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October 9, 2007

Charlie Rimmer’s socks
Posted by Teresa at 09:10 AM * 180 comments

We do ourselves the honor to hope our readers may recall a story posted here this past August: Bookstore chain puts the screws on small publishers. It featured a spirited exchange of correspondence between a bookstore-chain executive and an editor at a small but well-regarded publishing house:

A&R Whitcoulls Group, a.k.a. the Angus & Robertson bookstore chain, is Australia’s largest bookseller, with 180 bookstores and about 20% of the retail market. A&R’s owners, an outfit called Pacific Equity Partners, are thinking of taking it public.

This may or may not have been why A&R’s commercial manager, Charlie Rimmer, sent a startlingly arrogant letter to Australia’s smaller publishers and distributors, demanding a substantial payment from each by August 17 (reportedly ranging from AU$2,500 to AU$20,000) if they want A&R to keep selling their books. Among the recipients was Michael Rakusin of Tower Books …

I contributed my own analysis of their letters. The entry gave rise to a lively discussion in the comment thread, which eventually petered out in normal fashion. Then, more than a month after I posted my entry, a fellow named Chris Oliver turned up in the comment thread, bent on defending A&R Whitcoulls Group in general and Charlie Rimmer in particular. He has since spawned sockpuppets Amanda Blair and Despina, who not only post from the same Australian ISP as “Chris Oliver” and appear to all have the same information in their heads, but are privy to interesting bits of insider information like the real reason Rimmer sent his original letter to Tower Books.

I drew an obvious conclusion, and said so. Rimmer/Oliver/Blair/Despina was unfazed. Reader mcz was shocked. As I explained to mcz:

This is Internet 101. Say you’ve criticized a piece of writing. When someone you’ve never seen before shows up (1.) claiming to be a disinterested bystander, (2.) who interprets the critique as a personal attack on the author, and (3.) just wants to defend the author and the piece of writing on grounds of simple justice, and (4.) cannot shake loose of the argument, but must instead stick around to argue every point as long as points are being made … that person is always the author. Award extra points if they raise up sockpuppets to assist in the defense. Double the points if they re-post the original text in its uncritiqued form.

Message #320 was the one that convinced me. If that weren’t enough, the fact that he has neither denied his sockpuppetry nor objected to being referred to as “Charlie Rimmer” would have done it.

I can’t promise that the sequel has quite the zing of the original, but if you want to see the mind of Charlie Rimmer laid out in more detail for your perusal, go to comment 193 and read forward from there.
Comments on Charlie Rimmer's socks:
#1 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 11:18 AM:

If Despina really _is_ Rimmer, he must be awfully uncomfotable, working as he does in an industry he's pretty sure is effectively doomed.

#2 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 11:19 AM:

Note also that this is not the only blog where "Amanda" has supported "Chris". (Per Madeline Kelly in the previous discussion.)

I wonder if it's true that he's now working for The Australian, and if so, if his "popular support" contributed to his getting that position.

#3 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 11:30 AM:

Every time you bring up Rimmer, I find myself thinking of Red Dwarf's holographic creep. I need a brain scrub.

#4 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 11:35 AM:

Not to be a correcting-face, but it's mcz, not mcw.

Otherwise brilliant.

#5 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 11:53 AM:

I wish the best of luck to those employees and coworkers of Rimmer who now have to deal with having their own work devalued by this idiot. I also hope people in the bookselling and publishing industries will look kindly upon them when they are looking for other jobs.

#6 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 11:53 AM:

#3 Serge: Yes, everybody does that when they hear the last name "Rimmer." It fits beautifully, doesn't it?

#7 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 11:56 AM:

#It's Arnold Arnold Arnold Rimmer

I now have that tune stuck in my head. I blame Serge.

#8 ::: linnen ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 12:06 PM:

I thought it was Arnold Judas Rimmer.

#9 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 12:20 PM:

Oh, so I'm not the only one with that association.

#10 ::: Avery ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 12:41 PM:

So we have this weasely business type who wants protection money from is suppliers and employs sock puppets in an internet debate. Rather than read what he has to say, I'm pretty much going to spend my day pretending to be an actor trying to come up for motivations for peering inside his mind.

Now after Adam Smith's invisible hand gets through spanking him, I know what my motivation is going to be. Good old-fashioned schadenfreude.

#11 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 12:47 PM:

The way he's completely unfazed by having his sockpuppetry exposed is quite amusing. It also makes me wonder what on earth he thinks he's accomplishing with this less-than-stealth-mode approach. He certainly can't believe that we're likely to be convinced by anything said by an obvious puppet, even ignoring the fact that his arguments are far from convincing.

#12 ::: Chris J. ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 01:05 PM:

#11 Bruce Cohen
"The way he's completely unfazed by having his sockpuppetry exposed is quite amusing."
Yes. This is what makes the entire thing strangely compelling to watch, in a 'please don't stop now' sort of way. It turns us lurkers into lurker-voyeurs.

#13 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 01:06 PM:

Chris J. #12: How delightfully smutty!

#14 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 01:25 PM:

Seeing as how the other thread has turned into a roaring cloaca of technical posturing, I would merely like to say the following:

I was an early adopter of electronic text processing (DPS on the 1100/42 in 1977 or so) because my handwriting is write-only and my typing has a high standard deviation. And as a result I have (or had) a stack of unreadable media in the basement with entries for every generation of computers I've owned. And let's not even start with video media-- at least I "bought not betamacks."

The obvious driving force behind book sales is that people want to own books. Yes, "duh", but all the Pop-Sci talk of new technologies is more about the pleasuring of techno-dreamers (or lower forms) than it is about giving people what they want.

(Parenthetical remark: Am I the only one who is depressed by Sci. Am.'s slide into being the ivy-league-liberal, direly humorless version of Pop Sci.? As far as I am concerned, it was better when it came in black & white & pink. At least PS has a sense of humor about itself.)

One of the things I've come to despise about the internet is its impermanence. If I had the time, I think I would create "FireMagpie", a browser that would just routinely copy the websites I visited just so I wouldn't have to worry about whether the material would still be there the next time I wanted it. Sure it would be "stealing", but then all active media produce the urge to suck more money for pay-per-view.

People want to own books because they want to have them, and because they don't want to have something standing between them and reading their books. Tom Swift and His Electric Library sounds cool, until it breaks, or until the next series comes out on an incompatible medium, or the books can only be gotten throught the ether for a fee for each reading. You have to be a total nincompoop not to understand why people doggedly resist this.

And besides, electronic books sound cool, until you're reading on the toilet and you accidentally drop the thing in the tub, thus destroying your entire library. Of course, you have backups, except that the last one is three months old and turns out to be unreadable anyway, and the one before that only works on the old model of the reader, which your eldest kid stepped on and snapped in half.

#15 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 01:27 PM:

"a roaring cloaca"

There's an ointment for that.

#16 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 01:30 PM:

Bruce: It also makes me wonder what on earth he thinks he's accomplishing with this less-than-stealth-mode approach. He certainly can't believe that we're likely to be convinced by anything said by an obvious puppet . . . .

This is why I think the Internet needs its own brand-new rhetorical theory. I'm not sure Aristotle and Kenneth Burke are sufficient to explain the model of persuasion that lies behind some of this behavior. Why spawn sockpuppets? Does he think the site owner won't find out? (I don't know how it's done, exactly, but I know it's easy to find out). I think he is trying to emulate, all on his own, the industrialized deception that goes on when paid trolls all go at a forum from different IP addresses. Or he's just not bright. I dunno.

#17 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 01:42 PM:

Where do we mail the socks to?

(There’s nothing like receiving packets of socks from around the world to emphasize to an employer what a reputation they’re gaining.)

#18 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 01:43 PM:

C. Wingate: I subscribed to Sci. Am. for about 20 years, and gave up on it a few years ago. The incidence of really stupid mistakes was too high — "energy" instead of "power" in describing the output of a dam on a per-unit-time basis, for example — and the "noise" on the pages was making them look like the text equivalent of a music video. They'd changed from having a moderate number of highly-informative articles to having a larger number of very shallow articles. They'd started having a lot of gosh-wow speculation that didn't stand up to scrutiny: "This is what a wormhole would look like if it appeared on a street in downtown Manhattan! (Artist's interpretation)"

#19 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 01:43 PM:

I've been watching the whole thing unfold with the kind of horrified fascination I usually experience only at family gatherings where a prospective in-law makes a pro-eugenics statement without realizing that sixty percent of the assembled elders have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

But, damn, that hole he/she/it/they is/are digging is going to take care of the question of Australia's solid waste disposal needs for generations.

#20 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 01:58 PM:

Stefan, JESR, et al: Look, I'm awake here in the wee smalls partly 'cos of the lingering uncomfortable after-effects of a nasty bout of gastro. I do not need youse lot making with the belly-laugh inducers. It hurts!
*makes note to wait & read thread again in 48 hours*

#21 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 01:59 PM:

#15:

Le Petomaine, eat your heart out.

(Of course, he bragged of being unafraid of copyright infringements.)

#22 ::: TChem ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:07 PM:

#7 Jakob: He's also a fantastic swimmer.

And I blame Charlie Rimmer.

#23 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:09 PM:

You're going to scare him off and that would be a shame since he's such a beautiful specimen of sockpuppetus internettus. Rarely do you get such a clear view of the species in it's natural habitat–the ever deepening hole.

It's actually been a bit like some sort of Animal Planet for the internet age till now. I've been watching from the laundry hamper blind with the camera crew as the whole thing unfolded, waiting breathlessly for Teresa in her lioness-of-the-internet-veldt moderator role to come in for the kill.

#24 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:14 PM:

I stopped subscribing to SciAm a year or so after they changed owners and began being noticeably dumbed down.
I dropped Smithsonian when the Bushies got control and dumbed it down to just another travel magazine.

#25 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:20 PM:

Joel: I subscribed in dribs and drabs starting in the mid '70s-- what with interruptions from going to school where I didn't need to subscribe I'm not exactly sure when I started and stopped. It was in the last years of the glorious Morison/Gardner/Stong period. Dewdney was an acceptable stand-in for Gardner; Jearl Walker less so for Stong. But when they went to color, the magazine became noticeably thinner and the content increasingly less solid. These days, it seems to be written to a level not much above World Book. I'm not so sure the speculation thing was really their fault, though. Every time I've looked at what the cosmologists have said of late, it's been bloody obvious that they've been talking through their hats for years. (Apparently I'm not the only one; I'm hearing rumblings of discontent against string theory by critics who complain that it seems to be able to predict whatever you want it to.)

Until a few months back, Pop Sci had a inside-back-cover feature with some of the more off-the-wall "we'll be driving sky cars in the 21st century!" stuff they'ld put on the cover over the years.

BTW, all mad engineer boys (and girls) should know that a few years a go you could get the complete "Amateur Scientist" on a CD. (I've always wanted to make the particle accelerator, or the Maxwell's Demon device.)

#26 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:24 PM:

Kelly McCullough #23: Don't worry, it'll be a month or so before he notices this post.

Those talking about popular science magazines: Is Science News good? I haven't looked at it since I was a wee one, but have been thinking of subscribing to it. If not that one, are there any good ones?

#27 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:28 PM:

ethan @ 26

Science News is good. They have some stuff that's web-only, too: the current MathTrek is on that lost mathematical paper by Archimedes, of which they've found one copy as a palimpsest and have been doing recovery one. Archimedes was that >< close to inventing the calculus.

#28 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:29 PM:

Smithsonian the magazine doesn't strike me as so bad. Their gift catalog, though, is one of the most egregious of the species. It's all the "our museum has things like this" noodges, when as an area native and therefore an inhabitant of the Smithsonian ever since I could walk on my own, I know perfectly well that what they mean is, "we can't be bothered to sell you a reproduction of our actual holding, so we'll find some vaguely similar std. item and pretend that you're getting something special." Perhaps they need to be clued in that, on the internet, I can search the whole world for "things like what they have at the Smithsonian" and find much better goods at less pretentious prices.

#29 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:34 PM:

I like Discover for what it is, which is admittedly not on the same level that Sci Am once was. It has a nice math puzzles section. But it's not a way to keep up with what's current.

#30 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:37 PM:

The 19th century Scientific American (and its companion serial, Scientific American Supplement) is rather interesting too-- and different again from either the modern SciAm or the SciAm of a generation ago.

Only some of it's been digitized so far, but I've collected links to the issues I know of that are freely available online at

http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/serial?id=sciam

Anyone remember Science 8x? (where x matched the year of publication). I remember enjoying that a lot, though I was still in middle and high school when it was coming out, and I don't know how well it would have stood up from a professional scientists' perspective.

#31 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:41 PM:

And here I was hoping for knitting patterns... though I suppose that instead of a single knitting pattern to be replicated as two socks, this context really calls for three or four socks which may look different at first glance, but on closer inspection turn out to be conceptually identical, perhaps using the same underlying stitches but with several different colors.

#32 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:43 PM:

You have to love this renewal notice, from the Dec. 18, 1880 edition:

The next issue will close another volume of this paper, and with it several thousand subscriptions will expire.

It being an inflexible rule of the publishers to stop sending the paper when the time is up for which subscriptions are prepaid, present subscribers will oblige us by remitting for a renewal without delay, and if they can induce one or more persons to join them in subscribing for the paper, they will largely increase our obligation.

By heeding the above request to renew immediately, it will save the removal of thousands of names from our subscription books, and insure a continuance of the paper without interruption.

The publishers beg to suggest to manufacturers and employers in other branches of industry that in renewing their own subscriptions they add the names of their foremen and other faithful employes. The cost is small, and they are not the only ones that will derive benefit. The benefit to the employe will surely reflect back to the advantage of the employer. The hints, receipts, and advice imparted through our correspondence column will be found of especial value to every artisan and mechanic, as well as to students and scientists.

For terms, see prospectus.

#33 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:47 PM:

Re: C. Wingate and "FireMagpie"

What you want is the Scrapbook add-on for Firefox. Its interface leaves a little to be desired (in re subfolders, navigation, intefering with existing Firefox menus, and not having a "see source URL" in the right-click menu that I want it in), but it does exactly what you're looking for (if not as automatically as you might wish). It copies the web page to hard disk for offline viewing. You can also specify a link depth to capture to.

It also comes with a bunch of mark-up tools that I've never used.

Mainly what I use it for are A) saving research to disk so I can write the paper from wi-fi-poor regions, and B) downloading all the blogs I want to read just before a long bus or train trip.

#34 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 02:52 PM:

Julie L.: If, some three months from now, someone uploads links to pictures of hounds-tooth stockings in different colors with "mouths" worked into the toes and name tags reading "Amanda," "Despina," and "Charlie," you will be held responsible.

Just saying.

No, I am not on my way to the yarn store this minute. Those are not two #2 circulars you see on my grocery list. I am making a perfectly innocent visit to the video rental place that just happens to be next door to the yarn store and does not could not possibly have a secret adjoining hall via the restrooms in the back.

#35 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 03:01 PM:

Nicole @34:
And I thought the inner itch* to write a sonnet was bad!

Much coolness that The Secret Yarn Headquarters in your area has a hidden passageway from a seemingly innocuous location.

-----
* Which I am determined to resist for the mental image of a fire magpie, which picks up and collects different types of fire. You know, an octave describing two, or maybe four, different types of fire and light (say, lightning, campfires, candles at dinner, and starlight), followed by a "turn" to a quatrain with some best kind of light of all - maybe sunlight, maybe the light of intellect - and a nice couplet tying it all together.

I'll go bind a book instead. Really need to do that. And I've done to many light/flaming flying thing poems lately, from angels to dragons.

#36 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 03:02 PM:

I'll have to look into that scrapbook add-on. It sounds like something I could really use, with a bit of calculation.

#37 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 03:05 PM:

#35: What I am thinking of is some misbegotten cross between Rossini and Stavinsky. (Choreography by Charles Jones, of course.)

#38 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 03:06 PM:

"Be vewwy kwiyet, I'm hunting websites!"

#39 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 03:10 PM:

C.Wingate #28:

It's worse than that. The goods are gaudy and kitschy, compared to Real Museum Catalogs such as the Met, Boston and Chicago.

#40 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 03:18 PM:

Bruce Cohen (STM): The funny thing (for certain values of funny) is that a person of average intelligence can make it much harder to figure out the definite nature of the sock-puppet.

There are (as Teresa points out) some trivial ways (ISP) and some, slightly less trivial.

So, if someone realises that tones of typer are idiosyncratic, and ISPs are traceable (this is something which isn't as obviuos to lots of people, because they don't think about it from their end. The internet is a numinous thing which exists in no-place, ergo it has no-trace), they can mask both.

Use a library. Type the message in a wp-application. Edit said message to reduce parallel structures/quirks. Put the file onto some portable media, and swing by a coffee shop, library, wait until one is home, etc. (and make certain to never post the other persona from the wrong location) and one can maintain a reasonable level of plausible deniability.

If you do a little more work, you can make it more opaque (I know a computer lab at a local college which is 1: wide open, and 2: uses Macs. When I needed to do some things which wouldn't point back to me (don't ask; it wasn't nefarious; just a small bit of paranoia) I ducked in there, did the research, and was away.

But no, the internet is all wiggly electrons, and no one will be able to trace anything.

#41 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 03:20 PM:

joann: which is a shame, because the shops themselves have some very nice wares. I like the jewelry more than that of the Met.

#42 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 03:23 PM:

That is true, though slightly in the Smithsonian's defense their art holdings are comparatively shallow. OTOH, when they come out with a Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millenium General Assembly paperweight set, I'm getting one. (I remember distinctly the first time I saw this THING. It was back in the mid '70s when the NCFA/NPG was the best kept museum secret in DC. We were walking down the hall when this brilliant gleam from a side room attracted our attention. Back in those days, there was none of this "we have to keep it in the dark to conserve it" display such as it suffers under now; it was floodlit like the sun in a white-walled otehrwise empty room, and it was literally dazzling. It is without question the most jaw-dropping museum experience I've ever had. The fellows who first found this thing must have felt like Howard Carter.)

#43 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 03:28 PM:

Why are there more sockpuppets than there are socks?

#44 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 03:42 PM:

C. Wingate @ 25

I always wanted to build the ion rocket. How cool, to be able to generate a plasma stream at 30,000K.

Even today there are sometimes good articles, usually not written by their staff, though. Lee Smolin wrote a pretty good one summarizing the position in his book that String Theory is basically unfalsifiable, and not terribly useful besides.

#45 ::: Jim Henry ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 03:56 PM:

Terry Karney @40:

Maybe, in addition to using different sites to post for each puppet, one could use different stylistic constraints for each puppet. One never uses the letter 'e'. One writes in blank verse (but doesn't put in line breaks). One never uses words of latinate origin. One posts slightly cleaned up versions of posts that have been fed through an automatic translator to some other language and back again, to simulate being a non-native speaker of English...

#46 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 04:15 PM:

Like many children of the info age, I keep a significant portion of my music library on computers. I almost never play original CDs any more; as far as I'm concerned, they're archive copies, and if I want some music to take with me while travelling, I burn myself a disc. Actually, when I can, I burn myself discs of MP3s, which I can play in my car or on my portable disc player.

I also have an eMusic subscription. I usually download on my laptop, because it's got a good amount of space on it and it's what I've usually got up in the living room when I feel like doing my monthly browse. The trouble is, the laptop's burning software isn't great, and won't make me a disc of MP3s I can play on any of the devices I normally use. If I want to make discs of any of my eMusic downloads, I need to download them to my desktop and use its reliable burner. Which is fine as far as it goes, except that the files from eMusic are generally about 50% larger than the files I rip from originals using CDex - the upshot of which is that if I want to keep them with the rest of my music library and take up an optimal amount of space, I need to burn audio discs and re-rip them to the hard drive. It's an awful lot of trouble to go though just so I can get Cocteau Twins and Joanna Newsom on the same compilation disc, and the only reason I bother is because I'm enough of a geek that it's important to me.

Note that this is all with compatible file formats, without DRM, for use with readily-available generic devices (that still crap out on me from time to time, as my Walkman occasionally has days where it just doesn't feel like playing anything). I could solve some of this by sinking a not-inconsiderable expense into an iPod - which would give me a whole new set of headaches as I port everything over to the proper format, with related issues of disc space and whatnot, not to mention getting another device so it can hook up reliably to my car stereo, if that's even possible with the hardware I have.

And that, kids, is what Charlie and his socks utterly fail to understand about why paper books aren't going anywhere any time soon.

#47 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 04:21 PM:

Richard Bartle's Designing Virtual Worlds has a whole 'sneak's charter' section for game designers who like to walk incognito in their worlds, focusing on creating believable MUD/MMO characters and the players thereof. He does go into the ethics of it*, but the idea is that it's important sometimes to see what it's like for players when the gods aren't watching.

He does suggest quite a few things like Jim Henry's list at #45, but also explains that the rationale behind that is as much to make sure that everything you say/write gets post-edited before you press <return>.

Changing IPs can help, but some people get a false sense of security from knowing they have a dynamic IP - or don't realise how much it helps the filter set to narrow it down to a country of origin or a particular ISP.

There are a whole load of other techniques involved, but I don't want to witter on about them because a lot of it's not all that relevant in this context.

* You wouldn't think that 'don't do this to your friends without a very good reason indeed' is all that hard, but some people don't see this.

#48 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 04:26 PM:

My father built a Wimshurst machine and a Ranque-Hilsch vortex tube (yes, that that's Am. Sci. article) when I was a kid; he never got the latter to work though. A few years back he made a Van de Graaf generator. He's appallingly competent about that kind of thing; he also has a Queen Anne ottoman (made out of an old cedar 6x6 that started out life as a basketball post) and a guitar. I keep thinking about making a radial Dirod generator but I should get off my batoosh and make a Kelvin generator first to amaze the kids. I also always wanted to make the nitrogen laser.

The ruling engine, was completely over the top. Even my father isn't that mad.

#49 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 04:39 PM:

The quality of twenty-first century sock puppetry is very disappointing to me, and doesn't hold a candle to the byzantine efforts of the BBS flame warriors of the pre-internet mythic era.

#50 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 04:41 PM:

#46: If everything you have is in MP3 format, then they already are in the proper format for an iPod.
(Also, I suspect that there is software that will transcode between the 192kbps VBR MP3 eMusic uses to whatever you use to reduce space. You'd probably lose audio quality in the process, but that's happening now.)

Hearing the output of your iPod on your car stereo is more of a bother. When I had a car with a tape player, I used a tape adapter. I'm currently using an FM transmitter. I'm considering an aftermarket kit to give my car stereo an audio in. (Some car stereos come with an audio in.)

As for ebooks, John Scalzi makes an interesting argument. In the case of portable music, we have always relied on some external mechanism (e.g., walkman, discman, your own band of wandering musicians) to get the music into a form we can hear. There has always been something between the medium and the ear. In the case of portable text, though, there hasn't been anything between the medium and the eye. We can read the book directly. Having a mechanism in the way is a paradigm shift.

This doesn't mean that the ebook is doomed, doomed, doomed. But I think it does mean that what follows for one does not necessarily follow for another.

The opportunities to use these devices aren't always the same. I listen to music in the background some times. I don't know what it means to read in the background. OTOH, I almost never listen to music on the T. (The subway is way too loud.) However, I almost always have an issue of Analog, F&SF or Asimov's with me when I take the T. (I'm catching up on my short fiction backlog.) If I had a convenient pocketable container for ebooks, an electronic subscription to above mentioned magazines, along with actual ebooks, I'd take the ebook reader onto the T instead.

(No, ebook readers don't need to be pocketable. After all, most books aren't. But the more convenient an ebook reader is, the more likely I'd use it.)

#51 ::: Katrina Boyajian ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 04:43 PM:

My internet access being somewhat sporadic at present, I missed the original hilarity, so thank you, Teresa, for the heads-up -- I just spent [more time than I should admit during working hours] absolutely transfixed by the absurdity of it all, reading through the saga from the beginning.

Michael, #17: Where do we mail the socks to?
(There’s nothing like receiving packets of socks from around the world to emphasize to an employer what a reputation they’re gaining.)

We need a "spit-take warning" tag: there is now soda all over my keyboard...

#52 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 05:03 PM:

I'm greedy. I love having books in paper format (and scientific papers ditto.) However, I also like having papers as .pdf files on my laptop - 'cos I can't carry all those filing cabinets of reprints/photocopies around with me - although I can't easily scribble on the .pdf files.

And I like having several dozen ebooks on my Psion - which I carry with me everywhere anyway as my appointments diary/addressbook/jotter notebook etc. etc.. That way, when I get delayed and have read the paper-format book(s) I've carried with me, I still have something to read.

I see the two formats as overlapping in use, but not mutually exclusive - and without either making the other irrelevant/redundant.

Jim's note in the original thread - that once the book has been produced, no more power is required - is perfectly valid. People like me, of course, who want to have their cake and eat it, will buy BOTH paper and e-book format. I can't see how that damages the bookstores, publisher or authors.

#53 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 05:05 PM:

Every time I see "Charlie Rimmer's Socks" it makes me think of Paddy Doyle's Boots.

#54 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 05:19 PM:

P. J. Evans

Archimedes was that >< close to inventing the calculus

Yep, just within an ε

#55 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 05:31 PM:

#30: Anyone remember Science 8x?

I remember it; I believe it folded into Discover, which was eventually bought by Disney.

Recent issues of Discover have been very thin.

Science News is for current stuff, SciAm for longer, less newsy articles, and Technology Review (affiliated with MIT) for more business-oriented science articles.

#56 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 05:46 PM:

No thread affection for _American Scientist_? I've been subscribing to
that on and off for several years. (Currently off, due to a recent
move and laziness.) When _Scientific American_ lost its science-nerd
luster, _A.S._ held firm. The articles are not for people who hated
science class, but you don't have to be a specialist in whatever-field
either.

#57 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 06:28 PM:

Never read Amer. Sci., but it's obvious we're going to have to reevaluate our general science mag subscriptions.

#58 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 06:31 PM:

re myself (42): There are apparently a number of serious efforts about trying to decode the inscriptions on The Throne and Hampton's papers.

#59 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 06:31 PM:

terry #41:

Where we differ--I prefer the Met; I happen to like their styles. They're the kind of thing I'd design myself if I had the talent. They occasionally have something Venetian, such as the earrings I'm wearing right now. The Met also have a great selection of William Morris-patterned shawls, and I've been trying to collect the whole set as Christmas gifts for ages now.

The Smithsonian had a Gothic-trimmed bookcase/table thing that was about twice the price I found it for in another catalog; the latter now adorns the front hall--great for stashing briefcases, purses and umbrellas.

#60 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 06:39 PM:

re myself again (48) (some time I'm going to have to get in the habit of actually reading the preview (word processors have made me sloppy)): What I meant to say was that my father made that ottoman and guitar.

#61 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 06:41 PM:

I liked the part where Despina said that Rimmer's attempt at corporate extortion by menaces is the same treatment he, Rimmer, has been getting from This Blog.

How much interest are you charging him, exactly?

#62 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 06:42 PM:

John Chu at 50: Thanks - obviously I was misinterpreting the offer that iTunes made after I downloaded it to copy over all my sound files. The message the software gave me made it sound like there was some form of conversion about to happen.

Obviously, as has been stated elsewhere, the music/ebook parallel is not a perfect one. And I don't think ebooks are doomed by any stretch; it's a terribly neat idea, and I look forward to seeing where that technology goes in years to come. I just don't think they herald the death of print any more than downloadable music was the death-knell of the recording industry. But I think ebooks are going to have to be a lot more intuitive and user-friendly than music players before they become anything like ubiqitous, and the fact that an interface between text and reader is a new paradigm has a lot to do with that.

#63 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 06:48 PM:

Bruce @11, I suspect Rimmer's lack of shame when he's caught lying is a sign of sociopathy. (It's really quite common among higher managers. Apparently being a shameless swine who doesn't think of others as really human is helpful in the business world... not that I know this of Charlie, of course, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least.)

#64 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 06:53 PM:

I read American Scientist, though somewhat erratically since I don't subscribe. I also still read Scientific American, and even New Scientist, though I gather that last admission makes me infra-dig these days, if not nekulturny.

By the way, Joel @18, what was up with that artist's impression of a street-level wormhole in SciAm? A useful illustration of what a wormhole does to light paths, I thought, and a good deal more realistic than the depictions on shows such as DS9 or Farscape, with their peculiarly tunnel-like 3D-projections-onto-3D-space.

#65 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 07:35 PM:

I really miss the Sci American of a generation ago.

You could really learn things about a particular field of science, especially if you could pick up consecutive issues -- there was often a progression from "general survey" to "more detailed stuff" to "here is where we start to specialize." And it was readable for those who were not well versed in that particular field.

As for the sock-puppet, if it weren't so transparently a sock-puppet I would wonder at the audacity of someone who proclaims their expertise in book selling yet is so clueless that they both disparage the field itself, and claim to have owned 3 bookstores. Forgive my snarkiness, but I'm afraid that my thought when seeing la marioneta proclaim that credential was "you would think he would have wised up he couldn't run a business the first two times."

#66 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 07:38 PM:

That supposed "wormhole" was just a photoshop/equivalent distortion of a normal street scene. If light was getting bent that much, what about everything else -- atmospheric effects, etc.? No light generated? Not to mention that in reality, you'd have a crowd of onlookers, police trying to keep people away, some idiot trying to jump into the wormhole because he wanted to see what was on the other side, etc.; the image failed to suspend my disbelief.

#67 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 07:54 PM:

In the original thread, bringing up other discussions of this topic seemed like putting a stick through a fence next to a sign reading "Do Not Poke The Animals", so I didn't. However, a lot of the ground we've gone over in the last few days as regards ebooks was covered in a discussion on Charlie Stross' blog a few months ago.

#68 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 08:37 PM:

Craig R. #65: I really miss the Sci American of a generation ago.

One Scientific American article I remember from about that time was "The Bride Price of the Maasai", which demonstrated that even relatively remote nomadic tribal societies were notably affected by the Great Depression.

#69 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 09:27 PM:

Bruce Cohen @43
Why are there more sockpuppets than there are socks?

Socks that go missing in dryers end up on the internet as puppets.

#70 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 09:37 PM:

SciAm was where I first read about seafloor spreading. The bacteriologist across the street had a subscription (his kids were the same ages as us) so I could sort of browse a bit. (I didn't know the physicist who moved in there afterward as well, though his wife was an artist and I spent one day in their garage helping her paint a backdrop for a theater production.)

#71 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 09:46 PM:

Joel Polowin @ 66... you'd have a crowd of onlookers, police trying to keep people away, some idiot trying to jump into the wormhole because he wanted to see what was on the other side

Well what if Claudia Black is on the other side?

#72 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 09:53 PM:

43 There are more sock puppets than socks due to the ungodliness of the liberals who are ruining this country for fine, upstanding citizens like Richard Roberts, Larry Craig, and I.L. Libby. That ungodliness causes dryers to destroy socks, leaving behind only sock puppets. And global warming, since the socks are no longer available to warm the feet of the faithful and He won't let the faithful's feet get cold.

I feel like I'm channeling Sam the Eagle.

#73 ::: Peter ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 10:06 PM:
How much interest are you charging him, exactly?
Not enough, I guess. Only a few posts had the vowels repossessed. And we should give them to Mr Cooley who made such laughter from that fungi bowl post.

In Everquest circles, there was an infamous post by someone (and himself as sockpuppet) that ended up making "page 8" a verb. So, to put it in EverCrack jargon, Rimmer page eighted himself.

#74 ::: Chris Oliver ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 10:06 PM:

Glad I printed the blog before Teresa wisely took out its defamatory content. My cadding days with you are over but I shall possibly keep looking for chinks in some other mean-spirited site and post as TN-H to my heart's content.

#75 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 10:08 PM:

Serge @ 71 - Reminds me of a D&D campaign or two.

Dungeon Master: "Okay, in the first room beside the evil wizard's research lab, you find what looks like a shimmering curtain of energy."

Player #1: "Cool, a teleportation field! I step into it."

DM: "Um. You do?"

P1: "Of course! Where do I end up?"

P2: "I follow him."

P3: "Me too. Where are we?"

DM: "... Okay. It's a year later. Each of you is now your identical twin, come to the castle looking for your brother, who disappeared mysteriously a year ago and you think might have done something dangerously stupidly rash and come to a horrible end..."

#76 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 10:49 PM:

"Chris," you're still a liar. Teresa hasn't removed any content, defamatory or otherwise. Not that there was anything defamatory, mind. I expect you're making that ludicrous claim to cover yourself when folks notice that her remarks are the plain, reasonable truth.

But tell me, big guy, what's your real name? Come on, spit it out. What's your full, legal name, Charlie?

Oh, and you still owe me three essays. Get to work, champ.

#77 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2007, 11:45 PM:

Chris Oliver #74: I shall possibly keep looking for chinks in some other mean-spirited site

Here you go! Have a nice day!

#78 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 12:17 AM:

All the same, it's interesting that "Chris" doesn't consider anything that's currently posted to be defamatory.

#79 ::: ema nymtonsti ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 12:44 AM:

Speaking of socks, the director of the Art Gallery of NSW, Edmund Capon, was (is?) well known for wearing odd socks: the gallery shop used to (and still might, but I couldn't see them in the online shop) sell pairs of odd socks, called Director's Socks, in lovely colour combinations. What would Charlie Rimmer's socks look like?

(What would yours look like? Mine are thick cabled socks, in a Kureyon colourway with a lot of pink.)

#80 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 12:53 AM:

C. Wingate at #48 wrote:

> My father built a Wimshurst machine and a Ranque-Hilsch vortex tube (yes, that that's Am. Sci. article) when I was a kid; he never got the latter to work though.

A friend built a vortex tube for his high school science project, and his didn't work either. Maybe they're just a rumour :)

#81 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 12:58 AM:

I thought I saw something just recently disemvowelled, but scanning quickly here can't spot it. Maybe that's what he means by "removing defamatory material".
§ <whisper> Don't mention the hyphen. It might show up usefully later.</whisper>

[DON'T get me started on the high-handed behaviour of iTunes! Grrr …]

#82 ::: mcz ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 01:38 AM:

I think the disemvowellee was Despina's repost of the Rimmer letter in the original thread.

#83 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 01:45 AM:

C. Wingate, #14, "my handwriting is write-only" Ha! May I use that, crediting you?

#84 ::: Greg Machlin ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 02:22 AM:

WHEEEE! Apparently I *don't* miss all the fun threads.

"My cadding days with you are over"
(shakes head in delighted disbelief)
Except that you're back, "Chris." You're *back.* You said you were going away forever but now you're *back!* Jesus, Chris, why did you come back? It's starting to look like…well, like
this
to be honest.

"but I shall possibly keep looking for chinks in some other mean-spirited site and post as TN-H to my heart's content."

Identity theft is a crime, but I expect that the only sites which would know who Teresa is would easily recognize you as a fraud, if by nothing than your Australian ISP. Well, that and the fact that Teresa's neither mean nor an idiot.

Oh, and before I forget, here's my favorite Red Dwarf moment, posted because I'm directing a play partially inspired by the episode this comes from ("Thanks for the Memory," season 2.)

#85 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 02:29 AM:

Just like him to leave in a dugeon, threatening to commit identity theft on the way out. Well, of course, how else will he get an identity?

Which does beg the question, do sockpuppets have an identity crisis when they hit middle age?

#86 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 03:17 AM:

joann: I prefer the Smithsonian, when it comes to quality. I have some splendid looking things from the Met, which have worn the gilding off, or become dented.

The Smithsonian collection is harder base metals, and more sterling than plate.

#87 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 06:36 AM:

On a slight tangent...from Susanna Clarke's interview with Alan Moore at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2007/10/07/sv_alanmoore.xml&page=1 :

"He worships Glycon, a Roman snake god, not because he believes in Glycon (who was exposed as a glove puppet in the second century, a source of great delight to Moore) but because what he represents to Moore is real and important."

The earliest example of sock puppetry I've seen referenced :D

#88 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 06:40 AM:

#34: Absolutely-- be my guest!

#80: from the Wikipedia article you can get to a couple of commercial manufacturers of the things. They seem to fit neatly into that subspecies of "mother of invention", the "I have X and need Y, so I'll use Z to get it even though something that used some other source would be more efficient" paradigm, where

X=compressed air
Y=cold
Z=vortex tube
something else=the Rankine cycle

Looking at the commercial versions, I think the flaw in the Stong version is the spiral chamber. All the apparently working varieties use a strictly cylindrical main chamber, sometimes rather larger than the hot and cold tubes.

In the exact opposite direction, one satellite project my father worked on involved this Stirling engine refrigerator, which they apparently had a great deal of trouble with. I'd come home, and there it would sit in the kitchen, a wooden case about two feet high and eight inches on a side. Lift the lid and there was this completely unidentifiable '70s-Analog-cover-spaceship ending in a small squat cylinder that should have been labelled "warp output", covered with a plastic cap that should have had a "REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT" streamer tied to it. I don't think they ever got this thing working or put it into orbit.

#89 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 06:57 AM:

I'm thinking of going to Home Depot today for some parts...

#90 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 06:59 AM:

Oh, and here's the rule:

Threats by lawyers are real; threats of lawyers aren't.

#91 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 07:24 AM:

#27 P J Evans Archimedes was that >< close to inventing the calculus.

Ooh - Alternate History story idea!

(Note to self - find some way to add gratuitous airships to the story).

#92 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 07:41 AM:

I've just been reading the earlier thread.

Oh, wow.

I get to dust off a Twain quite I never thought I'd get to use. When it comes to the sock puppet postings:

To believe that such talk really ever came out of people's mouths would be to believe that there was a time when time was of no value to a person who thought he had something to say; when it was the custom to spread a two-minute remark out to ten; when a man's mouth was a rolling-mill, and busied itself all day long in turning four-foot pigs of thought into thirty-foot bars of conversational railroad iron by attenuation; when subjects were seldom faithfully stuck to, but the talk wandered all around and arrived nowhere; when conversations consisted mainly of irrelevancies, with here and there a relevancy, a relevancy with an embarrassed look, as not being able to explain how it got there.

The whole thread deserves a bronze tablet and a clock that chimes the hours...

#93 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 08:04 AM:

Michael@17:

Would that count as a Distributed Provision of Service attack?

#94 ::: Gesso ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 08:30 AM:

Bruce@85:
...do sockpuppets have an identity crisis when they hit middle age?

I think they just unravel.

#95 ::: Stephen Granade ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 08:42 AM:

Bruce @ 85, Gesso @ 94: The sockpuppets who are having a midlife crisis are easy to spot, as they run around in Berluti shoes with the laces down, the threads around their worn spots flapping in the breeze.

#96 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 09:07 AM:

When "Amanda Blair" showed up in the other thread, it was correctly identified as a sock puppet in under an hour (three posts down the thread, one of those posts being from "Chris Oliver").

When "Chris Oliver" flounced the first time he was back in twenty-two minutes. When "Chris Oliver" flounced the second time it took him an hour and seventeen minutes to return as yet another sock puppet, which was correctly identified as a sock in the very next post.

I note with great amusement that when "Chris Oliver" wants to get a worthwhile copy of something he prints it out. What's the matter, chum? Why not just take an electronic copy? Or return here whenever you need to refer to the information here?

Maybe if you asked your Mr. Young (the e-book enthusiast you're so impressed by) he'll tell you why the "paperless office" still hasn't arrived a quarter of a century after the announcement of its arrival.

#97 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 09:31 AM:

"Maybe if you asked your Mr. Young (the e-book enthusiast you're so impressed by) he'll tell you why the "paperless office" still hasn't arrived a quarter of a century after the announcement of its arrival."

Indeed. My office couldn't function without email or Internet access, but that form of communication has increased, not decreased, the amount of paper in the workspace.

Now everyone prints out the emails they get related to a project, they print out preliminary calculations and quantities and plans, they print out drafts of letters that are to be sent out (and then print out another draft after revisions are made to the first one), they print out EVERYTHING in fact.

Why? Because everyone does not carry an internet-linked computer with them everywhere they go, and having that piece of paper (which can easily be copied and handed out to anyone wanting it) is much more convenient.

#98 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 09:37 AM:

Maybe if you asked your Mr. Young (the e-book enthusiast you're so impressed by) he'll tell you why the "paperless office" still hasn't arrived a quarter of a century after the announcement of its arrival.

It's hard to write notes on a screen. They don't stay with the text; neither do the yellow stickies.

#99 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 09:38 AM:

I'm curious about that oliverandmaxwell@yahoo.com.au address. What's the connection (if any) with Oliver & Maxwell Books & Music (on Ormond Rd, Elwood, VIC, about a 20-minute drive away from the A&R offices per Google maps)?

#100 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 09:59 AM:

I produce PDF proofs for clients. It generally takes routing three or four complete printouts to get approval to do it.

#101 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 10:05 AM:

And you also have people who are printing out a CYA copy of something like an email. The paranoid (I am one of them) don't trust the corporate computer system to not conveniently lose something which would have proved you were doing what you were told, not what the boss thought he told you to do.

#102 ::: Fiendish Writer ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 10:35 AM:

Gesso@94: Perhaps when the sockpuppets unravel, they lose the thread of their arugments and cannot do more than shout, "Darn!"

Maybe?

#103 ::: Gesso ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 10:50 AM:

At which point they're knot quite as amusing, I'm afrayed.

#104 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 11:59 AM:

On the discussion of scientific magazines upthread: does anyone have a recommendation of one or two magazines that could give a nice overview of science issues? I like Discover because it seems to be "for the rest of us". But something a bit more technical but still readable would be nice. Would the concerns expressed about Scientific American still apply if we stipulate that it would be a complete mathematical moron reading it?

#105 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 12:18 PM:

One gent with a long track record in the networking biz, sighted with stacks of paper: "More bandwidth".

#106 ::: midori ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 12:46 PM:

in #62, Dan Layman-Kennedy wrote:

John Chu at 50: Thanks - obviously I was misinterpreting the offer that iTunes made after I downloaded it to copy over all my sound files. The message the software gave me made it sound like there was some form of conversion about to happen.

Actually, Itunes does something worse (or better): it volunteers to organize your music for you. This means copying all your music (probably nondestructively) into tidy hierarchical folders, and creating a database for where all of it is. Recent versions of itunes can download album artwork, which would be a great plus, except I believe it embeds the artwork in the mp3 file, making it larger. That could be forgiven, were the copies of the artwork better quality.

I use itunes, and I like it well enough*, but I understand the open source program Amarok is much better at dealing with certain things. (For instance, I believe that it's music identification algorithm is more accurate than the GracenoteCDDB that itunes uses, and it can be asked to download lyrics that can be embedded in the mp3s also. Naturally this is a civil wrong of copyright violation.)

So ends the helpiness. Amen.

*I prefer to not manually sort my music collection, and the folder structure makes manual backups reasonably easy. Note that the itunes database file is (or was) mergeable into an existing itunes installation making the inevitable windows reinstallation less painful.

#107 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 12:48 PM:

John Chu wrote "Hearing the output of your iPod on your car stereo is more of a bother. When I had a car with a tape player, I used a tape adapter"

I find these work better than FM adapters. The catch is that if they're cheaply made the mechanism can be noisy, which is annoying.

The one I have now is the best I've used. It's from Griffin, and it's the cassette adapter which lets you use the cassette controls to control the iPod. Sadly, that stopped working after about six months so I have to use the iPod itself to change songs, but the sound is still good and the mechanism is quiet.

#108 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 01:10 PM:

" except I believe it embeds the artwork in the mp3 file, making it larger"

I don't think it does. It keeps an 'Album Artwork' folder separate from the music.

Putting them in the files wouldn't make much sense, since there'd be much duplication - one copy of the art for each song on the album.

#109 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 01:29 PM:

For science news online, I go to Science Daily. Though it's basically light revisions of news releases from all over the place (mainly academia), it can be up-to-the-minute and nicely eclectic. As for the mags, I still subscribe to Discover but lament the way it's gone downhill in the last year or so. I also get Smithsonian (handy birthday present from Mom) and think it's holding up a bit better. The old version of Scientific American was too technical for me; the new one *can* be too dumbed down, but now and then I'll get it for some article that's of interest.

Alas, I've never found a really attractive general-interest magazine with an emphasis on archaeology and/or paleontology (sciences I might have gone into if I had the brain for it).

#110 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 01:37 PM:

During study breaks in college, I could be found between the magazine shelves, reading on the floor. Got some weird looks that way, but it made me feel like I was just there temporarily, just this one article, rather than halfway into an hour-long magazine blitz. Archaeology, Scientific American, Skeptical Inquirer, National Geographic, Smithsonian, and random ones with 'Trends' in the name were the usual ones.

On a recent lab trip to Denver, my group rented a university vehicle. I brought my usual car-trip pack-- my CDs, my Discman, a cigarette-lighter power thing, and a tape adapter (they make them in white now, to match the iPod). Everyone else had mp3 players.
The Suburban didn't have a tape deck, but it did have a CD player. I was the only one who could play music. Made me glad of five hours of 'going to Denver' random-random mix.

#111 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 01:46 PM:

I would definitely dis-recco Sci. Am. if only because someone who wasn't scientifically astute might not catch on that they are not properly dispassionate. It was something I noticed way back in the days when they first started publishing articles about creationism. Those articles inevitably had an editorial tinge to them, which made me uneasy. But in those days it was an occaisional aberration; these days it's omnipresent. It always feels like they're trying to sell me something; or worse, that they're preaching to the converted.

#112 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 02:02 PM:

re #109: If you have an interest in middle eastern archaeology, then Biblical Archaeology Review is the magazine for you.

#113 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 02:14 PM:

Re Science News: I have to echo C. Wingate's comments on SciAm.

It's a digest, and I've seen, more than a few, places where the digester has picked some odd pieces of the reports to highlight. On the one hand, a small amount of work will get one to the original paper (though often that takes access to a university library).

On the other, if you don't follow up, there can be some serious misunderstandings about what the paper really said.

#114 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 03:46 PM:

A subtext of all the discussion of science magazines is that you really have to have a certain grounding to be able read any of them safely-- even the good ones. You don't necessarily have to understand much of the detail, but you have to know enough to keep your BS detectors in working order, especially in anything that has the slightest political implications. For instance, whenever you read something about global warming, you need to remember that the carbon content of the atmosphere is the residual product of a bunch of huge forces, manmade and natural, many of which we don't understand well at all; and that the greenhouse effect is only one of a bunch of big forces governing climate, many of which we again don't understand well. It's obvious that reducing atmospheric carbon is a good thing, if only because there's only so much of it on the planet. Reducing per capita energy consumption is likewise a good end in itself. But the mass media version of the thing-- which unfortunately has leached back into the pop. sci. press-- is phrased in tones of hysteria/ridicule which mask the scientific reality that we don't know what's coming, and that even if it's catastrophic, we may not be able to stop it with anything less drastic than switching off the power grid and abolishing mechanized transport-- and even that might not be enough. I've noticed at least that more responsible elements have for instance (there was a nice article about this in Discover) 'fessed up that the "hydrogen economy" isn't going to do a thing about global warming, but if you're a really raw layman you're now in the position of hoping that the science press is policing itself well enough.

Which brings me to my High School Science pitch: the one thing people need to take away from their high school science classes is enough sophistication to detect when they are being snowed. It's unreasonable to expect everyone to be able to do science, or maybe even to understand much science. But they need to be able to tell when science isn't science.

(Here endeth the sermon.)

#115 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 05:12 PM:

C. Wingate, I'd be happy, also, if people took these things away from science classes:

- Why not to mix Clorox and ammonia

- Bimetallic contact: why it should be avoided, and how

- How wet air makes low pressure systems

- Radiant heat uptake/loss, or why everyone needs curtains

- Elements combining at random: why not?

But you're right, a well-honed BS detector is the highest goal of basic science education.

#116 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 05:53 PM:

C. Wingate, #14: my handwriting is write-only and my typing has a high standard deviation

SPLORT!!! The handwriting bit is about to turn into a button, I think.

Jon H, #107: The other major advantage to tape adaptors is that you don't have to keep fiddling with them as you drive from one state to the next and the next and...

The FM adaptors are fine if most of your listening is done within a limited geographical area, but for far-travelers they're a pain in the patoot. Of course, a direct input is even better, but they're of more recent vintage than any car we own.

#117 ::: Gar Lipow ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 06:31 PM:

C. Wingate 111

>I would definitely dis-recco Sci. Am. if only because someone who wasn't scientifically astute might not catch on that they are not properly dispassionate. It was something I noticed way back in the days when they first started publishing articles about creationism. Those articles inevitably had an editorial tinge to them, which made me uneasy.

C. Wingate

>ou have to know enough to keep your BS detectors in working order, especially in anything that has the slightest political implications. For instance, whenever you read something about global warming, you need to remember that the carbon content of the atmosphere is the residual product of a bunch of huge forces, manmade and natural, many of which we don't understand well at all; and that the greenhouse effect is only one of a bunch of big forces governing climate

So it sounds like the objection is that Sci. Am. does not take creationism and global warming denial with sufficient respect. I'm sorry but that is not something you can expect from any scientific magazine. Creationism may be perfectly respectable theology (or not depending on which theologicians you talk to). it is not taken seriously as a scientific hypothesis let alone theory. That is why even most creationist try disguise themselves by calling them selves students of "intelligent design". Similarly, global warming denial is generally recognized as a political tactic, not actual science. So of course science magazines won't deal with these "evenhandedly" any more they will deal evenhandedly with the hypothesis that "its turtles all the way down".

#118 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 06:33 PM:

re #116: If anyone sees Nancy Liebowitz anytime soon, by all means tell her she can start cranking out "My handwriting..." buttons out any time.

#119 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 06:36 PM:

Real portable music enthusiasts drag around a PDP-8 minicomputer and portable power generator on a pallet truck and convert their music libraries into assembly language code so that when they hold their portable radios near the gear, it will play due to radio-frequency emissions leakage.

#120 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 07:22 PM:

re 117: No, Gar, you're missing the point. As a science journal, even on a popular level, their job is not to enter into a debate with creationists, global warming skeptics, or for that matter pseudoscience advocates. Once you enter into such a debate, you've done the exact scientific equivalent of biting into the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; you are no longer innocent of polemic taint.

The article about creationism years ago that first set off my alarms was ostensibly a sociological study. The problem was that the question that was being studied appeared to be "how can these people be so stupid?" The whiff of condescension was subtle but (to me) unmistakable. And its detection set off mistrust, because it suggested that the researcher couldn't keep his (on one level entirely justified) bias against his subjects out of his research. However much you personally want to fulminate against them or the "intelligent design" crowd is really quite beside the point.

As far as global warming is concerned, the issue again is that the matter is not a two-sided debate. When you start talking about "global warming deniers", you've bought into a moral crusade. But anyone who has watched the tremendous explosion of geologic knowledge in the last forty years has seen the overturning the whole "balance of nature" paradigm that lies at the heart of "global warming" as a popular thesis. What is particularly ironic is that "balance of nature" is itself derivative of older versions of intelligent design, because its view of Nature as a system unconsciously evokes (especially to us) the image of an engine or factory or other designed contrivance. If you reject this image, then the other global-warming-doomsayer image-- that we can get the thing back on track by adjusting the knobs-- also falls apart.

If you want to understand what the state of atmospheric modelling really looks like, go read the forecast discussions on the NOAA hurricane center website. These guys are unquestionably pros at this-- and what you will find is that they use a whole suite of models and then do an awful lot of seat-of-the-pants adjusting to what comes out, not to mention restarting the models every day because they drift out of reality pretty quickly. It's a matter of course that one model disagrees pretty significantly with another. The lesson to take away is not that modelling is worthless (because it isn't; the models do help a lot), but that even in that narrowly defined field there is a lot of not-scientific art to using them. And if you go look at some of the other things that we know have a huge effect on climate-- volcanic eruptions, solar output, etc.-- you find that in a lot of those fields they don't think they know as much as the global warming crew attributes to them. In the middle of this we find a journal article saying "this is why you should believe in global warming" rather than "this is what we know about global warming". The attitude difference is subtle, but crucial; the latter is science reporting, and the former, political advocacy.

#121 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 07:31 PM:

P.S. In the old days, the way Sci. Am. dealt with the fruit bat crowd was that Martin Gardner would trot out Dr. Matrix. Who among us remembers the Ripoff Rotor?

#122 ::: Gar Lipow ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 08:57 PM:

By "The Global Warming Crowd" do you mean the IPCC?

#123 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 10:14 PM:

No, Mr. Lipow, I mean you. Nothing personal, but as you are an "environmental activist" who is purveying a book outlining your solution, you fit precisely the silhouette I have here limned.

#124 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 10:43 PM:

JMO@30: IIRC, Science 8x was published by the AAAS; I suspect it was on more solid ground than Discover, but I generally found it a little drier.

#125 ::: Zarquon ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 11:01 PM:
And if you go look at some of the other things that we know have a huge effect on climate-- volcanic eruptions, solar output, etc.-- you find that in a lot of those fields they don't think they know as much as the global warming crew attributes to them

This is FUD, not fact.

#126 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 11:20 PM:

120 I'm afraid that this comment, and indeed the entire criticism of this particular issue, completely misses the point of the articles in Scientific American and other sources that are criticizing nonscientific misinterpretations of science. This starts at the level of premise:

"As a science journal, even on a popular level, their job is not to enter into a debate with creationists, global warming skeptics, or for that matter pseudoscience advocates. Once you enter into such a debate, you've done the exact scientific equivalent of biting into the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; you are no longer innocent of polemic taint."

I'm afraid that it is their job to "enter into a debate" — just not the debate that the creationists et al. want. That debate is not the details of evolution, or the detailed causes of global warming, but the methodology of science per se.

In Aristotelian terms, the scientific method concerns proximate cause, and asserts that sometimes expansive understanding of proximate cause can reveal first cause. For example, carefully studying the proximate causation of intergenerational inheritance allows us to not only understand what is inherited (and what is not), but to make inferences — which, if scientifically valid, can then be tested — concerning development of the current inheritence set.

The creationist/GW-denier position, though, is that only direct study of first cause is appropriate, and that expansive understanding of first cause reveals all proximate causes. The corresponding example is that one must accept some mythic account of "creation" as the first cause of everything that happens thereafter, and that anything we believe we learn about proximate causation must be altered or understood in the light of that knowledge of first cause. That is not science; it is faith.

Sometimes we really aren't getting good evidence (e.g., Lowell's drawings of "canali" on Mars, which resulted as much from bad translation leading him to expect them as from relatively unsophisticated optics); however, that's quite a rare instance, and it's self-correcting as measurement ability gets better. If Wingate is referring to the same belief-of-crowds article as I believe he/she is in post 120, then I must disagree with his/her reading of the article, because the article used creationist beliefs as part of an evidentiary case study on belief propagation... which is perfectly proper for Scientific American.

None of this is to say that I think the magazine is perfect, by any means; the writing, for example, still leaves a lot to be desired, and some of the articles in fields with which I have the most familiarity too often oversimplify. Those, however, are areas for improvement — not reasons to ignore the magazine in its entirety. They are certainly not reasons to reject the magazine's refusal to accept nonscientific reasoning as a basis for rejecting scientific reasoning, just as the scientific method is not a valid basis for rejecting the First Amendment.

#127 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 11:33 PM:

There's a 'popular science' magazine called Cosmos, started not that long ago, that I've enjoyed. You can check out a 'free sample' and subscribe online. They deliver it over much of the world, including the USA and UK, and they're big on special things for teachers and education.

Plus they run sf stories.

#128 ::: Zarquon ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 11:36 PM:

By the way, there's also Seed magazine which does a pretty good job of running a group of science-based blogs at scinceblogs.com

#129 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: October 10, 2007, 11:59 PM:

Odd socks:

I'm fond of the statement by Dan Goodman (possibly adopted from the late Jack Harness) that
"But my socks _do_ match -- they're both the same material, thickness, and texture."

#130 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 01:45 AM:

Don: I got that from Steven Wright, though I was following the idea long before that.

These days I just buy socks in large lots.

#131 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 05:15 AM:

Epacris: oddly enough, I discovered that only yesterday. By an odd set of links[1] I arrived at the web site of Mary Robinette Kowal[2], who has recently published a story[3] in it.

[1] odd, primarily, because they started at one of my technical blogs, not a writing/SF related one
[2] who I used to know back when I hung around on Orson Scott Card's forums
[3] which I highly recommend, BTW.

#132 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 10:21 AM:

Thanks for the recommendations, everyone. C. Wingate, I have a pretty good grounding in the sciences, and detecting bs in writing is an elementary tool in the librarian's kit -- it's just that my math skills stop at balancing my checkbook, figuring out my taxes, and figuring out spacing for my embroidery designs. I'm looking for things that give me an overview; if that intrigues me, then I go further. Like trilobites: I just recently fell into trilobites...

#133 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 12:00 PM:

Terry Karney @ 113:
I have to echo C. Wingate's comments on SciAm.

It's a digest, and I've seen, more than a few, places where the digester has picked some odd pieces of the reports to highlight. On the one hand, a small amount of work will get one to the original paper (though often that takes access to a university library).

Actually, the main articles are usually written by scientists working in the field in question.[*] The problems you run into are more likely to be: a) authors and/or editors wanting things to be a simplistic as possible; and b) authors emphasizing their own research and biases a bit too much without making it clear that these are still controversial issues, rather than something well established.

The second problem is also a potential issue with American Scientist, though the articles are longer and generally less dumbed down. On the other hand, Am.Sci only comes out 6 times a year, and doesn't try to cover all areas of science with regularity.

[*] The short "news" items are digests, of course.

#134 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 12:12 PM:

C. Wingate @ 120:
If you want to understand what the state of atmospheric modelling really looks like, go read the forecast discussions on the NOAA hurricane center website. These guys are unquestionably pros at this-- and what you will find is that they use a whole suite of models and then do an awful lot of seat-of-the-pants adjusting to what comes out, not to mention restarting the models every day because they drift out of reality pretty quickly. It's a matter of course that one model disagrees pretty significantly with another.

That's actually kind of misleading. Modeling climate on timescales of decades or centuries is not the same problem as modeling local phenomena like hurricanes on timescales of days to weeks, and the problems the latter encounter are not related to the problems of the former. Implying that this is so is repeating the "climate" fallacy.

#135 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 12:14 PM:

C. Wingate (#112): Actually, Biblical Archaeology Review is one of the mags that don't interest me much because it's too specialized. (Ditto the one that focuses on the Americas.)

The "BS detector" comments above are similar to what I think of as keeping the Long View -- in terms of millennia (not someone's Millennium), this planet has been through a heck of a lot more than humans could throw at it, so I take most science-minded apocalypses with a grain of salt. Yes, we should certainly do better, but even a widespread nuclear exchange probably wouldn't erase *all* life, and this globe has warmed and cooled to extraordinary amounts in the past. (Slower changes, maybe, but not all of them were gradual.)

For a worrier and pessimist, I do have my lighter side -- or maybe I'm just wary of extremes.

#136 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 01:10 PM:

re #126: The is a place for such articles, but that place is (for instance) Atlantic or Harper's. Or for that matter, Theology Today.

As a Christian I cannot but help being, on some philosophical level, an adherent of some notion of "intelligent design". But as far as science is concerned, I recognize that the only thing I can allow it to do for me is sharpen my BS detectors a bit, particularly those attuned to "unintelligent nondesign". These issues are important; but they are not science per se.

To switch to a different level for a minute: I don't consider myself to be the target audience of disquisitions about creationism etc. anyway. There's no reason for me to read the articles because I already appreciate the problem-- and frankly, IMAO I appreciate it on a far more subtle level than those articles ever present it. About the only thing that can come of reading them, besides bored nods and self-congratulatory back-pats of agreement, is irritation that the author is overcompensating and contaminating his position with rank secularism. So as far as my reading is concerned, they are padding at best. But the thing is, I would expect that most readers are pretty much in the same boat-- or they simply put on their blinders and read as (for instance) creationist physicists or engineers.

So who is the target? Well, ostensibly it is insufficiently educated people who need to be brought up to speed. But I suspect that the real audience is the writers themselves, and that the real point of such articles is the defense of the Noble Fortress of Science.

See, I am struck by your equation of creationists and GW-deniers, because I think you are right in linking them but wrong in the reason you link them. The problem, very simply, is that we're talking about ideologues. BUT part of the reason they are so is because they act in reaction to opponents whom they consider to be ideologues too. And often enough, they are correct! There are plenty of GW proponents whose commitment transcends the possibility of scientific refutation. It's all played out very publically and loudly in the arena of establishing governmental policy/stricture, where the players have a lot of interests in play besides science.

Which bring me back to "this is not science." When I see "science" next to "computer model", the next thing I expect to see is experimental confirmation that the model does what is claimed for it. Without that, it isn't science. It is extremely common in all fields to claim more understanding than the state of knowledge justifies. What generally happens is that people start filling in the gap, and the inflated claims simply get forgotten. It appears to me that what's happening in climatology, though, is that the pressure to "do something" has short-circuited that process. And it seems to me that Sci. Am. has stepped into the debate and is no longer a neutral observer of the science, but has become one of the advocates. As such, I can't trust it.

#137 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 01:12 PM:

Emma, the main math skills you need can be picked up by reading How to Lie With Statistics. They don't often require anything as sophisticated as arithmetic.

#138 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 01:28 PM:

Which bring me back to "this is not science." When I see "science" next to "computer model", the next thing I expect to see is experimental confirmation that the model does what is claimed for it. Without that, it isn't science.

This turns out not to be the case.

The process of science is not, cannot be, about confirmation; it is about falsification.

Thankfully (very challenging to do climate experiments, spare planetary atmospheres being unavailable), that doesn't require experimental falsification. It does require a testable hypothesis (eg., "we will never find an unreworked Jurassic index fossil above an unreworked Cretaceous index fossil in an undisturbed stratigraphic column") but "testable" and "experiment" are not the same.

In the case of the current climate change models, they have all been recently falsified; none predicted the extent of the Arctic Ocean peak open water for this year correctly.

Which is to say, all the climate change computer models are now unequivocally known to be missing heat transfer mechanisms somewhere.

The progress of science continues; the next set of models will be better.

The appropriate policy response isn't "oh, that was wrong, we don't have to worry about it".

#139 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 02:40 PM:

Chip @ 124: You're right about Science 8x. Looking it up in WorldCat (which, with the changing title and the sole English word being a common one, is non-trivial) I see that it was published by the AAAS, and ran from the end of 1979 to the summer of 1986. (And yes, I do recall that subscriptions were taken over by Discover, which I didn't like so much.)

One thing I liked about it is that I recall it had fairly solid science stories (which I'd expect from a group like the AAAS), while still being accessible to bright, curious teens.

I'd be interested in finding a new science magazine that's especially good for that level or a little younger. (My oldest is 7.5, and very interested in science.) Anyone have some good candidates? _Muse_ (by the publishers of Cricket) sounds promising, though I haven't picked up a recent issue, and it's advertised for "10 and up". Do folks have any recommendations on that or other titles?

And speaking of generations of magazines and people, I just realized it's been a full 20 years since I first got onto Usenet, at the tail end of the Great Renaming, and found C. Wingate and others having lively conversations on some of the religion groups. From someone who was mostly a lurker in those days, good to see you again!

#140 ::: Gar Lipow ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 03:43 PM:

And I would add policy can be science based in the sense of responding to known facts, and avoiding attempts to violate scientific laws. Policy CANNOT be science based in the sense of "scientists provide magic solutions". So one can object to global warming denial, while still acknowledging that we move to realm of solutions we are beyond the realm of pure scientific discussion (while still bound by constraints of scientifically established facts and theories).

#141 ::: Zarquon ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 04:24 PM:
There are plenty of GW proponents whose commitment transcends the possibility of scientific refutation.

Bullshit.

#142 ::: Zarquon ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 04:45 PM:

BTW the science of global warming is not based on computer models, it's based on data like this .

#143 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 04:48 PM:

re 138: Perhaps technically true, but "not falsified", if acted upon, means in practice "taken as true until shown otherwise". I'm also being sloppy in using "experimental" here, meaning it something in the same sense that you use "testable". But I'm applying it in a stronger sense. Testing has to be actual, not merely potential.

Ans as far as using "falsified" models: while it's absurd to act as if every falsification overturns the entire model, it's entirely reasonable for a person to question the degree to which such a model should be used to instruct policy. That's where I come in. It's not that I don't accept that GW may be a legitimate issue; it's that the remedies being discussed are extreme and that there are extreme penalties for being wrong. I need a great deal of confidence, under the circumstances, in "not going to be falsified".

#144 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 04:54 PM:

Am I correct in assuming that "climate change" is a trendy euphemism for global warming primarily in use by people who are unwilling to admit that they were mistaken about the problem in the first place, so they gave it another name?

#145 ::: Zarquon ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 05:17 PM:
it's that the remedies being discussed are extreme and that there are extreme penalties for being wrong.

More FUD. Prove it. Do the calculations. Show your work.

#146 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 05:18 PM:

Earl Cooley #144: I don't know what the general usage and connotations are, but I like "climate change" because it sidesteps all the moronic "So much for global warming!!!" comments people make when it's cold in August.

C. Wingate #143: What you're saying is awfully close to "We don't know how serious the problem is going to be, or whether it's too late to do anything about it, so our best course of action is to not do anything." Which is pretty silly. To use an example most of us here will be queasily familiar with, it's like saying, "I don't know if I'm going to get in a car accident, and even if I do I don't know if a seatbelt will save my life, so I might as well not wear one."

P.S. No, it's not exactly the same as that. Quibble quibble.

#147 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 05:55 PM:

re #142: Let's assume that the lower "hockey stick" graph can be taken at face value and hypothesize that all the change seen can be attributed to human effects such as deforestation, reduction of wildlife, fossil fuel combustion, etc. And let's assume that it is necessary to bring temperatures back close to the premodern -.25 degree average, and necessary to do it pretty quickly (say, a decade or two). OK, what do we do? Well, I can formulate a bunch of really dire hypotheses. If all the increase can be attributed to increased atmospheric carbon, then the solution is going to require re-binding all of the carbon released from fossil fuel sources, at a minimum. OK, how much energy do we get from that? Can we get anywhere near that given that solar energy becomes our only known energy source (unless one is willing to do breeder reactors, known uranium/thorium reserves don't go very far; plutonium in commercial markets is a huge security risk because it essentially guarantees the existence of terrorist nuclear weapons)? How much are we willing to risk undoing the industrial revolution? Will that even do the trick?

And that's the easy case. The hard one is where we postulate that those cow farts do in fact matter and that we have to bring the world cattle population down. Or where we have to make drastic cutbacks to farmland without any compensating increase in productivity. And since every one of these solutions involves Draconian cutbacks if technology doesn't arise to compensate the losses, there's the social question of how to push them forward in the face of social disruption (to be euphemistic) that could well make the Whiskey Rebellion and Prohibition seem like middle school pranks. If worldwide cutbacks are required, how can these be supported/coordinated/enforced in the face of the energy requirement to do so?

It's really obvious that once you get the kneejerk "if a liberal says it's raining outside, then it's not" reaction out of the picture, a lot of the anti-GW resistance comes from the suspicion that any drastic measures are going to borne entirely by the industrialized West, and especially by the middle class (who have no power and a lot to lose). And I'm betting that they are entirely correct.

And that's all before one throws a single question at the data. For instance, in the upper graph, why is it essentially flat from the late 1930s to the late 1970s? Why doesn't the first rise start until about 1910? It's not that I think that these "anomalies" refute the GW thesis; but I think that if we can't explain them better than speculatively, then we don't know enough to make sound judgments about what to do.

#148 ::: Zarquon ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 06:18 PM:
How much are we willing to risk undoing the industrial revolution? Will that even do the trick?

Oh for fuck's sake!

#149 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 06:38 PM:

re various responses: What I find interesting is the insinuation that I am opposed to doing anything about atmospheric carbon, especially in light of the fact that I said exactly the opposite back in (scrolling up) (scrolling down) #114. Even if global warming were utter nonsense, the current steady increase presents sustainability issues; there are other reasons to get the planet on a "use only what comes from the sun" energy economy.

As far as FUD is concerned: we can't handle Iraq, so what makes you think we can handle our own country? What makes you think we're going to get cooperation from the Arabian Penninsula when their economies are based entirely out of pumping that black stuff out of the ground? The fear of the social disruptions is far better grounded than the fear of global climate catastrophe. For example, I look at Gar Lipow's assertion that government's argoing to have to move far to the Left, and the historical evidence suggests to the point of insistence that this isn't going to happen effectively, and that the hope of the Western nations of transferring this into the third world is exactly nothing.

And the thing is that if dealing with GW drags out (which it will), and the expected catastrophes don't materialize (which they might not), then the backlash of resistance is going to be overwhelming. Right now, GW is itself the foundation of a lot of FUD. It's baldly obvious that people who are already inclined to pushing socialism find GW a justification for doing so. And I don't mean that they are malicious in doing so, but that it dovetails into their political leanings. It's the hysteria that bothers me, because it clouds thinking in exactly the way that the anti-terrorism hysteria clouds right-wing thinking about foreign policy and internal security.

#150 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 06:40 PM:

I've heard people say that 'climate change' is being used as a euphemism (an euphemism?) for 'global warming' because it's more generalised and anodyne. It is harder to say, but it's also more accurate. They say that global warming sounds scarier.

I disagree. For a start, when there's floods and blizzards and record low temperatures, you hear people say that that disproves the idea of global warming, when it may be evidence for it.

Another common problem is that people in cooler climates often think, 'hey, that'd be nice'.

It's increasing the energy put into the system:
     the Highs get higher,
     the Lows get lower,
     the Drys get drier,
     the Winds get blowier,
and whole systems in their current equilibrium get tipped, and who knows which way they'll go? [blog entry]

Global Warming Myths and Facts ( http://www.environmentaldefense.org/page.cfm?tagID=1011 )

I also recommend Revisiting The Limits to Growth
( http://greatchange.org/ ov-simmons,club_of_rome_revisted.html )

#151 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 07:01 PM:

re #150: It has already hit the Atlantic.

Part of the credibility issue for GW is that the list of consequences attributed to it sounds like the list of what Elmer Fudd throws at Bugs in What's Opera, Doc? So Katrina comes along two years ago in the busiest hurricane season ever, and it's evidence of GW (at least some people said so); and so far this year storms are having trouble just getting across the Atlantic, and it doesn't mean anything. To the average person, that sort of thing means "unfalsifiability". Absent a single global catastrophe-- say, going Venusian-- it's just obvious that some areas are going to find the change beneficial, even if most don't.

Heck, Eric the Red may finally be able to make good on those Greenland real estate deals.

#152 ::: Gar Lipow ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 09:23 PM:

Umm pretty easy to falsify - global warming can be measured by average temperature. In terms of consequences - overall NET consequences are expected to be negative. So your claim about falsification is nonsensical. You have clear predictions about both the phenomenon and results. In fact I would say it is falsifiable enough to bet on.

I will bet that average global temperature between the years 2008 and 2018 will be significantly higher than between the years 1997 and 2007. $1000? To be judged and paid to a charity of the others choice in January 2019? TNH and PNH to name the person responsible for judging the winner. (Themselves if they want that responsibility.) Included in the same bet is that the majority of humans alive on this planet in that month find the warmer climate significantly less comfortable, and worse for them economically than the climate today. Same person to judge.

#153 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 09:47 PM:

Mez #150: It's increasing the energy put into the system:
the Highs get higher,
the Lows get lower,
the Drys get drier,
the Winds get blowier,
and whole systems in their current equilibrium get tipped, and who knows which way they'll go?

There's a poem hiding in there somewhere. heh.

#154 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: October 11, 2007, 10:09 PM:

Earl -- there's already a poem:

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
...
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?

(Yeats -- from memory, so I'm sure it's not 100%, but close.)

#155 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2007, 12:43 AM:

I dunno, I have a hard time imagining a category 13 super hurricane doing any slouching on its path through the Gulf of Mexico. Not quite the metaphor I had in mind. Ah, well.

#156 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2007, 01:52 AM:
Mez #150:

the Highs get higher,
the Lows get lower,
the Drys get drier,
the Winds get blowier,
and whole systems in their current equilibrium get tipped, and who knows which way they'll go?

There's a poem hiding in there somewhere. heh.

I'm hearing echoes of Dr. Seuss, actually, only I can't put my finger on which of his texts I'm hearing echoes of.

Oh wait!

It's the final page of Oh See Can You Say!

The storm starts When the drops start dropping. When the drops stop dropping Then the storm starts stopping.

Whew, that feels better. Now I'm not going to be trying to remember that all night long.

#157 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2007, 01:54 AM:

Pretend I had successfully inserted [BR] tags in that Seuss excerpt, kthxbai.

#158 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2007, 02:10 AM:

Dang it. The book's called Oh Say Can You Say? I'm just having a great night for accuracy this morning.

OK, yes, I said that last bit on purpose.

#159 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2007, 06:57 AM:

C Wingate in 143 --

the remedies being discussed are extreme and that there are extreme penalties for being wrong.

Fifteen to twenty five meter sea level rise -- the sort of thing comfortably attested as having occurred before in about a decade in the recent geologic record -- displaces billions of people, guts the global economy, and can be presumed to have numerous unpleasant follow-on effects, like wars and famines and plagues.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations about 1000 ppm -- one part in a thousand, in other words -- are strongly associated with known mass extinction events. Everything bigger than about 10 kg out of the water dies. Correlation and mechanism not well understood, but, hey, we're already about a third of the way there. Is assuming it'll be special this time a good idea?

The downside to going off a combustion economy, onto nuclear power, more efficient industrial processes, better building design, exploitation of existing thermal gradients, and so on, is net-negative. It has nothing to do with undoing the industrial revolution and more to do with completing the industrial revolution. (And maybe getting rid of the early industrial revolution's ghastly air quality, which kills a pile of people every year.)

Many who are now rich and powerful will not be, or not as much, as the economic basis of wealth shifts. Those folks are presently bitterly, bitterly opposed to the whole notion that anthropogenic climate change is possible, but they are also labouring under the burden of factual error.

Oh, and fissionables are not that rare, breeder reactors aren't that scary, and good design can drastically cut power demand for things like homes and offices.

Socialism, well, that's a pretty silly thing to worry about, all in all. Collective action to secure safety and prosperity is, as an idea and a right, already in your Constitution, and has been since it was first written.

Primary concern for profit in an environment of great risk and potential disaster isn't laudable. It isn't even acceptable.

#160 ::: iain ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2007, 07:00 AM:

The glass is falling hour by hour;
The glass will fall forever.
But if you break the bloody glass,
You won't hold up the weather.

#161 ::: Alter S. Reiss ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2007, 07:44 AM:

Re: C. Wingate @ 112

Biblical Archaeology Review is a decent popularizer of what's going on in the field of Near Eastern Archaeology, plus or minus -- there are occasional articles that just don't speak to scientific or historical interest of any sort, but that's going to happen in any magazine of that genre.

The thing about BAR is that. . . well, if, on a dig, an attractive girl wearing an abbreviated outfit finds something interesting, someone is bound to say something along the lines of "get the photographer -- there's our BAR shot." There's one image that I recall (I think it was on a Bethsaida excavation report?) where the girl was wearing a string bikini top, shorts that were maybe four inches wide, a floppy hat, and workboots. I mean, if that's your thing, there's nothing wrong with that, but it's a little strange to see it that consistently in a serious journal.

I can't suggest any sort of alternative, and it's not really an all pervasive problem -- there aren't that many pictures of that sort in any given issue. It's just that sometimes I think the art director would like to change the name of the magazine to Juglets.

#162 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2007, 08:57 AM:

re #161: Gee, they didn't do that back when I a subscription! But just think of the possibility for pumping the field: Boys BAR, with extra cheesecake.

I'm surprised you didn't mention the surpassing wierdness of the ads in the back.

#163 ::: Calton Bolick ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2007, 09:37 AM:

The hard one is where we postulate that those cow farts do in fact matter

Cow burps, not cow farts. Facts do in fact matter, you know.

#164 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2007, 11:33 AM:

re #152: I think you misunderstood me. I've been following this, to a degree, ever since the first CO2 data were coming off of Mauna Kea back in the '70s. The raw facts of mean temperature change and atmospheric carbon are not seriously disputed-- certainly not by me. It's the "and this is going to cause all sorts of disasters which we can prevent/reverse" part that gets my "dubious" flasher going. For instance, you can go into the IPCC site itself and see that there is no correlation at all between tropical cyclones and mean temperature. Nada.

As a Marylander I live in a state that is sensitive to sea level rise. Obviously it's an issue. OTOH the IPCC site shows a great deal of uncertainty about this. The long series record does show a rise in N. Europe, but the problem again is that it doesn't correspond particularly with mean temperature. And if you dig through the text you find that the measurement of this is extraordinarily difficult, if only because things like tectonic movement are at least of the same order of magnitude of change. And then you see that the variation in prediction among the models varies almost as much as the magnitude of the greatest.

I'm finding it interesting, in fact, to wander around their site, because when I read the scientific fine print, I find that there is nothing like the kind of certainty on a lot of points that is being expressed to me here, and that my impression of the state of the field isn't that far off. For instance, when I look at the section on clouds, I find that they admit that cloud formation isn't well understood. I'd recently seen the same elsewhere, and there is a line of research looking into the role of solar radiation in this. It doesn't surprise me to learn that these guys are scientific pariahs because they are essentially working against the GW orthodoxy. Elsewhere, I constantly find laments about the paucity of historical data on this or that thing. And then I get to "I don't know how much to trust this" reevaluations of things like the Little Ice Age. The sense I get of the whole enterprise is that it's going to take several decades of new data, if not a century, to validate the models.

Sixty foot sea level rise would be disruptive, no doubt-- catastrophic if you own real estate on Manhattan or the Outer Banks. Will it gut the global economy? Well, economic modelling is a lot poorer than climate modelling, and is tainted by the fact that the models themselves feed back into the system. If you are at all a Keynesian, you might well postulate that the effort needed to move all that high-value investment out of coastal areas would actually stimulate the global economy. I'm a lot more cynical than you, Graydon; I believe that rich and powerful people, because they are powerful and rich, are going to be well-positioned to deal with the changes, if they are reasonably astute. If they are "bitterly" opposed, it's because they don't like risk. The not exactly well-hidden flip side is that there are a lot of people who anticipate GW responses as an opportunity to put down the mighty from their seats; GW remedies are obviously going to be a huge boondoggle for those who want to indulge in social engineering.

What I see, in the aggregate, is that the climate models aren't as predictive as is claimed, and that they are then being combined with economic and political modelling which is far more uncertain. The aggregate behavior of all of this is, in my opinion of course, wildly speculative, and extremely high risk.

Side note: Maybe things have changed since I last saw data, but my recollection is that uranium reserves are only good for several decades without breeding. I'm also under the impression that plutonium extraction from breeder fuel is not hard. Of course I could be wrong, or working from outdated information. But the claim that we can, without major disruption, effect such a sweeping technological change is a "flying car" prediction. I'm still waiting for mine.

#165 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2007, 11:36 AM:

re #163: The important matter in either case is that, failing superior feed or digestion, the output is proportional to the number of cows.

#166 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2007, 12:01 PM:

In fact, there are studies being done to see if the methane-producing gut bacteria responsible for cattle burps can be modified to do their jobs more efficiently; this leaves termites, however, among other cellulose-decomposing organisms.

#167 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2007, 11:44 PM:

That could make New Zealand a world energy power after the coming zombie apocalypse, what with the Organization of Methane Exporting Countries (OMEC) calling the shots.

#168 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2007, 12:02 AM:

Earl Cooley III #167: What with that and ajay's magical publishing story, the great alternate history ideas are flying around here.

#169 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2007, 11:27 AM:

Earl Cooley III, at #155, I know you were just being cute and exaggerating for effect. I do know this.

But the pedant in me just can't help herself (bad pedant, bad...)

The Safir-Simpson scale (hurricanes) only goes up to five, with Cat Five being storms with winds in excess of 155 m.p.h.

I grew up in Florida, back when A&P used to put hurricane tracking charts on the backs of grocery bags in the summer so people could prepare for storms. So I get a bit tetchy about this stuff.

As far as global warming, to the extent it might impact hurricanes, we've been seeing more Cat 5s. Looking at the Atlantic & Caribbean, the 2000s thus far have seen more years with at least one Cat 5 than the 90s, 80s, 70s, 40s or 30s. It's tied with the 60s and 50s, with four years each, but we still have a couple more years to go.

I looked at years with storms rather than number of storms because 2005 was such a bizarre year, with twice as many Cat 5s as any other year.

One thing about living in California, global warming is unlikely to cause earthquakes.

#170 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2007, 12:17 PM:

pat greene #169: One thing about living in California, global warming is unlikely to cause earthquakes.

No, but catastrophic erosion doesn't sound like much fun, and bigger everything's on fire!!! seasons don't, either.

#171 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2007, 03:59 PM:

pat greene #169: I think the hurricane number scale is going to have to be extended sooner or later; there's also some overlap between the hurricane and tornado category scales, too.

#172 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 15, 2007, 04:08 PM:

Well, since the current 'OMG everything's on fire' season started in southern California about April before last, I can say that the appeal is definitely limited (for non-pyromaniacs, at least).
Of course 'OMG the river's at the door and the mountain's dropping in' isn't much more fun (and possibly partly caused by 'OMG everything's on fire').

#173 ::: [silinmiş spam] ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 12:39 PM:

[188.195.68.110 gönderdi]

#174 ::: Bombie who cries: SPAM ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 12:44 PM:

spam spam spammity spam

#175 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 12:45 PM:

My latest habit with international spam: use Google Translate to detect the language (if it's not obvious) and post the "spam deleted" message in that language.

In this case, Turkish.

#176 ::: Bombie ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2010, 12:52 PM:

Harika kavramı, I like

#177 ::: TexAnne sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: November 13, 2010, 10:43 PM:

But speaking of socks, I finished one tonight!

#178 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2010, 10:21 AM:

TexAnne: Congratulations!

#179 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 14, 2010, 10:44 AM:

Mary Aileen: Thanks! I've been playing with stranding. I have a ways to go yet, but the thing about socks is that tension issues don't show when you're wearing the things. Now if I can tear myself away from my invisible friends in the Internet, I'll start the second one...O to be a person who can read while knitting!

#180 ::: SamChevreSpotsTurkishSpam ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2011, 09:15 AM:

Yes, I have friends in the paper business; no, they don't read Turkish.

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