my tail's caught in the tripod again, but if I say 'Cut' one of you will get ideas," Eeyore said through his megaphone.
"When I said I wanted to ride the raptor," Piglet said calmly, "I wasn't proposing any euphemisms."
"Nobody expects the Spanish euphemism," Christopher Robin said, and everyone but the dozing ceratopsians laughed.

#473 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 01:02 AM:

Falling, Dead Pigeons Mar City Festival

Two questions, of course, immediately leap to mind:

  • Is the downtown festival mentioned in the story in a city park?
  • Has Tom Lehrer been sighted nearby?

#474 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 01:08 AM:

LisaJulie #467:
I don't know how many varieties of dancing you do, but Scandanavian couple-turning dances rock the house for me. Hambo, polska, schottische, snua, all are wonderful exemplars of what can be done with a shared center of gravity.

Depending on how you define variety, I do, um, a lot. Restricting it to turning dances: old waltz, new waltz, cross-step waltz, sauteuse, redowa, polka, schottische, polka mazurka, polka redowa, two-step, tango valse, mazurka valse, hesitation waltz, half-and-half, maxixe, and the assorted pivoty bits in one-step, tango, foxtrot, etc. And maybe some others.

I don't do much scandi, though. I've done some hambo at festivals, but I haven't gotten hooked. One hambo is nice, six in a row at a festival session make me kind of twitchy and bored. Are there variations I don't know about? I think it needs variations.

What is snua?

#475 ::: Individ-ewe-al ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 02:08 AM:

Serge and PJ: I was one of those kids who messed around with BASIC. Then I went to a school where knowing how to use computers was regarded as only fitting you for menial clerical work, and therefore to be despised in favour of "real" academic subjects. I left school just as public access to the internet was starting to take off and at the beginning of the dot-com bubble. So it quickly became apparent that my school had been disastrously wrong about the worth of understanding how computers work.

I've tried several times to teach myself to program. I can follow examples in beginners' manuals, and I can do their exercises. But I never get off the ground because I just can't figure out how to make Windows treat my programs as programs. So I end up with text files with some code, which I can correct if the exercise I'm following provides answers, but can't actually execute and debug.

Perpahs I'm just unusually stupid about this, because none of the beginners' guides (or my geeky friends) seem to think there's any need to explain how to get from a block of code to a program. I can easily find explanations for how to write increasingly sophisticated blocks of code. But there's no fun in that! I think I can at least partly blame Windows for making it opaque how to do this. Certainly if I were a kid now, I probably wouldn't be aware that programming was even possible, any more than I'd attempt to do particle physics in my bedroom.

#476 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 02:37 AM:

Individ-ewe-al: I recommend starting with a scripting language. Once installed, you just type language filename on the command line, and it executes filename. You can worry about compilers and graphic user interfaces later.

Ruby would be my choice--it's easy to learn, yet extremely powerful, and becoming popular in professional applications. In addition to the straightforward tutorial on the previous site, there's a rather quirky one that's worth a look.

#477 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 06:03 AM:

Individ-ewe-al: I'll try to provide some basics. If I understand you correctly, you lack knowledge of the tools programmers use.
Like Tim Walters says, they come in two classes: compilers and interpreters.

Compilers are tools that make machine-code programs (binaries) from your text files. Binaries are what the operating system and various applications such as Office or games consist of. Compilers are used with languages such as C, C++, Pascal/Delphi and Java. You can get one free by downloading Cygwin or buying a commercial one like MS Visual Studio. If you have a Unix, the tools generally just come with the system, but I shall not try to make you a Unix geek. That way lies madness...

Onwards. Interpreters are tools that run your text files as-is, without any program-making stage. This makes revising programs fast. Languages for interpreters are also known as 'scripting' languages. Examples include Ruby (mentioned above), Python, Perl, Lisp, Bourne shell, and Basic (although Basic may also be compiled, I think.) Windows comes with three scripting languages: Jscript, VBscript and cmd. cmd is the simplest (and similar to shell), all you do is save with a .cmd extension and the cmd interpreter is run when the file is "run". I cannot tell you how to invoke the others, ask Google or Wikipedia.

A typical command line for gcc (the compiler in Cygwin; pretty much ubiquitous in the Unix world) would look like this:

$ gcc foo.c -o foo

where 'foo' is the name of your program. If the '-o foo' had been omitted, the outputted program binary would have been named 'a.out', which is a Unix quirk.

This produces a runnable file, usually with the extension .exe (although Windows NT can do without), that can be double-clicked in the usual fashion. I hope this helps, and I'll try to provide more information if needed (but probably not before next Monday).

#478 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 07:08 AM:
ThunderLizard: Why does everyone here have a thing about dinosaurs and sodomy?

It's just one of those things. Don't ask. Please, don't ask.

#479 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 07:17 AM:

Individ-ewe-al wrote: Certainly if I were a kid now, I probably wouldn't be aware that programming was even possible, any more than I'd attempt to do particle physics in my bedroom.

What, no cyclotron allowed in the bedroom?

#480 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 09:06 AM:

Clifton Royston, J. Thomas, et al.
Thanks for fielding my questions regarding the whole menu-driven linux boot image customizability thingy.

Embedded developers would swoon with delight for such a thing. I'm sure lots of shops have reinvented the wheel on this, but nobody's gone public with it AFAIK.
You don't suppose one of those freelancing will-code-for-food sites might be a solution? I may very well be interested in shell/ing out c/bash for that.

-r.

#481 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 09:24 AM:

Individ-ewe-al: I know that your problem is with the mechanics of programming rather than the concepts. However, I'm still going to toe the party line and suggest that you read Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs. (It's in print, as well as available on the web along with homework assignments from the MIT course and lectures on video.) Along with that, you'd need a good implementation of Scheme. DrScheme is a complete environment, relatively easy to use and comes with instructions on how to execute and debug. It also also has its own textbook, How To Design Programs, available at its website.

Now I should warn you that SICP can move pretty quickly. Also, Scheme is not the most useful language you can learn in that employers aren't necessarily looking for it. My favorite language is O'Caml which perhaps means you shouldn't listen to a word I say. But SICP will teach you a lot about programming, as opposed to one specific language. From there, you can pick up any language fairly easily. (Ultimately, it's all just syntax. Certain things are easier to spell in some languages than others which will bias you into working in certain ways. But it's still just syntax.)

Again, I should point out that this is a very academic approach and not directly geared towards making working programmers. It's always the approach I recommend though.

#482 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 09:32 AM:

Individ-ewe-al,
I'll second Stephan Brun's advice, and point to a subset of his advice:
Try python. ( free download )
It does do scripting as described above, and comes with an interactive command line thingy. Plus it's named after Monty Python, so what could beat that?

Without trying to involk language wars here, IJ like python because things that aren't strictly programming, like memory management, are automatically handled, you don't have to spend a lot of time making lists of variables you will use later, and oh, there's virtually no annoying brackets. You can have an idea, figure out how to jam together a for/next loop and some functions, and hit run within a minute or two. In other words, it can be a lot of fun.

For the process geeks, performance tweakers and optimizers, please note that you can find the computationally expensive bits, and replace them with calls to super optimized C code if you like that sort of thing.

The main cons against using python is that it is an interpreted language, so it isn't very good at coding math heavy stuff like, say, graphics rendering engines (of course you can pass data to existing ones), and isn't appropriate for things that have to run in real time like heart-lung machines. The other con is that it's not quite as popular as perl, which is really really similar*, and is commonly used in website backends.

-r.
*I know someone's going to shoot me for that one.

#483 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 10:46 AM:

A caveat: I know a number of people who were self-taught programmers; I'm one myself. But with the exception of myself (professional C/C++ systems programming in UNIX, thank you very much) everyone else I know got about to the short perl script stage and stuck there -- they have the skills necessary, at best, to be a sysadmin and not a developer. Unless you have a lot of natural talent, taking some form of structured instruction would seem to be a better way to learn programming for anything more than peripheral uses. On the other hand, I know plenty of people in professional technical jobs (e.g. software testing and quality assurance) who can't program.

#484 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 10:51 AM:

I have a small Fortran that I have yet to install - and may never install, depending on other computer stuff. I have a version of Basic that can be interpreted or compiled (fast either way), and I can tell from some of the instructions that it's written in C (malloc isn't what I'd call a usual Basic command). I have, for the really geeky, TECO-C, which is a text-processing language with a subset that's an interesting editor (runs on nearly anything). Mostly I don't write programs any more.

#485 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 11:19 AM:

I prefer perl, probably because after trying to teach myself C programming for quite some time, I did a couple months of perl and that was the language where I finally "got" objected oriented programming. It is also an immensely "useful" language for people who already work on computers and need to process text files, kick off various processes and get results, and stuff like that. Back in the day, perl used to be called the glue that held the internet together.

Perl has been losing market share to other languages, but I think if perl 6 ever comes out, it might recapture some of that market.

Anyway, you can run perl on Windows by downloading a version of perl from Activestate, which will include everythign you need to run perl on you PC. And I wrote a 140 page perl manual which is available online for free here. In 140 pages I go from basic variables to Object Oriented perl, regular expressions, and other advanced topics.

Perl has a GUI library, so you can write scripts that have a command line interface or build somethign with a GUI interface. And when I'm debugging a script, I usually create a DOS batch file that looks something like this:

perl scriptname.pl
pause

Which allows me to double click on the .bat file, execute the perl script, and if there are syntax errors, the "pause" command will keep the DOS window up until I can read the errors and fix them.

#486 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 01:08 PM:

I did a couple months of perl and that was the language where I finally "got" objected oriented programming.

Wow. That's like English being the language where you finally "got" spelling.

#487 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 01:16 PM:

I went through about 3 or 4 C++ books trying to "get" object oriented programming and couldn't understand the language well enough to understand the concept. Granted, one book was C++ for Windows, so you had to type in pages of code to get a "hello world" gui window to pop up. Perl was an easy enough language for me to understand that I could focus on learning the concept of OOP. And that's where I finally "got" it.

#488 ::: Sara K. ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 01:22 PM:

I'm not sure if anyone's still checking this thread, but I've got a little mystery for the assembled knowledgable folks:

Over at AskMetafilter, someone posted a mystery antique (kitchen?) tool. Nobody there could figure out what it was, and I thought one of y'all might know.

There are two pictures of it: open and closed. The information we have so far is: it's about 6" long, and the claw is 5" diameter when open; it's made of brass; was found in a box of Victorian/Edwardian kitchen and household tools; the claws have ends sharp enough to pierce a sheet of paper. There's a lot of speculation in the Metafilter thread, so if you want to guess without being corrupted by the existing guesses, just look at the pictures.

#489 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 01:26 PM:

In my previous analogy, C++ would be Middle English. So, yes, Perl is easier than that.

But Ruby would be Esperanto.

#490 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 01:59 PM:

""Bother," said Apatosaurus."

Yeah, yeah. My first drafts are always full of interesting typos the spelling check never finds— mostly because I'm surfing too quickly to proofread my comments adequately. That word should have been "both," of course.

At least, I gave Mr. Ford some material for japing me. That's a point in my column.

#491 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 02:22 PM:

"But Ruby would be Esperanto."

As spoken by William Shatner in an obscure thriller?

#492 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 02:27 PM:

JC #481: "Again, I should point out that this is a very academic approach and not directly geared towards making working programmers. It's always the approach I recommend though."

I read that Salon article, and I think I have to agree with JC and stand against the position taken by Mr. Brin. Teaching the next generation of computer programmers will require a more rigorous and academic approach than what worked for my generation. I grew up learning how computers worked with a copy of My Computer Likes Me When I Speak BASIC, but there are so many horrible things wrong with BASIC that I certainly won't be teaching it to my son when he's old enough to learn the family trade.

I'll probably teach him OCaml or Haskell. Maybe Scheme, but I have ideological issues with Lisp derivatives. That will all have to wait until he's already fished in by something a bit less daunting and more fun. Personally, I think Perl is the BASIC of the 21st century, so that's where I'm planning to go with it. (The only question: Perl5 or Perl6?)

One of the projects my wife is insisting I have to complete before Leopold is five years old is a manuscript for My Computer Likes Me When I Speak Perl. Then, I'll have to follow it up with a book full of little terminal I/O game programs, i.e. between 20 and 2000 lines, like the ones in BASIC from the book that got me started thiry-plus years ago.

I'll probably have a hard time getting it published. I do know an editor at O'Reilly, so I guess I have a leg up, but meh. Where am I going to get the time?

#493 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 02:38 PM:

So Ruby is a completely misguided effort, based on noble (but too narrow) principles, and ultimately an utter and dismal failure?

Oh, you just mean the SPELLING is easy. I get it.

#494 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 02:42 PM:

C++ would be Middle English.

What computer language would be equivalent to what Dubya 'speaks'?

#495 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 02:52 PM:

Serge @ 494
Um, Intercal?

#496 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 02:54 PM:

"What computer language would be equivalent to what Dubya 'speaks'?"

Isn't it obvious? [Link is SFW if MakingLight is SFW.]

#497 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 03:02 PM:

I'd love to see an update from Jo Walton on the later responses to her own questions about a proper programming environment for a bright young man (emphasis on gaming) - in any event much of the current discussion sounds much the same as the response there (from the same people?) - I wonder how things worked out and what decisions were made?

I am reminded of something I saw in the UW downtown bookstore in Seattle and didn't buy - a statement that this given text doesn't teach programming, indeed some examples won't compile, this text teaches MS development tools. Too much money for that statement but worth framing.

#498 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 03:08 PM:

(The only question: Perl5 or Perl6?)

Oh, 6, most definitely. I've seen some of the features it's supposed to have and it looks, really, really nice. Plus, perl 5 objects are sort of bolted on to perl 5. In perl 6, it's going to be designed from teh beginning to be part of the language, not an afterthought.

From a training point of view, that'll be nice.

Depending on how old your son is, Perl 6 might actually be available by the time he's ready to learn.

Also, the engine that perl 6 will run on top of, is supposed to be fairly kick ass, so I've heard plans for putting parsers for all the scripting languages in the front end, so basically, you can run anything on the perl 6 engine.

Of course, there's a lot of vaporware, and we've been promised it'll be ready in time for christmas, but never told which christmas, so take all this with a grain of salt.

But I've got my fingers crossed, and Santa knows its on my wish list.

#499 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 03:12 PM:

My daughter's high-school taught programming via Macromedia Flash.

That sounds odd, and as a programmer I Did Not Approve, but it gives some of the key advantages of BASIC programming back in the day of Apple IIs and Commodores: immediate ability to manipulate graphics and sound, thus immediate "I can do something cool!" feedback. Many fun games have in fact been written in Flash.

As object-oriented languages go, I think ANSI C is a better language for object-oriented programming than C++. Yes, in spite of its complete lack of object-oriented constructs.

Borland Pascal (which later became Delphi) was a really great object-oriented language - that's where I really got the value of the approach. I assume it still is but I haven't touched it in 12 years or so.

#500 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 03:19 PM:

Xopher @ 493: Actually that sounds like a very good summary of Ruby, from what I've seen.

Ruby has got one "killer app" - Ruby on Rails, a kind of meta-framework for developing web-based applications - which some interesting things have been built with, and which gets a lot of people interested but has its own limitations and problems from what I hear.

Other than that it's pretty much as you say. I have a feeling it will never achieve the "critical mass" it needs.

Python just keeps gaining converts, though.

#501 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 03:28 PM:

Especially with that new Broadway show they have.

Oh, wait... :-)

#502 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 03:39 PM:

LisaJulie #542: While you can certainly waltz to it, Remember, O Thou Man is a better galliard.
Re-mem-ber O thou man
1 2 3 4 &5

Susan #463: What's your K'zoo proposal on? I just fired one off too. It's been much too long -- about 30 years -- since I've presented there, and it's about time.

#503 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 03:46 PM:

Pascal? *shudder*
Wasn't that the language that wanted reeely reely strict syntax, and wouldn't run your stuff at all if you made the tiniest mistake? Maybe Borland's version didn't do that.

I agree with Flash as a choice for a programming environment - the concepts in programming are abstract enough (for/next, if/else, function(x), etc) there's no need to make it worse for people by gumming it up with manipulating abstract, invisible thingies. Moving things around on a screen, or causing an event you can see/hear to happen is more exciting, and is waaaaaaaaaaay more informative about what is occurring. This is the whole reason why GUIs were invented - humans are used to manipulating real objects, and will settle for simulated ones, but there's only so much abstraction we can deal with simultaneously.

The other benefit to Flash is that the GUI the end user gets is part of the program - no having to hook into the API to make pretty things happen. So if you make something useful, pretty much anyone, anywhere can run it. Even on linux.

The con is that it is expensive. (Educational version is cheap tho - check with your local university to see if you qualify.) That and it basically uses ECMA script (a superset of javascript, sort of) which isn't exactly a programming language according to some.

I'm with Greg London on Perl. Its a nice, transparent language that lets you deal with what I think of as real programming: designing a bit of logic that will manipulate data. Spending time on pointers, declarations, indentation styles, all that inside baseball is stupid, and the reason why I am very sceptical about the utility of the more arcane languages. (No offense meant to the other posters.) People who are starting to learn programming shouldn't have to mess with that stuff - its like worrying about your spelling while trying to tell a story, it gets in the way.

Really understanding basic concepts (like loops, objects, classes, types, failure conditions) and common problems (e.g. greedy knapsack problem) is what leads to really good code. Code that works, code that can be debugged. Code that solves problems. Code that is fun to write.

-r.

#504 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 03:56 PM:

Hmmm... I worry about suggesting SICP as a genuine introductory text. It's used that way in what is nominally an introductory course at MIT, course 6.001, but most of the students in that course do have some prior programming experience. There is actually a "pre-introductory course" offered between terms to students who need a real introduction to programming, as these folks (MIT students, no less!) would otherwise more likely sink than swim if tossed directly into 6.001.

Getting back to Brin's gripes about BASIC --- he's just wrong. As Rafe Colburn points out, there's nothing you could do with ye olde Basic interpreter that you can't do with a scripting language in its interactive mode (irb, for ruby, etc.). Doing this won't let you know what's going on in the libraries that people often use with those languages to, say, retrieve and generate web pages, store stuff in relational databases, etc. --- but then again, you won't learn much of that from SICP either. (The course for which it's the text was designed more than 20 years ago, when both relational databases and networking were considered new and abstruse technology with a somewhat uncertain future).

Among the languages discussed here, I do have a bit of fondness for Ruby --- it has most of the nice features of Perl 5 without Perl's syntactic... quirks, and features a particularly nice take on Object Orientation, if you like that sort of thing.

As for Perl 6 ---

Colleague: Hey, look what I got! [Shows book entitled "Perl 6 Today"]

Me: Neat! So, where is the time machine?

I do have a mean streak...

#505 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 04:04 PM:

Wasn't that the language that wanted reeely reely strict syntax, and wouldn't run your stuff at all if you made the tiniest mistake?

I never used Pascal.

Maybe you're thinking of Ada or VHDL?
Wow, those are some strict languages.

Or TCL, the only language I know of other than FORTRAN that is whitespace dependent. I still recall my first attempt at a "hello world" TCL program that took an hour to debug. Turned out I had a "space" where one was illegal, and the error message was zero help. I chucked the TCL book that day. Oooohh, it still burns my muffins thinking about it years later...

#506 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 04:25 PM:

#504, Charles Dodgson:Hmmm... I worry about suggesting SICP as a genuine introductory text.

This is why I warned that it can move rather quickly. By the time we get to section 1.3, we're already talking about higher-order procedures. However, it might work for someone with a nice grounding in math and nothing to unlearn, if there is someone to help her or him along. (Maybe How to Design Programs would be a better bet. I have a soft spot for DrScheme. No, I didn't work on it.)

SICP certainly isn't as sexy as Flash or, frankly, anything which may actually use libraries. It's ultimately about programming in the abstract, not learning a specific language. I think it sets up a nice foundation for someone to learn a bunch of different languages.

#505, Greg London:Or TCL, the only language I know of other than FORTRAN that is whitespace dependent.

Both Haskell and Python use the offsides rule. Indention is significant to meaning.

#507 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 04:40 PM:

Wasn't that the language that wanted reeely reely strict syntax, and wouldn't run your stuff at all if you made the tiniest mistake?

Well, you could get some really horrific cascading error messages if you typoed a name in it. (I remember getting 43 from one typo once. Easy to fix, though.) I was using Oregon Software's version 1 or 2 though, and it may have been somewhat more forgiving. Ran on DEC computers.

#508 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 04:42 PM:

Tracie #502
What's your K'zoo proposal on? I just fired one off too. It's been much too long -- about 30 years -- since I've presented there, and it's about time.

Researching and reconstructing the social context of 16th-century Italian court dance. Yes, I know that the 16thc is not particularly "medieval", but Kalamazoo seems to be pretty flexible. I've never been, so I'm rather excited at the prospect.

What's yours?

#509 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 05:00 PM:

#500, Clifton Royston:

I have a feeling [Ruby] will never achieve the "critical mass" it needs. Python just keeps gaining converts, though.

Ruby Book Sales Surpass Python

For what it's worth, I use Ruby at work all the time, and have never touched Rails.

Haskell is really fun. I need to find an excuse to use it on a project.

#510 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 05:26 PM:

I once compared Pascal to a bicycle with one training wheel: won't keep you from falling down, won't let you make fast turns.

C is a unicycle with NO training wheels.

#511 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 05:35 PM:

Intercal, PJ, as the Dubya language? Let's see: Expressions that look like line noise. Control constructs that will make you gasp, make you laugh, and possibly make you hurl. Data structures? We don't need no steenking data structures!

Yes, that fits. Especially the part about making you hurl.

#512 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 05:49 PM:

This is aprt of the description of Intercal in Wiki (from the Hacker's Dictionary originally):

It is a well-known and oft-demonstrated fact that a person whose work is incomprehensible is held in high esteem. For example, if one were to state that the simplest way to store a value of 65536 in a 32-bit INTERCAL variable is:
DO :1 <- #0¢#256
Any sensible programmer would say that that was absurd. Since this is indeed the simplest method, the programmer would be made to look foolish in front of his boss, who would of course have happened to turn up, as bosses are wont to do. The effect would be no less devastating for the programmer having been correct.


#513 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 06:10 PM:

Pascal to a bicycle with one training wheel: ... C is a unicycle with NO training wheels.

back when I worked on milaerospace stuff, we always used Ada, which was a major pain in the ass, but probably good to have something strictly enforce syntax and types and whatnot when people would die if you divide by zero, do a bad cast, or something.

Anyway, a guy I worked with always described Ada as a ship with a big gunbarrel mounted in the hull. you had to turn the whole ship to aim, which made it a bit sluggish, it wouldn't let you do certain things, etc. C, on the other hand, was a small boat with a big gun mounted on a freely swinging turret. You could shoot in one direction while traveling in another. Problem was, you could also put a hole straight through the deck, through the hull, and sink yourself.

Don't know why, but that metaphor always made me smile...

#514 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 06:19 PM:

I understand ADA is named afetr a woman who did some programming for Babbage. True?

#515 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 06:31 PM:

Ada, Countess of Lovelace, daughter of Byron the poet. Best remembered by some of us as the mother of Lady Anne Blunt.

#516 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 06:37 PM:

Lord Byron's daughter nonetheless.
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace wrote the world's first program, and realized that the Analytical Engine could manipulate symbols as well as do math.

#517 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 06:53 PM:

#442 ::: rhandir yearns:
What I was hoping for, however, was a menu-driven or wizard-driven GUI interface that would let me assemble a bootable image that I could install later.** I've used Ubuntu's synaptic thingy, and it does a wonderful job of being accessible (provided you don't need to install nightlies of anything, like vlc). However, you can't really use that interface to assemble an image instead of patch your system, you aren't told what memory/disk requirements you've signed up for*, and as far as I know, you can't pick out groups of drivers to package.

Have you looked at the LinuxCOE project? It's pretty much what you're asking for in a nutshell - menu driven, simple way to configure and select packages - lets you create a bootable CD that you can subsequently install off of ...

There's also an excellent site based on Linuxcoe called Instalinux which is well worth a look.

If you find either of them useful, please tell the maintainers - they don't get nearly the amount of positive feedback that they deserve for the amount of effort that's gone into this.

#518 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 06:56 PM:

#492 ::: j h woodyatt opined:
I read that Salon article, and I think I have to agree with JC and stand against the position taken by Mr. Brin. Teaching the next generation of computer programmers will require a more rigorous and academic approach than what worked for my generation. I grew up learning how computers worked with a copy of My Computer Likes Me When I Speak BASIC, but there are so many horrible things wrong with BASIC that I certainly won't be teaching it to my son when he's old enough to learn the family trade.

I completely disagree. We've got a raft of "programmers" with a rigorous academic background - and most of them aren't worth the paper it cost to print their degree.

Although you may not like lisp/scheme derivatives, LOGO does remain a fun way to get kids into computer programming early on.

#519 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 06:58 PM:

Greg London #505: I never used Pascal.

I wouldn't take a wager on that.

#520 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 07:07 PM:

Logo is a fun toy. I'm not sure it will hold the interest of kids long enough to make lifelong coders out of them the way those classic BASIC games did.

#521 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 07:18 PM:

"I completely disagree. We've got a raft of "programmers" with a rigorous academic background - and most of them aren't worth the paper it cost to print their degree."

Then fire them all, replace them with hobbyists you find on MySpace.Com, and save big phat stax of mad bank in salary. I predict you will still have a raft of "programmers" who aren't worth the cost to print their résumés. Building successful teams of coders numbering into the hundreds is not easy, but deliberately avoiding the college recruitment angle is just dumb.

Part of the problem you're probably noticing, I sincerely believe, is that most university programs for teaching software development are run out of the math and computer science departments instead of the engineering departments. A rigorous and academic programming for training professional software engineers would make a lot of difference.

Better engineering managers would be good too, but I digress. (Though, it is an open thread.)

#522 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 08:05 PM:

"but I digress. (Though, it is an open thread.)"

There's an example of the Uncertainty Principle or something. Can a digression occur within an unframed progression of thought?

#523 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 10:23 PM:

#521 ::: j h woodyatt returned:
Then fire them all, replace them with hobbyists you find on MySpace.Com, and save big phat stax of mad bank in salary. I predict you will still have a raft of "programmers" who aren't worth the cost to print their résumés. Building successful teams of coders numbering into the hundreds is not easy, but deliberately avoiding the college recruitment angle is just dumb.

Heh. I'm not advocating that either :) I'm suggesting, as you are, that the current methods of growing or teaching programmers are dreadful.

Part of the problem you're probably noticing, I sincerely believe, is that most university programs for teaching software development are run out of the math and computer science departments instead of the engineering departments. A rigorous and academic programming for training professional software engineers would make a lot of difference.

I'm suddenly wondering if we're actually talking about the same thing. It sounds to me as though you're focusing more on process engineering than coding methodology. Which object are we orienting towards today? :)

#524 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: September 15, 2006, 11:45 PM:

Aaaahhh! Pascal! The bane of my nascent programming career. What was the evil parameter? The semi? I gave up. I had smart profs, but they weren't very good teachers. I bailed into math, where the other Pascal actually made sense to me.

On the upside, I learned the meaning of infinite loops. That became the shorthand description for dealing with way too many of my bosses.

#525 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 12:08 AM:

"classic BASIC games"

WHOOO! Thanks for the link! That teletype terminal brings back memories. I used one for my first simple BASIC programs in Junior High.

I was also a big Creative Computing reader. (In a weird turn, David Ahl is now a conservative religious collector of military vehicles. Go figure.)

* * *

I'm with Brin on the BASIC issue.

It isn't about providing a rigorous programming language, or cultivating budding open source developers.

It's about accessibility and commonality. It was great being able to assume that your friends / readers / students had more-or-less the same language available on their computers. There was a whole raft of magazines full of code you could enter to create a game or novelty.

That's how I learned! I also tore apart Avalon Hill computer games that were written in BASIC, and elaborated upon them greatly. I eventually moved up to compiled and structured BASICS and (after a short career in technical writing) picked up C and so-on.

Another great thing about the early home computers: You could hack them! Use PEEK() and POKE() to directly muck about with the processor and graphics hardware. You could, with the help of books like De Re Atari, learn your computer inside and out.

Computers these days put layer after layer or indirection between you and the computer's hardware. You aren't programming the computer, you're telling an interface what to do.

I think Brin's son had the right idea. Get an old machine -- not an emulator, fooey! -- and hack around with that!

#526 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 02:26 AM:

Teaching the next generation of computer programmers will require a more rigorous

Not if you believe the brochures put out by software companies that sell software. They keep talking about various products they sell which add another layer of abstraction between the coder and the implementation so the coder can focus on functionality.

If they ever get that figured out, like for real, then I think programming will actually be a whole hell of a lot easier than it is now. Or, more likely, the idea of specializing in programming will fade away, and the idea of programming becoming a skill learned by other professions will become more common.

You won't see physicists writing specs for a software guy to code up some program, the physicist guy will have some software that is an abstraction between him and the machine language, and he'll be able to do it himself, rather than have someone who specializes in programming do it.

THat's what the brochures are pointing towards, anyway. It still ain't there.

#527 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 02:50 AM:

Different people learn different ways. One way to split it is primarily visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. I'm thinking that primary-auditory people don't learn programming.

Some people do best by learning how to do things and then gradually figuring out more detail about how to do more. Analytic thinking.

Some people do best by understanding the basics of what's going on and building up from there. Synthetic thinking.

I'm convinced that synthetic thinkers do best by learning Forth first. You get a simple language with simple rules, run on a simple virtual machine. It's no big deal to get a Forth compiler whose source code is 1000 lines or so of code, that compiles into 8K or so of machine code. Start with the basics and build your way up, in a few months you can understand the whole thing. There's something powerful about understanding every detail of your compiler. Then you can deal with the "primitives", the parts written in assembly or C or whatever. It's no big deal to get an assembler written with 200 lines or so of source code, and the examples in the compiler will give a fair idea how to use it. It makes sense to write only small time-critical routines in assembly or C anyway.

Learning a good simple virtual machine lets you concentrate on the interesting programming problems without having to deal with boring complex details. But you can dip into those details whenever you want. Forth is not a good language for professional programmers for several reasons -- one being there aren't enough professional Forth programmers to make production Forth code very maintainable. But it's a great way to figure out what's going on if you have the sort of mind that cares about understanding it.

Forth is an excellent language for learning object-oriented programming etc. When you write well, everything goes smooth. When you make a conceptual error it all falls apart and you get bogged down in endless complexity. After a little while you learn to see the danger signals and back off; figure out what you're doing wrong and repeat the work simpler. That instinct is vital. The sooner you see the wrong turn that traps you in unneeded complexity, the better. I've found that some whole languages scream at me, "Don't use me! I make things complicated and difficult!". Objects tend to go that way. Object-oriented approaches are great. Object-oriented tools tend to be overcomplex and counterproductive. Languages that attempt to enforce objects are utterly worthless.

For synthetic minds TCL is far better than Perl. The rules are simple and clear. Not many exceptions. Perl is a better language for computer professionals because except for a few brilliant amateurs only professionals can hope to use it. But for people who just want to get something working, or people who want to take somebody else's code and modify it for new purposes without understanding it, TCL is not very good. Minor changes in punctuation can have a big effect, and unless you understand the dozen rules you won't know what to expect.

C is a portable assembler. Not good for learning programming.

C++ is a portable assembler with OO enforcement bolted on. Not particularly good for anything.

Java is a good language for projects that have 100+ programmers. Unless you are a professional you should stay away from projects that have 100+ programmers.

Python and Ruby both have good reputations. Also Lua. I don't know how good they'd be for beginners, I ought to learn more about them.

The strengths of old Basic were that it was simple, and highly interactive, and with PEEK and POKE it gave you a limited access to everything. Forth is better for all those things. Maybe best to start with programming a little microcontroller. A bunch of inputs and outputs, A>D, D>A, this and that. Write code and connect up hardware to do things.

Like, a timer that will make a connection after a set time, or a quarter second after a pressure sensor senses a particular threshold, or when any of a number of prominent wires are cut -- and you have an IED controller!

Connect it to a keypad and a solenoid and you can have an electronic lock. Think about how to make it failsafe. If the power goes off should it open, or stay locked, or is there an adequate third choice?

Etc.

But different kinds of thinkers require different development environments. What's best for one is not good for another.

#528 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 08:32 AM:

I don't think Perl is any more or less accessible to beginners than Ruby. Possibly Perl is a little more quickly accessible in that Ruby is so relentlessly object-oriented, and possibly that makes Ruby a better beginning language. Hard to say.

#529 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 08:49 AM:

Adamsj, it's possible one could learn a usable subset of perl quickly. To learn enough to read 5% of the scripts that are circulating you have to learn a whole lot of abstruse perl syntax that includes in its essence a lot of abstruse concepts.
This looks like a small thing to people who have those things already internalised, but it's a giant step for newbies.

I can't say personally whether Ruby is better but it has a good reputation.

#530 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 12:56 PM:

Serge:

What computer language would be equivalent to what Dubya 'speaks'?

Take your pick.

(Yes, I know it's a joke. Doesn't mean it doesn't fit...)

#531 ::: Individ-ewe-al ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 03:24 PM:

Thank you to everyone who has attempted to give me advice about programming. This an exquisitely frustrating demonstration of my total inability to ask the right question! It's bad enough that I don't have the knowledge to ask Google the right question, but I'm so ignorant of my ignorance that I can't even ask the right question to a community of intelligent humans who are collectively knowledgeable about just about any topic out there.

But since people are so generously willing to give me advice, let me try one more recasting: Imagine I'm Rip van Winkle and I've been asleep for 20 years. I am sitting in front of a Windows machine, I see a blank desktop with the Start button in the bottom left corner. (Assume I've figured out how to use a GUI + mouse and the internet.) How do I get from here, to the point where I can attempt the first exercise in a beginners' guide to programming?

I think it goes something like this:
- download ??? and install it (not sure what the thing is that I'm supposed to download; a language - how does that work? a compiler? a program? a patch to Windows?)
- type the text of my Hello World program in a text editor (I can do this bit!)
- save the text file with the appropriate extension
- ??? somehow tell Windows, or the thing I just downloaded, or something, that I want to execute the code in my text file
- ??? somehow view the output of my code, either error messages or a result

I've never been able to make those steps work! And I suspect that even if someone can point out the missing links, I would still be stuck on things like how to make my program accept inputs rather than just being static, or how to deal with anything other than manipulating numbers and text.

I will not be offended by advice consisting of "if you can't figure this out, you are just too stupid to ever hope to learn programming", or "trash your vile OS immediately and install Linux".

#532 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 04:50 PM:

Individ-ewe-al

I'm going to give you advice that runs counter to that of all the programmers here, for a number of reasons; I'm not a programmer. I do have to teach a lot of people how to work with programmers and I am very proficient at a couple of scripting languages, most of which are useful for humanists like me who need to get text to do something, or behave a sort way.

My advice is to get a text editor; the one one that comes with Windows is Just Fine.

Now, go to Amazon or your local bookstore, and get a copy of Tom Negrino and Dori Smith's latest book on Javascript.

Many programmers will sneer at the mention of Javascript, but ignore them. You can do stuff right away, and it's pretty easy to write little scripts that are useful. You learn a lot of basic programming principles, even if it's a mere browser scripting langauge.

Plus, it's fun.

Then, if you're still interested, go get a copy of Perl for Dummies. It comes with a CD. It's a very very basic introduction to Perl.

If you're still interested after that, go get the O'Reilly Learning Perl book, and look at a lot of the Perl scripts on the 'net, and maybe do a couple of tutorials.

After that, figure out what you want to do, and ask around for the best language to learn to do that.

#533 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: September 16, 2006, 06:25 PM:

- download ??? and install it

Ruby for Windows One-Click Installer

- type the text of my Hello World program in a text editor (I can do this bit!)

print "Hello, World!"

- save the text file with the appropriate extension

HelloWorld.rb (save to the Desktop)

- ??? somehow tell Windows, or the thing I just downloaded, or something, that I want to execute the code in my text file

--Start->All Programs->Accessories->Command Prompt (you'll get an old-fashioned terminal window)
--At the prompt, type "cd Desktop"
--At the prompt, type "ruby.exe HelloWorld.rb"

- ??? somehow view the output of my code, either error messages or a result

Your output will be printed in the command prompt window.

Perl or Python will be very similar.

#534 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 08:30 AM:

#527: You left out poets.

I learned programming in Fortran and Pascal, so perhaps I'm prejudiced, but I can't imagine I would ever have learned at all if my first language had been Forth. C is much more straighforward, and maps very neatly to an understanding of what the computer is actually doing. There are no obscure events in C; everything it's doing is right there in front of you.

When I first started writing programs in C, I commented that while programming in Fortran was like filling out a government form, programming in C was more like writing a poem. I really got the same feeling finishing a good C program as finishing a good poem. But then I did things like using For loops to walk b-trees, so maybe I'm just a Bad Person.

#535 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 09:39 AM:

#527:J ThomasI'm convinced that synthetic thinkers do best by learning Forth first.
Wow, and I thought I was going out on a limb by suggesting Scheme. I actually think this is a terrific choice if you have nothing to unlearn and if there is an updated edition of STARTING FORTH which works with ANS Forth. (I just did a quick web search and as it turns out there is a version on the web with ANS-ified Forth code.)

Forth, like all versions of Lisp, works in the notion that you should modify the programming language into a language for which writing the target program is easy. For languages where program text transforms are essentially error-free, this is excellent advice. But it's not something that you get exposed to without knowing a diversity of languages. (Having a diversity of language is one of the reasons why I suggest the academic approach. After that, it really is all just syntax.)

However, if nothing else, Forth will train you to factor into reasonable units.

#531: Individ-ewe-al:How do I get from here, to the point where I can attempt the first exercise in a beginners' guide to programming?

This is actually why I suggested DrScheme if you wanted to go the academic route. It's an all-in-one programming environment. You start it up as if it were a word processor and do everything inside it. It's designed to teach programming. It comes with lots of documentation, not to mention a textbook.

However, this is, IMHO, how you start if you want eventually to be able to write large applications composed of pieces of reusable code. It may be a bit of overkill otherwise. (I should also point out that I think Javascript has kind of an undeserved bad rap.)

#536 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 10:51 AM:

And if programming in C is more like writing a poem, Xopher, COBOL is like...?

#537 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 12:57 PM:

COBOL is like writing the phone book.

#538 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 01:26 PM:

I think Lisa's advice sounds pretty good. I started casually studying Javascript this summer, and I was surprised to find it was a Real Programming Language. If she's got a recommendation for learning server-side Javascript, I'm all ears.

#539 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 01:39 PM:

COBOL is like filling out forms for a different government than the one you grew up with.

#540 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 01:41 PM:

Indi, you have to look at your goals. Do you want an understanding about the basics of computers, first? Or do you want to go out and do impressive things from the start? Do you have specific programming goals, like designing websites or designing animated movies or radio-controlled model planes etc.

If you want to understand how computers work, Forth is the best I've seen. Learning Forth won't tell you about your video drivers unless you head that direction into advanced topics, but it will give you the underlying facts and habits of thought that it's all built on. You can start with

http://www.schneider-busch.de/dirk/forth/download/w32f61005.exe

Download the executable to your desktop. Click on it and it will install a couple of things. Discard the installer. (I'd put it in the trash where I could drag it out again if I want it before I empty the trash. Or you could save it instead of downloading it again if you need it again.) You'll get an interpreter/compiler and a text editor. You don't have to use the text editor that comes with it, but there are some advantages from using it.

Now, find the best beginner's manual I've ever seen.

http://home.iae.nl/users/mhx/sf.html

Read the beginners' intro. Skip the professionals' intro unless you want to read it. Start the first chapter with the Forth interpreter/compiler also open. When you see examples starting with the spaces and asterisks example, try them out at the keyboard. If you're the kind of person who likes this sort of thing, it will go reasonably smoothly. Some of the homework is very hard. Here's the biggest and most important hint -- if you find yourself bogged down doing something complicated, look for a way to break it up into simple pieces and do them one at a time, and test each of them before you try to use it for something else.

I want to second Lisa's suggestion of javascript. It's a powerful language and nicely interactive, meaning you can quickly try things out and find out whether they work. And you can get impressive results fairly quickly. You can find lots of code online that works, and learn to modify it enough to do something similar that you happen to want.

Javascript is not at all good at exposing what's going on. But if you're comfortable just doing things and getting results without understanding them, it's a good choice. And once you know any one of the main cluster of languages you can learn the others pretty easily.

#541 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 02:40 PM:

A couple of other poossibilities...

Borland Turbo BASIC is a free download from PCmag.com -- this is an old DOS BASIC, and probably won't run on a modern machine, but it's one of the classics. The Borland systems allowed programs to run without having to go through an explicit compile step, which is good for learning.

Turbo Pascal is also worth a look, but still has the problem of being an ancient MS-DOS program.

www.bbcbasic.co.uk is also worth a look. There's a Windows version, there's a free download (with a couple of restrictions), and the full version isn't so very expensive.

In some ways these are all minority solutions, though with a long history. BBC Basic was produced as part of a computer education project, back in the days when that meant programming. Maybe they're worthwhil;e as a secondary tool, something to help avoid being trapped in one way of thinking.

(Why did I think of the BBC Micro -- I'm now looking at Elite webpages.)

#542 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 04:34 PM:

#537: I agree with Jon in #538. Or like writing a 300-word essay to buy a light bulb.

#543 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 04:53 PM:

One of my friends, long ago, said, "Working in COBOL is like trying to reason with a dead whale that's washed up on the beach."

And I'm pretty sure I still have my copies of Turbo Pascal and Turbo C++ around here. (I gave the Borland Sprint manuals to someone who needed them, but I'm sure the disks are still here.) It's not like I ever throw anything out, even the Apple IIc disks. And the Apple IIc. Someday I may just declare the kitchen a Museum of Computing History.

#544 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 06:27 PM:

It's not like I ever throw anything out, even the Apple IIc disks. And the Apple IIc. Someday I may just declare the kitchen a Museum of Computing History.

I still have my Apple II+ and my old vt100 terminal. I also still have a bunch of my old Apple games on (eek) cassette tape. I wonder if those would still work.

#545 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 06:39 PM:

There are several museums of computing history. Some collect the big iron, some the little guys.

I donated a couple of Cambrian Explosion units (anyone remember Spectravideo?) to one, along with a HeadStart Explorer, an XT clone which tended to melt when the optional hard disk drive was installed.

Not without pangs of regret, I've gotten rid of all of my old equipment. The Atari system first (sold it for $20 to an astonished collector), the original PC just a few weeks ago. (As a result of the latter disinvestment, I now have room for a futon and end table in my home office. C'mon out!)

I still have a couple of boxes of old PC games, which I understand are collectable.

#546 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 06:49 PM:

Susan: provided the Apple is in working order, I don't see why not.

And suddenly I'm thinking about pulling the IIc out of the drawer, hooking it up to the TV, and playing Seven Cities of Gold. (It was, and remains, a lovely design by one of the most brilliant designers the field ever had.)

But right now I have work to do. Fly, space monkeys, fly!

#547 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 08:53 PM:

SCoG was a wonderful game.

I played many rounds of it on my Atari 800. (Once, a glitch on the map disk led to a bizarre, ultimately fatal fantasy voyage involving the coast of Chile extending to Antarctica, whose shore was an endless line of Tipis, and then being blown helplessly to an equatorial wall made up of random map objects.)

They did a horrible, worthless port of the game for the PC; it is best played on a C-64 or Atari. (I've never seen the Apple port.)

But: Back when I did trade shows, I saw a demo version of Sid Meir's Colonization at the Microprose booth.

"Dang!" I said to the guy next to me, "It looks like they've resurrected Seven Cities of Gold but did it right this time."

"I'm glad you noticed," said Sid Meir.

#548 ::: Dori ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 09:19 PM:

#532: Lisa, thank you for another book plug! Unsurprisingly, I agree with you about JavaScript being the way to go. I wanted to write something at Salon saying so, but I can't post comments there (it's a long story).

I will quibble about one thing you said: interestingly enough, Real Programmers are finally starting to realize that JavaScript is A Real Programming Language that can do Useful Things (rolling of eyes). About damn time, I say.

#538: adamsj, what do you mean by server-side JavaScript? If you mean that abomination that Netscape tried to add to their Web server ages ago, then no, I don't know of any books that cover that. If you mean client-side JavaScript that can read XML from a server (aka "Ajax"), then yes, our book is, imo, a good introduction for non-programmers.

#549 ::: Dori ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 09:41 PM:

#540: Javascript is not at all good at exposing what's going on. But if you're comfortable just doing things and getting results without understanding them, it's a good choice.

I don't think that it's really about getting results without knowing what's going on. Rather, I think that when you're starting out learning to code, there are so many different concepts that you have to learn that it's best to start with a language that lets you take baby steps -- and that's JavaScript. When you want to run, you can decide to stick with JavaScript or not, and the concepts that you've learned will continue to be useful.

And once you know any one of the main cluster of languages you can learn the others pretty easily.

Yup.

#550 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 10:37 PM:

Then I went to a school where knowing how to use computers was regarded as only fitting you for menial clerical work, and therefore to be despised in favour of "real" academic subjects.

Indi -- my sympathies. Harvard got this a bit right well before public internet access; sometime in the later 70's it required that everyone have some minimal programming skill. Knowing some of the people who went there, I thought this was an especially Good Thing; they'd see something that couldn't be begged, bribed, threatened, flattered, cajoled, or persuaded into working -- they'd have to Do It Right. (Amazingly, this was when Harvard still considered actually practicing the arts (as opposed to academizing about them) declasse.)

Windows is especially frustrating to program on because it was built on the assumption that most of its users needed to be kept far away from the controls. Taking a subsequent question from the top, what you need to do to cut through all its "help" could be the menu picks Start -> Programs -> Accessories -> Command Prompt; this will get you something like a 30-year-old terminal, which makes subsequent steps simpler. (e.g., once you have some code in a file, here is where you'd say "gcc foo.c -o foo".)

wrt program language recommendations: several people have made clear that different languages work for different people. I'm heavily into mechanical things (e.g., I stopped at the Glenfiddich distillery just because it has its own bottling line), so it's not surprising that I get along with C (self-taught 26 years ago; now in my 14th year as a software engineer). Other people may be comfortable starting with more abstracted languages; the problem IMO is understanding how to make them do something you want, because you have to \get/ their paradigms for making things happen.

#551 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 11:17 PM:

Chip at @55o said
Other people may be comfortable starting with more abstracted languages; the problem IMO is understanding how to make them do something you want, because you have to \get/ their paradigms for making things happen.

Part of the fun of computer science classes was having the same instructor for different languages, and getting the same problem assigned in each. (Pascal and Basic is the particular pair of languages I have in mind). The programs turned out quite different. (Basic description: color (using characters) the inside region(s) of a 'map' outlined by asterisks. Diagonals were also lines.)

Turbobasic: You can buy its descendants at www.powerbasic.com in two Windows and one DOS version. Apparently it's the same people who developed Turbo, just a different company.

#552 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2006, 11:56 PM:

I remember basic on the Apple ][e.

I remember may things about it, peek and poke, some interesting graphics modes where some colors only worked in odd columns (not that it mattered on a green screen), and most importantly, I remember that it worked when you didn't have an operating system, or rather, a disk operating system (version 3.3, normally).

See, when you started the machine without a disk in the drive, you could get/were dumped into apple basic. You could type in programs, edit lines, make neat moire patterns with straight lines and for loops. But you couldn't save anything.

It's telling that I remember this one little detail 20 years later.

As for learning, Javascript is good, I'd do python before ruby, mainly because the culture of python seems better in line with education: there's one good, and preferably obvious way do do things. Ruby encourages a more organic style along the lines of perl's "there's more than on way to do it".

#553 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 07:20 AM:

Individ-ewe-al: further advice.
I assumed you knew what language you are using, but since you obviously did not state it, I thought I would give a few examples. If you are uncertain which language you are learning, it should be on or in the book you are reading, somewhere, but I am sure you knew that ;).

About the command line: what CHip said. There are more elaborate and functional command lines (terminal emulators+shells) in the world, but cmd will give you the most basic functions, and the Bourne shell will not even be on the system.

As for getting the tools, there is Cygwin, a comprehensive Unix emulation layer complete with nearly all the tools you will ever need (and correspondingly big, my installation is roughly 2.6 GiB). It will provide you with assorted delicacies such as python, lisp, perl and gcc (c/java/c++, along with Bourne shell (cmd replacement), rxvt(command line window), xterm(another command line window) and the X window system (needed for xterm). Also basic, I think.

If you do not want Unix for Windows (I'm crippled without it) you can download all the tools separately: Mingw is the Gnu Compiler Collection (gcc). Python was mentioned above, and perl can be got here. Scheme is a lisp. I shall continue in a new post so as to keep within the seven-urls limit.

#554 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 07:27 AM:

There is a list of free basic compilers and interpreters here.
The Windows Script Host is apparently how to use Jscript and VBscript. Google it (and all of the above) for more info.

HTH

#555 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 07:55 AM:

Oh, yes, I keep forgetting this: The way to get help in Cygwin is:

1. the manpages (command: 'man foo'; this is how I learnt 'vi' on an ancient SunOS box.)
2. The infopages (command: 'info foo'; the way the FSF likes to do things)
3. Text/html/ps/pdf/dvi files in /usr/share/doc (command: 'less foo.txt', 'lynx foo.html', 'gv foo.ps', 'xpdf foo.pdf' and 'xdvi foo.dvi'. The three last ones require the X window system up and running, command: 'startxwin.bat' or 'startx', I think.
4. If all else fails, the web. Google is your friend.

Mind you, that is pretty generic Unix advice. Maybe I am trying to make you into a Unix geek. Heh. I told you I was mad...

#556 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 08:28 AM:

People like making fun of of COBOL, eh? It's true that, of all the languages I have used for programming, it hasn't been my favorite (that distinction belonging to pl/sql). On the other hand, the programs I wrote in COBOL for our mainframe applications ten years ago have been humming along without ever breaking down, a track record the pro*C applications of our unix server can only envy.

#557 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 09:57 AM:

John #546:
Susan: provided the Apple is in working order, I don't see why not.

I'm more worried that the cassette tapes themselves have disintegrated. I also don't actually have a suitable cassette player to connect to the computer anymore, though I expect that's easily solvable.

#558 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 12:49 PM:

#556 ::: Serge muttered:
People like making fun of of COBOL, eh? It's true that, of all the languages I have used for programming, it hasn't been my favorite (that distinction belonging to pl/sql). On the other hand, the programs I wrote in COBOL for our mainframe applications ten years ago have been humming along without ever breaking down, a track record the pro*C applications of our unix server can only envy.

When used as designed (as a report generating language), I don't have any particular complaints about COBOL. Trying to use COBOL[0] for things like, say, converting all of the lower case letters in a document to upper case ... or graphing the output of your heat exchanger ... not nearly as much fun. Network stacks? Let's not even go there!

[0] That would be without the extensions. I know it's easier now.

#559 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 01:12 PM:

Actually, I was grumbling, xeger, not muttering. But I agree with you about anything more elaborate than crunching thru huge volumes of data.

#560 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 04:43 PM:

back in #517 ::: xeger answered my question, asking for:

"a menu-driven or wizard-driven GUI interface that would let me assemble a bootable image that I could install later."

And reccomended:

LinuxCOE and Instalinux, adding
If you find either of them useful, please tell the maintainers - they don't get nearly the amount of positive feedback that they deserve for the amount of effort that's gone into this.

Thank you very much, I really appreciate that. I'll even thank the maintainers :)

ta,
-r.

#561 ::: Paul Lalonde ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 05:04 PM:

Xeger - I'm in agreement that our universities and colleges do a terrible job of teaching programming. The problem is that we fundamentally don't know how to teach it. I don't know a single person who learned to program from a college course. I know some that have learned during the same elapsed time as their courses, but course-work itself was insufficient to teach them to program.

I doubt I'll find a programmer on this board who will argue this point: learning to program requires a focused phase of learning in which one acclimatises oneself with repeated failure and frustration, with incremental improvements, where the feedback loop almost entirely mediated by an inanimate object. Lectures don't teach it. Course assignements by themselves can't teach it. You need lots of repeated exercise and practice at reducing word problems to notation and notation to working programs, and you have to enjoy it.

What our colleges do do reasonably well is take someone with basic programming skills and teach them the limits of their knowledge, the theories and frameworks that make larger project possible. It shows them the places in computer science where it intersects other fields (graphics, numerical analysis, AI, bio-informatics, etc), and gives them tools to apply to these areas.

In essence, a computer science program gives them the tools to apply their programming knowledge to other problems while keeping track of the limitations of computability and the issues of scaling surrounding these problems. These are traits that I've not seen most self-educated programmers.

But yes, computer science programs are crap at teaching programming.

#562 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 05:37 PM:

My husband learned to program in grad school, from a literaryy and textual scholar named Vinton Dearing.

The course was meant to teach English grad students to use COBOL, punch cards, and a text to do literary analysis via computerized analysis.

My husband learned enough to write and sell a piece of commercial text analysis software for teaching composition; this was bought by Scribners. Later he taught himself Fortran and got a job at JPL.

And I don't think he's regretted leaving grad school for a minute.

One of the problems I have in hiring young programmers with B.S. in computer science of one sort or another is similar to the one I have with newly minted English B.A.s in terms of writing prose.

They don't know how to actually do anything but use the libraries (or write academic essays).

I try to pair newly minted programmers, often quite literally pairing two sets of hands at a keyboard, with older, more experienced senior programmers who can help them learn to structure code, to think about the tasks and break them down into sub-tasks and routines. Maybe teach them or encourage them to find the best method, which might not be the coolest or the most challenging programmatically. And maybe teach them that "good enough" isn't really good enough, that you code as if it's going to be permanent and maintained by someone else because it very well might be, and even if it isn't, you'll forget what and how and why you did stuff. An awful lot of temporary code has been used "temporarily" for the last ten or more years, with varying degrees of success.

#563 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 05:45 PM:

Can most people easily learn on their own how to break a process into discrete units that can be programmed? That was the most difficult part for me, in college.

#564 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 05:51 PM:

Lisa @ 562

I've heard of people using Fortran II programs as late as the 1980s.

Even with comments, you can lose track of how you did something.

The most fun I had on any assignment was the one which involved decomposing a range of numbers (given) int the sums of not more than three squares, the program to be graded on brevity as well as getting the right answers - and we were told how many lines of output we should get (this was done in Pascal). (Mine was 58 lines, got all the answers, and still got a B (maybe because I jumped out of a loop). Someone else had a program of a couple of hundred lines with switches all over the place...I don't know how well it ran.) I had it half laid out in my mind before the instructor finished answering questions. The biggest problem was figuring out the limiting conditions on the loops.

#565 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 05:56 PM:

They don't know how to actually do anything but use the libraries

As an EE, we rarely if ever get to play with libraries. My initial reaction to most requirements is to roll my own from scratch. One of my favorite pieces of code that I wrote was an automatically expanding/collapsing array/fifo using something similar to linked lists written in verilog, a language that doesn't have pointers. At some point, you stop thinking outside the box, and forget there is a box at all.

#566 ::: Paul Lalonde ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 05:59 PM:

Lisa - I'm guessing your husband's grad course didn't generate many computer programmers, and wasn't advertised as part of a curriculum to generate computer programmers. It's great that he went beyond the basic content of the course, and later taught himself Fortran and got a good job - and that's the point I'm trying to make. It's not the course that makes the programmer, but his interest in the material and its application. Courses in computing seem to teach the details decently to someone willing to put in the extra-curricular work to develop the aptitude, but the exercises themselves are poor ways to teach programming.

#567 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: September 18, 2006, 08:39 PM:

Paul

I take, and took your point. The funny thing is that my husband took the programming class because he was studying for his quals and he figured, since the class required access to the mainframe, that there couldn't be too much homework.

He got interested, as you say. I think partly he got interested because he has the right sort of mind, but a lot of the appeal was because the exercises were of immediate practical use; you could fairly quickly do things like isolate pronouns, or adverbs, or look for certain kinds of verbal patterns.

#568 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 07:09 PM:

# 562: And maybe teach them that "good enough" isn't really good enough, that you code as if it's going to be permanent and maintained by someone else because it very well might be, and even if it isn't, you'll forget what and how and why you did stuff.

About 25 or so years ago I interviewed with DEC, who were looking for entry-level programmerts (which I basically was). Their method for inculcating the Way and the Truth was to assign all newbies to support for a period of time, presumably to teach them what happened when code was/was not maintainable, and how to tell the difference. Seemed kind of dumb and boring at the time, but I've changed my attitude since then.

#569 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 08:09 PM:

#568 ::: joann wrote:
About 25 or so years ago I interviewed with DEC, who were looking for entry-level programmerts (which I basically was). Their method for inculcating the Way and the Truth was to assign all newbies to support for a period of time, presumably to teach them what happened when code was/was not maintainable, and how to tell the difference. Seemed kind of dumb and boring at the time, but I've changed my attitude since then.

Heh. Yup - had a bunch of interns switch majors at a shop I was at because we did that too :)

#570 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 09:17 PM:

My head hurts when I see people advancing the claim that those classic BASIC language interpreters gave you a more intimate relationship to the hardware, i.e. through the PEEK and POKE statements, than you have today, and that this was somehow a virtue. Are these claims coming from the same people who piss and moan about the ubiquity of viruses, spyware, worms and spam? Do I need to spell out the connection?

On a related note, Javascript (neé ECMAscript) is pretty much ubiquitous. I'm not convinced yet that its high availability makes it a good language for hooking kids into becoming coders, but I'm still open to arguments.

#571 ::: Dori ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2006, 10:58 PM:

On a related note, Javascript (neé ECMAscript) is pretty much ubiquitous.

Wouldn't that be JavaScript (née LiveScript, aka ECMAScript, aka JScript)?

I'm not convinced yet that its high availability makes it a good language for hooking kids into becoming coders, but I'm still open to arguments.

The main argument I have is the one you've already agreed to — it's ubiquitous. It's nice being able to recommend something and not have to worry about platform or cost.

Other arguments:
- People (especially young ones) want to be able to show their friends what they've done. When the language is JavaScript and the project is on the Web, it's ridiculously easy.
- What you learn is transferable to other languages — if you later learn Java, C++, or any of the other flavor of the week OOP languages, you won't have to start from scratch (I could rant here about AppleScript, but I won't) (people who've heard that rant too many times sigh with relief).
- There's a low barrier to do cool stuff. I can show someone who's never written code how to write something interesting in less than ten lines of JavaScript. That's not true of many other languages.
- There's no compilation step. While many people consider that a drawback, it's actually a plus to the novice. I've seen too many beginners forget that there's something in between 'change the file' and 'run it again'.
- If you're having a problem, you can send a URL to someone helping you and that's all they need to tell you what the problem is. They don't have to also have the same full development environment you have.
- There's a ridiculous number of free scripts and tutorials on the Web, which makes starting out easy as you can just take existing stuff, tweak it, and see what happens.
- JavaScript runs in the Web sandbox, so you can't make a mistake and trash your OS or write over something important.

I think that's enough for now. If you want more, just ask...

#572 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2006, 12:24 AM:

Dori,

I actually did find a book recently that covered the Netscape server-side JavaScript.

Since I'm very ignorant in wide ranges, I assumed this might be used in current technology, and hadn't yet guessed that my inability to find information on said technology was because people weren't using it.

#573 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2006, 01:03 AM:

The arguments against Javascript here (especially argument #11) are enough to keep me from looking forward to climbing its learning curve. I should inflict this horror on my kid?

#574 ::: Dori ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2006, 06:13 AM:

#572: Ooopssss... I didn't realize that you'd already purchased something. If it's any consolation, I also bought a book on the same topic, back in the days when I had high hopes for the technology. I figured it was more likely that you were just referring to Ajax (as is pretty common these days).

I don't know how common it actually is; for all I know, it could still be huge among people who run Netscape's Web server. If you find it useful, great!

#573: We're talking here about complete computing novices, right? People who have never looked at, much less typed in, any line of code, anywhere, in any language, on any platform. They're going to care about "There's no operator overloading"... why?

This is the problem with too many programmers who try to teach programming (imo). They understand the complexities at such a deep & low level that they don't remember that original state, that lovely zen concept of a beginner's mind. Think baby steps, baby steps -- there's a long long way to go for most novice programmers before they'll ever reach the point where a lack of operator overloading matters. And at that point, as I said above, "you can decide to stick with JavaScript or not, and the concepts that you've learned will continue to be useful."

#575 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2006, 10:55 PM:

re #572 - I program for money in JavaScript, with Microsoft Active Server Pages; my vague memories of Netscape server-side stuff are that it was somewhat similar. I agree with most of the JavaScript objections linked in #573, too.

Nonetheless, as a starting-out-today language, JavaScript has some points:

  • you can drive Windows progams with it
  • you can make web pages with it
  • You can do nifty client-side web page tricks with it

Hell, I learned in BASIC, which is much, much worse.

As re Pascal - Macintosh Pascal for Mac OS 6 was one of the best teaching environments I ever saw - a compiler and an interpreter, and seamless enough that you could go from one to the other. And error checking that actually helped. There might be a copy in the house somewhere, but there's no working hardware to run it on, unless there's an emulator.

#576 ::: fred ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2007, 09:43 PM:

is the cruzer 1 gig light suppose 2 stay on all the time ?

#577 ::: C. Wingate sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2010, 05:28 PM:

Do you know where your PhP codes are?

Choose:
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