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February 28, 2008

Open thread 102
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:16 PM *

I had a story idea this afternoon, kind of a mashup between the Brothers Grimm and Larry Niven. Chocolate Covered Manhole Covers meets The Robber Bridegroom, with zombies.

It goes something like this.

Back in 1983, there’s this young couple living in Seattle. And late one night the zombies come, sneaking unseen through the Art Deco lobby of the building, creeping into their apartment. They seize the man and are about to eat his brains when the woman stops them.

She has the Voice, you see. Natural authority over all beings. Purest luck. And she offers them a trade. Part of her living mind, enough to keep them going for years, if they’ll spare her husband. And she’ll teach them how to feed that piece of herself so it stays sharp.

They accept, and she gives them her wakefulness. The zombies devour it, and one human’s wakefulness is powerful enough to energise a good dozen of them. Then the couple teach them about science fiction. They explain unreliable narrators, dish out samples of Joseph Campbell, even let the undead try their first argument about time travel paradoxes. The zombies leave at sunup, electrified, hyperconscious.

She sleeps for three days straight.

The couple moves on, finally ending up in New York, and their uncouth housebreakers follow. The two humans become publishers, paying a Danegeld in science fiction to keep the distributed spark of her mind active. At home they keep hamsters, little-known defenders against all unnatural foes.

Eventually, though, it’s not enough. The spark is fading, and the zombies are hungry again. In a last desperate move, the couple establish a website, a zombie trap to feed her lost wakefulness. And to their delight, it works; the revenants feast on poetry, puns and politics in full measure. They brighten up again, shamble less, move to New Jersey. The threat is lifted.

But others are watching. Others have noted how a piece of a living mind can revivify the undead. And they watch the blog, with its population of tasty commenters. Perhaps, they reason, they can duplicate the Seattle revenants’ success…

It’s only a story idea.

What’s that noise? Something is scraping against my darkened window. Excuse me while I go check…

Comments on Open thread 102:
#1 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 04:27 PM:

So that's what happened to my brain. And that's why I have this urge to...to...

BRRRRRRAAAAWWWWK! (Ha! You thought that was going to be BRRRRRAAAAAINS, didn't you!)

#2 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 04:28 PM:

It occurs to me that "Retarded Zombie Parrots" is a GREAT name for a punk band.

#4 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 04:39 PM:

BRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAVOOOO!

(Zombie see, zombie do.)

#5 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 04:59 PM:

Does coffee affect how long the woman's wakefulness lasts when transfered to zombie? (Heck, this is inspired by Larry Niven. That's the kind of ramifications that one should explore.)

#6 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:00 PM:

Coming soon, Larry Niven's What Good Is A Glass Hamster?...

#7 ::: Wirelizard ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:07 PM:

Any moment now She Who Has The Voice will come by and put an end to all this speculation on the source of her powers, I fear.

In the meantime, a hearty retarded zombie parrot "BRAAAAWWWWKKK! to all.

Question: If you disemvowelled someone writing Hawaiian, wouldn't that be the same as muting them entirely?

#8 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:09 PM:

Xopher #2: Still doesn't beat the best fake band name ever:

Pugilism and the Third Autistic Cuckoo.

(Douglas Adams, we hardly knew ye.)

#9 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:12 PM:

Wirelizard #7: If you disemvowelled someone writing Hawaiian, wouldn't that be the same as muting them entirely?

No, they could still make "hklmnpw" noises.

#10 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:16 PM:

*Steps behind Leigh, preparing for the Heimlich Maneuver*

#11 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:22 PM:

It's a good rock, and I'm not coming out from under it.

#12 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:24 PM:

Abi has made a better explanation than the truth.

#13 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:31 PM:

Well, that explains so much. Especially northern NJ.

#14 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:40 PM:

Holy crap, abi. Get Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet on the line, stat!

#15 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:41 PM:

albatross #10:

Thanks, but it all came up on the "pw".

#16 ::: Kayjayoh ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:44 PM:

What’s that noise? Something is scraping against my darkened window. Excuse me while I go check…

Zombie Ravens

#17 ::: Mikael Vejdemo Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:46 PM:

You need more topologists and physicists.

Going
BRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANES!!! D-BRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANES!!!

#18 ::: Lucy S. ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:53 PM:

Better that than undead fangirls! Hard Day's Night of the Living Dead.

#19 ::: Shannon ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:57 PM:

Or to quote Dave in Narbonic, ...brains?

#20 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 05:59 PM:

Lucy S @18:

Yes, Whisperado gigs could get troublesome.

#21 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 06:08 PM:

Or some labor economists...

BRAAAAAAAIN DRAAAAAAAAIN!

later,
-cajun

#22 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 06:13 PM:

Then this motley bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grim and forced pastiches of the poetry it bore.
"Though thy verses have no merit, I," I said, "will have to bear it,
Decomposing zombie parrot with the wit of Paulie Shore —
Tell me what thy blogonym is on the Net's Plutonian shore!"
     Quoth the Parrot, "BRAAAAWK."

#23 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 06:16 PM:

Pertinent to the coming zombie apocalypse (not if, but when), some questions:

What is the legal status of a zombie? For example, is defending yourself from a zombie in the usual way considered criminal desecration of a corpse? Is "undead" close enough to "alive" for a zombie arrested for crimes of violence to be tried by a jury of his or her (zombie) peers?

What is the dietary status of human brains? I understand that brains are not a normal part of a vegan diet, but are they Atkins compatible? What of the zombies who were under stern religious dietary restrictions before their (presumably involuntary) change into a zombie who must consume brains to survive? Do they receive a deferment by reason of medical necessity?

#24 ::: Kayjayoh ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 06:20 PM:

Better that than undead fangirls! Hard Day's Night of the Living Dead.

Even better: The Zombeatles!

#25 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 06:23 PM:

Earl, I have read that fresh brains are very high in glucose, and actually taste sweet if you eat them within the first four or five minutes. (The glucose breaks down very quickly.)

So, probably not Atkins compatible, because glucose is a carbohydrate. And of course diabetic zombies need to carefully track how many brains they eat.

#26 ::: cgeye ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 06:25 PM:

Little ditty
about Jack and Diane
Two American kids
growin up
in the heartland

#27 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 06:25 PM:

HP @22: Quoth the Parrot "QUATRAIIIIINNSSSS"

#28 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 06:32 PM:

I can answer some of those: I understand that brains are not a normal part of a vegan diet, but are they Atkins compatible?

Yes. Rather high in fat, especially if the "donor" was a Republican, but low in carbs. What sugar there is is all glucose, which could be an issue. But zombies are so far gone that they have ceased to care about their weight. Now you know the full horror of the transformation.

What of the zombies who were under stern religious dietary restrictions before their (presumably involuntary) change into a zombie who must consume brains to survive? Do they receive a deferment by reason of medical necessity?

They do not, but all the religions with such dietary restrictions also prohibit the dead (even the Living Dead) from joining. The one possible exception is Mormonism, which (as we all know) does recruit dead people, even against their will. That could be an issue, because fresh bloody brains almost certainly count as a "hot drink."

But your question was about previous religious affiliation. In most cases the zombie is considered the body of a dead person whose soul is elsewhere, and as we've discussed before, the 'thou' in all those 'thou shalt not's refers to the spirit-self, and not so much to the body. When the two part company, I would presume the restrictions go with the soul (though in some religions all restrictions are lifted in heaven). While many religions have strict rules about how a corpse is to be treated, as far as I know none restrict the behavior of the corpse itself.

#29 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 06:37 PM:

HP @25: Well if we use raw pig brains as a reasonably close approximation, they seem to be mostly fat (65%) and protein (35%). No sugars and a hell of a lot of cholesterol.

I'm not which is more disturbing at this point. The fact that I went to the nutritional data site to check or that they had it.

#30 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 06:39 PM:

Xopher @ 28... even the Living Dead

Tonight, the Dead, live!

#31 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 06:43 PM:

Well, brains are considered food - usually 'organ meat', IIRC - but usually it's lamb or veal brains, according to my cookbooks. (Soak in salted water for a while, then blanch in boiling water to firm them up before doing whatever else is required by the recipe.)

For some reason brains have never been high on my list of Foods to Try.

#32 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 06:47 PM:

OK, zombie speculation aside, I have an "All knowledge is contained in the Fluorosphere" question.

It's in Excel. How can I get a macro to record my actual keystrokes instead of the ranges I selected? For example, I want to put a ctrl-End in and have it select 4 rows or 40, just like it does when I do it manually. Instead it records the range thus selected, so if I record it with 4 it takes the top 4 rows of the 40 when I run it with 40 rows. This is stupid. If that were what I wanted I could just define the range and use it every time.

There must be some way to do this, but I can't find it in MicroSoft's notoriously unhelpful Help.

#33 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 06:55 PM:

My mother's family used to eat brains (sheep or goat, occasionally calf, never pig -- after all, they were Eastern European Jews). I remember my grandmother cooking them by scrambling them with eggs.

I never tried them; it seemed too sacrilegious in a way. In college I learned of Kuru and in vet school I learned of Scrapie, so I really had no desire to try any brains at all.

I suppose that will change once they get in here. Yes, they're outside the house now. The dogs have been barking at them for hours, but they aren't scared of dogs. The cats are hiding as only they can. It would be nice if we'd thought to build some hiding spaces when we renovated, but we didn't think zombies would ever be a problem around here.

Boy, were we wrong.

#34 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 07:01 PM:

Never mind. I figured it out.

#35 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 07:02 PM:

Xopher @32: Odds are you need to edit the VBA macro (Visual Basic for Applications) after saving it. Select Tools|Macro|Macros to open the list of saved macros, click on the relevant one then the Edit button.

I'm only telling you because you asked. Normally, friends don't let friends use VBA. VBA is the path to the Dark Side. VBA leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. Actually, VBA just jumps right to the suffering.

#36 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 07:09 PM:

Ginger - Here's a quick trick we've been using to keep them at bay. I have to warn you, it is extremely disturbing and should only be used in life threatening emergencies such as zombie invasions.

Post "Nader for President" signs in prominent places like your windows, yard, door, etc. We haven't been bothered since...

#37 ::: Malthus ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 07:15 PM:

HP@25: I'm not so certain it breaks down. It's more likely that the brain tissue itself uses it up: cell death isn't instantaneous, even if blood stops going to the brain. Glucose itself is fairly stable, chemically, it's just that everything eats it when in solution.

Actually reminds me of some of the Shadow Unit discussions.

#38 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 07:20 PM:

Now I thought I had it, but I'm missing a piece. How do you refer to the name of the active sheet in VB? I need the macro to work on whichever sheet is active at the time I start it, but you can't name a range without including the sheet.

#39 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 07:21 PM:

I have an open thread question, what was with Harold Stassen?

Subsidiary question: Is Ralph Nader the Harold Stassen de nos jours?

#40 ::: Malthus ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 07:27 PM:

I've been thinking: We know, canonically*, that zombie pirates don't have zombie parrots; instead, they have zombie monkeys. This tends to make me think that zombie parrots just can't cut it for some reason. Perhaps they get confused between their standard fare of nuts and their new diet of brains? They can look awfully similar, if you ignore the scale. I can just picture all those sad zombie parrots, wasting away till they're nothing but bone and feathers.

Zombie ravens on the other hand, are totally believable. How would you even tell? (Okay, maybe they'd look like those birds in The Wizard of Oz...)

*Well, for certain values of "canonical".

#41 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 07:30 PM:

Lance @ 36: You're right: that is extremely disturbing. Still, needs must..do you think hand-made Nader signs will repel them or do I need to ste- borrow some from neighbors?

Also, are there any attractant signs? 'Cos there's some people who could benefit, let's say, from a visit by the zombies.

#42 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 07:39 PM:

the vortex always wins

refuse to praise the ones who never weep
their hearts are frozen and their minds are dead
we give our love and then we have to sleep

so many things turn out just to be cheap
but we have sold our souls to earn our bread
refuse to praise the ones who never weep

day after day we watch the forests creep
towards the mountains and we feel the dread
we give our love and then we have to sleep

no part to play but still we have to heap
the grain until the last fat beast is fed
refuse to praise the ones who never weep

you turned your back when others had to leap
above the bar and those who failed were bled
we give our love and then we have to sleep

the river's shallow and the ocean's deep
such matters will not fill even your head
refuse to praise the ones who never weep
we give our love and then we have to sleep

#43 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 07:41 PM:

Steve Buchheit (13): Northeastern New Jersey. Northwestern New Jersey, where my grandparents lived for many years, is rural and beautiful.

(Sorry, you just hit one of my hot buttons.)

#44 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 07:41 PM:

Ginger #33: The first time I saw animals slaughtered, my father sautéed cow brains and lights with sage. Very tasty. I've never been able to match it myself on the (very) few occasion's I've had the chance to try.

#45 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 07:50 PM:

Fragano @ 44: It's odd too, as I've eaten other parts of many species. Good hearty peasant food, where no part of any meat animal goes to waste.

They all certainly appeared to enjoy their brains, which sounds horribly zombie-ish. Not that long ago Alton Brown ate a fried brain sandwich on television, as part of his "Feasting On Asphalt" special. No one else in his crew appeared to even want to try it.

As the wise Scotsman once said, "It's a good thing we don't all like the same things, or just think what a shortage of haggis* there'd be!"

*Or porridge, or oatmeal, or other non-palatable-to-others food item of your choice.

#46 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 07:58 PM:

And in the sequel, the mad scientist is played by Ralph Nader.

#47 ::: Hobbyns ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 07:58 PM:

Don't know why, but I remember eating a disconcerting amount of lamb brains as a youngster in Australia. I'd managed to forget this unfortunate childhood memory until reading this thread, damn you all!

Actually, I remember them being being rather tasty, so I suppose it's all good then. We're all friends again, chaps.

I'll never approach a zombie novel in the same way again though. Sigh.

#48 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 08:07 PM:

I used to eat tongue frequently, until it went from cheap to expensive. I think I tried brains once, and found them a rather odd texture. Cooked, beef tongue and brains, folks, no need to get excited.

#49 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 08:20 PM:

Magenta @ 48: Mmm! Cold tongue sandwiches! On some good bread (rye or pumpernickel) and with a good strong mustard. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "Bite your tongue", eh?

#50 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 08:25 PM:

Since this is an open thread, as the online comic "Unshelved" stated, this will only make sense to you if you are a major, but major comics nerd.

http://mightygodking.com/index.php/2008/02/25/rampant-plagiarism/

I bet a lot of people here will get it.

#51 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 08:41 PM:

QUAAAAAAAAAATRAAAAAAAAAAIIIIINSSSSS...

#52 ::: Gigi Rose ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 09:09 PM:

Luckily for us, my son found "The Zombie Survival Guide" at Border's books last week. Of course he loaned it to his friends before his mother got to read it.

Being a vegetarian myself I wonder, "Are there vegetarian zombies, and if so what do they eat? Cauliflower?"

#53 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 09:10 PM:

Xopher @38

Are you looking for something like:
Application.ActiveSheet = returns the active sheet in your active workbook
Application.Selection = returns the range or whatever is currently selected
?

Yes, MS's knowledge base is only good for finding failures, not for learning.

I like John Walkenbach's books and website, and the Mr. Excel website and forums. Both are useful.

#54 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 09:20 PM:
Also, are there any attractant signs?

Volvos work, it would seem.

#55 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 09:38 PM:

I cooked some calf brains myself (lightly scrambled) years back out of curiosity. They're OK but rather bland. I keep threatening to cook them for my wife; if she's going to lurch around the house muttering "BRAIINS", she should be prepared to eat some.

#56 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 09:49 PM:

Gigi Rose @ 52: I would recommend certain vegetables to zombies:

PURRRSSSLAAAAAAANES!

or

BEEEEAAAAAANNNNNNNSS!


Either should work. There are quite a large number of bean varieties, so the diet of the vegetarian zombie need not be boring.

Chris @ 54: Ah. Haven't got any around the house, drat it.

#57 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 09:57 PM:

I remember seeing something on the telly (So it must be true) a while back when Mad Cow Disease was really going full out. Some scientist (well some guy in a lab coat, at least) thought he'd figured out the cause of MCD as being caused by cows being fed cow brains? Or something. Apparently, they'd put just about anything into the feed they gave cattle.

I think he made the connection because he was familiar with some tribe of cannibals in some third-world jungle who would eat the brains of their relatives when they'd die or their enemies when they were killed in a fight. And a common disease these people had was similar in its symptoms with Mad Cow Disease.

Not that I was ever drawn to want to eat brains, but that show put "brains" strictly on my list labeled "Do Not Want".

#58 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 10:05 PM:

Earl Cooley III @23:
If for argument's sake you assume that the zombie still possesses its original soul and can be considered to be "alive" in some sense, Judaism would permit it to feed as long as the victimdonor remained alive, despite the violation of prohibitions against consuming a body part taken from a living creature and of consuming blood. (If it causes death, however, that's only permitted for self defense.)

Lance Weber @36:
Of course, while you may be protected from zombies, you will have to watch out for the living...

Malthus @40:
Cat (and, for that matter, parrot) brains pose no scale problem, making it even more complicated.

#59 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 10:30 PM:

Greg @ 57: Scrapie in sheep is clinically similar to MCD, and sheep parts were ground up into blood meal for cows, so it was thought that MCD is derived from scrapie. Since both diseases are caused by a mis-folded protein (a prion), it may well be the same "organism".

Kuru or Sleeping Sickness is also caused by a prion; the symptoms are indeed similar to those seen in sheep or cows. Another human version is Creutzfeld-Jakob, which was primarily found in Eastern Europeans.

You don't need to eat brains to get CJD; it's only "new variant CJD" (aka Mad Cow Disease) that is carried by cows to humans. There's a spontaneous version of CJD (sCJD) that can occur at a very low rate within the population, and there's a genetic version of it (familial or fCJD), in which families pass it down to the next generation.

The prion protein is actually a scary kind of thing, as it is extremely resistant to our standard disinfectants and sterilants. I'll have to read up on it again.

#60 ::: CJ ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 11:29 PM:

Vegetarian zombies obviously eat GRAAAAAAAIINNNNSSSSS

#61 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 11:29 PM:

Ginger: Kuru isn't sleeping sickness (which is caused by tse-tse flies, and why there aren't many sub-Saharan bovines). Kuru is laughing sickness. To tie this back to Larry Niven, it was in Dream Park (which was a collaboration with Steve Barnes) that I first heard of it.

I've eaten brains, in Ukraine. They were fried, much as sweetbreads are, and tasted of a very mild fish. Not tasty enough to put on the menu.

I rather like tongue, but no-one else in the house cares for it enough to make it worth getting, so I am limited to tacos at the local restaurants.

#62 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 11:41 PM:

I'm morbidly curious about some of these:

Forty One Hilarious Science Fair Experiments

#63 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2008, 11:45 PM:

@13 (Steve) and 43 (Mary): neither of which mentions Southern New Jersey, which is where I'm from (across the way from Philly), which is an entirely other beast yet.

I love that I now know dietary zombie information, and that brains are not Atkins compatible.

What do they call brains on a menu? Sweetbreads, is it? Or is that a lymph gland? I had it at one of the trendier restaurants here in LA a long while back.

I rather enjoyed it. Crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside.

@Magenta: I've had tongue, too. I was once engaged to a Polish girl whose family introduced me to all manner exotic foods. That was the big one, but there was kasjanka, too. I might be spelling that wrong. It was blood pudding, which actually more closely resembled sausage. But it was softer. It required some mustard for my palate.

#64 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 12:00 AM:

Greg #57, Ginger #59: One of the best episodes of The X-Files was about a small town having a mysterious breakout of CJD. The biggest business in town had the slogan "Good people, good food".

#65 ::: Lindra ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 12:34 AM:

Will @ 63:

A few years ago my uncle fed me black blood sausage rounds, lightly fried in butter and served on good grainy bread with applesauce. Delicious. I considered them more sweet than savoury, though, and from what I remember putting mustard on the rounds would have made them taste of mustard and not much else.

Is there a functional difference between blood sausage and blood pudding, or are they differing terms for the same thing?

#66 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 12:43 AM:

Any Making Light denizens in Austin next week for SXSW?

I'll be at sxsw Interactive for its full length.

#67 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 12:47 AM:

Lindra @ 65: It's worth noting that French blood sausage is called "boudin" (or "boudin noir,") which word many etymologists consider to be the source of the English word "pudding."

On the subject of blood sausage and languages, by the way, this is one of those moments where I think I'm glad I don't read German.

#68 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 12:49 AM:

I also have a need for knowledge from the Fluorosphere. There's an Elizabethan poem about studying -- about an hourglass -- that ends(?) roughly:

"The more I haste, they haste more fleet away/
Then farewell hours, I'll study by the day!"

I read it in a mid-century paperback, probably an Oxford collection, which I either packed or culled in the belief that it was all public-domain and I could find it on the 'net. But I can't; woe! Help!

#69 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 12:59 AM:

CJD can also be transferred between humans - or in theory between animals and humans - by direct contact with neural tissue, for instance via electrodes or surgical equipment. I believe there were some cases of this during study of familial CJD.

Prions are very strange; they're very like Vonnegut's fictional "ice-nine". A prion is an ordinary protein which has taken on a weird folding configuration, and which by mere contact with other molecules of the same protein can cause them to refold themselves into the same configuration, whereon they stop having their expected biological function.

Because simple contact of the misfolded protein with the normal protein is enough to transmit it, it's not enough to do the usual things which would kill bacteria or even viruses; to sterilize material containing prions you would have to remove even the slightest trace of any protein from it. Prion diseases are also untreatable, for the same reason; you can't very well remove all protein from the victims' brains.

They're also typically very slow to take effect, as compared to other disease agents; one reason that the various tribes who had endemic kuru never learned the connection between their ritual cannibalism and the disease is that it took decades to set in.

(I have no idea why I'm reeling all this out tonight, but maybe it's of interest to someone.)

#70 ::: Tlönista ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 01:33 AM:

Open thread question: There's a bindery in the neighbourhood where I work. What is the standard procedure for apprenticing oneself to bookbinders? Do I have to sleep on their doorstep for seven nights in all weathers or bind a wild book and bring it to them or what?

#71 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 01:37 AM:

The whole Mad Cow Disease business seems to have been over-hyped, looking back. The use of animal protein in cattlefeed started in WW2, partly as a way of increasing the protein levels in the feed without importing so much from North America. Mostly bone-meal, so you also got other useful stuff. And there was a requirement for thorough cooking to sterilise the material.

Fairly soon after the heat-treatment requirements were relaxed, mad cow disease was spotted. Unfortunately, prions are so tough that it's questionable whether theb change was more than coincidence. The overt symptoms are similar to "staggers", a simple deficieny problem which can be cured by an injection of the correct mineral salts (magnesium, I think). James Herriot recorded that this was something of a miracle cure in appearance, but even so it sometimes didn't work.

Suggestive, eh?

Despite lurid food-scare claims of millions of cases of the disease being transmitted to humans, the actual numbers have been minimal. Not that the low rate is a comfort for those affected. And, while the epidemiology indicates that a single animal could infect several people, it's also consistent with a genetic weakness being a factor. This is certainly something being used to elminate scrapie, through a rather aggressive breeding selection programme.

The evidence from Kuru, and the general problems of preteins surviving to get from food through the digestive system and the blood into the brain, also suggests that food preparation is more of a risk.

Anyway, something to think about: every country which monitors livestock for BSE, Scrapie. etc., will get false positives, because of the spontaneous forms. Done right, there's no risk from a misidentification, because the animal doesn't get fed to anything, but the only US cases I've heard of were claimed to involve imported cattle.

Yeah, right.

Incidentally, calf and lamb brains will be safe. They're too young to have the spontaneous forms of the diseases, and it seems to need fairly long-term exposure to infected food. Dairy cattle were the main infected group--high protein feeds for milk production, and much older at slaughter than cattle for beef production.

Anyway, you can't get brains as food in the UK, nor spinal tissue. It must be hell being a British zombie.

#72 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 01:49 AM:

The references to CJD give me the excuse to post my first poetic contribution in this forum -- written a couple decades back when I worked with this stuff:

Sonnet for the P3 Lab

With ritual do I protect myself
Protect myself from demons of the air
From vap'rous spirits that would steal my health,
All things I cannot see, but know are there,

So for my work I carefully prepare,
My circle, not inscribed with blade of steel,
But signs of "Biohazard" and "Beware"
Contains those I would summon to my will

Now do I don the ritual attire
The robe, the gloves, the mask, and other things
Well purified by water and by fire
Since last I wore them here within the ring

My implements for sorcery I bring,
And step by step I work the spell I've planned
Invoking Pasteur's name I chant and sing
As ancient dusty tomes of lore command

Now summon I the demons, each by name,
Yersinia pestis, cocci, CJD,
I call them up safe knowing I can tame
These evil spirits by my sorcery

But should I fail what ritual decrees,
One step misplaced, forgotten, or ill-done
One opportunity the wraiths can seize,
My circle broken, all my charms undone

Then shall the demons here escape my will
And, as their nature is, then shall they kill.

#73 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 01:49 AM:

Sweetbreads are not brains. They are the pancreas and thymus gland (this may be why the word is a plural).

For years, bordering on decades, my dislike for liver made me avoid them, as they are described as being having the flavor of, "delicate liver".

This is wrong. They are wonderfully tasty, and not a bit reminiscent of liver, in any wise.

#74 ::: Dori ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 02:03 AM:

Kathryn @66:

Tom and I will be at SxSW Interactive Friday-Wednesday. We're staying at the Hampton, and we'll be speaking at 3:30pm on Saturday (actually, we'll be doing a lot of speaking throughout the conference, but that's the time we're officially Speaking).

Anyone else?

#75 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 02:13 AM:

"Are there vegetarian zombies, and if so what do they eat? Cauliflower?"

Pickled walnuts. So do vegan mind-flayers. I keep a large jar by each door, just in case.

#76 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 03:30 AM:

Terry Karney @ 61: The one time I had tongue, I thought it tasted a lot like the way my mouth tastes in the morning after a night when I forget to brush. Not really my favorite taste.

Heather Rose Jones @ 72: Wow. That is excellent!

#77 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 03:48 AM:

heresiarch, the first sentence in your #76 is probably the single least pleasant sentence I've ever read. Ewwwww....

#78 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 05:13 AM:

Tlönista @70:
What is the standard procedure for apprenticing oneself to bookbinders? Do I have to sleep on their doorstep for seven nights in all weathers or bind a wild book and bring it to them or what?

Being briefly serious, what you do is to take - and pay for - a course of instruction in bookbinding. The bookbinder may take pupils, or there may be other sources of instruction nearby. Stop by sometime and ask; you need to get to know the local binding community anyway.

If I may ask, what country are you in? Some countries have national bookbinding organisations (The Society of Bookbinders* in the UK; CBBAG in Canada), which are good sources of information on binding instruction. The US doesn't happen to have one, but there is a good US-based mailing list.

Once you have mastered the basics of binding, then you can speak to local binders to see who might be willing to hire an apprentice.

Binding is not a profitable career, so a vow of poverty is a strongly recommended optional extra. It is, however, a deeply pleasurable and rewarding activity. I encourage you to try it out.

-----
* note to self: renew membership this weekend.

#79 ::: deathbird ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 05:16 AM:

I grew up on brains and tongue (as well as kidneys and liver). I think it was a carry over from my mother's family (northern English/Scottish/Jewish mix) with 11 kids, so nothing was wasted and offal was cheap. When they migrated to Australia, they kept their eating habits.

Sliced cold boiled tongue was a big substitute for cold ham with salads in the summer at our place.

My mother used to lightly boil brains (after soaking them), then fry them in breadcrumbs. Crispy on the outside and squishy in the middle. After she passed away when I was in my 20s, I never had the nerve to try to cook them.

I've never liked liver (unless it's as pate) and I've managed to avoid sweetbreads and tripe (ewwwww!) my entire life.

#80 ::: deathbird ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 05:17 AM:

Great. My first ever post here, after long time lurking, and it's about offal...

#81 ::: Andy Brazil ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 05:46 AM:

re VBA:

The method CurrentRegion defines the area of filled cells around a specified cell ie the rectangular region containing data which is surrounded by white space or the edges of the sheet. A reference to a cell without a sheet specifier is assumed to be to the current sheet. Thus
Range("a1").CurrentRegion.Select

will select all the occupied cells which are contiguous with a1 on the current sheet, which I suspect is what you're trying to do.

ob brains: (Gee I've never typed that before) CJD has killed a few folk in the UK, but we seem to have gotten away with it. It is interesting to note however, that had the disease been more infectious the UK could have effectively ceased to exist as a functioning nation. The effects of CJD leave the sufferers with death only following long years of wasting incapacity as their brains are destroyed - with all those not affected facing the decision to either mass euthenise the sufferers or leaving them to starve . All as a result of a trivial cost saving decision to feed cattle on dead cattle remains from slaughterhouses. Apart from a great SF post-apocalypse set-up, the story serves as a chilling reminder of how a sufficiently advanced civilisation is vulnerable to decisions made by folk with no idea of the possible long-term consequences of those choices.

#82 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 05:52 AM:
A prion is an ordinary protein which has taken on a weird folding configuration, and which by mere contact with other molecules of the same protein can cause them to refold themselves into the same configuration, whereon they stop having their expected biological function.
Personally I think ribozymes are weirder: RNA with catalytic action. Ribosomes are (very nearly) an example: RNA that can build proteins on its own (there are proteins in ribosomes, but you can take them out and it still works).

RNA that thinks it's an enzyme. Neat stuff. (A good bit of other ancient fundamental cellular machinery is catalytic RNA too: it's one of the pieces of evidence behind the RNA World hypothesis.)

Oh, and Heather @#72, bravo! :)

#83 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 07:00 AM:

Whose brains explain
The zombies in
White Plains?

Bill Buckley's zombie
Lurches with
Disdain.

The brains have stained
The patchwork
Counterpane.

We'd fain explain
Our recipes
For brains.


(With apologies to Lerner and Loewe.)

#84 ::: Jasper Milvain ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 07:50 AM:

Given access to an English supermarket, you could see whether the zombies would settle for Brain's faggots (I'm assuming they're not sold under that name in the US).

#85 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 08:32 AM:

Terry Karney @ #61

Brains in Ukraine are mainly very plain?

#86 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 08:33 AM:

Terry Karney @ #61

Brains in Ukraine are mainly very plain?

#87 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 08:51 AM:

ethan @ 76: Well, think about how I feel.

#88 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 08:53 AM:

Since this is an open thread, as the online comic "Unshelved" stated, this will only make sense to you if you are a major, but major comics nerd.

Well, I got about half; does that make me a Sergeant First Class comics nerd? :)

#89 ::: Tlönista ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 09:07 AM:

Thanks, abi! I'm currently living in London, but will be back in Toronto next year -- so both those links are quite useful. It's hard enough paying rent, to say nothing of taking up a trade, but I can probably afford a short beginners' workshop.

Binding is not a profitable career, so a vow of poverty is a strongly recommended optional extra.

I've got a humanities degree and crushing student debt...that's kind of like a vow of poverty, right?

#90 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 09:18 AM:

Terry @ 61: You're right, it's laughing disease. I keep mis-thinking of it as sleeping sickness because the word Kuru means shivering, which is what the patients do as they develop the disease. They also exhibit dementia and personality changes.

Another TSE that's similar is fatal familial insomnia in humans.

ethan @ 64: That was one of the odder episodes (and that's saying a lot, when it comes to X-Files eps); it had a very quirky humor about it. I remember it well because I caught on early that they were feeding..er..long pig.

Dave Bell @ 71: The problem with a descriptive name like "staggers" is there are many conditions which cause staggering gait and ataxia in cows (and other species). Symptomatic relief by injection of vitamin or mineral supplements means that particular patient had a deficiency; it doesn't mean that all patients with similar presentations have the same disease. "Downer cow" is another vague "condition" that can be caused by many things -- there could be a calcium deficiency, a broken leg, a brain infection, or even nerve/muscle damage from difficult labor.

Vomiting, for example, is caused by at least 60 different pathologies. It's not specific enough to be diagnostic. CNS signs like staggering are a little more specific than vomiting, but they are still not enough to be considered "pathognomonic".


Heather @ 72: Well done! ::applauds::

Jasper @ 84: Not in the US, they're not. Maybe "pork patties", but "Mr. Brain's" would be right out. I think only the specialty stores that carry Cock Soup and the like would have this item. ;-)


#91 ::: JamesE ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 10:08 AM:

Re Brain's Faggots - they'd doubtless go nicely with a pint of Brains' legendary Skull Attack...

#92 ::: Frowner ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 10:39 AM:

I'm afraid I'm only a lurker, and perhaps the conversation has moved on....but around our house it is common knowledge that vegetarian zombies eat GRAAAAAAIIIINNS. I mean, probably with other things for a nice complete protein (that must be where the beans come in). Really, are there vegetarian zombies or are all non-flesh-eating-zombies vegan by default?

#93 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 11:02 AM:

Stefan @ 62: Morbidly curious = dying to know more?

Those projects look about the same as the ones I've seen as a Science Fair judge. Some kids clearly get the point, and others are doing it just to get a point.

#94 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 11:10 AM:

Speaking of the dead(*), the not-quite-dead, the undead, and the dead-but-not-knowing-it... Has Law & Order: Special Victim Unit ever dealt with necrophiliacs? I don't think they have. I'm not sure why they'd be reluctant, after their having shown us the sordid people that comic-book fans are.

(*) Of course one must not speak ill of the dead.

#95 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 11:30 AM:

Heather #72: That was great!

In my nightmares, I think of prions as the sort of perfect raw material for a modern bioweapon--something that the pressure and heat effects of an explosion won't make much less effective.

#96 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 11:51 AM:

deathbird: Everyone has to start somewhere, do you write poetry?

#97 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 11:53 AM:

Heather, very nice poem.

#98 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 12:02 PM:

deathbird 80: Great. My first ever post here, after long time lurking, and it's about offal...

True, but the post itself was not offal, nor was it tripe*, except in the sense that you finally had the guts to post! :-) Welcome, and congratulations.


*Unlike many first, and often only, posts here.

#99 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 12:11 PM:

deathbird@ 80: It depends on offal you go with this. Will you get ahead of the puns or will you lose your footing and be handed a loss?

Xopher@ 98: I might have known you'd get in anatomy. I'm a little slow today, but you nose I'll catch up fast. We can make this a joint project, if you're focused.

#100 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 12:17 PM:

OK, this is totally wacky: Passively Multiplayer Online Game. The basic idea is, you download a Firefox extension and from then on it tracks URLs you visit* and gives you points for them; you can then use those points to buy things, like mines to "blow up" other players and lightposts to point others at certain URLs. There are badges to collect and factions to join and the whole bit.

I am somewhat fascinated by this idea, but a bit too paranoid to actually try it. Obviously I couldn't do it on any computer not my own anyway, and since that's where I do most of my websurfing I think I wouldn't have a lot of fun with it. Plus I'm leery of putting it on my own computer. But the basic idea is cool. I wonder how they're making money...

* The FAQ claims not secure sites, and also that there's no keylogging or the like.

#101 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 12:30 PM:

Ginger @ 99... It depends on offal you go with this.

Let's lith it at that.

#102 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 12:38 PM:

The Mad Cow Disease outbreak has quieted down for now, but it's worth noting that some researchers fear there's a second wave waiting -- people who were exposed, but are going through a long "incubation" period before showing symptoms.

The moral of the whole thing is that you don't need to be vegetarian, but the animals you eat should be!

#103 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 12:43 PM:

@ Lindra: as Chris' post alludes, I think blood "pudding" and "sausage" are the same thing. I remember it was fried, and the only reason it was vaguely sausage-y was that it had a sort of membrane we removed to eat it.

Keep in mind, they always called it kasjanka, and only used any other term to tell me what it was.

And yes, as I remember, the mustard did become the predominant taste, but that was the point, for me; I have an almost overwhelming reaction to texture and not a bit of a sweet tooth, which made the kasjanka unpalatable.

But it was impolite not to eat it, nearly an insult, and it was brunch with my then-fiance's parents and grandmother, so.

#104 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 12:47 PM:

deathbird #80: Great. My first ever post here, after long time lurking, and it's about offal...

/me dives for the Pun Bunker to read the rest of the thread.

d'oh, too late....

#105 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 12:51 PM:

Earl Cooley @ 103... too late....

Ain't it the offal truth.

#106 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 12:51 PM:

Oh, and hey, on a sidenote, being that this is an open thread: what online news sources do most readers here prefer? I always used MSNBC.com as my homepage, but lately the 1) typos and 2) seemingly blatant political biases have been making me want to switch, but I don't know where to go. My favorite newspaper ever is the Philadelphia Inquirer, not least because it's basically my hometown; I never liked the New York Times because they don't have a comics section, which seems to me to say they take themselves too seriously (but probably seems only to me). I tried ABCnews.com and a few others, but they all seem too MSNBC-ish, and I'd like to get away from that.

So any suggestions?

#107 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 01:02 PM:

Not another string of gut-offal puns! Gee, I just don't think I can stomach it. The last one rectal our efforts at civility. But I suppose ulcerve up my share; it'll be my legacy in case I die intestinate.

That's enough for now. Cilia later.

#108 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 01:06 PM:

Serge @ 101, 105: I must be nuts, getting into another Food (pun) Fight here, especially without any lunch (it's chili out here today). OK, since I'm in hot water anyways, I'll fire off a range of puns and get things cooking.

Earl: D'ough! Too late, it's risen. At yeast you managed to get out of the way; otherwise you'd have to roll with it and cake it as it comes.

Oh, it's getting slippery here -- the steps are icing.

#109 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 01:21 PM:

Ginger 108: Wow. This is amazing. In all the years (20+) that I was making bread sculptures of the Horned God in ritual, to use for the Lúnasa "sacrifice," it never once occurred to me, before the punchdown and shaping of His form, to say "He is risen."

I'm ashamed to say that this was not, as you might expect, out of respect for someone else's religion. Puns trump all else, and I would have said it only among my co-religionists, so it would not have given offense. It's strictly because I never thought of it.

*kicks self multiply*

#110 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 01:30 PM:

Will: Online I skim assorted entries from Google News, the NY Times, our two local papers, the Guardian, and the Independent; the latter two to see what looks like the important news from outside the US. Google News isn't as good for diverse coverage as it used to be 6 or 7 years ago; it skews much more heavily now towards the same kind of coverage you get from other US news sources, but it's still more assortment than you get from any one source. For comics I have a separate list of webcomics I browse in the evenings.

#111 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 01:34 PM:

Xopher @ 109: I have to admit this is a new one for me too, and is based on the LOLCat in the breadmaker. If I find the link, I'll put it here, but it wasn't that long ago.

You're right, though: puns trump all else. Did you ever read the Pratchett book in which Twoflower teaches Death a new card game? It's going to keep them occupied until the last trump-.
;-)

#112 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 01:52 PM:

Heather #72: That was great!

In my nightmares, I think of prions as the sort of perfect raw material for a modern bioweapon--something that the pressure and heat effects of an explosion won't make much less effective.

#113 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 02:10 PM:

Little known factlet: zombies dislike mountainous areas.

This is why the Brrrraaaiiins in Spaaaiiin fall maaaiiinly on the plaaaaiiiin...

#114 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 02:15 PM:

albatross @ 112: Prions are scary, but they don't spread that easily. Kuru is just about extinct in New Guinea, and vCJD is seemingly under control at this point, with declining numbers of new cases in cattle.

A bioweapon would be highly contagious or easily transmissible to many people at once. Although vCJD is scary, it isn't quite suitable for weaponization.

There is a new case reported recently of a British woman who had a new variant of CJD, although this is not the same thing as nvCJD. They are not sure whether she had vCJD or sCJD (spontaneous), as this can occur sporadically in the human population. They're using this case as a signal to watch neuro cases closely but haven't labeled this as a new wave of cases yet.

#115 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 02:27 PM:

All: Sorry about the double post. PEBKAC.

Will: Most of my online news is from the BBC or El Pais (only useful if you read Spanish), plus a gazillion random weblogs.

I find weblogs more useful for in-depth discussion of technical or social or political issues than for news reporting. There are a lot of great ones to choose from, and I drift over time from one to another. Marginal Revolution, Gene Expression, Effect Measure, and Brad DeLong's weblog are each quite good, in their way, and there are many other very good ones out there.

#116 ::: sherrold ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 03:31 PM:

Does anyone have a recommendation for a good program to draw my garden in all of its details? I need it to expand on the computer so that I can mark individual clumps of bulbs (that I can only see for a few months, and want to be reminded not to dig them up the rest of the year), yet be able to shrink it up enough to print out an 8 1/2 by 11 version.

I'm trying to think of a zombie connection, but when my plants die, they die. (Hhm, though, I do feed Blood meal to some of the (barely) living...)

#117 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 04:11 PM:

Just a general note to thank the various people who have taken kind notice of my poetic effort. Before this, I had considered it somewhat premature to introduce myself, having wandered over from rasfc following an attenuated trail of breadcrumbs (but also enticed by folks like liadan and digital-medievalist). So I've contented myself with lurking and occasionally venturing a brief useful-information type post. I'll probably continue sitting in the overstuffed chair in that dark corner of the room watching the party for a while until I feel less like an uninvited, if unrejected, guest.

#118 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 04:30 PM:

Never mind, Heather. Just wait for th sub-thread on Welsh ancestral inflence on eel populations, and yu'll be telling us how many morays you can make Dai.

#119 ::: Malthus ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 04:34 PM:

Ginger@114: Did you hear about the recent pig-brains issue? Apparently, some slaughterhouse workers were getting sick with something that resembled aggressive MS. They realized that all these people were responsible for using airguns to blast pig brains out of pig carcasses, and that they were being exposed to aerosolized pig brains.

For a while, they thought it was a CJD-like prion disease. Eventually they figured out that it wasn't; it was auto-immune. The exposure to pig brain proteins excited their immune systems and caused auto-immune reactions against their own nervous systems.

#120 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 04:38 PM:

Someone on my LiveJournal friendslist said something this morning that I think is profound:

It seems to me that there is a disconnect between what two groups of people in the U.S. mean by "my country" or ("this country"). Some seem to mean the physical place, the physical people and structures and such. Others seem to mean the principles on which it was founded and has proceeded.

The former seem to think the most important thing is to keep this country physically safe. The latter seem to think the most important thing is to keep this country true to its principles.

That would certainly explain why people who are trying to fight things like illegal wiretapping, torture, and abrogation of our civil rights are constantly being accused of "hating America," wouldn't it? Two almost-mutually-exclusive definitions...

#121 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 04:49 PM:

Heather Rose Jones @117:

The folded sheet of paper , snowy white,
Shines on a salver balanced on the hand
Of our most mannered waiter (trained to stand
At absolute attention, day and night).
It's graced with flowing cursive, midnight black,
Whose capitals, all formed with twining grace --
An H, an R, a J -- define the space
With dignity the smaller letters lack.
Do open it -- don't mind us all -- and read
The careful script you'll find inside the fold.
A poster versed in language is like gold;
A linguist apt at verse a gem indeed.
To find the two together, a delight
We will not soon forget on Making Light.

#122 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 05:01 PM:

abi @ #121

Awww [blush]. Thanks

#123 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 05:05 PM:

Heather, you didn't happen to live in Michigan when you were very young, did you? My sister had a childhood friend with your name (minus the 'Rose').

#124 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 05:35 PM:

Malthus @ 119: Yes, I saw that -- they'd changed to a high pressure system and started getting people sick with central and peripheral nervous signs -- only they got better after being away from work for a while. Good detective work there, as it involved different locations, different doctors, and a variety of patients with only their employment in common.

It's amazing when we find out what we don't know after all, isn't it?

#125 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 05:45 PM:

Xopher @ #123

Nope, sorry. There's an astonishing number of Heather Joneses in the world, a startling number of Heather Rose Somethings, and -- if the eddress of my one-time fellow spam victim was true -- at least one other Heather Rose Jones in existence, although she seems to be Google-invisible. But I confess that my favorite other-Heather-Jones story is the time I was fan-girling at Welsh folk singer Heather Jones when she played in Berkeley and discovered that she'd once had someone ask her if she were me. How cool is that?

#126 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 05:56 PM:

#71 Dave Bell wrote:

"Fairly soon after the heat-treatment requirements were relaxed, mad cow disease was spotted. Unfortunately, prions are so tough that it's questionable whether theb change was more than coincidence. "

Something more likely to be the cause took place around the same time: solvent extraction of fats from "mechanically recovered meat" stopped because it was no longer a commercial proposition. The prion that apparently causes vCJD is insoluble in water and unaffected by normal heat or ultraviolet sterilization processes, so it's possibly it was being removed with the extracted fat.

There were cases of CJD that were thought to have arisen because instruments used on an infected person were re-used after normal sterilisation on other patients.

Cadbury.

#127 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 06:01 PM:

Heather Rose Jones @#125: That is indeed cool. So far, I've noted two namesakes of my own:

One was bouncing checks during my college years, and happened to be attending another college at my university. When the victim checked with the Alumni office... :-( The other turned up in my first attempt at Googling myself. He's working at the Smithsonian, has published two books on ecological diversity, and has a wife and kids. <JEALOUSY>... ;-(

#128 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 07:08 PM:

Heather #72:

to write in rhyme
a standard verse
and keep in time
staying not terse
is most sublime
not the reverse

so i should chime
or else disburse
no dismal rhyme
a welcome verse

#129 ::: astronautgo ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 08:24 PM:

And to their delight, it works; the revenants feast on poetry, puns and politics in full measure. They brighten up again, shamble less, move to New Jersey.

A friend of mine from college who grew up in the Bronx told us that he used to watch zombie movies with his father and younger brother when he a kid. At night, when the two children got scared that the zombies were going to get them, their father explained that they were safe, because zombies all live in New Jersey, and can't get to New York, because they can't afford the tolls.

#130 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 08:30 PM:

Astronautgo #129: Was that tolls or trolls?

#131 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 08:51 PM:

In this day and age, a troll is not expensive. One must attract one carefully. Suggested attractants include the hot political topics of the day, anything with a small but dedicated fan pool*, and use of proper grammar.

*One of the reasons I am circumspect in my Internet dealings is that my family was friends with a gentleman who had received actual death threats, stalking, and attempts to get him fired because of posts he had made on Usenet and BBS rooms. The topics were usually science fiction shows.

#132 ::: astronautgo ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 08:58 PM:

@ Fragano Ledgister, #130: I suppose that depends on whether they were trying to come in above or below the George Washington Bridge.

#133 ::: NewJerseyBadger ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 09:10 PM:

Hey, not so much dissin' on New Jersey, 'specially you folx who live in Da Bronnix or ::shudder:: Chicago. We just put up The Turnpike to convince allayouse that you didn't wanna move here and make da place more crowded, capisce? The back roads can be really nice, especially during Hot-Air Balloon season.

#134 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 09:22 PM:

clew, #68, it's by Thomas Bastard. Scroll down to where it says Friday November 26.

Ginger, #93, I was once asked to judge a science fair at a Christian school. There were three judges and I knew one of the others from a military project. The third was a housewife who gave them all top marks. The two of us looked carefully at the exhibits and asked if the principal really wanted us to follow the guidelines on the scoring sheet -- yes he did. So it turned out that we each gave only eight a passing mark, seven of which were the same between us.

I knew one of the teachers and she was really upset when she saw the scoring sheet -- she hadn't known her students had to do experiments. We saw some things that didn't belong anywhere near a science fair: A whale diorama. A pet bunny. A photo album. Good grief. The best thing I saw was an experiment that proved triangles were stronger than squares or rectangles. I was quite happy they didn't invite me to judge the next year.

#135 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 09:56 PM:

Will Entrekin #106: Oh, and hey, on a sidenote, being that this is an open thread: what online news sources do most readers here prefer?

I wouldn't say I have much of a preference except for "many" rather than "one". I subscribe to the TVSpy ShopTalk email newsletter, various Google Alerts, and RSS feeds from the Associated Press, the New York Times, Reuters, BBC News, Telegraph News, the Washington Post, CNN, Penny Arcade, The Smoking Gun, Fark.com, The Onion, SF Site, SFScope, Locus Online, SCI FI Wire, Ars Technica, Slashdot, Techdirt, CNET News, NGOHQ, Wired, EFF Deeplinks, and The Register (which doth bite the hand that feeds IT).

#136 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 10:00 PM:

CJ@60: Vegetarian zombies obviously eat GRAAAAAAAIINNNNSSSSS


I'm still chuckling....

#137 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 10:09 PM:

(sigh)

I never got the hang of chemistry. I always wished I knew more chem than one year in high school and one really rough year in college.

I'm reminded of that by the large wooshing noise going over my head right now.

If anyone ever feels the urge to sponser someone to go back to school for chemistry (physical chemistry sounds really interesting) pay tuition, and pay a mortgage, I know someone who's interested.

And I promise I'd use my powers only for good.

;/

And occaisional geekery.

#138 ::: Wirelizard ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 10:24 PM:

News sources of choice: CBC, BBC, the Guardian - those are my big three. After that, BoingBoing, various feeds from Wired, BLDGBLOG, xkcd, and a miscellania of art, design, eco-news, Linux and webcomic feeds.

...and the sidelights here, of course. I'm very pleased to have found this flock of retarded zombie parrots!

#139 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2008, 11:48 PM:

astronautgo @132 "they were trying to come in above … the George Washington Bridge"

Levitating zombies? Zombies in those long-promised flying cars* — or zeppelins!?!

* Aha! Maybe that's why we don't have them; some Sinister§ Force has secreted them all in bunkers ready for the Zombie Apocalypse.

§ On the street yesterday I saw an older man walking between two youths, both in jeans and black, written-upon, T-shirts. On his right the printing was green; on his left, red. If only the green one had said "Dexter"; but it was the red one on the left, which should instead have said, frex, "Sinister Influence".

#140 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 02:33 AM:

Will Entrekin @ 106: I like the International Herald Tribune, for a more, er, international perspective.

#141 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 03:06 AM:

Has anyone heard about an ancient Greek computer known as the Antikythera Mechanism? It's been around for a long time, but apparently they've finally cracked some of its mysteries. Short story: It's a clockwork device for predicting the position of the sun, moon, and planets that can perform functions not (re)invented until the 16th century, and is as intricate as 18th century clocks. Long Story: Mysteries of computer from 65 BC solved. (There's also a Wikipedia page on it.)

Sometimes I think to myself: why bother reading sf when the real world is this awesome?

#142 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 05:09 AM:

Cadbury, #126, thanks, that does sound quite possible. The MBM that went into livestock feed was the residue, after other processes.

#143 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 09:17 AM:

Greg @ 137: Have you considered just taking chemistry classes at the small colleges and community colleges* around you? A lot of places will offer classes in a variety of subject to adults who want to learn more but don't need to get a degree. You can even check with the local "Parks and Recreation" department, as they also offer some neat classes. I learned Irish a few years back through the county parks and rec.

I think all of these subjects are so much more fun to learn when you don't have the pressure of needing good grades.

*Heck some of the larger universities do that too; forex the University of Maryland has a specific college for non-traditional students as well as courses that can be audited.

#144 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 09:39 AM:

Marilee@ 134: Some of those projects sound sadly like the middle school science fair in DC that I went to almost 10 years ago. A few kids stood out for their good projects --I guess they'd read the directions -- and the majority were pathetic. I remember one in which the child had monitored bananas on a counter. Nobody had taught them about controls, or a hypothesis, or how to do an experiment. It was depressing.

In contrast, the Fairfax County Science Fair is a big to-do, with all sorts of fascinating projects and that's even excluding all the kids from the magnet high school (TJ).

#145 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 09:59 AM:

Marilee @ 134... Ginger @ 144... It was neat for me when I discovered that Intel's Science Fair was being held a couple of blocks away from where I work. And it was neat too to see so many experiments run by girls, quite a few of them Middle-Eastern.

(I also got a big laugh from some of the kids when I went to the nearby Starbuck's and they saw my "Wanted" sweatshirt with Schrödinger's Cat on it.)

As for other science fairs... I remember that line from Eureka when Deputy Jo warned Sherriff Jack:

"It's Armageddon with acne."

#146 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 10:21 AM:

Is anyone else having trouble with the "Shrine of the Mall Ninja?" I've tried to open it a couple of times now, and it freezes my browser (Firefox).

#147 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 10:50 AM:

Juli, I have Firefox too, and it's not giving me problems.

#148 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 11:05 AM:

Debbie,

Thanks. Probably, the Mall Ninjas hate me personally.

#149 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 11:26 AM:

Astronautgo #132: That makes sense. I've walked across the GW Bridge a time or two; it's a nice stroll from Fort Lee to Manhattan.

#150 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 11:28 AM:

News: I get mine mostly from the Beeb, also from the Grauniad, a bit from El Pais, La Voz de Galicia, the Jamaica Observer, the Huffington Post, and from Google and Yahoo News (which means from AP, AFP and other wire services).

#151 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 11:43 AM:

Since this is an open thread, I wanted to drop a link to Spotlight on a Bespoke Meal, for anyone who hasn't seen it already.

For some reason when I read this a couple of days ago I thought of Teresa and Patrick, but there's a lot of people around here who would appreciate the notion of Meal as Artistic Collaboration between Chef and Diner.

#152 ::: astronautgo ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 12:00 PM:

Fragano #149: That makes sense. I've walked across the GW Bridge a time or two; it's a nice stroll from Fort Lee to Manhattan.

Well, these days, sure. It's not clotted up with zombies, anymore, since they all put on silk scarves and goggles, and climbed into those zeppelins.

And certainly, once the trolls started using EZ Pass, that sped things up for everyone as well.

#153 ::: astronautgo ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 12:21 PM:

The zombies made the best of the zeppelin situation, one hears, after their smeared, illegible requisition forms for PLAAAAAAANNNNNNNES went unfilled.

#154 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 12:24 PM:

And of course, in the US, traveling by TRAAAIIINNNNS is limited at best.

#155 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2008, 12:56 PM:

Pure fiction, I think; no-one to my knowledge has proved that zombies _didn't_ eat Patrick's brain, years ago.

Or mine.

#156 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2008, 09:34 AM:

Did the zombies eat the last month's worth of postings instead...?

#157 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2008, 09:43 AM:

I'm glad to see that ML is back up, more or less.

#158 ::: Tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2008, 09:57 AM:

Anybody know what's happening to this site? The latest thread on the front page was dated March 1, but now that's gone. At least this thread seems to be active...

#159 ::: DavidS ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2008, 10:04 AM:

And, oddly, the site seems to have been reset back to March 1, not April 1, which would suggest that TWO months have disappeared.

#160 ::: Tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2008, 10:08 AM:

In a state of desperation, I asked Neil Gaiman's Oracle . It said that you had taken the whole site down for Spring cleaning. Is that right?

#161 ::: Tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2008, 10:17 AM:

Oops!

#162 ::: Where to find out what is going on ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2008, 10:26 AM:

For those who missed the word, Patrick and Teresa are posting updates on the situation at

http://www.sunpig.com/abi/

DavidS

#163 ::: What the previous commenter said! ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2008, 10:33 AM:

Read the most recent several posts on Abi's blog to get up to speed.

And indeed, Teresa is about to use Abi's place to announce where to see the spreadsheets detailing what has and hasn't been saved.

Mind you, those spreadsheets are already out of date--we need to update them to reflect more of the stuff we've been emailed. But it's a start.

--Patrick

#164 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2008, 11:42 AM:

That link to Abi's blog doesn't work for me -- "site not found." Whimper. I want my ML!

#165 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: May 04, 2008, 12:54 PM:

Here is the full link to the relevant post on Abi's blog:

http://www.sunpig.com/abi/archives/2008/05/04/what_you_need_to_do_right_now_also_an_interim_status_report/

#166 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2008, 05:39 PM:

As this is the only live open thread, this sad news. Mildred Jeter-Loving has died (http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/O/OBIT_LOVING?SITE=AP)

#167 ::: JKRichard ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2008, 03:02 AM:

Fragano @ above: the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 - Virginia SB 219.

Overturned by U.S. Supreme Court in 1967.

1967

Oh man, we are just getting started on true freedom of equality...

#168 ::: eowoc8goom6C ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2009, 05:43 AM:

So, now that Obama has been elected, when can we expect the NH's and other sundry folk, (Greydon, etc) back to the rec.arts.sf. newsgroups they abandoned?

#169 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2009, 06:29 AM:

It's been a while since I read the newsgroups. No names, but some of the apparent wingnuttery seemed to come from rationally-developed axioms about human behaviour, rather than regurgitating GOP talking points, and I doubt those individuals will be changed by an Inaugeration.

The axioms seem to me to have been thoroughly discredited, many times, by both philosophoical argument and rigorous research into reality. Selfish choices, even in only slightly complex situations, give sub-optimal results.

I'm in no hurry to go back. I like my blood pressure where it is.

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