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November 25, 2006

Open Thread 75
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:27 PM *

And the only daughter of the Merchant Prince felt so little gratitude for this great deliverance that she took to respectability of the militant kind, and became aggressively dull, and called her home the English Riviera, and had platitudes worked in worsted upon her tea-cosy, and in the end never died, but passed away in her residence.
Comments on Open Thread 75:
#1 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 09:56 PM:

A sort of survey:

The local paper includes, on Sundays, a cheaply produced reprint of early (1963) Spiderman comics. It is included courtesy of the same outfit that produces those booklets of coupons.

They're charmingly simple. I'm reading them as they come, and collecting them for a friend's son who is learning to read.

Anyone else out there get these?

#2 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 10:02 PM:

fragmented moment
bright sun for once does not lie
warmer the morning

mariners chanting
far distant those seas are now
evening coming

#3 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 10:15 PM:

For some reason, that thread number set me off:

nineteen seventy five was the year that life began
i was nineteen naive and living away from home
no idea that i was going to be a footnote of a man
wondering where on earth i'd go with only a poem
for heritage fearful of all those new things
i'd only read about false sophisticate really rustic
glad at least to be finally of the leading-strings
with odd bits of knowledge brittle and dry like fustic
but there i was never so scared in all my life
wondering where i'd sit in the large lecture-hall
the lady who smiled was the prime minister's wife
but i did not realise that i was blank as a wall
this might appeal i'd say to those of an odd humour
but i can look at myself and laugh or that's the rumour

#4 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 10:37 PM:

Also a sort of question:

Are there usenet groups or blogs where, if a comment isn't obviously not a troll, the *only* response at first is "Hi, will you be back to talk about our answers to your question?" That is, unless it's a particularly interesting question, no one answers the uncollapsed-potentiality of trollness until the person shows they're not just a drive-by.

I'm wondering why this isn't done, or why I don't see it done. There's no (or very little) insult in simply asking "hi, will you be back?"

i.e. if Wrathkin from Sunnydale wandered into this thread and asked

"Hey, what do our hosts have against Publish Amirrorcan? Don't they know it's a legitimate way for the ordinary man to get published?"
I'd guess that someone would soon ask "Is there a reason you're asking this here? Have you read this or that thread?"

But even here, I'm not sure how long people would wait for an answer. Elsewhere, drivebyers can start threads 10-20 answers deep, many of which aren't as interesting without the original questioner's responses. Yet no one asks the original poster if they plan to be back. Why not?

#5 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 10:41 PM:

Once there was a sharp young fellow named Jack, always looking for the main chance that would make his fortune and put him on Easy Street. One day, Opportunity called on Jack, in the form of an old peddler who offered to accept Jack's cow in trade for a handful of magic beans which when planted, he said, would grow into a huge beanstalk that reached into the sky to amazing worlds beyond.

Jack made the trade, and resolved to hide the beans until they would come in handy. He buried them under the floor of his humble house, sealed in a can, and guarded the house day and night. So singleminded was he that his friends soon ceased to call, and his sweetheart reluctantly went to find another love. Jack didn't care; he knew that his fortune was made, and one day he would show them all.

It didn't take long for Jack to lose most of his possessions from neglect or by trading them for basic provisions. He grew some food in his garden, shot wild animals that came close enough, and slept lightly lest someone break in and steal his treasure.

After a few years -- not too many -- Jack died, alone, a crazed pauper living on inadequate food. When his neighbors realized he was dead, some men from the town broke into his house, having heard rumors of a fantastic treasure hidden inside. One of them was killed by a trap Jack had left in place. The others tore his wretched cabin apart, finally pulling up the floor and digging underneath, where they found a can containing a small quantity of dried-up shriveled bits of vegetable matter which might once have been beans.

Moral: Don't sit on it.

#6 ::: Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: November 25, 2006, 11:03 PM:

I've got a few fingers of Auchentoshan in my glass right now, and fresh baked bread to munch on.

#7 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 12:45 AM:

From a DailyKos diary: I was just watching the six o'clock news on CBS here in LA. And they just got through showing a totally white haired sixty year old grandma who is a retired Air Force Major who has just been reactivated to Iraq.

This is insane. I can't deal. I'm going to bed.

#8 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 01:12 AM:

Al-Sadr loyalists take over Iraqi television station

"BAGHDAD, Iraq - Followers of the militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr took over state-run television Saturday to denounce the Iraqi government, label Sunnis 'terrorists' and issue what appeared to many viewers as a call to arms."

Well . . . that's that.

Nothing left to do but witness years (decades?) of misery, knowing we helped trigger the mess.

And Sadaam gets the last laugh.

#9 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 06:59 AM:

How come the Helsinki Complaints Choir hasn't yet made it to Sidelights?

#10 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 07:32 AM:

They did, back on 14 November.

#11 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 08:31 AM:

A beta--I think--version of the One Laptop Per Child machine has been delivered to ...somewhere... This may in the long run, matter more than all of our wars. I am wryly amused to note that OLPC's web site seems not to say what a "B1" version of the machine is, where the prototype has been delivered, or who the people who are unpacking it are.

#12 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 08:41 AM:

The laptop's been delivered to Cambridge (ask not which Cambridge: both Cambridges!) and has been unpacked by a variety of malevolent-looking but really very bouncy hacker types (i.e., the OLPC devs).

At least one small child (Jim Gettys's son) has had a try. :)

(And `B1' == `first beta', a `make sure the hardware and software can talk to each other' release with an early alpha of the software on it --- as I understand it, I'm just an interested observer).

#13 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 09:38 AM:

OLPC is ... well, colour me skeptical. It's a great idea for deprived inner cities in developed nations, and a sensible one for countries like Libya or China where per-capita GDP is over $1000, but for the third world it's missing the point: one of these white elephants costs as much as building a schoolroom or paying a teacher for a year or providing all the books, and unlike the books, the OLPC won't be in working order in a couple of years. Clean drinking water, not being shot at, and basic literacy, come first.

#14 ::: Christopher B. Wright ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 09:48 AM:

Sure, but solve the problem you know. If you don't know how to build a school, but you do know how to build a really cheap laptop, then why not build the laptop? Sure, they could donate the money to go towards building the school, but they wouldn't be able to donate their time or expertise -- and making a working laptop as cheap as they have is no mean feat, and as you have mentioned, there *are* places where the laptops would be useful.

#15 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 10:17 AM:

The trouble is, the money for OLPC has to come from somewhere. Forget hitting on the Gates Foundation (hint: it doesn't run Windows); that means the governments whose people are getting the OLPCs are the ones who will end up paying.

Now, releasing the OLPC design and software as a GPL'd piece of freeware, for the cheap Chinese box-shifters to wholesale and then for the forthcoming generation of cheap 3D printers to run off retail -- that would be truly viral and insidious, and hopefully shift the balance of the "consumer electronics" industry back towards the consumers and away from the industry who've been feeding us expensive not-fit-for-purpose tat for the past decade. And it'd let anyone who actually needed cheap computing get their hands on it, as opposed to the people the starry-eyed OLPC enthusiasts think need it. B-B-but that would be communism!

#16 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 10:20 AM:

PS: Sure, but solve the problem you know. If you don't know how to build a school, but you do know how to build a really cheap laptop, then why not build the laptop?

Because a laptop is not a school.

If you need schools, the correct response is to learn how to build schools, not to indulge in profoundly pointless (but expensive) activities that appear to have been conceived in total splendid ignorance of the needs of the people they're aimed at.

Just because the only tool you have is a hammer (or laptop), it does not follow that every problem is a nail.

#17 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 10:31 AM:

Does anyone here know anything about protective wear (pads) for stunt work? No flames or high falls, just stage combat, tumbling, and harness stuff.

My eldest is on a stunt team and Christmas is coming.

#18 ::: Toni ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 10:32 AM:

We've been getting them in The Oregonian here in PDX.

#19 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 10:40 AM:

"It's a great idea for deprived inner cities in developed nations, and a sensible one for countries like Libya or China where per-capita GDP is over $1000, but for the third world it's missing the point:"

Well there are different views as to how to deal with poverty. The normal view is as Charlie says, that one should build schools etc. in poverty stricken areas in third world. I think actually that this may be wrong, based on nothing more than the feeling of "it hasn't worked so far, let's try something new."

The one child per laptop program seems to be saying something like, don't lift the absolute bottom up one level, it is an insoluble problem, instead focus on lifting further something that the absolute bottom would consider really something and to us looks like hell.

#20 ::: Anaea ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 12:06 PM:

So I'm starting a writer's group because, frankly, I can turn out pages and pages and pages, but I'm no good at all at judging whether I've said too much or too little or whether any of it even made sense. I've drafted my two roommates into the project but decided that for the health and sanity of all we needed two more people. Seven responded to my announcement, so I asked for submissions.

Now I'm torn. One of these submissions is utterly terrible. The first person male narrator sounds like an emo female, it builds to a twist that isn't there, and while everything is technically grammatical it's all very poorly done. Yet I see potential and want to make it better. I think, based either on the submission or a defense mechanism in my brain telling me that it can't be as bad as it looks, that she has potential. Besides, if I reject her, it's just the roomies and me. We're good roomies, I met one in a workshop, but I think it would be best to have strangers involved.

There are people here who know more about these things than I do. Help?

#21 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 12:15 PM:

Since I don't see this in the sidelights: a Deseret News article on the trial of Warren Jeffs for "rape as an accomplice" in the forced marriage of a 14-year-old girl to her 19-year-old cousin.

#22 ::: Christopher B. Wright ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 12:19 PM:
If you need schools, the correct response is to learn how to build schools, not to indulge in profoundly pointless (but expensive) activities that appear to have been conceived in total splendid ignorance of the needs of the people they're aimed at.

Just because the only tool you have is a hammer (or laptop), it does not follow that every problem is a nail.

You seem to be assuming that this laptop is intended solely for the most extreme third-world nations where there is no formal infrastructure to speak of, and that is not the case. Looking at the faq on their website you can see that they are currently in talks with "China, India, Brazil, Argentina, Egypt, Nigeria, and Thailand." These are not third world countries in the most extreme sense of the world, but are in fact "developing nations" -- nations with an infrastructure but a lot of poverty. And you have already allowed that these machines would be very useful there.

Their FAQ, if you're interested, can be read here:

At no point have I *ever* heard a representative of OLPC claim that their laptops would end poverty stop all wars, cure the sick, raise the dead, and make the blind see. Yes, there is hyperbole involved in the project, just as there is hyperbole involved in every attempt to do anything that requires convincing fence-sitters, but their goals are targeted at places where a child's access to a computer could have some genuine, concrete worth.

I'm not sure why that should be considered a complete waste of time.

#23 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 12:23 PM:

Knitters Alert: There's a knitting cartoon in today's "Rhymes With Orange". (And the Sunday "Opus" is back to the anagram game.)

#24 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 12:58 PM:

The big problem, IMHO, with the OLPC project is that they seem to be putting an awful lot of attention into designing what is --- to their credit --- a ground-breaking new piece of hardware, but a lot less time on curriculum development.

In part that's due to the project's heritage --- it came out of the MIT Media lab, where Seymour Papert spent years pushing the idea that if you just give children tools, they will figure out how to educate themselves. Well, even in the first world, tests show that it doesn't always work out that way. (Nor does Papert help his own case by responding that the researchers missed the point --- that "no experiment on the paradigm of school psychology could refute my thesis", which was really about "deconstruct[ing] the necessity of School" altogether).

Thus, Papert. On to OLPC project, whose own declaration of its educational philosophy seems, at points, distinctly Papertesque:

...while computers facilitate and improve presentation of material to students, their real, unique power is as a malleable tool for construction, expression, collaboration, design, modeling, visualization, reflection, and debugging. These are the capabilities that enabled the exponential growth of knowledge in the world, and children, given opportunity, freedom, and guidance, are the most capable to take advantage of these capabilities for growth and development.

Educators have long recognized that children learn best when they are active, when they pursue their own interests, and when they participate in cultures of knowledge and engagement. However, until now it has been logistically impossible, except for the elites, to create such learning environments. With 1-to-1 access to connected laptops, children actively engage in knowledge construction and are not limited to passive reception of information. Each child can pursue learning in areas of strong personal interest and the classroom is not limited to a pre-determined, one-size-fits-all approach.

With connected laptops, learners are liberated to actively engage with others with similar interests in cultures of learning by doing without being limited by time or space. In this way children can learn by teaching, actively assisting other learners and thereby liberating the teacher to focus her experience and expertise where most needed. ...

For what it's worth, my own off-the-record interactions with OLPC staffers seem to echo this. They've gotten off to a late, slow start in curriculum development, and when that's pointed out to them, there's a disturbing tendancy to say, sotto voce, that it really doesn't matter, because once the kids have the machines, they'll figure out what to do on their own. But even bright, self-directed kids need some guidance, to point out resources and useful lines of inquiry, to suggest alternative strategies when they get stuck, to keep them from lollygagging around all day (as some will do), and simply to judge what's a good project and what isn't. It seems to me that this requires trained, highly tuned adult judgment to get consistently good results, even if the kids are on their own most of the time. Which may help to explain why Papert's learning theories work out so much better when one of his disciples is on hand --- and which may suggest why some of us believe that as "an education project, not a laptop project" (quoth Negroponte), OLPC is not on a firm foundation.

What really bugs me is that considered solely as a laptop project, not an education project, the thing is brilliant. The hardware and software are both innovative (the display in particular being a major advance on the state of the art), and there are great synergies with the rest of the free software community. But the deployment model is driven by one big idea conceived by do-gooding Westerners with little or no experience of local conditions, aided by a few coopted local elites who may themselves be years or decades removed from real experience with life on the ground. These things don't always work out well, no matter how good the technology.

Which leads to this odd conclusion: if they were just trying to sell the things for, say, $200, to anyone in the third world with a use for one, then, like Charlie, I'd be thrilled. (The $100 figure is, of course, wholesale). If you think it's best for third-worlders to figure out how to use the tech for themselves, why limit that to the kids?

But as is, they're soaking up large chunks of the education budget for technology whose worth as an educational tool is not yet proven. And my feelings on that are decidedly mixed.

#25 ::: David D. Levine ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 01:29 PM:

The thing that baffles me about those Spiderman reprints is why Marvel is doing it. These are forty-year-old comics and they haven't aged well. They were groundbreaking when they first appeared, but they're incredibly crude by modern standards. Does it really benefit Marvel to put these hackneyed antiques on public display?

My best guess is that they need to reprint them to retain copyright.

#26 ::: Martyn Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 02:10 PM:

My kids have used computers to help them educate and amuse themselves all their lives (sometimes doing both at the same time) as well as giving them 'friends' and like minded acquaintances everywhere.

Our 'adopted' boy, Momodee, used to walk five miles to school every day and five miles back. I've never encountered anyone so enthusiastic about education. He didn't have a computer, and couldn't have used one because his village didn't have electricity. Neither did his school. Neither did the nearest town. The only reason his village had water was because the charity through which we 'adopted' that great little guy dug them a well.

Then Charles Taylor took over in Liberia and we were told Momodee was probably taken off to be a boy soldier, but nobody really knew, and would we adopt another child, a girl in Alexandria.

We did, and she's just turned 18 and is training to be a nurse, so she's now been replaced, by a girl in China. That's right, the People's Republic of China, host to the next Olympics, shining star of unfettered enterprise and more millionaires every day than you can count.

First World, Second World, Third World - there's only one world and however good OLPC is (and I know it doesn't pretend to be a solution to poverty) the solution to poverty is to give people the tools and skills to help themselves, and the peace to use them.

Its that last that seems to be the problem.

#27 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 03:39 PM:

Something popped up just now in my memory. A novel, published in the 1970s, in which the protagonist is a black Buddhist monk, living in New York, who is enlisted by the Devil (or a Buddhist equivalent thereof -- I also recall a reference to 'the Molochomaves, for all his Jewish head') from destruction by a nuclear plant going critical. What was it? Anybody else recall it?

#28 ::: Michael Bernstein ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 03:44 PM:

#26: Note that one of the design parameters for the OLPC is that it can be powered by a hand-crank. Another is that the devices talk to each other without any intervening devices (they automatically form an ad-hoc network). Another is that if any of them do have access to the internet, the connection is shared with all the other machines on the ad-hoc network.

One of the problems in many developing countries is that they are so far behind and their demographics are so skewed, that even if you built schools (and added the books and other infrastructure necessary to make it useful), you wouldn't have the necessary teachers.

The OLPC is $100 today. In 2 years, they will likely be cheaper and more reliable. We only need a few iterations of moore's law to get to the $10 laptop, given an established and proven market.

OLPC isn't a cure-all, and it is a radical departure from previous attempts, and may well fail to achieve some of it's objectives, but doing the same-old-thing has been demonstrated to not work, so I'm all for trying something new in the way of building out infrastructure for education.

We have now seen that given a low-cost publishing platform, large-scale volunteer efforts can collaborate to create astonishing reference and educational resources, so I have no doubts that the necessary materials can and *will* be created, translated, internationalized, and distributed through these machines, and that the children they are given to will become active participants in these efforts very quickly.

#29 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 05:31 PM:

#24: The problem with "curriculum development" is that it's nowhere near as portable (no pun intended) as the laptop itself. If we were talking about a curriculum for just one country (say, Brazil), then it would be a lot more feasible to ask the OLPC project to think seriously about it. But a curriculum that works (in the various senses of fitting into the school system, fitting into the local culture and environment, and meshing acceptably with prevailing local ideologies) in Brazil will not necessarily work in Nigeria or China, even if you ignore all the messy details of language and content.

#30 ::: Anthony Ha ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 06:37 PM:

David Levine @ 25: I don't claim to fathom Marvel's corporate logic, nor do I think that old Spider-Man reprints (or superhero stuff in general) are the best way to increase interest in comics.

But the Ditko/Lee Spider-Man issues certainly aren't worthless; they're a heavy influence on the Sam Raimi films, for example, and one of the few superhero works to make the Comics Journal's Top 100 English Comics of the 20th Century. See Douglas Wolk's article in Salon for a concise, thoughtful response to Ditko's work.

#31 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 07:16 PM:

I think books are more important that schoolhouses in much of the global south, and the OLPC can hold a lot of books. The team is insisting on open source licenses for both software and content. It probably won't do everything that it's hoped to do, and there will also be some unpleasant unexpected consequences from its wide distribution, but I think it is going to make a big difference, and one on balance positive. It's easy to say that we'd like a complete solution to the problems, but the fact of the matter is that we don't know what that would look like and there are people willing to do this design and market it.

I'm quite cynical, by the way, of the utility of 3-D printers in much of the third world; I suspect that good old fashioned industrial production is more what is needed--they need lots of pipe, not fancy fittings. In particular, the 3-D printer technology is not likely to producing useful computer components anytime soon.

#32 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 07:30 PM:

Randolph@31: that's actually the reason I'm not totally down on the project; there's a pretty good chance that these things turn into decent book readers even if the larger transformative vision completely fails to plan out. But even that can't be taken completely for granted; if nothing else, the books (in local languages, on locally relevant topics) need to be prepared for electronic distribution, and (pace my earlier remarks) that's a project all by itself. Which is why I'm bothered that in public (and, so far as I can tell, in private) this part of the job is getting so little emphasis.

Michael@28: the OLPC power story has been evolving somewhat since last year, when Lee Felsenstein (of Homebrew Computer Club fame, and a few third-world projects since) pointed out, in the course of a wide-ranging critique, that the amount of force you'd need to apply to the crank to generate the power to run the laptop, under very optimistic assumptions, was still well beyond what you could reasonably expect from a kid. I understand they're now considering string-pull devices, among other things. (They haven't publically disavowed the crank, but you can find mention of the string pulls, for the moment at least, on a talk page on their wiki). Also, the current price tag is really about $138 --- they do expect to hit the $100 price in the future, but that does already anticipate price drops in some components.

#33 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 07:33 PM:

I'm in charge of the toy drive barrels at work this year. I thought I'd set a good example and prime them with a couple of bags of goodies.

I bought some fancy "older kids" gifts*, but thought it would be fun to go to the Dollar Tree and load up on stocking stuffers.

It is interesting to see what you can get for a buck. When I was a kid, there were always cheap "carded" toys that were embarassingly shabby, but now a days, thanks to the miracle of sweatshop labor, you can buy some fairly acceptable playthings.

Back in the early 90s, I worked for a third-rate software company whose big seller was a line of CD-ROM story books. Most of them were bundled with cheap home PCs, but the retail price was at least $15. Now, the equivalent, with better looking art, costs a buck!

There were some pretty good pirate figures. You can't go wrong with pirates.

Magnifying glasses. Big thick ones, in frames shaped like starfish and seashells and the like. In sunny weather, magnifying glasses double as Martian Heat Rays, which come in handy when you get tired of you pirate action figures.

There was an interesting mix of licensed and knock-off playthings. You could get a X-Men jigsaw puzzle for example. There was a licensed Play-doh set with a tiny plastic extrusion press, and an unlicensed "Fun Clay" set which with bigger tools and a more generous selection of d'oh. The book shelf had books featuring the "Mall Girl Pals," designed to look like Bratz* but not so much as to invite a lawsuit.

They had some nice musical instruments: Triangles and tambourines and recorders and the like. Now, I know from the anguished testimony of parents that noisy toys aren't appreciated, but parents do _choose_ the items from these barrels, so I figure someone would appreciate them.

Scariest product: A religious-themed coloring book titled "I'm Ready When You Are, God!"


* Reportedly, toy drives are way overloaded with stuffed animals. Sentimental saps who hear a pitch for a toy drive picture beaming toddlers hugging teddy bears, and load up the barrels with plush, not thinking of the older kids. The local drive provided suggested toys for teens, including boom boxes, women's toiletry sets, electric razors, gift certificates for CD stores, and early-90s vintage Civic hatchbacks ready for conversion to street racers.

** The Bratz are an immensely successful marketing concept aimed at girls, centered around a line of dolls with heavily made-up faces bearing expressions of contempt and evil. As "aspiration figures" go, they're even worse role models than the Barbie (tm) Trophy Wife Pink Miata (tm) playset.

#34 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 08:12 PM:

One further point on OLPC content development: a third-world Wikipedia (or more likely, several) would be a great thing, even taking the troubles of the first-world model into account. But Wikipedia did not spring into existence overnight; it took a few years after the widespread deployment of the web in the first world before it became a really useful resource. So, localized third-world equivalents would have to be seeded somehow to be successful --- including seed personnel to perform critical wiki-gardening and dispute resolution. Moreover, the most likely content authors for such a thing would be adults with experience to share --- but OLPC is emphatically one laptop per child, with no plans to distribute the machines to adults outside the educational system. Which also means that central resources within a country of any kind will be government resources, with the attendant distortion. (Anyone else remember when the proto-Internet was literally a Pentagon project, and the charades needed to keep the mere existence of the sf-lovers mailing list formally deniable?)

Which is another reason why I wish they'd stop insisting on their government-based deployment model and just sell the machines --- I think that spontaneous development of interesting content is more likely to arise among adults than kids, and without formal government involvement.

#35 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 09:31 PM:

Charles Dodgson --

One of the financing plans, vice the friend who went to that conference, is to sell the laptops in the first world at 1-for-2 prices. His opinion of that is that if the things had been for sale both his kids would have one right now.

The government-based deployment model is utterly vital in, say, Libya -- if the OLPC guys can -- which it looks like all the world they can -- make providing every child in the country with a good communications tool a matter of leader-manliness, that's very, very important. Makes it that much harder for the local established order to go all change-disallowing on them, just for starters.

Market models fail at education, generally, anyway -- you need the education first, to evaluate what you need -- so government involvement is seriously important, and OLPC was fundamentally conceived as a transformative education project.

Oh, and component price drop -- really aggressive component price drop, sometimes exceeding half initial price over the course of an 8 month product production life -- is built into everybody else's hardware Bill of Materials planning. (Often by contract; it can make being a sub-assembly supplier very interesting.) Don't see why the OLPC folks shouldn't do it, too.

#36 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 10:23 PM:

Kathryn at 4, we do that in rec.arts.sf.composition. Mostly people who post inappropriately are clearly spamming or trolls, but sometimes people seem to have just approached the group wrong, and then we tell them we'll talk about their problem if they want to stick around.

#37 ::: Nina Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 11:31 PM:

For the comics fans-just saw via Neil Gaiman's blog Dave Cockrum has died.

#38 ::: Mark Reed ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2006, 11:32 PM:

Just thought I'd drop a note here - Dave Cockrum passed away today from complications of diabetes; he had just turned 63 two weeks ago.

This may not be appropriate here since he wasn't a writer, but he was a storyteller, and as artist on The Legion of Super-Heroes, a science-fiction one at that. He designed some of the coolest looking comic book characters created in the 1970s, including several of the new X-Men, like everyone's favorite blue-furred Bavarian *BAMF*er, Nightcrawler, and the cool Kenyan climatokinetic, Storm.

The link above is to his Wikipedia entry, which includes a link to the announcement of his death on the Nightscrawlers forum.

#39 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 03:39 AM:

Anyone remember an online quiz testing one's sense of continuity of personhood?

That is, it presented various situations to see if you thought the person entering the situation was the same as the person exiting the situation. i.e. are you the same if your brain is transplanted to a new body, or do you survive a transporter beam, etc. One could call it a 'can you Think Like a Dinosaur ?' (audio version link) test.

On the topic of personhood and memory:
60 Minutes (US news show) had a very SFNal segment tonight. They covered propranolol, an adrenaline-blocker that can erase the stress response to bad memories.

That is, if you have a tramatic memory, you take the drug and think of that memory. The scubbing power of propranolol detaches the stress-response from remembering. From then on, thinking that memory doesn't flood you with stress. Think of your most embarrassing or horrifying memory- then imagine being able to remember it simply as an event, without horror or fear.

They gave examples of it being used (currently used) to prevent ptsd in rape victims or car-crash victims. They had a contrarian bioethicist saying that it's a dangerous drug because it can stop shame. I'm not so worried about that- many idiots who do damaging stupid things don't seem to feel much shame now, so I don't want their shame to derail a useful PTSD treatment. However, I can imagine soldiers being given it just before combat, as an early version of Richard Morgan's Betathanatine: that's a dangerous use.

#40 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 03:48 AM:


i've had a hotmail account since i think late 2001, but ever since i got a gmail account & switched my address book over, i can go weeks without checking hotmail. apparently i went one or more too many weeks without checking it, & my account was gone.

they said they were "holding" an account for me, & i signed in & all that, but all my old messages are nowhere. goddamn it. i was planning to raid those for comic material before too long. i just kept putting it off.....

computer people: it's all gone now, right? that's it? there's no secret sneaky way i can get my freakin emails back?

#41 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 05:06 AM:

Miriam @40,

Sorry, yes, that data is gone. I knew a person who once lost an account like that (also hotmail) and tried to recover it- not possible. Short of the NSA having a copy, and 50 years from now you datamining the Transparent Society's stacks... ouch. For hotmail, yahoo, etc, memory still costs... Gmail is a loss-leader, I've heard.

(on backups and memory, my 21st century moment:
Today I picked up a 20 gigabyte 1.8 inch (about the size of half a pack of cards or a very slim altoids tin) USB-powered hard drive. Into it goes my essential files, including all contents of all my hard drives from the 1980s-2001, a Matrioshka backup. $40. Sure, it's larger than thumb drives and smaller than the 1 terabyte hdds on Fry's shelves, but for today I'm amazed by it. It's a sleek small $2/Gbyte.)

#42 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 09:09 AM:

nineteen seventy five was the year that life began

You too, Fragano?

#43 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 10:34 AM:

#39 propranolol

There's a lot of SF you could attach to the good and bad uses! (Write on!). Howsoever, note that it doesn't interfere (claimed) with the recall of facts, just of the emotional load ... and with the "specially stored" aspect. The swimming rat tests were impressive. The idea is that it makes the traumatic day "just a day".

What about the courtroom drama aspects ... "witness J seems most uninvolved." "Your honor, see exhibit 955, prescription for propranolol..."

How about the epidemiological aspects? millions of people have been taking this stuff for high blood pressure, followup study anyone? Surely enough of them have been in car accidents, murders, divorces, etc. to make a statistical universe.

My wife asked the fascinating question "does it affect the recall of experiences of profound joy or excitement in the same way"?

#44 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 11:56 AM:

#39, #43 ... forget propranolol being used by the military, as a pre-combat PTSD prophylactic: like all beta blockers in its class, its primary medical use is as an antihypertensive. The last thing you want your soldiers doing is fainting when they stand up, wandering around in a depressurized haze, and generally being unable to pull themselves together while the bullets are flying!

#45 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 12:37 PM:

The Spider-Man reprints locally are carried in the New York Post. I already have two or three complete sets of the Lee-Ditko Spider-Man--the sequential reprints in Marvel Tales from the early 1980s and the complete Amazing Spider-Man CD package, plus possibly another that eludes me--so I haven't felt any compulsion to pick these up even though I could do so for free. But I think they're a great promotional; anecdotal evidence continues to support my belief that kids love comics, regardless of vintage, if they don't have to pay for them.

#46 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 01:06 PM:

Miriam, there's probably a backup somewhere, but it's not very likely that Hotmail can be persuaded to have one of their engineers spend time recovering it.

#47 ::: Nina Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 01:39 PM:

Over on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books they've posted some haiku based on Nebula-winning novels. Take a look.

Nebulas Haiku

#48 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 01:57 PM:


I'm very glad someone else realizes the complete and total evil that is the Bratz franchise.

Whenever I see any parent buying Bratz dolls I want to grab them by the shoulders and shake them, then shove them towards the My Little Ponies/Strawberry Shortcake while shouting "Your little girls are still CHILDREN! Their greatest aspiration in life shouldn't be to get laid in the back of a limo while wearing a $3000 prom dress!"

I used to watch a lot of saturday morning cartoons. There was a commercial for Bratz prom playset that strongly implied that scenario... renting a limo, dressing in an extremely slutty manner, and having a "very special" night with the hottest guy in school.

I watched in blank horror, wondering how our stories changed so much in 15 years. We went from a girl queen riding her magical horse on rainbows to return color to the world to... that.

#49 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 02:56 PM:

We need a satire featuring the Grown-Up Bratz . . . living with mom and dad and trying to raise little Typhanee when not working in the Panda Express at the mall food court.

#50 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 03:29 PM:

Henry #43:

My wife asked the fascinating question "does it affect the recall of experiences of profound joy or excitement in the same way"?

Ugh. What a horribly dystopian punishment that would make.

And it would ruin a great song forever.

#51 ::: Kimiko ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 03:36 PM:

Randolph @ #31

Utility of 3-d printers?
Making small, fiddly bits like valves, where close tolerances spell the difference between success and failure. Not everything can be solved with pipe. You need faucets too.

#52 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 03:45 PM:

Kimiko, yes. But without pipe valves don't matter, and valves can be produced by industrial processes. There may be something that 3-D printing can do for places without industry, but I don't think that's it.

#53 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 04:28 PM:

Just wanted to check in with everybody who gave me recommendations for my trip to Boston/Worcester to let them know that I had a great time, even if I didn't actually get to that many of the recommended attractions. The Flickr set documenting the trip has some pretty awesome shots of the Higgins Armory Museum in particular, and I want to give a special shout out to Pandemonium Books which was definitely worth the pilgrimage in to Cambridge all on its own. So thanks to all of you (especially Alex and Susan) for your guidance!

I enjoyed the trip so much, in fact, that I'm contemplating returning for Boskone...

#55 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 08:15 PM:


Took the stuff for three years for hypertension and all my old nightmares still have their full emotional charge. Also made some new ones while I was taking it...


If they're presenting it as the ultimate answer to everything, well, we all know how well that works.

What is the question?

But if it's just another tool, then criticizing it as Not the Ultimate Answer to Everything is probably not fair, or useful, and reminds me of the Seattle-based political organization called Citizens for More Important Things, who rally in full strength to put down levies to support sports venues, but never show up to actually be for anything.

#56 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 08:53 PM:

#33 and #48: Add me to the list of folks who absolutely, positively, will not permit Bratz into their homes. With two children (one, a daughter approaching her sixth birthday), both parents agree that the message of that franchise is destructive and harmful to healthy development of children. Adults can get as trashy, provocative, or sexy as they wish. But marketing that stuff to four, five, six year olds is, we say, Right Out.

#57 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 10:20 PM:

Charles@32,33--I suspect treadle-powered versions are practical; for sheer gaslamp sf wierdness, I like that idea. But, really, inexpensive PVs will probably do, most places.

It does seem to me that people like Juan Cole would be good to seed content.

While the current version is strictly an educational device, there's no reason why the software can't be made to run on other devices. Adult versions are also possible.

I think they've got a platform that someone will be able to do interesting things with. That said, I do agree that Negroponte, Papert, et al are trying to substitute content synopses for content. I also think that insisting on free content may turn out to be limiting. Authors and artists want to be paid; unlike major figures in FOSS few authors and artists have employers who fund them, or enough the free time and discretionary income that allows them to do work they can give away.

#58 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 10:47 PM:

Leah Miller:

Whenever I see any parent buying Bratz dolls I want to grab them by the shoulders and shake them

Damn straight.

then shove them towards the My Little Ponies/Strawberry Shortcake

Whoa, there: you just lost me. There are tons of dolls out there--I know, I've got a niece--and I'll happily shell out for a Breyer horse when it comes time rather than a manufactured fad like My Pretty Pony. And whenever I look at the costumes and add-ons for Strawberry Shortcake I think of "Johnny Longtorso, the doll that comes in pieces!" (Thanks you MST3K.) Neither is Wrong like Bratz, but I tend to go for stuff that seems less engineered.

#59 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2006, 11:08 PM:

What bothers me as much as the Bratzs' icky suggestion of tweener sexuality (which hopefully might go over the heads of tykes) is that they look like "mean girls."

They look like they belong to the sort of clique that drives sensitive kids into neurotic isolation, teases the awkward and disabled, and fuels materialistic "arms races" in clothing and bling.

* * *

A few weeks back, I ordered a sample copy of CRAFT, the distaff-oriented companion periodical to MAKE. My intention was to give it a brief read-through, then pass it on to my sister and her kids. Thing is, it's awfully funky. A touch of Goth, a bit of Nerrrd Grrrrl.

My sister . . . she's Martha Stewart and the kids are Disney Princesses.

But I'm going to send it anyway. Maybe it will open their eyes a bit and keep the Bratz away.

#60 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 12:32 AM:

@#58, from Bruce E. Durocher II

If I dismissed every toy that was made to sell like wildfire... well then I'd dismiss a lot of toys. The key here is to think of the creaters as writers, rather than marketing wonks. Are they good writers?

My Little Pony and Rainbow Brite are examples of manufactured brands that understood that you can be a highly successful brand and NOT pander to unhealthy expectations. I'm not saying they're the ideal toy. But there are two kind of toys: those with an inbuilt world and those without one. Every kid is going to want some toys with an inbuilt world, but you get to decide what world they come into.

Chosing a toy series is a lot like chosing a world setting for a roleplaying game. What assumptions, what powers, what morals do you want? To me a Breyer horse speaks of reality and of nature. I had a lot of photorealistic farm animal toys, and mostly they led to setting up farms, and having my dolls ride them, and other fairly down-to-earth adventures. But a My Little Pony is obviously from "somewhere else" and the ponies are obviously sentient. In their earlier incarnation they were also implicitly magical, which is a theme that's less present in the newest generation. Still when I see girls play with them they somehow instantly know that they're in a world that is not like this one, and some really awesome things come of that.

I still cling to the idea that manufactured and marketed doesn't always equal badness. Look at The Real Ghostbusters,: though it was an incredibly shrewdly marketed spinoff to a hollywood movie, it told a lot of great stories about the occult. When I was a kid I wanted a copy of Tobin's Sprit Guide more than anything. It was a cartoon show that made 7 year old me wish for an encyclopedic reference of old gods and monsters.

It's like Tarzan. Extremely highly polished brand identiy franchise. Does that mean it's no good for kids?

When I look at kids brands I ask myself "What story does this tell? What goals do these stories have? What motives are rewarded? Is there room to go outside the lines here?" If I like the answers to these questions I put it in the "good brand" box. If I don't, then I don't buy them.

#61 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 01:11 AM:

I like Groovy Girls - they're less plastic-y. This is a personal prejudice. Mind you, if my niece were totally into Strawberry Shortcake, I could cope. I've coped so far with the Disney Cinderella Princess request and so forth.

But what I send her on a semi-regular basis is stuff like fancy paper, stickers, and a set of 100 colored markers in neon, glitter, and everything! Must talk to parents and see if she needs a new marker set.

#62 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 09:30 AM:

I finished reading The Year's Best SF #11 yesterday. Good stuff, although I prefer longer-length stories to 2-pagers. I especially enjoyed Paul McAuley's "Rats in the System". Can anybody recommend any other New Space Opera story of his? I took advantage of my trip to the Bay Area for a visit of bookstore Dark Carnival in Berkeley on Friday afternoon, hoping I'd find collections or novels by McAuley, but they didn't really have anything that'd qualify as Space Opera new or old. (I also saw Lisa Goldstein at the store when I came in, but she was talking with someone else and I also didn't want to make a fool of myself even if it was just to say hello - I can compress an amazing amount of foolishness into opening my mouth to say a single word.)

#63 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 11:42 AM:

I had a dream last night about a real-life Making Light salon at the home of our esteeemed host and hostess.

Interestingly, the chief feature of this dream was the delicious brunch they laid on for everyone. It began with lemon muffins and fruit, and by the time I woke up, we had proceeded to sandwiches and salads of all kinds, genuine Indian chai with genuine spices, something involving great slabs of ginger the size of my hand, and a large bowl of something surrounded by stacks of tortillas.

I think the secret meaning of this dream is that I am hungry. I believe the occasion of my first comment here was a recipe for nectarine salad.

(If we did all descend on the Nielsen Haydens and demand brunch, the recipe for Hot Gingered Pygmy Mammoth might have to be attempted [and maybe that's what the great slabs of ginger were for]. We'd have to bring our own mammoth, though.)

#64 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 12:53 PM:

Caroline, if I may paraphrase Sigmund (Poulet) Freud, sometimes a brunch is just a brunch.

#65 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 12:53 PM:

Leah Miller [60]:

It's like Tarzan. Extremely highly polished brand identi[t]y franchise. Does that mean it's no good for kids?

The best things are carefully crafted by masters, and hand rubbed by generations of fans; imitation silver spray paint isn't a good substitute.

I'm not sure where Tarzan as it exists today fits in this, mind you, it was just a convenient hook on which to hang the thought.

#66 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 01:43 PM:

Sarge @ 62: I also saw Lisa Goldstein at the store when I came in

Good god. Of course you should have said hello. I hardly ever recognize anyone -- once I didn't even recognize my brother.

#67 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 01:45 PM:

Yes, it's a true shame about Dave Cockrum. I expect that Marvel will do a tribute of some sort to Dave, because it's so much easier to give a tribute to a dead man that they can get people to buy than to pay him his fair share of the friggin' X-Men, or to even cover his medical expenses.

So, what did you guys think of the new Beatles albums?

#68 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 01:50 PM:

#48, Leah Miller:

I watched in blank horror, wondering how our stories changed so much in 15 years. We went from a girl queen riding her magical horse on rainbows to return color to the world to renting a limo, dressing in an extremely slutty manner, and having a "very special" night with the hottest guy in school.

Cynical part of me was about to say "You do realise they're basically the same stories, only the form has changed ?", to which neurotic part of me pre-emptively answered "Duh ! And what else of worth is there to change according to you ?".

Thankfully, autistic part of me doesn't care and is dominant as long as coffee hasn't been supplied, or it would have put everyone in it's place with a cold, oddly peremptory, "You're all wrong, you know ? And who cares anyway ?".

Also, as long as we're talking equestrian wonders, psychotic part of me would like to know who thought it was a good idea to shave the unicorn's beard.

"Every kid is going to want some toys with an inbuilt world [...].

Every kid that had more fun with the cardboards and wrapping-ups than with the actual offered toys each christmas might beg to differ. (I was one, yup, never liked that my parents got to impose me the "inbuilt world" of their choice. I mean how could they give my younger self Big Jim trash when all he wanted was the new Régis Boyer translation of the Sigurdr Saga he couldn't even really read yet [but hey, was that cover nice !] ? See what it did to me ?)


#69 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 02:59 PM:

#68 MD²

Aw darn, I used an absolute. Doh! Never 'every', always 'most', I say!

Still, I'd be very interested to know what era/area you grew up in that none of the manufactured story toys appealed to you. I'm not just talking about the ones your parents actually bought, was there never a toy you wanted that had a story with it? I'm not saying that free play toys aren't better, I'm saying that there can be balance and that some fun can be had from the story-made ones.

Not that I wouldn't want to encourage kids that way. I've babysat for kids surrounded by crafting materials, art supplies, solid pine wooden blocks, etc... and seen them treasure above it all a single spongebob toy they got out of a happy meal when they were at a birthday party. The parents tried to avoid that stuff, but sometimes you can't. In some cases the refuge is an American girl doll... which isn't bad because it's history, but it's still a brand-marketed world with a built in character history. Sometimes you just want a friend you feel like you know. Sometimes you want a real superman cape, or a real Alf stuffed animal.

I was in the middle of all of this. I spent more time climbing trees, collecting rocks, building forts or cities, making dresses out of scraps of cloth, etc then playing with ponies or dolls; but I played with the ponies too, and the dinosaurs and the trucks, and the superheroes... often all at the same time.

Then again, at that age in that era "marketed brands" were basically the only stories telling me I could be or do whatever I wanted to, as a girl, and that I could come out on top. I could win, I could rule. And the thing was, I didn't have to be the only girl in a bunch of guys to do it. I could rule, win, create, and I could be surrounded by other girls while I did so, and competing against them for men didn't enter into it at all. Even mythology and fairy tales didn't really let me know that very often.

I think that's why I'm so defensive of these things... at that time to me these were the most real and powerful and adventurous stories I had. Trying to say they weren't important strikes some deep chord with me, much in the same way people who try to tell me that sci-fi and fantasy isn't for grown ups hurts. I know a lot of other girls of my era who feel the same way,

And that is, to me, why the stories are not the same, as you implied above. In one a girl's ultimate victory is a man. In the other it is creation, and color, and a kingdom of her own. And that was the only story I knew where a girl ended up that way, though I could have told you a hundred where boys did.

#70 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 03:11 PM:

Lisa... It's not that you didn't recognize me at Dark Carnival. You never happened to look in my direction and it'd have been rude of me to insert myself into the conversation. I guess I could have done a Chevy Chase impersonation of Gerald Ford to draw your attention...

#71 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 03:27 PM:

When I was a young girl, back in the pre-Pleistocene, the only "came with a story" toy I can think of was Barbie. And she came out just after I mostly gave up dolls. What I used her for was to learn to sew; I was given a bunch of Barbie clothes patterns, a toy sewing machine, and some fabric scraps. Some amazing creations resulted.

(Wait, did "Chatty Cathy" have a story? Not that I ever had one.)

If any of my other dolls (including a Raggedy Ann imitation with a vinyl hat brim) had stories attached, I didn't know them; my biggest doll thing was the time I lined them all up in the front hall and conducted a fully choral church service.

I got a toy oven and a not entirely toy iron; you definitely made up your own stories for that. The tea set in a metal suitcase was the trigger for all sorts of grow-your-own things. The toy airplane, the toy truck, and the little cars were all totally generic; I remember seeing the child-size T-Bird (almost certainly pedals instead of engine) offered as a sweepstakes prize and thinking "wow" simply for its connection to the "real" world.

The things I played with the most were the Tinkertoys and the weirdly shaped wood scraps from my father's workshop. I generated whole buildings and city architectures.

#72 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 03:34 PM:

Last Xmas, my wife gave our 4-year-old nephew a generic cape and he's still using it to make up his own superhero adventures. Imagination isn't dead. It helps of course when my nephew has a 51-year-old uncle (that'd be me) around to be the big mean supervillain intent upon crushing Captain Underwear (as his mom calls him)

#73 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 04:27 PM:

Aw darn, I used an absolute. Doh! Nearly never 'every', almost always 'most', I say! -_^

About toys, nay I really didn't liked them (grew up in France in the heighties if it can help). The worst was that as soon as my family got out of dire poverty (I must have been around six at the time) my parents did all they could to shower me with them each christmas, and I used to feel somewhat guilty for not caring about them.

The only ones I liked were: the two plush I had been offered at my birth (still have them right there next to me on my bed) and a UFO transformer-like toy with which I never really played. But I loved it; it was offered to me by a friend when I was sent to the hospital after being hit by a car, and apart from the purely sentimental value, there was something about its shape when in UFO form I really found... let's say "elegant" though that was not the word I'd have used at the time. I like it the same way I like the shino ceramics I own. Purely because of the direct sensual/aesthetic pleasure it gives me.

As for the importance of differences of those stories, of course you're right. Don't mind cynical and neurotic me anyway, they're pretty bad company in general (plus, as autistic part of me pointed out, they were both wrong).

Now cooking part of me will go finish making crêpes, but only after confusing part of me has presented some kind (don't ask which, I don't know) of excuses in the name of all "me" versions for nearly only talking about myself... or something.
Anyone want some rhubarb ?

#74 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 05:04 PM:

Real as in grow-in-the-ground rhubarb, or already picked and cut? Because if it's roots, I'll sign up. (Ever the optimist, trying to grow it somewhat out of its best climate range, but knowing that it can be done.)

#75 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 06:07 PM:

I love that Lester Dent story outline (Sidelights). There was a version of it -- apparently abridged some -- in Steranko's history of the comics, and I typed it out for my own reference. It's still in my papers somewhere. I have saved the more complete version.

#76 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 06:30 PM:

Charlie @44,

Oops, meant to say 'just after combat,' as a way to take the edge off of civilian casualties. The fight-or-flight chemical flood shouldn't be sidetracked if one is about to go into a fight.

Another thing certain beta-blockers can do is give one an instant case of depression.

Happened last year to a good friend. She started taking one for a condition, and within a few hours she called me because she'd become horribly depressed. Not just stressed or worried, but a full 'your family is dead, all is lost, the sun will never rise again and its all your fault' deep pain depression.

She was barely able to make a phone call. I looked up that beta-blocker, saw depression as a side-effect, zipped over to her house and had her call her doctor. After stopping it (changing to one that doesn't cross the blood-brain barrier) all was well within a day.

Certainly a strong argument against the [cruel idiots] who say that depression is nothing but not thinking the right thoughts. If they're susceptible to that beta-blocker, their happy thoughts would help like an umbrella against a tornado.

#77 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 07:42 PM:

So, no recommendations re Paul McAuley and New Space Opera?

#78 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 07:55 PM:

Stefan @ 33: Magnifying glasses... which come in handy when you get tired of you pirate action figures.

Heh. When I was a kid, I used a magnifying glass to put a very satisfactory smoldering dent in GI Joe's chest. He was pretty robust, having also survived a run in with a push-mower while being buried chest-deep in hard dirt.

My friends' slightly spoiled kids just had a new load of booty dumped on them for their 3rd (boy) and 5th (girl) birthdays. It's astounding how strongly gender-typed toys have become. My little niece got a dance lesson DVD, targeting girls only, with a bright pink balance bar and a video led by an android-like perky dance teacher who was somewhere between 18 and 22. The thing really pushed the girly-girl thing to the limit. I predict a generational backlash in about 10 years.

Me, I get Legos or Playmobil for toy drives.

#79 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 08:03 PM:

Larry, the way you treated your toys remind me of the movie Toy Story. Remember the evil kid next door?

#80 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 08:19 PM:

Serge - It was just GI Joe who got the, er, enhanced interrogation techniques. I guess I just didn't like his narrative.

#81 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 08:38 PM:

Does anyone know what happens to contact lens solution in checked baggage these days? Do they make you pour it out, or do they only do that if you try to carry it with you...? I'm flying in January -- need to know.

#82 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 09:08 PM:

Lizzy - You can carry any size container of contact lens solution in your checked baggage, but if it's open be sure to squeeze the extra air out and put the thing in a zipper bag, lest the air pressure changes dampen your clothes.

You can carry a 3oz or smaller container on board, but it has to fit in your Freedom Baggie (a 1 qt zippper bag for all your carry-on fluids and gels - limited freedom for a limited future!).

The TSA is making it sound like an exciting new feature to be allowed this limited liquid level. Oh, and a bottle of water is now between $2.15 (@RDU) and $4 (@EWR) on the "secure" side of the checkpoint.

#83 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 11:38 PM:

Serge @ #72:
It helps of course when my nephew has a 51-year-old uncle (that'd be me) around to be the big mean supervillain intent upon crushing Captain Underwear (as his mom calls him).

Captain Underwear? Or Captain Underpants? If its the latter, there's a whole series of books detailing the comic (and, perhaps unsurprisingly, scatalogical) adventures of this atypical hero (Tra-la-la!). Also, perhaps unsurprisingly, they are calibrated for the sense of humor posessed largely by 4-8 yr-old boys.

#84 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2006, 11:44 PM:


You can have liquid meds larger than 3.4oz (100ml) with you in carry-on, but you're supposed to "declare" them. Meds shouldn't go into, and don't count towards your one liquids and gels freedom baggie.

If you wanted to proactively follow the rules exactly you'd tell them you've got liquid meds greater than 3.4oz, and they'd write something on the back of your boarding pass. The TSA doesn't insist on this, though*.

Here's the TSA on medicines. While they don't specifically mention contact lens solution, it is for medical uses. From what I read on Flyertalk (Here's a good thread, which also discusses the existence of 2oz bottles and how to pack lens solution):
1. If you have a prescription on your solution, no problem at all.
2. If you declare it, you usually won't have a problem.
3. If you don't declare it, you might not have a problem, but every once in a while a TSA agent wants to play diagnosis and doctor and tell you that lens solution isn't medical.

If you have the time, temperment and inclination, please do fight back if faced with an agent practicing medicine like that.(After the agent, ask for the supervisor, then for the "Ground Security Coordinator." I wrote about this recently on ML, but the "see all by" isn't working?)

* For me this means I take my freedom baggie out of my bag and into the xray trays. *If* they ask about liquid meds still in my bag, I tell them "Those are medicines."

#85 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 12:09 AM:

Kathryn @ 84 - Given that the TSA recently seized my Rx nasal spray (which fit in the freedom baggie and was way less than 3 oz but had "scary" packaging) I wouldn't want to argue with them as to whether contact lens solution was "medicine" or not. I'd just buy a small bottle for travel. My first take on it was that it was a hygiene product, not a medical product and needed to fit in the freedom baggie. I wouldn't be surprised if the highly skilled TSA screeners thought the same thing.

#86 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 12:26 AM:

The donation barrels arrived at work today. Two from the Oregon Food Bank, two from the Tualitin Valley Toy and Joy program.

I seperated them a bit, and just - in - case put signs reading FOOD over the first pair and TOYS over the second. Then I seeded them with the bags of goodies I had bought over the weekend.

Then, as an afterthought, I put a cardboard box halfway between the two pairs of barrels and labled it SOCKS, using the same jolly typeface as the other signs.

I'm going to buy a few pair at the Dollar Tree tomorrow and put them in the sox box. Who knows, maybe I'll start a trend.

#87 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 12:33 AM:


The TSA agents were wrong. If they're telling you you don't need that Rx nasal spray, then they're practicing unlicenced medicine, and that is illegal. Of course they don't see it that way. The system lets them get away with it because they have little incentive to learn to be right.

One incentive can be a passenger who escalates the incident- calls for the supervisor- but most passengers aren't in a position to fight back. If someone does have a little extra time and patience, then it's worth trying. Or if one can get a badge number, then write a letter afterwards.

But then again, the TSA is just scary. If they're searching my bag- touching personal items with dirty gloves!- I have the right to ask them to put on fresh gloves. You'd think I'd always ask for fresh gloves. I wish I did, but I don't, not if the flight is departing soon.

Re-reading the flyertalk thread, lens solution probably isn't the thing to choose a battle over- it packs, there are 2oz bottles (mostly samples for doctors, but at least one in stores), and it's sold everywhere.

#88 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 01:29 AM:


I predict a generational backlash in about 10 years.

o, i hope it happens earlier. i want to have children before then.

babysitting for my tiny niece in september, the thing that struck me is how gendered shoes for freakin two-year-olds are. we just couldn't find any that weren't mary janes, pink, sparkly, or all three.

#89 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 01:57 AM:

Stefan (#86): I put a cardboard box halfway between the two pairs of barrels and labled it SOCKS, using the same jolly typeface as the other signs.

I'm going to buy a few pair at the Dollar Tree tomorrow and put them in the sox box. Who knows, maybe I'll start a trend.

A long-time institution here in NYC is the NY Cares Winter Coat Drive (this is its 18th year); you may have seen the ads at some point (especially if you were in this area during December), with the Statue of Liberty shivering and huddling in a thin blanket. I've given, and also done some volunteer work for them during the drive a few years ago, and it's a terrific cause.

If socks are what works out there, then go for it. Who knows; I could even buy a few packages (kids' socks? or adult?) and send them, myself.

#90 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 05:42 AM:

Captain Underwear? Or Captain Underpants?

I don't think my sister-in-law would know about the latter, protected static. I probably should mention it to her as I'm all for corrupting young minds with comic-books. It's like last year when I went to my barber and the only seat was near a 3-year-old girl. As I sat down, she looked up at me and I smiled but she responded with a you-weirdo expression. Until I started reading some comic-books of mine and I found myself having to explain that Ben Grimm may look mean, but he really is a nice guy.

#91 ::: Kimiko ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 08:25 AM:

More evidence that Jeph Jaques reads Making Light:
today's Questionable Content. Read to the end for Bratz doll funnay.

#92 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 09:07 AM:

Jon Carroll today:

"...There's a new social problem, and I think we need to be aware of it. According to the New York Times, the gap between the rich and the super-rich is expanding. The people who fly first class are resentful of the people who time-share private jets. The people with two houses are getting fed up with the people who have four. There is turmoil..."

#93 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 09:14 AM:

In the hey-that's-NOT-what-I-thought-I-was-buying dept...

I went to Borders yesterday to do some Xmas shopping. Meaning I bought for myself the DVD of Superman returns and Superman ii as its original director intended it to be. (I wonder if this version has General Zod expecting as much kneeling from his opponents.) And for my father-in-law I got the restored version of The Big Red One. Or so I thought. When I slid the DVD out of its cardboard container, I found myself staring at a romantic comedy with Laura Linney and Matthew Broderick.

#94 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 09:40 AM:

Thanks, everyone. Sounds like it's perfectly okay for me to carry lens solution in a bag I am checking, which is what I will do. And yes, if worst comes to worst I can not carry it at all, and buy some at my destination. I don't wear contacts when flying so I won't suffer any hardship not having the stuff with me.

#95 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 10:08 AM:

As another kid from the pre-Pleistocene, I also got a Barbie just when I was getting tired of dolls (but I never did get into sewing, so the most I did was try to change her makeup with crayons -- crude and ineffective). The pink-sparkles-and-ponies thing was big in the Fifties too, but that doesn't mean the kid has to accept it! Wooden construction sets and interesting books should work a lot better as gifts.

#96 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 10:12 AM:

The only dolls my wife ever played with were action figures, but, unlike Larry Brennan, she never used a death ray to punch a hole thru their chests. I think.

#97 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 10:13 AM:

PS to Serge: If you have access to old issues of Locus, check the online Review Index to see what other reviewers thought of McAuley books (they don't send me that kind of skiffy, so I can't help you myself).

#98 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 10:21 AM:

Thanks, Faren. I do have access to old issues of Locus, going all the way back to the summer of 1975, when they were adorned with illos by George Barr and Bill Rotsler. I dread to think of the kind of dust I'll kick up into my nostrils when I dig them out of their boxes though. Heck. It's worth the risk, if it means a good read.

#99 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 11:54 AM:

Here's an excerpt from the latest newsletter of the Annals of Improbable Research, where they took the title of a real scientific paper and asked people to write a poem around it.

Some scientisst have way too much free time on their hands.


The judges have chosen a winner for last month's "Image
Management: Image Management" Limerick Competition, which asked
for a limerick to honor the following study:

"Rumors and Gossip in Radiology," S.B. Dowd and
R. Davidhizar, Radiology Management, vol. 19,
no. 6, November-December 1997, pp. 46-9.

The winner is investigator MARVIN KUERS, who produced this:

A probe of the X-ray profession
Found unseemly talk its obsession.
And clearly they do
Have the means to see through
Any gossip or rumor in question.

And here is the latest from Limerick Laureate Martin Eiger:

They say here that most hearsay, once said,
Will metastasize, mutate and spread.
Radiologists' rumors
Run rampant, like tumors,
In research reports best unread.

#100 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 12:21 PM:

I have a problem, and I thought the Making Light fluorosphere might be able to help. I am having trouble turning pages. I can handle mass market paperbacks, if they aren't too big. If I have a table. But the page problem is driving me more and more to prefer e-books and audiobooks.

My immediate problem involves a large loose-leaf notebook of reference material and an open-book exam. I hadn't realized how much of a problem this was, so I didn't try to arrange in advance for any kind of special accomodation. (I don't even know what that would be.) I can turn one page. It hardly hurts at all. Slowly turning 50 pages while studying? Not that big of a deal. I can even cope with flipping pages to look something up. It hurts afterwards, but I can do it. I ran into trouble when I tried to take a practice exam with my book of reference materials. Needing to look things up repeatedly is just overwhelming my ability to cope. (It hurts more the next day, which has made the last 3 days cumulatively rough.)

One part of the problem is that my fingers slip on the pages. I'm looking for the tacky goop bankers used to put on their fingers to count money. Do any of you know what's it called and where do you find it?

Another part of the problem might be the weight of the pages. I know a lot of you have dealt with unwieldy stacks of paper. The problem here is searching and indexing, not storage or reading straight through. The objective is *fast* retrieval as well as sparing my hands. Did you find it easier to have 1500 pages in one big notebook, or divided in smaller sections so you had to go between them? Are loose-leaf binders good for this kind of thing, or would something different work better?

Any other suggestions?

#101 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 12:24 PM:

Tacky goop: try an office supply store. It's actually called something like 'sticky fingers' or 'tacky fingers'. You can also get things called finger cotts, which are basically latex finger covers (fingers will sweat inside them, so I don't like them).

#102 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 12:35 PM:

#60: Look at The Real Ghostbusters,: though it was an incredibly shrewdly marketed spinoff to a hollywood movie, it told a lot of great stories about the occult.

And it had J. Michael Strazynski writing Cthulhu Mythos stories (Egon: "Cthulhu makes Gozer look like Little Mary Sunshine"). A gem amidst the kiddie cartoon dreck.

#103 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 12:39 PM:

"Die, spammer, die!"

I wonder why it is that spam attacks go only after inactive threads. I know, let's not look gift spam in the mouth.

#104 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 01:45 PM:

Adrian-- sometimes I see cashiers stashing a small flat container with a piece of damp sponge beside their registers; if they're having trouble peeling bills apart, they simply moisten their fingertips with the sponge by pressing down on it.

The moisture may possibly warp the page corners, but it's no worse (and somewhat more hygienic) than licking one's fingertips for traction, as I've seen some people do. (But have almost never done so myself, due to childhood imprinting by a fairy tale about a king who was murdered by poisoning the pages of a book-- iirc the same concept also appears in the movie Queen Margot, though I don't know whether it was in the original Dumas.)

#105 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 01:50 PM:

Bruce @ 89:

I remember the shivering Lady Liberty ads. Quirky and effective.

Portland has coat drives too. I actually have a pre-weight-loss coat I should get around to donating. I'm well coat-endowed at the moment, having found two sporty and well fitting examples specimens in a skip last year.

My intent with the sock drive was snarky, playing on the meme that socks are the kind of gift that kids hate to get. Anything donated will go into the toy barrel, and I'm sure someone will very much appreciate them.

#106 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 02:25 PM:

Adrian @#100, here's the Tacky Fingers product (scroll to bottom). Note that that's a full box of a dozen dispensers.

If you're suffering pain from turning pages, is it a forearm muscular problem? 'Cos that wouldn't be solved with sticky goop on your finger tips, I shouldn't think.

#107 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 02:38 PM:

Adrian @100: If I were your professor, I'd be willing to work with you. Call him/her ASAP and explain your problem.

#108 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 02:39 PM:

Adrian (#100) — the tub of the stuff I have here at my desk is called "SortKwik"; it should be available at most office-supply stores.

#109 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 02:45 PM:

Have you all seen the Bratz Babyz? Just in case the juvenile sexuality of the regular Bratz dolls wasn't squicky enough... These babies "already know how to flaunt it."

And no. It's not a spoof.

#110 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 02:53 PM:

Thanks for the pointers to SortKwik.

TexAnne: there is no professor to work with, it's an international certification exam. I could try to contact the local proctor, but I don't know what to ask for, specifically.

#111 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 02:59 PM:


You don't specify what's hurting. Is this perhaps arthritis in your finger joints? When mine was at its worst, I had problems turning pages also. (Also I found keyboards and mice very difficult to use, but could write by hand with only moderate pain; other friends have found the reverse to be true.)

At the worst point with my arthritis, I was able to continue using a keyboard only by clutching a padded pencil and using the eraser end to tap out the keys, acting as if my fingers were completely non-functional (and hence saving them for other use.) I believe there are some sticks you could get with adhesive tips which might be useful to turn pages. Don't be afraid to use equipment designed for the disabled or handicapped because your current disability is "not that bad." The tools were designed and created to help with disabilities - you may as well use them.

Ditto with regard to requesting accomodations. I understand the desire to not "make a big deal about it", but often it doesn't hurt to ask.

#112 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 03:06 PM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale in #76 talks about Propanolol depression: yup, those are the sorts of bad memories I made during the time I took the stuff.

Atenolol isn't as depressing, but it plays hob with my spelling and ability to close quotes, parentheses and italics tags...

#113 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 03:13 PM:

Stefan Jones at #105- the Top here has collection boxes for the coat drive, I bet the Haggen where you do does too (weirdly enough, I've shopped there, often when we were staying overnight at the motel across from the multiplex before going to the Oregon Hardy Plant Society Sale at the fairgrounds).

#114 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 03:20 PM:

Dawn-o... You still around reading ML?

#115 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 03:25 PM:

Sarah @ 109:

My HDL level thanks you. I was going to buy some junk food for lunch, but now I've lost my appetite.

Hmm. What's next?

Bratz (tm) Twenny Sumthin' Slutz (tm). Outta Skool, on the Streetz . . . with Attitude!

Bratz EmbreeYoz (tm), cuz Bratz (tm) Twenny Sumthin' Slutz (tm) don't beleev in Choiz.

And for those with a vestige of childhood left:

Bratz (tm) Ho Poneeez (tm)

#116 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 03:44 PM:

I just had to pop in to approve wholeheartedly of Adrian's "Flourosphere" reference at #100. Rolls off the ol' Broca's Area much more smoothly than "Making Lighters." The latter always made me think of hand-crafting Zippo knock-offs, anyway...

#117 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 04:30 PM:

Serge @96

The only dolls my wife ever played with were action figures, but, unlike Larry Brennan, she never used a death ray to punch a hole thru their chests. I think.

Snap, until I got the longed-for Barbie at 8 and wondered what all the fuss was about. Specifically, Star Trek action figures, nearly priceless now, all of whose noses I bit off one day.

I still don't know why.

#118 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 04:41 PM:

Star Trek action figures, nearly priceless now, all of whose noses I bit off one day.

And how old were you, abi?

#119 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 04:43 PM:

I was about 6. I recall that I started with Spock, and went from there.

#120 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 04:49 PM:

abi... No idea at all why you did this? And why you did only the noses? And why you started with Spock?

#121 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 05:00 PM:


None. It's particularly odd, considering that I had been in love with Spock for a good two years by that point.

#122 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 05:04 PM:

"We destroy what we love the most," abi?

#123 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 05:08 PM:


Perhaps. I usually go for "Any adult who can truly understand a six year old is probably clinically insane."

#124 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 05:39 PM:

Is there a great likelihood that girls who don't play with real dolls (*) grow up having little interest in kids of their own?

(*) action figures don't qualify as such, whether they are noseless Vulcans or not.

#125 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 05:42 PM:


Not in my case. I didn't say I wasn't interested in kids - including my own (2(XX) and 5(XY)). I just don't always understand them.

#126 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 05:46 PM:

So much for that hypothesis, abi. Have your children shown any tendency towards proboscis ingestion?

#127 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 05:49 PM:

No, but then they both play with dolls.

However, my daughter seems to have acquired an imaginary friend this week. I wonder if she'll stick around?

#128 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 05:50 PM:

(The imaginary friend, I mean. The kid seems to be a keeper.)

#129 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 05:54 PM:

I had plenty of imagination as a kid (still do), but never any imaginary friends even though I had no flesh&blood ones.

#130 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 05:58 PM:


You're reminding me of the Calvin & Hobbes cartoon where his mother and his uncle are discussing imaginary friends. His uncle says, "Sometimes I think most of my friends are imaginary."

Hang do I know you exist?

#131 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 06:02 PM:

abi... I have found from 6 years of telecommuting that one becomes less real to one's co-workers in spite of having worked with them for years before that. On the other hand...

Cogito ergo sum...

#132 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 06:04 PM:

Cogito ergo sum

Paging Alan Turing...

#133 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 06:08 PM:

(Mostly because he's too big to fit in RAM)

#134 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 06:16 PM:

Abi @ 132 & 133:

Ooowww! (*snicker*)

#135 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 06:26 PM:

JESR @ 112: Atenolol isn't as depressing, but it plays hob with my spelling and ability to close quotes, parentheses and italics tags...

Hmmm ... I've been taking the stuff for years, and I did all these things *before* I took it. (Or the moral equivalent--fencepost errors.) The thing that really depressed me, many years ago, was getting my Synthroid dose messed up. And the generics make me beyond cranky.

#136 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 06:27 PM:

Clifton, my fingers are usually ok. The problem is with the tendon that controls my right thumb. (It started as dequervein's tendonitis, became chronic inflammation of the tendon sheath, and surgery to release the tendon caused nerve damage.) It hurts to close my fist, or to tense the related muscles. For indirect tension, like when I'm lifting something with finger pressure but it's too heavy to lift with fingers alone so I engage the thumb from the side rather than drop it...the flare of pain comes *after* the strain, rather than warning me to stop when I'm doing it. My left hand has various kinds of bruises and muscle strain, because I'm so strongly right-handed, the painful ergonomic consequences of a clumsy person trying to compensate for an injured dominant hand.

Linkmeister, clenching the forearm muscles irritates the problematic tendon. It's a problem in both hands, though much worse in the right. The advantage of good traction between fingertips and pages is that I might let me turn one page with one motion of my hand. (I want to see p. 34, I'm on p. 36, *turn page 35 over*) Rather than what I do now. (I want to see p. 34, I'm on p. 36. *try to turn page 35, but finger slips* *try to turn page 35, using other corner, pages stick together* *try to turn page 33, finger slips* *turn page 33* Finally, page 34.) Without good traction, there is 4 times more more effort. It takes longer. It's frustrating, which tends to make me clench the muscles of my arm that aren't directly involved...that makes it hurt more.

Clifton, I like your suggestion about sticks with adhesive tips for turning pages. I tried a pencil eraser, which is not really adhesive but is a little sticky. It works great on my notebook, but the paper in this reference book is too slippery. I think it has too much clay. (Well, too much clay for this purpose, at least. The printing shows up very clearly.)

#137 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 06:33 PM:

Skwid, I'm glad you like "fluorosphere." (Not "flourosphere." Too many celiacs.) People who give off light when light shines on us.

Abi, it's fascinating that you bit the noses off the action figures. I can remember being 6, and it made sense at the time (even the destructive bits)..though of course it doesn't make sense from an adult perspective. Do you remember if you wanted to play with noseless figures, or if you were making a start at destroying them?

#138 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 06:37 PM:

Adrian, 110--it can't hurt to call the proctor. They might not know what to tell you either, but they can kick it up the food chain.

#139 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 06:41 PM:

I don't particularly recall caring whether they were noseless or not. We kept them for a good 5 or 6 years after that time. I think my brother (2 years older than me) was bothered by the mutilation.

I still have no idea why I bit them off. It wasn't to destroy them, nor to eat the noses. It was just the right thing to do at that particular point in time, from my point of view.

#140 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 06:45 PM:

#129-130: I heard a guy interviewed on NPR the other day who was raising his daughter in New York City and was bemused when she acquired an imaginary friend...who's always too busy to play with her.

"Ran into Pastahead* today. He had to run, but we stopped in at Starbucks to get coffee."

*not his real name

#141 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 07:22 PM:

Adrian, here's a link to rubber fingers at Amazon. They sure give traction; I've used similar devices for counting wads of cash and checks (all legally received, FBI!).

Nerve damage is, I assume, irreparable through surgery. Were I you, I'd be very leery of more surgery in any case, I suspect.

#142 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 07:25 PM:


Behold, Captain Underpants!

I must admit, there is something to say about a series of books that cheerfully cops to having a Graphic Violence Chapter - done as a flip book.

Oh, and don't miss the Ricky Ricotta series, either.

#143 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 07:30 PM:

When I started school my imaginary friends started hanging out with the cool kids' imaginary friends and totally stopped playing with me.

I think my dog is just pretending to like me too.

#144 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 07:34 PM:

Adrian (#100, #137): Unfortunately, running "fluorosphere" through Google turns up lots of references to some kind of cell biology analysis technique, apparently something to do with fluorescent-coated microbeads. Also a couple of body-piercing jewelry links.

Though my immediate thought was that it must be fluorine-related...

#145 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 07:37 PM:

Darn it, Adrian, now I know what to call the pain in the side of my hand/wrist when I see the rheumatologist on the 11th. I was hoping it was something that wouldn't need surgery. I'm getting the pain when I pick heavy things up or, and this is more important in some ways, when I push with my hands to stand up (I'm disabled).

Then again, I have a really good hand surgeon.

#146 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 07:38 PM:

The right wing hates Bratz too.

#147 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 08:02 PM:

#131 ::: Serge mused:
abi... I have found from 6 years of telecommuting that one becomes less real to one's co-workers in spite of having worked with them for years before that.

My co-workers are real??? All this time I've thought they were clever Eliza-bots! You've shattered my peaceful content!

#148 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 08:05 PM:

Marilee, surgery is not the first line solution for dequervein's tendonitis. Rest, ice, and anti-inflammatories work for a lot of people. (Occupational therapists make plastic splints that immobilize the thumb in a neutral position to rest it.) Cortisone injections directly into the tendon also help in some cases.

But it's still really good to have a hand surgeon you trust.

Here's a picture of the diagnostic test for dequervain's tenosynovitis:

Doctor visits are generally more pleasant now that they don't start with me doing that to show that yes, it still hurts.

#149 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 08:39 PM:

Serge @124 Is there a great likelihood that girls who don't play with [dolls] grow up having little interest in kids of their own?

There was an SF short that had it that the World Population Control Board outlawed dolls when it was discovered that girls, rather than playing with dolls as preparation for their role as mothers, in fact had children so they could continue to play with dolls.

#150 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 08:43 PM:

The fluorosphere is clearly the global collection of interesting shiny things that only show up when illuminated by unusually high-energy light.

#151 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 09:44 PM:

Fluorosphere! I like it. Thank you, Adrian. I see no reason why we can't use it to describe the collective Making Light virtual space.

#152 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 09:57 PM:

Hey, remember the particle about the RFID in passports? I'm not sure a passport would fit in this Faraday Cage Wallet, but it's a start!

#153 ::: Alan Yee ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 11:37 PM:

Hi everyone. I just want to mention our friend, dear old Martha Ivery a.k.a Kelly O'Donnell, has finally been sentenced.

65 months in federal prison, 3 years probation, and she has to pay bigtime restitution. Let's party, everyone!

#154 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 11:37 PM:

When I was 6, I had an entire herd of virtual ponies pastured in the vacant lot next to the schoolyard. I rode them at lunch.

I miss riding those ponies.

#155 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2006, 11:48 PM:

It looks as though ML is under spam attack again, and from the same scumbags as before. Same MO, that is.

It inclines one towards vigilantism. The law seems so... useless.

#156 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 07:24 AM:

Thanks for the recommendation for Captain Underpants, protected static... Still, I'd better run that one by my nephew's mom first.

#157 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 07:28 AM:

Serge @124 Is there a great likelihood that girls who don't play with [dolls] grow up having little interest in kids of their own? (...)
There was an SF short that had it that the World Population Control Board outlawed dolls when it was discovered that girls, rather than playing with dolls as preparation for their role as mothers, in fact had children so they could continue to play with dolls.

Actually, Rob, what I really was wondering about was the possibility of having no interest in dolls being correlated with having no interest in one's own kids, not that one caused the other. But abi later shot that one down since she has one XX and one XY of hr own.

#158 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 07:32 AM:

As for myself (or my co-workers) being creatures of cyberspace... I hope not. I am reminded of a story in Best SF #11 where someone who died, but still lives in cyberspace, is contacted by the hardware's owners. You see, the economy in the real world has tanked and the financial arrangements he had made before his death can't cover the cost of the resources he currently uses. But they won't pull the plug on him. They'll keep him 'alive' by having him work for them as a spam-filter.

#159 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 08:23 AM:

With respect to the "Developer UI" Sidelight -- the notion that wget needs, or could benefit from, a GUI interface strikes me as the very first error, from which all else followed.

#160 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 08:34 AM:

Indeed, Graydon - just because you _can_ doesn't mean you _should_.

#161 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 08:45 AM:

Interesting. Both James Wolcott and Sadly!No! poke fun at Orson Scott Card today.

#162 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:33 AM:

My Google-fu is weak--what combination of search words will allow me to find a basic guide to wiring up simple electrical circuits?

I want to make turn signals for my bike. I'm pretty sure that this means I need to wire my light sources in series, with a power source, a switch and something to make them blink; what I need is a way to work out how much power any given number of light sources takes, and whether I need to install a resistor in the circuit to make sure the bulbs (I am planning to use LEDs) don't burn out. Also, I'm guessing the blink-bit would be a capacitor, right?

#163 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 11:28 AM:

OSC is (deservedly, at least based upon the excerpts I've read) getting his lumps from lots of folks in the blogosphere... TBogg lets him have it, as does Lawyers, Guns & Money and Roy Edroso.

#164 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 12:20 PM:

Carrie S. asked:
My Google-fu is weak--what combination of search words will allow me to find a basic guide to wiring up simple electrical circuits?

I tried searching on 'howto make bicycle turn signals' - it looked like there were a few likely hits coming up.

#165 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 12:42 PM:

I tried searching on 'howto make bicycle turn signals' - it looked like there were a few likely hits coming up

That was pretty much the first thing I tried; the hits fell into two (not useful for my purposes) categories: wiring new or custom turn signals into a motorcycle, and how to perform the bike hand signals.

I was getting only slightly better results with stuff like "construct LED circuit". I find it hard to believe that there's no Electronics 101 on the web; I just can't find it. :)

#166 ::: Kimiko ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 12:50 PM:

Serge & protected static
That OSC discussion was a great time sink. Led to a kuro5hin article on Ender as a type of Hitler, Andrew Sullivan's posting of pictures of Mormon Underwear, and a really interesting discussion (by Mormons) of wether or not thats okay by over on Common Consent.

Time lost altogether: 2.5 hours and counting

#167 ::: Zack Weinberg ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 12:56 PM:

Why are all the old, old threads open for comments again? That seems to be what the comment spammers are jumping on.

#168 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 01:01 PM:

Mormon underwear, Kimiko? I'll pass. Unless Claudia Black has become a Mormon.

#169 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 02:06 PM:

Carrie S:

By googling 'diy bicycle lights', I found this site through a degree of separation: Red Circuits. I don't think they have exactly what you want, but it's probably a good start. Check out 'hobby & model' or 'auto' for starters.

#170 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 02:08 PM:

New York Times coverage of the great OLPC debate. (There is also discussion in one of the forums.)

Good grief!

#171 ::: Kimiko ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 02:27 PM:

via Mister Fanboy:
Nazis force a Czech Jew artist to paint images of Gypsies being led to their deaths. She survives, eventually becoming a Disney animator. Years later, she finds out that the paintings are on exhibit at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland. She wants them back. The Museum says no. Comic artists come to her defense ...

Full story from the LA times here.

Normally I'd think of some clever hook to get you to read this or talk about this, but I have nothing when it comes to the Holocaust.

#172 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 02:58 PM:

Thanks, static! That'll at least get me started.

#173 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 06:45 PM:

It " powered by a proton accelerator, can hover, fly at 500 mph and break into separate flying machines..."

What is 'it'?

The Fantasticar, as it will appear in next year's movie. It looks better than the comic-book's flying bathtub, but I do wonder what the EPA has to say about the engine's proton exhaust.

#174 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 06:49 PM:

Adrian, I can't have anti-inflammatories. I think I might feel a small gout tophus on that tendon, too. I'd have too much cortisone if I got shots in everything that hurts, so usually, if tendons hurt (vs. joints), the hand surgeon fixes it.

#175 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:14 PM:

A late comment on allowable liquids: people have reported that >3oz containers are banned even when they clearly have <3oz of liquid in them. Worse, I lost a ~3oz container a few weeks ago because it was a generic bottle with no marked capacity. (It had been passed (in BOS and MSP) the week before, but the TSAgent claimed the rules had just been tightened.) Looks like I'm going to have to buy some more "trial sizes" if I want my plain shampoo instead of the multiply-perfumed types hotels now favor. (Yes, I asked for some plain; they gave me more of the same. Don't know what they'd do with somebody genuinely allergic rather than just disliking the smell.) YTDAW.

#176 ::: Sharon M ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:16 PM:

abi @ 139

I did the same thing, at the same age, but with new-to-me Barbies.

I don't remember why I did it. I do remember that the noses were a kind of flexible rubber, and the rest of the bodies were the normal hard plastic. And the noses tasted sort of like erasers.

#177 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 02:01 AM:

This doesn't seem to have appeared in Sidelights or Particles, so I think I'm safe in posting a link to a new work of fiction entitled U.S. v. Bush.

De la Vega has drawn up that indictment -- a "hypothetical" one, she hastens to add -- convened that grand jury, and held seven days of testimony. Yes, it's a grand jury directly out of her fertile brain and the federal agents who testify are fictional, but all the facts are true. She understands the case against the Bush administration down to the last detail; and she's produced, to my mind, the book of the post-election, investigative season: United States v. George W. Bush et al.

Sounds like a Christmas gift idea to me. (Both the book and the actual event, but sadly only the book looks like a possibility.)

#178 ::: abi uses the open thread to collate a list of recent spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 05:53 AM:

Much of this has been pointed out by others, but I thought I'd collect it all in one place for ease of cleanup.

#731 ::: Lawrence ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:26 AM:
Nothing so bad, as not to be good for something... Lawrence

Namarie Sue

#333 ::: Enoch ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:31 AM:
Score twice before you cut once... Enoch

#334 ::: Faustinus ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:31 AM:
What is got over the devil's back is spent under his belly... Faustinus

#335 ::: Valentine ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:33 AM:
Life is but a span... Valentine

#336 ::: Gregory ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:39 AM:
Measure for measure... Gregory

#338 ::: Heneage ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:46 AM:
No joy without alloy... Heneage

Absolute Write is Gone

#899 ::: Joseph ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:26 AM:
To be up to the ears in love... Joseph

#900 ::: Laura ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:31 AM:
Gifts from enemies are dangerous... Laura

#901 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:39 AM:
A bargain is a bargain... Randolph

#902 ::: Helegor ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:40 AM:
A bad beginning makes a bad ending... Helegor

Virtual Panel Participation

#145 ::: Hieronimus ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:31 AM:
A forced kindness deserves no thanks... Hieronimus

#146 ::: Julius ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:32 AM:
Better early than late... Julius

#147 ::: Hieronimus ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:32 AM:
A forced kindness deserves no thanks... Hieronimus

#148 ::: Denton ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:34 AM:
Soon ripe, soon rotten... Denton

#150 ::: Denton ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:36 AM:
Soon ripe, soon rotten... Denton

Fcking Ralph Nader, Fcking Puplic Citizen

#626 ::: Winifred ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:32 AM:
Get a name to rise early, and you may lie all day... Winifred


#321 ::: Prospero ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:25 AM:
Much will have more... Prospero

#322 ::: Prospero ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:25 AM:
Much will have more... Prospero

#323 ::: Lambert ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:33 AM:
Hard words break no bones... Lambert

Atlanta Nights and PublishAmerica

#209 ::: Wymond ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:33 AM:
When the fox preaches, take care of your geese... Wymond

#210 ::: Wymond ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:33 AM:
When the fox preaches, take care of your geese... Wymond

Conventional Unwisdom in Publishing

#125 ::: Dorothy ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:26 AM:
Burn not your house to rid it of the mouse... Dorothy

#126 ::: Giles ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:32 AM:
In the evening one may praise the day... Giles

#127 ::: Ingram ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:39 AM:
Live and learn... Ingram

A brief note on linguistic markers

#290 ::: Heneage ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:31 AM:
Learn to say before you sing... Heneage

#291 ::: David ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:40 AM:
Love in a cottage... David

John M. Ford, 1957-2006

#452 ::: Bertram ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:42 AM:
Least said, soonest mended... Bertram

#453 ::: Lewis ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:45 AM:
A good deed is never lost... Lewis

#454 ::: George ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:45 AM:
The best fish swim near the bottom... George

Follow the Money

#285 ::: Faith ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:31 AM:
He who likes borrowing dislikes paying... Faith

#286 ::: Julius ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:43 AM:
Greedy folk have long arms... Julius

#288 ::: Paschall ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:46 AM:
Love me, love my dog... Paschall

What we did on our vacation

#228 ::: Jocatta ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:43 AM:
Many men, many minds... Jocatta

#229 ::: Benedict ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:44 AM:
An idle brain is the devil's workshop... Benedict

Folksongs are your friends

#393 ::: Cecily ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:25 AM:
Time is money... Cecily

#394 ::: Reginald ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:32 AM:
He that has a great nose thinks everybody is speaking of it... Reginald

#395 ::: Reginald ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:32 AM:
He that has a great nose thinks everybody is speaking of it... Reginald

#397 ::: Rawsone ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2006, 10:46 AM:
Make haste slowly... Rawsone

#179 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 06:35 AM:

The spam has invaded my brain! All of the below comes from the above.

A preaching fox, as Wymond lets us see,
Distracts us from our geese... Hieronimus
Says forced kindness must then thankless be...
When kindness is advice, and forced on us,
Distracting from the pleasure we find here,
I take their platitudinous links ill.
But blocking comments would, I greatly fear,
Be burning down the house, the mouse to kill....
(And thank you, Dorothy, I won't forget.)
The best fish swim, George tells us, bottomward...
But Laura warns us that the gifts we get
From enemies have dangers...
So I've heard.
I wrote this verse from Lawrence's kind thought :
That nothing is so bad it's good for naught...

#180 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 09:09 AM:

abi, that's a really able sonnet. Nice, bitey turn on the couplet. This is the sort of thing that really ought to be collected.

#181 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 09:32 AM:

Abi #179: Lovely!!! It has a very eighteenth century look to it.

#182 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 09:35 AM:

Sharon M @ 176... How does one manage to bite Barbie's nose off? It's not exactly her most prominent feature.

#183 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 09:38 AM:

TCM had Doctor Strangelove on when I got up this morning. Does anybody know why "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" is used in all the scenes of Slim Pickens's B-52?

#184 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 12:45 PM:

Dave, Fragano,


I feel faintly guilty, because I was almost (not quite, I hasten to add) hoping to find a crop of unharvested platitudes to turn into a sonnet. The intention to do so has been knocking about in my head for a week or so, but our hosts have been so diligent cleaning it up that I never had the raw materials and the time at once.

I hope I've paid my debt by collecting my raw material in a traceable, deletable fashion.

And yes, if you were wondering, it was fun to write. I only wish I'd been able to work more messages in without losing too much of the meaning.

#185 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 10:39 PM:

Apologies if this has already been covered elsewhere, but while reading a fascinating FandomWank about a fake car accident and genuine outpouring of sympathy for a Smallville fan, I saw a reference to fake_lj_deaths community.
Which pointed me to this site with a very nicely paced video "A Beginner's Guide to Faking Your Death on the Internet".

#186 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2006, 11:54 PM:

Smallville, Barbara?

#187 ::: Sharon M ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 01:12 AM:

Serge @ 182:

The great barbie nose biting incident was in 1975 or 76, and the dolls may have been barbie-like instead of authentic barbies. There was enough nose for 5 or 6 year old me to bite off.

And those were the only toys that I defaced, to the best of my knowledge. I can only assume that it made sense at the time.

#188 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 03:31 AM:

Partly as a relief from some health problems in the family, I've been reading Buffy crossover fanfics, starting with Marcus Rowland's stuff, and getting into some weird combinations.

Would you believe Spike and Noggin the Nog?

But, as I went through the strangeness, I was reminded of somme of my comfort limits.

TV and movies are essentially collective works. Even if the script and direction are all by one person, there are the actors. In particular, a TV series is likely to be the product of a lot of different writers, and a good fanfic is, in some sense, a script that never reached the screen. Add spin-off books to the mix. and it's easy to see fanfics as part of the overall pattern.

But books are much more identifiably a single person's creation. Even with the influence of an editor, the connection between book and fanfic is much more personal. It's the difference between padding an insurance claim and mugging your neighbour.

Well, maybe not that extreme, but there is that shift to the personal. And Hollywood has that sup-with-a-long-spood reputation. You know the sort of thing: you get a share of the profits in a contract, and the accountants make sure the movie never make a profit.

So the TV/film fanfic very much has the feel of robbing the robbers. Writing it has the excitement of being the early Saint, running around outside the law and biffing the ungodly.

And then there are some things stuck in the middle, such as Harry Potter and Middle Earth. They've been mmade into films. I'm not sure that entirely makes them fair game, but other people have produced their views of the characters. The barriers have been weakened.

(And besides, what if a Buffyverse Vengence Demon granted Faramir's Wish?)

#189 ::: Antonia Tiger ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 05:09 AM:

You wouldn't believe the silly amount of money I was paid to post the link to this fanfic drabble.

#190 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 08:58 AM:

Dave Bell... Speaking of the early Saint, did fans of the books all hate the Val Kilmer movie of 1997? I liked it, quite a bit in fact, but then again my only exposure until then had been the Roger Moore TV series.

#191 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 01:14 PM:

I've no idea what the fans felt about the Val Kilmer movie. The Saint changed several times through his history, so there wasn't a single Real Saint, anyway. I read the novelisation, and felt it do a decent job of reinventing the character, making the Movie Saint an orphan who found some escape in the books, and emulated his hero. And the film plot had a certain echo of some of the books.

The Saint started as a criminal adventurer, a veteran of the Great War, one of a mode of adventure story that encompassed Bulldog Drummond at one extreme and Lord Peter Wimsey at the other. And there were real people like that; young, slightly shell-shocked, gentlemen who mmissed the excitement. Two of my Great Uncles were police officers and knew of the sort. And in those heady days of Bolshevism and social turmoil, maybe there was a place for a slightly wild young man with a service revolver.

On the other hand, they'd been in the trenches with those rough fellows who were now the strikers, which is maybe one reason why the General Strike, despite the enthusiastic young gentlemen with revolvers, who drove trucks loaded with strike-breaking goods, didn't turn into a revolution.

My family were out of that world, farming, but they knew how desperate men could be. A lot of the semi-myth of the tramp comes from the era, and a good many of them were unsettled old soldiers. Every war produces its own version of Rambo.

But we were talking about Simon Templar. And there's a story about his visit to a South American banana republic (which is a term that comes from the way that big American fruit companies manipulated governments), and how "The Bells of Hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling" becomes one of the Songs of the Revolution.

But I didn't know that when I watched Roger Moore on the YV, reinventing the Saint for the Sixties. And, I can't help thinking, maybe you can't really create that sort of thing after Superman. After stopping speeding locomotives, biffing the ungodly becomes almost mundane.

#192 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 01:43 PM:

Thanks, Dave. I don't think Kilmer's version of the Saint bumped anybody off, as he prefered using his wits, and neat disguises. Come to think of it, his Saint was in a way a throwback to the likes of Arsene Lupin, gentleman-thief.

#193 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 05:31 PM:

Dave Bell #191: I'd add to the list of bright young aristocrats (of literature, natch) affected by the Great War a certain Group Captain Bigglesworth.

I'd also add that we could see The Saint as Raffles after having gone through the Great War.

#194 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 05:39 PM:

(Crossposted at my fiberblog)
So, we have friends who have a neighbor who has a walnut tree. And I had about 150 lbs. of fresh walnuts in the garage about 2 months ago. Now I have 150 lbs. of rotting walnuts.

Much googling gives me five options:
0- Eat
1- Ink
2- Stain
3- Dye
4- Trash

0- Does anyone know if the nutmeats are still good? There's fungus growing on some of them, and most of them have turned to mush. Brown, slimy, permanently-stainy mush.

1- I gather I can turn them into ink by letting them soak in water with a few rusty iron nails as a fixative of some sort. (I'd prefer this to the boiling method.)

2-3 I wasn't ready to dye anything with them, but if anyone has a proven recipe for dying something I might give it a shot, just to not waste them.

4- Very poor option, as my S.O. has put in a lot of work gathering these nuts and hauling them from the friends' backyard, and I'd prefer not to throw them out.

Anyone have any advice or suggestions? Anyone in the Western New York area want mushy walnuts and hulls? Anyone?

#195 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 06:10 PM:

The walnut hulls will certainly stain, and can be used for dye (black or dark brown, IIRC); recipes should be findable.

The nuts themselves - if you can get the hulls off, dry them out and then check if they're still good. We used to lay them out in a single layer on the (covered) patio to dry, sometimes for several weeks, with the only major problem being the raccoon who checked them over one winter. This works best if they're hulled; normally the nuts will naturally come out, when the hulls split open in the fall.

#196 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 09:14 PM:

Stopped by a local Goodwill store today. It often has, in its video section, "Screeners" -- preview copies of movies not yet out in theaters -- and I've found some good, relatively recent stuff.

Today I found some OLD stuff.

Who else remembers the shabby SF TV series "The Starlost?" Co-created by Harlan Ellison, disowned by him, mocked in a Ben Bova book. I was a devotee as a kid, as it was the only game in town for a few years, but I caught a showing of a TV-movie compilation a couple of decades back, and realized what a dump it was.

Well . . . apparently someone got a really good deal on the rights, and put it on video. Hilariously inept and unrelated artwork, straining-for-praise box copy. There are four movie compilations; I found two.

For $.99, how could I resist? If anyone has a painful nostalgia bug they need to satify, let me know; I'll probably only watch them once.

#197 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 09:27 PM:

As someone who goes by his middle name, the list of middle names of potential '08 prez candidates gives me a momentary spike of sympathy (though not support) for Mitt Romney.

Going by ones middle name is a royal PITA. I used to think that the advent of computers would lead to the ability to enter First Name, Middle Name and check a box under the one you prefer. No such luck. Most forms still give First Name, Middle Initial.

#198 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 09:48 PM:

Dave L #197: It's a particular nuisance for those of us who have two middle initials, not to mention a set of given names that invite mangling.

#199 ::: Pantechnician ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 09:57 PM:

DaveL #197: I know the feeling. Occasionally I run across forms with an extra box marked "preferred name" or something of the sort, which is nice. The DMV people here were nice enough to let me leave the first name as an initial and print the second name in full.

For most of my childhood my medical records were under a different name too, since my parents changed it when I was a toddler but didn't update the medical information.

#200 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 11:09 PM:

I remember "the Starlost". Keir Dullea on a generation starship that forgot what it is. I liked the episode set in an isolated section of the ship where only men live and their leader, played by John Colicos, is sure that Dullea's female companion is some kind of goddess.

#201 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 11:15 PM:

Someone in another venue suggested that the basic concept of "The Starlost" is quite sound, and wonders if a "Battlestar Galactica" like revamp might be called for.

#202 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 11:49 PM:

Serge at 186: I gather Smallville is a tv show about Superboy's home town. (We don't have tv, not for any philosophical reason but because our son when about 12 decided he'd rather have cable modem than cable tv, so I go by hearsay on this.) My slightly opaque reference to it was meant to explain that the outpouring of sympathy was within the SV fan community, from online friends of the allegedly-injured fan.

And future-Serge at 190: I'm a book-Saint-fan from childhood, and really only liked the credits of the Roger Moore tv version, with the stick figure. I rather enjoyed the Kilmer film, because it did use the Saint's disguises and wit, and Kilmer had a little of the Saint's (ever-justified) arrogance. Moore was always sort of abashed, which did not work. But neither of them had patent-leather hair or composed extempore satirical verse, alas and alas.
But I am also a flat-out sucker for any story that begins with an episode of the characters as children (Beau Geste being the only other I can think of at the moment), though I have no idea why, and so I was predisposed to like the film from the opening.
Over on the ABE books forum, a thread about Something Else Entirely turned into a discussion of which Saint stories were favourites of whom.
My favourite is The Spanish Cow.

#203 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 12:24 AM:

Well, you know, Stefan, there is nothing wrong with the concept of even Lost in Space, or Galactica's, provided one keeps the likes of Glen Larson away. A revamped StarLost might be interesting, but its concept is self-limiting and so probably would have to be a mini-series.

#204 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 12:38 AM:

The Spanish Cow, Barbara? I dare not ask. Oh, heck, I do dare ask. As for Kilmer's Saint, it was with quite a bit of trepidation I had brought this up because of the very negative reaction I had had when I asked a fan of the books. One thing I liked a lot was that opening scene in the orphanage, which was the very thing she hated. I'm glad to hear her reaction was anomalous. Her attitude was similar to that of fans of the X-men comics who hated the movies because Some Things Were Changed. (Sorry folks, but you can't have a movie with a villain called Mister Sinister and not expect them to laugh at it.)

Dang. This makes me want to watch my DVD of the movie again.

(As for Smallville, I simply thought your comment was about the fake death notice of someone supposedly living in a supposedly real town called Smallville like in the Superman stories. It was early when I wrote that. Was still waking up.)

#205 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 01:21 AM:

With DVD compilations of TV shows becoming popular and (presumably) popular, we may hopefully start to see limited duration series. Rather than running long enough for syndication, the goal would be to fill up a DVD set, with cut scenes and other bonusses.

"Mystery" shows like Lost and Daybreak might be dramatically better if planned for this sort of format.

#206 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 02:24 AM:

Serge, I don't know whether my response to the Kilmer film was anomalous among Saint book-fans. I could ask on the book forum.
The Spanish Cow is a story from The Saint in Europe, published 1954. (The story Dave Bell refers to is The Wonderful War, found in Featuring the Saint, 1931.) The title Spanish Cow refers (apologies if you already know this) to a French colloquial expression that one does something or other 'comme une vache espagnole' which means very badly and clumsily indeed. Simon gives the nickname to a rude and awkward American widow who has made herself disliked at the resort he's staying at. She has some extravagant jewelry he considers inappropriate for someone so unpleasant. And just when the reader is thinking 'haven't I read this story before?' it goes off sideways.
There, no spoilers.
No, my Smallville reference was indeed opaque. But I'm never sure how much of what requires footnotes. As you can see.

#207 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 03:34 AM:

I sometimes wonder whatever happened to all those TV adventurer series like The Saint. There were a lot produced by ATV in Britain, with various combinations of international jet-set characters. It was escapist adventure.

Do you still get that sort of thing on American TV? I suppose it started to get hard when everyone started going to Spain for cheap holidays, and foreign places lost their mystery.

Meanwhile, instead of the Saint, we get gritty realism and people going head-first into a chip-pan.

#208 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 04:50 AM:

Dear gods, The Starlost! It was a guilty pleasure of mine as a much younger self; now that I've actually seen it as an adult (thank you, BitTorrent!) I understand why it disappeared so utterly.

Still, the concept probably COULD work with a competent director and writers. Where you'd find one of those in Hollywood, though, I don't know. </cynic>

#209 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 04:57 AM:

I think the adventurer series turned into the detective shows (70's - Rockford Files, Columbo, Hawaii 5-0; 80's - Magnum PI, Remington Steele, Murder She Wrote, Moonlighting), which edged into the on-the-street cop shows (Hill Street Blues, Cagney and Lacey). Then, the 90's turned into cops-and-lawyers (Law and Order, Homicide), which merged with the ever-popular medical shows, and that brought about the forensics (CSI) which are so hot today (and I think The X-Files helped with that, too). Which brings us full circle, reflecting the 1970s' Quincy, M.E.. But boy is the medical technology different today!

#210 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 05:44 AM:

just read the "some girls want out" particle. wow. searingly depressing.

at first i was glad that my religion doesn't have much of a tradition of mortification of the flesh, but when she drew the connections to modern secular anorexia, i realized that no one's really safe.....

#211 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 07:56 AM:

'comme une vache espagnole'... No, I wasn't familiar with that expression, Barbara. I grew up in Quebec City. On the other hand, living there gave me easy access to French entertainment. On the other other hand, I left Quebec 21 years ago and there are a few things I've forgotten. But I haven't forgotten all those British adventure series that Dave Bell referred to and that made it to Quebec, and how the ITC logo at the beginning of a show would thrill me. Why there aren't any more of those, it's probably because, like Dave said, there's no mystery left in places abroad. And oliviacw gave a good recount of the 'progression' of things on American TV. I don't suppose there's much romanticism left in Brtitish TV either.

#212 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 08:05 AM:

Bruce @ 208... I think that Harlan Ellison was involved with The Starlost, but that the experience was less than pleasant for him. I wouldn't dare ask him.

#213 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 08:20 AM:

I have very mixed feelings about the V?nn? B?nt? vido in the Particles. Yeah, I get the message, but there's something rather unimaginative about the whole thing. Especially the music. Maybe I've been spoilt by the filkers, but I'm used to pro-space stuff that has these things called words.

I suppose you could say it's the difference between a sketch on a napkin and actually building the opera house. And there didn't seem to be aby story to the video. Nothing developed. It didn't seem to go anywhere, except for the sequencing of the video clips, and that's not exactly difficult.

#214 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 08:38 AM:

Serge #212: He certainly was. He wrote the book, which was so mangled by the production company and/or network (I forget which) that he added it to the list of "Corwainer Bird" credits (in which he no longer wished his name to be associated with a project that failed to meet his standards).

I do kind of wonder what his reaction would be to a proper rework of the concept, but am neither in a position to do the production, nor to inquire.

#215 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 08:39 AM:

#74 P J Evans:

Real as in grow-in-the-ground rhubarb, or already picked and cut? Because if it's roots, I'll sign up.

Damn, I was only thinking of homemade jam... hadn't thought about the fact I'd need to specify in english.
Won't be back to where I got my share of the stuff for months at the very best, but I've filled a note file, and if it doesn't disappear in one vacuum or another, I'll try to ask for some - and any gardening tip I can gather.
Won't promise anything though, given my propensity to lose notes and only-remember-things-when-it's-already-too-late.
Plus my aunt has her moods and might just refuse for no apparent reason.

#216 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 08:42 AM:

Dave Bell #213: I admit, I was underwhelmed, as well. Perhaps it was by comparison to this video, but I was expecting more, especially given how much time turned out to be given to end credits. (I do appreciate those; too few videos make them legible even if they have them. But they took a significant fraction of the video's stated time.)

#217 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 09:26 AM:

On the Spanishness of cows: I've only ever heard that in the sentence "il parle français comme une vache espagnole." But MD2 might know more. (Native informant! Woo!)

#218 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 09:35 AM:

TexAnne... "He speaks French like a Spanish coiw"... That does sound familiar.

#219 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 09:45 AM:

Moving away from Hispanic cows... I saw The Fountain last night. Apparently people either hate it or love it. Me, as usual, I'm somewhere in between. Clumsy story, great visuals even though the futuristic segments sometimes had me feeling that I had wandered into a showing of Jonathan Livingstone, Seagull. But, hey, the movie does have Ellen Burstyn, who's one hot granny.

#220 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 01:44 PM:

I did finally see Casino Royale last night. It seemed to me a very interesting rethink of Bond's essential character as ruthless hit-man with a polished veneer of charm - it came out much truer to the essence of the books than any of the last couple decades of progressively sillier Bond movies. The creators not only went right back to the roots of Bond - the first book - but essentially went back a little earlier still, suggesting how he became the Bond we know of. While it delivers the spectacular chases and fights that the typical audience expects, it also manages the dollop of plot ambiguity that today's more sophisticated audiences expect.

As to Dalton's rude comment, all I can say is that it would be right in character for this Bond.

#221 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 01:53 PM:

looking at pictures on the Architecture of Ant Colonies sidelight.


#222 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 02:17 PM:

MD2 @ 215:
Rhubarb jam? That's a tasty thought!

#223 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 02:17 PM:

Clifton.. Actually, it was Daniel Craig, the latest Bond, who had made that rude comment. Interestingly, he applied that word-that-rhymes-with-runt to both men and women. Anyway, I wound up seeing the movie ad I liked it. Weird story structure, in the last 30 minutes, but actually quite enjoyable.

#224 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 02:32 PM:

Nancy (#194): Pretend that rotting is part of the process of making first-class fiber dye out of walnuts, and offer to sell these prime objects by the pound on a first-come basis?

#225 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 03:27 PM:

91% of all email is spam?

My inbox is coming in around 10/90 signal-to-noise right now. And that's with friggen filtering turned on.

Can I kill someone now?


#226 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 03:52 PM:

Sorry about the misattribution, Serge, I am congenitally unable to recognize actors and actresses when I see them onscreen, or to keep their names straight.

I'm not entirely exaggerating when I say "congenitally" - just in the last year or so I learned that prosopagnosia is a recognized and at least partly heritable condition. For 40-some years I have struggled to recognize people I know, to the degree that I worry that I will be unable to recognize my own family members at airports. It has felt a bit less weird since I learned that it's at least recognized as a specific condition, not mere absent-mindedness or weirdness.

I suspect that's only part of the reason I can't keep actors' names straight though; the other part is that I don't feel strongly enough about them to make the effort it would need to memorize their features.

#227 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 04:03 PM:

"Parler le français comme une vache espagnole":

The invaluable Trésor de la langue française informatisé tells me that its use is attested as early as the seventeenth century. The generally accepted origin theory is that "vache" might actually be an alteration of the word "vasces", which itself is an old form of the word "basque". The original expression could then have been closer to "parler le français comme un Basque espagnol", "to speak french like a Spanish Basque" (given that there was basques servants in Paris in the seventeenth century, and that they could either be of French or Spanish origins).
There also appears to be expressions like "être sorcier comme une vache", "to be sorcerer like a cow", meaning not at all, but I've never met them in use myself.

A second theory I've found would make "vache" an alteration of the word "basse", a word used to describe a servant or person of lower class (there's also "bassoteuse", a now dead word that was used to describe a housekeeper).

A quick google search gave me also this tidbit: it seems "espagnol" could be used as a pejorative during the eighteenth century.

Hope this helps.

PS: while I'm at passing over tools that might fascinate your inner linguist geek: the Semantic Atlas is hours of fun in code.

#228 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 06:04 PM:

So, Teresa, I'll be down in NYC around Christmas - how many pounds can I put you down for?

(Wink & sly grin.)

#229 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 06:35 PM:

Thanks for the link, MD2. I could well imagine the French words for Basque and cow getting merged.

#230 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 07:05 PM:

No big deal, Clifton. Speaking of movies, George Clooney's The Good German is coming out next week. I read the novel it's based on, but I remember little of it. I like how the movie was filmed in black & white, since it's set in Berlin right after the war.

#231 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 08:41 PM:

Serge@190: my mother's reaction to Roger Moore was that every media version of the Saint was prettier than the previous one. ("Pretty" was not a compliment; more like the attitude "Lorenzo Smythe" got from his father in Double Star.)

Bruce@214: Not exactly. Harlan "created" (term of art) the show and was mostly helpless as it was butchered by strikebreakers and other thieves; the physical book, based on the pilot episode, is credited to Ed Bryant (first on cover) and Harlan. I remember Ben Bova (who was hired as science advisor on Harlan's urging) talking about his experiences, IIRC at my very first Boskone; the one piece of advice they took was getting rid of the 6-feet-plus-spokes wooden tiller wheel (as used on old sailing ships) that some genius had put on the Star Trek - style control-deck set, to rotate aimlessly as a symbol of the ship's being uncontrolled.

All: thanks for the explanation of the Spanish Cow; the MIT Musical Theater Guild started an award named "Vous parlez franc,ais comme une vache espagnole" after a Camelot with an incompetent Lancelot, but I hadn't realized there were grounds for the term.

#232 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 08:49 PM:

Dammit! While I wouldn't be surprised to find that Avedon said that first, I definitely said it WAY before Katrina!


#233 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 09:18 PM:

CHip... When the subject of cows came up, I had this great urge to resist bringing in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I guess your own moral fiber isn't as strong.

"Queeck, queeck! Bring out la vache."

#234 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 02:07 AM:

I am annoyed to read that the EPA is closing libraries or reducing their hours. I suppose I should be happy that the local one in San Francisco has merely subtracted 1 hour per day and 1 day per weekday (no Fridays). Several libraries are entirely closed or closed to the public.* Here's an old list of libraries, vs. the decimated list.

No, having most materials available electronically isn't the same, not when reading electronically is 30% slower than reading paper (if one can even get an article electronically without paying the $10 for 24 hour access fee). Not when the book you need isn't the one you first found, but the book next to it. A university-like collection open for members of the public makes (made?) EPA libraries important.**

Plus, I want EPA staff to have fast access to quick-reading (paper) articles. I've worked at a state EPA: research requires the ability to browse stacks.

To me, it reads like they're planning on sending the books to the woodchipper without the reconstruction software in place.

The ALA suggests calling your Congresscritter. Please do.

* Closed /closed to the public: Region 5 Chicago (served Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin), Region 6 Dallas (served Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas), Region 7 Kansas City (served Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska), Region 2 New York City (New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands), and HQ- Washington DC.

** I really, really miss having full access to a major university library... when I want to use one and it isn't there, it itches like a phantom brain, it does.

#235 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 05:14 AM:

CHip #231: Thanks for the clarification. While I have the eps, I don't have the book, which as I recall did have the complete story in it as a foreword.

#236 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 05:28 AM:

Off-topic, if there's such a thing on an Open Thread: the following de profundis link has been posted to rec.arts.sf.fandom ...

I know little about the US prison system, but this sounds bad. And, assuming the facts are straight, cruel and unusual.

#237 ::: Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 06:55 AM:

I should think that a Wikipedia reference is, by definition, mortal.

#238 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 08:18 AM:

Ellison wrote an article about what happened to The Starlost that ran in Amazing in the 70's and was reprinted in one of his collections. Basically he was called in for a story pitch and gave his idea for a four or six episode miniseries involving a colony ship because no TV show had ever used one. The executive got all excited and asked him to do an outline for a miniseries, and after Harlan pointed out it would rules of the Writer's Guild of America, West because it would be spec writing unless he had a retainer the exec then whipped out a tape recorder and asked if he'd do the pitch again.

Harlan agreed as long as it wasn't transcribed--he figured spec talking was allowed. He took the recorder home, did the pitch for the miniseries, sent it back, and later found out that the exec immediately had it transcribed. Shortly after that the exec called him and told him how excited the network was about their series--not miniseries, but series.

Things got worse. Ellison brought on Ben Bova as science advisor, and Bova wrote an article about what a disaster things were on his end (he described it as like "being Science Advisor to the Nixon Administration") before he fictionalized the whole thing in The Starcrossed. I've heard an audiotape from the period where Ellison describes some additional stuff that's not in his article, and I'm frankly amazed that after their experiences they tried to get Brillo done as a series. I wonder if that being stolen/warped into Future Cop is why Bova hasn't bothered much with TV since.

#239 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 10:00 AM:

For those who are interested, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller will be serializing on the web their new novel, Fledgling, the story of Theo Waitley and how she came to have a "kind of complicated" problem to lay before the delm of Korval.

#240 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 10:47 AM:

I am utterly and totally flabbergasted by that amazingly detailed page of superhero religions. I also observe that the older the character, the more likely their religious leanings are to reflect those of the writers.

The thing that almost pulled me down the rabbit hole is the evidence presented, character by character, in great detail with clips. Wow.

#241 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 10:53 AM:

Superhero religions, Larry? Someone recently had the Fantastic Four's Ben Grimm bring up that he is Jewish. That gives a while new meaning to the phrase "That's funny, he doesn't look Jewish."

#242 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 11:05 AM:

Serge - In the Particles, just above the one about the EPA destroying documents in its libraries in reaction to a budget cut that hasn't even happened. There's no other adjective for the last 5 years 11 months than Orwellian. Aieeee.

Memo to self - don't go following too many links before breakfast. Unless they're sausage links. Well, I guess moderation is important there, too.

#243 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 11:46 AM:

FYI: Exhibit of Astounding Magazine original artwork:

UMass Amherst Libraries Hosts: Hubert Rogers and Astounding Magazine: Science Fiction Art from the Golden Age (1930s- 1940s)

"Amherst, MA – The UMass Amherst Library hosts an exhibit from December 3, 2006 through January 31, 2007"

#244 ::: Kimiko ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 12:40 PM:

ZOMG! Wedding fight particle?!?

#245 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 01:57 PM:

So, John Bolton won't be back next year as our ambassador to the United Nations?


#246 ::: Pantechnician ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 02:32 PM:

RE: The spam sidelight

91% seems a bit low to me.

I checked my email a few minutes ago and was surprised to find the spam trap had devoured 300 or so pieces of the stuff overnight. It usually takes two weeks to attract that many. Any idea what's up?

#247 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 03:19 PM:

Larry @240,

On the exhaustive details about superheroes: I recently noticed that the largest single overarching set of wikipedia articles is the one on comic books and graphic novels.

Is there any other subject that has as many words and links devoted to it? Perhaps geography, but even there California is only as large as Superman.

#248 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 03:22 PM:

Are you that surprised, Kathryn?

#249 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 07:25 PM:

Update on #1:

I sent the first 14 issues of the freebie "Spiderman" comics to my friend, who wrapped them up as a St. Nicholas Day present for his 7 year old.

(Dad is Belgian, Mom Norwegian; I'm not sure whose tradition results in presents going out now rather than on Dec. 25.)

I'm told that young Thomas ignored the family's new Nintendo Wii and read through the first five comics on day one.

Now that's cool!

#250 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 07:26 PM:

#237 I should think that a Wikipedia reference is, by definition, mortal.

wikipedia is a history written in mud.

hm, not mud, quicksand.

The more you keep trying, the worse off you get.

#251 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 09:03 PM:

I've figured out what to do with the walnuts. I have a lot of wool from Thelma, meat sheep of indeterminate breed. So I will dye that; if it is ruined, I got it for free, and it is not high quality fleece anyway, so I'm not squandering anything.

Some will be converted to ink and donated to the scribes in SCA (if they want it), who can do what they want with it. I figure if nothing else, the apprentices can use it for practice.

If anyone really is interested in walnut hulls that are going mushy, and in the Western New York area, or the NYC area, I am definitely willing to share; they will be delivered in a lidded plastic bucket.

#252 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 09:47 PM:

Serge: the MTG award predates Grail by several years. However, since you brought the subject up, I'll note that my wife has decided she likes Armenian flatbread, which I get sent off with "Lavosh! Fetchez Lavosh!". (Well, not literally, but....)

#253 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 12:19 AM:

Impress your Co-workers Festive Fudge

Three bags of chocolate chips
Two cans of condensed milk
A little salt
Tsp. Peppermint extract
Tsp. Vanilla extract

1/4 cup Creme de Menth liquor, green
Two 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar

White "chocolate bark" candy coating

Mix chocolate chips, condensed milk, and salt in a saucepan. Put over very low heat. Stir often until chips are entirely melted and very smooth.

Line cookie sheet -- the kind with raised edges -- with waxed paper.

Mix liquor and sugar until it becomes a thick green paste. Set aside.

Turn up heat a little. Add vanilla, peppermint to the mess. Stir vigorously until the extract is distributed through the molten mass.

Plop onto cookie sheet. Spread around. Flatten with waxed paper and another cookie sheet.

Spread green sugar/liquor paste onto the fudge. Use a spatula to make a nice even coat.

Set aside for a day, until the green stuff sets up a bit.

Melt white chocolate bark coating over very low heat, per directions.

Spread over green stuff, forming a complete layer.

Let cool.

Cut into little squares. 1" on a side is about right. Some people won't mind larger pieces.

Package nicely.

Leave in break room with a note reminding people to donate to the company toy and food drives.

Actually, I don't know if this worked, in the sense that it guilts people into donating.

#254 ::: Sharon M ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 01:58 AM:

The Crocodile Jump, 1973 particle doesn't resolve; YouTube says it has a malformed video id. (Maybe the quote at the end of the url?)

#255 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 02:01 AM:

Yes, if you put in the URL and then take off the
at the end, it works. (You can't cut and paste it, SFAICT, but if your browser has history and autocomplete, you can use that to get it back.)

#256 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 05:27 AM:

"Fetchez Lavosh!", CHip? My goodness, John Cleese's Frenchman was even sillier than I remembered.

#257 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 05:46 AM:

Last night, TNT had a special 2-hour episode of The Closer. As enjoyable as the regular summer series usually is. Maybe it's because those people are a family to each other. I also got a kick out of our finding out that the actor playing the retired CIA agent was William Daniels. The voice of 1776's John Adams should have given him away immediately.

#258 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 06:04 AM:


I also got a kick out of our finding out that the actor playing the retired CIA agent was William Daniels. The voice of 1776's John Adams should have given him away immediately.

Well, better Adams than Dr. Craig, K.I.T.T., Mr. Braddock, or Carter Nash I suppose...

#259 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 06:10 AM:

Right, Bruce. And better than his role of Dustin Hoffman's father in The Graduate. For some reason, I never saw St Elsewhere. As for Knight Rider, I passed. David Hasselhoff, bleh...

#260 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 02:07 PM:


And better than his role of Dustin Hoffman's father in The Graduate.

Em, yes. Mr. Braddock, father of Benjamin Braddock, and the third name in my little list...

You must have been stunned by its close proximity to Carter Nash, which I grant you would stun anybody--I suspect that William Daniels might wish his agent had been so stunned by Carter Nash that he'd never sent along the script.

Of course I was more of a Mr. Terrific kid myself (because of the great theme music and the Paul Frees opening narration) so I may have a bias.

#261 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 02:14 PM:

Oops, Bruce. As for 'Carter Nash', who was that? Sure, I could google it and/or go to, but what's the fun in that?

#262 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 03:40 PM:


As for 'Carter Nash', who was that?

Carter Nash, was a police chemist smart enough to have invented a superhero potion, and dumb enough to have first tried it out in the real world when he was wearing an item of apparel with his initials on it. When an onlooker asked what CN stood for, he blurted out "Captain Nice!"

#263 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 03:44 PM:

Captain Nice... Ow.

#264 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 08:29 PM:

Oh, I knew he sounded and looked familiar! I enjoyed that long ep of "The Closer" a lot.

#265 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 10:21 PM:

Sometime last month I was mumbling about wanting to get my LibraryThing catalogue loaded onto my Palm, so that I can access it while I'm in the second hand bookshop. I have since found an open source widget created for this purpose, and yesterday used it for the first time. PalmThing runs on PalmOS 3.0 and up, and is very, very handy...

Discussion group at LibraryThing. although note that the link given there wasn't working for me today:
Readme page for the software:

#266 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 01:09 PM:

Re: the "American Class System" particle - you can find a zip-code based lookup for a very similar segmentation model here:

It uses the ACORN model rather than the PRIZM model. These things are really marketers shorthand that's useful for identifying potential markets for your products. Frex, a mailer for a Mini Cooper would get better results targeting my zip code (98103) than would one for a minivan. This would probably apply in all areas with similar segment mixes.

Still, really talented marketers use this sort of segmentation only as a starting point and look for real needs and trends to drive the adoption of their products.

Some of it may seem insulting, which it probably should since the blurbs get written by over-privileged suburban white people.

#267 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 02:50 PM:

Regarding the Particle on how the auto industry shot itself in the foot, I have a pet theory that the US car companies are dominated by people who like and respect powerful muscle cars, while the Japanese companies are dominated by people who like and respect good engineering.

Thus, US car companies disparage small cars as "econoboxes" unworthy of attention. Honda, on the other hand, has engineers making little dancing robots.

I get the impression that the Japanese companies revel in good engineering, whether it's in miniature devices, performance cars, or in giant diesel engines for ships. And this attitude gives them respect for all classes of product, not just the high margin, high price, high performance status products like muscle cars.

#268 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 03:38 PM:

(Better we all die and take the ecosystem with us than suffer the shame of driving a compact car or switching to florescent light bulbs.)

Study says global warming will stifle oceans

Phytoplankton account for about half of the photosynthesis on Earth

"LONDON - Global warming will stifle life-giving microscopic plants that live in the surface layer of the oceans, cutting marine food production and accelerating climate change, according to a study published on Wednesday.

Phytoplankton are not only the foundation of the marine food chain, but every day they take more than 100 million tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, scientists from Oregon State University, NASA and four other institutions said."


#269 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 04:22 PM:

Tonight, the MythBusters have a Christmas Special. I don't know if it'll have anything about fruitcake.

#270 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 04:37 PM:

Fodder for the Fluorosphere: A gallery of incredibly bad book covers. Forewarning: a few are NSFW.

#271 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 04:40 PM:

LOL! The very next cover I came across in my browsing of the above links had a very familiar name on it:
The Wizard's Castle

#272 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 04:45 PM:

Headline in the Metro (free paper) in Scotland today:

Scottish Flag Goes Cyber

Turns out that it's about a Saltire that's flown above the Scottish Parliament being sent into space.


I found myself thinking, You keep using this word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

#273 ::: Joe J ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 05:09 PM:

Maybe they were thinking of the Cybermen. In that case, I hope the Doctor shows up soon to save us or else we're doomed.

*Cue "Doctor Who" theme*

#274 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 05:34 PM:

Christnas is Coming, and beware of the Santas...

#275 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 05:36 PM:

And let's not forget the Blackadder Christmas Carrol...

#276 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 05:41 PM:

Abi #272: A story about Scotland annexing the Internet would be far more interesting. Hmm. How would that work?

#277 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 05:59 PM:

Skwid, I've got an even worse cover for _Gone-Away Lake_ than these guys do on their 2nd page. Line drawing in which both Portia and Julian are as ugly as can be.

#278 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 06:05 PM:

Fragano @276

One of my favourite living poets, James Crawford called Scotland a "boundless chip of a nation".

Presumably all we need to do is get hooked up and we'll start taking some of the processing load. Then it's just a case of introducing a virus, and the world is pwned. Screens all over the world will proudly display:

ACH, I AM A 1337 H4X0R, F1T L1K3.


#279 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 06:15 PM:

ACH, I AM A 1337 H4X0R, F1T L1K3.

Next, a Borg announces with a thick Scottish accent that resistance is futile.

#280 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 06:50 PM:

Re: the Pulitzers particle, a complementary winner from 2006.

#281 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 07:06 PM:

Serge @279

You knew what you were getting me into.

The day the Scotland processor came on,
The land itself was darkened from the drain
Till, windmills spinning, taking up the strain,
The nation-chip began. Control lights shone.
The code we'd woven deep into the land
The bits and bytes in heather, pine and stone
In cities, towns and crofts, had spread, unknown,
Delivering the Web into our hand.
At Meercat Cross they read the proclamation:
We hold the world. It's time to take control.
We argued then, for Scotland isn't whole.
How rule the world? We cannae run the nation!
The wisest knew the row would never halt,
And sitting back, enjoyed their single malt.

#282 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 08:10 PM:

Abi #s 278 & 281:

The |337 h4x0r, presumably, was drinking 1rn 8ru.

That's a magnificent sonnet (although you misspelled 'Mercat' as 'Meercat'), and truly worthy of a wider audience that those of us here. It matches, indeed surpasses, the average poem published in Asimov's.

I certainly can't do as well:

The Scots proclaimed their rule of Internet,
(it helps when you're a big chip of a nation)
but didn't think, it seems, of how they'd get
themselves out of a truly tricky situation.
Some said a Scots world had a toney blare,
while others thought the garden would turn brown,
while wisdom's salmon stayed out of the air,
and every wise one wore a sombre frown.
The saltire flying over the whole globe of earth
unites mankind as nothing else could do,
it's a far better world that's come to birth
when every face is painted white and blue.
The network that's produced this global truce
starts with a spider watched by Bobby Bruce.

#283 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 08:17 PM:

You knew what you were getting me into

I didn't, abi, honest!

Fragano had a good idea, by the way. Have you thought of sending your poems to Asimov's? Nothing about dinosaurs and sodomy, of course...

#284 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 11:11 PM:

I'm now awaiting the Mythbusters tie in with Quaker Oats. "Mythbusters Fruitcake! Shot from Guns!"

I and my cold left the house long enough to visit a grocery and what did they have in the Deli area? Vindaloo sauce--just add chicken and rice! Considering how little I'm tasting right now anything with extra seasoning sounded like a good idea to me, but Margaret pointed out it was $7.50 a jar which was a little steep. Even if we included the entertainment value of dancing around the kitchen table singing the song before and after.

#285 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 11:17 PM:

Bruce D... No fruitcake on MythBusters, but they tested various ways of making Xmas trees retain their needles longer. One solution contained Viagra. Yes, it did have the best results.

They also tested a Rube Goldberg contraption that involved mentos and cola, robots, a canon, an oven and a turkey, a train falling to its death. The outcome? Buster falling on his face.

#286 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 01:28 AM:


Synchronicity! I'm watching that segment right this instant.

You only ruined it a little, Serge.

#287 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 06:24 AM:

Oops, Stefan.

#288 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 06:35 AM:

Actually, Stefan, I feel bad about it. I had made the foolish assumption that, by the time I originally posted, anybody who enjoys the show would have watched it when it first aired. That was a very foolish assumption. So, my apologies. Still, that was a neat Rube Goldberg contraption, wasn't it?

#289 ::: Valerie Emanuel ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 07:39 AM:

NPR news broadcasts now go something like this; "In Iraq today, ten troops were killed..."

Troops? I sit in my car, grind my teeth, then say, "Those were SOLDIERS, Americans, PEOPLE, damn it!"

How nice. Send them to an unjustified war, then depersonalize their deaths.

#290 ::: Valerie Emanuel ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 07:52 AM:

And on another, completely unrelated topic, a cry for help.

A small rodent apparently chewed into our wall and entered mouse heaven. While the initial overpowering stench of death has faded, an awful fustiness lingers downstairs. We've tried several air thingies to no avail. I've been forced to move my daughter's baby shower to a restaurant. (Second grandson, will be named Gabriel Nathaniel. Thank you.)

Please e-mail with advice--short of ripping out walls--thank you much much much.

#291 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 08:58 AM:

Young people knitting purposefully.

It's beginning to look like this knitting thing could be a movememnt.

#292 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 10:44 AM:

It's beginning to look like this knitting thing could be a movement.

But it's hard to sing along with when it comes around on the gi-tar.

Not that that should stop anyone.

#293 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 11:00 AM:

Seen just this morning (as usual) outside my favorite coffee shop, a volvo station wagon with a
Knitters Against Bush: Don't Unravel Our Rights bumper sticker.

#294 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 11:25 AM:

#289: "In Iraq today, ten troops were killed..."

"troops" is a generic term for all armed forces personel. "Soldier" is actually specific to the US Army. Each branch of the US military has their own term to reflect their people:

"Soldier": Army
"Sailor": Navy
"Airman": Air Force (used to be anyway)
"Marine": Marine

You may see a report that says "6 Marines were killed in ..." or "3 soldiers were transferred ..." or "8 sailors fell asleep at..." or "6 airmen were evacuated..." or whatever.

If you want to indicate you're including people from all four branches of the military, you use the term "troops" or "military personel".

#295 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 11:38 AM:

It's beginning to look like this knitting thing could be a movement.

Knitters Against Bush: Don't Unravel Our Rights

Don't laugh. Remember the Watashaw Ladies' Sewing Circle. Those knitters could be going places.

And I for one welcome, etc.

#296 ::: John Aspinall ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 11:57 AM:

Re the "American Class System" particle, and Larry Brennan's comment #266,
You can find a PRIZM lookup here:

#297 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 01:21 PM:

Moving around Making Light seems kind of slow today. Am I imagining things? (Besides my usual delusion that I am General Zod, that is.)

#298 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 02:32 PM:

Kaja Foglio's site has a link to this interesting Snow Globe. See what happens when you use your mouse to 'shake' the globe.

#299 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 02:50 PM:

Valerie Emanuel #289: This morning I heard an NPR news item which explicitly mentioned soldiers being killed in Iraq. While 'troops' might sound dehumanising, I am reminded of a gentleman of my acquaintance who fought in Vietnam. When I asked him how many soldiers were stationed with him, he replied 'none, we were all marines'. Troops, I suspect, covers members of all branches of the military.

#301 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 03:31 PM:

The link doesn't seem to work, Tania. My wrath is great. Prepare for the visit of my henchman Non and my henchwoman Ursa.

#302 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:01 PM:

Well, heck.

I guess we can cut and paste.

#303 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:09 PM:

Tania... Bwahahahah!!!

Zod now feels merciful.

#304 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:25 PM:

Serge @283

So maybe not send this one in, then...

Tyrannosaurus Rex comes thumping in,
At least an acre's worth of latex on.
His dom, a Microraptor with a grin,
Is eyeing up that cute Iguanadon.
Triceratops is green with envy for
Velociraptor's corsetry and tights,
While cosplay Stegasaurus at the door
Keeps riff-raff out. Our Mesozoic nights
Begin like this, but often end in pairs
Among the club-ferns, just two dino guys,
The costumes off, no longer after stares,
Embracing till the sun begins to rise.
A paleontologist would go pale
If he could see the kink inside the tail...

(Yeah, yeah, I know, the thirteenth line. But "paleontologist" simply cannot be made to scan.)

#305 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:29 PM:

More seriously, Fragano and Serge, thank you for the compliment. I will consider it, though most of what I write here is so context-dependent that it might not transfer well.

#306 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:30 PM:

On second thought, abi... Do send it to Asimov's.

#307 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:35 PM:

abi @ 305... Qui ne risque rien, n'a rien. (*)


(*) The one who risks nothing gains nothing.

#308 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:45 PM:

"A life lived in fear is a life half-lived"?

(having a flashback here)

#309 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:47 PM:

Abi our sonnetrist
Crafts fourteen-liners
As deft as she can;

Only to stumble on
Science, it seems, is
A bugger to scan.

#310 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:50 PM:

Dan, that last line is so funny it hurts.

And you get to write in a meter where "paleontologist" scans perfectly. Drat you.

#311 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:52 PM:

Susan @ 308... Another translation would be "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." Isn't there already such a saying in English?

#312 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 05:50 PM:

I don't know if anyone's noticed this, but this place has become the blogging equivalent in verse of the Algonquin table. I can't recall ever having such a good time. Thank you, abi, Fragano, Dan, Glen, and others who are just as good. Mike would be smiling, too.

#313 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 06:14 PM:

Serge @ #311 - "Nothing ventured, nothing gained" would be the common saying in English, yes. I was thinking of a line from a movie.

#314 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 06:21 PM:

Ah, Susan... A line from a movie. It does sound familiar. Do you remember which movie that was from?

#315 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 07:43 PM:

Abi #304: That line could be rewritten as 'a scholar of dead bones would go quite pale', which would fit the metre.

#305: Yes, please do submit it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

#316 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 07:52 PM:

Dave Luckett #312:

Thanks for your kind words, though I'm no singer
I have some slight facility at verse,
I have to say I'm something of a ringer,
though saying that fits not a form this terse.
Abi's example sets my muse to working,
though her fire was relit by one Mike Ford,
it's taken me some effort to move from lurking
to facing those for whom good speech is lord.
The sonnet is a form to shape fine thinking
in fourteen lines I must make clear my point,
from sun-god's well at last I find I'm drinking
or else the times are really out of joint.
My thanks again for your words of praise,
to your name in return my glass I raise.

#317 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 07:58 PM:

Serge @314, re Susan's quote at 308: "A life lived in fear is a life half-lived."

It brings me to mind of Strictly Ballroom, though there may well be other sources as well. [Just checked via Google, and it's apparently a Spanish proverb, which makes sense in the context of that movie.]

#318 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 09:11 PM:

Speaking of dinosaurs and sodomy,

Do dinosaurs lose interest in sodomy when they get a reptile dysfunction?

Did the dinosaurs get turned into fossills because they looked back on the village of Sodom?

#319 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 09:40 PM:

Strictly Ballroom, oliviacw? Thanks. I've heard of it, but I don't think I've ever seen it. I think it shows up on Bravo every once in a while. I'll try catching it next time it's on.

#320 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 09:40 PM:

Groan, Eric, groaaaannn...

#321 ::: Dave Bell points to a report on the fake War on Christmas ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 04:05 AM:

Every year, the more rabidly right-wing parts of the UK press trot out a series of stories about how liberals, frightened of offending those dirty foreign immmigrants, are trying to ban Christmas.

The Guardian has reported on the reality behind the stories, which is a tad insubstantial.

#322 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 05:59 AM:

Ah, yes, Dave Bell, the War on Christmas... It IS going on. How else can one explain that this here atheist couldn't wait to set up the Tree with all the lights? Anyway, as for the "Happy Holidays" faux fracas (*), I'd point out to those silly people that, when I was a good Catholic boy (**), the whole season was referred to by all Catholics as the Holidays because, well, there is more than Christmas going on at that time of year.

Time for me to pop in my DVD of Matt Groenning's Olive the other reindeer.


(*) two French words in a row... Another sign that liberals are at war against you-know-what.

(**) I even did the altar-boy thing and got rapped on the knuckles by nuns.

#323 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 06:36 AM:

Fragano @315

It would fit, but it's not my verbal style. I've been considering:

Your modern fossil hunters would go pale
If they could see the kinks inside the tail.

Or, perhaps, move entirely from that rhyme:

You warm-bloods came, and evolution blinked.
But even death cannot make love extinct.

I don't's not quite jelling.

#324 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 06:38 AM:

Serge @319

Strictly Ballroom is surprisingly not bad. And the phrase in question comes in Spanish at first: vivir con miedo es como vivir a medias.

#325 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 06:44 AM:

Thanks, abi... Speaking of dancing and of Spanish, was it Carlos Saura who years ago did a movie based on Carmen that was all played out thru flamenco dancing?

#326 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 07:33 AM:

On another front of the War on Christmas...
Coming soon to San Fancisco's Castro Theater...

Dec 15–21: Sing-a-Long Grease

Dec 22: Hairspray

Dec 23: the Lord of the Rings trilogy

#327 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 08:35 AM:

There was the time when I'd been reading too much Middle English and Middle Scots, when I saw a banner reading "Season's Greetings" and wondered what the lamentations of the season were.

Which brings us to the classic report from Fafblog: The War on Christmas.

#328 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 08:47 AM:

Serge @325

I remember that film - we watched it in high school Spanish class. I enjoyed it more than El Norte, which we saw at least twice (our teacher was a radical). On the other hand, I learned fewer swear words from it.

I've been listening to bits from Carmen again, as done by this lot. I hear them on the streets of Edinburgh every Christmas and Festival. In person, they're as crisp as a fresh bell pepper. They're a bit let down by their recording studio, but still a pleasure to listen to.

#329 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 08:50 AM:

I learned fewer swear words from it.


#330 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 08:55 AM:

Not far from my office building, there is a beat-up building that's a gym for boxing and other ways to beat the crap out of one's opponent. Right across the common yard is another beat-up building that now has a sign saying it'll soon be the site of a Flamenco institute.

When worlds collide...

#331 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 09:07 AM:

I followed the link provided by James @ 327 and got this Christmas headline...

"Zombie Judah Maccabee shot him (*) down over the Island of Misfit Toys with his dreidel of doom."

(*) Rudolph

#332 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 09:30 AM:

Abi #323: I'm certain that your final choice will be excellent. And provide another potential submission to Asimov's.

#333 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 09:33 AM:

Fragano @332

I promise that I will send at least one sonnet off to Asimov's before the end of the year.

#334 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 09:53 AM:

Just so you know, abi, I just got myself a 12-issue subscription to Asimov's.

#335 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 09:59 AM:

Serge @334

Don't let's get hopes up. But I'll mention it if they accept anything I send.

#336 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 10:13 AM:

I had been thinking of subscribing to Asimov's for some time, abi, but this gave me an incentive to get on with it. Besides, with the crap going on at the office with the Project from Hell, I felt like treating myself, this being the Season to be jolly, tra-la-la-la... Yes, I know I'm supposed to be at war against Xmas. I am conflicted. Torn.

#337 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 10:26 AM:

You may already have a link to it posted somewhere, but I just saw this on the TV news: a British art student who (with some help from friends and family) knitted *an entire Porsche* for her class project! Sorry not to provide a link myself, but it's nearly time to stop websurfing and start on the day's To Do list.

#338 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 10:33 AM:

Dave Bell (#207): Meanwhile, instead of the Saint, we get gritty realism and people going head-first into a chip-pan.

[shudder] Despite that scene giving me nightmares, I thought that was a terrific series, at least for the first couple of seasons.

For the uninitiated, the reference is to the BBC series known as Spooks in the UK and MI-5 in the US.

#339 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 10:35 AM:

debcha... I think MI-5 lost something when Matthew McFayden left. I stopped watching it no long after that.

#340 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 10:37 AM:

Serge: Here's some war reporting:

The War on Christmas will not end this year,
there are too many battles yet to fight;
what victory means is not, I think, yet clear.

The Feast of Mithras does not bring us cheer
yet it's His Day, and His was once the might;
the war on Christmas will not end this year.

The Lupercalia is not the day to jeer,
it's feast of misrule was, we're told, a sight,
what victory means is not, I think, yet clear.

Kwanzaa's a festival which some commenters fear
since it rejects what once they saw as right;
the war on Christmas will not end this year.

The tree of Thunor to the house we'll bear,
around it we'll array sources of light,
what victory means is not, I think, yet clear.

With coming Solstice, we'll have time to spare
to think of coming days which will be bright.
The war on Christmas will not end this year,
what victory means is not, I think, yet clear.

#341 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 10:46 AM:

Fragano... You remind us that the War on Christmas, like the War on Terror, is a neverending conflict. Our resolve must never lapse. I think I'll go have a slice of fruitcake. That should strengthen my moral fiber. If it doesn't first hit my hypoglycemia.

#342 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 10:49 AM:


Nice. Like that one a lot.

#343 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 10:51 AM:

Serge #341: Fruitcake is an essential weapon of the War on Christmas.

#344 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 10:52 AM:

Abi #342: Thanks!

#345 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 10:55 AM:

Fragano @ 343... As a projectile for your air-pressure canon? Honestly, who eats fruitcake? Or rather, I should ask who likes eating it. I certainly didn't as a kid and I had quite a sweet tooth so this tells you something.

#346 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 11:14 AM:

Serge @345

I like eating it, but I haven't found a good source over here. I make do with Christmas pudding instead (my in-laws keep threatening to fry it for me on Boxing Day).

#347 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 11:23 AM:

I like eating fruitcake.

Abi, I have a nice simple recipe for a fairly light fruitcake that I can post on Monday, if you want to make your own.

#348 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 11:27 AM:

Serge @ 345:

It's probably the candied citron. Nobody much likes it, and leaving it out would not hurt. (I suspect that the candied fruit they sell in stores, the brightly colored stuff, isn't worth using, and you'd be better off making your own.)

Cooking Illustrated's holiday baking issue has a nice recipe for cranberry nut bread, and ones for steamed plum pudding and chocolate mousse cake also. (No, they don't give you nutritional information. Do you really want to know?)

#349 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 11:27 AM:

abi, Carrie S... Must be me then.

#350 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 11:29 AM:

steamed plum pudding and chocolate mousse cake also. (No, they don't give you nutritional information. Do you really want to know?)

P J... I feel sick just from reading about it.

#351 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 11:37 AM:

Well, as a lover of fruitcake, and baker of same, homemade ones can be delicious. I refuse to touch the commercial stuff.

The recipe I use is well over a hundred years old (maybe more, my Mom and I don't know if the "Mama" in the title of the recipe means my Grandmother's mother, or a generation further back.)

Now, I will admit I have made changes. I use dried cherries not candied ones, and I replaced the candied pineapple with an equivalent amount of candied ginger. Everything else I kept.

This year's fruitcake has spent the last month maturing (soaked in rum). We'll probably take our first taste on Yule...

#352 ::: Mary Aileen Buss ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 11:59 AM:

It's probably the candied citron. Nobody much likes it

I like it. And fruitcake. And I wish we could find my grandmother's recipe for Honigkuchen (honey cake), which also uses candied citron.

--Mary Aileen

#353 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 12:04 PM:

Hmmm... I may indeed be the only person who never was keen on fruitcake, but Gary Larson once did a Far Side cartoon about how four Wise Men, not three, had come to pay homage to Jesus, but nobody ever talks about the fourth one because he's the one whose present was a fruitcake.

#354 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 12:15 PM:

oliviacw@#317 -

Yes, Strictly Ballroom is the film I was thinking of.

Burning questions to the world at large:

1. Are cats "handed"? Do they always curl the same direction to sleep? Data needed. Please observe your cat(s) and report.

2. Can I do nine duple bourree steps to six bars of 6/4 music and still feel good about myself or have I descended into dire baroque bogosity? Can this music just get any more slithery and peculiar?

#355 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 12:25 PM:

'dire baroque bogosity' sounds like a band's name.

#356 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 12:29 PM:

I love candied citron. I make candied citron. In fact, I make the best candied citron I know of. The only problem is finding citrons to candy.

Buddha's Hand citrons make gorgeous candied peel. If you slice them perpendicular to the direction of the "fingers", you get all kinds of amusing flower-shapes, plus lots of useful little circles.

#357 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 12:30 PM:

Oh, Lori, I hadn't thought of candied ginger!

I'm planning to make a fruitcake this weekend--horridly late, I know--and I've been thinking about what to put in it. Candied ginger sounds like a fine plan.

#358 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 12:37 PM:

Serge at 325, I love that flamenco Carmen movie! I think this is it at imdb.

I have a copy taped off channel 13 (NYC PBS) sometime in the 80s or 90s; maybe I should ask for a new one for Christmas.

#359 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 12:39 PM:

Make that this?

#360 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 12:44 PM:

Carrie S. -- you can get chips of candied ginger from the King Arthur Flour Baker's Catalog. They are the best source for unusual baking items.

#361 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 12:47 PM:

Yup, Nancy C... That's the movie I was thinking of. Darn thing doesn't seem to be available on DVD.

#362 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 12:49 PM:

Susan @ 354

I think cats are 'handed', but I can't tell if they have a preferred 'up' side when sleeping.

#363 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 12:53 PM:

I must say, when I read the side particle that said "Official Seal Generator", I had something entirely different in mind.

Not that I don't like what I got, but I was thinking something else completely not that.

#364 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 01:18 PM:

Were you thinking "Official SEAL Genenerator"? As in, the training program itself?

Speaking of the Generator, anyone know if Sufficit Natura Ipsa is good Latin for "Nature itself suffices" or "Nature alone is enough"? I want to use it as the motto for my Radical Pantheists' organization (yet unborn).

#365 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 01:19 PM:

Or Natura Ipsa Sufficit, maybe. I dimly recall that the verb is supposed to come last in Latin.

#366 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 01:20 PM:

Serge #345: The only air-pressure canon I can think of is by Pachelbel.....

(Actually, I rather like fruitcake.)

#367 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 01:29 PM:

Were you thinking "Official SEAL Genenerator"? As in, the training program itself?

No. I had visions of seals, walruses, and similar animal types, and somehow I got to create my own character Seal and play bouncy-bouncy with a big colorful ball while clapping my feet.

Arf! Arf!

I didn't say what I was thinking made any SENSE. But I will admit I was quite enthralled by the simple pleasures of drawing a line and watching a guy on a sled try to slide down whatever landscape I generated.

Speaking of which, I feel the need to try a loop-de-loop.


#368 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 02:07 PM:

Greg @367, We got word yesterday that in the apparently never-ending game of intra-service "Can you top this?" we're gonna be able to see both the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds this month or next live and in person. Presumably loop-de-loops will be performed.

No word on whether they'll drop fruitcake, however.

#369 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 02:26 PM:


Dude. Even the worst Bad Apples wouldn't violate that section of the Geneva Conventions.

#370 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 03:29 PM:

abi @323

Another bone is added to the tally:
who knew ontology could be so pally?

#371 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 05:28 PM:


Based upon local observation, cats curl up any old how they please. Mine rolls over from side to side as the fancy (or maybe the bed lumps) takes her.

#372 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 06:14 PM:

Fragano @366
The brass quintet that do the Carmen stuff also do Pachelbel's Canon, and very nicely.

Carrie S @342
I presume this has been subsumed in the fruitcake thread?

Actually, the lack of local fruitcake, like the lack of local chocolate old fashioned donuts, has been a valuable contribution to the massive weight loss this autumn (1/7 of my body mass thus far). I may wait tll next year to make any.

#373 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 06:22 PM:

About the dinosaurs:

candle @370
Rolling my eyes at that one...

Also, in general, I should confess that the images from the poem appear in my mind's eye as illustrated by Mark Teague. I've read How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight to my kids so many times that the illustrative style has crept into my brain.

Jane, if you're reading this, I'm sorry.

#374 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 06:43 PM:

Greg London @367: I had visions of seals, walruses, and similar animal types, and somehow I got to create my own character Seal and play bouncy-bouncy with a big colorful ball while clapping my feet. Arf! Arf!

My official seal (via YouTube); from a classic modeling/texturing/animation tutorial.

#375 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 07:50 PM:

Faren, #337, the local news said Mercedes and showed a picture, but I don't know enough about cars to tell.

debcha, #338, where are you seeing MI-5? A&E seems to have stopped showing it.

Susan, #354, my cats are not handed, and two of them sleep on either side. Giorgio will only sleep on his right side and I don't know why. (I used to be ambidextrous until the big stroke and I sleep on both sides. I'm pretty sure they think I'm a big cat.)

I don't like candied citron or alcohol, so that pretty much eliminates fruitcakes for me. I like nutbread, though.

#376 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2006, 10:00 AM:

Marilee, #375: They showed a logo (cross-stitched, embroidered or knitted? dunno) that I think was Porsche, and didn't look like Mercedes'. Any UK readers out there -- do you have more info?

#377 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2006, 12:01 PM:

Marilee (#375): I watched MI-5 mostly on Netflix, although I also borrowed a season from my brother. I agree with Serge (#339) that it lost a lot when Matthew McFadyen left, but I thought it was still a pretty good show.

#378 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2006, 03:43 PM:

Faren and Marilee, could you perhaps be referring to the Knitted Ferrari?

#379 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2006, 10:49 PM:

I don't know, the Sun page won't come up.

#380 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2006, 09:41 AM:

The Sun did come up on my second try [cue appropriate Beatles song], and yup, that looks like the one they belatedly showed on US TV. Must have missed that link back in the old thread....

#381 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2006, 06:42 PM:

I tried three times last night and didn't get it, but it came up on the first try tonight. Yes, I think that's it. So it's a Ferrari.

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