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March 13, 2008

Open thread 103
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 01:13 PM *

Written in 1976, by an author outwith the fannish community:

But nothing defines an historical period like its vision of the future, and Flash Gordon, with its thick hero, mad villains, cheap props and clumsy innocence, remains a useful pointer to how simple the world must have seemed in 1936. Switch to Dr Who (BBC1) and you can’t tell the heroes from the heavies, it’s all so sophisticated. “You’ve reached the point where your tissues are so massively hybridised that the next metabolic change could be the final one,” Dr Who tells his friend. Imagine getting Buster Crabbe to deliver a line like that. It would have taken a week.
Similarly the technology has made giant strides towards authenticity. When Flash’s pal Dr Zarkov talked nonsense, it sounded like nonsense. When Dr Who talks nonsense, it sounds like Science. “He’s been infected with anti-matter. His brain cells have been destroyed. He’ll descend to the level of a brute!” Dr Zarkov wouldn’t have known anti-matter from his elbow: he just concentrated on running up a “new ray” out of old torch batteries so that Flash could blast the Lion Men’s Gyro-ship out of the sky and rescue Dale.

Comments on Open thread 103:
#1 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 12:26 PM:

D'oh! Had I waited a few minutes, my praise for the anti-spam poetry embedded in the 1000 last comments would have appeared here instead of in thread 102...

#2 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 12:39 PM:

Maybe it's just me, but part of that description of the Flash Gordon future sounds about right -- for about 65 years in the future from when it was made. Maybe not the clumsy innocence part, so much.

But then I'm a cynic.

#3 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 12:42 PM:

I have to say that, if you're looking for an example of a series wherein you can't distinguish the heroes from the heavies, Dr. Who is about the worst possible choice.

#4 ::: Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 12:47 PM:

I don't know; when I hear nonsense on Doctor Who it still sounds like nonsense to me.

Maybe I need to watch some more Tom Baker episodes.

#5 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 12:47 PM:

I liked the part where the old serial's Zarkhov was forced to keep Vultan's fortress up in the air by literally shovelling radium ore into the furnaces. On the other hand, 1980's version had Ornella Mutti.

#6 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 01:07 PM:

Lila @ 3 - Doctors 9 and 10 have certainly muddied the waters much more than previous incarnations. The lines are still clearly demarcated in comparison to something like Battlestar Galactica, however, where the premise is "The humans are good. The Cylons are evil. But if the humans and the Cylons look, act, and think alike, who's on which side of the line?"

I'm sure there's a better example, but I've been watching clear-cut TV recently. Chuck, Torchwood, that sort of thing, where even if the good guys do bad things, they're still very clearly the Good Guys. And then there's Pushing Daisies, where Our Heroes are equivalent to children too innocent to be stained by sin, incapable of doing anything truly bad.

#7 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 01:10 PM:

James was not taking into account that Flash Gordon was a projection of the Western, while Doctor Who began in post-War Britain, and involved a kindly old man (at least that's how my seven-year-old mind processed him).

#8 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 01:12 PM:

Dave,

I watched all of the Tom Baker episodes, and as time went on I increasingly wanted to strangle him with that stupid scarf. I liked Peter Davidson well enough, but in general I could do quite well without Dr. Who.

But now my husband and kids have gotten me hooked on David Tennant. My all time favorite Dr. Who episode -- from any Doctor -- would have to be "The Girl in the Fireplace."

#9 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 01:19 PM:

shadowsong, I liked it better when the Cylons were clearly and absolutely The Bad Guys, because that meant the good guys were polytheists and the bad guys were monotheists, just like the real world which is unusual on American television.

Now it seems like they're going to justify the Cylons' attempted genocide, and have them turn out to be the ancestors of a new human race. With nice monotheistic beliefs. :-P

#10 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 01:19 PM:

The 1930s may have seemed like a more innocent age looking at most of its tales of the Future. But what of its tales of the Present? And if you were black of Jewish, or just not a White Anglo-saxon Protestant, did the world seem so innocent?

#11 ::: RichM ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 01:24 PM:

I am old enough to remember when there were only 103 chemical elements.

#12 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 01:29 PM:

I'm a recent Doctor Who convert, but I'm especially a fan of Torchwood, if only for the rather narrow reason that the Captain's bisexual.

It's decidedly few and far between when I get to see a relationship that looks sort of what I want on a sci-fi show.

True, the had to go the route of Everyone is Bi to get there, but I still sort of cried at the penultimate episode of the first series.

The most interesting thing that the quotes above lead me to think about is how we view the future in current fiction.

Perhaps I'm just reading to many dark authors, but we seem to have a rather dim view of the near future. In the popular series, Battlestar Galactica and Heros, we seem to think that we need to go through a period of pain and discord. There might be that hope out there in the future, but it's still a long way off.

In fact, the most hopeful near future work that I've read recently is Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge, and even that has some serious antagonism in it.

#13 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 01:48 PM:

I quit watching BSG because the relentless darkness, brutality, and gore were getting to be too much for me. If I want a TV show to bring me down for days, I'll watch the news.

I'm still reading fanfic, though. I especially like a ST:TNG crossover--wait, wait, don't go!--that features excellent characterization and dialogue, lots of neat details that make the quasi-first-contact situation come alive, and a great explanation of the Cylons:

The chrome jobs are really running things. They developed the skin jobs in order to infiltrate and exterminate the last of the human race. Their religion is a construct (but then, so is the Colonies' religion, but that's a whole 'nother subplot). They are actually human; their superhuman abilities and extra lives come from the nanites that are present throughout their tissues. The nanites are supposed to keep them sterile, too; Sharon Agathon's just had a glitch . . .

#14 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 01:58 PM:

Lila #3:

So, what are some examples of SF where the identity of the good guys is somewhat ambiguous? I'm finding it hard to think of good examples off the top of my head.

It's not clear that either Mal or the revolution for which he fought qualify as "the good guys" in Firefly. (Note what life looks on most of the back-end-of-nowhere planets they visit.)

It's not clear to me whether the Maquis were good guys or bad guys in the pre-Dominion-war story arc of DS9. (By contrast, it was easy to tell that the Dominion, the Cardassians, the Romulans, and to a lesser extent, the Ferengi and Klingons, were bad guys.) And on DS9, they managed two important characters (Quark and Garrek) who were not obviously good guys or bad guys through the whole show.

The Moties in _The Mote in God's Eye_ and _The Gripping Hand_, as well as the major factions in the Empire, are not bad guys. A major theme in those works is the idea of powerful people pursuing their duty (oybpxnqvat gur Zbgr naq qrfgeblvat nal fuvcf gung gel gb yrnir) despite not seeing their enemies as evil or crazy.

Similarly, in the _Ringworld_ and Known Space stories, Niven portrays the different characters/species as following their nature, without being obviously evil. Puppeteers simply will space their close friends of many years to buy themselves a 1% improvement in survival probability, absent some measure (possibly just a promise) to keep them from doing it. Kzinti simply will respond to insults by trying to kill the insulting person. Nothing personal, this is just what I do.

Similarly, there's loads of gray in _The Watchmen_.

And I find that a lot of my favorite stories have very clear good guys and bad guys, though most of life doesn't really work out that way. Frex, all of Vinge's books I've read so far end up with pretty clear good guys and bad guys, even if specific characters (gur ornhgvshy Crnpr Nhgubevgl fcl/fbyqvre in The Peace War) manage to be morally somewhat ambiguous. Similarly, I enjoy most of Spider Robinson's work, but his books pretty routinely have opposition to the good guys' cause be carried out either by evil people or people who have some tragic flaw that makes them unable to accept the good guys'

#15 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 02:00 PM:

The new doctor (Tenant) freely admits to making stuff up, as in The Girl In The Firplace, when he explains that he made up the techno babble because he didn't want to say, Magic Door."

And from 1976, I bet the current Battlestar Galactica series looks like sheer anarchy.

#16 ::: Sian Hogan ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 02:01 PM:

That talk of not telling "the heroes from the heavies" is absolutely reminding me why I like Battlestar Galactica so much.

I've always thought one of the main differences between shows that muddy the line between heroes and villains and those that... don't, is that the latter are usually "return to factory settings" shows. What I mean is, they are often shows where, during the course of an episode or story arc, the characters have adventures and experiences, and maybe learn a few lessons along the way, but get reset into their original moulds as soon as the episode or arc is over. You start with the same hero (or villain) fresh from the factory with each new story, and any muddying that went on before that is more or less wiped clean, so your hero is always essentially a hero.

Shows like Flash Gordon are always going to be more prone to this than Doctor Who (where Doctors and companions changed regularly enough that you at least had new characters from the factory on a regular basis, as well as some growth in the ones that stick around.)

But a show like Battlestar Galactica actually allows you to switch allegiances, over and over, to constantly evaluate what YOU think is right and wrong and interesting and clever and wise, rather than assuming that you'll accept whatever your favourite characters do as being The Right Thing. And even very likeable (and favourably portrayed characters) do terrible things. (A good example of this is President Roslin, who both outlaws abortion and then comes incredibly close to ordering a forced abortion on Athena- and is only stopped by selfish motives. There can't be many audience members who would approve of both decisions, and there probably are many who disapprove of both. But Roslin has a consistant motive: species survival at all costs.)

So the characters don't come out of the box with a "good" or "bad" tag permanantly attached: they evolve, and "good" and "bad" is very much what they're doing, more than what they are. I do love that. Even Baltar has his good points, although he doesn't deserve Caprica Six. (Whose first major action in the show was a baby killing. But that was a long time ago...)

(But I love Doctor Who too.)

#17 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 02:06 PM:

there is a beast beneath each human skin

you find that out when you reach that odd ground

where each of us finds out that we could win

a kind of monster whose nerves are most thin

and ready to break out at the least sound

there is a beast beneath each human skin

this is a creature of the dragonkin

moving with haste towards the sacred mound

where each of us finds out that we could win

the sky above us seems with speed to spin

what we have learned is wisdom most profound

there is a beast beneath each human skin

we throw all hesitation in the bin

the past in all its foolishness is drowned

where each of us finds out that we could win

the hero learns to take it on the chin

and let the villain fall before the hound

there is a beast beneath each human skin

where each of us finds out that we could win

#18 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 02:12 PM:

I did once see Tom Baker performing Macbeth.

#19 ::: Rob Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 02:24 PM:

I will take advantage of this open thread to flack my new blog just one (1) time. It's about fringe music and SF/F and it's located here.

Sample topics: The Armageddon Rag, NZ noise musician Antony Milton, Moorcock's album New Worlds Fair, etc.

#20 ::: pb ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 02:42 PM:

As far as scientific gobbledygook goes, I don't think it has to do as much with a society's vision of the future as it does with the language that's floating around.

In 1936 the hot science buzzwords were radio, radium, vitamin, and, uhm, that was pretty much it.

In 2008 is there anyone(at least in the SF demographic) who hasn't at least heard the words string theory, antimatter, DNA, neutrino, wormhole, plasma, nuclear, subatomic, hormone, polarity, gigabyte. Our nonsense sounds like science because we have more science words to string together:

"The plasma drive emits a stream of ionized neutrinos that invert the spin of the tachyons in local space..."

"You mean---?"

"Yes. A transmogrifying time machine."

Our time has the equivalent of shoveling radium: how many times have Star Trek captains solved a problem by "reversing the polarity."

#21 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 02:49 PM:

"Captain Kirk!"

"What is it, Scottie?"

"The dilithium crystals aren't working anymore."

"Again?"

#22 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 03:00 PM:

Since it's come up, I guess this is a good time to put in this request:

Seeing as how the fourth season of BSG is about to start, and the Powers That Be consistently work to ensure that I'm always one season behind on that show--in my world, the occupation just started--can any substantial discussion of it that may arise be rot13ed? I would greatly appreciate it.

#23 ::: wokka ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 03:08 PM:

I love technobabble! If it's well done, it's like poetry. Like some kind of improvisation over a general idea of what science is and ought to be. And also a play with wonderful and unusual big words.

#24 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 03:09 PM:

Ethan @22: I'll do my best. Season 3 comes out of DVD next week, though and Amazon has it 40% off.

And of course there's our old friend BitTorent...

#25 ::: Iain Coleman ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 03:22 PM:

In fairness to Mr James, the most recent Doctor Who story to be shown before he wrote his column (and I think the one from which his quote comes, though I can't be sure) is The Seeds of Doom, a horrific gore-fest in which the Doctor is grim, ruthless, and quite uncharacteristically violent.

#26 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 03:24 PM:

RichM @ #11: I remember when there were only 94 elements, and Dr. Zarkov didn't make any sense then, either. But I sure loved me them Jacob's Ladders.

#27 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 03:27 PM:

theophylact @ 26... Dr. Zarkov didn't make any sense then

Must be those radium fumes.

#28 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 03:29 PM:

I have what seems to be an infallible method of noticing fiction in which there are clear lines between Good and Evil and everyone is at a single place on that line in: I get bored or irritated very quickly.

Of course, it could be that fiction whose implicit moral universes match my own very well don't _appear_ to suffer as much from this, both because I'm lulled into acceptance and because finer-grained distinctions seem more important (I'm sure that to a Randroid the differences between Guilt and D'Ananconda seem major, and it's damned white of Ayn to show that even a relatively evil person can be redeemed.)

In any event, I'd like to see a Readercon panel entitled: "Masking the Sound of a Grinding Axe: making your ideologically-correct fiction palatable to the general public".

As for Dr Who and Battlestar...*, suddenly all I can think of is the Zappa song Cheepnis and the SubGenius admonition to discard mature speculative fiction in favour of "cheezy sci-fi".

*It says a lot about the new series that I can't quite call it Cattlecar Galaxative as a few I know did the older show...to me, the new series would be better if it didn't know how important it was....

#29 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 03:30 PM:

Serge @ 27: I hear them new-fangled radio waves can travel through your brain! Any day now we're going to see some scary mutant fellers coming from the "radio station". Probably some government secret installation, you mark my words.

#30 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 03:37 PM:

Coming at that statement from my immersion in media fandom, I can only add that fans can always obscure the line between good guys and bad guys. There is a persistant and noisy sector of Buffy fandom which views vampires as an oppressed minority race, for instance.

And let us not even try to summarize the moral ambiguity of what should be a clear cut "Good Terrans and Humans versus Evil Space Vampires" situation on Stargate Atlantis, where there's sufficient intended ambiguity over who's at fault for the current unpleasantness that the fan's metaconcerns with racism, sexism, and the ethics of destroying machines that pass the Turing test are sort of superfluous.



#31 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 03:40 PM:

pb #20: I dunno. ISTR some fairly hefty technobabble of the vaguely plausible variety in the Lensman books.

wokka #23: SF writers simply aren't in the big leagues with inventing technobabble. Marketing droids and sales folk in the tech industry have them beat cold. And there is no feeling in the world quite like attending a talk at an industry trade show in which the CEO of a company explains what his product does and how it works, while the techies sit in the back with mouths agape and wide eyes, at the realization that the boss doesn't know what the h-ll the product we're selling even does.

#32 ::: Mike Adelstein ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 03:49 PM:

It is also interesting to look at such Science Fiction on tv from the perspective of its ability to reflect on moral and ethical issues of the time. I always see the original Star Trek episodes as a series of elementary moral plays (some of which hardly fit the prevalent morals of the historical period when it was created -- or perhaps are just as ahead of their time from a moral perspective as a technological one). For example, I remember one episode with two aliens both with half white and half black faces that discriminated because one had its white on the left side of the face and the other on the right side (a difference that no one really notices until it is pointed out in the final scene). At a time of discrimination, it is impressive that Gene Roddenberry would take that kind of a risk on tv (or that any station would let him). In a sense, he slipped concepts into the minds of young men and women that helped shape the morals of the next historical period for the better.

Meanwhile, if Star Trek is for kids, BSG takes morality for adults and really shows the number of shades that can exist between a black and white decision. Perhaps people could afford a simple Star Trek morality back when they first come out -- yet in a post-911 world, there are no easy answers and stories are necessarily much more complex.

It makes me sad though for some reason -- I liked that original Star Trek innocence. Yet, I can't imagine a show would even be willing to try and capture it again today.

#33 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 03:52 PM:

Ginger @ 29... You need more tinfoil.

#34 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 03:59 PM:

Albatross @14,

Ambiguously good / Unreliable narrator SF exists--I recall a conversation about it here within the past few [unit of internet memory time]--but I can't name them because that's a spoiler.

These aren't the "oops, thrff gurl jrer fragvrag nsgre nyy" OSC's Ender's Game type stories, although I suppose that could be a sub-type: the ignorant hero.

#35 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 03:59 PM:

One thing has bugged me for a long time with BSG... There's nobody who does gallows humor.

#36 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 04:07 PM:

I gotta admit that I enjoy the technobabble as well.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought the first season of Lost in Space, and I've enjoyed revisting the dumb stories and cheesy FX and wondering what Dr. Smith had that prevented them from chucking him out the airlock.

There was never any pretense of adhering to any science at all. But once in a while, the stories had some genuine power.

#37 ::: Nicole TWN ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 04:10 PM:

>And then there's Pushing Daisies, where Our Heroes are equivalent to children too innocent to be stained by sin, incapable of doing anything truly bad.

Really? I disagree--I think, despite its candy-colored visuals, Pushing Daisies asks some interesting moral questions and even has its lead assert at least one morally troubling position.

The main moral issue raised so far has been whether or not Ned had the right to restore someone's life in exchange for someone else's. Ned himself has known the price since childhood, and twenty years later, he's still eaten with guilt about Chuck's dad's death.* But he not only resurrects Chuck, at the cost of someone else's life, he later asserts that, even knowing what would happen, he would make the same choice again. He even tries (lamely) to rationalize his decision, pointing out to Chuck and Emerson that the person who died so Chuck could live was a criminal. Neither Chuck nor Emerson buys this; Emerson in particular responds (rightly) that the man's innocence or guilt doesn't matter a whit, but that Ned is making decisions that he has no right to make. Ned's response seems to be that it's his ability, so it's his call; basically, that he does too have the right to decide who lives and who dies. I think that Ned's position here isn't moral, though I do understand how he arrived at it and how his experiences during his life helped drive him there.

Also note Ned's, Olive's, and Emerson's complicity in keeping Chuck from her aunts; and Olive's role in covering up a crime for personal financial gain.

So: I think that the heroes of Pushing Daisies, far from being children incapable of sin, are in fact making moral decisions in practically every show, and not always defensible ones either.

*Ironically, the death that Ned feels most guilty about is the one I that I think he bears NO moral culpability for, because he didn't know what would happen.

#38 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 04:15 PM:

Babylon 5 had both moral ambiguity and people who were clearly on the right and wrong side. (And at least some nods toward Newtonian physics, too :))

"Though no man can draw a line between the confines of night and day, yet on the whole light and darkness are tolerably distinguishable" (Burke)

#39 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 04:18 PM:

I'm reminded of Kevin Maroney's description of Stan Lee as someone who improved comics by writing two-dimensional characters at a time when one-dimensional characters were the norm.

I guess if you're used to Flash Gordon, Doctor Who looks pretty sophisticated. His technobabble contains the occasional scientific word. His shoestring special effects are forty years more advanced.

#40 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 04:27 PM:

Personally, I grew up as a Buck Rogers fan. With some Brick Bradford thrown in.

#41 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 05:00 PM:

Watching some circa 1940 Flash Gordon last year, I had a sudden insight when I realised the big chunky walkie-talkies they were using were (in 1940) actually extremely advanced, highly minaturised radios.

(Or as I put it at the time, think how much work it is to make vacuum tubes that small! I discovered that one of my friends can't take vacuum tubes seriously and keeps laughing whenever we mention them)

#42 ::: Carrie V. ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 05:01 PM:

Nicole TWN @ #37: Nice take on Pushing Daisies. I knew there was a reason I like that show.

#43 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 05:11 PM:

I don't know what your friend will make of this video, which shows the process of making a vacuum tube.

I merely watched in awestruck wonder.

#44 ::: Sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 05:15 PM:

Serge @ #35: My viewing of BSG after early Season 2 is spotty, so I can only offer my early-series observations, but I always found Gaius Baltar hilarious. (He doesn't intentionally crack jokes, of course, so if that's what you mean by having someone who does gallow humor, I have to agree.) And it's almost entirely, I think, due to the actor's take on that character, who could have been purely unpleasant in the hands of another actor.

("I really need...a thermo-nuclear warhead.")

#45 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 05:28 PM:

I confess, the reason that I posted this quote is that every time I read the line the technology has made giant strides towards authenticity I get the giggles. Beeb skiffy did many things well, particularly clever dialogue*, but authenticity? Sporfle.

I may be thinking too much of Blakes Seven here, which once featured a ship explosion in space, complete with debris falling and smoke rising. And I wasn't exposed to the stuff till it was 20 years old; sfx has a shorter shelf life than that.

But still.

-----

* Avon: "I'm not stupid, I'm not expendable, and I'm not going." Not till Firefly did I hear that much snappy dialogue per episode again.

#46 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 05:43 PM:

Abi... Avon is what made Blake's Seven worth watching. The scripts by Tanith Lee didn't hurt either, but he was it.

#47 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 05:44 PM:

abi #45: I blame it on the difficulty of creating actual vacuum* in Shepherd's Bush.



As opposed to actual vacuity, as anyone who remembers 'Pinky and Perky' could tell you.

#48 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 05:48 PM:

Sylvia @ 44... That's not quite what I meant by BSG unbelievably lacking in gallows humor. Yes, their situation is very grim. But... Take Law & Order's Lenny Briscoe. He'd seen the worst that humans could do to each other, and yet he kept going, and he handled it with wisecracks.

#49 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 05:48 PM:

Serge #46: The interplay between Avon and Vila, and that between Avon and Servalan certainly provided much of the dramatic force of Blake's 7, especially after the departure of Blake himself.

#50 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 05:54 PM:

Neil @ 41

You think vacuum tubes are improbable. Back when I was a TA, I found myself attempting to convince a class of undergrads that once upon a time there really had been such a thing as a steam-driven automobile. They were convinced I was pulling their legs. When I mentioned the brand name of Stanley Steamer they knew I'd slipped up beyond redemption because everyone knows Stanley Steamer is a brand of rug cleaning machine.

Of course, I suppose I brought it on myself because I was in the habit of beginning every semester by telling the class that at some random point I would tell them something utterly bogus and that I expected them to notice and call me on it because I considered critical thinking and the challenging of authority to be one of the most important things I could teach them.

#51 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 05:57 PM:

Nicole TWN @ 37:

It might just be me, but I get the impression the show wants us to think that no matter what bad things the characters might do, they're still inherently good people, and their bad actions have no lasting negative effects.

Arq nppvqragnyyl xvyyf Puhpx'f qnq? Fubeg grez rssrpgf: fur yvirf jvgu ure njrfbzr nhagf. Ybat grez rssrpgf: Arq naq Puhpx znxr zbba-rlrf ng rnpu bgure. Jura Puhpx svaqf bhg, fur uvqrf sebz Arq sbe - jung, bar rcvfbqr? gjb? - orsber sbetvivat uvz.

(Probably not spoiling anyone, but just in case.)

Hell, even most of the villians aren't really evil, in my opinion. They fall into three categories (sometimes more than one category per villain): didn't really mean to hurt anyone, bug-fuck crazy, not actually a character. The first episode villain isn't actually a character. The fourth episode villain didn't mean to hurt anyone. The ninth episode villian is not right in the head.

Also, the humorous responses of newly-reanimated victims minimize the effect of the crime, since the victims aren't in pain and often don't even seem to be upset about their death.

It's (modern) fairy tale violence. The bad guys are just behaving according to their nature, and their punishment balances our their crimes, leaving everything to come out neutral in the end.

#52 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 06:08 PM:

Sian 16: Caprica Six...[w]hose first major action in the show was a baby killing.

I interpreted that as an act of mercy. She knew the world was about to be consumed in flame, and killed the baby quickly and cleanly so it wouldn't have to be burned to death. This interpretation is in line with what we later learn of her character, and I frankly can't think of any other motivation she would have for doing that.

#53 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 06:11 PM:

Fragano @ 49... Vila was the thief, right?

#54 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 06:20 PM:

Here's a somewhat scary story about a wrong number.

#55 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 06:36 PM:

albatross, #14: In Conquest Born and The Wilding by C.S. Friedman are both pretty good examples of "who's the good guy here?" fiction. And she's sneaky about it -- starts out painting things to look like a standard black hat/white hat confrontation, and then muddies the waters severely.

Mike, #32: Even at age 10-12, some of the ClassicTrek episodes (of which Let That Be Your Last Battlefield is definitely one) seemed awfully ham-handed to me. Beating the audience over the head with a Message often comes at the expense of storytelling. OTOH, I do agree that Roddenberry stuck his neck way out there; the symbolism was so blatant that not even the stupidest network exec could possibly have missed it.

What really got me, though, was when NextGen suffered from the same kind of ham-handedness; the episode about the planet of hermaphrodites (where wanting to be het instead of bi was a Major Perversion) and the host-gender-changing Trill episode being the ones that spring to mind.

#56 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 06:39 PM:

I doubt everyone here would want to regularly read a web comic about twenty-something indy rock fans, but you all may be able to relate to the last line of this episode.

#57 ::: Sian Hogan ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 06:44 PM:

Xopher @52- Oh, I completely agree that the baby-killing was an act of mercy (at least from Caprica Six's perspective). But after all, she was saving the baby from the chaos and destruction which she had orchestrated. I just love that the baby-killing, world-destroying robot is the one I think deserves a better true love/mind-to-mess-with/boyfriend. (Although Baltar is so far from being a paragon of virtue that it isn't saying much to affirm that Six deserves better, she really, really does.) I like Six. I care about her. I think that her decisions, over time, are becoming (overall) better attempts at moral decisions, whilst the decisions of a lot of the Galactica crew are, overall, becoming worse attempts. It surprises me.

As does the fact that throughout the show, I have been truly astonished by the amount of maternal instinct that all known female Cylons have been ?programmed? with, and the way that this was all signalled by Six's actions in the mini-series. Again, it's just not what you might expect from evil robots out to destroy humanity. And that's good.

Tony@38- WRT Babylon 5 and moral ambiguity, I'll certainly give you Mr Garibaldi. And several other characters, now I come to think about it. But I rarely felt truly shocked by the actions of B5 characters: there was a sort of innocence about it, even when things were dangerous or ambiguous. In a slightly Lord of the Rings way, I think. Most of the characters (although not Mr Garibaldi, and possibly not Londo) felt like they would have played nicely with others in Tolkien's world. Which isn't a criticism, I liked that show a lot. (And the Lord of the Rings, for that matter.)

#58 ::: moe99 ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 06:54 PM:

#22, ethan: don't watch "what the frak" then at the BSG site. It was rather entertaining though and got one ready for the new season.

#59 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 06:56 PM:

Serge #53: Right.

#60 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 07:22 PM:

Fragano @ 59... That was a good balance of characters. By the way, would it be sacrilegious to say that I found Blake's character rather oh-hum?

#61 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 07:33 PM:

Serge #60: No.

#62 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 09:05 PM:

Lee #55: Yeah, I think the "lessons" in both old and new Star Trek tended to be delivered with a club. And the "gay rights" episodes in TNG were just bizarre. If they wanted to address gay rights, they could simply have had a few openly gay sideline characters--folks at the Barclay level, say, if they thought it would be too hard on ratings to have Geordi come out of the closet or something. (How could anyone rationally object to, say, Data finding a male lover. Looked at one way, he's just a sentient (and fully functional) vibrator.)

But this raises an issue with Star Trek's universe. We're very far in the future, and yet we essentially never see gay humans. The explanations available appear to be something like:

a. In the 23rd century, they've cured being gay. (It's a standard treatment, in which they reverse polarity on the backward-biased singularity generators.)

b. In the 23rd century, all the gays are closeted out of fear of being subjected to above treatment. (Apparently, having your singularity generators' polarity reversed isn't any fun.)

c. Starfleet still follows a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Are there other alternatives, here?

Somehow, this all makes me think of the "War Stories" episode of Firefly. ("I'll be in my bunk!")

#63 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 09:11 PM:

We stood on a hill at the Bosworth battlefield. Our guide recounted the numbers of armed men who were supposed to be on it, and I wondered how they all fit on it, let alone fit one another. Down below, puffs of steam marked the path of something nobody could see, and because I didn't know anybody well enough yet, I resisted the temptation to suggest that it was a Stanley Steamer.

#64 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 09:21 PM:

Serge @ 33: Tin foil?!? You're not one of them secret government agents, are you? Because we don't hold with them furrin agents around here. We're decent, law-abidin' citizens here. Cheesecloth was good enough for our forefathers, and it's good enough for us.

#65 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 09:23 PM:

albatross @ 62... I seem to remember that David Gerrold had written a TNG story that dealt with something not unlike AIDS, but somebody got cold feet, I think.

#66 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 09:29 PM:

Ginger @ 64... On the other hand, if tinfoil was good enough for Mel Gibson, it should be... Oh, wait...

#67 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 10:15 PM:

Serge: Yeah, I think they had an episode that at least seemed to be sort of about AIDS. But my complaint is that they didn't just have gay characters wandering around, as normal a part of daily life as they are in real life. By contrast, they managed to integrate the crew racially at least a bit more over time, ending up with Sisko as a really powerful, interesting character in DS9. (Though I am still not too clear on why the majority of 23rd century spacefarers are white Americans. Did we nuke the rest of the world?)

#68 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 10:30 PM:

albatross @ 67... But the only way for us to have known if this or that character was a homosexual would have been for him/her to have indulged in some Public Display of Affection, and most of the crew of the NCC-1701-D seemed to have evolved beyond any PDA or PDE. Except for Geordi. And O'Bryan. And Keiko.

#69 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 10:44 PM:

albatross@14: for ambiguous characters, try A Sorcerer and a Gentleman; one definitely dark but not black, and several that profess good motives but execute less well. Or notice what Mike did with the Klingons in The Final Reflection.

For something at the other end of the spectrum, see almost anything by Dickson. Once, when driven to explain one of his books, I said "If a Dickson hero slips and mentions looking west at the sunrise that morning, the sun will immediately reverse course.

#70 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 10:48 PM:

Gays in TNG? Considering that the show premiered over 20 years ago, and ended in 1994, I just don't see that it could have happened.

As much as I enjoyed the show, it (like most SF on TV) was inherently conservative.

#71 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 11:33 PM:

I may just be in a crabby mood, but that quote sounds like nonsense to me.

a) In 1936, the ideas like rocketships, cloaks of invisibility, other planets populated by multiple separate species, etc., were possible marvels, not s-f cliches. The charm of Flash Gordon was in the fantasies it spun for kids from dawning pop awareness of new ideas in the infrastructure of science. In 1936 science was just beginning to discover the world of subatomic particles and the difference between particles and waves. In context of that era, maybe all those rays as plot levers might not seem so ridiculous. Crossing a bridge made of light. Far out! ("You first, Earthman.") In Doctor Who, you've got nanites and other biotechnology, addressed with a similar mystical awe.

b) In Dr. Who, it is often possible to tell the heroes from the heavies. (In Flash Gordon, you

you've got Princess Aura: a heroine or a villainess?)

#72 ::: Tehanu ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2008, 11:50 PM:

albatross @14: So, what are some examples of SF where the identity of the good guys is somewhat ambiguous?

Nobody's mentioned Lois McMaster Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan books. The father of the men who attacked Cordelia and caused Miles's disabilities ends up supporting Miles in a Council vote. The Cetagandans who invaded Barrayar and killed 5 million people turn out not to be faceless minions of evil. The Betan psychologist sent to "help" Cordelia when she goes home after the war refuses to believe that she is sane and tries to get her brain wiped. The soldier who rapes a terrified prisoner spends the next 20 years trying to make it up to the child she bears. "Ambiguous" is just a word for "really human."

#73 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 12:10 AM:

Anyone going to Lunacon and want to meet up?

Today I was accosted by an overly friendly postal worker who wanted to show me her tattoos and give me a bookmark advertising her fantasy novels. Is there something written on my forehead in invisible ink that says "weird fannish chick, bond with me" or what? Is buying a book because one's postal worker brought one FOUR packages (including a bathing suit which hopefully will cover up all surgical scars) more or less likely to produce a good reading experience than other ways of finding books?

#74 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 12:11 AM:

Tehanu:

Avoiding spoilers in case someone hasn't read the books, but was Ezar Vorbarra a good guy or a bad guy, given the plans laid down in green silk rooms?

#75 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 12:32 AM:

Susan, I seem to give off a very mild 'friendly to pagan lesbians' vibe.

Regarding Ezar... um. It's been too long since I read the books (meaning a year or two; I took my time devouring them) and what I remember is that he did his best, but we did not get to see him enough to know if he felt bad about certain things. A little too smug and low-key gleeful for me to trust him.

#76 ::: Bob Rossney ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 12:53 AM:

One of the many pleasures of BSG is the absence of technobabble. Once in a great while there'll be a bit here and there - Baltar explaining how Cylon blood works, for instance - but for the most part the show seems to operate on the assumption that there's nothing at all mysterious or even very interesting about technology.

And it's right. "Why are the Cylons monotheists?" is a much more interesting question than "How do the Cylons work?" or "What's with the dramatic oscillating red eye?"

#77 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 12:55 AM:

Steve C #70: Gays in TNG? Considering that the show premiered over 20 years ago, and ended in 1994, I just don't see that it could have happened.

See, this right here is one of the reasons I have no respect for Star Trek: The Next Generation. Original Star Trek was ahead of its time in these matters, showing American TV's first interracial kiss at a time when interracial marriage was still illegal in many states.

Star Trek: TNG, on the other hand, trailed behind regular TV. Network TV was dealing with occasional homosexual themes as early as 1967, and had out gay recurring characters in the seventies. (Billy Crystal's character on Soap is commonly considered the first, but there were a few others on less well-known shows as early as 1972.) Tony Randall played a gay main character in Love, Sidney, from 1981-83.

LA Law showed two women kissing in 1992. That's the same year Star Trek: TNG showed "The Outcast", which deals metaphorically with the issue of homosexuality and shows Riker kissing an androgynous alien obviously played by a woman. Jonathan Frakes himself complained that the episode wimped out, and the alien should have been more masculine.

#78 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 01:11 AM:

I wouldn't call TS:TNG so much conservative as chicken. Not cowardly, just safe . . . bland. And not just for not dealing with homosexuality.

Deep Space 9 took some chances. B5 pushed things much farther. BSG, Mk. II . . . whoa!

#79 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 01:54 AM:

I'd add that virtually any SF written by Delany, Iain Banks, Ursula LeGuin, or many other modern writers involves moral ambiguity and often unclarity as to the "heroes" and "villains".

#80 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 02:32 AM:

Part of what turned me off DS9 fairly early on was how completely it backed off from what it originally promised. According to early reports, Sisko was supposed to be a crippled, embittered war hero who'd been given command of Deep Space 9 in order to force him to retire: sorry about your severed spinal cord and your dead wife, here's this skeevy backwater post...

The series was supposed to explore the darker side of the Federation: how *did* the Federation maintain such remarkable harmony? What kind of police and spy networks (internal and external) would be required to maintain that system? How disconnected from the Federation ideal were the outposts and frontier worlds? What pain, intentional or accidental, would a massive bureaucracy like that inflict in order to survive?

DS9 promised to swim in deep, murky waters; instead, it wound up splashing around in the kiddie pool, pretending it was, well, boldly going and all that... Was it darker than ST:TNG? Sure - but only by comparison.

#81 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 03:17 AM:

albatross @ 14: "It's not clear that either Mal or the revolution for which he fought qualify as "the good guys" in Firefly. (Note what life looks on most of the back-end-of-nowhere planets they visit.)"

I always saw that as fallout from losing the war/the reason for the war in the first place. Far more morally ambiguous in Firefly was Jayne, and the way he reflected the worst in all the rest of them. (There's little that Jayne does that the rest of them haven't considered--yes, including what happens on Ariel.)

I think that TV sf's sophistication tracks better with the sophistication of TV in general than with sf. TV has been getting more sophisticated both morally and conceptually in recent years, and TV sf has reflected that.

Fragano Ledgister @ 17: Amazing. That opening bit is awe-inspiring. Bravo!

Michael Turyn @ 28: "In any event, I'd like to see a Readercon panel ent"itled: "Masking the Sound of a Grinding Axe: making your ideologically-correct fiction palatable to the general public"."

"And then, of course, we return to Heinlein once again..."

Serge @ 35: "One thing has bugged me for a long time with BSG... There's nobody who does gallows humor."

Yes, BSG takes itself way, way too seriously.

#82 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 03:31 AM:

China report attacks U.S. human rights record as "tattered and shocking"

"Er, actually, you're quite sooty yourself," said the kettle.

#83 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 06:14 AM:

heresiarch @ 81... There is that, yes, but, like I said to Sylvia @ 48, I really was deploring the absence of humor as a coping mechanism. That being said, this is the last season and I wonder what'll happen when the BSG does get to Earth.

"Oops! Sorry for bringing that bunch of nasties to your doorstep."

#84 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 06:18 AM:

Susan @ 73... Is there something written on my forehead in invisible ink that says "weird fannish chick, bond with me" or what?

If you had been in a Star Trek episode, the explanation would probably be that there was a leak in the warp core, which reversed polarity, and that led to quantum defects in local pockets of Reality and...

#85 ::: Christian Severin ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 07:10 AM:

I'm a bit surprised that nobody mentioned SKZB's Vlad Taltos as a contender in the Morally Ambiguous Hero category.

OK, he tries to do good, but he's nonchalantly killing people (well -- Dragaerans...) left and right, at least in the first couple of books.

#86 ::: Ralph Giles ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 07:19 AM:

Clifton @ 79: In general I agree with you, but what's going on with the the Archimandrite in The Algebraist? Here's your unambiguous villain with a slice of gleeful cheese, and then Banks seems to say that for all that dictators are a real part of humananity and horrible, they're ultimately uninteresting. That such a character (or such a conception) falls short of the true horror we're capable of. A sarcastic comment on the banality of evil?

Spherical @ 12: You've read Vonda MacIntyre's Starfarers series? Not great idea SF, but lovely lovely soap opera in space.

#87 ::: Ralph Giles ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 07:23 AM:

It's Vonda McIntyre, sorry. Using Google as a spelling check only helps if you notice the autocorrection.

#88 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 07:35 AM:

heresiarch@81

fallout from losing the war/the reason for the war

Fallout, partly, in that the war probably worsened already existing differences in wealth between the various planets.

Reason, indirectly (if I recall correctly). The impetus for the war appears to have been the view of many in the core worlds that the non-core worlds would be better off if the whole system was unified under the "benevolent" guidance of the core worlds.

This was not an entirely ridiculous viewpoint, unfortunately it did not take into account the fact that many of the non-core worlds strongly disagreed with the notion of "reunification".

#89 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 07:36 AM:

80: I might actually have watched that one. Sounds good. Especially if they forcefed the writers on John Le Carre and Graham Greene beforehand.

#90 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 08:45 AM:

ajay @ 89... f they forcefed the writers on John Le Carre

Hmmm... Wasn't there an episode of DS9 where Doctor Bashir goes to some Peace Conference inside the Romulan Empire? There he meets Romulan Adrienne Barbeau, who's working hard toward detente, but things do not go well because the Romulans have a hardliner who politically destroys it. The surprise about the hardliner isn't a surprise if you ever saw (or read) The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.

#91 ::: Another Damned Medievalist ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 08:54 AM:

Since this is an open thread ... As some of you might know, Pat Cadigan has started a "Match it for Pratchett" campaign to match Pterry's donation of £500k to Alzheimer's research. A friend made a button for people to use if they want to copy it and link to the campaign on their sites. Blogenspiel

#92 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 08:56 AM:

Clifton #79: It's interesting--I've only read Banks' Culture stories, but in those, the characters are often drawn in shades of gray, but the Culture mostly isn't. One thing I liked about _Remember Phlebas_ was that it wasn't 100% clear that the Culture were the good guys, though you clearly were supposed to come to that conclusion by the end.

#93 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 09:08 AM:

Re Firefly:

I always felt that the historical analogy provided enough moral drag on Mal's side of the war. I could easily see Mal as a "man of honor in a den of thieves" even among his own side.

Absent broader information, I confess that I didn't immediately leap to the idea that the Browncoats were the good guys in the abstract, nor did I expect that we were seeing the best side of the victors.

Peripherally, does anyone else think Mal's family might have been killed by reavers while he was away at war? His reactions to both the reavers and the time Saffron gets him to talk about his mother make me wonder.

#94 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 09:26 AM:

abi #93: I never had any intuition for what had happened to Mal's family.

My sense was that the outer planets varied a lot, maybe agreeing on little except that they didn't want to be ruled from the core worlds. So, there were pretty decent planets like Persephone, and awful ones like the one where Jayne is a hero[1].

Firefly seems a bit like The Matrix or Star Wars to me, in the sense that the ideas and images and sense of life in these shows were wonderful, but the plots and world descriptions weren't sewn together quite tightly enough to bear much careful thought. And I kind of wish I hadn't watched the Serenity movie, which I thought kind-of ran the series into the ground.

[1] I'll admit that this was my favorite episode.

#95 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 09:28 AM:

abi @ 93... I think that Mal's side of the war was supposed the good guys. The original episode (which was aired last) showed the people under his command wearing the helmets of American troops during WW2. Yes, it's a silly clue.

#96 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 09:36 AM:

95: and the Alliance wearing German WW2 coalscuttle helmets! Yes, I noticed that too. But by the time of the series they'd moved on to wearing leftover helmets and body armour from "Starship Troopers", and carrying (poor buggers) British SA80 rifles.

Ahem.

OTOH, the first episode also makes it clear that slavery is a part of the rim worlds - Badger's looking over some woman as a possible buy before he meets Mal. Clearly the Alliance hadn't got round to stamping that out.

#97 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 09:37 AM:

#74--Susan: was Ezar Vorbarra a good guy or a bad guy, given the plans laid down in green silk rooms?

I know you didn't ask me, but I think by the time he got around to making those plans in that greeen silk room, Ezar was holding on desperately to the duty he'd taken on years before, during the invasion: To protect his own people as best he could. Which means he gets points for sticking to an important committment at the expense of his own preferences, but that he's a bloody-minded old devil all the same.

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#98 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 09:49 AM:

ajay @ 96... And the Alliance Navy looks like the Kaiser's.

#99 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 09:56 AM:

Albatross @67 Though I am still not too clear on why the majority of 23rd century spacefarers are white Americans

If this is the darker Federation alluded to in #80, I guess that as a career open to talents, this is one of the few exit routes from the white American ghetto.

While typing that, I then had a second thought - if the utopia of the Federation is still fairly new, but arrived in America first, maybe everyone else is still getting used to it and enjoying their new found freedom and prosperity. The Americans in Starfleet are rebelling against their parents: A life of plenty, freedom and fulfillment? The hell with that. I'm going under (para)military discipline to suffer hardship and deprivation out in space!

After all, utopias are boring*, which is why stories about them take place on the edges (Star Trek, the Culture etc.)

Dave Bell #43 - I'll ask him when he gets back from holiday. I especially like the soundtrack. (I note that that video is longer than an episode of 1940 Flash Gordon).

Thinking about this, there's various levels of implausability. So in Flash Gordon there are pistols where the barrel emerges from under the hand (which makes no sense in any time period, because how do you aim? and is just there to make them look exotic); Mings forces wear full helmets which not only allow intruders to wander around his palace undetected, but don't even stop them getting knocked out in the first place (this is a standard of adventure fiction, but is still somewhat unlikely);then there's various rays and gases** which are only limited by Ming or Zarkov's imaginations (less plausible today than at the time, although contemporary biochemists and physicists were snorting); and things like rocket-planes and minature radios*** which made perfect sense at the time, and do today, but just didn't turn out quite like that.

I have a feeling I had a point when I started typing, but have lost it along the way, as well as missing the moment where I was going to put the link showing when a wall of vacuum tubes was the height of computing.

* Just had a thought - is this why in fictional suburbias, everyone is having an affair? Both the characters and the authors find the utopian suburbia boring.

** There's a scene in which one of Ming's minions has created a gas that only kills people of intelligence; it seems that they're the people who rebel against Ming. Ming takes this in his stride.

*** I keep wondering if some real thought went into the size of the radios. "Hey, what if they have radios that they can talk to anyone on the planet and they can carry them in their hands!" "How small shall we make them? The size of a telephone handset? No, just a bit bigger, to leave room for the little tiny vacuum tubes". Or did they just put them together from whatever was at hand (in the way that Arboria clearly doubles as a Robin Hood set including the costumes).

#100 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 10:04 AM:

Neil Willcox @ 99... contemporary biochemists and physicists were snorting

They were then all arrested as part of Mongo's War on Gases.

#101 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 10:23 AM:

fidelio:

Well, if I was only talking to one person I'd have used email. :)

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#102 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 10:29 AM:

Peripherally, does anyone else think Mal's family might have been killed by reavers while he was away at war?

Shadow, Mal's home planet, was subjected to a scorched-earth policy by the Alliance; everyone who was on-planet at the time is dead and the place is unlivable barring a repeat of the terraforming process. Which is why he literally can't go home.

OTOH, the first episode also makes it clear that slavery is a part of the rim worlds - Badger's looking over some woman as a possible buy before he meets Mal. Clearly the Alliance hadn't got round to stamping that out.

Oh, they call it "bonded"--Inara gets Mal out of hock in "The Train Job" by claiming he's her bonded servant who ran away. And since a high-class lady like a Companion clearly wouldn't lie about such a thing...

#103 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 10:32 AM:

heresiarch @ #82:

One of the myriad things that makes me Angry! Angry! Ångry! about the last seven years is that our differences from China have become quantitative rather than qualitative. We don't - I hope - have the same magnitude of human rights problems, but we've lost the moral high ground. "We're sooty but not as sooty as you!" is a weak defense.

#104 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 10:37 AM:

Bob 76: Baltar explaining how Cylon blood works, for instance

I only saw that one once, but my impression at the time was that he was saying that Cylons have O– blood. That's all he was saying. And, of course, incluing that no human does, which (if they follow through on it, which they probably won't) could make things interesting on Earth, where O+ is the most common blood type and O– is not rare. If taken to its logical conclusion, that would mean the Fleet would conclude that most Earth people are of partly Cylon descent. I, for example, am A+, but my father is O–; they'd have to conclude that my whole family are Cylon-human hybrids. But I'm betting that won't be a plot point in the final season.

"Why are the Cylons monotheists?" is a much more interesting question than "How do the Cylons work?" or "What's with the dramatic oscillating red eye?"

I agree. My speculation is that "God" is what they call the Cylon who made the humanoid Cylons, and who had a very definite purpose in mind for them. That would be cool, but it's probably wrong, because the series is based on Mormon mythology, so probably they'll conclude that it's the same God worshipped by the CJCLDS on Earth, and that wiping out those durrty polytheists was the right and proper thing to do. In which case they'd still be making the point I liked, which is that monotheism leads to genocide! (Yes, I'm kidding. I don't really think they'll conclude that the attempted genocide of humans was right.)

Stefan 78: BSG is pushing some boundaries, yes, but homosexuality is not one of them. The closest they come is Baltar's implied threesome with Caprica and Biers (or another Three), which was designed to scandalize, not enlighten. Not a single ongoing gay character, not a single gay recurring, not a single gay guest star, not even an implied same-sex adventure in adolescence. Also, note the assumption inherent in making all the Cylon women hot (so I'm told) and all the men skeevy (IMO, pace Leoben fans): in this universe, human men (but not human women) are susceptible to manipulation through sex, and none of them are queer, because there are no Cylon models designed to manipulate people who like men in that way. Otherwise there'd be a male equivalent to Caprica Six, who would look more like Jamie Bamber than Dean Stockwell!

ajay 96: OTOH, the first episode also makes it clear that slavery is a part of the rim worlds - Badger's looking over some woman as a possible buy before he meets Mal. Clearly the Alliance hadn't got round to stamping that out.

I didn't think the Alliance is interested in stamping out slavery. Most of the worlds they go to have some kind of slavery; even in "The Train Job" it's clearly understood that indentured servitude exists. And the identity of the "owner" in that case makes it clear that the inner worlds have it too.

Which is interesting, because if the series is a Western translated into the future, Mal is a former Confederate; I might speculate that one of the things they were fighting against is that the Alliance allows slavery and indentured servitude, and the Independents (or maybe only some of them) didn't like that. If true, it's an interesting reversal. Mal clearly doesn't like people being treated as property, but is that an Independent stance, or his own moral conviction in contrast with both sides?

#105 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 10:46 AM:

albatross @ 31

Oh, HELL, yes. I remember one crazy year or so when I was the tech lead on a new product and had to follow the CEO around mopping up after him. Now this guy had a PhD in physics and this was his, I think, third high-tech startup. And he had absolutely no clue what the product did, or why a customer would want it. At one point we met with some highly placed people at Sun, with the tacit understanding that if they liked what they heard, acquisition talks would occur sometime soon. Our CEO's cluelessness completely ended that possibility; all my singing and dancing couldn't overcome that handicap.

Oh, the VP of Marketing, who'd been at Apple durin the first Jobs era, was almost as clueless. He sort of understood what the product was, but thought it would be dangerous to tell the customers.

#106 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 10:53 AM:

Serge @ 83: Agreed--the fact that no one on BSG ever notices how funny (in a morbid way) their situation is, is a little peculiar.

Michael I @ 88: "This was not an entirely ridiculous viewpoint, unfortunately it did not take into account the fact that many of the non-core worlds strongly disagreed with the notion of "reunification"."

My readings on the history of the developing world suggest to me that "unification under our benevolent guidance" generally translates into something like "economic exploitation under our tyrannic bootheel." I've gotta say, the idea of being ruled by a futuristic fusion of the Chinese and American governments definitely gives me the wiggins.

abi @ 93: "I always felt that the historical analogy provided enough moral drag on Mal's side of the war."

You mean with the Confederates? I've often wondered if the Browncoats were Joss's attempt to disassociate what was admirable in the Confederates (defending their right to self-determination) from what was despicable (that they had "self-determined" to enslave half their population).

"Peripherally, does anyone else think Mal's family might have been killed by reavers while he was away at war?"

I always figured that the Reavers were very recent phenomenon, and basically entirely post-war. I'm not sure, though.

albatross @ 94: "Firefly seems a bit like The Matrix or Star Wars to me, in the sense that the ideas and images and sense of life in these shows were wonderful, but the plots and world descriptions weren't sewn together quite tightly enough to bear much careful thought."

I hear this pretty regularly, but I never understand why. What part of the world-building didn't work for you? It all fits together pretty well for me, but it's always hard to tell what bits I just assumed into existence.

Also, the Browncoats wearing Allied helmets is the most ham-handed attempt to establish audience loyalty that I totally never even noticed at all. In other words: awesome.

#107 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 11:01 AM:

Also, the Browncoats wearing Allied helmets is the most ham-handed attempt to establish audience loyalty that I totally never even noticed at all.

I didn't either, I think because American WWII helmets are just in my mental database as "what modern soldiers' helmets are supposed to look like". Which says something about WWII movies and/or the way my brain works, if you think about it. :)

#108 ::: Nicole TWN ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 11:06 AM:

It might just be me, but I get the impression the show wants us to think that no matter what bad things the characters might do, they're still inherently good people, and their bad actions have no lasting negative effects.

Don't they? Chuck's bad decision at the travel agency was what led to her death. Ned STILL struggles with the consequences of actions he's taken years before. So does Emerson. Olive seems to have quit a profession she liked and was good at, after the events detailed in "Girth".

We've also seen people who, while charming on the surface, aren't very nice people underneath. The Balsam siblings, for instance, react irrationally and poisonously to Ned's overtures of friendship. Nobody in the dogs episode is particularly nice. In the Le Nez / Vibenius rivalry, we're meant to sympathize with Vibenius--but he's still creepy and not entirely trustworthy.

Ned accidentally kills [redacted]? When Chuck finds out, she hides from Ned for - what, one episode? two? - before forgiving him.

Well, I still think that that particular death isn't on Ned. He 1) was nine years old; 2) didn't know what would happen, and 3) it being one of the very first manifestations of his power, he had no reason to suspect what would happen. My thinking is that Chuck must have come to a similar conclusion, which is why she forgave him--but not right away, and not easily.

Also, I don't think that Chuck's aunts, picturesque as they are, were the best people to be raising Chuck. Their social phobias meant that they relied on Chuck to take care of them, knowing that they were preventing her from living her own life. That stunted Chuck's development and contributed to her own intimacy issues (on a show where EVERYBODY has big honkin' intimacy issues, so at least she's not alone). End result: a 28-year-old woman who's so naive that she accepts a too-good-to-be-true offer of a free cruise.

Hell, even most of the villians aren't really evil, in my opinion. They fall into three categories (sometimes more than one category per villain): didn't really mean to hurt anyone, bug-fuck crazy, not actually a character. The first episode villain isn't actually a character. The fourth episode villain didn't mean to hurt anyone. The ninth episode villian is not right in the head.

What about the villain in "Dummy": fb qrgrezvarq gb oevat uvf pne gb znexrg gung ur'f jvyyvat gb fnpevsvpr crbcyr'f yvirf?

Also, the humorous responses of newly-reanimated victims minimize the effect of the crime, since the victims aren't in pain and often don't even seem to be upset about their death.

Well, yeah... but the alternative is the Torchwood approach, where the newly-reanimated spend their entire minute basically freaking out.

It's (modern) fairy tale violence. The bad guys are just behaving according to their nature, and their punishment balances our their crimes, leaving everything to come out neutral in the end.

Is everyone punished? Ned's dad--was he ever punished?

#109 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 11:08 AM:

Lee @55: Perhaps I wasn't a very sophisticated 11 year-old, or perhaps it was just a consequence of growing up in a small, mostly mono-ethnic town, but Let That Be Your Last Battlefield was one of the episodes that stuck in my mind for years. The moment at the end of the first act where the police officer points out the difference between him and his quarry with such vehemence was such a mind-opening event for me, both for the anger the two actors portrayed, and for Kirk and Spock's understated "WTF?" reactions. The contrast between the protagonists' high technology and their mutually destructive passionate hatred was another thing. And, of course, the sequence of them seeing their homeworld in ruins, the slow realization, not of a desire to rebuild, but to pursue blind vengence on one another, and the final shots of them running through the ruins -- all in all, I found it a powerful episode.

Yes, perhaps it isn't how we'd do it now, if we felt a need to do it at all, but the past is a foreign country and all that.

#110 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 11:37 AM:

ajay @ 89 -

80: I might actually have watched that one. Sounds good. Especially if they forcefed the writers on John Le Carre and Graham Greene beforehand.

I think they got a lot more ambiguity - and smarts about such things - later in the series, (In The Pale Moonlight, Honor Among Thieves, etc.), but even in the beginning, there were distinct differences between DS9 and TNG - Kira Nerys is unequivocally a former terrorist (and not at all ashamed of what she did in the Resistance), Garak was apparently a Cardassian spy (although we later find out his position is much more... interesting... than we are first lead to believe), Quark is a war profiteer, intelligence broker, smuggler, gambling-hall owner, and if he isn't a pimp, it's only because Nerys would string him up by his ears, and so on.

My personal opinion is that DS9 was probably closest in spirit (except maybe season 4 of Enterprise, when Manny Coto became executive producer) to the original series - the main characters are flawed, but still generally good, people, who try - but don't always succeed - in doing the right thing. Humans have changed, and evolved (socially and morally), from what they were three centuries before - but the shadows of what they were remain, and you can see that there is still that struggle in each of them.

[War] is instinctive. But the instinct can be fought. We're human beings with the blood of a million savage years on our hands! But we can stop it. We can admit that we're killers...but we're not going to kill...today. That's all it takes! Knowing that we're not going to kill...today!
-- Captain James T Kirk in 'A Taste Of Armageddon'

Jim Kirk could certainly have empathized with Benjamin Sisko over the outcome of In the Pale Moonlight - I'm not sure that Jean-Luc Picard (pre First Contact, anyways) could have.

#111 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 11:43 AM:

Susan @ 103: "One of the myriad things that makes me Angry! Angry! Ångry! about the last seven years is that our differences from China have become quantitative rather than qualitative. We don't - I hope - have the same magnitude of human rights problems, but we've lost the moral high ground. "We're sooty but not as sooty as you!" is a weak defense."

One of the most angering experiences of my adult life has been learning that the difference has always been quantitative. The real change in the last seven years is that we've stopped outsourcing quite as much.

#112 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 11:45 AM:

#103--Susan:

I agree with your conclusions about Ezar--I'm interested in how he ended up capable of seeing that choice as his best choice, but I believe your conclusions on the ethics are correct.

I'm not sure what I make of Cordelia in that--I don't know if she indeed agreed, or was so far through the looking glass from her own worldview that she was taking this sort of thing as a given in Lookingglass-land and was just too overwhelmed to react as she would have in a more familiar environment.

#113 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 11:48 AM:

Susan @ 103... That's why I get all nostalgic when I watch movies like Bridge on the River Kwai.

#114 ::: skaeggo ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 11:50 AM:

So by the standards of 1970 Flash Gordon seemed unsophisticated and Dr Who was great stuff. Today, Dr Who seems unsophisticated and Battlestar Galactica is the good stuff. It's all anecdotal of course, but I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that the average audience in 2040 will find Battlestar Galactica unsophisticated and clumsy compared to what's on then.

#115 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 11:56 AM:

Have the decades since its original broadcast made The Outer Limits unsophisticated? Not to me, but others may feel otherwise.

#116 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 12:00 PM:

Xopher (104) -

I know the white hats in the original BSG were Space!Mormons, but do you think the non-mormon Moore is going to flip the relationship exactly? I'd love to see a little more mormon-y monotheism from the Cylons.

I have a love/hate relationship with the new BSG almost entirely due to their (on the side of love) willingness to show complex human nature, intelligent scripts and some excellent female characters. On the side of "hate" is the lack of gay (although didn't Razor throw in my favorite "evil lesbian" theme? thanks guys) and the super-hot lady/meh dude dichotomy they have going on with the Cylons. Since that's not much different than anything else on TV, I still look forward to new episodes and will watch them gladly, but I do expect a little more out of sci fi shows in the post-Whedon* era.

* a somewhat disturbing outcome of the writers strike are rumors I'd heard of Whedon and Moore getting together and planning something. Which led me to imagine a possible outcome - a show with SF elements, humor, strong women (some of them OMG! OVER 30! - sorry Joss, this is where you fall down)complex morality and maybe even the acknowledgement that Teh Gay exists. I'm starting the letter writing campaign to save this show now.

#117 ::: Mike Adelstein ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 12:01 PM:

NelC #109 - I could help surfing wikipedia on Let That Be Your Last Battlefield and noticed this tidbit (which sheds some color -- no pun intended) on the story:

There is some evidence that this script evolved from Gene Coon's unfilmed first season script A Portrait in Black and White. That particular script also dealt with racial issues, and would have featured Uhura and McCoy trapped on a planet where white people were slaves and black people were the masters. According to David Gerrold, Herbert F. Solow, and the recollections of Gene Coon's widow, Jackie Coon-Fernandez, the Trek production staff worked and reworked the script for nearly three years before it reached its final form.

I guess they kept rewriting it until it was too subtle for a network executive to understand and veto....

#118 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 01:06 PM:

fidelio:

Vs V erpnyy pbeerpgyl, bar bs Pbeqryvn'f ovt pbapreaf va rinqvat Orgna cflpu gerngzrag vf gung vg jbhyq varivgnoyl rkcbfr Rmne'f cybg. Ohg gung chgf ure va gur cbfvgvba bs urycvat pbire hc fbzrguvat yvxr znff zheqre ba gur tebhaqf gung qbar vf qbar naq ng yrnfg gur tbny jnf nppbzcyvfurq. Gur raq whfgvsvrf gur zrnaf nyy gur jnl gb gubhfnaqf bs qrnguf? Gung'f cerggl sne vagb YbbxvatynffYnaq, rfcrpvnyyl sbe n Orgna!

And then there's the whole matter of Bothari, though I guess one can wriggle out of that debate on the grounds that he's clearly mentally ill.

#119 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 01:10 PM:

Can't have a much more morally ambiguous character than the central one in Iain M. Banks's Use of Weapons.

For cultures as a whole, I think you have to look to Joe Haldeman.

#120 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 01:13 PM:

hereisarch:

Perhaps I'm just poorly informed, but I thought the official removal of the qualitative difference was a function of the current administration. I don't expect previous governments' hands were completely clean, and of course there are always abusive individuals, but I don't recall torture and open-ended detention without charges and rendition and suspension of habeas corpus being official government policy before.

Am I wrong? I don't want to be wrong.

#121 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 01:47 PM:

Wanna see some silly/stupid?

Coincidentally, we also happen to own the patent.

A really clever jacket, with LED turn-signals, for cyclists is being shown off. In comes a guy, by complete chance, and says it already exists, and here's the patent number, and "feel free to contact me if you have questions".

This, needless to say, raised some hackles.

But the jacket is way cool. I would love to be able to get one for Maia.

#122 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 01:48 PM:

"Naq nyy uvf jneevbe-fnvagf, ohearq hc gbtrgure gb znxr bar fvatyr tybel"

Pbeqryvn vf sne zber svezyl va gung pbzcnal guna fur erfvqrf va nal fbeg bs

Orgna-arff.

Whfg orpnhfr ur'f gur ivrjcbvag, gung qbrfa'g cerirag vg orvat gur pnfr gung

ZVYRF VF JEBAT NOBHG RIRELGUVAT.

Nurz.

Zvyrf ivrjf bs uvf cneragf (naq bgure eryngvirf) ner rkgerzryl vanpphengr va

vzcbegnag jnlf; vs lbh yvxr Zvyrf, guvf vf orpnhfr vg'f rkgerzryl qvssvphyg gb

punyyratr gur nkvbzf lbh erprvirq nf genvavat nf n irel fznyy puvyq, naq uvf

guerr cevznel vasyhraprf (Pbhag Cvbge, Neny, naq Obgunev) ner, havsbezyl,

qrrcyl rzorqqrq va n phygheny pbagrkg gung vf nf njner bs glcvpny Orgna phygher

nf syngjbezf jbg gurz bs nfgebabzl. Vs lbh qba'g yvxr Zvyrf, guvf vf orpnhfr

gur chful yvggyr zhgnag vf rkgerzryl anepvfgvp naq unfa'g obgurerq gb guvax

nobhg whfg ubj abzvanyyl-orgna-abezny uvf zbgure be zngreany tenaqzbgure ner.

Remne, jryy, ab, abg rivy. Uvf erfcbafvovyvgl vf abg zreryl gb cerirag Fretr

sebz orvat n ernyyl onq naq oybbql rzcrebe; uvf erfcbafvovyvgl gb vf gb qb vg

va n jnl gung znvagnvaf gur yrtvgvznpl bs tbireazrag naq gur cbffvovyvgl bs

crnpr.

Ng gung yriry bs erfcbafvovyvgl, gur pevgrevn vf "yrnfg fhssvpvrag zrnaf", abg

"qvq crbcyr qvr", naq va yrnfg-fhssvpvrag-zrnaf grezf, Remne jnf oevyyvnag.

Fbzr gubhfnaqf qrnq -- abgr gung gur nobegvir Ibeqnevna'f Cergraqrefuvc xvyyrq

zber -- naq gur bqqf bs n fgnoyr crnpr tbg _fb_ zhpu orggre va znal jnlf.

Ehguyrffarff pbagrfgf jvgu byq xvatf, rfcrpvnyyl nrgurvfgvp barf, ner abg n

tbbq cyna.

#123 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 01:58 PM:

Susan 118: gur rkcbfher bs Rmne'f cybg jbhyq unir pnhfrq n uhtr ahzore bs nqqvgvbany qrnguf, vapyhqvat (rfcrpvnyyl) Neny'f. Vg jbhyq unir gbhpurq bss n eriratr-jne jvgu gur Orgnaf naq Rfpbonenaf, jub cebonoyl jbhyqa'g unir fgbccrq hagvy gurl'q pbzcyrgryl fhowhtngrq gur Oneelnenaf--juvpu zrnaf hagvy rirel Oneenlnena Ibe (naq cbffvoyl bguref nf jryy) jrer qrnq.

V guvax fur funerq Neny'f cbvag bs ivrj, juvpu jnf gung Rmne'f novyvgl gb pbaprvir bs znffvir rivy ceriragrq rira jbefr.

Also, what Graydon said.

#124 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 02:15 PM:

Graydon:

I'm not sure why you felt the need to insert a lecture about Miles; I was entirely citing material from Shards of Honor (and possibly Barrayar - not having the books in front of me, I'm not 100% certain what appeared in what book.) Given that Miles was not only not the viewpoint character, he mostly wasn't even born - or even conceived - his opinion of his parents is not especially relevant.

I'm not 100% sure that "least sufficient means" is an accurate description of Ezar's plan. I'm not 100% sure it's not, either. Are you and Xopher seriously arguing that it was not at all morally ambiguous?

#125 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 02:15 PM:

Hmmm... Who told Foglio he could put someone who looks like me in the deadly kitchen of Castle Heterodyne?

#126 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 02:15 PM:

Oh, let's keep it simple.

War is so totally not nice.

And if you're the sort of person, Betan or Barrayaran, who can go off to war, you might not be all that representative of your culture.

#127 ::: Nicole TWN ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 02:32 PM:

Terry@121: that IS some kind of awesome. I wish I were independently wealthy; I'd buy one for every motorcyclist in L.A.

#128 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 02:35 PM:

Pretty much all of the viewpoint that says Cordelia is principally *Betan* in outlook stems from Miles.

It is obviously seriously and possibly completely in error to view Cordelia that way, but this is far and away the most widespread reading of her, including earlier in this thread.

Erzar's objective was "least sufficient means"; he may or may not have achieved this, but we don't have a Culture Mind handy to ask.

I don't see it as morally ambiguous at all.

From one angle, it's unambiguously evil.

From another angle, it's the requirement of his duty, and it would be both evil and sinful to attempt to escape it.

You get to pick which you think ought to have been more important to Erzar, but I don't find this a difficult choice, given the scale of Erzar's responsibility.

#129 ::: Ben Engelsberg ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 03:13 PM:

re: Abi @ 93 & other Firefly posts...

A new Serenity comic book started it's 3-issue run this week, with Joss Whedon writing. Like the series that preceded the Serenity movie, it takes place between the Firefly shows and the Serenity movie, and is therefore not likely to reveal much about the casts history (though you never know)... HOWEVER: In the letters section, Joss Whedon mentions that he is also planning a series of Shepherd Book comics, with Ron Glass. This may pull in a substantial amount of the backstory of the Firefly setting.

#130 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 03:35 PM:

Ben Engelsberg @ 129... I also noticed references to that other Serenity movie. I guess it's not a rumor then. I don't care if it's a D2V release. I want it.

#131 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 03:38 PM:

Ertneqvat Pbeqryvn'f nggrzcg gb nibvq yrggvat bhg Rmen'f cyna guebhtu Orgna gurencl - cneg bs ure qvyrzzn vf gung fur jnfa'g gurer ng gur ortvaavat bs gur cyna, gb gel gb svaq n orggre nygreangvir gb gur zrff. Fur fghzoyrq ba vg unysjnl guebhtu. Fur pbhyq abg fgbc gur cyna, fur pbhyq bayl rvgure rkcbfr vg be uvqr vg.

Ng gur cbvag jurer fur vf nibvqvat gurencl, fur svaqf vg n yrffre rivy gb uvqr gur cyna, naq yrnir gur jne ng vgf pheerag pbapyhfvba, guna gb rkcbfr vg naq fgneg n frpbaq, ybatre, oybbqvre jne.

Gurer ner bayl guerr crbcyr jub xarj gur cyna orsber gur jne. Rmen, jub vf qlvat, Artev, naq Neny, jub bccbfrq gur cyna, naq bayl cnegvpvcngrq orpnhfr ur xarj ur pbhyq oevat vg gb gur yrnfg qrfgehpgvir pbapyhfvba. Vs gur cybg jrer gb orpbzr choyvp, Neny'f ebyr jbhyq znxr uvz n cevzr gnetrg, (fbzrguvat juvpu, va ure nqzvggrqyl ovnfrq ivrj, jbhyq or na vawhfgvpr orpnhfr ur (hafhpprffshyyl) bccbfrq gur cyna), Rmen jbhyq yvxryl qvr orsber orvat oebhtug gb whfgvpr, juvpu jbhyq, sebz Pbeqryvn'f ivrj, yrnir cebcre whfgvpr bayl n cbffvovyvgl sbe Artev.

Ohg nabgure vagrecynargnel jne, xvyyvat lrg zber zvyyvbaf nf pnaaba sbqqre naq vaabpragf va gur pebffsver, jbhyq or gur bayl jnl gb oevat nobhg rira gung whfgvpr. Xrrcvat gur frperg vf n sne yrffre rivy guna gevttrevat n jne gb oevat gubfr guerr zra gb whfgvpr.

#132 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 03:42 PM:

Susan 124: Of course it was morally ambiguous! Choosing the lesser of two evils always is, especially where the lesser evil is itself a huge one—in this case greater than any (perhaps even all) the evil an average person encounters in a lifetime.

#133 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 03:58 PM:

Serge @ 125: If you look anything like Agatha, then I am proud to be your new friend.

Women wearing glasses got to stick together.

#134 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 04:02 PM:

Graydon #122:

A whole post rot-13'ed. Before decoding, I wondered if it was encoded spam. For all I know, it could have been. "Schrodinger's Spam"* anyone?

W.R.T. the actual content, my reading was of 'the lesser of evils', but I hope I never have to make that sort of decision.

I'm, currently reading the new Iain M. Banls, "Matter", wherein characters & situations are most definitely not unambiguous.

*This is not encouragement to use rot13 or other encoding as a tactic for getting past spam-filters.

#135 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 04:15 PM:

Ginger @ 133... Ahem... My wife says that the bearded guy behind Agatha does look like me, with the same uncombed hair, but she had to be mean so she pointed out that mine hasn't been this black in 15 years.

#136 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 04:25 PM:

Serge @ 135: Oh. Darn. I mean, wow! Moloch is cute too! And at least you have hair, even if it isn't the same color anymore...

#137 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 04:31 PM:

Ginger @ 136... And there is less of it. Oh well. By the way, when Foglio came on stage to emcee to 2006 worldcon's masquerade, do you know what my wife said?

"OhmyGod! He looks like one of his characters!"

#138 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 04:42 PM:

Serge @ 137: Does he look like one of the Jaegers?

;-)

#139 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 05:07 PM:

re the sidelight postings on short stories,

I for one like to read short stories partly because I sometimes don't have time for long ones. But I feel that if you have too much emphasis on "you've got to have a quick hook," that can cheapen things. For instance, I sometimes see the poetry slams. I feel they motivate a certain kind of style which assumes the audience has a short attention span and jumps out at them right away. This can turn a person into a sort of a cross between a poet and a sideshow barker. This is not a bad style, but if it's the only way of working that you know, you will be limited as a poet.

#140 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 05:12 PM:

Graydon @122 Uvf erfcbafvovyvgl vf abg zreryl gb cerirag Fretr sebz orvat n ernyyl onq naq oybbql rzcrebe

I think you mean Prince Serg, rather than Serge, but it's not anything to Fret about.

#141 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 05:15 PM:

Graydon:

Pretty much all of the viewpoint that says Cordelia is principally *Betan* in outlook stems from Miles.

Um...maybe it does for you, but please don't make that assumption about me. I find that the two books told from her viewpoint give a better perspective on her outlook - especially when she was first changing cultures - than her son's secondhand reporting twenty years later does.

#142 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 05:19 PM:

Xopher: then I'm not sure how we disagree, except that like Graydon you seem to think I'm taking my ideas from what Miles thinks of his mother, which isn't the case. My original comment was that it was "charcoal gray", which I think is appropriate to a lesser-of-two-great-evils choice, especially one I'm not sure is the lesser of two evils.

Would like to say more, but I have to drop this thread for now as my ride to Lunacon is ringing the doorbell. Sorry!

#143 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 05:31 PM:

Is it true that Bujold's Shards of Honor originally was a Star Trek novel, with Cordelia from the Federation, and Miles's dad a Romulan?

#144 ::: PhilPalmer ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 05:34 PM:

A little Open Thread item here:

Is it just me or do all the big bank failures have names that should have been a clue? Bear Stearns has initials BS. Barings might be said to have lost their bearings. Northern Rock puns much too easily to Northern Crock. And in the 80s the UK Midland Bank bought a Californian outfit called Crocker, which was.

#145 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 05:36 PM:

Neil Willcox(140) and Graydon(122)... I see myself more as a benevolent dictator who'd see to it that sanguine spillage is kept to a minimum.

#146 ::: Don Simpson ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 05:48 PM:

@41 Wilcox -- Vacuum tube technology was getting pretty advanced before it (mostly) died. I remember the matchbook sized hearing aids with several tiny vactubes inside, and the plans for little ceramic blocks containing _lots_ of micro-sized vacuum chambers. Then transistors appeared....

BSG -- In the episodes I've seen, when Cylons are dealing with humans they seem creepy and sinister, and way outclassing the humans. But in the scenes where Cylons are talking to each other, they act dopey and clueless. am I missing something here?

Firefly -- the show's universe strikes me as very like the pulp magazine science fiction solar system, but without aliens. And those drew on the pulp western, oriental adventure, airplane adventure, etc. stories. Which drew on historical and news stories of debatable veracity (and, largely, on each other). There were once a lot of people with little boats or old cargo planes moving stuff around South America, Asia, and other edges of the world....

#147 ::: Don Simpson ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 05:52 PM:

Serge @ 137 -- Foglio _is_ one of his characters.

#148 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 06:00 PM:

#121, Terry -

Yeah, if that guy wasn't trying to imply that "you should shut up, you're stealing our idea" he was spectacularly bad at saying, "hey, you can buy one from us!" I notice he's apparently got two posts in the discussion that have been deleted by someone.

Regarding the jacket itself, I'm wondering if a line of LEDs from shoulder to elbow along the back of the arm would be effective/feasable to wire. For some reason I think they'd be more visible that way. Of course, the design as-is could possibly be made to take up more of the back, which would work.

Are you techy at all? They did make it with an Arduino, so theoretically it is something that is DIY.

As someone who is too chicken to bicycle to work but wants to, things like this fascinate me.

#149 ::: Tom Courtney ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 06:07 PM:

A fair amount of golden age science fiction doesn't have real bad guys. In the Foundation trilogy, for example, everything's a psychohistorical force, rather than good and evil. Lots of Heinlein's shorter stuff (The Man Who Travelled in Elephants and Waldo both come to mind), it's more about one person's condition than good vs. evil. In Murray Leinster's First Contact, I think the presumption is that everyone's a good guy.

#150 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 06:19 PM:

#144

Crocker was one of the 'old' banks in San Francisco. I'd wondered where they disappeared to: the last I'd noticed, they were 'Crocker Citizens'. (Before that, they'd been 'Crocker Anglo' for a long time.)

#151 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 06:43 PM:

I don't think rot-13ing the entire text is a functional way to defeat spam filters, unless I know someone, and expect them to be sending encrypted text, I'll just bin it.

#152 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 06:44 PM:

Dave@43: (vacuum tube video)

That is fricken awesome. You realize that you just added two more stalls to my "dream garage" so I have room for a vacuum pump and glass

blowing? (I had dedicated one stall to a mill, so that's already taken care of.)

Various@various: (Firefly morality)

My take on Mal versus the Alliance and their morality is that Mal was a Lawful Good character who found the Law had become Evil with the

Alliance. At which point, he choose Good over Law.

Mal has a clear reading of his moral compass and is bound by that more than anything else. He holds his word, his promises, as a direct

reflection of his integrity. The rest of his crew are more pragmatic than moral (with Jayne being the far extreme of that), but even when Jayne betrays the crew, Mal gets Jayne to glimpse in the mirror, to see his own compass, and Jayne expresses remorse in his own way.



#153 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 06:45 PM:

Gah, stupid carriage returns!

#154 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 06:52 PM:

R.M. Koske: I could do it myself, but hey, if someone who figured it out is willing to do it, and so avoid the pitfalls of my trying to figure it out...

It seems they have switches to activate, etc. I'll have to go see about the comments, I've not followed up since I made mine.

#155 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 07:03 PM:

I remember reading that the first two books, in-chronology, of the Vorkosigans are essentially Cordelia changing-- the books go from her Betan ideals to willing to bend them to willing to break them. Her dilemmas are based on the conflict between Good and Lawful, like Greg London says of Mal's (I am going to steal that a lot, by the way) as well as between Love and Duty to some extent.

I also think it's interesting that a great portion of her problems when coming back to Betan society stem from the Betans' unwillingness to consider her as an *actor*, rather than a victim, and that the only thing she was lauded for doing, she didn't.

Regarding Miles, I can say little; I've read the books only once each, and it wasn't until a while after A Civil Campaign that it occurred to me that he might be lying.

A request for rot13ing: if you must encrypt an entire post, could you put in a subject line, please?

#156 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 07:09 PM:

heresiarch@106

According to the movie (at least the shooting script), the settlement of Miranda appears to have been just before the war.

Kaylee: Some years back, before the war. There was call for workers to settle on Miranda, my daddy talked about going.

It isn't entirely clear whether the disaster that created the Reavers (another botched grand scheme) was before or after the war started. My thought is just before the war, with any attempt to solve the problem of the Reavers being postponed by the war.

The Alliance seems to have a habit of trying to implement grand plans without first checking them against reality.

Almost makes one wonder if they resurrected our current president and put him in charge of strategic planning. :-)

#157 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 07:10 PM:

Don Simpson @ 147... Foglio _is_ one of his characters

I thought that maybe he was many of them - simultaneously.

#158 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 07:20 PM:

#154, Terry -

I understand completely about being willing to pay to avoid the learning curve. :)

#159 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 08:18 PM:

@75 and thereabouts: Ezar Vorbarra!! Finally! For days, I've been trying to come up with the source of the quote, "I'm an atheist. It's a simple faith, but a great comfort in my later years."

Ezar -- definitely a Good Guy, but with all the humanity with which Bujold regularly imbues her characters. I love that series.

I had a wacky idea a few months ago, and I'm glad this reminded me -- I wanted to do some pencil drawings of scenes on Barrayar. Nobody has, you see. Wouldn't some pictures of Vorbarr Sultana be cool?

#160 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 08:37 PM:

I just heard an absolutely brilliant cover of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." (Link is to a MySpace Music page; the usual caveats and PITAs apply.) The Beatles did it as a simple pop love song; Children of Glass does it as a lament; the narrator of the song has no real hope of ever holding hir beloved's hand.

Or maybe I'm reading in, because that's how I feel about my own alleged boyfriend right now. Someone want to give it a listen and let me know?

#161 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 08:38 PM:

Michael 159: That would be VERY cool.

#162 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 08:53 PM:

On the "medieval fanfic" particle: Divine Comedy, anyone? Also the bazillions of Perceval continuations, not to mention the entire Prose Vulgate.

Xopher, 160: Ouch. That's either exactly what I needed, or not what I needed at all. (IOW, jobhunting in my field is like dating, and while I've had some nice dates, nobody wants to marry me. Especially not the dreamboat I fell hard for.)

#163 ::: Scott Wyngarden ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 09:06 PM:

Xopher @ 160:

That's from the Across the Universe, the musical with Beatles covers that came out last year, and you have the interpretation nailed.

If I remember how the scene was shot, the singer was watching the football team and cheerleaders practice. At first, the audience is supposed to think she's singing to and pining for the quarterback, but slowly the realization comes that she's all in for the cheerleader. Since the movie's set in the 60's, she (the singer) doesn't have a hope of holding her hand (the cheerleader's).

#164 ::: y ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 09:07 PM:

Wasn't Ezar the one who went to his deathbed fervently praying that there might be no deity?

One of the nice touches in the Vorkosigan books is that it's the liberals who are religious, and the conservatives who are the atheists.

#165 ::: Sebastian ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 09:12 PM:

US detains 'top al-Qaeda figure'.

I'm not sure whether this one is properly filed under "We have top men working on it now... top men." or "al-Qaeda number three detained".

#166 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 09:22 PM:

A question for those who've read James Hilton's Goodbye Mr. Chips, and who might have seen the movie versions... Which rendition of Chipping was closest to the book's? Robert Donat's, or Peter O'Toole's?

#167 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 10:08 PM:

Scott 163: So the one I pointed to is a cover of the interpretation from the movie, not a new original interpretation? How disappointing.

#168 ::: Scott Wyngarden ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 10:21 PM:

Xopher, to me it sounds exactly the same as the version sung by T.V. Carpio in the movie.

#169 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 10:22 PM:

Oh, well. At least the girl can sing. She probably never heard the Beatles version. :-(

#170 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 10:29 PM:

Why wouldn't she have heard the Beatles version? I know nothing of the actress at all; is there something I am missing? Because if it's youth, we have recordings, and I at least am earwormed like mad. And it's mashing itself into other songs, so I can't even force the last chorus and end it.

#171 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 10:34 PM:

No, I mean the girl in Children of Glass who sings it where I linked it. I know it's hard to believe, but some of the under-20 set really have never listened to the Beatles at all. But she may have heard their version; the point is, she clearly got this interpretation from the movie. I had thought Children of Glass was pulling off something amazing by reinterpreting this classic in a way that not only respects it, but adds to its poignancy. But they were just copying someone else who did that instead.

The reason this matters to me is that some of the people in CoG are my friends. I was all ready to be massively impressed.

#172 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 10:40 PM:

Don #146: If nobody had invented the transistor, I wonder if we'd have seen *linear* progress in computers/electronics over time--like gasoline engines in OTL, getting more efficient and reliable little by little, but with change happening at a non-revolutionary pace. Bring a pocket calculator from 1985 to that time line, and it will look like alien tech or magic[1].

And *that* makes me wonder what similarly wonderful technological steps we've missed--maybe in the next time line over, they've got clunky, primitive vacuum-tube-based electronics powered by batteries with energy storage densities considerably better than kerosene offers.

[1] I don't know why I'm obsessed with time travel pranks involving calculators. Some people juggle geese....

#173 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 10:42 PM:

Graydon (et al) on Cordelia as not-really-Betan: does being Betan exclude being diplomatic? AFAIR, she shows herself most truly (i.e., at a point where she can freely choose instead of having to cope) when she tells the Koudelka parents where to get off and why (in the middle of A Civil Campaign. Are some readers projecting their particular ideas of utopia onto their view of Beta, instead of what Bujold has told us? Do the Betans themselves have an insufficiently broad view of the universe?

#174 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 10:43 PM:

Nicole TWN @108:

See, this is why I always got mediocre grades on my term papers in college: I chose theses that were only marginally defensible.

On the topic of bad actions and long-term effects:

While both Ned killing [redacted*] and Chuck going on the cruise did end up having long term effects, I would argue that neither of them are bad actions. Bad DECISIONS, yes, but they were too inspired by naivete to really be a consciously bad act. So, uh, they don't count. Olive's ..indiscretion.. does count, but aside from the pining away she doesn't seem to dislike her new career. Her previous one was way more awesome, though, I'll give you that.

On the evilness of villains:

I would say that the villain in Dummy is bat-shit insane... but you're right on that, he is a truly bad one. And the Balsams and the bitches are definitely not good people either.

Everyone except the Balsam sister ends up with fairy tale retribution to balance their evil, though. (What happens to her is a little harsh to be fairy tale, I think. Or at least her reaction to it makes it so.)

Ned's father doesn't ever seem to get punished, but I would argue that he's in the same category as the villain in the pilot. The person we see through Ned's eyes is characterized primarily by his ABSENSE, and that makes him not actually a character. Just a dad-shaped hole.

On the temperament of reanimated victims:

I dunno, I kinda like that reanimated dead people on Torchwood freak the fuck out until you run out of time. Much less helpful and plot-moving, but more emotionally connecting. I like that on Torchwood, I can see the characters trying to figure out if letting this person die again is mercy or just further torture. Which one is worse: being killed, being dead, being alive again and thinking you're still in the middle of being killed.... or being dead AGAIN?

I guess having Ned be reluctant to waken the dead wouldn't really contribute to the plot at all, so I can see why the mechanics of the thing don't involve inflicting horrible pain and fear on the recently dead, but still... Much less emotional connection for me. Less of a sense that being dead, or being KILLED, is a significant event.

*Although doesn't that show up as part of the premise rather than part of the plot and thus is not a spoiler?

#175 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 10:43 PM:

Graydon (et al) on Cordelia as not-really-Betan: does being Betan exclude being diplomatic? AFAIR, she shows herself most truly (i.e., at a point where she can freely choose instead of having to cope) when she tells the Koudelka parents where to get off and why (in the middle of A Civil Campaign. Are some readers projecting their particular ideas of utopia onto their view of Beta, instead of what Bujold has told us? Do the Betans themselves have an insufficiently broad view of the universe?

#176 ::: Scott Wyngarden ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 10:51 PM:

Being friends with some band members, you're in a better position than I to know about Children of Glass' recording of the song, Xopher, but when I said it sounds exactly like the movie version, I meant exactly. I played my mp3 of the soundtrack song a second or so ahead* of the CoG version and to my ear they're identical, including every bit of the vocals.

I do hope that my ears are playing tricks on me, because if they are, that's an excellent bit of sincere flattery.

__

*I couldn't get them to play synchronously, so I tried to keep them close together and really listen to distinctive elements.

#177 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 11:06 PM:

Heresiarch #106:

Well, their technology just flat didn't make sense. Their medicine mostly looks like ours, slightly extrapolated. Similarly, most personal weapons are very limited, which might be some kind of gun control, except that the Browncoats appeared to be shooting guns no better than Vera. There's one use of armor by the crew in the series, despite the fact that they're constantly getting shot at and that armor is available which apparently stops all the available guns' bullets. Even someone as clueless about combat as I am could see how bad their preparation for fights usually was, despite the idea that two of the crew are combat vets who survived in pretty much impossible conditions. Their medical technology looks like ours in about thirty years. Their computers aren't much better than what we have. The worlds were settled by a joint Chinese/American group, and yet I don't recall if we've ever seen any Chinese wandering around. Etc.

Plus, there are godawful plot holes in the movie.

n. Gurl unir erzbgr pbzzhavpngvbaf fhssvpvrag gb pbzzhavpngr ivn ernygvzr ivqrb npebff ybat qvfgnaprf (juvpu vzcyvrf SGY pbzzhavpngvbaf), lrg gurl qba'g genafzvg gur ivqrb pbagragf gurl svaq ba Zvenaqn gb Ze Havirefr be nalbar ryfr. Abe qb gurl yrnir Zvenaqn (gur Nyyvnapr nccrnef abg gb xabj gurl jrer gurer) naq urnq gb fbzr pbzcyrgryl qvssrerag, harkcrpgrq cynpr sebz juvpu gurl pna unaq bhg gur uhaqerq pbcvrf bs gur qvfp gurl znqr, nsgre genafzvggvat vg.

o. Lbh pna vzntvar gur ngzbfcurevp nqqvgvir univat gur rssrpg bs znxvat Erniref, vs vg'f n ener rabhtu rssrpg--gurl zvtug unir gevrq vg ba n pbhcyr gubhfnaq crbcyr, ohg vs bayl 1/10000 vf nssrpgrq gung jnl, gurl zvtug abg unir pnhtug vg. Ohg gurl unir gb unir gevrq gur nqqvgvir ba ng yrnfg n srj fhowrpgf, whfg gb trg gur qbfvat evtug naq svther bhg jung'f tbvat ba. V pna'g frr ubj gurl'q snvy gb erpbtavmr gung gurve grfg fhowrpgf ybfg vagrerfg va yvsr naq dhvrgyl ynl qbja naq jnvgrq gb qvr.

p. Naq znal bguref--Zvenaqn vf hathneqrq, abg rira zvarq, qrfcvgr gur guerng vg cbfrf gb gur Nyyvnapr; Abar bs Freravgl'f perj ybbgf gur uhtr ninvynoyr jrnygu ylvat nebhaq ba Zvenaqn, qrfcvgr orvat cbbe nf puhepu zvpr, arrqvat fcner cnegf, rgp. Cynprf evpu rabhtu gb unir n inhyg shyy bs cnl sbe gur zrepranevrf cebgrpgvat gurz pna'g nssbeq enqne gb tvir gura jneavat bs Ernire envqf (be nagv-nvepensg thaf gb fubbg gurz qbja).

Don't misunderstand me--I enjoyed the series (more than the movie, alas), but like the Star Trek franchise, they had some pretty big gaps in their world building, occasional truck-shaped plot holes, etc.

#178 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 11:12 PM:

Greg #152: Yeah, Mal has the weird thing going on where he basically won't kill anyone unless he has to--even leaving people alive who did pretty nasty stuff to him. I think Inara and Simon have internal moral compasses as strong, and that Book tries to, but is being encouraged to backslide by his environment.

#179 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 11:14 PM:

Albatross, #177: oh, yeah. Personally, I like Robin McKinley's take on some of Whedon's material better than the original. And, besides, it may be the only seriously pagan vampire novel ever.

#180 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 11:47 PM:

Scott 176: You mean CoG took the mp3 from the soundtrack and passed it off as theirs, or the singer is just doing a note-for-note and expression-for-expression imitation of the original?

#181 ::: Scott Wyngarden ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2008, 11:54 PM:

Xopher, I'm saying that to me it sounds like they're passing off the work of others as theirs. I'm admitting that I could be wrong or allowing that it could be an exceptional imitation, but I don't believe either to be true.

#182 ::: Tehanu ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 12:07 AM:

#74--Susan: was Ezar Vorbarra a good guy or a bad guy, given the plans laid down in green silk rooms?

I was just trying to say that "good guy" and "bad guy" aren't really useful, or even justified, ways of looking at real humans. It's fine in a popcorn movie, or if you're fighting Nazis, but one of the reasons I value the Vorkosigan books so much is that there's very little of that in them. There are people who do bad things and good things, and even if the balance is almost all on one side, the label doesn't always fit.

I don't know how to unscramble the scrambled, by the way, so I couldn't read some of your comments (later).

#183 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 12:52 AM:

Tehanu, rot13.com has a de-rot13ing box. You can go either direction, to encrypt or decrypt.

#184 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 01:23 AM:

Susan @ 120: "Perhaps I'm just poorly informed, but I thought the official removal of the qualitative difference was a function of the current administration. I don't expect previous governments' hands were completely clean, and of course there are always abusive individuals, but I don't recall torture and open-ended detention without charges and rendition and suspension of habeas corpus being official government policy before."

Official government policy? Well, no. Like I said before: the major change the Bush administration has pushed through has been reducing the amount of outsourcing we do. Back in the day, if we wanted to knock over an uncooperative developing-world government, we'd leave most of the work to locals. Sure, we'd train them in torture interrogation techniques, give them economic advice, and send them military materiel, but the Americans onsite would be limited to a few nameless CIA operatives. We'd give them the manual, but they'd mostly do the torturing interrogating themselves. Much cleaner that way. Denials are much more plausible. And certainly we'd never do it to American citizens. In turning the apparatus of oppression on the U.S., this administration has broken new ground.*

So if the fact that, rather than doing the dirty work ourselves, we supported and trained others to do it, seems like a clear moral distinction to you, then you can say this administration has qualitatively worsened America's behavior. To me, paying others to keep your hands clean is a sign of moral cowardice, not of any sort of grace.

*Though not entirely. Nixon, you know.

#185 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 01:31 AM:

OK, I found out what's going on with the song. Someone's kid brother uploaded the song to the wrong page. The group wasn't INTENTIONALLY passing T. V. Carpio's version off as their own. My friend in the band was horrified when I told him, and took it down right away.

#186 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 01:33 AM:

My apologies, and you can imagine MY embarrassment.

#187 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 01:35 AM:

(comment topics separated by amusement value)

Neil Willcox @ 140: "I think you mean Prince Serg, rather than Serge, but it's not anything to Fret about."

I heart ROT-13 puns.

Serge @ 145: "I see myself more as a benevolent dictator who'd see to it that sanguine spillage is kept to a minimum."

So, a kiddy-pool for you to bathe in, rather than olympic-length?

#188 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 01:44 AM:

Isn't one of the regulars here a resident of metro Atlanta? We've had some tornados (mostly downtown, I think), and while it seems to be primarily property damage, there are casualties and it would still be nice to hear that everyone's all right.

#189 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 02:39 AM:

Don at #147: Regarding Phil Foglio, Alex Eisenstein once told me "It's amazing how much you resemble your caricature."

I didn't find it amazing, because why else does caricature exist?

Nevertheless, he had a point.

(Phil is indeed literally one of his own characters, in the sense that the guy with the bowler hat has appeared in his cartoons since the earliest ones I have seen, in the mid-Seventies. He is a co-star of the Dragon feature "What's New with Phil and Dixie," now collected into two books.)

#190 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 02:57 AM:

albatross @ 177: Hmm. I can think of explanations for most of the things that you see as world-building problems, though your criticisms of the movie are depressingly accurate.

"Their medicine mostly looks like ours, slightly extrapolated."

Well, I thought that some of the tech exhibited on Ariel was pretty sophisticated (the brain scanny thingie). More to the point, though, most of what we see happening is happening in primitive medical environments. We don't know what they're getting injected with, or how different it is from the stuff we have now. Taking a pill doesn't imply much about the technology that went into making that pill. Since what we see is basically emergency medicine with limited supplies, it's hard to make any claims about the medicine in the core worlds--and when we do see it, it is substantially more sophisticated.

"Similarly, most personal weapons are very limited, which might be some kind of gun control, except that the Browncoats appeared to be shooting guns no better than Vera."

Again, what we're talking about isn't the highest tech available; what we're talking about is the stuff that average, poor-ass settlers have. More advanced stuff exists--the laser in Heart of Gold, and the Lassiter they steal seems to indicate that energy weapons do exist; they're just expensive and unreliable. Gunpowder is simple, reliable and inexpensive tech: it's not terribly surprising that it would remain a stand-by, especially in frontier regions.

"Even someone as clueless about combat as I am could see how bad their preparation for fights usually was, despite the idea that two of the crew are combat vets who survived in pretty much impossible conditions."

This isn't as much about world-building as it is about story-telling. The simple fact of the matter is that delivering a clever quip right before bashing your opponent over the head is incredibly stupid, but nonetheless, it's much more fun to watch. So, no, the combat in Firefly isn't super-duper realistic--if it were, it would be confusing and boring. Ditto every movie ever made.

"The worlds were settled by a joint Chinese/American group, and yet I don't recall if we've ever seen any Chinese wandering around."

They're in the background every once in while, but it's true that the cast itself is pretty white for a theoretically half and half population. I suspect this is more a Hollywood thing than a Firefly thing, though.

It's strange, but most of the things you see as crappy world-building are exactly what I like about the show. The future is poorly distributed, and Firefly reflects this: the idea that everyone everywhere uses the very most cutting-edge tech is, really, quite silly. People living on the edge use the tech they need, not the tech they wish they had. Why use difficult-to-maintain and expensive energy weapons when bullets kill just as fast and far more cheaply? They use chopsticks to eat too, you know. Shouldn't they be using future-sticks?

That said, several of the plotholes you point out are pretty heinous.

#191 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 04:48 AM:

Bill @ 189: Three volumes, actually; the third is subtitled The Magic Years and collects the strips from The Duelist. For some reason the third volume is not on sale at Studio Foglio's online store.

#192 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 07:17 AM:

@ 187... So, a kiddy-pool for you to bathe in, rather than olympic-length?

Yes, of course. One must show restraint. Besides, I can't swim.

#193 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 07:20 AM:

BillHiggins @ 189... the guy with the bowler hat

Ah, yes... I remember the comic strips where he had to deal with convention security forces who liked to dress like Dorsai mercenaries.

#194 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 07:24 AM:

ROT13 suggestion: Maybe the hosts could add a note to one of the sidebars with a brief explanation (if you see lines of 'gibberish', it is likely encrypted with ROT13 so people who haven't read the book or seen the show/movie won't have plot details spoiled for them), along with links for rot13.com, the leetkey extension for Firefox, and any others that might be useful.

By the way, on another thread someone suggesting setting up a hotkey for leetkey's rot13 encoder/decoder: thanks! That's been very helpful.

#195 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 07:25 AM:

heresiarch @ 190... the things you see as crappy world-building are exactly what I like about the show.

Same for me. And here I give a hoot about the characters, who are in the process of building a family.

#196 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 08:19 AM:

someone suggesting setting up a hotkey for leetkey's rot13 encoder/decoder: thanks! That's been very helpful.

Slaps forehead... mutters something about getting slow in my old age. And F13 was sitting there doing nothing, too.

#197 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 08:33 AM:

Apparently the damage in Atlanta is from only one tornado, and this morning's news said there were no fatalities.

There was one particularly amazing happening, to me - A four-story brick mill building which had been renovated into apartments was one of the buildings hit. The section that was directly hit wasn't completely renovated, so out of about 120 units, only 17 were rented out. The top floor of the building was knocked in on itself by the tornado, and the weight collapsed every floor below it. All the apartments were destroyed, all the way to ground level.

No one was home. Seventeen different people (at least) chose last night to be out. It seems unlikely to me that anyone would have survived if they'd been home, because the traditional "go to safety" advice wouldn't have led residents to head to a safe enough spot. Wow.

Also of interest, the SEC basketball series that is being played in Atlanta may continue in a Georgia Tech facility with no fans allowed for any of the remaining games. I guess the available facility is too small for the numbers they expect, and they don't want to have to run some kind of lottery. I wonder if the lack of fans will change the teams' play enough to affect the outcome?

#198 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 09:02 AM:

heresiarch @ 184... if the fact that, rather than doing the dirty work ourselves, we supported and trained others to do it, seems like a clear moral distinction to you, then you can say this administration has qualitatively worsened America's behavior.

What does it say about a people when the stories it defined itself by aren't very believable anymore? What does it say about a people when it's willing to throw those old stories out and replace them with stories that define it as ruthless and without any decency?

#199 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 09:15 AM:

albatross@177

Some notes on some of the rot-13d remarks.

1) Nobhg gur nqqvgvir. Zl thrff vf gung bar bs gjb guvatf unccrarq. Rvgure gurl npghnyyl qvq gel bhg gur nqqvgvir jvgubhg fznyy-fpnyr cergrfgvat be ceboyrzf va gur cergrfgvat fvzcyl jrer vtaberq (va rvgure pnfr orpnhfr fbzrbar uvtu hc jnf fher vg jnf tbvat gb jbex). Vqvbgvp, ohg guvatf yvxr gung qb unccra.

(Zl qnq bapr gbyq zr nobhg n pbzzhavpngvbaf flfgrz gung (VVEP) jnf vagraqrq gb uryc pbbeqvangr aniny thasver va fhccbeg bs gebbcf bafuber. Gur cergrfgvat vaqvpngrq gung gur flfgrz jnf synjrq naq zvtug yrnq gb thasver orvat nppvqragnyyl pnyyrq ba bhe bja gebbcf. Gur flfgrz jnf qrcyblrq naljnl naq gur ceboyrzf fhttrfgrq va cergrfgvat npghnyyl unccrarq.)

2) Zvenaqn VF thneqrq. Gurer ner ynetr ahzoref bs Erniref va orgjrra Zvenaqn naq nal vaunovgrq cynargf. Rira n shyyl nezrq Nyyvnapr syrrg jbhyq unir gebhoyr trggvat gb Zvenaqn.

3) Gur cynpr vfa'g evpu. Gur inhyg vf bjarq ol gur frphevgl pbzcnal naq gur zbarl vf gur srr gur Nyyvnapr cnlf gur frphevgl pbzcnal. Cebonoyl nalguvat yvxr enqne naq nagvnvepensg thaf zhfg or nccebirq ol gur ubzr bssvpr bs gur pbzcnal. Naq fvapr gur ubzr bssvpr yvxryl qbrfa'g oryvrir gung Erniref rkvfg, gurl nera'g tbvat gb nccebir rkcraqvgherf vagraqrq gb cebgrpg ntnvafg gurz. Rfcrpvnyyl fvapr fhpu rkcraqvgherf phg vagb cebsvgf.

#200 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 09:22 AM:

194: Or maybe, on the sidebar, a link to a comprehensive post about ROT13.

#201 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 09:29 AM:

R.M. Koske @ 188:

I'm in Atlanta and I didn't even know there was a tornado until Saturday a.m. However, I think Fragano teaches downtown (GSU?) which is much closer to the drama. Fragano? You out there?

Open-thready:

I went and saw Doomsday last night and it was so good it made my naughty bits tingle. If your favorite things list includes Aliens, Escape From New York or The Road Warrior / MMII then I recommend it unreservedly. The main bad guy (Sol), in particular, is jaw-droppingly great. Also, I had a lot of fun playing spot the homage[1]. It's not for the squeamish though.



[1] "Hey, isn't that John Carpenter's title font?"

#202 ::: Joel ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 10:41 AM:

heresiarch @ 190: I heard from an insider that River and Simon were originally Chinese characters, having fled from the core worlds, which would have been ethnic Chinese. By implication I guess the Navy would have been Chinese and the war would have had a very different cast. Hollywood, as you guessed, balked.

#203 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 10:47 AM:

Bill Higgins -- # 189 --

Hmm, I must be looking at the wrong pictures --

The character in the old-school boys is wearing a straw boater (http://millerhats.com/boater_index/boater.html), as opposed to a "bowler" (http://www.hatsinthebelfry.com/page/H/PROD/derby_bowler_hats/ch20)

At one point I actually owned a white seersucker suit, with thin pinstripes, and on a whim I got shirt garters and a boater to complete the image.



At several conventions it was a running effort to convince people that yes, it really was made of straw, and no, I would not take a bite out of the brim.

#204 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 11:06 AM:

Joel @ 202: Summer Glau is at least plausibly mixed race. Sean Maher is, well...not blond!

#205 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 11:28 AM:

albatross@178: . I think Inara and Simon have internal moral compasses as strong,

Simon unwaveringly follows his compass, so long as it has anything remotely to do with his sister. The signal seems to get weaker when dealing with other subjects though. On at least one occaision that I can remember, involving some bad guy threatening Simon, I think Simon showed indecisiveness, which I took to mean he wasn't sure if he could trust his own compass or not.

I think Bones from Star Trek is what Simon would look like with certainty of his moral compass. Bones didn't stammer. Simon hasn't gotten there yet.

Inara was sort of the same. She had absolute clarity that her compass pointed in the direction of "Being a Companion is Morally Good." Except, during scenes where Mal would tell her to stop her "whoring", and she'd not know what to say. I took those scenes to mean that she would doubt her own compass at that point. Or she was unable to reconcile that it pointed in two mutually exclusive directions, being a companion and being with Mal.

Inara was a Hooker with a Heart of Gold archetype. She would have achieved the same level of certainty as Mal has when Mal would show up with a limo and sweep her off her Pretty Woman feet. Or if Mal recalibrated his compass and accepted Inara as a Companion.

and that Book tries to, but is being encouraged to backslide by his environment.

I always saw Book as the Penatant Character. Someone with a dark past, who did something that he later came to realize was absolutely morally wrong, and goes to the opposite extreme in an attempt to repent for it.

I was never convinced that Book had ever completely forgiven himself though, that he had ever achieved his form of repentance.

Book would be some sort of Dark Character Reformed to Good archetype, and bring along all the internal conflict stuff that comes from having that dark past that you can never undo, from having a past that would immediately make you an outsider as soon as you revealed it.

A bit of Whorf from Star Trek, except his "past" is immediately obvious as soon as you see him. Or maybe some of Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Hm. Can't think of a really good example right now.

Jayne is a Hired Gun with a Heart of Gold. Pick any Clint Eastwood movie where the mercenary hired gun comes into town and does the right thing. He isn't quite as clear on that Heart of Gold part, but it's there.

Actually, I think the whole crew can be described with a "______ with a heart of gold" label, which, I think, is ultimately what was appealing about the show. You look at the crew and can say "these are fundamentally Good people trying to find their way".



#206 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 11:46 AM:

albatross@177: Even someone as clueless about combat as I am could see how bad their preparation for fights usually was, despite the idea that two of the crew are combat vets who survived in pretty much impossible conditions.

I don't think the Firefly universe operates on strict military principles. There is definitely a lot of handwavium going on to make things line up.

The Reavers being the biggest handwave in the story: (rot13 link)

Gur Erniref jrer pnzcrq bhg nebhaq gur bar cynarg gung unq perngrq gurz, rkcnaqvat bire gur gra lrnef sebz gur cbvag jurer Zvenaqn pbyyncfrq naq gur cerfrag cbvag va gvzr va gur fgbel. Jura Erniref fgnegrq, Ernire cbchyngvba jnf fbzrguvat yvxr 10% bs gur cbchyngvba bs n whfg-fgnegvat-gb-or-pbybavmrq cynarg.

Zrnajuvyr, gur Nyyvnapr vf noyr gb znvagnva pbageby bire n uhtr yvfg bs cynargf, jvgu cbchyngvbaf sne bhgahzorevat gur gbgny ahzore bs Erniref.

Lrg, gur Nyyvnapr jnf hanoyr gb xvyy bss gur Erniref, naq vafgrnq unq gb frggyr sbe pbirevat hc jung perngrq gur Erniref va gur svefg cynpr, naq ubcr gung gur Erniref jbhyq erznva fgebat rabhtu gb cerirag nalbar sebz rire trggvat gb gru fhesnpr bs Zvenaqn naq svaqvat gur erpbeqvat sebz gur penfurq fuvc.

Lrg, jura gur Nyyvnapr jnf chefhvat Zny naq uvf perj va na nggrzcg gb xvyy be pncgher/ercebtenz Evire, gur Nyyvnapr frag na neznqn bs fuvcf ynetr rabhtu gb orng onpx gur Erniref nebhaq gur cynarg, sbyybj Zny gb gur fhesnpr, naq ynaq gebbcf gb chefhr Evire naq Zny'f perj.

Vs gur Erniref jrer fhpu n greevoyr frperg, naq gur Nyyvnapr unq gur svercbjre gb pbageby fb znal cynargf, gurl pbhyq unir rnfvyl jvcrq bhg gur Erniref 10 lrnef ntb naq xrcg gur frperg n frperg sberire ol qrfgeblvat gur rivqrapr. Vs gur Nyyvnapr unq gur svercbjre gb crargengr Ernire fcnpr jura chefhvat Zny, gurl fubhyq unir nyfb unq gur svercbjre gb qb gur fnzr 10 lrnef ntb jura gur Ernire cbchyngvba jnf fznyyre naq unq srjre fuvcf.

Abg gb zragvba, gur Nyyvnapr pbhyq unir fcha gur jubyr Ernire nauvyngvba cebwrpg nf fbzr fbeg bs fbpvny cebtenz, n qrzbafgengvba bs ubj xvaqyl gur Nyyvnapr vf gb tbbq, avpr, aba-pnaavonyvfgvp crbcyr.

#207 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 11:50 AM:

Craig R. @ 203: The Heterodyne Boys wear boaters; Phil Foglio, as he draws himself, wears a bowler.

Re: technobabble, I don't think it's really gotten better over the years; just that there are so many new Science Buzzwords replacing the old familiar ones. I think that most people know enough to recognize that the old words are misused, but many aren't familiar with the new ones. But when I hear someone babbling on about the force of genetic evolution being accelerated, or a ship flying through a layer of liquid helium in the atmosphere, or "we've detected a planet with a nitrogen sulfide atmosphere" -- ouch. (And in the last example there: kaboom!) Perhaps lately the writers have been more willing to arbitrarily invent a particle ex machina to solve the problème du jour than they used to be, but I don't count that as a plus.

#208 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 12:28 PM:

Joel Polowin... The SciFi Channel air a movie called Black Hole last year where scientists create an artificial black hole that of course grows out of control, and people fear that it'll break into smaller black holes that'll then grow into bigger black holes that'll break into... ad infinitum et ad nauseam...

#209 ::: sara_k ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 01:18 PM:

Gays are worse than terrorists? and a nice rebuttal from a teenager.

http://www.daviddemchuk.com/klam/?p=185

#210 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 02:12 PM:

Joel @ 202... River and Simon played by Asian actors? That'd have been interesting. Unfortunately, wouldn't that have made Mal's intense dislike of Simon come off as racism?

#211 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 02:16 PM:

Turner Classic Movies just showed The Red Pony.

#212 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 02:25 PM:

Serge #210: Well, his discomfort with Book's religious comments and advice doesn't seem to leave a taste of racism--it's consistent. In fact, one of the nicer things about Firefly is that it's pretty clear that nobody gives a damn about race as an issue. By contrast, rebel/Alliance, core planet/outer planet, and similar distinctions are very important. And that's what you'd expect, given the history. Probably nobody but serious historians knows much about racial and religious tensions on Earth-that-was. So I don't think that would have left a bad taste in my mouth.

#213 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 02:52 PM:

CHip at 175 (and subthread): Cordelia's a Betan, and the only real viewpoint Betan character we've got, but she's a Betan Survey Captain - one of the very few who need to go out, far out, and do things that aren't Beta-centric, and aren't to do with their community expectations and norms.

She gets the absolute, unthinking expectations of equality and social wealth from Beta, but most of what we see is her own sense of self that lets her keep those after encountering Barrayar and reflecting on the differences. Of course, the this-is-all-so-bloody-stupid might be a common Betan attitude. The complete bewilderment at what the Barrayarans consider Really Important certainly seems to be.

#214 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 02:57 PM:

Sam Kelly @213:

Of course, the this-is-all-so-bloody-stupid might be a common Betan attitude.

It certainly seems evident in the "Steady Freddie? I didn't vote for him" running gag in Shards of Honor.

#215 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 04:49 PM:

Joel - #207 --

as I said, I must have been looking at the wrong pictures -- but one of the Boys does indeed look like Foglio //says he defensively//

#216 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 05:10 PM:

albatross @ 172

(coming in late and replying before reading the rest of the thread; apologies if I'm repeating other posts).

It wasn't the transistor per se that replaced the vacuum tube; it was the integrated circuit; i.e. massive arrays of transistors in a small volume with interconnections an integral part. Even if solid state electronics had never advanced to that point, I think we would be well down that same path by now. It turns out that it's easy to build massive arrays of tiny vacuum tubes; the small distances involved allow high gradient fields with low voltage differentials. A few years ago someone proposed an ultraflat screen CRT with no deflection electronics at all, just a few million cathodes, each one the end of a carbon nanotube, and each one aimed at a particular dot of phosphor on the screen, which would be a few hundred microns away. So, Ultra-Large-Scale Integrated vacuum tube electronics.

#217 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 05:36 PM:

Fragano's last post on LJ was on the 13th. This is unlike him.

This could mean he's out of town at a conference.

Or it could mean -- the power's down -- and if so, may that be the worst!

I really hope it's the former, and that the tornado and storm didn't affect him, his family or his home.

Love, C

#218 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 06:06 PM:

Greg@206

Gur Nyyvnapr syrrg qvq ABG orng gur Erniref onpx sebz nebhaq Zvenaqn naq gurl qvq ABG crargengr Ernire fcnpr. Gur syrrg jnf fgngvbarq nebhaq Ze. Havirefr'f yvggyr jbeyqyrg jnvgvat sbe Zny. Vg JNF ynetr rabhtu gb ercry gur cbegvba bs gur Ernire neznqn gung Zny gevpxrq vagb punfvat uvz. Guvf jnf yvxryl bayl n cbegvba bs gur Erniref, ubjrire. Naq gur pbapragengvba bs gung znal Nyyvnapr jnefuvcf nccrnef gb unir orra hahfhny.

Nf gb jul gur Nyyvnapr qvqa'g qrfgebl gur Erniref rneyvre, vg nccrnef gung gur Erniref jrer svefg perngrq abg ybat orsber gur jne fgnegrq. Gur jne cebonoyl qvfgenpgrq gur Nyyvnapr sebz gelvat gb qb nalguvat nobhg gur Erniref. Naq fvapr gur jne gur Nyyvnapr unf orra gelvat gb nofbeo n uhtr nzbhag bs greevgbel gung vg oneryl pbagebyf. Vg qbrfa'g unir gur fcner erfbheprf gb ynhapu n shyy-fpnyr pnzcnvta ntnvafg gur Erniref.

#219 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 06:08 PM:

#214: I saw the Freddie "gag" as another indication of what's really behind the Brave New World Betan culture: "dissenters" like Cordelia being brainwashed back into contentment, and a leader that no one seems to have voted for.

#220 ::: JBWoodford ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 07:07 PM:

Everyone in NYC OK after the crane fall?

#221 ::: Rich ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 08:13 PM:

John at #219 -

This is an old chestnut, I know, but I hardly think that Betan culture is as hard-nosed and controlling as that - I always thought that Dr. Mehta - the one that tried to drug Cordelia - was just overzealous.

The rest of what we've seen of Beta - to its enclaves of herms, its advanced scientific and medical schools specializing in things like radical gender re-assignment surgery (cf Lord Dono), the codified earrings that communicate sexual availability and preference to the gosh-darn Orb of Unearthly Delights are all so completely orthogonal to a society that brainwashes dissenters that I can't even understand how people arrive at that idea.

#223 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 09:15 PM:

#121 - Terry

I looked at the patent.

It seems overly broad, and I think that it would be a interesting proposition to see which set of lawyers would be granted payment of fees from the other side.

Especially since the patent claims that the garment is meant as a "novelty, " and not as a workable and utility garment.

One of the problems with the current administration is that they have consistently kept underfunding the patent office, so that items that are overly broad, nebulous, with no working prototype and clearly conflicting with prior art, have been granted patents. The patent office has been constrained to award the patents, and are counting on the courts to actually do the determination of prior claim.

I also seem to recall seeing gimmicked turn signals on bicycle-rider jackets in the 1960s. I also have see a good number of people at MIT who have arranged LEDs into signboards woven into their garments over the years.

There is also the determination that a patent is invalid if the idea is really only .trivially non-obvious.

And I don't think this would patent would pass the smell test.

Now, if the purported patent-holder had actually been marketing a working garment, you might have had a case under trade dress restrictions, if you had bothered to trademark the look-and-feel.

If not, bye bye.

#224 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 09:18 PM:

Rich at 221: I don't know, I think there's room for both those. Beta Colony is clearly incredibly open and tolerant in some respects, but that doesn't mean it's immune to toxic, authoritarian politics (cf. the free & open acceptance of sex in Brave new World) - and I suspect one of the last things we'd ever see in a Bujold novel is a perfect utopia.

I'm not sure how much the running gag means (though it's a good demonstration of the rejection of authority when said authority is being bloody stupid) - after all, surprisingly few people these days voted for Tony Blair.

#225 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 10:41 PM:

Can I just take a moment to say how incredibly not-scary I found Brave New World? Oh NOES! The world is going to be taken over by well-meaning liberals who just want everyone to be happy!!! TEH HORRORS! Drugs and sex! Sex and Drugs! AHHHHHHHHH--

--not so much.

#226 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2008, 11:16 PM:

Alpha Colony, of course, works much harder because they're so frightfully clever.

#227 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 01:19 AM:

Can I just take a moment to say how incredibly not-scary I found Brave New World? Oh NOES! The world is going to be taken over by well-meaning liberals who just want everyone to be happy!!! TEH HORRORS! Drugs and sex! Sex and Drugs! AHHHHHHHHH--

--not so much.

Mandatory sleep-teaching of knee-jerk consumption, bigotry, and complacency? The reduction of all relations between human beings to sexual relations--no friendship, no mother-love, no hero-worship? The deliberate mental and/or physical stunting of most of the human race and the training of everybody to like what they've got to do? The callous disposal of the aged? The destruction of joy and individuality in the quest for happiness? The offhand observation by the World Controller that if their lives were any easier, the citizens of the World State would drug themselves to death out of boredom?

Scares the crap out of me.

#228 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 01:22 AM:

It's the fact that the World State is so darn nice and happy is what makes it troubling. Not scary. Not even evil. Just a total waste of potential.

#229 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 01:29 AM:

I saw 10,000 B.C. today. My intention was to just watch a couple of minutes before skipping over to see what I really intended to watch ("Horton.")

Um. I wouldn't call 10KBC good, but I enjoyed it. I was expecting over-the-top barbarian splendor and lost civilizations thing, but it ended up as a modest popcorn film. It wasn't overly long, had a nice variety of characters, and some nicely integrated CGI.

Mind you, I'll probably never see or think of it again, but it wasn't a waste of my time or money.

#230 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 01:44 AM:

I think there are ways in which Beta Colony is very open and flexible indeed, and ways in which it is very narrow and and restrictive. Cordelia observes in A Civil Campaign that the sexual openness has, on its other side, absolutely rigid control of reproduction, because the habitat means that population levels must be strictly limited. The population issue is also the reason the Survey Service exists; the Betans regularly send out colonists.

It would probably be a mistake to assume, based on the Betans' tendency to be relentlessly logical about a lot of things, their strong scientific base, and their sexual habits, that they are not capable of being repressive when it suits them. They have plenty of ambiguity as they are sketched in, and I think one of the things that happens to Cordelia is that she begins to realize this and look more closely at her own culture, in trying to cope with Aral's.

Ure hfr bs Obgunev gb rfpncr Ibeehglre jnf abg gur npg bs n anvs, ohg n pyrire cvrpr bs znavchyngvba ol n fuerjq (naq qrfcrengr) jbzna. Bs pbhefr, tvira gur pvephzfgnaprf fur jnf va, V unir qvssvphygl oynzvat ure sbe erfbegvat gb vg, ohg vg jnf qvfgvapgyl nzovthbhf.

I think I do agree with Ulrika; it was a choice of evils there, and chosing to let the damage stop where it did has it merits.

I hope you enjoyed Lunacon, Susan.

#231 ::: Rozasharn ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 01:47 AM:

Brave New World infuriated me, because it relied on developmentally stunting most people and then conditioning/pressuring everyone into acting just like everyone else in their category.

I was particularly furious because I was pretty sure real SF writers were already talking about robots. Robots knock the supports out from under "we need to brain-damage people so they won't be bored by tedious jobs". Remember how Epsilons were assigned to be elevator operators? Elevators don't require operators these days---you just push the button.

#232 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 02:12 AM:

#231: It could be that the World State determined that a hierarchy was necessary; maybe having robots to do the work wouldn't cut it. Or perhaps Huxley just couldn't imagine automation having the potential to replace all those Epsilons.

There are some very telling passages in which Mustapha Mond describes red-pencilling research papers and "labor saving" inventions. He admits that as much as the World State worships science, they don't actually practice it much, beyond a very practical cookbook level. Real science, and the kind of free minds that practice it, are far too disruptive. Mond reveals that he was a physicist whose discoveries were too radical; he was given a choice of going into politics or exile.

Maybe technology was so retarded by this philosophy that replacing the lower castes with automation is impractical.

#233 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 02:51 AM:

Craig at #215:

The Heterodyne Boy (classic-style) who resembles Phil Foglio, namely Barry, is based on Professor Barry Gehm.

The other one, Bill, wears the boater. I acquired a boater in 1978 (The Music Man and Pogo were powerful influences in my youth) and I often wore it in Mr. Foglio's presence.



#234 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 02:57 AM:

fidelio 230: Ure hfr bs Obgunev gb rfpncr Ibeehglre jnf abg gur npg bs n anvs, ohg n pyrire cvrpr bs znavchyngvba ol n fuerjq (naq qrfcrengr) jbzna. Bs pbhefr, tvira gur pvephzfgnaprf fur jnf va, V unir qvssvphygl oynzvat ure sbe erfbegvat gb vg, ohg vg jnf qvfgvapgyl nzovthbhf.

V qba'g frr gung ng nyy. Xvyyvat Trf Ibeehglre frrzf yvxr n cher haoyrzvfurq tbbq gb zr (rkprcg nf xvyyvat nabgure uhzna orvat vf nyjnlf jebat, gubhtu guvf vf n pynffvp pnfr bs gur tbbq bhgjrvtuvat gur rivy ol n fgryyne znff be gjb). Naq V qba'g frr gung fur znavchyngrq Obgunev gung zhpu, orlbaq znxvat vg nofbyhgryl pregnva gung ur erzrzorerq jub fur jnf. Obgunev qvq gur erfg uvzfrys. Ur qrfreirf perqvg sbe znxvat gur evtug pubvpr ng gur evtug gvzr.

Yngre ba, va Oneenlne, fur hfrf uvz nf n jrncba bapr ntnva (jvgu uvf shyy pbbcrengvba naq va snpg ng uvf erdhrfg). Gur bayl ernfba fur qbrfa'g xvyy Ibeqnevna urefrys vf gung ure nez vfa'g fgebat rabhtu gb ybc uvf urnq bss pyrnayl.

Va trareny, V qba'g frr Pbeqryvn nf nzovthbhf fb zhpu nf jrvtuvat gur zbeny cebf naq pbaf bs inevbhf npgvbaf naq znxvat n pubvpr. Hfhnyyl gur evtug pubvpr, va zl bcvavba, gubhtu V jnf fghaarq ol ure pehrygl gb ure perjzna jub tbg uvg ol n areir qvfehcgbe. V qrsvavgryl funer Neny'f bcvavba ba gung fgngr bs rkvfgrapr.

And we can add Pure/Cher to the list of amusing ROT-13 pairs.

#235 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 05:02 AM:

Stefan Jones, #232: When I first read BNW, I thought that the World State had elevator operators so that its citizens could never be alone--except the Epsilons, human placeholders who had been rendered too stupid ever to think dangerous thoughts if left to themselves.

I once toyed with creating a background or world book for BNW, extrapolating from clues in the text. I came up with an interesting global map. If everybody in the World State is supposed to be comfortable and able to play in the countryside and in the city after an easy workday (except those sent to islands for punishment), large parts of the planet are not suitable for what it calls civilization. Even much of Britain would have to be left to go wild after the people who refused to become civilized had been driven out or killed. Other vast swaths of useless land would be strongholds of "savages." The desert towns that John Savage hails from depend on local water sources, so their people are easy to corral and control, but most of the circumpolar North would still be populated by stubborn holdouts living a subsistence lifestyle--the World State having smashed their old industrial infrastructure and gone away. Strong fences (just out of sight of the outlying athletic fields) and management of information--not to mention gas bombs--would keep the happy citizens unaware of just how many millions of savages lurked on reservations of vast size. Over much of the planet, the World State would in fact be a network of enclaves.

I also considered the possibility that--completely unknown to the World State, which doesn't need astronomers--the little colony that was already on Mars (I feign) when Earth's Final War broke out has managed to terraform the planet, albeit a century and a half later than planned, and has spawned a dozen daughter colonies by the time the book begins.

#236 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 05:20 AM:

Jon Metlzer @ 222... Charlie Brown as Dr.Manhattan? The mind boggles.

#237 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 05:22 AM:

Bill Higgins @ 233... The Music Man and Pogo were powerful influences in my youth

You watch your phraseology!

#238 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 06:56 AM:

A link for gamers, and twice over for Xopher: Enemy Chocolatier

#239 ::: Michael Martin ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 07:20 AM:

I've had Enemy Chocolatier sitting on my game shelf for months, but we've never had a chance to actually break it out yet. Other stuff keeps taking precedence.

#240 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 07:51 AM:

Jenny Islander @ 227: "Mandatory sleep-teaching of knee-jerk consumption, bigotry, and complacency? The reduction of all relations between human beings to sexual relations--no friendship, no mother-love, no hero-worship? The deliberate mental and/or physical stunting of most of the human race and the training of everybody to like what they've got to do? The callous disposal of the aged? The destruction of joy and individuality in the quest for happiness? The offhand observation by the World Controller that if their lives were any easier, the citizens of the World State would drug themselves to death out of boredom? Scares the crap out of me."

Well, yeah, but how do we get from here to there? You have to assume that some power-hungry, Machiavellian force will decide that the best way to accomplish its goals is to make all of its pawns really, really happy. When has that ever happened? You then have to further assume that this group of mind-controlled stoners are going to be capable of taking on every other group on the planet--all of whom will have the technological and competitive edge on them.

This is a society that takes its best, its brightest, and gives them the choice of joining the enemy. I'm supposed to be scared of that? It wouldn't last two seconds. Hell, it could never come into being in the first place.

#241 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 08:48 AM:

Abi @ 238... "Enemy Chocolatier"?

You’ll take my bars when you pry them from my cold dead fingers!

#242 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 09:20 AM:

Another day, another round of "Hi, we've seen your website ...and we love it." Quick, Henry, the Flit!

Or maybe I should let them pay me up to $4800 a month. If we all do that, think how much it would cost them, just for putting ads on a thread that's a year and a half old. It'd be like renting out old copies of AZAPA, only less humiligrating.

#243 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 09:32 AM:

Kip W... Oh, you got one of those too?

#244 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 09:52 AM:

Bob @76: I always imagined that it would be really annoying to try and have a conversation with a Cylon. "Hey, look at me when I'm talking to you! What, are you watching a tennis match in there?"

Susan @103: For a while, I was trying to promote the phrase, "USA! Now 17% better than Saddam!" but the numbers just kept getting smaller and smaller, and it was too depressing to keep at it. Plus nobody cared, apparently.

Tehanu @182: I use LeetKey to scramble and unscramble ROT-13. Having read subsequent comments above, it now does it with a press of CTRL+F12. Gunaxf, tnat!

(Update: only now that I've invoked it once, spacebar no longer advances me down the page, and if I press it with text highlighted, it ROT13s it. Help?)

#245 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 10:02 AM:

Kip W @ 244... Mad Magazine's parody of the original Galactica had one Cylon complain that it's no wonder it can never hit Our Heroes, with an eyeball that keeps pingponging like that.

#246 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 10:11 AM:

Bill Higgins — Beam Jockey (#233) … sorry for the pause, one of my typing hands is being used to keep my jaw off the floor, having been introduced to the concept of "Zeusaphone" (aka Thoremin) and its retail availability.

Is this then the source of those mysterious lights and muffled noises from not-quite-well-enough-hidden portions of the Flatiron Tor HQ? The reason for strange fluctuations in the power supply of Boing-Boing's neighbours?

#247 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 10:16 AM:

Serge, I'm guessing several of us. Perhaps I should have gone back to the thread the junk was mentioned in before, but I can't... keep... up!

#248 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 10:51 AM:

Kip W @ 247... can't... keep... up!

James T. Kirk couldn't have said it better. And there's no need to apologize. My comment wasn't in reference to the batch of a few days ago, but to what appears to be a new mailing of more of the same crap.

#249 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 10:53 AM:

Mez @ 246... Do they have a Heramonica?

#250 ::: Don Simpson ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 11:09 AM:

heresiarch @ 190:

Besides the laser gun in Heart of Gold, there are high-tech weapons in Ariel, maybe an adaptation of controlled gravity technology, maybe superheated helium like the Babylon 5 PPGs, but not as good as projectile weapons for blowing open doors. Plus, the blue hand group has even higher tech weapons.

Technology gradient is still with us. It was very noticable when I was growing up. My dad was born in a sod-roof log cabin lit by karosene lamp, and he ploughed land with a mule-drawn plough. Drinking water was drawn from the well with a cast-iron hand pump. Just after WWII, my parents were in a modern home with electric power, gas stove, running water, and an indoor toilet, but only a few folks in the neighborhood had electric refrigerators; most still had iceboxes, and the wood-bed ice truck would come by weekly with the big block of ice for ours. When we drove back east to my dad's dad's place, the cabin was still there, but the family was living in a frame house with a second cast-iron hand pump indoors by the kitchen sink, and nicer karosene lamps. They were still hand-churning their butter, and making sorgum molasses with a mule-powered cane crusher, and there was no heat in the house except the wood burning stove in the kitchen. They did have a hand-crank wooden telephone, and machine-ground peanut butter from the local Grange peanut mill. My dad's last job, before retiring, was maintaining measuring device accuracy in an aircraft factory.

#251 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 11:23 AM:

heresiarch #190:

Well, the medicine we saw in _Ariel_ wasn't that stunningly advanced, as far as I could see. It looked like a normal hospital until they got to the scanner, which looked to me like it had a really good user interface. It wasn't clear to me that it gave him enormously more information than he'd have gotten from a set of different technologies available at a modern hospital, but I'm no expert. (I wonder what Ginger thinks.)

I actually liked the uneven distribution of tech, too. This is a feature of the real world; old and new technology live side by side. (You use your gas stove to boil water for tea in the morning, then lock your door with a very simple and old lock and key system, but also arm the wireless alarm before you leave. Then, you ride your bike to the secure building where you work; after scanning an RFID tag embedded in your picture ID, you go in (past the guard with a gun designed in the 19th century), jog up the stairs, and send an e-mail to ask where you're supposed to fax those forms you filled out yesterday.)

Similarly, you sometimes have jarring incongruities in technology, or high-tech squalor--folks living in mud huts with AK47s and cellphones; the poorest non-homeless people in the US living in awful places, but with refrigerators and TVs; a diabetic retiree living in a cabin on the lake miles from civilization, with a satellite TV and a refrigerator, and also the blood sugar reading gadget, recombinant insulin, and a computer with which to surf the net.

The best technology in Firefly doesn't seem to be good enough, and the technology isn't consistent. But the idea of widespread variation in tech level is interesting. William Gibson's early stories are some of the best examples of the high tech squalor idea.

#252 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 11:40 AM:

albatross @ 251... the idea of widespread variation in tech level is interesting.

Come to think of it, isn't it in the original Star Wars that the concept was first shown - in movies if not in written SF?

#253 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 11:42 AM:

Kip W at 244: I had the same problem, and solved it by assigning a new shortcut key for rot13 transformations - I use R, because I have no imagination. That reverted the rest of them to standard behaviour. If that doesn't work, I have no idea, I'm afraid.

#254 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 12:03 PM:

Xopher wrote:

Va trareny, V qba'g frr Pbeqryvn nf nzovthbhf fb zhpu nf jrvtuvat gur zbeny cebf naq pbaf bs inevbhf npgvbaf naq znxvat n pubvpr. Hfhnyyl gur evtug pubvpr, va zl bcvavba, gubhtu V jnf fghaarq ol ure pehrygl gb ure perjzna jub tbg uvg ol n areir qvfehcgbe. V qrsvavgryl funer Neny'f bcvavba ba gung fgngr bs rkvfgrapr.

Jryy, tvira gung rira "onpxjneqf" Onnenlne jnf noyr gb erfgber Xbhqryxn'f areirf gb n ernfbanoyr yriry bs shpgvba, V pbafvqre vg ernfbanoyr sbe Pbeqvyvn gb vafvfg gung ure pbyyrnthr or tvira n punapr ng zrqvpny gerngzrag, engure guna xvyyrq bhgevtug. Fur cerfhznoyl vfa'g hc gb qngr jvgu gur irel yngrfg va Orgna zrqvpvar (gung abg orvat ure svryq bs rkcregvfr) ohg fur unf rabhtu pbasvqrapr va Orgna zrqvpvar naq fpvrapr gb jnag gb tvir vg n punapr.

Nf vg vf, gur areir-qvfehcgrq zna unq sne zber pncnpvgl guna Neny tnir uvz perqvg sbe, naq zhpu bs gung pncnpvgl jnf qvfpbirerq qhevat gur gerx, nsgre gur cbvag jurer Neny jnagrq gb xvyy uvz. (Ur jnf noyr gb jnyx, rng naq qevax, naq frrzrq gb unir oynqqre naq objry pbageby, fvapr jr qba'g urne bs gurz univat gb gel gb qvncre uvz be pyrna hc nppvqragf, juvpu fhttrfgf rabhtu pbapvbhfarff gb xabj jura vg vf be vfa'g nccebcevngr gb hevangr naq qrsvpngr, naq gb pbageby uvf obql nppbeqvatyl. Ur nyfb pbhyq rkcrevrapr cnva naq srne, naq unq gur fubeg grez zrzbel gb erznva nsenvq nsgre gur cnva raqrq, nf jvgu gur unz-unaqrq jngre-gbegher nggrzcg gb dhrfgvba uvz jura svefg sbhaq.) Ng gur cbvag bs gur qrpvfvba, vg jnf n znggre bs xvyyvat jvgubhg nal rinyhngvba orlbaq ernyvmvat ur jnf areir-qvfehcgrq, irefhf gnxvat gur gvzr gb frr jung pbhyq or qbar.

Va uvaqfvtug, ernyvmvat gung yvggyr pbhyq or qbar, vg vf rnfvre gb ybbx onpx naq qbhog gur jvfqbz bs znxvat gung pubvpr. Ohg va uvaqfvtug, vs fur unq nyybjrq Neny gb xvyy uvz, fur zvtug unir ybbxrq ng Xbhqryxn, fhpprffshy qrfcvgr uvf vawhel naq frpbaq- be guveq- pynff zrqvpny gerngzrag, naq jbaqrerq jurgure ure pbyyrnthr unq orra qrcevirq bs n fhpprffshy (vs qvfnoyrq) yvsr, cnegvphyneyl fvapr ur jbhyq unir npprff gb gur orfg Orgna zrqvpvar, engure guna gur yvggyr Onnenlne unq gb bssre.

#255 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 12:39 PM:

I went to see the musical-theatre production of Thoroughly Modern Millie last night. It was enjoyable, but there were a couple of points of weirdness.

The second was a song in the first act. My immediate reaction was that the music seemed eerily familiar, and the lyrics were giving me a strong sense of déjà écouté. Around the end of the first verse, I finally realized that they'd adapted the patter song from G&S's Ruddigore. "It really doesn't matter..."

The first was that the backdrop for the opening scene was a cityscape, but the buildings were seriously non-Euclidean. The stage designer got the perspectives wrong, I suppose, but it left me wondering if something chthonic was going to emerge at some point.

Are there plays that have a... I don't know, diabolus ex machina ending? All the characters get things into a hopeless muddle, then Something Nasty ascends / descends / emerges, and everything is resolved when all the main characters are dead / consumed / helplessly insane? (As far as I know, Shakespeare's plays lack the diabolical aspect. G&S's The Sorcerer loses only one character to Ahrimanes, who doesn't appear.)

#256 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 01:39 PM:

#194 - I note that sometimes the gibberish isn't rot13; other varieties include disemvowelled comments, Latin, Anglo-Saxon, extremely technical explanations, Russian, Hebrew, Elvish of various types, lolcat/leet, Spanish and even (yikes!)French.

(Off the top of my head)

I'll just say that, here in 2008, although I feel no special love for vacuum tubes they were (and as Bruce Cohen points out, continue to be) a useful and appropriate piece of technology and I don't find them ridiculous at all. Unlike, for example, Flash Gordon Rocket Ships.

#257 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 01:50 PM:

Ursula 254: Hmm. I think you may be right. I need to think about that some more.

#258 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 02:06 PM:

Neil Willcox @ 256... sometimes the gibberish isn't rot13; other varieties include (...) even (yikes!)French.

Cette insulte demande réparation.

#259 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 02:41 PM:

heresiarch @ 251: "Well, the medicine we saw in _Ariel_ wasn't that stunningly advanced, as far as I could see. It looked like a normal hospital until they got to the scanner, which looked to me like it had a really good user interface. It wasn't clear to me that it gave him enormously more information than he'd have gotten from a set of different technologies available at a modern hospital, but I'm no expert. (I wonder what Ginger thinks.) "

I remember that episode, and thinking much the same -- other than some technology used to transport the "dead" Tams, it didn't seem like much more than a 21st century Earth-that-was hospital. The scanner interface would be totally cool, although I'd like to know what kind of technology the scanner actually used -- it wasn't an MRI, CT, or PET (at least, not as we know them now). The image shown is essentially an animated version of an MRI, which shows soft tissue very well, but doesn't show bone. I'd expect that every provincial hospital and field medic would have access to an MRI in the Firefly universe, and that would give Simon all the information he needed. There must have been other technology that he wanted to use but was thwarted by Jayne's betrayal and the arrival of the Men in Blue Gloves.

Serge @ 258:

::repairs insult::

Voila! Est-ce que c'est que vous demandez?

#260 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 02:47 PM:

Ginger @ 259... Elle est toute comme neuve! Merci!

#261 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 03:16 PM:

Seeing that video of the Zeusaphone* made me think of other plasma speaker technologies, especially the combustion, or flame, speaker. In sincere flattery of the zeusaphone, I want to call that an Agniphone.



* OMFG! That's bloody impressive. Can't wait to see some low-budget SF flick use that as the special effect for a visiting alien's Universal Translator.

#262 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 03:21 PM:

Ginger #259:

What's the expensive part of those technologies? I have this sort of uninformed idea that a lot of the cost is intellectual property of the designers and the use of powerful computers, neither of which should be an issue in the Firefly universe. I mean, a CT scan is basically a set of X-rays taken at different angles around you, with the computer building a kind of 3D model from the images, right? I don't know how hard it is to get the necessary precision control of really powerful magnets to make MRI work, or if there's some other difficulty that I'm missing there--it doesn't *seem* like folks that can maintain a spaceship ought to find it all that hard to do....

Speculation about this stuff is made more fun by my vast ignorance in this area. If I were speculating about something I knew much about, I'd probably have to be much more careful and conservative....

#263 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 03:23 PM:

(This has been sitting in the back of my head for the last couple days....)

Statin and fish oil

proton pump inhibitor

Damn, I'm middle-aged!

#264 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 03:32 PM:

Xopher @257: Cordelia's decision about Dubauer is (imho) entirely consistent with Bujold's wider moral framework within the Vorkosiverse; cf. Miles' gritted-teeth "No. It's. Not." retort to Dr. Canaba about Taura's long-term prospects, as well as much of Mirror Dance-- not just the main plot of the latter, but also its introductory material about the Dendarii who'd been wounded in the previous mission.

#265 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 03:34 PM:

Neil #256: And don't leave out made-up technobabble.

I'd love to explain this, but the armitiphlage used for treckle-lansing[0] on my local network has its backward-biased particle defenestrator[1] munged up by an infusion of antimatter into the core matrix of the nearby chained singularity power source[2]. I'm gonna have to recalibrate the gravity polarizers[3] and hope that doesn't drive the sentient packets on the network into some kind of fugue state, lest they Transcend and become a hegemonizing swarm[4].

[0] Hexapody is the key insight, here.

[1] Yep, throw them particles right out the window.

[2] Certain SF writers use these to provide the energy necessary to write books set in the near future.

[3] These are really useful for avoiding that annoying gravitic glare when driving home at rush hour.

[4] Resistance is futile, unless you're the Zetetic Elench or similar.

#266 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 03:43 PM:

Bruce #216:

I'll admit I'm still speculating far outside my competence, but it sure seems hard to imagine getting component densities anywhere close to those of modern electronics.

This raises another kind of interesting issue, though. When you're developing a new technology, there's no way to know whether the path you're following leads to the best (or even an especially good) way of doing whatever you're trying to do. But after ten or fifteen years of development, you have so much infrastructure and expertise with the current way of doing things, you're just not going to shift over for a 10-15% improvement in efficiency. I think you can see this with alternatives to gasoline as a fuel, and also with stuff like Stirling engines. I recall reading that though Stirling engines are theoretically much more efficient than internal combustion engines, the most efficient ones anyone has managed to build are about as efficient as modern Diesel engines. I think this is due to the fact that there is a century of careful design and engineering and manufacturing analysis embedded in the design of the best modern engines. Perhaps we'd have somewhat more efficient engines if we'd gone down the Stirling engine path a century ago. Similarly, perhaps we'd have somewhat better electronics having gone down a fundamentally different path 50 years ago, but it's hard to get onto that path now, given the huge amount of built up expertise we have on our current path.

#267 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 04:23 PM:

Joel @ 255: Are there plays that have a... I don't know, diabolus ex machina ending?

Well, there's the legend of Don Juan. Does that not count?

#268 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 04:48 PM:

Ginger@259

From what I recall (and from an episode transcript), it looks as if Simon was using the only equipment he had planned to use, although he had hoped for a few more minutes with it.

#269 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 04:52 PM:

Scott H #201:

I teach at Clark Atlanta, just over a mile from downtown, and I've no good idea how the campus fared since we were on spring break, and at the time of the tornado my wife and I were in Birmingham, Alabama, at OmegaCon. Power was down, according to the library website, but is up again.

As to our own experiences: we were woken at 3 a.m., by the same storm which bid fair to smash into our hotel room, but had no idea of its ferocity until we got up around 8 in the morning and turned on CNN which was making a great deal of fuss about a major natural disaster quite literally on its doorstep.

Because Gail, my wife, did not feel able to make the drive back and and forth from Atlanta to Birmingham twice in a day (it's complicated, but she had a gig this morning and we'd initially planned for her to drive to Atlanta and then go back to Birmingham to pick me up) we left Birmingham early this morning and came back to Atlanta. Since we live in the suburbs southwest of town we haven't seen much damage, but Gail did see a line of pine trees that had been completely flattened on the northwest side of town (on 285 west near Smyrna) on her way back home after her gig. There are still people without power this afternoon we gather.

My mother-in-law says that there were points when she couldn't see the house across the street because of ferocity of the rain, and it got very windy, but we didn't have much damage down here fortunately. People in town, on the other hand, did get badly hit. I'll find out more in the morning when I go in to work (for a very short work week, since I'm off to San Diego early on Wednesday morning for a conference).

At OmegaCon, we met Lee who presented me with a Fluorosphere button. This was the first time that I've been hailed by name by someone I've never met before, which was a fascinating experience.

An odder experience was Steven Brust insisting that he'd met me twenty years ago at a con in Atlanta. That could have taken place in an alternative universe, I suppose. On the other hand, I've now made my older son's girlfriend very jealous.

#270 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 04:55 PM:

albatross @ 262

a CT scan is basically a set of X-rays taken at different angles around you, with the computer building a kind of 3D model from the images, right

That's a good explanation that avoids having to talk about transforms and linear operators. It's a real 3D model too, I've seen 3D displays of CAT or MRI images that you could move around, and cross-section in pretty much arbitrary planes. Incidentally, the math for CAT, MRI, PET, fMRI, etc. is all the same, so there's no reason (other than cost and limits on generation and sensor technology) that you couldn't combine them all into one instrument. I would expect the instrument that Simon used in Firefly to be an advanced scanner-of-all-trades.

don't know how hard it is to get the necessary precision control of really powerful magnets to make MRI work

The current limits, AFAIK, are in field homogeneity and field strength, both of which affect the achievable spatial resolution. Strength also affects temporal resolution, I believe, which somewhat determines how much blur you get from the patients' movements.

One advanced feature of the unit that Simon used is the speed with which the first image was obtained. That argues for both very stable, precision magnetic fields, and for huge amounts of compute power.

The state of the art in MRI magnetics is being installed right now a few miles from here. The Oregon Health Sciences Institute* is installing a huge 8 tesla magnetic for experiments in high resolution MRI scanning. It's so massive they have to reinforce the building it's going in. One of the questions they want to ask is what, if any, effects high intensity fields have on human beings.

* local name: "Pill Hill" because it sits on a height overlooking downtown Portland and the Willamette River.

#271 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 05:19 PM:

albatross @ 266

But after ten or fifteen years of development, you have so much infrastructure and expertise with the current way of doing things, you're just not going to shift over for a 10-15% improvement in efficiency.

Absolutely correct, and you just poked me in a fascination of mine: the evolution of technology. Just like biological evolution, technology evolves by satisfying a (very complex) local fitness function. The fact that it's local means it's possible (in fact, easy) to get stuck in local minima which aren't globally optimal. And the cost of jumping to another track may be so large that differences of far more than 15% may be insufficient to justify the change.

What usually happens then is that an entirely new technology is adopted at the leading edge of development, while the old technology continues to be used for high-volume, low-margin products that repay the huge capital investment in the old technology.

The integrated circuit business is a fascinating example because in some ways it's a new technology with brand new capital investment in each generation, or at least every 10 years or so. That's because every few years the current fabrication tech runs up against hard physical limits that have to be gotten around by new techniques: shorter wavelength photolithographic light sources are needed for smaller device features, requiring new mask generation techniques and new photographic chemistries, etc., etc.

It's been really cool to watch as every few years some industry pundits announce the practical limit has been reached, and Moore's Law is over, and then someone comes up with a solution, and the march continues. And that will necessarily continue as long as it's physically possible, because each generation of fabrication requires double the capital investment of the one before. The current cost of a new fab plant was over $4 e 9 in 2007; the next generation that will be started in 2010 or so will cost twice as much. That's a huge incentive to continue developing the technology, since the old generation takes at least 2 generations to pay off.

#272 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 05:44 PM:

I'm in SLO, (Maia has some business related to her application to join the Meeting here), and so I don't have time to do much, but I saw the butter sidelight, and wanted to add that I love the Double Devon Cream Butter. It's cultured, and the best thing about it is that it improves.

The cultures keep working. If you don't seal it well the outside gets a little rancid, but a french butter dish, or some other covering (saran wrap has the least oxygen passage I know of), it develops a pleasantly cheese-like flavor.

Wonderful soaking into fresh scones.

Off to take pictures in Morro Bay/Los Osos (yes, abi, I might find some decent landscapes for you).

#273 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 05:51 PM:

albatross and Bruce Cohen, STM, various: And then there are the directions that technology can go despite (self-imposed) limitations. Case in point, the Amish.

#274 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 05:57 PM:

Some happy news: Wreck of HMAS Sydney found. The discovery of the HK Kormoran (very detailed history) was announced yesterday).

"The most grievous loss suffered by the Royal Australian Navy". 9 November 1941: "Battle with the light cruiser HMAS Sydney at close range off the coast of Western Australia. Kormoran suffers four 6-inch hits, that start a major fire midships. Abandoned with 60 dead, she explodes and capsizes off the Abrolhos Islands. 320 survivors interned for five years in Australian POW camps. The Sydney, after sustaining more than a thousand hits of 152 mm, 75 and 37mm AA, heavy machine gunfire and a torpedo hit, sinks with all 645 officers and men".
National Archive Records; another page; An Australian War Memorial page

#275 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 06:06 PM:

OK, this dittohead on a gay site (ever think you'd hear those words together?) made an impassioned plea for me to support John McCain, since I live in New Jersey, which for some reason the dittohead thinks might go red in the fall. Not bloody likely, but I wanted to make my position absolutely clear.

This is a bbcode site, so please imagine the following in large bold Times New Roman, with the second line in slightly smaller type:

Hoboken Man, 48, Trades Head For Cabbage

Will Vote For McCain, He Says After Bizarre Surgery
His response was "LOL. Well, it was worth a try." It wasn't, and he should have known it wasn't, but I was pretty tired of arguing at that point.

#276 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 06:08 PM:

Oops. Typing error above @274. The date wasn't 9/11, but 19th November.

The AWM site seems to be under heavy pressure today; not unexpectedly.

#277 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 07:13 PM:

Just heard the news about HMAS Sydney being announced by the Prime Minister on the radio. Epacris has scooped me. Thanks for the links. I can only add the Finding Sydney Foundation web site. Right now it doesn't have this latest news, but there's some interesting material, including a 'search diary'. They want to set up a virtual memorial (www.sydneymemorial.com), but it's not yet done. This is great news, if sad too, for the families of all those lost on both sides. (Side note: 4 of the Australians were civilian catering crew, not naval personnel.)



I grew up not far from the memorial mast of HMAS Sydney (I), one of the landmarks (watermarks? <g>) of Sydney Harbour. Its main claim to fame is sinking the Emden in WWI — there's a painting of the action on display in Sydney Town Hall. When I visited Bradley's Head more recently, they'd added a memorial to HMAS Sydney (II), the one under discussion, and markers about all the other naval ships named 'Sydney'. Last year, on the 94th anniversary of the commissioning of first HMAS Sydney, the Navy announced that "all Australian and foreign naval vessels proceeding into Sydney Harbour will render ceremonial honours to the HMAS Sydney I Memorial Mast". I suspect there'll be some people visiting and some ceremonial there with this news.

#278 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 08:00 PM:

Re Cylon Eyes: Jumping spiders (and some other arthropods) have eyes with a vertical slit, so they can see a great deal in the vertical plane, but as little as 5° in the horizontal. They move the slit from left to right to scan the horizon.

They also have a cluster of them.

Horses (though it's less obvious) have the reverse arrangement. They don't move the slit up and down, but the first time one takes a serious look at a horse's eye, it looks damned odd.

#279 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 08:22 PM:

Fragano @ 269...An odder experience was Steven Brust insisting that he'd met me twenty years ago at a con in Atlanta

Years ago, I met Marion Zimmer Bradley who, upon hearing my full name, said that she had heard it somewhere. From the way she said it, it hadn't in an unpleasant context. Not that it could have been otherwise. Of course.

#280 ::: Wrenlet ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 08:35 PM:

(This is what I get for shutting down Google Reader for a couple days...)

So, back when you guys were discussing Firefly, had no one considered that Joss created a 'verse where the South won? It pinged me a little when it became clear in the series that Alliance worlds do practice forms of slavery, and it hit me REAL hard in "Shindig"; Kaylee's dress was such a visual shoutout to the antebellum South.

Anyway, it came even clearer when I read Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels. Beyond the names Joss chose to use -- a Reynolds on the Union side, Jubal Early on the Confederate -- there's a tension in the novel that I see reflected in the series, between not just two different societies but two different views of destiny. There's a British observer with the Confederate army, and a strong implication that certain parties in England are rooting for the South and see their own society mirrored there, i.e., landed aristocracy, power-by-inheritance. Keeping in mind that this is Shaara's version of the battle and not a straight-up history, I couldn't help but read it as a struggle of man-becomes-what-he-is-bred-to vs. man-becomes-what-he-makes-of-himself. And I see the same struggle in Firefly, with the Alliance imposing an aristocratic heirarchy and the Browncoats as the army of self-made men.

#281 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 08:36 PM:

HP @ 267: I'm only slightly familiar with the Don Juan legend, but I don't think it's got quite the flavour of "hopelessly-snarled plot untangled by an arbitrary new element" that I'm looking for.

#282 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 08:56 PM:

In English: Uh-oh, there are Francophones in the house. But my French is bad enough that you'd need the entire Ruhr valley in reparations if you had to listen to it.

En Francais: Alors, les non-francophones ne comprendront pas ce paragraphe. Quel horreur!

#283 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 09:24 PM:

Wrenlet, an aside about Shaara's book: the film "Gettysburg" adapted it; it seemed almost word-for-word. It's an excellent movie.

#284 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 10:26 PM:

Joel @255: diabolus ex machina ending? All the characters get things into a hopeless muddle, then Something Nasty ascends / descends / emerges, and everything is resolved when all the main characters are dead / consumed / helplessly insane?

Moby Dick, maybe? Tolkien's Akallabêth? Sodom and Gomorrah? Titanic?

Or do divine-justice smackdowns and inexorable natural forces not really fit what you had in mind?

#285 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 10:29 PM:

#231, etc

IIRC, the Brave New Word society had come about through consumerism and dumbing-down - various corporations had become rich enough to set themselves up as the actual government and it was in their interest to create a race of humans who just wanted to buy stuff (and to work so they can buy stuff) - robots wouldn't drive their economy because they don't spend money. The Alphas, for the most part, don't seem to have been stoners - they just needed everyone beneath them to be...

#286 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 10:34 PM:

Neil Willcox @ 282... my French is bad enough that you'd need the entire Ruhr valley in reparations if you had to listen to it

Heck, I survived Wes Studi speaking French in Last of the Mohicans. I seriously doubt your going at it would require some valleyrisation.

#287 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 10:35 PM:

#254, et al

Vg frrzf pyrne gb zr gung Zvyrf qbrf abg xabj gur shyy fgbel bs gur raq bs Ibeqnevna. Naq dhvgr cbffvoyl vf va gur qnex nobhg Ibeehglre, nf jryy. Ng bar cbvag Zvyrf erzrzoref gung uvf zbgure "yrq yblny gebbcf va Ibeqnevna'f eroryyvba" - gung'f n snveyl fnavgvmrq irefvba, gb chg vg zvyqyl.

BGBU, Zvyrf unf ivfvgrq Orgn Pbybal rkgrafviryl, uvf Tenaqzbgure Anvfzvgu. Ur pna, nsgre nyy, qb n pbaivapvat Orgna npprag naq vzcrefbangvba, sbe yratgul crevbqf.



(The preview of a rot-13 comment is astoundingly useless.)

#288 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 10:44 PM:

Henry @287: OTOH in Komarr, when Ekaterin suggests to Miles that they go shopping, he comments, "That's an offer seldom made to the son of my mother."

#289 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 10:47 PM:

Joel @255: diabolus ex machina ending? All the characters get things into a hopeless muddle, then Something Nasty ascends / descends / emerges, and everything is resolved when all the main characters are dead / consumed / helplessly insane?

Cloverfield? Not literature, I know, and largely speculation because I've only read reviews, which convinced me the film might be missable. How about Neville Shute's On the Beach, or any of the other oh-so-cheery nuclear-war works wherein Everybody Dies is both the story and the ending?

#290 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 11:13 PM:

albatross @ 262:

"What's the expensive part of those technologies? I have this sort of uninformed idea that a lot of the cost is intellectual property of the designers and the use of powerful computers, neither of which should be an issue in the Firefly universe. I mean, a CT scan is basically a set of X-rays taken at different angles around you, with the computer building a kind of 3D model from the images, right? I don't know how hard it is to get the necessary precision control of really powerful magnets to make MRI work, or if there's some other difficulty that I'm missing there--it doesn't *seem* like folks that can maintain a spaceship ought to find it all that hard to do....

Speculation about this stuff is made more fun by my vast ignorance in this area. If I were speculating about something I knew much about, I'd probably have to be much more careful and conservative...."

The expensive part of the technology is building it.

CT is a rotating x-ray unit; the x-ray producer is on one side of the circle and the receptors are on the other side.

MRI (and fMRI is the same thing; it's the computing that's different) is a magnet that is made essentially with supercooled wires; part of that large instrument is the container for the cryogens (primarily nitrogen).

Both CT and MRI require lots of shielding, against either ionizing radiation or against strong magnetic fields and against radio waves.

MRI basically works by generating radiofrequency signals from the atoms and molecules inside the field; these are picked up by the coils and sent to the computer for resolution into the image. A 3-D image is made by compiling all the slices, and is not standard, although it sure is pretty.

Bruce is right, the device Simon used had to have a very powerful magnet and advanced computing power. Currently, the state-of-art MRI scanners are taking about 7 minutes to acquire localization images (down from about 13 minutes); a big part of this is the software improvements, since the magnet itself hasn't changed lately. The one I'm thinking of is a 4.7T machine, which is a standard "strength" in diagnostic imaging. The stronger fields (7T, soon 8T) are much better images, and as computers get more powerful, the images will also improve.

I'm getting off track. Where was I? Oh, radio waves. Since the signal from the atoms is an RF signal, you don't want any stray waves from outside, so the rooms need to be shielded -- rather like grounding all electrical wires in any area where sensitive electrical recordings are made.

You also need all the safety stuff -- lead for the CT, ventilation for the MRI, lights, bells, and whistles, and so on. While CT is amazingly quiet -- and fast! -- MRI is exceedingly noisy and you'll need sound-proofing too. There's no way to entirely muffle an MRI, which is why I think Simon's machina ex deus is not exactly an MRI. ;-)

Bruce @ 270: Although the 8T is a stronger magnet, I doubt the size is the reason for the reinforcement of the building: we have an 11T magnet, vertical bore, that's much smaller than any of the others. You can make the magnets any size. I suspect all the extra work around the new magnet is related to the increased need for protecting against radio signals, and all the shielding from the magnet (i.e., the extended gauss lines). I don't know how large the OHSI unit is going to be, so there may well be some physical support needed too, but most magnets don't weigh all that much. Field strength will get larger with the big ones, true.

(Digression: the Pill Hill is a lovely campus, and worth visiting if anyone ever gets the chance. Portland OR is a great city; I had only 18 hours to walk around, and I want to go back. )

What high-intensity magnets do to living humans will be interesting to see. I can tell you that moderate intensity magnets, if repeatedly visited (like weekly) will wear out basic (wire-based)electronic technology a little sooner than expected. Magnetic fields -- your invisible friends!

#291 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 11:24 PM:

Serge @ 260: De rien. N'importe quoi pour un ami, non?

#292 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 11:49 PM:

#285:

There's evidence in Brave New World that the top Alphas are just as thoroughly conditioned as the other castes. At two points, Mustapha Mond quips, about Epsilons and Deltas, "I don't know what we'd do without them." I think that's a sleep-learned reflexive thought. And Bernard's boss chides him for not sleeping around enough.

But good point on the need for a population of consumers. The World State is probably really good at being what it is, and can't imagine any other possible way of being.

I used to do thought experiment / daydreams about how that society would handle an alien invasion. Could be a good set-up for a role playing game.

#293 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2008, 11:51 PM:

Ginger @ 29... Oui, oui, say I using my best Charles Boyer impersonation. (My worst one sounds like Pépé le Pew.)

#294 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 12:20 AM:

Invoking the openthreadedness of it all: Second Best Beer Ad Ever.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNmjzJh_Yvg

#295 ::: Ralph Giles ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 01:18 AM:

albatross @ 262: One of the things that makes MRI so big an expensive is the lack of computing power. They start with a large, uniform magnetic field and apply orthogonal and carefully linear gradients for imaging, because that makes inverting the radio signals to generate the spatial image easy.

But you can make rare earth magnets with a tesla-level field, and the antenna doesn't have to be much bigger. So in theory at least, it's possible to make a completely hand held MRI scanner, if we could just figure out how to interpret the signals from a curved field. Much like the medical tricorders in the original Star Trek, actually. That little salt shaker Bones used to make diagnoses isn't completely far fetched.

#296 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 02:01 AM:

Ginger @ 290

You're right, the mass of the magnet isn't just determined by the field strength; as I understand it, the mass of the OHSU magnet is so large because a) it's heavily shielded*, and b) it's physically larger than it needs to be for the field strength, so has a larger cross-section. B) is because the larger the opening on the inside of the magnet coil, the larger and more uniform the field in the open volume near the center where the highest field homogeneity is.

Of course I'm biased, I've lived here for more than half my life, but I agree with you that Portland is a great city. You're welcome to come back any time you want; drop me a line before you come and we can get a Making Light group together for lunch or something.

Ralph Giles @ 295

Assuming we calibrate the magnetic field, so even if it's not uniform we know the intensity at every point in the scanning volume, and assuming the calibration is highly stable over time, then, by applying lots of compute power we can in theory get high resolution images with small, low intensity fields. You still need a lot of sensors, or some way to move them with high precision, and oodles and oodles of instructions per second.

The number of volume cells to compute goes up as the cube of the linear resolution, and the best Digital Fourier Transform** algorithm currently known is order log n / n for number of points n, and each point costs quite a few instructions*** so high resolution is extremely expensive in computation.

Although I've been wondering for some time if quantum computing couldn't speed that up drastically. The basic algorithm in use in quantum computing is the Digital Fourier Transform (that's the way quantum operations work), and in theory the quantum version is O 1, that is, constant time for any number of points.

* There's a metric shitload of other electronic equipment of all kinds up on the Hill; it's after all primarily a research center.

** The mathematical operator that does the heavy lifting for the image analysis.

*** I'm not current on the detailed implementations in use today, but I would guess each point costs somewhere around 100 multiplications or so.

#297 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 02:02 AM:

Wrenlet @280: You're right in picking out The Killer Angels as a formative influence on Firefly -- Joss Whedon mentions it as such in the Serenity script book, IIRC. (He also says explicitly that Mal wasn't fighting for slavery -- not surprising, since slavery is clearly still present under the Alliance.)

Apropos Firefly--- I read through Stephen Brust's Firefly novel, My Kind of Freedom, a week or so ago. Brust didn't sell *all* the plot points as well as I wanted, but he's got a very good sense of the characters' voices and the world, and it's a fun story that explores some interesting complexities in the characters. If you've been hankering for more Firefly, it'll satisfy. :-)

#298 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 02:13 AM:

Wrenlet @280: You're right in picking out The Killer Angels as a formative influence on Firefly -- Joss Whedon mentions it as such in the Serenity script book, IIRC. (He also says explicitly that Mal wasn't fighting for slavery -- not surprising, since slavery is clearly still present under the Alliance.)

Apropos Firefly--- I read through Stephen Brust's Firefly novel, My Kind of Freedom, a week or so ago. Brust didn't sell *all* the plot points as well as I wanted, but he's got a very good sense of the characters' voices and the world, and it's a fun story that explores some interesting complexities in the characters. If you've been hankering for more Firefly, it'll satisfy. :-)

#299 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 02:15 AM:

Argh blargh damn network outages. Sorry for the double-post.

#300 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 04:37 AM:

Henry Troup @ #287: (The preview of a rot-13 comment is astoundingly useless.)

What I usually do is compose and preview the message in cleartext, then rot-13 it just before I hit "POST".

(There is an attendant risk of getting the steps in the wrong order, of course.)

#301 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 05:50 AM:

Zombie Feynman, the MythBusters and superstring theorists

(My many thanks to Tania for drawing my attention to this.)

#302 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 07:45 AM:

Serge #279: That is an odd experience, but you do have a name that should have doppelgangers.

Of course, if your surname were de Nîmes....

#303 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 08:27 AM:

Bruce Cohen (StM) @ 296: Yes, the larger magnets have larger fields and more shielding. With respect to the computational part, one thing we do is scan for longer periods of time -- that leads to increased resolution of the images (from my perspective), and that's most likely because of the increased numbers of transforms/other operations being performed. Faster software leads to increased resolution in a shorter period of time, so a long scan with fast/powerful computers could lead to "instantaneous" scans.

There's already a table-top MRI -- for small rodents and culture dishes -- but it was around $500,000 for the unit, so we didn't get one. When Congress switches back to properly funding research again, then we might be able to afford things like that. ;-)

#304 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 08:32 AM:

albatross @ 251: "Well, the medicine we saw in _Ariel_ wasn't that stunningly advanced, as far as I could see. It looked like a normal hospital until they got to the scanner, which looked to me like it had a really good user interface. It wasn't clear to me that it gave him enormously more information than he'd have gotten from a set of different technologies available at a modern hospital, but I'm no expert."

The hospital did look pretty 20th century to me too, but I'm not sure that the scanning machine was as simple as you suggest. Just going by its function and appearance isn't much of a guide--an obsidian blade looks and is used a lot like a watered steel blade, but the level of technology required to produce each is quite different. I can imagine enormously more advanced and sophisticated MRIs that look, to the casual observer, basically the same as ours do.

Also, I'm wondering what your assumptions are on how advanced their tech ought to be. I tend to assume that they've burned up a couple of centuries traveling in generation ships, and maybe another couple boot-strapping an industrial society. With a date of 2517, that gives them maybe a hundred years of relative undistracted technological advancement. Really, there's no evidence at all either way on their travel time--you can assume any number you'd like to make their tech level seem reasonable.

(You can throw in a Singularity event on Earth-that-was preventing them from receiving tech updates enroute for an extra Vingean/Strossian flair.)

Bruce Cohen @ 271: "Absolutely correct, and you just poked me in a fascination of mine: the evolution of technology. Just like biological evolution, technology evolves by satisfying a (very complex) local fitness function. The fact that it's local means it's possible (in fact, easy) to get stuck in local minima which aren't globally optimal. And the cost of jumping to another track may be so large that differences of far more than 15% may be insufficient to justify the change."

I wonder how useful it would be to study the evolution of tech, which moves much faster, as a sort of hothouse version of biological evolution in order to observe in real-time processes that in biological time take millions of years. How well do the two correspond, do you think? Does intelligent design* substantially affect the process?

*On the tech side. Of course.

Wrenlet @ 280: "So, back when you guys were discussing Firefly, had no one considered that Joss created a 'verse where the South won?"

Me @ 106: "You mean with the Confederates? I've often wondered if the Browncoats were Joss's attempt to disassociate what was admirable in the Confederates (defending their right to self-determination) from what was despicable (that they had "self-determined" to enslave half their population)."

So, yeah, that occured to some of us. =) It's funny you mention Killer Angels, though. According to the Wikipedia page, it was a direct inspiration for the series.

#305 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 08:42 AM:

Fragano @ 302... you do have a name that should have doppelgangers

Maybe in the Evil Universe.

#306 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 08:46 AM:

Serge #279: That is an odd experience, but you do have a name that should have doppelgangers.

Of course, if your surname were de Nîmes....

#307 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 09:33 AM:

V jnf fghaarq ol ure pehrygl gb ure perjzna jub tbg uvg ol n areir qvfehcgbe. V qrsvavgryl funer Neny'f bcvavba ba gung fgngr bs rkvfgrapr.

Lbh'yy abgr gung fur unf qbhogf nobhg jurgure fur qvq uvz n snibe jura fur frrf uvz jvgu uvf cneragf; V guvax ure vavgvny ershfny gb rhgunavmr uvz jnf n fubpx ernpgvba, onfvpnyyl "Guvf vf gur bayl bar yrsg naq V nz uvf pncgnva naq V nz ol Tbq tbvat gb xrrc uvz ng yrnfg nyvir." Naq gura fur naq Neny whfg pbnfg ba zbzraghz bapr gur cyna vf frg.

I've often wondered if the Browncoats were Joss's attempt to disassociate what was admirable in the Confederates...

Problem with that analogy is that it's pretty clearly the Alliance who are the Confederates, in all but name. It's the Alliance that allows slavery ("Shindig", called such, and "The Train Job", called "bonded servant") and has big white houses in green lawns (complete with Spanish moss on the trees) and elaborate dresses and pseudo-aristocratic titles ("Shindig" again).

#308 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 10:15 AM:

251, 304: Also, maybe the scanner isn't that much more advanced because there isn't really much more advancing to do. Look at (something much on my mind at present) small arms today. There hasn't really been anything revolutionary since the invention of the repeating rifle. There are little improvements in accuracy and reliability, better materials make the weapons lighter and more robust, and there are nice new add-ons like low-light sights and red-dot aiming - the equivalent of better user interfaces - but at their hearts they're pretty much unchanged. And they'll probably go on being unchanged until the switch happens to laser pistols or hand-held railguns or guided missile launchers or whatever.

Also, there's the possibility that his real motive for visiting the hospital wasn't (or wasn't only) to seek help for his sister. Maybe he just wanted a taste of the life he'd given up - the successful, respected, gently-reared hospital doctor.

#309 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 10:30 AM:

When I was at university, I used to show people around some of the Shiny Things in our department (Chemistry) - one of them was a high-Tesla NMR machine. (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance - the process Ginger describes in #290, of turning atoms upside-down with a magnetic field and catching the radiofrequency blip when they flip back. MRI, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, uses NMR and happy fun mathematics to deal with complicated targets like people rather than small vials of crud.)

We had to stop outside the door and go through a list of warnings. "If you have a pacemaker, stay outside. If you go beyond the red line on the floor without emptying your pockets, kiss goodbye to your credit cards. When your keys tear their way out of your pockets, don't try to grab them on the way past." (May be slightly exaggerated for comic effect. Slightly.)

Regarding the rotting encryption - can we please say something beforehand about what it's a spoiler for? Trying to read the Bujold discussion and accidentally decrypting Firefly spoilers instead would be rather unpleasant for me, and I'm sure I'm not the only one in that position.

#310 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 10:36 AM:

Carrie S #307:

But most of the slavery we see, and all the really brutal, cotton- and sugar-plantation style slavery, is on the outer planets. There's no indication I've ever noticed that this is because the Alliance imposed it; instead, it looks like the Alliance and many (maybe not all) outer planets have slavery, and that (as with literally everything else) it's much more regulated on core worlds.

#311 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 10:43 AM:

Julie L. @ 284, vian @ 289: In all of those cases, the disaster-causing agent is a core part of the plot all along. The story comes to a bad end, but it's not an arbitrary surprise out-of-nowhere bad end.

G&S's The Sorcerer has a quite arbitrary resolution, when J. Wellington Wells "yields up his life to Ahrimanes". The story includes the brief appearance of a chorus of fiends while Wells is doing his work, but there's no other diabolism involved, and no mention of their boss. (Asimov noted the weakness of this ending in his "Up-To-Date Sorcerer".) If, instead of Wells disappearing into the stage trap, Ahrimanes had manifested and wiped out all the characters for being such idiots and dabbling in matters wot were best left un-meddled-with... that's more what I had in mind.

#312 ::: Scott Spiegelberg ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 10:50 AM:

I thought everyone here would be interested in the academic Call for Papers I just received, Music in the Whedonverse:

"From bands at The Bronze in Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Angel singing karaoke at Caritas to the traditional-style fiddling and guitar playing in Firefly, music is an integral part of Joss Whedon's universes. This collection seeks essays from both established and emerging scholars on the uses of and contributions made by music in the Whedonverse. Discipline-specific and interdisciplinary views are encouraged to address issues of power, relationships, identity, gender, communication, religion, multiculturalism, sanity and madness, and other topics present in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and Serenity. Topics might include, but are not limited to:

* Music and performance

* Gender/identity/race and music (including traditional identity topics as well as those of non-human characters)

* Genre representations

* Scoring for action sequences

* Music and communication

* Musical characterization

* Music and camp

* Music and transformation

* Character vocality

* The use of silence and music in unique ways

* Levels and mixing of diegesis and non-diegesis

The deadline for submissions is August 15, 2008. The collection will be published by Scarecrow Press with an anticipated publication date in 2009.

Essays should be between 7,000 and 9,000 words and follow Chicago Manual of Style format. Only electronic submissions sent in a .doc

(Word) formats will be accepted. Authors are encouraged to include photographs, but will be responsible for acquiring all materials and

permission for use. Please send a cover letter including the title of the essay, an abstract of not more than 200 words, an author c.v, and

author biography of not more than 100 words along with the complete blind essay (author's name should not appear) to Kendra Preston Leonard at caennen_at_gmail.com."

#313 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 10:52 AM:

I'm on my way out the door, so I haven't checked to see if anyone else has posted this:

All three links in the "Owl of Letters" particle give me a "you don't have permission to access" error.

#314 ::: Wrenlet ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 11:03 AM:

heresiarch @304:

I can't claim THAT level of perception, I'd read of the connection between Firefly and Killer Angels :D But I still don't think the Browncoats were Confederates; the South stood for self-determination at the societal level (we get to keep holding slaves because our society is supported by it and we don't want to change), but NOT at the individual level.

Carrie S. @ 307:

Problem with that analogy is that it's pretty clearly the Alliance who are the Confederates, in all but name. It's the Alliance that allows slavery ("Shindig", called such, and "The Train Job", called "bonded servant") and has big white houses in green lawns (complete with Spanish moss on the trees) and elaborate dresses and pseudo-aristocratic titles ("Shindig" again).

Yes, exactly.

albatross @ 310:

But most of the slavery we see, and all the really brutal, cotton- and sugar-plantation style slavery, is on the outer planets. There's no indication I've ever noticed that this is because the Alliance imposed it; instead, it looks like the Alliance and many (maybe not all) outer planets have slavery, and that (as with literally everything else) it's much more regulated on core worlds.

But isn't that precisely what would have happened in the American West if the South had succeeded in spreading slavery to the territories?

#315 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 11:05 AM:

Heresiarch #304:

Fair enough. A lot of the outward forms of medical treatment can look similar while the underlying technology is radically different. Frex, I gather than AIDS and cancer treatments in 1980 vs. 2007 are quite different, though they look outwardly rather similar (except that the patients mostly survive longer). OTOH, I guess laproscopic surgery is just radically different from what was available 50 years ago, and that a lot of what used to involve opening you all the way up and reaching inside now involves a small incision or two and some deft use of remote control gadgets. (ISTM that the realtime communications at great distances that happens in Firefly means that remote-control surgery should be available, which might be how reasonably well-off people on outer planets get surgery in an emergency--pay enough to get someone of Simon's caliber to remote-control the surgical instruments.

I find the evolution of technology fascinating, too. I think it's especially interesting to see places where two or three different communities came up with very different approaches to some problem. You often see this in wars and near-wars--the US/USSR space programs seem to have some of this flavor, with each group developing somewhat different approaches to their problems. I guess weapons systems more generally have this property. And historically, poor communications have left a lot of different independent groups inventing/reinventing the same ideas.

The upside of better communications and memory is that you don't have the smartest people in your society redesigning the waterwheel or something. The downside is, it's easier for the first successful approach to some problem to simply take over everywhere, even if it's not all that great a solution. We *all* use Word now, whether it's a decent word processor or not, because everyone uses it.

#316 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 11:14 AM:

Did anyone else watch Bunny Lake Is Missing on Turner a few nights ago? I hadn't seen it before, and it was startling to encounter a film that had both Noel Coward (as a dirty old hetero!) and televised glimpses of Sixties UK rock group the Zombies. Not to mention the central psycho going wild.... I can see why it's become a cult classic.

#317 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 11:37 AM:

Carrie S. @ 304: "Problem with that analogy is that it's pretty clearly the Alliance who are the Confederates, in all but name."

That's what I mean by disassociating the good aspects of the Confederacy from the bad. You get the plucky underdog fighting for freedom part without the taint of slavery. Conversely, you have the economically powerful and morally corrupt Alliance. Instead of a morally complex tangle, you get a set of nice and simple good guys and bad guys.

#318 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 11:48 AM:

Firefly/Serenity spoilers:

V svanyyl fnj gur zbivr. V guvax vg jnf vagraqrq gb svavfu bss gur frevrf, abg gb rkgraq vg. Vg ernyyl ybbxf gb or fnlvat "Ybbx crbcyr, vg'f bire. BIRE! Gung'f nyy. Ab zber va guvf havirefr, be jvgu gurfr punenpgref, urne? Fb fgbc jevgvat zr sna yrggref nyernql, lbh qhzonff trrxf!"

BX, V rknttrengr. Ohg vg ernyyl frrzrq gb or na raqvat jvgu ab cebzvfr bs n arj ortvaavat. N snveyl qrcerffvat raqvat gbb, rira abg pbafvqrevat gung V ernyyl yvxr gubfr punenpgref (zl snibevgr vf Xnlyrr) naq jbhyq ernyyl yvxr gb frr zber bs gurz.

Guvatf V yvxrq nobhg vg: Gur trareny ybbx bs vg. Evire orpbzvat n fhcreureb. Gur snpg gung vs zl genafyngvba vf pbeerpg 'cnk zvenaqn' zrnaf 'jbaqreshy crnpr', juvpu vf puvyyvatyl vebavp.

#319 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 12:20 PM:

Am I the only one who's tempted to start using bits of relatively pronounceable ROT-13 in speech? For example, 'va trareny' means "in general" and is pretty pronounceable.

We'd have to agree on which bits to borrow, so we can memorize them, instead of having to picture the words in our heads and ROT them in order to understand what's being said.

I suggest we pronounce the 'r' as a flip when single and a flutter when double (a very frequent occurrence), which will make it sound more foreign, aid in the pronunciation of certain words, and get rid of the problem that in certain English dialects 'r' is not prounounced after a vowel.

We could call it speaking Guvegrra. Starter set of suggested words:

     (va) trareny

     lrf

     ab

     uryyb

     trrx

     snaf (a favorite word, because it's a Guvegrra palindrome)

     vafnar

For example, I might say "Ab, I don't think he's really vafnar. I think he's the trareny kind of trrx you get among snaf."

Does this sound like it might be ANY fun (as a sort of party game, not to use in everyday life), or am I just a vafnar linguist trrx?

#320 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 12:35 PM:

Back from Lunacon (fun and relaxing). Fascinating Hugo gossip percolateth in my brain. Not caught up on this thread, and as this is Match Week I may never manage it.

I spent my brief logins this weekend watching in bemused fascination as my dance blog got linked to at a Jane Austen blog and went absolutely crazy - after about 2000 hits in the first two months, I've had 1000 hits in five days on a little piece of scholarly snark I tossed out in about 90 minutes last week inspired by....well, never mind precisely what inspired it. Utterly bizarre. Now I am trying to figure out how to make them talk to me and how to keep them coming back. (Note to self: blog about something in which I can mention Jane Austen on a weekly basis.)

#321 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 12:38 PM:

The Sidelights "The disgusting Danielle Pletka of the New York Times" and "The New York Times Iraq op-eds made simple" have different urls, but appear to go to the same place. The first one is meant to go to a comment, I think, but is linking to the top of the post instead.

#322 ::: Barbara Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 12:51 PM:

My friend-and-apprentice Anne just sent me a link for Jezebel's blog entries LOLcaptioning Vogue fashion pics.

It makes the models much less frightening.

-Barbara

#323 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 12:52 PM:

Susan @ 320... blog about something in which I can mention Jane Austen on a weekly basis

"... Today's entry is not about JANE AUSTEN, but about..."

#324 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 01:12 PM:

Susan @ 320... Of course, congratulations on your site getting increased attention.

#325 ::: Kevin Reid ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 01:17 PM:

I note that the Dire Legal Notice (right sidebar) is showing its age.

#326 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 01:18 PM:

Admirers of coffee and of Agatha Heterodyne... In case you haven't noticed, the Foglio Family has made available a computer wallpaper of the 'Spark Roast' art to those who make a donation to their PayPal tin cup.

Speaking of coffee... Last Thursday, I had to work from home because of a plumbing problem on our floor. The mess was due to people who, after making their own pot of much needed brew, would toss the filter and its contents down the sink. They had been warned against doing this, but they didn't listen. And, yes, things ground to a halt.

#327 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 01:25 PM:

Serge @ 326: I hope those miscreants were roasted by the rest of your colleagues. In fact, they should have been pounded by a briki until they were flatte on the floor.

#328 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 01:36 PM:

Ginger @ 327... It was quite a dreg.

#329 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 01:40 PM:

Serge @ 328: I'll bet it left a bad taste in your mouth. Java-na make some tea instead?

#330 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 01:51 PM:

Question for folks who hang out in more of the blogosphere than I do:

Tip jars: acceptable or tacky?

'cause if I am ever going to have one, I really ought to get it up there this week while someone is actually reading. I'm all aboard on the pixel-stained technopeasant thing, but I'm also quite open to the idea of people rewarding my research directly rather than hoping that eventually it leads to them hiring me to do something for pay. But I want to be the sort of technopeasant who is respectably dressed and clean behind the ears, not one who looks like she should be hanging out in the meatpacking district late at night.

The only blog I read (of the, um, two blogs I read) that uses them is Daily Kos. So I don't have a good feel for the concept or its social acceptability. Thoughts/advice?

#331 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 01:56 PM:

Susan @ 330... The Girl Genius siteuses the tip jar. So did Diane Duane's LiveJournal site when, after many requests from fans, she started writing a new novel in a series of hers. Sharon Lee & Steve Miller have also set up a tip jar for a serialized novel.

In other words, the answer is: no, not tacky.

#332 ::: Donald Delny ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 01:59 PM:

#330 ::: Susan,

tip jars are fine by me. I don't use them*, mind you, but I've never minded their existence.

Could you put a link to your site in your "And your URL here" box when you next post? You mentioned people were showing up and reading stuff, but I don't know where that is.

*I buy comic books, t-shirts, jewelry, from the sites that I like that happen to have them. And I go to conventions and buy in person. E.g.: alpha-shade.com, girlgeniusonline.com, megatokyo.com

#333 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 01:59 PM:

Susan,

I think tip jars are okay, and I've used them to send a little cash to people whose work I read regularly before.

#334 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 03:11 PM:

Okay, totally random post, but I just absolutely had to share this:

one of those things that justifies the entire existence of the internet

#335 ::: Ralph Giles ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 03:32 PM:

Serge at 331: Are you thinking of the subscription link for The Big Meow or did Diane Duane put up a generic tip jar as well? Subscriptions are quite different, and in that particular case I'm rather annoyed that she hasn't finished the book after everyone pitched in.

More generally, I don't mind tip jars either, but canvassing sometimes rubs people the wrong way. I've also heard one rarely gets much money that way, people preferring to buy something tangible. I think it's better to think of a tip jar as an option for those who feel moved to thank you that way, than any kind of transaction or expected support. FWIW.

#336 ::: Ben Engelsberg ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 03:36 PM:

Xopher @ 319:

I don't know about fun, per se, but a challenging mental exercise, and pretty fannish, to boot.

I ran the 850 words of the Basic English core vocabulary (URL below) through ROT13 translation, and found some fun words.

I posted the translation table here

Personal favorite (though I now recall this being commented on before): green -> terra

Basic English vocabulary list:

http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Appendix:Basic_English_word_list



#337 ::: Jennifer Barber ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 03:52 PM:

I spent my brief logins this weekend watching in bemused fascination as my dance blog got linked to at a Jane Austen blog and went absolutely crazy

Yeah, sorry, that was me. I couldn't resist after you specifically mentioned Mr Beveridge's Maggot as being inappropriate; I haven't read Austenfic in years, but I'm still annoyed by how many of the stories use things that were only in the 1996 adaptation as if they were canon, that being among them.

(Now, if only some kind Fluorospheran would post something I could link to that could shoot down the whole Col. Fitzwilliam's father being the Earl of Matlock thing, or if there were some way to discourage people from having Darcy randomly jump in a pond....)

#338 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 03:53 PM:

Susan - I just saw the Renaissance Dance Database linked in an LJ post. Is that something you would find interesting? It looked like a site that would want to pick your brain.

#339 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 04:02 PM:

Jennifer: gawds, don't apologize. You've done me a huge favor. Allison Thompson (a fellow dance scholar) also put it up on Austenblog yesterday, resulting in another huge wave of hits. This is a completely new experience for me.

I'm already making a list of more Austen-related topics and will try to blog about them on a regular basis. (Oh, noes! An excuse to watch Austen films!) Most of them won't have quite the snarky attraction, but hopefully Austenites will still find them amusing.

#340 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 04:16 PM:

Ben 336: That's the entire Basic English vocabulary in ROT-13, right? I think maybe we need to start with the ones that are easily pronounceable...I mean, I can pronounce 'qryvpngr', but some might find it a little difficult! We can save the ones that sound like Kzinti for when we're a little more advanced.

Still, thanks for doing that. The cause of literary Guvegrra has been advanced! And I'm definitely adding 'gehr' and 'snyfr' to my vocabulary list.

#341 ::: Jennifer Barber ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 04:26 PM:

Xopher: How are you pronouncing "y", though? So many sounds to choose from...somehow using the English (vowel) value just seems wrong, for this. After all, the rest of it doesn't look much like English--why limit ourselves?

(In looking at those words, I tend to go back and forth between the IPA [y], and interpreting it as if that letter alone were in Cyrillic, for some reason. "Some reason" possibly being because I've never been able to comfortably and consistently pronounce a high front rounded vowel.)

#342 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 04:34 PM:

Jennifer 341: I've been using /i/ as in 'bit'. The trouble with using /u/ as in 'flute' is that what do you use for 'u'?

#343 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 04:44 PM:

Susan - I don't think there's anything tacky about a "tip jar" donation button. I usually prefer to support webcomics and such that I like by buying merchandise such as T-shirts, but sometimes I just want to kick something in and don't particularly want some object in return. Another option some places use is a public Amazon wishlist set up so that people who want to express appreciation for your posts can just order you something you've been wanting. That doesn't take the Paypal "cut" out of each transaction.

#344 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 05:16 PM:

It seems that, ahem, Winnie the Pooh is alive and well, and living in the Balkans. I have no idea if Eeyore, Tigger, Kanga, and Roo have been informed.

I did meet Christopher Robin in Alabama over the weekend, though.

#345 ::: Ben Engelsberg ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 05:17 PM:

Xopher @ 340

Yep, that's the whole thing. I'm going to add a pronounceability column and start sorting them when I have free moments. I also gave you access in case you want to play with the spreadsheet (and because I want to see how well Google docs handles sharing).

#346 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 05:33 PM:

Jennifer 341: I'm sure you've tried a lot of things, but most people try to teach the /ü/ sound by having you "round your lips and say ee" or some such nonsense. I've gotten much better results by the reverse process; say "ee" and sustain it while gradually rounding your lips without moving your tongue. Then sustain that for a bit. Start over again. Repeat this until you can do it easily.

Then and only then, try going directly to the /ü/. If it doesn't work, go back to the "ee-ü" process. Once you can say the vowel in isolation, say it after a consonant (open syllable): pü, tü, kü; bü, dü, gü and so on. Then try it in a closed syllable, and you become Robert's niece.

Jumping right into putting it into a whole word before you get used to how the sound feels in your mouth is a mistake. Let me know if this helps at all, or if it's one of the many things you've tried and I'm just boring the fuvg out of you.

#347 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 05:40 PM:

Fragano @ 344... Bears don't like Serbian turbo-folk music?

#348 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 05:47 PM:

Serge #347: Apparently not. Stephen Colbert should be informed.

#349 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 06:41 PM:

Joel @311: In all of those cases, the disaster-causing agent is a core part of the plot all along. The story comes to a bad end, but it's not an arbitrary surprise out-of-nowhere bad end.

Ditto for The Last Days of Pompeii etc.?

Hmm... how about Sigrid Undset's "Kristin Lavransdatter" trilogy, at the end of which gur Oynpx Cynthr ernpurf Fpnaqvanivn naq rirelobql qvrf? (Bxnl, abg *rirelobql*, ohg ng yrnfg gur znva punenpgre naq n ybg bs crbcyr nebhaq ure.)



Xopher @319: Back in the early 90s when I was hanging around alt.folklore.urban, I'd occasionally mutter "Furrfu" when exasperated. When the situation so required, this sometimes mutated into long drawn-out grumbles of "Furrfubar and grilled cheese sandwich islands (etc.)" in the best traditions of Word Association Football.

#350 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 07:17 PM:

Julie L @ #349, "Word Association Football"

Please elucidate.

#351 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 07:19 PM:

Carrie S@307

I tend to think that the "feel" of the situation in Firefly is somewhat like if the main states in both the North and South had combined against the Western states/territories.

Or (fittingly?) if current-day U.S. and China decided to combine (along with a few key allies) to conquer the rest of the world.

(Although the existence of long range nuclear weapons complicates the latter situation unless Russia, Britain, and France are among the "few allies").

#352 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 07:35 PM:

Carrie S. @ 307 and previous Barrayar discussion (coming in a bit late 'cos we spent the weekend reorganising all our paperback fiction):

V nyjnlf gbbx vg gung vavgvnyyl Pbeqryvn'f ernpgvba jnf nybat gur yvarf bs: ur'f nyvir, vs vawherq; bs pbhefr jr ybbx nsgre uvz, gung'f jung frcnengrf pvivyvmngvba sebz oneonevnaf - ubj jr gerng gur zbfg urycyrff zrzoref bs bhe fbpvrgl.

Yngre, frrvat gung ur jnf rssrpgviryl n irtrgnoyr, jvgu ab erny shgher - gura fur erpbafvqref.

Vg'f nyfb jbegu abvat gung, hayvxr Neny, fur qvqa'g unir cerivbhf svefg-unaq rkcrevrapr bs jung shyy-ba qvfehcgre sver qvq gb fbzrbar. Fu qvqa'g xabj ubj gb qvfgvathvfu orgjrra, fnl, Xbhqryxn'f vawhel (erjvevat bs gur crevcureny areibhf flfgrz erdhverq, ohg gung'f cbffvoyr, va gurve gvzr naq fcnpr, naq guvf cbbe thl'f vawhel (uvture oenva pragerf jvcrq bhg).

Bar bs gur guvatf V yvxr nobhg Ohwbyq'f jevgvat vf gung fur cbvagf bhg lbh unir gb znxr lbhe qrpvfvbaf jvgu gur vasbezngvba lbh unir ninvynoyr ng gur gvzr, naq gung n "evtug" qrpvfvba vfa'g arprffnevyl gur "orfg cbffvoyr" qrpvfvba - ohg gung qbrfa'g zrna vg jnf jebat (frr Neny'f pbzzragf gb Zvyrf nsgre Zvyrf fgevccrq bss gb oernx gur qrnqybpx ng Ynxbjfxv Onfr).

#353 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 07:35 PM:

Fragano @ 348... Once again I find myself noticing that Reality is a Mel Brooks comedy.

#354 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 07:42 PM:

A propos of #350, and to quote the lovely S. Brust, writer of fine Firefly fanfic to the gentry:

Word association footballs to the wallflower bedroom eyes-

of the world war one by wondering who it is she cries

-streams of salt and pepper hair brain schematic circuit fuse

-(er, something mumblemumble)stream of consicousness blues.

Damn - used to know the whole thing. I can only blame the heat.

#355 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 08:18 PM:

Linkmeister @350: This works better as audio, but here's the original transcript.

#356 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 08:22 PM:

Linkmeister 350: Word Association Football.

(This is a very strange page. Explaining the joke takes a lot of the humor out of it at first, and then, as it continues, interjects a whole new level of meta-humor which I believe is entirely unintended. Also, our annotator censors out the last line, which he disregards as unnecessary, but is in fact the punch line to the whole joke. Allow me to explain: the narrator, despite his seeming level-head thoughtfulness, is revealed through word association to be a seething mass of anger and resentment. Ha-ha! Comedy. Uncensored version.)

On preview: Pipped by Julie. But the link I found is too bizarre not to share.

#357 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 09:26 PM:

Thanks, both of you. I thought I knew most Python skits, but I hadn't heard that one.

#358 ::: Spacetime for Springers ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 09:36 PM:

At #255 as it's not a play I'm just taking the opportunity to mention one of my favourite books: Barbara Comyns' Who was Changed and Who was Dead. Following a catastrophic flood a village is afflicted with ergot poisoning causing all kinds of shenanigans. From the ingenuous young narrator's point of view the things, including deaths and a miscarriage, that happen to her family and circle of acquaintance have essentially benign effects. A deliciously macabre book,

#359 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 09:51 PM:

Serge #353: In which I am never played by either Marty Feldman or Cleavon Little. This is wrong.

#360 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 10:26 PM:

Fragano @ 359... How about being played by Peter Boyle?

#361 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 10:35 PM:

Xopher @ 319: "Am I the only one who's tempted to start using bits of relatively pronounceable ROT-13 in speech? For example, 'va trareny' means "in general" and is pretty pronounceable."

This sounds like way too much sha. It's gehr, va trareny I'm opposed obscurity simply for the sake of obscurity. Ubjrire, I have a weakness for ROT-13.

I think there might also be a use here for concealing profanity. Can you think of anything more fun than saying, "Okay, jung gur shpx is going on here!?"

#362 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 11:32 PM:

heresiarch 361: Or "We're supposed to do WHAT? Shpx gung!"

Sha sha sha!

#363 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 11:32 PM:

Ginger@290, OK, I'm wiping drool off my keyboard. Where do you work and are they hiring digital engineers?



moderate intensity magnets, if repeatedly visited (like weekly) will wear out basic (wire-based)electronic technology



Erm, I'm trying to think of a single example of any electronic gizmo that wouldn't have silicon in it and be purely wire based. A simple battery operated flashlight with a glass bulb (not LED) and mechanical switch is all I can think of off the top of my head. I would assume the field messes with semiconductors and permanent magnets (like in power tools), but not copper wires. But I've never played with huge

electromagnets.

Well, actually, it's an electro-nuclear-magnet. It's the next inevitable phase.

#364 ::: KateTheLurker ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 11:36 PM:

Re 312: Whedon's music

Mr. Whedon has in fact, written a musical called "DOCTOR HORRIBLE'S SING-ALONG BLOG" (!):

http://whedonesque.com/comments/15781#216963

(quote)

During the strike I started writing a musical intended as a limited internet series, 3 episodes of approximately 10 minutes each. Writing with me was my brother Jed, his fiancee Maurissa, and my other brother Zack. To my shock and surprise, we finished it. To my greater shock and surprise, we managed (with the help of many people I'll be praising at length soon) to drag it into preproduction (yes, just as DOLLHOUSE was given a start date two months away and all my comics were due.) And today, after a grueling week of writing everything ever while trying to be a producer, I got to start shooting. A musical.

This much I will say: It's the story of a low-rent super-villain, the hero who keeps beating him up, and the cute girl from the laundromat he's too shy to talk to. And I'm having the time of my life.

"DOCTOR HORRIBLE'S SING-ALONG BLOG"

Neil Patrick Harris.....as Dr. Horrible

Nathan Fillion..........as Captain Hammer

Felicia Day.............as Penny

And a cast of Dozens!



(unquote)

I didn't even know NPH (as opposed to PNH) or NF could sing!

#365 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2008, 11:47 PM:

NPH had a run in Rent. Presumably he can sing.

#366 ::: KateTheLurker ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 12:14 AM:

Xopher,

That's the sort of news you don't get in the antipodean colonies.

I'm not even sure we have had a run of Rent here (Sydney). If we did, it certainly didn't feature Neil Patrick Harris.

(d'oh, checking Wikipedia I find it was here only last year)

#367 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 12:27 AM:

Yeah, I didn't think Sydney was a backwater, not to have had Rent playing at some point. It even ran in Los Angeles, for Dionysos' sake!

#368 ::: Kayjayoh ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 12:44 AM:

Neil Patrick Harris was also in the Broadway revival cast of Sondheim's Assassins

#369 ::: Matthew Austern ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 12:52 AM:

My memory of Brave New World is that the question of automation was explicitly discussed. In fact, my memory is that it was discussed in a very strange way, which I've never quite decided was a blind spot of Huxley's or a clever commentary about a blind spot of the society's.

It's toward the end, when Mond is talking about the true foundations of the society, and describing various experiments. In one experiment, he says, they tried to do without the intellectually stunted lower castes. But, he said, that experiment failed: the Alphas fell apart because they couldn't handle the boring low caste work. In another experiment, they tried using automation. But that experiment failed too: without any work to do, the low caste workers felt useless and unhappy.

The obvious question, at least from my point of view, is why they didn't think to combine those two experiments. But nobody in the book asked that question. I don't know whether Huxley thought it was as obvious as I did. Maybe from his point of view the whole world of that book is so monstrous that even asking whether it could have been better is beside the point.

#370 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 01:19 AM:

Susan, tip jars are okay with me, particularly because standard makers don't make t-shirts big enough for me to wear. But a wishlist would be good, too.

#371 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 02:01 AM:

The "The Indie Rock Album Cover Generator" side thingy is, indeed, uncanny. If they could figure out a way to automate the photoshop process and make a "generate random album now" button, I might actually freak out a little bit by the uncanniness of the whole thing.

#372 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 02:07 AM:

For any Arrogant Worms fans, Cap'n Tightpants makes a fine singing appearance on the Semi-Conducted DVD version of _We Are The Beaver_. Well, on the extras bit, right at the end.

#373 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 02:09 AM:

Neil Patrick Harris also played Toby in the SF Opera's 2001 concert version of Sweeney Todd, which is available on DVD; ISTR a claim that Sondheim considers his performance to've been among the best for that role.

#374 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 02:52 AM:

Brave New World struck me as a violent reaction against the worship of the god of capitalism going on in the US. Henry Ford is an object of worship in BNW. The people are encouraged to consume, to throw away and consume more. The caste system is an outcome of capitalism allowed to run to its natural conclusion. Family is replaced by assembly-line wombs, no parents to raise children. People are conditioned to be apathetic, to not care about anyone or anything, to not want for anything other than what they were born into and what they already have. Conditioning and drug use are the government's approach to controlling the population by instilling them with a real sense of apathy, a lack of caring. The only time the population is enflamed into action is when The Savage throws their drugs out the window.

I think his portrayal of sex is sort of like what happens when a non-computer-engineer writes about computers. Sometimes they can think of ideas far outside the envelope, and sometimes they can come up with ideas that are just a reflection of their lack of understanding. The sex in BNW seemed to be his way of saying it was yet another aspect of how impersonal the world had become, that sex had lost all meaning, and was nothing more than a hedonistic act. However, one might look at BNW now and sense some century old attitudes coming through the story, maybe he believed in abstinance, save sex for marriage, and then only for procreation, and all that. But i think while he may have done the equivalent of having the moon being made out of cheese, I think his point of sex to the point that it has lost all other meaning is a valid concern.

As far as his representation of drugs, I don't think the issue was the use of drugs, it was that the government was using drugs and other forms of conditioning to train people to be passive, to accept whatever the government, the system, and life, gave them.

He's very much a Nurture instead of Nature sort of guy. It isn't genetic engineering going on, it's conditioning after a person is born that molds them into whatever caste they are destined for.

But mainly, BNW seems to mostly be an essay against capitalism and consumption, and everything bad in BNW's dystopia is an outcome of allowing those two ideas run unchecked until they create the Brave New World we see in the story. Henry Ford becomes a god, and the world is divided into assembly line workers and captains of industry. Conditioning is used to reinforce these castes, and to encourage consumption for all the production going on.

The thing is that BNW was written after the stock market crash that started the depression. It was written in 1932, which would have seen the gods like Henry Ford in the midst of the Great Depression. So I'm not sure what the point was of simply saying "Unchecked Capitalism doesn't work, see?"

Wikipedia says that BNW was written in response to H.G.Wells' utopian story "Men Like Gods". So, maybe BNW was little more than Aldous Huxley looking at HGW and saying "Nyuhuh!"



#375 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 05:50 AM:

KateTheLurker @ 364... Nathan Fillion as Captain Hammer?

With 9-inch nails that come out from between his knuckles? Who, besides frequently defeating Neil Patrick Harris, must deal with the giant mutant-destroying robots called the Sentinails?

#376 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 06:35 AM:

Xopher @319:

I only use "furrfu", and that only among coworkers and other computer geek types who'd be likely to know it (and where it got "popularized", if you can say that about it). And the problem I'd have with pronouncing rot13-d words is that I'd tend to pronounce a u-less q in Sephardi / Arabic fashion....

Greg London @363:

Core memory, but somehow I don't think that was the intent. Also, while these days ASICs are all the rage, discrete-component electronics still can occasionally be found and designs based on standard ICs wired together are a bit more common.

That said, the real point is that if you have anything (wire, circuit board trace, etc.) which isn't Faraday shielded and is brought too close to a large, changing magnetic field, it will feed quite a bit of current to whatever it's attached to. Even ASIC-based devices tend to have wires or traces to connect power and controls — and there are usually leads inside the ASICs as well. Induction is "fun" stuff.

#377 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 08:18 AM:

re: Doctor Horrible - my head almost exploded from an earworm going something like (sing-songy) "Doctor Horrible, Doctor Horrible, telephone call for Doctor Horrible," over and over. Moments away from 'splodey, I finally clicked on They Might Be Giants. I frantically skipped from track to track until I found "Someone Keeps Moving My Chair," and discovered I was substituting "Doctor" for "Mister." *whew* Earworm successfully defused, with minimal loss of life. Experienced posted here as a public service.

#378 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 08:45 AM:

Serge @ 353, Fragano @ 359:

Someone's got to be Gene Wilder, though. I will volunteer myself for Cloris Leachman, and I'm sure we can find our Dom Deluise, Madeline Kahn, and other fine people around here.

"Well, it could be worse."

"What do you mean?"

"It could be raining."

#379 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 08:59 AM:

Ginger @ 378... I guess I could be Kenneth Mars.

"Vee had better confeerm de fect dat Yunk Frankenshtein iss indeed VALLOWING EEN EES GANDFADDA'S VOOTSHTAPS."

"What?"

#380 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 09:34 AM:

Greg London @ 363: I work at NIH, and you can check out the Federal jobs listed at USAJobs. Alas, don't expect anything rapid to happen. Ever since the Upper Echelon decided to centralize all support services (in the name of efficiency), our HR has gotten a lot slower and much less effective.

As geekosaur said, anything not shielded will have induction problems. My hearing aids have wires in them, and the newer digital ones still have circuitry. Too much exposure to magnetic fields and they wear out sooner. Now I let the techs run the scans and keep my head away from those Gaussian lines. ;-)

#381 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 09:36 AM:

Serge @ 379:

It's FRAHNKEN-Shteen. Victor Frahnkenshteen.

I am now working with someone named Igor. I have to refrain from calling him "Eye-gor", as I'm sure he wouldn't understand.

#382 ::: Jennifer Barber ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 09:57 AM:

Xopher 346: I'm sure you've tried a lot of things, but most people try to teach the /ü/ sound by having you "round your lips and say ee" or some such nonsense. I've gotten much better results by the reverse process

You're right, I had people attempt to teach it the first way. I'll try working on it the way you suggest, and see what happens. I eventually did manage to get ö[1], after all, so there's no logical reason I can't manage ü as well...eventually....

[1] Or close enough to where I've stopped worrying about it, at least.

KateTheLurker 364: I didn't even know NPH (as opposed to PNH) or NF could sing!

Yup. Saw him as the Balladeer in Assassins a few years ago; he's not bad. He's also done Cabaret, I believe, and was Toby in one of the Sweeney Todd concerts.

#383 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 10:00 AM:

Suzanne @ 334... Wow. That was an unusual rendition of "Smoke on the Water".

#384 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 11:10 AM:

Xopher #319, Ben #336 just to say that while checking out a rot-13 section of a post on another site, I discovered that "Snore naq Snore" means "Faber and Faber". (How exciting to realise that 2008 is 50 years after debutantes stopped being presented at court, and that someone has managed to write a book on't.)

Serge (#246, #302) Well, this MIDI-controlled 'singing Tesla coil' looks like the compact tabletop version (Apple's skunkworks equivalent will be working on a pocket version e'en now, methinks). You can find other small versions demonstrated on YouTube. I wonder if, in the tradition of calling smaller versions the female equivalent, those could be called "Heramonicas". A "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" link there lead to my finding clips of people playing Ben Franklin's model of a glass (h)armonica. I've heard recordings before, but never seen what it looked like — not at all like I imagined.

And I agree with Zombie Feynman (must finish reading Gleick's biography, 'Genius).

Sam (#309) This brings back a twinge of memory. On my long trip away, a friend wanted to house-sit. He created a few problems in the house, some of which are only being remedied now, about 10 years later. He also used my wristwatch, an exotic mechanical analogue one with many of the features of electronic digital ones – I'd taken a simple cheap Swatch with me in case of damage, loss or theft – no worries if he took care of it. But he visited his girlfriend, who was working with the Sydney Uni Physics Department's NMR machine) &hellip <sigh> … it survived, with some help, but was never quite the same. One can still astonish people by showing off some of its unexpected abilities.

Juli (#313) I find nowhere anything about "Owl of Letters". I have no problems with any of the 3-link-containing entries I've found in recent ones from either Patrick or Teresa. Which are you referring to?

Susan (#330) Tip jars can feel a bit tacky, but I'm working through a very difficult process of getting rid of several households of collected stuff, and trying not to accumulate much more, so having a way of financially helping out or showing my appreciation without adding to my burdensome task is useful, and I'm grateful for the opportunity. Particularly if it's not blatantly shoved in your face, just tucked in a sidebar or suchlike with other elements. (My wishlists are disguised in my blog sidebar listing with a bunch of other things, and called by a different name.)

#385 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 11:23 AM:

ethan, thank's for the recommendation for the album Raising Sand. I am enjoying it very much.

#386 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 12:03 PM:

Serge #360: Maybe, just maybe. Perhaps even Marcel Marceau....

#387 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 12:26 PM:

geekosaur 376: What other way is there to pronounce a u-less q? I assume you mean a pharyngeal stop, yes? (We can let people get away with subtituting /k/, but I think the Uvtu Guvegrra pronunciation should be pharyngeal. Or perhaps with mouth air, like the hooked k in Hausa.)

This is shaping up to be lots of penml* sha!

*I think this word should be pronounced PENmill mostly, and in formal Uvtu Guvegrra with no vowel at all (not even schwa; it's quite possible to go from /m/ to /l/ with no vowel between).

#388 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 12:43 PM:

"He said 'Shiny beer, eh?' so I assumed he was a Canadian Firefly fan and started talking to him about the gorram beer, but he didn't understand a word I said."

"You dummy! He's a Guvegrrare.* He was saying he was having a good time, that there's 'fun all over'."

*goo-veg-RRAH-reh

#389 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 01:10 PM:

Mez @ 384... agree with Zombie Feynman

...about string theorists, or about the MythBusters?

Do finish Feynman's biography. I myself did so 12 years ago. By the way, did you ever see the movie infinity? Flawed, but I liked it.

As for your musical links, I'm on a conference call right now and the rest of the team might not appreciate strange sounds emanating from my phone.

#390 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 01:17 PM:

Me 387: On second thought, I'd better pronounce that PENmull, with a schwa, and similarly when a word is unpronounceable without an added vowel. I want 'y' to be /i/ ("ih") as in 'fit', 'bit', 'if', and using /i/ as a consonant separator might cause confusion.

#391 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 01:18 PM:

Ginger #378: I certainly volunteer to be played by Dom DeLuise.

#392 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 02:05 PM:

Mez @ 384

The Owl Letters Particle has vanished. It's possible that others had the same issue, and Teresa removed it. It's possible that the site-owner contacted Teresa and asked her to take it down, and she did. It's possible that I hallucinated the whole thing as a part of my ongoing mental breakdown, orchestrated by the Forces of Mischief, who are bored.

In any case, it's no longer there.

#393 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 02:33 PM:

http://crookedtimber.org/2008/03/18/the-brick-moon/#comments

Discussion of the 1860s SF novella "The Brick Moon" - about launching an artificial satellite made of bricks, using water-driven flywheel power. Just plain weird. With a free PDF of the novella itself.

#394 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 02:44 PM:

Hey, fellow midwesterners, Sarah Vowell is making an appearance in the Chicago area on Friday Night.

#395 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 03:52 PM:

Serge (#389) Somehow mysteriously my addition in the comments box of "about Mythbusters" upon preview was lost. Need sleep. But first the preventative protective drugs.

Had third double dose of chemotherapy drugs over several hours earlier on, and need to get a few important things done before the reaction cuts in — usually it takes between 24 and 36 hours to start the worst effects, but then it lasts for quite a while.

Sad news about Anthony Minghella. I hadn't heard he had health problems.

#396 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 04:07 PM:

Mez @ 395... My best wishes to you.

#397 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 04:24 PM:

Mez @ 384... About the glass harmonica, I had the pleasure of listening to a live performance in 2006 at LA's worldcon. Neat.

The Singing Tesla Coil was awesome, going thru quotes from various pieces like Devo's Whip It Good and ending with the Charlie Brown theme. I am blinded by Science. Science!

#398 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 04:25 PM:

Dang, I just hopped over here hoping to catch up on about 100 messages worth of prime grade ML illuminated discussion on Obama's speech today*

My first impression afterwards was that this was one of the most powerful speeches on race in America I've heard in my lifetime.

My second thought was realizing I continue to be amazed at how powerful his oratory can be. I knew going in to expect a moving speech and yet I was _still_ caught up in it. I like to think I'm a pretty rational, hard to bullshit geek, but he has this uncanny ability to disarm me intellectually with convincing, non-debatable positions while revving my emotional drama-o-meter.

Text and Video**

-------

* Yes, I was irrationally dismayed to discover my fellow Luminaries don't actually anticipate and then cater to my every intellectual whim. Hmph.

**No, I'm not an HP shill or regular reader even; it was the first site I thought of that would have both the text and video.

#399 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 04:55 PM:

I just got an email from MoveOn.org, titled "Tomorrow: Vigil to end the war in Weehawken."

I didn't know there was a war in Weehawken.

#400 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 04:57 PM:

Lance, I read the text of it and was impressed. I understand he wrote it himself.

#401 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 04:58 PM:

Mez -- best wishes for good results and a speedy recovery!

#402 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 05:16 PM:

mary dell,

Hey, fellow midwesterners, Sarah Vowell is making an appearance in the Chicago area on Friday Night.

ooh, lucky. i saw her in seattle last year & it was so much fun. man, i wonder when her new book is coming out. then i wonder when the audiobook of her new book is coming out.

#403 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 05:18 PM:

Lance @ 398 -

Here's what I posted in another blog about Obama and Wright:

"Religion, and the overwhelming importance a segment of the voting public places on it, is the real issue here."

"While the constitution says there shall be no religious test for political office, we've long had a de facto one - you must demonstrate a measure of pious church-goin' before you can become president in our fair land. Thus, the off-the-wall meanderings of a pastor become faux important because, by God, if he's a "spiritual advisor", then that kind of claptrap must inform how the candidate will govern."

"Unmitigated BS! Obama, if he should be elected, is not going to govern according to the dictates or philosophy of Reverend Wright, and only a fool would believe that he would."

#404 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 05:28 PM:

Xopher @399: The forces of all that is right and good in the universe declared War on Weehawken after seeing these morons.

#405 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 05:31 PM:

Ethan,

and other musically-inspiringly-knowledgeable fluorosophers,

Could you help me make up a Play List for Someone About to Organize her office?

This could be songs, or bands, or online radio stations*, recent discoveries filled with win and shine, or a recovered example of long-lost arts.

Because I haven't been listening to enough music recently, and I'm going to be spending a few hours (realistically a day or three) Organizing Stuff in my office.

I'm thinking: Why not listen to nothing but new to me music, instead of my old CDs and predictable radio stations**, while organizing?

Of course, since I don't know any, if I try to research "the past 5 years of interesting music" that'll just be a time sink of procrastination.

If instead I listen to the music of the 'spheres, that will be filling my mind with niftiness as I box up my office chaos.

--------------

* To be played via my computer, which has ordinary quality speakers.

**1820s-1920s classical, 80s to early 90s once-was-indie rock. The local college radio station is not clear-channel, but even they're predictably unpredictable.

#406 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 05:49 PM:

Kathryn @405 -

How about "In the Hall of the Mountain King"?

Peer Gynt

You'll be moving pretty fast at the end. :)

#407 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 05:54 PM:

CNN has a banner saying that Arthur C. Clarke has died. No other information as yet.

#408 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 05:58 PM:

Kathryn @ #405, I've found that Fred Clark's commenters on his music posts are quite eclectic and quite receptive to newer music. You might get some hints there.

#409 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 06:05 PM:

The Beeb just added Clarke's death to its ticker too.

#410 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 06:07 PM:

Joann at #407:

There's an Associated Press story on Sir Arthur Clarke:

Rohan De Silva says Clarke died early Wednesday after suffering from breathing problems. He was 90.

He was my favorite science fiction writer, and a huge influence on me. I will miss him.

#411 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 06:09 PM:

Damn! Clarke was one of the best.

"One by one, the stars were going out."

#412 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 06:19 PM:

the LA Times has it up

#413 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 06:29 PM:

I see others were ahead of me; I just saw on a mailing list. Sad news.

#414 ::: gaukler ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 06:51 PM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale: "Morning becomes Eclectic", weekday mornings from nine to noon on KCRW.

#415 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 07:04 PM:

NPR is reporting that Arthur C. Clarke has died.

#417 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 07:10 PM:

Here's the Australian's article on Clarke's death.

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23401053-23109,00.html



Bugger.

#418 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 07:11 PM:

The 10am ABC radio news has also just announced the news of Arthur C Clarke's death.

#419 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 07:17 PM:

Wikipedia is reporting his death as March 19, so for you in America, he has both lived and died in the future.

Rest him, and comfort to we who grieve.

#420 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 07:20 PM:

The only fitting memorial to Sir Arthur will require an adamantine slab of proportions 1:4:9 interred deep beneath Tycho crater.

#421 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 07:25 PM:

Stefan Jones #420: Either that or naming a space station in his honour.

#423 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 07:42 PM:

NY Times obituary (Childhood's End spoiler warning)

#424 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 08:22 PM:

At #423, Jon Meltzer points out:

NY Times obituary (Childhood's End spoiler warning)

("Otto Stapledon?")

Given Sir Arthur's age, I suppose this is one of those obituaries that has lain in the files for a long, long time.

The old-time fan in me finds some satisfaction in seeing that this is a very big story. It's in the top three on Google News as I write this. Science fiction has come quite a distance since young ACC entered fandom in the 1930s.

Here's Clarke's speech on the occasion of his 90th birthday.

#425 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 08:29 PM:

Otto Stapledon?

Author of "Don't Forget the Middle Men" ...

#426 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 08:40 PM:

heresiarch @ 304

I wonder how useful it would be to study the evolution of tech, which moves much faster, as a sort of hothouse version of biological evolution in order to observe in real-time processes that in biological time take millions of years. How well do the two correspond, do you think? Does intelligent design* substantially affect the process?



*On the tech side. Of course.

I'm interested in this conversation, but my schedule these days is weird and subject to abrupt change, so my replies are likely to be sporadic.

I think the analogy between biological and technical evolution is a useful one, but it's not a homeomorphism. The big differences are in the nature of the replicator (DNA for biology, and designs for the technical), and in the source of variation (recombination and mutation for biology, and innovation for technical). So it's hard to make a formal mapping between the two realms. But I think the histories of the two show fascinating similarities.

I think you can ignore the issue of intelligence in design by subsuming it into a black box that provides variation. It may not be random, but then genetic variation may be stochastic, but it isn't purely random. There are so many factors affecting the fitness of a design that don't have much to do with how good, technically, the design is, that I think intelligence doesn't need to be treated as some sort of "X" factor that breaks the evolutionary process. If you think about it, the only way that "Intelligent Design" breaks evolution is that the religious ranters who espouse it assume that the intelligence involved is omniscient and all fore-knowing. Short of that, unforeseen consequences will always make an "intelligent design" less than globally optimal.

#427 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 08:49 PM:

ajay @ 308

I would argue that the invention of caseless ammunition, allowing a 2 to 4-fold increase in the number of rounds per clip for a given caliber round, and allowing a substantial increase in cyclic fire rate* is more than a small increment in capability. If someone were to come up with a practical small-caliber explosive caseless round, I'd call that a massive increase in firepower.

* Which are already pretty high with modern full-automatic weapons. Fifty years ago 60 rounds per minute was standard; today 1000 is not uncommon.

#428 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 09:38 PM:

I note from the literary divination thread (which I am resisting playing as I'm snowed under) that an ebobg is a Guvegrrare artificial servitor.

(I expect that when I get back to that thread in a couple of days time rot13 will look like gibberish again, rather than being semi-readable as I'm finding it at the moment)

#429 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 09:43 PM:

Fragano writes in #420:

Stefan Jones #420: Either that or naming a space station in his honour.

He'll have to get in line. Fifty years of Space Age passed, and only now has someone launched a spacecraft named for Jules Verne.

#430 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2008, 10:23 PM:

Clarke wrote some big and glorious stuff, but my favorite story if his is still The Star.

#431 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 12:04 AM:

Xopher @387:

Yes, pharyngeal stop. I'd also argue that, while there might not be an English schwa there, there is definitely a Hebrew sh'va.

Stefan Jones @420:

Or better, at the center of that odd patch on Iapetus.

#432 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 01:50 AM:

Via the sidelight, I went and made an indie CD cover. I wish I knew something about typography, and that I had Illustrator on this machine.

#433 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 03:18 AM:

I counted almost 30 pieces of spam from him.

It always amuses me, in a sad way, that people can get away with it, generally. It's not happening in my Lj, because I have to approve non-Lj comments, and I get sent copies of all new comments.

But if all people let it sink uwept, unhonored and unsung, then it wouldn't happen.

Oh, well.

#434 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 05:06 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 426: "But I think the histories of the two show fascinating similarities.

One of the most fascinating similarities, I think, is that they both seem to go through periods of turmoil and equilibrium. In both, a relatively successful strategy is discovered which overwhelms the competition, then is tinkered with over multiple generations with increasingly minor improvements. A relative stasis is achieved, until yet another breakthrough occurs. The theory of punctuated equilbrium holds for both. In fact, the idea of punctuated equilibrium illuminates fields as diverse as politics and basketball. I like ideas like that, that seem to have an almost fractal applicability--no matter what subject or sub-subject you home in on, there it is again.

"There are so many factors affecting the fitness of a design that don't have much to do with how good, technically, the design is, that I think intelligence doesn't need to be treated as some sort of "X" factor that breaks the evolutionary process."

No, it certainly doesn't break evolution, but I wouldn't want to put it in a black box--rather, it's exactly what I'd want to study. For instance: are there more or less brilliant leaps in technological development than in biological development? Does the ability to conceptualize the problem allow for more flexibility, or does assigning meta-meaning to particular structures cause rigidity in design? One of the most amazing things about biological evolution is how limbs created for one function end up serving a completely different one. Would an 'intelligent' designer ever turn fins into fingers, or fingers into wings?

#435 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 07:14 AM:

Open thread dump since I know there are LJ users here and more widely the "how to manage online groups, especially content generating ones" topic pops up frequently and is quite relevant to ML.

LJ aka SUP these days has been screwing up again. They're stopping letting people create non-paid ads-free accounts and also had a go at censoring the most popular interest list (taking out stuff like bisexuality and depression) although the interests are back now in the most popular lists.

As a response to all this there is a boycott planned on LJ for next Friday. I.e lets not create any content for a day kind of thing. I have no idea how many people will be taking part in that but the % might go up if this interview with Anton Nosik circulates widly enough.

The interview in Russian

A Translation

The contempt he has for the LJ customer base is just mind boggling.

#436 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 08:27 AM:

Every damn time LJ does this sort of thing, I plan to migrate to another platform, and every damn time my inertia stops me. I really want to do it this time.

Anyone have any opinions about options? There are about three or four similar platforms that are heavily fannish, or I could migrate to something more like Blogspot. I don't really participate much in the conversations that the LJ clones do so well, so even though there are several choices out there, I'm not sure that's my best plan. I've been using the thing mainly as a journal*, going back and re-reading posts to remember when I did what, so tags are a must-have.

Easy import of old LJ entries would be nice, and integration with Flickr even more so. I might be able to host something on my own server space, but I'm not positive what space, if any, I have. We probably have some included free with our internet plan, but I'm not sure.

*Imagine that.

#437 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 08:37 AM:

I'm impatient and went searching in Google on leaving LJ - I think I'm gonna go with a Wordpress blog unless someone has a compelling argument in favor of another choice. Sorry for the "please do my work for me!" post.

#438 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 08:39 AM:

Bruce Cohen @#426, Heresiarch @#435

Yet another demonstration of why I love this place.... I agree with both of you, in that "intelligence" as an agent of change can indeed be either black-boxed, or analyzed in itself... depending on exactly what issues you're concerned with.

To me, the most striking difference between "engineering evolution" and the natural sort is the question of scale in time and space.

Human design represents a rapid "computational" analysis of both the problem and the context -- what do we want this to do, and what constraints do we have in making it do that? The transition from "old" to "new" designs may well include incremental changes, but the special feature of engineering is the ability to shove the whole problem through the "gray box" of intelligence, and come out "immediately" with something whose new features can be taken from any aspect of human knowledge.

In contrast, evolution is "everywhere local" in both time and space, but also "everywhere parallel", likewise in both time and space. Every new change needs to emerge from some individual point, but there are an awful lot of such points available.... and they add up. Likewise, the individual changes involve small changes on the genetic level... but those can yield large results, because non-linear effects rule not only development, but "life in general". Those changes add up too, over both space and time, and they accumulate into a "green box" that looks almost computational, at least from a distance.

#439 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 09:36 AM:

Picked up a great SF short story from Boing Boing this morning titled WikiHistory. Given our fondest regards for the subject, I thought it'd be appropriate to share the link.

Re: Engineering vs Evolution

I do a lot of software design/architecture work and the most striking similarity for me between engineering and evolution is the pervasive and constant struggle to maximize survivability in a changing environment by positioning along two axes: adaptability vs stability and generalization vs specialization.

(Sorry for any incoherence; I'm in the middle of my coffee and newsreader ritual and really just meant to post about the ha-ha funny I just read)

#440 ::: Tim May ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 11:11 AM:

Xopher @ #387, geekosaur @ #431:

Pharyngeal stop? You're sure you don't mean the uvular stop, [q]? Pharyngeal plosives are incredibly rare, & don't even have their own IPA symbol. (There's a recording here; just sounds like a glottal stop to me.)

(I won't be joining you in trying to pronounce ROT13'd English. It's exactly the kind of thing I'd normally enjoy, but it seems like the first step on the road to reading it without a converter, which would defeat the entire point.)

#441 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 12:28 PM:

Tim 441: My understanding was that the stop in question was pharyngeal. I'm talking about the Classical Arabic sound that begins the word "Qur'an", not the glottal stop in the middle of it. There is no pharyngeal stop in any Indo-European language, which may explain its omission from IPA, but I believe it exists in Arabic. Perhaps in modern colloquial (as opposed to liturgical) Arabic it has become a uvular stop?

I don't know enough about Semitic languages to speak with authority on this; could someone who does please clarify?

In any case, either pharyngeal or uvular should be acceptable even in Uvtu Guvegrra (which is not, despite some resemblances, a Semitic language), and in informal Guvegrra even /k/ can be substituted.

#442 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 12:39 PM:

There is no pharyngeal stop in any Indo-European language, which may explain its omission from IPA, but I believe it exists in Arabic. Perhaps in modern colloquial (as opposed to liturgical) Arabic it has become a uvular stop?

According to Wikipedia (yeah, I know, but on the "boring" sciences it's pretty good), the sound at the beginning of "Qur'an" is a voiceless uvular stop/plosive*.

Poking around a bit appears to verify this, but I don't speak Arabic.

*: I note that I remember this because only yesterday I was looking for examples of various sounds to use on the Glossotechnia cards I've been putting together, suitable for printing on make-your-own business cards. :) When I have the challenge deck done, I'll put it all together as a PDF; in the meantime, sentence suggestions for the challenge deck (or rather subject and predicate suggestions) are welcomed.

#443 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 12:45 PM:

Carrie: It's a data point, though as you observe, "authority" and "Wikipedia" aren't usually in the same sentence unless disjoined.

#444 ::: Jennifer Barber ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 01:24 PM:

This "Phonetics of Arabic" (PDF) lists q as uvular. Can't vouch for accuracy, but at least it's not Wikipedia.

#445 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 02:28 PM:

I wonder where I got the idea it was pharyngeal? OK, uvular it is. In Guvegrra, I mean.

#446 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 02:55 PM:

Wooooo-hooooo! I got my tor.com beta-tester email! It's from somebody called "torbeta smith." Check your spamtraps!

#447 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 03:41 PM:

When I got the email, my first thought was that Torbeta Smith would be a great character in Resnick's Frontier series.

#448 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 03:53 PM:

Particles: "One Can Only Imagine."

The fact that all the occurrences of the word "Yama" are highlighted causes me to suspect this is what you're referring to. In that case, there's no need to imagine. Here comes The Yama Yama Man, which has been in my iPod for a year or so. It's even in the CDs I made to listen to while I wait for the iPod to come back from Best Buy's shop. Admittedly, it's not as great as That Mysterious Rag or Gasoline Gus and his Jitney Bus, but it's still good.

(Holy cow! There's a third side by Geeshie Wiley in here! I wonder if Crumb knows about it?)

#449 ::: Jeffrey Smith ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 05:05 PM:

Is it better to be a "Summer Girl/Boo Hoo Tee Hee Girl" or a "Boating Boy/Yama Yama Girl." I'm guessing the latter, but that's not based on much.

#450 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 05:37 PM:

Geez, "Yama Yama Man" has words? I had no idea. How frightening. We were just dancing to an instrumental version of it Monday night, it being indelibly associated with Irene Castle and the Castle Schottische.

#451 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 06:43 PM:

Come to think of it, though, I can only imagine what all the other Yama Yamas in the show are. And what the plot is, if there is one.

Cuidado, cuidado, cuidado, cuidado...

#452 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 06:56 PM:

Looking at the description, I finally noticed that the show is based on "Incog" by Mrs. Pacheco. Googling on those two names gets me a number of very tangential references. One that seems like it should have been pay dirt actually reads like this:

12 THE SUNDAY HERALD: SYRACUSE. SUNDAY MORNING, APRIL 10. 1898. PO ml will bo offered will he something never seen :it tliat house or in this city. ON THE RIALTO anah" and ''A Virginia she tli3 Stock Company Will Produce''INCOG." A Bright in Comic Opera Hold Sway at the Grand the Entire General Theatrical News. In the death of America loses i--r v I that thai word j facelio'.i-ily. but it i that Mi-
(With a note below that says, "Does your newspaper text appear garbled? Find out why." -- The reason seems to be that I didn't sign up to be able to read the actual page scans instead of their machine-translated Engrish version.)

I will bet a silk pajama

There is no yama yama llama.

#453 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 07:00 PM:

My job currently requires me to watch lots of video clips. Advertising, bits of movies, movie trailers. Over and over, on different cable set top boxes.

Worse by far than the same old movies and old advertising: Recently encoded pieces of CNN Headline News.

Another damn missing college student. Exotic dancer sued over eye injury. Disabled boy's wheelchair stolen.

I swear, if there was a wood chipper in my cube I'd consider cranial insertion.

#454 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 07:07 PM:

I prefer imagining it was an earlier version of Danielle Dax's "Yummer Yummer Man" (a creepy little gem.)

#455 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 07:12 PM:

Stefan #454:

And the same old movies can be pretty bad. Or in my case, pretty same-old. I once spent a grad school summer testing circuit boards, including a magic video controller thingy that required me to test the LaserVision input/outputs. The only disk available was "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" and I must have watched it about 100 times, none of it in bits more than 15 seconds long. Could have been a lot worse, but still ... probably the best example of "familiarity breeds just plain boredom" that I've ever endured.

#456 ::: broundy ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 07:39 PM:

Kip W.: Come to think of it, though, I can only imagine what all the other Yama Yamas in the show are. And what the plot is, if there is one.

According to a June 16, 1908 review in the New York Times (PDF), it is a "merry and tuneful summer show" about three men who coincidentally look exactly alike (though one only does so because he is wearing a false mustache, in an attempt to evade an arranged marriage). The second man is engaged to a "laughing damsel," while the third is married to a "tearful woman" - presumably these are the "boo hoo tee hee" girls, respectively. Many cases of mistaken identity and wacky hijinks ensue.

I've got no idea who the Yama Yama girls are, though.

#457 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 09:26 PM:

David Harmon @ 439: Very interesting.

Lance Weber @ 440: I do a lot of software design/architecture work and the most striking similarity for me between engineering and evolution is the pervasive and constant struggle to maximize survivability in a changing environment by positioning along two axes: adaptability vs stability and generalization vs specialization."

It seems to me that it's pretty easy to figure out short-term optimalities, and that it's also pretty easy to determine long-term optimalities. What's really tricky, it seems, is deciding how to balance the two. After all, long-term optimalities don't matter much if you don't make it through the next couple of days. Conversely, if you make it through the next few day, but permanently damage your long-term optimality, then you're still in trouble. It's an interesting problem, and one that tends to depend heavily on local conditions.

#458 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2008, 11:17 PM:

broundy, thanks! My persistence in looking up the plot lasted for about one Google page, and after that I began to question my commitment to the task. There's where the "three twins" comes in.

Hm. An equally cursory search on "Yama Yama Man" shows that I'm not the only one who liked the 78, that the sheet music is at Indiana University (the same place, I think, that has the piano-vocal score of the Fred Rogers LP "Tomorrow on the Children's Show" that I linked in my LJ today), and that a harmonica record was re-re-re-released as being by a mythical "Yama Yama Man" in the 50s.

#459 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 12:50 AM:

David #439: Yeah, I'd say that evolutionary processes are one way of getting intelligent-looking, purposeful-looking behavior to arise spontaneously. Think about markets, or the immune system.

One reason I'd say some of the same conceptual tools of biological evolution can work for technological evolution is because designers normally can't see all that far ahead into what will be needed. When I'm designing something, I'm typically responding to a pretty transient set of constraints, in a very specific environment. In twenty years, most likely my design will be long forgotten. But if it's not, it will be in a completely different environment, with completely different constraints. That isn't quite the same as the blind mutation and drift of evolution of genes, but it's got something in common with it.

One thing that's very different is how often a good solution in one area of technology just gets ported everywhere. Bruce was talking earlier about MRI and CAT scanners using discrete Fourier transforms. Efficient FFT algorithms are so amazingly useful that they've been ported all over the place. Similarly, microprocessors are so useful that we've redesigned stuff like car engines and air conditioners to use them. And there are a lot of similar examples. Technology still has a certain amount of inherited decisions from the past, but human engineers often just do the equivalent of saying "Okay, so these bats are pretty cool with their sonar and all, but these critters would work better with some feathers. And these primates need bigger brains, but that's causing them to give birth to babies before they're done otherwise. Hey, how about a pouch?"

#460 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 12:54 AM:

joann @ 456... You think that a movie made in 1986 is old? I now feel positively ancient.

#461 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 01:10 AM:

FYI:

The MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres) has a program in Amman, Jordan, to operate on Iraqi kids with facial disfigurement and similar problems.

Read more here.

Donate here.

#462 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 01:24 AM:

Addendum: The MSF donation page has a 'give anonymously' option, which hopefully will prevent a deluge of junkmail seeking more money.

#463 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 03:38 AM:

I had a longish post with a whole bunch of responses, and my browser ate it. :-( Not even going to try to recreate it; I'll just continue from where I'd gotten to in the thread.

Greg, #371: I was mightily amused that one of the band names on the sample covers was "Ryman Auditorium" -- because I've been in that building!

#464 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 05:30 AM:

I not only got my Tor beta tester email today, I also got one from Amazon.com telling me that my long-delayed copy of Teach Yourself Old English has shipped. Yay!

#465 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 05:48 AM:

Lance Weber @ 398: It was a great speech, both reassuring and inspiring. While its ostensible purpose was to address the question of race, it was also a much broader discussion of Obama's theory of change--it was targeted at his critics on the left as much as those on the right.

It's been a running debate on the left what the hell Obama's rhetoric about unity and change really means. There's been a large amount of disagreement over how much of it springs from genuine liberal beliefs, and how much is senseless, feel-good Washingtonian blabble. This speech should end the debate. With this speech, Obama has placed himself firmly within the context of progressive and liberal politics. Unity, to Obama, isn't figuring out where the majority lies and running towards it. Rather, it making the case for what he believes in as widely and persuasively as possible in order to create a new unity, centered around progressive principles. When Obama talks about change, it is this leftward shift of the American conversation that he is referring to. While one can disagree over how effective his strategy will be, one can no longer in good faith question his commitment to liberal principles.

#467 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 08:28 AM:

Albatross @#460:

Agreed on the "total redesign option" and somewhat on the "limited view" aspect of engineering. (Engineers have much better memories than evolution does!)

One thing that's very different is how often a good solution in one area of technology just gets ported everywhere.

Not completely different.... Even in biology, certain themes (eyes, wings) get reinvented over and over again, while others got invented early and "locked in". And of course, individual species can certainly run wild! (Kudzu, rabbits, humans, etc.)

There may be an analogy there, between invasive exotics, and "disruptive" technologies that change the playing field. In any case, there's one category of biological innovation that does get "ported" easily: Symbiotic bacteria, such as those providing cellulose digestion or nitrogen fixing! For that matter, biologists have been finding surprising amounts of lateral gene transfer among plants and insects, courtesy of viral and bacterial hijinks.

#468 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 10:10 AM:

Kip @ #459:

The sheet music for "Yama Yama Man" is all over the place; take a look here. The recording I use is fairly recent - maybe 1980s. I can ya-da-da-dah the tune in my sleep, I've heard it so often.

The scary thing, of course, is watching Ginger Rogers perform it...

#469 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 10:29 AM:

heresiarch @458: It seems to me that it's pretty easy to figure out short-term optimalities, and that it's also pretty easy to determine long-term optimalities. What's really tricky, it seems, is deciding how to balance the two.

I'd challenge that it's much more difficult to make good (ie survivable) long-term/strategic decisions because they often can only be made once, while short-term/tactical decisions can usually benefit from course corrections and do-overs. Of course, bad decision making on either front can spell disaster, no question.

@466-467: Ah-hah moment. I don't have a lot of insight into the left-farleft sides of the discussions, thanks!

#470 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 11:22 AM:

And AGAIN I miss something by one day! I bought a TV from Best Buy last night. It was a floor model, so at least I know it wasn't a box of shower tiles.

#471 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 11:26 AM:

Lance #470:

One problem with designing for the future is that you often don't really know what the future will look like, what uses the future will find for your gadget or service. I wonder if the guy who founded FedEx had any idea how many people would use it to get birthday, anniversary, and Christmas presents to family members "just in time." It's clear that the late Gary Gygax[1] didn't think he was inventing a general way for people to interact with computers/online. I don't think K&R ever expected C to become a general-purpose development language.

Cryptographic hash functions were designed, originally, with a specific set of properties (collision-resistance and preimage-resistance[3]), but wound up used in wildly varying places, often in places where finding collisions isn't a big deal, but other weird properties of the hash function are.

And like biological evolution, often something adapted well to one environment gets loose in a new environment, and takes it by storm. For all its opportunities for a programmer to hang himself, C is a really nice tool for writing programs.

Another problem with designing for the future is that even when you vaguely know what direction the future is heading, you often don't have a sense that your mechanism will still be around when that future arrives.



Think about Y2K problems, which were the result of lots of people knowing the two-digit date would be a problem someday, but not expecting that their code would ever be running anywhere by 2000. Think about the programming convention that made it hard to give programs on System/360 derived computers more than 2GB of memory. (The standard way to pass parameters to a function involved a list of pointers to the parameters; you recognized the last pointer in the list because its high bit was set; when this convention was established, there probably wasn't 2GB of RAM on Earth.)

In cryptography, a tremendous amount of skull sweat was spent on finding clever ways to design crypto protocols and mechanisms to minimize the number of computationally expensive public key operations needed. Look up micromint, Merkle trees (which are still useful), etc. And yet, before those schemes have seen widespread use, processing speeds have gotten high enough that those clever protocols are needlessly complex; you can usually just sign everything if you need to.

[1] I expect he's still working on that game with Death. Though I wish XKCD's comic had drawn Death like she really looks[2], as a beautiful black-haired girl.

[2] Or is that too many geeky references in one comic strip? Nah, not for XKCD!

[3] If you find two messages that hash to the same value, that's a collision. If I give you one message, and you find a second that hashes to the same thing as the first, that's a second preimage. If I give you a hash value and you find me a message that hashes to it, that's a preimage. Surely more than you wanted to know.

#472 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 11:46 AM:

heresiarch #466:

Yeah, I've read through it twice now. It was a really impressive speech. There are parts I didn't agree with, but I even there, he laid them out pretty nicely.

Obama has the potential to address a lot of the completely broken dialog on race in the US, but I don't think he can both do that and run for president. I think this speech was maybe about as far in that direction as he can go right now. And if he wins, I also don't think he will be able to spend a lot of time on that, because he'll need to be being the president--marshaling resources to get laws and budgets passed, trying to keep his own party behind his policies, etc. Honestly, whoever wins this race is going to end up entering the white house while the US economy is visibly tanking, and that could easily take up all the new president's resources, much as 9/11 and the war on terror have defined W's presidency.

But I can hope I'm wrong, and that Obama can and will start getting some real, open discussion going on racial issues. And neither McCain nor Hillary is going to go anywhere close to those radioactive issues.

One thing I really liked about his speech is openly pointing out that there are real racial tensions between blacks and whites, and that those are usually just not aired in public, but still come out in private. And some of those tensions are from genuine hatred; others are from misunderstandings, distorted pictures or reality, etc. (For example, affirmative action is a bad policy, IMO, but it probably doesn't have much impact on the well being of most white males. The performance gap in education may partly be the legacy of slavery and discrimination, but it's damned hard to make the case that the horrible Baltimore and DC school systems, overwhelmingly run by blacks and spending huge amounts of money per student, are some kind of discriminatory system imposed by whites to keep black kids illiterate. Etc.)

I was a little dismayed that his solution to these tensions was to try to get middle- and lower-class blacks and whites both to hate the greedy businessmen and outsourcing corporations, but you can't have everything.

#473 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 12:11 PM:

Serge @ 461: At first I read that as "1968", which was purely wishful thinking on my part.

But 1986? There's only one thing to say: "You kids! Offa my lawn!"

Geez. I feel so old. Where are my bifocals and my cane? Oh, my sciatica. Who are you people?

::totters away::

#474 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 01:19 PM:

Ginger:

At Lunacon a young adult told me they had grown up watching me. Gah!

Happy Match Day! (which I expect no one else here knows or cares about, but it's one of those day job milestones around here)

#475 ::: Ralph Giles ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 01:23 PM:

Xopher et. al ~ 442: Wikipedia also cites an argument that Arabic descriptions of a voiced pharyngeal fricative are incorrect and that Arabic varieties instead possess a pharyngealized glottal stop, or epiglottal in general. Perhaps that explains the confusion. I've heard of pharyngeal mumble consonants in Arabic as well, but I can certainly believe it's hard to make an actual stop down there.

#476 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 01:44 PM:

Serge #461, Ginger #474:

I think you both have the wrong end of a very sharp stick. Consider, if you please, that there are at least two definitions of old, one of them perhaps better expressed as "stale, flat, unprofitable and totally old-hat." After viewing a movie (or various random parts therefrom 100 times, I think you'd use the same words. And this was back in 1995. (I'd first seen the movie in 1988, when it had its major theatrical release.)

(For the record, Serge, assuming that you went to college at the normal age, I'm two years older than you.)

#477 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 01:46 PM:

Ralph 476: It's hard. I can do it. It does sound like I'm retching, though!

#478 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 01:47 PM:

Susan @475, our MD/Ph.D is celebrating not having to deal with it. He says it's supposed to be the most depressing day of his career, because all his classmates are going off to do exciting things and make money, but he doesn't sound terribly sad not to be sweating it out today.

He also said it's supposed to occur when an MD/Ph.D's research is going nowhere, and thus be more depressing. His research is going somewhere. Mine's not. This Ph.D Comic pretty well describes it right now, mostly the "What you can get funding for" part.

Can we please end this war so that there's funding for science again?

#479 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 01:49 PM:

joann 477: I thought that might be the case. "Neonate Unit nurses get tired of looking at the same old babies" is not a ridiculous sentence in English, although it is certainly infelicitously phrased!

#480 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 01:56 PM:

Caroline:

Yeah, I don't know how the MD/PhDs manage - eight years or so in grad school!

(brag)

We scored FIVE MD/PhDs out of nine incomings.

#481 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 02:05 PM:

Susan, I know -- I'm just a lowly regular Ph.D and 5.5 years or so is quite long enough for me! One of my research advisors did an MD and then a Ph.D. -- that just sounds painful, although he's extremely competent, so it seems to have worked out for him.

(I take it you are on the residency side of the Match Day equation?)

#482 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 02:11 PM:

Caroline: Yup, GME girl here. Recruitment is most of my job from October through January. Nice to finally see our results. (And nice to fill - nine is the largest group we've ever taken and we were terrified of having to scramble.) The quality of the group is not exactly my direct responsibility, but having a good group reflects positively on me. And I need to keep this day job for at least one more year, after which I consider the PhD thing myself.

#483 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 02:13 PM:

Happy International French Speakers Day

#484 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 02:55 PM:

OK, for those of us not in the medical field, could you explain what Match Day is? And is it always March 20, and why or why not?

#485 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 03:17 PM:

Xopher @ 485: IANAD, although I make a pretty good substitute..anyway, Match Day is something the physicians have that veterinarians don't: a competition for positions. Medical students "match" for residencies, and the process involves matching up people who want to go "here" and all the "here"s who want certain students. You don't always get your number one place -- rather like hearing back from the colleges you applied to -- but you'll match someplace. I am not sure if it's the Third Thursday of March or if it's March 20th, but it's this time of year.

The date for the rest of us to keep in mind is July 1st; that's when all the residencies start (and veterinarians do the same thing, alas).

#486 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 03:19 PM:

Xopher:

Match Day is the culmination of the process by which all the graduating medical students in the U.S. and thousands of foreign graduates and all the programs which provide residency training frantically try to convince each other to rank them number one on their preference lists. The lists are then crunched by a computer for a few weeks and the lists of who is assigned to which program are spit out officially on Match Day, with the computer trying to maximize the overall happiness by using the preference lists to assign people to programs. There's a good explanation of the algorithm here.

It's sort of like a four-month process of speed dating followed by an aggressive poly courtship stage and then a sudden surprise group marriage. Or, worse yet, followed by rejection and a frantic attempt to find a last-minute place or individual to take a place. The latter is known officially as the scramble and it is hell. I've survived two and am quite happy not to do one this year.

It's not always March 20th, but it's always a Thursday in mid to late March.

#487 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 03:23 PM:

The rhythm of my day job year:

September-January: recruitment

February: sleep

March: match; much paperwork

April: catch up on everything neglected for previous 7 mos.

May: orientation and graduation planning; even more paperwork.

June: graduation. orientation.

July: sleep

August: go on vacation for the whole month

Repeat.

#488 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 03:53 PM:

In re: 'match day' - psychologists go through it too...

#489 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 04:08 PM:

Susan - Thanks for the explanation. I work on the front end with health career exploration programs (which has nothing to do with my education or interests, I just fell into the job), and one of my co-workers has to deal with the Match Day stuff.

Oh, and I promoted your blog this morning. I loved the "Real Regency Dancers" post. Heck, I'm still loving it.

#490 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 04:23 PM:

Stefan Jones @ 484... Happy International French Speakers Day

Is that like Talk-Like-A-Pirate Day?

#491 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 04:31 PM:

joann @ 477... assuming that you went to college at the normal age

Normal?

I was born in 1955. Went to college to be a programmer, started in 1973, graduated the month that Star Wars premiered. Three years later, we were finally retiring card punchers.

#492 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 04:33 PM:

Tania:

Thanks for the promotion! I'm still watching waves of hits on that post with astonishment. I wrote a quick followup post and plan another one for next week as well, if I can squeeze out the source-collating this weekend. Neither one is the same sort of snark, just research pile-on. I have also determined that T-Shirts Are Necessary and am exploring the various POD shirt sites.

#493 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 04:41 PM:

#491: No idea; it's just something I picked off my calendar.

Should I have worn a beret, fake moustache, and beret?

#494 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 05:38 PM:

Susan #493:

Yes, but do Real Regency Dancers wear Tshirts?

#495 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 05:43 PM:

Stefan #494: Imagine how big the celebrations for this must be in France and Quebec....

Ginger #486: Do vets do a residency sort of thing like doctors? And if so, how do you get matched to your position[1]?

[1] This sounds like a much more personal question than it really is, somehow.

#496 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 05:47 PM:

Serge #492:

Normal. I left home for college two years earlier, at the accepted age. Therefore, so did you.

When Star Wars opened, I was working in a hardware store. Went into the back room one day to find the whole back room crew all huddled round a large radio, listening to what sounded a lot like Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. This so bemused me that I stuck around to find out what was going on. Turned out one of the local stations was playing the soundtrack--first I'd heard of it or the movie. I didn't actually go see the movie for several more weeks, as it was playing in a theater that was rather inconvenient for people without cars.

(I used my first keypunch in the summer of 1969. I also managed to screw up the card reader with excessively nervous hands sweating into the cards. I didn't use a terminal until 1980.)

#497 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 06:08 PM:

Death is clearly getting a lot of overtime this week. Paul Scofield died earlier today.

#498 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 06:27 PM:

joann @ 497... Ah, the days when one had to be careful not to spill a COBOL program's 500 unnumbered punched cards all over the floor...

#499 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 06:33 PM:

Serge @ 499

Only 500 cards?

Must have been a really small program.

#500 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 06:34 PM:

Serge #499:

Our most carefully guarded possessions were the card boxes, always secured with the incredibly sacred rubber bands.

(Although in my case it was Fortran and later Pascal. I didn't learn anything about COBOL until much later when I was working for a startup doing analysis and maintenance tools. Fortunately I lost it as soon as I left.)

#501 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 06:50 PM:

P J Evans @ 500... Well, it might have been twice that if not more. This was a long time ago. I didn't miss punched cards, but they sure made handy bookmarks in the following decades, whenever I'd clean up a closet and a few cards would fall out from under a box. (Ah, yes, joann, the sacred rubberbands...)

#502 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 06:52 PM:

joann @ 501... I didn't learn anything about COBOL until much later (...) Fortunately I lost it as soon as I left

"Bwahahahah!!!"

"What is that?"

"No biggie. Joann lost it again."

#503 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 06:56 PM:

albatross, heresiarch, david harmon, etc.

One of the distinguishing features of evolution as opposed to complex systems which are locked into a particular subspace of their total phase space is that evolution evolves. Each of the major punctuations of biological evolution represents the discovery of a new technique or mode of evolution. For instance, in the Cambrian Explosion, the evolution of fixed body plans resulted in the development of the homeobox gene constellation, which has been the unit of body plan evolution ever since, because it's both stable and variable, and because the variation is based on modular changes, rather than arbitrary point changes. Similarly, the development of the nervous system resulted in the ability to learn relatively complex behaviors, ultimately resulting in a brand new channel for information transfer from progenitor to offspring.

The same thing happens in technical evolution: the development of metalworking, for instance, resulted in a whole new set of possible designs that wood, stone, and fabric wouldn't allow. At a more abstract level, the development of mechanical drawing and similar modeling techniques sped up the design, and therefore the evolution of machines, by allowing many problems with a design to be detected before construction, and allowing construction to be more precise, and therefore manufacturing to be more reliable.



#504 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 07:13 PM:

OTs don't have it quite so badly. They have to cajole, nudge and whine to get the internships they want. In part because of the oddities of slave labor.

Yes, I meant it. She has to go in, 40 hours a week, for some number of weeks, she gets paid not a cent, and the agency/practice which she is working for gets to bill her hours.

So the practices/agencies have to arrange with the schools to get arrangements. It also means (IIRC) that part of the reason most school districts (which need OTs for middle intervention), can't get interns, because they have no one to bill (no outside customers).

Thankfull the place she wanted to go got it's act together and she will be there this summer.

Then she has to wait for the Registry to record her status, and she can get a legal job. That take something from four weeks to six months.

Yippee.

#505 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 07:30 PM:

joann @ 501

I started working with computers in the mid '70s, having done other things before that, and I have never used a card punch or reader as a programming tool*, for which I am grateful. And I didn't have any contact with COBOL until the mid '90s when I was asked to help a customer figure out how to attach their ObjectCobol language to our Object Oriented Database. That was moderately surreal.

* In the 60's I used them in the service for deep, dark, classified purposes** having nothing to do with programming.

** If you read that article carefully, you'll see why I'm entitled by my military service to call myself a Romulan.

#506 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 08:40 PM:

Bruce @ #506, aha! I remember those. I used second-generation equipment on Kwajalein involving one card. It was replaced daily, and the old used one was destroyed (we used a Waring blender to mulch it).

#507 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 08:54 PM:

Bruce Cohen, member of the Obsidian Order...

#508 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 08:55 PM:

albatross @ 496: Back in my day, each residency advertised the position and interviewed the candidates, and went through their own selection process -- just like any job interview/hiring process. I think I've heard rumblings of making a veterinary matching process similar to the ones mentioned above. I'm not sure if that has taken flight just yet.

The main difference is still that residencies are optional in vet med, whereas they are required in human med., at least for those MDs who want to be licensed. Veterinarians can still graduate, pass the licensing exams and go to work.

#509 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 09:20 PM:

Joann at 456

I once worked with an MPEG-1 digital video system, circa 1998. We had part of a documentary "Lloyd Robertson in China" as our only test video. I saw it a lot.

OTOH, I did become a connaisseur of digital (and analog) video artifacts. A line of marching soldiers dissolving into macroblocking (16 x 16 pixel squares) is actually rather a nice artistic effect.

#510 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 09:25 PM:

Sam @498 has mentioned it already. It wasn't that far back that ML brought Paul Scofield to mind in relation to discussing Thomas More (in the William F Buckley, dead thread). I watched a few online clips from A Man for All Seasons. Now he joins our other recent losses, leaving, we are comforted, a legacy we can continue to benefit from.

From The Guardian, their obituary, personal remembrances, comments from the public; and NY Times obit.

#511 ::: Jen Roth ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2008, 11:29 PM:

Three contract employees working for the State Department have illegally gained access to Barack Obama's passport file. Two have been fired.

I deeply resent, etc. etc.

#512 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 12:11 AM:

#512: I'm sure they were doing it entirely on their own initiative and just for curiosity.

#513 ::: Euan Troup ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 01:30 AM:

Check out the Creationist's Epic Fail at the showing of their propaganda film Expelled!

#514 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 01:35 AM:

Stefan Jones @ # 513

#512: I'm sure they were doing it entirely on their own initiative and just for curiosity.

Of course they were. They were taking their own initiative to assuage their curiosity about just how enriching the experience could be...

#515 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 01:36 AM:

Personal thought on the Hugo nominations: given how much I read compared to how much television I watch, it's bizarre that absolutely nothing I nominated in any category that could be classified as written made the ballot, but three things I nominated made the ballot in DP-Short Form.

#516 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 01:39 AM:

(Hugo ballot here.)

#517 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 02:01 AM:

That piece on expelled, is too damned funny.

#518 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 02:45 AM:

albatross @ 473: "I was a little dismayed that his solution to these tensions was to try to get middle- and lower-class blacks and whites both to hate the greedy businessmen and outsourcing corporations, but you can't have everything."

Hah! This is why I'm a leftie and you aren't--that was my favorite part.

#519 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 05:31 AM:

#472, albatross, since PGP is one of those programs which avoids CUP-heavy public-key processes, by using the public key to exchange a session key for a private-key system, I've often felt people were missing the point.

Because the public key system doesn't encrypt the message, you don't need to break the public key part of the system.

Still, as long as the NSA has to use enough resources that they have to pick and choose which messages to try to read--the virtual equivalent of the old "flaps and seals" problem--the situation is tolerable.

There's never been a guarantee of privacy. What's worrying is that the cost of doing secret police things has become so low.

#520 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 05:34 AM:

Serge @ 508 -

Bruce Cohen, member of the Obsidian Order...

Are you implying Mr. Cohen is actually a Cardassian spy, working undercover in the Romulan Star Empire?

(Izzys are wayyyy too much of a Star Trek geek - The Obsidian Order was part of the Cardassian intelligence network. The Romulan intelligence agency was the Tal Shiar).

#521 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 07:39 AM:

Scott Taylor @ 521... I could say that this would explain quite a few things about Bruce Cohen, but the truth is that I screwed up. I spent most of yesterday doing yard work and was a tad tired. (Note to self: do not watch City of Lost Children when you keep nodding off.)

#522 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 07:41 AM:

Susan @ 516... May we ask what your nominations were?

#523 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 08:14 AM:

Serge: I don't have the whole list handy, but among the works I nominated in novel were Valente's second Orphan's Tales book and Hopkinson's The New Moon's Arms. I had no luck with the first Valente book last year either. I note the distinct lack of female writers in most of the fiction categories, which I seem to recall has been true the last couple of years as well.

In DP-SF, "Blink", "World Enough and Time", and "Captain Jack Harkness". I think this may be the first time I've ever seen four out of five nominees in that category!

#524 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 10:39 AM:

Susan @ 524... I've read about both books, but haven't read them. You see, I usually wait for a book to come out in paperback, even if reviews make it sound really interesting, because I don't really like hardcovers, either reading them or lugging them around. Of course, when the book does come out in paperback, it's not eligible anymore. I did read Sean Williams's paperback original Saturn returns and enjoyed it immensely, but it didn't make it to the final ballot. I guess I'll have to skip voting in the novel category. But I see from your link to the ballot that the shorter-length fiction has enough nominees (many women in those categories) that I have read and thus can vote on.

#525 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 10:41 AM:

When you have a stack of 500 or so cards, you make sure they're in order and then put a diagonal stripe across the top with a Magic Marker. If you ask me, they should have had a hole that was in the same place on all the cards, so you could put a threaded rod through and screw a nut onto both ends, but they didn't ask me.

Reagan on Mount Rushmore? No, Reagan should be carved in negative on some other huge rock. That way his vacantly beaming face will follow you wherever you go. They could take all the chips, pile them at the bottom, and paint them green or gold as a monument to his deficit.

#526 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 10:43 AM:

Susan @469: Thanks! I'll download this and use it. Seems to me I've been to Levy's collection before, and was disappointed not to find "Old King Tut" (except, perhaps, for the cover). There are sources in the UK that have it as part of a collection for like nine pounds, a price that -- reckoned in US$ -- goes up even as I ponder it.

But to repeat my central point: Thanks!

#527 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 10:53 AM:

Kip W @ 526... put a diagonal stripe across the top with a Magic Marker

Too obvious a solution.

#528 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 11:12 AM:

One for your Stefnal Headline Collection:

Woman dies after ray strikes her

#529 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 11:27 AM:

I had the radio tuned to an oldies station and the following lyrics from Mister Sandman caught my attention:

Mister Sandman, bring me a dream

Give him a pair of eyes with a come hither gleam

Give him a lonely heart like Pagliacci

And lots of wavy hair like Liberace

#530 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 11:29 AM:

Bill Higgins @ 529... To quote Eureka's Jack Carter, "Why don't you just call it a 'Death Ray'?"

#531 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 12:28 PM:

Bill Higgins #529:

I certainly misread the headline the first time through. Don't you just hate it when your "the future is now" moments sort of evaporate?

#532 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 12:51 PM:

Bill Higgins and joann -- I misread the headline, too. And felt a letdown. The bizarreness of the actual story didn't mollify me.

Serge @530-- Have you heard the version with Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmilou Harris?

#533 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 12:53 PM:

Dave Bell #520: Yeah, that's still a sensible tradeoff for speed, and it's also sensible for security.

Suppose you're going to encrypt a message to me with PGP. Let's assume you're not signing it (but you should). Basically what happens, assuming AES and RSA, is:

a. A random number generator is used to produce a random 128 bit session key, K, and a random 128-bit initial value, IV.

b. The message is encrypted with AES (which is a very fast cipher) in CFB-mode (a particular way of using AES that also requires this random starting IV). That produces a ciphertext that's 128 bits longer than the original message, because the ciphertext includes IV as its first 128 bits.

c. You encrypt the session key K under my public key, yielding a 1024-bit[1] blob PKB(K).

d. You send PKB(K), ciphertext

When I receive the message, I decrypt the blob with my private key to get back K, then decrypt the ciphertext with AES in CFB mode.

The reason this makes sense for performance is that public key encryption and decryption is still pretty slow. What's more, you can choose roughly how much security your public key algorithm has against known attacks by increasing the size of the keys, but bigger keys mean much slower encryption and especially decryption (which is slower than encryption for RSA, in practice). For the known attacks, a 1024-bit RSA key is much weaker than a 128-bit AES key. (I think you need around a 4096-bit RSA key to get equivalent security to AES with 128 bits, assuming no unknown attacks.) By using both AES and RSA, the encryption and decryption time are almost independent of the size of the message, and you can probably more easily afford to use a bigger RSA key.

A bigger security reason for using AES to encrypt the actual plaintext is that RSA is much more fragile than AES with respect to the structure of the inputs. You don't just encrypt random 1024-bit blobs with RSA. Instead, there are padding schemes used. These are important, because when I decrypt an RSA message with my private key, I have to verify that it's really a properly formed RSA ciphertext (encrypted to my public key), or you can learn something about my private key by whether or not I successfully decrypt the message.

Interestingly, though, there are schemes for doing symmetric encryption entirely with RSA-like operations. Frex, there's a stream cipher for which the indistinguishability of the key stream from an ideal random sequence of bits equivalent to the difficulty of factoring big integers. (Google for Blum-Blum-Shub for more details.) I wonder if, in a few more years, we'll see people just move to those schemes so they don't have to trust the "black magic" of block cipher design. Alternatively, if quantum computers can be made big enough, they could be used to factor large integers very efficiently, so maybe everyone will go to all symmetric crypto designs.

[1] This length can vary; 1024 bits is the shortest you should be using now, and really, it would make sense to use longer keys, 2048 or 4096 bit ones being sensible, but slower, choices.

#534 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 12:56 PM:

Goodness, those State Department contractors sure are a curious bunch. They looked over Hillary Clinton's passport folder as well!

#535 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 01:08 PM:

Debbie @ 533... All three ladies together? No, I haven't. Ever heard the raunchy instrumental version of it in that episode of The Flash where Tina McGee, Girl Scientist, gets bopped on the head, goes thru a personality change and becomes a naughty girl?

#536 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 01:21 PM:

Serge @ 508

Wait ... did you just call me a flake? *g*

#537 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 01:21 PM:

Meh.

The binding of The Lord of the Rings came out badly. The acrylic template I put on the cover to indent the design in it slipped as I put the book in the press, so the design is off-center.

Hmph.

#538 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 01:34 PM:

Bruce @537:

He only did it to make a point, however Folsomly. He was probably hoping you'd be caught knapping. Don't get a chip on your shoulder about it.

#539 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 01:39 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 537... did you just call me a flake?

Of course not. For one thing, members of the Obsidian Order have a chip in their shoulder.

#540 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 01:42 PM:

Sheesh, you kids talking about punch cards. That's why you punch a comment marker and line numbers in columns 72-80, so you can run the deck through the mechanical bin sorter if you drop it. (Or stripe it with a marker like Kip says, but that's still a lot of work.)

Dropping a card deck is a great demonstration of informational entropy, though.

#541 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 01:42 PM:

abi @ 538... I'm sorry. Now, don't you come unglued because of that.

#542 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 01:52 PM:

Oh, Ghu, I'd almost forgotten about striping the 12-edge.

#543 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 01:55 PM:

Clifton @ 541... One problem with putting a number in cols 72-80 is that the number becomes useless if and when you find you have to move the cards elsewhere within the deck.

#544 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 01:57 PM:

Abi @ 539 -

He only did it to make a point, however Folsomly. He was probably hoping you'd be caught knapping. Don't get a chip on your shoulder about it.

Oy, again with the pun schist! You can't keep doing that.

It's not very gneiss at all....

#545 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 02:15 PM:

There are so many puns around here lately that I've started to take them for granite.

#546 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 02:26 PM:

Bruce #504:

Yeah, the distinction I'd make is that (other than the cool lateral transfer you can get in bacteria and by way of some viruses, and even rarely by interbreeding across species lines) in biological evolution, you can get eyes by either:

a. Evolving toward something with eyes once, and then branching out from there to descendants, most of whom retain eyes.

b. Evolving eyes several different times independently, which usually (but not always) means that the eyes work somewhat differently on separate lines.

With technological evolution, you have much more ready and effective lateral transfer. Once cheaply available steel came onto the market, you didn't have to re-evolve all the metal things using steel; instead, people often just made the formerly-cast-iron thingy out of steel instead, and maybe then started evolving designs for thingies better suited to the stronger, lighter material. Modern cars have a lot of computing power, but computers arose somewhere else, and cars evolved without any digital computing at all until (I think) the 70s or 80s.

And even if you can't drop in some modular component developed somewhere else, simply *seeing* or *knowing of* some cool new idea or technology is often enough for you to independently develop it anew. The first example of this that comes to mind is the wonderful story of Sequoyah inventing a written version of Cherokee despite never having learned how to read or write in any language, but after learning of the existence of written forms of spoken languages. But there must be a lot of other examples.

#547 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 02:35 PM:

Mary Eileen @ 546 -

There are so many puns around here lately that I've started to take them for granite.

You do sorta have to marble at it all, doncha?

#548 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 03:06 PM:

Another edition of "people I used to consider smart":

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/issues/2008/March/SecurityBeat.htm#Science

Larry Niven says Homeland Security should solve the hospital overcrowding problem by spreading rumors among the Latino community that hospitals are killing patients to harvest their organs.

“The problem [of hospitals going broke] is hugely exaggerated by illegal aliens who aren’t going to pay for anything anyway,” Niven said.

This is followed, essentially, by a chuckle from Pournelle, who I didn't used to think was a chucklehead.

I hate growing up.

#549 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 03:29 PM:

Scott Taylor @ 548... You do sorta have to marble at it all

...asbestos one can.

#550 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 03:50 PM:

Michael #549:

I have a feeling the reporter might have missed some subtle signs of irony, like the fact that what he's quoted as saying is pretty obviously silly, and is also a reference to a story he wrote a long time ago.

Pournelle, at least, maintains a weblog. He's definitely conservative, but not dumb. Although I often disagree with him, he has some interesting insights, and approaches some questions quite differently from most other people. He's also apparently pretty ill right now, though hopefully with something treatable. I've never seen any web presence by Niven.

#551 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 03:53 PM:

Michael Roberts @ 549, I recently got into it with my boyfriend's dad on just that topic (illegal immigrants overwhelming hospitals), and he's a man who I generally respect. He's an intelligent, rational man and I was really surprised to hear him buying into xenophobia. But I guess he's their target market. Although he's a Democrat, he's a white man who is struggling economically and has been out of work since the tech bust. Most of what I hear from him has the undercurrent of "How dare illegal Latino immigrants come here looking for work when I can't find a job?"

I'm weighing whether or not to send him this fact-check from Orcinus. I believe that he'd read it and pay attention to it, and maybe even change his mind. But I don't want to pick another fight that will make my boyfriend have to sit there in uncomfortable silence while I argue with his dad.

Right now I am very carefully not arguing with his mom over the North American Union conspiracy theory. (She went to a "financial seminar" that apparently leaned quite heavily on this theory. I did mention that our local paper did a pretty thorough debunking, but she chose not to hear me.)

I really do love his parents. They're great people. That's the worst part.

#552 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 04:07 PM:

Serge @ #525:

The Valente novel was a trade paperback original. I don't know if the first ever came out in mass market size or not.

There are four women total out of twenty written fiction nominations - three in novella, one in short story.

I can sort of see the "problem" with the Hopkinson - mainstream marketing (though that didn't stop the Chabon), and a major theme is menopause, which probably scares off some men. But that didn't stop it from making the Nebula ballot.

#553 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 04:42 PM:

Susan 553: There are four women total out of twenty written fiction nominations - three in novella, one in short story.

While I'm sure that's fairly disproportionate, just how disproportionate are we talking? What percentage of science fiction writers are women? I'm sure it's more than 20%, but not sure what the real proportion is.

#554 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 04:43 PM:

Caroline #552:

I'm not sure I buy some of the arguments offered in the fact check link.

In particular, I find it very difficult to believe that the large pool of illegal immigrants in the US is having no impact on wages for low-skilled work. I just can't come up with a model that would explain that, given that whole industries seem to have been more-or-less taken over by immigrants over time. (It's sort-of jarring, sometimes, to go from high-priced Montgomery County, MD to someplace relatively poor in the US, and see maids and fast-food workers who don't speak Spanish.) I think the only way this could work out would be if the immigrants' added contribution to the economy created the same number of equal-skill-level jobs at the same wage as the ones they got. I haven't read the study they cited, so I can't guess what might be going on there. But the claim is so deeply counterintuitive that it seems like either it's wrong, or something really interesting is happening.

I suspect a lot of people think immigrants are taking up more medical resources than they really are because they're overrepresented at emergency rooms. This is definitely true here--go to the ER, and you will see a lot of apparently poor hispanic folks[1] waiting to be seen. I assume this has to do with not having health insurance or money for a regular doctor. There's a bigger problems underlying this, involving effectively using ERs as free clinics, which has nothing to do with how many immigrants we have here.

I wasn't clear whether illegal immigrants end up paying more or less taxes than they'd pay as citizens or legal immigrants--it's probably not all that important, since most illegal immigrants appear to have pretty low-paying jobs, and so probably wouldn't be a large source of revenue in any case. I suspect that a large illegal immigrant workforce makes it harder to enforce many OSHA and other workplace kinds of rules, but I don't know how big a factor this is. (And it's hard to see how this harms anyone but the immigrants, who are going to quite a bit of trouble to get those poorly-regulated jobs.)

I've always heard the terrorism threat discussed, not in terms of Al Qaida having a branch in Mexico or some such thing, but in terms of general loose border security making it hard to keep terrorists out. Which I think is probably true, though I'm doubtful that the terrorist threat would justify expensive new border control measures. It seems to me that we're already spending an awful lot of money on "terrorism prevention" that has very little positive impact.

The statistics on crime made some sense, though I'm not sure they support the argument he wanted to make there. My (minimal) understanding is that around here, the Salvadoran gang members are almost all second-generation, the kids of the immigrants who came here to work three jobs for almost nothing. To the extent that the children of immigrants are contributing to crime problems, that's not exactly an argument for allowing a lot of immigration. (Though I don't see why it would matter, for that issue, whether the immigration was legal or not.) My suspicion is that over the long haul, immigrants don't add much to crime, but I think you'd need more information to decide this.

[1] It's hard to judge social class in an emergency room, since sick people often don't dress up, so this is a guess.

#555 ::: Harriet Culver ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 04:52 PM:

Serge at #530 -

"Mister Sandman" -- I'd never heard it before last weekend's Lunacon masquerade, when someone used it as the theme song for their eponymous costume (I'm almost sure it was the same lyric, as "Liberace" caught my attention )

#556 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 04:57 PM:

The Flirtations' version of "Mister Sandman" has these lines (this is from before the mentioned person came out publicly):

Give him legs like Greg Louganis

But make him open about his gayness!

#557 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 05:16 PM:

Susan @ 553... I now feel quite guilty for not having proposed anything for the Hugo preliminaries. It probably wouldn't have made any difference in the end, but at least I'd have done my bit for the ballot to have more women - M.K.Hobson for Hotel Astarte for example. Well, I am going to next year's worldcon (for obvious reasons). I'll do the right thing next time around.

#558 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 05:29 PM:

Xopher:

The ratio is certainly better than last year, when it was something like 19:1. It's just something that's been raising eyebrows lately, with gossip about certain magazine editors not buying from women, etc. I haven't crunched statistics to figure out if there's anything to it, and one extremely relevant set of statistics (what is submitted vs. what is bought) isn't available anyway, but I can't help noticing the disproportion now that it's been brought up, and when my female nominees' works tend not to make the ballot.

#559 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 05:39 PM:

Harriet Culver @ 556... Never until this last weekend? What was the presentation about? Neil Gaiman's Sandman?

#560 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 06:35 PM:

Serge@ 550:

Scott Taylor @ 548... You do sorta have to marble at it all

...asbestos one can.

May I just say that you all rock? I am impressed by the full slate of puns that appears in many subjects, although they sometimes mica me wince. Before I delurked, I was getting jaded, but now I see all these gems coming from all these coal people, and it has restarted my deep love of punning.

#561 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 06:59 PM:

One meek little pun grew into an outcropping of boulder witticisms. I'm rolling on the fluor; you guys have outdone me. Agate nuttin'.

#562 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 07:00 PM:

I'd hoped that Catherynne Valente would get nominated for a Hugo as well.

The gender ratio thing... I realized that I have no idea what the pronoun ratio is for bulk writers, nor genre writers, nor any other kind of writers save the ones I read, which tend to be more women than men. It reminds me of this past weekend, getting to know a friend's roommate who said that she read a really great gay SF book. I had never thought of some books as being gay SF before-- isn't that normal, having gay characters? It's normal for being on my bookshelf, at least. Or I think it is. Maybe it isn't, and it's like women talking too much when they actually don't talk at all.

#563 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 07:07 PM:

#559 Susan: Yeh. It's been at least 2 or 3 years now where the representation of women on the ballot has been pretty sad. Certainly nothing I nominated for Best Novel this year made it.

Though I'm not sure that my nominations were counted at all: I was dead certain that I had filed the PIN postcard, which they sent some weeks separated from everything else, next to the con reports. But no, that evening I found that I hadn't. Nor had I saved whatever had my mailing address on it from the first report (an envelope? recycled) which was also supposed to have the PIN.

So without a PIN I sent off noms in hope, because I have a name and paid money and all that. Whatever, I'm looking forward to seeing the breakdown of nomination numbers per work. With only 483 people piping up, I'll know for sure one way or another.

I'm sure the longtime con running people volunteering for the Hugos know best whether it's better to validate ballots person by person, or to rely on people to have kept track of their own paperwork.

#564 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 07:20 PM:

Caroline, I feel your pain. My mom still thinks Bush is doing her big favors and can do no wrong.

And she 'goes to church' watching Pat Robertson on Sundays and calls Rush "her friend."

We don't talk about politics at her house. Even when she makes us mad.

#565 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 07:35 PM:

albatross @ 547

I think there's another way to look at biological evolution where that kind of crossover is a lot more common. Although it's not at all clear in most popularizations or 101 level education of biology, the notion of what constitutes an organism is not at all simple.

Let's take an average human being. Her cells are composed of at least two lines of independently-evolved organisms which got together into a very tight symbiosis more than 2 billion years ago. The chromosomal DNA in the cell nuclei* contain "junk" gene sequences** which may have been inserted into the genome by cell-wall-free bacteria or viruses (or bacteria carrying viruses). Something like 10% of "her" mass is actually commensal bacterial cells, many of them anaerobic obligate symbiotes ("You leave, you die"). On her skin are several species of commensal arthropods (e.g., eyebrow mites), some or all of which live only on humans. No human being walks alone.

So in some very important senses the "design" of a human being is dependent on a number of different genotypes, which interact only indirectly through their phenotypes. Change one of them, especially in the mitochondrial DNA, or by adding another virus sequence to the chromosomal DNA, and it's as if you dropped a new component into an old design.

* and perhaps the DNA in the mitchondria; I haven't looked into this.

** How many is controversial; the statements made in the wake of the Human Genome Project that more than 90% of the genome is junk appear to have been *ahem* somewhat overstated.

#566 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 08:40 PM:

Being a geek, I have to compulsively blurt out that the song "Mr. Sandman" actually appears in one of the Sandman eps near the beginning of the series. In the crossover with John Constantine, it's one of the dream-related songs "playing" in the background of several scenes, before Constantine suddenly runs into Morpheus.

#567 ::: Dave Bell reports from a convention ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 09:18 PM:

You see before you a worried fan. I am actually standing behicnd the convention bar, next to a notice says "Closed for Repairs", keeping an eye on the contents, while the barman is doing something unmentional with a beer keg and a large spanner. Across the room I see Rob Hansen and Greg Pickersgill, disguised as French onion-sellers, sipping absinthe. At the far end of the room, by the piano, Charlie Stross, in a black kilt, and two SS officers in high heels and fishnet stockings, are trying to sing "Sweet Transvestite" to the tune of "Die Wacht Am Rhein"

I have just handed to Alison Scott the stencils for the next issue of the convention newsletter, which were hidden in a large Bratwurst that I had concealed about my person. Why this has to happen, I do not know, since it was she who gave it to me in the first place.

Ah, the barman has returned. He tells me that a young lady named Michelle has been asking for me.

This is all beginning to feel strangely familiar.

But why has Dave Langford just limped into the room, wearing a long black leather overcoat, with a string of onions around his neck?

#568 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 09:26 PM:

CLifton Royston @ 567: As I recall, it happens while they are riding around together in a taxi. Constantine looks at Morpheus, and thinks something along the lines of "Candy-colored. Heh. Right."

#569 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 09:59 PM:

Heresiarch @#569: I just checked: Constantine's thought "candy-colored clown? Yeah, right" is a response to the song playing on the radio, plus current experience with a distinctly cranky ur-god.

It's interesting that Morpheus's "soundtrack" keeps playing after he shows up; that is, it's not just a (missed) hint for Constantine.

#570 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2008, 11:19 PM:

Clifton @ 567... I am not unduly surprised.

#571 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2008, 12:03 AM:

Dave @ #568

can you share the drugs? if it's for real, give me a PortKey so I can come to the convention! Because that sounds like too much fun.

The other morning I woke up abruptly in surprise in the midst of dreaming i was winning a Nebula for a book i wrote under a pseudonym, I woke up when someone in the dream (maybe Teresa herself) asked, 'Paula Murray?"

#572 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2008, 12:48 AM:

Harriet:

"Mister Sandman" -- I'd never heard it before last weekend's Lunacon masquerade, when someone used it as the theme song for their eponymous costume

That was Deanna Kovalcin, costume made by her mother Diane Kovalcin. Diane's other daughter, Laura, was the Frog Princess.

#573 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2008, 01:04 AM:

Congratulations to the Hugo nominees.

It's a much better list than the Nebulas. Novel looks rather strong this year, ditto Novella & Novelette.

It's fifth(?) year running that Charles Stross has been nominated. Is this some kind of record?

#574 ::: Harriet Culver ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2008, 01:49 AM:

Susan #573

I was hoping you'd be able to amplify my recollections of the Lunacon Masquerade, especially as I couldn't see very well past all the heads of the audience seated in the front half of the hall.

Was her costume based on Gaiman's Sandman or on some other version of the character? I'm virtually illiterate when it comes to comics and graphic novels, so all I could tell was that she was wearing a black and white costume with a big ochre sandbag-shaped object strapped to her back with a wide belt.

#575 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2008, 11:04 AM:

Harriet: Alas, I am as ignorant as you about comics and graphic novels (and have never read Gaiman's Sandman). But I asked Diane and her response was:

He is Gaara from the Naruto anime series. He controls sand which is why her song was 'Sandman'. He has several costumes but he always carries a gourd which he makes from sand, too.

I don't know anything about Naruto except that some of my young-teen acquaintances obsess over it.

#577 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2008, 11:56 AM:

Mary Dell @ 577... Hilarious, and very clever indeed.

I also liked that person's spoof of Dubya on a game show.

#578 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2008, 12:43 PM:

Aaagh! Culinary emergency! I'm hoping for some advice (or commiseration) from fellow Fluorospherians.

I decided to try making a Pavlova for Easter dinner tomorrow, and was baking the meringue base today. Because of my FIL's dietary restrictions, I used fructose instead of sucrose. The egg whites beat up beautifully, but the surface of the meringue feels.... rubbery instead of the crunchy-firm I was expecting. Do I have a problem here, or is it supposed to be like this? If this is indeed All Wrong, is there anything I can do to save it, or should I get started on an alternative?

Any advice or information much appreciated.

#579 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2008, 02:34 PM:

Hmm, I don't know if it's because of the fructose, but I've seen spongy meringues before. It's not necessarily bad, and may even be the intended result for that cake. Have you made that recipe before?

#580 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2008, 03:16 PM:

Debbie #579:

Has it been cooked long enough? It should look like this or slightly less brown. The cracks are not a fault - they indicate that the outer (crunchy) crust has formed properly. The inside should be kind of spongy.

My recipe uses caster sugar (fine-grained glucose). I've never made it with sucrose or fructose. Using other sugars might conceivably alter its characteristics. For example, the melting point of fructose is less than glucose which is less than sucrose.

Even if it's rubbery, it should taste fine but lack the correct texture.

#581 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2008, 03:24 PM:

Debbie:

Had a quick look at my recipe. Stiff peaks for the egg whites is what you want. Mine calls for baking it for 125C for 1.5 hours. Then turning the oven off & letting the pavlova cool slowly in the oven.

If your pavlova isn't showing any cracks (the cracks develop while cooking), it may well be that it wasn't cooked enough. Have you tried sliding a knife through the crust? It should feel like cutting crusty bread (i.e. crunchy outside, soft inside). If it still feels rubbery, then the crust hasn't formed properly for some reason.

#582 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2008, 03:32 PM:

Xopher and Soon Lee -- I've never made this before, but always wanted to. It looks and sounds heavenly. Whether or not it was cooked long enough is a good question -- it was in well over an hour, and left to dry after the recipe's allotted baking time. I was keeping an eye on it because things baked with fruit sugar brown much faster (which this did). Maybe it retained moisture because of the fructose.

I've made a lot of things with fructose in the past, but this is my first try with a meringue. It's reassuring to know that it will probably taste the way it should. Thanks much for the input.

#583 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2008, 03:32 PM:

Soon Lee @ 582... Mine calls for baking it for 125C for 1.5 hours

"Captain! I can't keep us going at 125 times the speed of light for that long!"

"Scottie, I need that meringue now!"

#584 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2008, 03:41 PM:

Serge #584:

"I know Captain, but ye cannae change the Laws of Culinary Chemistry!"

#585 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2008, 04:45 PM:

Debbie: Did the use of fructose involve reducing the physical mass of sugar compared to the egg white?

#586 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2008, 04:53 PM:

David Harmon -- yes it did. The recipe called for 3/4 cup sugar and 3 egg whites, and I cut the sugar to 1/2 cup. The mass was plenty sweet, and formed glossy stiff peaks.

#587 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2008, 05:19 PM:

If an expected result of a recipe change is that it will brown more quickly than usual, it's often a good idea to bake it at a lower temperature for longer. That gives the insides a better chance to finish cooking before the outside gets overdone.

I've never made a pavlova, but it might be worth putting it back in the oven, preheated to a very low baking temperature, to dry out. That's a pure guess based on general principles, mind you.

#588 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2008, 09:41 PM:

Debbie @#587 The mass was plenty sweet, and formed glossy stiff peaks.

I'm sure it was sweet, IIRC fructose is some three times as sweet as regular sugar.

What I'm thinking here is that the browning and "crisping" of the crust may depend on the actual amount of sugar available to carmelize.

(Remember that fructose and glucose are isomers, and sucrose is just one of each stuck together as a dimer. They have different sweetnesses because of the chemical details, but I'd bet a cookie that when it comes to carmelization and the like, they're all equivalent gram-for-gram.)

#589 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2008, 11:10 PM:

David Harmon #589:

Good point. Also the different sugars will caramelise at different temperatures.

The problem may have been twofold:

1.Reducing the amount of fructose because it's sweeter than glucose meant there was less sugar for the caramelisation reaction.

2.Reducing cooking time meant the pav didn't get enough time to form a proper crust or to dry it out sufficiently.

#590 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2008, 11:19 PM:

David Harmon @ 589: I'd bet a cookie that when it comes to carmelization and the like, they're all equivalent gram-for-gram.

I'd take that bet. Isomers can have very different reaction behaviours, even for reactions as generally indiscriminate as thermal decomposition / pyrolysis. The J.T. Baker website's MSDS for anhydrous fructose reports for its melting point: "103 - 105C (217 - 221F) Decomposes." The MSDS for anhydrous glucose reports a melting point: 146C (295F).

#591 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 02:16 AM:

Just got back from Easter Vigil Service. Sleepy. Happy. Long readings, bonfires, three choirs, Gloria, wild bells, candles... He is Risen, Alleluia, Alleluia!!

#592 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 02:42 AM:

Ginger, #486: Gah. It sounds like the culmination of fraternity/sorority rush!

Susan, #493: Unless POD printing is a necessity, you might look into contacting my partner for a quote on screen-printed shirts: info AT instantattitudes DOT com. We can do short runs (i.e. 20-100 shirts) without difficulty; the main issues would be colors (we're not set up to do 4-color seps) and artwork (line art works best).

Serge, #508: The Obsidian Order was the Cardassians, not the Romulans. (And I see Scott beat me to it at #521.)

Diatryma, #563: It's a lot more normal now than it was when I was your age, that's for sure! And I suspect that it's still more noticeable, as a phenomenon, if you don't have a significant number of gay and bi acquaintances. I still remember the huge foofaraw over the hero of Mercedes Lackey's second Valdemar trilogy being openly gay; admittedly, in the circles I run in, most of it was along the lines of, "Well, it's about bloody damn TIME!"

#593 ::: Don Simpson ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 03:11 AM:

Kip W @ 449 -- What I want is a text file of the lyrics to Yama Yama Man. And now that I've heard Mysterious Rag, I'd like a text file of those lyrics also....

#594 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 05:25 AM:

Lizzy L @592:

Alleluia!

#595 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 06:49 AM:

Lee:

POD is a necessity. I'm not remotely interested in shelling out money or dealing with inventory or going into the order fulfillment business.

#596 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 07:11 AM:

Apropos of nothing, it is snowing outside right now.

I'm waking to a white Easter

Staring out at falling snow

The church bell's ringing

Under thick clouds bringing

More flakes to fall on us below.

I'm waking to a white Easter

Where every egg we dyed so bright

Will not stay hidden

But will show, unbidden

We should have simply left them white.

I'm waking to a white Easter

And feel that something isn't right

The leaves that shrivel with blight

Put all my dreams of spring to flight.

#597 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 07:54 AM:

Abi @ 597.... With all that snow, how will ElectroGirl spot the Easter Bunny? ("Mom! Can I have your infrared visor?")

#598 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 07:59 AM:

Lee @ 593... I wonder if the Klingons have a secret service?

Kouredios, who is a teacher at a high-school, recently mentionned on her blog the posters that the school's Gay-Straight Alliance made and put up around the place. One of them says:

"Heterosexuality isn't normal, it's just common."

#599 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 09:39 AM:

abi: My whole (post-egg-hunt, pre-Mass) family laughed at your song....

#600 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 09:43 AM:

I note without comment this from the KW-26 Wikipedia article linked to by Bruce Cohen (StM) @ 506:

As the units aged, the card reader contacts became less dependable, and operators resorted to various tricks, such as hitting the card reader cover with a screwdriver, to get them to work properly.

Serge, I had a White Easter, but it wasn't settling and has all melted. I don't know about spotting the Easter Bunny, but unless he's got a very quick change camoflage coat, he's going to either be or have been very visible at some point today.

Also, in preview: "Heterosexuality isn't normal, it's just common." - is that supposed to have a double meaning?

#601 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 09:54 AM:

Neill Willcox @ 601... A double meaning? I doubt it, but Kouredios is the one who could possibly tell us.

As for Easter, we often little gwey wabbits with white tails hopping around, but not today. It's cold and windy. Bleh. Quite a change of weather from Thursday when I got sun-burned from a day of yard work. By the way, for those who are interested, Turner Classic Movies is showing Sidney Poitier's Lilies of the Fields today. Not really an Easter movie, but a good one nonetheless, and certainly more appropriate than the Joan Crawford flicks they'll air tonight. By the way, why don't they ever show Paul Newman's The Silver Chalice? I mean, who doesn't want to see Jack Palance thinking he himself is the Messiah so he puts on tights and jumps off a high tower?

#602 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 10:20 AM:

And Joel Polowin @##591 demonstrates why I stick to the quarter slots....

I'd take that bet. ...even for reactions as generally indiscriminate as thermal decomposition / pyrolysis.

A 40-kelvin difference, for a rearrangement of the hydroxyl groups? Egad! Do they at least converge in decomposition, or do they yield different reaction products as well?

Of course, that effect seems to run the wrong way for the observed effects, but now there's enough conflicting variables at play to reduce us to the specific case. Temperature, type of sugar, amount of sugar, and whatever might come along with a first try at the recipe...

#603 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 10:54 AM:

Dave Bell @568: I see that I was not the only one who, when reading the list of things to do to disguise oneself as a frenchman, immediately thought "string of onions", but your response is much better than mine would be.

You'll want to be careful of this Michelle girl. She is likely the kind of woman who talks too much while constantly promising to shut up, and the kinds of things she'll want you to do shall be fraught with danger.

#604 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 11:02 AM:

Stephan Brun @ 604... If Dave Bell then sees a box roll into the bar, and the box contains green liquid and the brain of Jean-Louis Trintignant, it means he's not at an SF convention but on the set of a Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie. Then again, it might be hard to tell the difference between the two at times.

#605 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 11:27 AM:

David Harmon @ 603: It's not just a rearrangement of the hydroxyl groups, apparently (though I could see that making a big difference, since the reactions would include dehydration). Fructose apparently tends to hang around in a 5-membered ring form under most environmental conditions, while glucose is usually in its 6-membered ring form.

As for whether they tend to get the same decomposition products on heating... I don't know. Broadly similar, I'd expect. The technical term for the mixture of pyrolysis products is "a mess".

(The Wikipedia page on caramelization says that it's "the oxidation of sugar", and I'm pretty sure that's not right. But that article has been messed around with a lot. For a while, there were lines about "oxidation of keratin proteins", which obviously isn't about sugar decomposition, and "phased chiral transmission of sodium chloride crystals", which might have been copied from a Starfleet Technobabble Manual.)

#606 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 11:33 AM:

Name that author:

As I shamble through my literary life, I often meet women who’d have sex with me simply based on the fact that I’m good with metaphors. No, that’s not quite it. Women find me attractive because a lot of people have decided I’m good with metaphors. There’s been a consensus reached on my ability with metaphors. Can a consensus serve as an aphrodisiac? I don’t have sex with these strangers, but I do revel in the fact that I could have sex with many of them, dozens of them each and every year.

The answer is here.

#607 ::: Dave Bell makes another bizarre convention report. ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 11:47 AM:

Well, wasn't that a night. You see, one of the problems of being in a hotel that is lauded as one of the top hotels for the business traveller is that you get businessmen.

And in the days when deep mining was still a thriving industry in the UK, as a hotel manager you feared the accountants and prayed for the National Association of Colliery Overmen, Deputies, and Shot-firers.

And some of us remember the days when, if you wanted to show a young lady with a gun, in your masquerade entry, your first resort was to put Hugh Mascetti in drag.

Except this time it was Teddy, I think, and it involved some guy in an expensive suit, speaking Estuary English, asking what he was drinking.

I don't know if it was some sort of Dutch liqueur, and Teddy's reference to Blue Curaçao was misunderstood, but Antonia was at the next table, and she's been in a grumpy mood all weekend.

It was at this point that the bartender, sensible fellow, hit the switch for the security shutter.

Now, I think the guy must have been drunk, because Antonia can loom with the best of them, and he didn't take the hint.

Antonia's back now: there was a fan-fund auction so that bail could be posted, and there was no damage to the hotel. Turned out the guy was a futures trader. But whoever it was who bought the strip-tease by Antonia was last seen heading for Terminal 4.

Futures trading is a dangerous game.

#608 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 11:55 AM:

I am not desperately trying not to imagine something such as "Iron Chef" or "Ready, Steady, Cook!" with Starfleet-grade technobabble.

#609 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 11:58 AM:

Don Simpson @594 - Susan @469 linked to full sheet music for "Yama Yama Man." A cursory search didn't turn up any better source for the lyrics, though there's an interesting discussion with some of the words at Democratic Underground (it's not all politics).

Nobody's more surprised than I am that I found lyrics to "That Mysterious Rag" on the first try. I never suspected it was by Irving Berlin!

#610 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 12:01 PM:

Dave Bell:

Bols? As in blue Bols? Haven't thought of blue Bols for years, not since I was young enough to order drinks by colour.

The only one that lasted was the one we invented, the Vulcan Vampire: 1 shot blue Bols, 1 shot Tia Maria, lemonade. Tasted borderline foul, but it was a very, very deep green.

Come to think of it, I only drank them in British SF contexts.

*shakes head, returns to real life*

#611 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 12:04 PM:

Lee at 593, I think it might be like feminist SF. Yeah, there are strong female characters. Also strong male characters, and occasionally strong pronoun-confusing characters, whether in between, both, or neither. That's the way it is, because it would be stupid to pretend part of the world isn't there.

I'm a child of someone's hoped-for future, and I wish I could find who it is so I could say, "Hey, thanks, this works better than it did."

#612 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 12:12 PM:

Stephan, it could be worse. Michelle doesn't repeat herself.

#613 ::: Antonia, at the coinvention. ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 12:39 PM:

Dave is exaggerating, again.

I wasn't even arrested.

#614 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 01:29 PM:

*muses that 'coinvention' is one of those words that wouldn't be caught by a decent spellchecker (the Firefox one not being in that category, because for example it also flags 'spellchecker'), not because it's a portmanteau meaning a gathering of numismatists, but because it's a real (i.e. old) word for something thought up or devised by two or more people or entities simultaneously, whether acting in concert or not*

#615 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 01:56 PM:

I quote Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (2004 edition) page 656:

Though caramel is most often made with table sugar, its sucrose molecules actually break apart into their glucose and fructose components before they begin to fragment and recombine into new molecules. Glucose and fructose are "reducing sugars," meaning that they have reactive atoms that perform the opposite of oxidation (they donate electrons to other molecules). A sucrose molecule is made from one glucose and one fructose joined by their reducing atoms, so sucrose has no reducing atoms free to react with other molecules, and is therefore less reactive than glucose and fructose. This is why sucrose requires a higher temperature for caramelization (340 F/170 C) than glucose (300 F/150 C) and especially fructose (220 F/105 C).

#616 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 02:01 PM:

Also, McGee seems to think that they yield essentially similar reaction products when heated, although there are a lot of these (which is why caramelized sugar has such a range of flavors) and he is not very specific about the chemistry. He does seem to think that microwave heating produces a slightly different set of reaction products.

#617 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 02:09 PM:

Now that I've listened to a recording of 'Yama Yama Man', it sounds like maybe Danielle Dax actually was riffing off it in concept.

Her 'Yummer Yummer Man' is about a kind of bogeyman ("Waiting at the corner, underneath the stair, best turn your thoughts away pretend that he's not there...")

The older song describes a bogeyman in its first verse, with more in some versions: "Maybe he's hiding behind the chair, ready to spring at you unaware. Run to your mama, 'cause here comes the Yama- Yama man." And here I thought I was joking.

#618 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 03:42 PM:

Funny you should mention caramel...

First of all, Happy Easter to those who celebrate it, and general best wishes to everyone else. (Oh, and we had snow today, too. Very bizarre, especially considering it was warm enough to barbecue on my birthday 'way back in February.)

This morning I put my meringue back in the oven to see if it would dry out more -- which it did somewhat, and it probably would have been fine. However, the more I thought about it, the less sure I was that my FIL would actually like the pavlova, so I've postponed making it to another time (and with normal sugar).

Instead, I used my 3 exta egg yolks to make a rich yeast dough, which I topped with caramelized almonds: melted butter and fructose, added cream and cooked it together for a bit, then mixed in chopped almonds and a little rum. This works well with fructose.

#619 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 03:55 PM:

Xopher: And what is more, it would not even be caught by a capable grammar-checker, since it is grammatically in the correct place...

#620 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 04:25 PM:

Lee @ 593: I didn't mean to imply that it was all done in one day (or week)..it's a job hunt with all the successful applicants notified on the same day. The process leading up to Match Day is several months of paperwork and interviews. Otherwise, yes, it does sound like a Rush Week.

#621 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 04:41 PM:

It could be worse. The spellchecker that comes with Pidgin (the messaging client I use, because it speaks AIM, Jabber, YIM, and Gtalk, and is free) flags "online" and "okay."

I leave it turned on because it catches enough typos to be worth it, for me.

#622 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 04:52 PM:

Ah, spellcheckers... I remember when I was working at the Gap. After I had finished writing my resignation letter, I ran it thru the spellchecker, which proceeded to suggest that my manager's name should be spelled 'Valuator' or 'Violator'.

#623 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 05:09 PM:

Spellcheckers, aka spillchuckers, spoolczechers, and other variants thereof, seems (to me) more useful to people who already know how to spell correctly. It's more of a typing (or even typoing) checker, in that regards. Spelling is an odd skill, I've come to realize; my son can spell words correctly on spelling tests, but you should see the Shakespearian* approach he takes in his routine writing. All the rules and memorized words go flying out of his head, and he reverts to a basic phonetic philosophy, randomly imposed upon his sentences.

*As in "more variation means more creativity".

#624 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 05:16 PM:

Caroline @#616: Thanks!

#625 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 05:30 PM:

I have been reminded once or twice that not everyone can ignore spell-check as a step (not the main one, but a step) in proofreading. There's too high a number of false positives for me to use it consistently. The typos I make are usually words, rather than missteps-- 'typos' as 'types', 'as' as 'and' (made that one twice now). I do not misspell words often*, and when I do, they're generally chemicals and the spell-check won't catch them anyway.



*Someone please point out what is misspelled in this post. There has to be something. I have ensured it.

#626 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 06:30 PM:

Debbie 619: (Oh, and we had snow today, too. Very bizarre, especially considering it was warm enough to barbecue on my birthday 'way back in February.)

The boundary between seasons is like the boundary between yin and yang. A little winter in spring, a little spring in winter.

Around here, people are always griping if it's cold in March, but they didn't gripe when it was warm in February. "February traded for those warm days," I tell them. "These days are the ones March got in return."

#627 ::: Antonia, somewhere in the con hotel. ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 06:30 PM:

Ot's true, you know. They say this place is popular with business travellers.

You are in a maze of twisted passages, all alike.

Well, a lot of hotels are like that. Monotonous. And it doesn't help being a British Standard Fan. You see a sign with arrows and ranges if room numbers, and you have to think, hard, to figure out where your room number is in the range.

You are in a maze of twisted passages, all alike.

I know, dammit.

You take a deep breath.

I think I'm channeling Charlie Stross. Him with the knees and the beard.

You are channeling Charlie Stross...

Listen, sunshine, either you tell me how to get to my room, or I reprogram you with an axe.

Turn left, fourth door on the right. Beware of the pirate.

Thanks. Hey, what do you mean pirate?

"Aaarrr, wench, you be handing me your...."

<<<THWAP!>>>

That pirate. You're not a ninja, are you?

Nope. St Trinian's Ladies Cricket Team...

#628 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 06:37 PM:

Serge #623: So, which spelling did you use?

#629 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 06:54 PM:

Me #581:

Correction:Caster sugar is not fine glucose but sucrose.

#630 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 07:49 PM:

Fragano @ 629... I was very tempted to use the second spelling, especially since that... ah... gentleman reminded me in too many ways of Colonel Klink. I decided to abstain from using either spelling and to stick with his real name.

#631 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 07:58 PM:

Serge #631: Probably the wisest course.

#632 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 08:01 PM:

abi #611: Since you're in Holland you are in a position to resolve a nagging question for me: Is Bols Advocaat actually made from lawyers?

#633 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 08:31 PM:

Herewith a formal request that Antonia @ #628 continue her story. It's sounding good reading well so far.

#634 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 08:35 PM:

Fragano @633:

Is Bols Advocaat actually made from lawyers?

I'm informed that it is made from lawyers' balls.

Any further comments about gur gnfgr be grkgher bs rttabt will be left to the ROT-13 crowd.

#635 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 09:14 PM:

abi & Fragano: Ah! Perhaps that explains my original understanding. I'd heard it was produced for lawyers' balls.

#636 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 09:53 PM:

miriam beetle @#402: I asked about the book during the Q&A and she said it's supposed to come out "later this year." Then she said "It's due next week. I'm, um, optimistic?"

It was a fun show. She's not exactly a people person, but she gives good, thoughtful answers to questions, and gamely puts up with the signing line, albeit without cracking a smile.

#637 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 10:37 PM:

Hmmm. I was flipping through the free digital channels carried on basic cable and it appears as though a time-shifted, unscrambled feed of HBO has found its way there.

John Adams. Yummy!

#638 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 23, 2008, 11:31 PM:

abi @ 635... I'm informed that it is made from lawyers' balls.

Ow! That testimony hurt!

#639 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 01:28 AM:

Ginger, #621: It's the "everybody notified on the same day" part that triggered the sorority-rush reference for me. Perhaps a better analogy would be the football draft, although that works a little differently because the notifications aren't simultaneous.



Dave Bell and Antonia: I would love to see what the two of you could do with a Down The Rabbit Hole post!

#640 ::: Antonia, Monday morning ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 04:40 AM:

I do not snore.

There was an Airbus A380 doing touch-and-goes in the corridor.

Honest.

(Are they still serving breakfast?)

#641 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 05:13 AM:

When I was a kid, Christmas was always wet here and Easter was always white--sometimes a foot deep in snow. I used to think that Easter eggs were colored so that we kids could spot them.

#642 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 06:13 AM:

Xopher @627 -- This morning I went out and shoveled snow from the walk. This much snow, this late, in this area, is weird. I'm really not dogmatic about seasonal boundaries (as if I could do anything about the weather anyway!), but we didn't get a single lousy flake in December or January. C'est la vie.

#643 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 06:45 AM:

abi #635: Graag gedaan. I am so innocent that the thought of ynjlref' onyyf had not occurred to me. I am not one for testimonials, I suppose.

#644 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 06:59 AM:

The question seems inevitable: Pbhyq lbh pnyy n ynjlre jvgubhg onyyf vagrfgngr?

#645 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 07:57 AM:

Re: palmface, headdesk particle: "The 45-minute panel discussion quickly deteriorated as federal, local and state homeland security officials, and at least one congressional aid, attempted to ask questions, which were largely ignored.

"Instead the writers used their time to pontificate on a variety of tangentially related topics, including their past roles advising the government, predictions in their stories that have come to pass, the demise of the paperback book market, and low-cost launch into space."

Science fiction authors? Pontificating? No way! *rolls about, laughing maniacally*

Atn Guvegrra enthusiasts: "very funny" becomes "irel shaal"

#646 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 08:16 AM:

abi @ 597: The best solution to snow on Easter is to hold the egghunt indoors, with chocolate eggs. It's tastier, too. (This message brought to you by the Society of Alaskan Childhood Survivors)

Laurence @ 607: While Sherman Alexie is, in fact, an incredibly self-satisfied little punk, that piece is satire, not autobiography. See the related article here.

#647 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 08:54 AM:

heresiarch @647:

We already had the colored eggs (and this is my first Easter in Europe using dye tablets and vinegar, just like Devil's Canyon California back home).

So I hid the eggs and let the kids find them. I then watched as they hid eggs for their dad to find, then let him watch as they hid for me. So no stink bombs for later this year (or for the house owners...we're renting till August).

It was fun.

#648 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 08:56 AM:

Making Light and Faces

See! The leader of a mutant army!

See! London trembling in terror!

See! The knight from an Ancient Order!

See! People who haunt this site!

#649 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 09:05 AM:

Serge #649: So Lee did catch up with him at OmegaCon....

#650 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 09:14 AM:

Fragano @ 650... It'd appear so, in spite of the Doctor being hard to catch.

#651 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 09:47 AM:

abi #648:

We have a dog, who we're counting on to discover most of the potential stink bombs missed by the kids. Not all of them, but she could reach most of where I the easter bunny put them.

#652 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 10:07 AM:

I wonder just how much of that SF writers advising Homeland Security article is "real".

It only needs one or two people organising things to be stupid, and you get the whiff of neo-nazism leaking in. Or it could be a reporter. But, either way, it comes across more as a funding boondoggle than any sort of serious application of creativity.

And it's not the extravagant science of dropping crow-bars from orbit; it's not optimistic; it's not just a big dumb idea to go with a big dumb object. it's boasting about influencing the DHS while giving every impression of being vile racist trash.

OK, I gave up on reading Niven and Pournelle years ago. Their new writing stopped appealing to me sometime in the last millenium. But, Jesus H. Christ in a dune buggy, I'm not sure I want to be part of the same species.

#653 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 10:25 AM:

I'm catching up, I'm catching up!

heresiarch #569: Unless there's a line in "Mister Sandman" that I'm forgetting, the line about the "candy-colored clown" is from "In Dreams" by Roy Orbison.

Xopher #615: The Firefox spellchecker flags me every time I type the name of my state, because it doesn't know the word "Rhode". I choose to get riled up about this every time, but not do anything about it.

#654 ::: antonia, post convention ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 10:41 AM:

So there I was, driving a Transit filled with Daleks on the North Circular, when I was flagged down by the Police.

"Who do you think you are? Sabine Schmitz?"

Jeremy Clarkson, I kill you deadly.



(Well, it's funnier than an abnormal load, which was really why they were stopping traffic.)

#655 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 11:14 AM:

Yesterday we had lovely weather here in Prescott AZ -- plum trees coming into bloom and full of bees, whiptail lizards making an early appearance, another walk-through by the lone coyote who sometimes wanders around the shrub-and-pebble grounds -- just a week after it last snowed. My mother gave me the traditional hardboiled egg in a little basket (no, I didn't have to hunt for it). In the afternoon, I watched good tennis finals on telly. And later the comedy channel showed two *new* episodes of "Futurama", with really dishy artwork. It all made for an excellent day. Hope this doesn't sound like gloating; "real life" will intrude again, starting today.

#656 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 11:58 AM:

heresiarch 646, jgs is "Atn" Guvegrra? As far as I can tell that translates to "Nga." Could you have meant "ebg"?

#657 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 12:23 PM:

Hmm. Those aren't hobbit socks. Those are The Hobbit socks—that is, they're based on the book itself (in fact, on one particular (very nice) edition); they do not in any way correspond to socks worn by actual holebuilding halflings (holbytlanus tolkieni). As you know, Bob, that species entirely eschews footwear of any kind.

Therefore, the phrase 'hobbit socks' is merely a delightful locution for a nonexistent object. For example, one might say "Socialists in America are as scarce as hobbit socks." This is probably an improvement over the traditional way of putting it, if only because many people today are blissfully unaware that hens (and all chickens, in fact all birds) are utterly without teeth.

I blame the paleontologists.

#658 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 12:23 PM:

And a Transit full of Daleks isn't an abnormal load?

I reckon we must be in the 21st Century after all.

#659 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 12:42 PM:

hesiarch, Sherman Alexie is many things, but speaking from a closely tangential cultural perspective, "self-satisfied punk" is not one of them. When you've known NW Res raised/WSU educated self-satisfied punks, you can tell the difference.

For instance, they tend to vote Republican and be employed as the banquet manager at the tribal casino.

Jenny Islander at 642, my nephew's Easter eggs were very pale by the time they were found yesterday, and quite cold. There's been some cold, windy, and rainy Easters in my life, but yesterday was near the top of the list for combined ugliness.

(Making my "I'm not dead or disappeared" run past the open thread on the way to more work outside).



#660 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 12:55 PM:

JESR @ 660... And how are your roses? Still too cold for them to grow, I suppose.

#661 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 02:27 PM:

Dave @653: I think I detect a whiff of bias in that report. The David Brin described doesn't sound like the guy I saw in Yokohama. That "jumping off his chair to wave a mobile phone in their faces" could just be him getting up to show the audience a picture on his mobile, but the writer makes him sound like an out-of-control nutjob. I'll admit I'm favourably biased towards Niven, but I'd like to see more context for that off-colour quote. As to Pournelle, well....

#662 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 02:48 PM:

NelC: I agree, but only if you replace 'whiff' with 'overwhelming stench'. I feel certain this reporter was taking a rather dull meeting and zipping it up by exaggerating everything that happened.

#663 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 02:50 PM:

Serge, the roses seem intent on producing lots of new growth to be hammered by the persistant sleet. I try to discipline them by withholding fertilizer, but they keep sneering at me and putting forth new green-gold leaves wherever they can.

They seem to be taking inspiration from my children; I'm putting my "She Who Must Be Obeyed" t-shirt in the St. Vincent de Paul's box.

#664 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 02:57 PM:

JESR @ 664... I'm putting my "She Who Must Be Obeyed" t-shirt in the St. Vincent de Paul's box.

It's sad when even roses laugh at you, sapping your authority.

Who gave you that t-shirt, by the way? Or did you purchase it when you had Delusions of Authority?

#665 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 03:05 PM:

The SWMBO tshirts were Christmas presents to my sister and I, back when people were still afraid of us.

I miss those days.

#666 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 03:07 PM:

Missed the errant subjective. I blame my father's English teachers, who beat the "me" right out of him.

#667 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 03:24 PM:

JESR, it's not your fault. It was the Post of the Beast.

But yeah, me was shocked to see what youm wrote there.

#669 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 03:29 PM:

Open Threadness: This open letter to the Chinese government offering suggestions on how to handle the crisis in Tibet is amazingly daring, yet unfailingly polite. I expect they'll all be locked up, but they're all good ideas—or would be, if the Chinese were even remotely telling the truth about their actions there.

#670 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 03:49 PM:

I think Serge @ #649 was subtly suggesting that more photo submissions would be accepted. Would you prefer people imagine the worst or show your faces and let their imaginations be confirmed?

#671 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 03:54 PM:

Linkmeister @ 671... Subtle, moi? Only by Klingon standards.

#672 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 04:04 PM:

I can send an old picture of me from before...the change. Now my visage is too horrific to be borne by mortal men; their bone marrow will curdle should they gaze full upon my countenance.

Mortal women don't seem to mind, oddly enough.

#673 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 04:07 PM:

Xopher @ 673... Bone marrow can curdle?

#674 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 04:17 PM:

Serge 674: Indeed it can. The sight will tug at your heartstrings.

#675 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 04:20 PM:

Serge @ 599

... I wonder if the Klingons have a secret service?

Yep, they're the ones with the chrome yellow jackets and the purple trousers. The deep-cover operatives also wear sunglasses for additional disguise.

#676 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 04:22 PM:

Xopher @ 675... Having my heartstrings tugged at in a Lovecraftian setting sounds distrubing. Well, just send the photo and I'll post it with some invisible wards to protect the innocent.

#677 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 04:23 PM:

I have once linked to a picture of myself here -- the Zombie Wedding Party. I am the bridesmaid directly to the bride's right, the only one wearing glasses.

It is not the portrait I'd choose to represent myself in general, though. Although it does seem to fit in with Serge, Linkmeister, and Xopher's general theme.

#678 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 04:33 PM:

653, 642:

Over on his blog, David Brin comments:

"that SIGMA meeting in LA was a disaster. I tried to steer it back on track and was perhaps a bit too florid and dramatic. But Jerry and Larry were being so..."

#679 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 04:43 PM:

Xopher #658: You have won an Internet.

#680 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 04:44 PM:

Caroline @ 678... Done. By the way, the groom looks like he needs to loosen up. Then again, does one want to make such a suggestion to a zombie?

#681 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 04:45 PM:

It figures I'd be the one to make the Post of the Beast in this thread, since otherwise I have been mostly elsewhere (and with head-explody-ness following me around, it's true). And on a Monday, too, in March, no less, a month you'd think I'd have learned not to trust by now, or rather learned not to be fooled into visions of a beneficent spring by a couple of weeks of warm breezes in February.

Even the birds don't respect me anymore; I had a Brewer's blackbird much too near, letting loose with frequent repetition of his bell-like mating call (a badly tuned bell, by the way) while I hung jeans on the line and lobbed profanity at him, being sort on clothes-pins and all out of rocks.

#682 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 04:48 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 676... That reminds me of the ST-TNG episode where Whorf congratulated someone for being as cunning as a Klingon.

#683 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 04:48 PM:

Fragano #680:

Indeed. From the particle's title, I was expecting something *very* hairy, designed to look like hobbit feet, not runes.

#684 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 04:54 PM:

JESR #682:

Our birds don't respect the cat. The local sparrow types (I'm nowhere on bird ID-ing) are flying into the large-mesh cat palace and drinking the water and taking over the litter box for unknown but nefarious purposes. Since the chief thing-builder has been laid low with some vile flu, smaller mesh has not yet appeared.

#685 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 04:58 PM:

I gave Serge a variety of pics to choose from. So of course he picked the over-exposed BW one that looks like a mugshot.

On the other hand, he has cast me as an arch-villain, so I'm pretty ok with how things turned out.

#686 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 05:03 PM:

Stefan Jones @679: Do you have a link? I've tried to find the quote (and the rest of the article) on both his blog and his website, and have not had any luck.

#687 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 05:06 PM:

heresiarch@647: I knew it was a joke. I just thought it was funny.

#688 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 05:11 PM:

Tania, that's quite a striking photo, even without the arch-villainy.

#689 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 05:17 PM:

Linkmeister @ 689... I thought so too, but what do I know? (As much as Sgt.Schultz, I guess.)

#690 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 05:18 PM:

Linkmeister - Thanks! I like the one of Teresa and Hiro.

#692 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 05:43 PM:

There aren't many pictures of me available for the linking (that I can find, anyway). Here's me dancing with some bones. This is me preparing some toast. this one's me using Photo Booth as a mirror. And there are some pictures of me on my myspace, although those are mostly silly and you have to sign in to see them, anyway, and myspace is rarely worth the trouble to begin with. I guess maybe I could be persuaded to upload some of them to my box account.

#693 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 05:47 PM:

Oh, and here's cartoon me making a faux-homophobic pun in my friend Georgia's webcomic. She captured the essence of my face perfectly.

#694 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 05:52 PM:

Here's a picture of me rocking the frock.

#695 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 06:04 PM:

Serge, I will send you a better portrait when I get home. One where people can actually tell what I look like.

I believe the groom is trying to be a stiffer variety of zombie (or possibly more of a Chinese vampire?) although it's true that he was pretty nervous.

#696 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 06:04 PM:

Of course I posted ethan with the bones. Tim Walters is also up, in a frock, but might need to have the photo cropped because the gallery's overall display chopped his head off.

#697 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 06:11 PM:

Caroline @ 696.... Okedoke, although I think the current picture is fine. As for the groom possibly trying to be a Chinese vampire, have you ever seen 1974's The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires? I did. And lived to tell the tale. Barely.

#698 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 06:19 PM:

Serge, my favorite thing about the bones picture is that the flash made my shirt see-through, and you can see part of my "Keep Calm and Carry On" t-shirt through it. It's like my clothes are saying "Don't worry, they're not real bones."

#699 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 06:30 PM:

Serge @ 697: Tim Walters is also up, in a frock, but might need to have the photo cropped

Oops. I'll look for something with a better aspect ratio.

In the meantime, if I may, it's "Walters" with an "s"...

#700 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 08:55 PM:

serge,

i've got a few interesting pictures of me on flickr, though they're mostly a couple years old...

on halloween, as a tank-girl-type entity; a woman in uniform (that one's for you, ginger); eating popcorn with an african grey; & in a monkey hat, with my panda husband.

#701 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 09:40 PM:

ethan @ 699... Let me know if you want to change the photo's caption.

Tim Walters @ 700... No need to, Tim. I cropped it myself. Still, if you want to use another photo, just sent it to me.

miriam beetle @ 701... Done. Let me know if you want anything changed.

#702 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 10:41 PM:

abi @ 648: Cool! I have to say, the thought of latent stinkbombs never even occured to me. In my family, it was usually just finding a dusty chocolate egg behind the TV when we moved.

Xopher @ 657: Oops. "Atn" was, confusingly, meant to be short for "Attention."

JESR @ 660: "Sherman Alexie is many things, but speaking from a closely tangential cultural perspective, "self-satisfied punk" is not one of them. When you've known NW Res raised/WSU educated self-satisfied punks, you can tell the difference."

I may be wrong. I've read his books and seen him talk a couple of times, but that's the limit of my experience with him. He came across to me a lot like (my purely imaginary impression of) Aaron Sorkin--"I came up with this very clever way of saying this, so therefore it must be true!" He may be a nice guy, but he's a wee bit arrogant.

Laurence @ 688: Oh, my bad. Carry on!

#703 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 10:53 PM:

miriam #701: I want to steal your "I (heart) GNOCCHI" shirt!

Serge #702: 'Sfine by me.

#704 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 11:05 PM:

The last time I needed a photo of myself for anything was for the staff page for Alpha, and all of mine turned out to be unsuitable. Funny-- it was the first time anyone had had to crop Machu Picchu *out* of a picture-- but unsuitable.

Regarding stinkbombs, a woman I knew in high school did the prettiest eggs-- paints, sequins, just gorgeous. They were hard-boiled as usual, and she said that while they didn't break often, when they did, it could be horrible. Some of them dried up and rattled after a while.

#705 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2008, 11:06 PM:

Commercial pilot's gun accidentally discharges during flight.

oooops.

#706 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 12:03 AM:

Dayum, Ethan! If you were straight and I were 20 years younger... Oh, and I loved the joke in the cartoon.

Diatryma, #705: Ukranian pysanky are made from uncooked eggs, and are preserved for many years. I have a few from my teenage years, and one nice one from a college art class, which I've managed to keep unbroken. Eventually the innards dry up completely by slow evaporation thru the shell; they become very lightweight. I don't know if they'd turn into stinkbombs or not -- they probably at least go thru a phase where they would, but after 35 years? Maybe not.

#707 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 12:10 AM:

ethan,

I want to steal your "I (heart) GNOCCHI" shirt!

i dunno if it would fit you, judging by pictures (although you'd present a flatter surface for easier reading). i just had it made up at one of those heat-press t-shirt joints anyhow, so feel free to steal my declaration of affection.

#708 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 01:12 AM:

I appeal to the Fluorosphere with the word of power: AKICIML!

OK, this question is to do with college financial aid. A friend of my foster daughter - I'll call her M__ - really needs some help. She's from a poor family - her father deserted them a long time ago, and her mother is working part-time and on various kinds of state assistance. That's not the real problem though, or not per se.

The problem is that M__'s mother seems to be too personally disorganized to fill in the FAFSA application for the deadline. M__ has been pressing her for months, and getting back "Oh, no problem, I'll have it filled in." But it's still not done, the deadline for her financial aid application is now only about a week away, and her mom has not filed her taxes yet or collected all of the information she would need to file the taxes or do the FAFSA. M__ even offered to pay her mom $100 cash if she gets it done before the deadline, but it's not helping.

This isn't an isolated problem; they've had no electricity at their apartment for two weeks because even after getting an electric bill reduction through an assistance program, her mom hasn't gotten it together to pay the bill, even with money kicked in by the teenage kids. Although M__ doesn't make much, she has been buying her own food so that there's something to eat there, and loaning her mother money to keep some of the basic bills paid, but her mother never seems to be sure where it's going. (Her mom isn't using drugs, I believe, just generally failing to cope and involved with an even-more-loser boyfriend.)

I've already done my bit in terms of taking in stray teenagers; I can't volunteer for paying her college tuition (or her rent money, as it may come to) but it pisses me off that there is financial aid which could pay her way through - community college is pretty cheap - and she can't get it. It seems like the system is set up, as usual, to work best for people who have nice orderly middle-class lives, who aren't the ones who actually need the help most badly.

The question: is there any way that M__ can gain the equivalent of "emancipated minor" status and get the FAFSA calculations to disregard her mother's status? Even though she's no longer a minor, the financial aid rules treat her as dependent until she's either 24 or gets married, at which point suddenly her parents' financial status gets ignored; yet they've told her she can ignore her father's financials since he has no contact with the family. Basically, those rules allow her mother's problems to completely screw her out of the chance to go to community college. Surely there must be some way to do an end run around that? Anybody know how?

#709 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 01:57 AM:

Lee #707: Gawrsh, you'll make me blush. Thanks.

miriam #708: Hrm, I may in fact steal the idea.

#710 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 05:59 AM:

I thought I had some pictures of myself online, but I can't find them. So the only one I've got offhand is my LJ userpic...you're free to snarf that if you like, Serge.

#711 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 06:22 AM:

David Goldfarb @ 711... Will do.

#712 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 06:25 AM:

Diatryma @ 705... a woman I knew in high school did the prettiest eggs-- paints, sequins, just gorgeous. They were hard-boiled as usual

"And eight pieces of French pasty."

"With two hard-boiled eggs."

"And two hard-boiled eggs. Make that three hard-boiled eggs."

"Honk!"

#713 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 06:30 AM:

miriam beetle...

I tried to use the Tank Girl picture, but, even after I chopped off your legs(*), the gallery's overall display chopped off your head. Yes, I know this is starting to sound like the Bride of Frankenstein.

(*) ethan, we need those bones back.

#714 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 07:59 AM:

serge,

it is a rather narrow picture. i hope you like the soldier one almost as much... you can totally make up a more-interesting-than-my-life blurb to go along with it.

#715 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 08:54 AM:

Lee at 707, I saw a video on the Ukrainian eggs in fourth grade and have been faking them ever since. Not terribly well-- it's still the PAAS kit with the clear crayon-- but enough to feel proud of myself. Mostly flowers, because then I can use yellow, green, red, and make the egg itself a deep purple, but a couple years ago I made the world's least accurate globe.

#716 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 09:45 AM:

miriam Beetle @ 715... I liked the soldier photo just as much, and it was a tossup, until the decapitation became a problem. That being said, you have been blurbed - let me know if you require something more grandiose.

#717 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 09:50 AM:

There are a number of pictures of me on-line. Two are here (rather old) and here. David Dyer-Bennet's John M. Ford gallery also has a picture of him and me chatting at Uncle Hugo's (or is it Dreamhaven?) before the start of the 2002 World Fantasy Convention... which makes me feel weird in a number of ways. I barely knew him; there are many Fluorosphereans who better "deserve" to be sharing a picture with him.

#718 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 10:50 AM:

Joel Polowin @ 718... Two are here (rather old)

Very old, I'd say, based on the axe and on your fur coat. Anyway, I'll need to do some cropping, so whichever photo goes up will be posted tonight. I'd have loved using the one of you with Mike Ford, but alas little of your face shows up.

#719 ::: Antonia, madly rummaging ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 11:00 AM:

Photographs?

If there's one thing worse than not having backups, it's having them and not being able to find them.

Still, I'm sure I can find something decent...

Nope, that one's definitely indecent, and it must be old too.

#720 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 11:06 AM:

Serge, why are our e-mails malfunctioning in both directions?

#721 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 11:41 AM:

Teresa @ 721... You've been writing to me? I sent you an email about 30 minutes ago, as soon as I saw your post. Did it get thru? If you responded, I haven't seen anyhting yet. I wonder if your address got flagged as a spam source. Let me know and I'll see if the Comcastic people can figure out what's going on. My apologies for the inconvenience.

#722 ::: Malthus ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 12:13 PM:

Teresa, in regards to the cheap generics link you posted on the front page, you might want to read this.

Basically, it claims that generic long-lasting Wellbutrin is not as good as the brand-name long-lasting Wellbutrin because it is not properly formulated for extended release. It then goes on to speculate that that might be an issue with other generic long-lasting/extended-release/24-hour drugs.

#723 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 12:18 PM:

Clifton, I don't have a solution, but I bet the financial aid office at her school has run into this before. Also, Mom sounds like she may be suffering from clinical depression, and there may be help available for that too (though getting someone to accept help for clinical depression is a huge challenge).

#724 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 12:27 PM:

hesiarch says, of Sherman Alexie He came across to me a lot like (my purely imaginary impression of) Aaron Sorkin--"I came up with this very clever way of saying this, so therefore it must be true!" He may be a nice guy, but he's a wee bit arrogant.

To which I can only say, oh, well, if that's your take on him; me, the better I know a subject, the more likely Alexie is to come up with a clever and elegant (in the engineering sense) way of encapsulating its reality; the poem "Why Indians Play Basketball" is the zero point example of that facility.

And I can't hear him speak without hearing an undertone of delighted surprise that he, a res boy from the ass-end of nowhere, is doing what he's doing- even if what he's doing is defending his own use of the word "Indian" to describe himself, after being attacked on-air by a Capitol Hill (Seattle) yuppie who castigated him on a live radio call-in for using that term instead of Native American.

If he was going to lay down the line with arrogance, that would have been the place for it, but instead he tried to explain, politely and patiently, why it was none of the yuppie's damned business to assign terms for minorities he didn't belong to.

#725 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 12:38 PM:

Clifton @709:

It's probably too late to try and find the right loopholes to make M's case work within the FAFSA system, so our goal is going to have be centered on getting the application filed normally.

I would have M quietly collect the paperwork to complete her Mom's taxes - I'm hoping they can't be that complicated at the income level you're presenting and that the 1040* really just needs to be 'close enough' for FinAid purposes. And really, M is probably doing mom a favor in getting them done for her anyway. (mmm, fresh rationalization for lunch, yummy!)

Present the taxes and FinAid forms as a bundle to Mom for signing. If mom can't/won't sign, tell M that it's important for her to understand that in order for her to complete the process she has to have copies of the signed forms.

On a related note, I should also point out that it's a federal offense to forge signatures on these documents and that you would never want to have any knowledge of or encourage such actions.

#726 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 12:38 PM:

I'm having a WTF moment here. WTF is the FBI doing in iraq?

I'm watching our noon news and they're saying the FBI recovered a defense contractor's body in an investigation in Iraq. and from the sound of it, they've known about/etc. a lot longer than they told the family (he was from Kansas City.)

#727 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 12:40 PM:

Paula @727: The FBI has jurisdiction in all states and territories.

#728 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 12:49 PM:

Many of us who've been to the Farthingparty gatherings have pictures of us posted, findable via comments in the LJ group. (This includes David Goldfarb, BTW.) I dare say that one should obtain permissions before snarfing, though.

#729 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 01:24 PM:

The Apollo 11 diagram (particles) looks like a baseball diamond with an elder eldritch terror splatted out in the middle of it. The fact that this seems to have passed unnoticed is further proof of the conspiracy of silence that surrounds this hideous and undying threat to us all.

#730 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 01:44 PM:

Paula #727: I gather the FBI has been investigating various things in Iraq for awhile now; I recall an earlier media story in which mercenaries were assigned to guard the FBI agents investigating claims of wrongdoing by other mercenaries. This struck me as much more of a WTF moment than the presence of some FBI agents in Iraq.

Though I have to wonder just who you have to p-ss off, as an FBI agent, before you get shipped off to Iraq. ("Well, Fred, I just want you to know that there are no hard feelings about that little incident with my daughter at the Christmas party. By the way, here's the information on your new posting, I'm sure you'll find the case...interesting.")

#731 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 01:50 PM:

Greg #706: I wonder what sort of information they'll be able to get from the cockpit recording. ("Hey, have you seen my new gun. Yeah, here it is--cool, huh? Go ahead, have a look, just don't pick it up by the...*BANG*!")

#732 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 01:58 PM:

OK, I know this is really late notice, but I'm finally plotting my course through the Virginia Festival of the Book, which is Wednesday through Sunday here in Charlottesville, VA. Will any other Fluorosphereans be around? (For that matter, are any of the "featured" speakers on here, perhaps pseudonymically?)

I may show up at the Opening Ceremony, but might not stick around there. Some events I'm definitely planning to see:

Wednesday: "Living with Invisible Illness", and probably "We Teach the Children"

Thursday eve: "The Asperger Parent" (w/ Jeffrey Cohen)

Friday: "Science Writing: Life Cycles", (evening) "Alternative Universes: SF&F" (David B. Coe, Steve White, L.E. Modesitt, Jr.)

Sat: Graphics at Gravity: (comics & Novels, Peter David & Colleen Doran)

Sunday: "On The Care Of Books". (Lindsey Mears)

#733 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 02:02 PM:

In the "I didn't realize that" department comes this factoid: Brooklyn is 10 times the size of Washington DC.

Asserted here in a memoir of the 1955 World Series by Tom Oliphant (the political columnist with the weird hair). It's a fun book if you're a Dodgers fan or want to see what a Fifties childhood was like for one kid.

I've lived in the DC suburbs; DC isn't small, so to think that Brooklyn is 10 times larger boggles me.

#734 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 03:34 PM:

In regard to the `cheap generics' list on Particles: many of these are not available (legally) as generics in the USA. For example, montelukast and tadalafil are not available as generics.

The FDA has a query form that shows approved drugs, generic or otherwise.



#735 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 05:50 PM:

Catching up:

Xopher (#319) "va trareny" looks perfectly pronounceable to me. I just flip the letterset to cyrillic and it even looks sort of normal.

albatross: Jerry has a brain tumor. I've not read the article, but knowing Larry, tolerably well, I don't really believe the sentiment was correctly portrayed. That level of blindness (thinking that latinos are clogging the hospitals, isn't his sort of blind-spot.

Jerry, well he lost some of the respect he has from me (it has varied through the years) when he said he wanted the Dems to win in '08, so they can be blamed for the failure of Bush's War, and be kept out of office for at least 20 years after that.

As to the status of people in ERs, they are, by and large, poor. They have to use the ER as primary medical coverage. There is no way (absent requiring gov't ID before treatment [and even that is suspect] to determine their status. Futher, the rhetoric has so poisoned the social id, that the fact of most hispanics are legally in the country (and a lot of them before the whites) isn't seen.

The issue of who does what... yes, it depresses wages some, for the bottom end work, but not so much as all that. The blame for that has more to do with the coporate culture/requirements for maximal profit. If they can find a group to exploit, they will.

The "crime problem" is one of failing assimilation. The kids don't see any hope of betterment, they are scorned, and told they are criminals; merely for being, so what point in striving to get real jobs?

It's directly related to the problem of the difficulty in having legal immigrants, because of our insane quota structure. The Guest Worker Programs will make it worse, much as France and Germany have problems, because of 1: lack of assimilation, or 2: second class status as transient workers with no stake in the society.



Joel Polowin: The wikipedia article is wrong. I'll have to find my references for the complex of maillard, browning and concentration reactions which are caremelization (and just simplifying it that much has intruduced errors and problems; part of which has to do with what [apart from the sugars] is in the mix)

Ginger: Spellcheckers require one have a tolerable ability to recognise the right word. Maia can't spell, "properly". I think this is a function of her learnging to read late. When she uses the spell checker, all the words looks as good as all the other words.

She uses voice to text software, which introduces different sorts of errrors.

Lee: You are correct, if the eggs are old enough, they are fine. There is a period in the middle, where they are sort of sulfurous, but it's not horrid, so long as they don't break (we have chickens, errant eggs are a fact of life).

Serge: Do I send you a pointer, or just a .jpg?

When it come to the puns, I'm at the porphyry of this conversation, the aggregate level of concrete usage is astounding. The orgenylism on display is a mountain I can't hope to scale. I rarely seen such a crystalisation of knowledge.

#736 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 06:05 PM:

Terry Karney #736: I marble at your punmanship. You made me laugh so hard I almost schist.

#737 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 06:09 PM:

Terry Karney @ 736... Why don't you send me both, in separate emails?

As for punning,, I have sworn this vice off. Until next time.

#738 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 06:59 PM:

Greg @ 706 -

An interesting thing about guns in cockpits is that at one time, they were required. Postal regulations stipulated that anyone responsible for mail delivery had to be armed, and the airmail delivery made the difference between profit and loss for the early airlines.

Ernest K. Gann wrote about this in Fate is the Hunter, one of my favorite books about aviation. He was just glad that at some point they were allowed to keep them in their bags instead of being strapped to their legs.

#739 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 07:00 PM:

On Easter eggs: I've heard that those Ukrainian eggs are preserved by poking a tiny hole in the (raw) eggshell and sucking the innards out. Yum! A friend of mine gave me an egg that had been treated in that way. Doesn't look very Ukrainian though.

On Sherman Alexie: I was sort of wondering why he calls himself an "Indian." But of course he does get to call himself anything he pleases.

#740 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 07:29 PM:

#740: A childhood friend was of Ukrainian extraction, and his family did the elaborate wax masking technique to make fancy fancy eggs. I recall a bunch of neighbor kids going over to their house to try it out one year.

The innards are blown out, not sucked!

#741 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 07:49 PM:

Laurence, I suspect you don't know a whole lot of US tribal members, then, or at least not a lot of people from Indian Country?

Alexie was asked, during that conversation "Why don't you call yourself First Nations?" to which he answered "Because I'm not Canadian." Most Indians I know (who are Nisqually, Squaxin, Puyallup, Chehalis, or Yakama) use Indian to refer to the larger group of North Americans who whose ancestors were here before Columbus; Native American is considered much more an imposed name than Indian, by a long shot (although I have, stangely enough, heard it applied to Quechua and Maya speaking immigrants). Now that there is a need for it, immigrants from the Subcontinent and their descendants are called "Indians from India" or sometimes, properly, Sikhs.

There are, I hear, some people back east (which by my perspective means east of about 110 west longitude) who refer to themselves as "Native Americans" but I haven't met them yet.

#742 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 08:13 PM:

Laurence, #740: What you're describing is a "blown egg", which IIRC is not the traditional Ukrainian method. They're just plain old eggs, unaltered in any way except for the coloring, and sometimes a coat of lacquer on the finished egg.

In fact, I don't know how you'd dip a blown egg in the first place! And if you wait until it's finished to do the blowing, you risk the rims of the holes (it takes 2, one to blow into and one to drain) being very noticeable as white circles.

#743 ::: Ralph Giles ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 08:29 PM:

Meh abi @ 538: Ouch. I'm told there's a tradition of not pasting down the endpapers until the tooling is finished, because in theory you can redo everything else if you mess it up...

But, but, acrylic for embossing custom patterns! The brilliance! Can you carve that by hand, or is there a CNC mill hiding somewhere in that workshop photo? :)

#744 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 08:30 PM:

JESR: no, I don't know a whole lot of tribal members, and I live on the East Coast, so perhaps "Native American" is more common around here.

It would be pretty ironic, but not surprising, if non-Indian people invented the term "Native American" because they thought it was more respectful, but Indians didn't actually use it. I know that earlier generations of Indians did not use it -- I just assumed it might become more common over time.

Lee: blown eggs are not Ukrainian? OK, I was wrong. On the one that I have, the holes are large enough to be noticeable, but there are no white circles. It looks to me as if it was dyed first -- perhaps blown out after it dried? The holes seem to be blocked up with a clear substance, no idea if it's lacquer or egg leftovers. It has multiple colors on it too. I don't know how my friends did it.

#745 ::: Ralph Giles ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 08:31 PM:

On egg decoration, have you seen what people have been doing with eggshells and a dremel?

#746 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 08:39 PM:

Linkmeister at #734: Well, it might have been asserted, but it doesn't seem to be true. DC was originally spec'd as 10 miles by 10 miles; the Virginia side was handed back, the remaining portion on the north side of the river is about 62 square miles.

The land area of Brooklyn is about 70 square miles. (All of NYC is about 300 sq. miles.)

Not knowing your source - is it possible they're talking about historically? The city of Washington was originally just a small part of the District, and over the course of the 19th C it grew and absorbed the entire space available, including the once-separate entity of Georgetown.)

So, you're right to be boggled.

#747 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 08:46 PM:

Lance and Albatross, thanks for the clarification on where the FBI can operate.

And I agree as to the postings there... yikes.

#748 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 08:51 PM:

Lee, RE: Ukrainian Easter eggs

It looks like they are cleared out at the end of the process.

http://www.learnpysanky.com/steps.html

I always wondered because they look so good but are empty. If you left the insides in I would think they'd eventually become a gross bomb.

#749 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 08:51 PM:

Bob @ 747, Oliphant says in the book that Brooklyn's square mileage is 70-90sm depending on who's doing the counting. Looks like he may have taken the larger number for comparative purposes. It's still bigger than I had thought (I don't know why I thought it was smaller than that, but I did).

#750 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 08:55 PM:

Oh, and I can't easily get at the book to double-check the numbers, since my mother is devouring it at the moment.

#751 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 09:39 PM:

jesr,

hmm, i went to college in canada, with several first nations classmates, & i'm trying to remember what terms they preferred. the girl i was closest to mostly referred to herself by her tribe (mohawk).

generally, i hear "first nations" & "native" used the most, & i think interchangeably, when adjectives. first nations groups that put out press releases will use "first nations" or "aboriginal," i think.

& indians-from-india here in the lower mainland of bc are always called "east indians."

#752 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 10:10 PM:

Traditional Ukrainian eggs aren't emptied, because there the insides have just dried up over time (freeze dried?). Doesn't work as well in other climates.

My sister used to empty the ones she made (by waxing and dipping) after the dying was completed, using a hypodermic syringe: a small hole at one or both ends. Blowing needs a larger hole on one end, and you have to hide it somehow (I used to glue a dab of tissuepaper on, but I was painting the eggs with watercolor).

#753 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 10:33 PM:

My family got into doing Ukrainian style eggs when we were kids and we always blew the eggs out first. The hole it leaves isn't horribly big. We started with traditional designs but then got into doing more creative ones. Fantasy landscapes work quite nicely, going around the egg, and you can also turn them into planets, such as a lovely ovate Earth.

Thanks for the suggestions; I should have mentioned that she has been talking to the financial aid office - it was someone there who told her that she has to have the FAFSA, no ifs ands or buts - but it may have been an inexperienced employee, and she's planning to go back to talk to a supervisor or more experienced staff.

#754 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 10:39 PM:

Miriam Beetle, it's funny, in a way, how the international border divided language and culture in the case of "Precolumbian" residents much more thoroughly than in the case of the Euroamericans who've been here a while. I've got several friends trying to sort out what had been a happy ad hoc duel citizenship which recent changes in the laws of both countries suddenly required lots of paperwork to formalize.

And yes, in general, the proper local group name is always preferred when referring to individuals; in Alexie's case that is Spokan (sic) from the Colville Confederated Tribes.

#755 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 11:09 PM:

Laurence, #745 and Paula, #749: Yes, apparently some folks do empty the eggs. But the site Paula lists (this is the home page for it) says that it's optional, and I'm sure I remember being told that traditional pysanky are not emptied. I didn't empty any of mine either, and they've never cracked or dissolved. They just get very lightweight as the insides dry up.

Ralph, #746: How cool!

JESR, #755: Not to make fun of your typo, but the mental image resulting from "duel citizenship" was pretty funny!

#756 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2008, 11:18 PM:

JESR @ 735: "To which I can only say, oh, well, if that's your take on him; me, the better I know a subject, the more likely Alexie is to come up with a clever and elegant (in the engineering sense) way of encapsulating its reality; the poem "Why Indians Play Basketball" is the zero point example of that facility."

Hm. I don't think I'm being entirely clear. I quite enjoy both Aaron Sorkin and Sherman Alexie--when they are on, they are each astoundingly clever and elegant. Neither of them, however, strike me as particularly good self-editors. They deliver nonsense with the same half-witty, half-passionate tone as they deliver their best lines. There are worse things to be!

@ 742: "Now that there is a need for it, immigrants from the Subcontinent and their descendants are called "Indians from India" or sometimes, properly, Sikhs."

I wouldn't be surprised if your local community is mostly Sikh, but I'm pretty sure it isn't an all-encompassing term for (East*) Indians. Sikhs are just one of many ethnic groups in India.

miriam beetle @ 752: "& indians-from-india here in the lower mainland of bc are always called "east indians.""

*How elegant.

#757 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 12:36 AM:

Lee: We blow eggs (when we need to, mostly to sell to a woman who does the most amazing paintings, the map of Drake's Voyage on the emu eggs was, well amazing), we put one hole in, and then use the pump to force it out the single hole.

Stefan: I keep meaning to try the various tricks of masking and onion skin to pattern eggs.

JESR: Not all folks from the Indian Subcontinent are Sikhs. I can't see why calling them Indian wouldn't be proper (assuming they weren't from, say, Pakistan). I learned to call them East Indians. In England the term is, confusingly; apparently, Asian.

Ralph Giles: re Eggs: I took those in Korea a couple of years ago. I happened to walk in the day the show opened. They were great, let me take lots of photos, and removed the acrylic covers so I didn't have to shoot through them. If you click through (on the photos) you will see them fairly large. The detail work was amazing.

#758 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 01:07 AM:

Terry Karney @ 758... a woman who does the most amazing paintings, the map of Drake's Voyage on the emu eggs

That sounds like eggsacting work.

#759 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 02:09 AM:

Serge: To own it, one had to shell out.

#760 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 06:19 AM:

Eggs and other carved food.

Terry Karney might be able to translate the comments (although there's a possibility they're in Bulgarian, not Russian), but the photos are self-explanatory.

#761 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 06:34 AM:

I've just been looking through those Farthing Party pictures that Joel Polowin linked to, and they do have a couple of decent pictures of me. Here's one, and here's another. There are indeed numerous pictures of many ML regulars, not least our esteemed hosts.

#762 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 08:41 AM:

In fact, I don't know how you'd dip a blown egg in the first place! And if you wait until it's finished to do the blowing, you risk the rims of the holes (it takes 2, one to blow into and one to drain) being very noticeable as white circles.

Traditionally, eggs are left with the innards in; they dry up over time, though I'm told you occasionally get one that explodes instead. You can blow them after dyeing, but you can't then eat the contents as the dyes are toxic and enough leaks through the shell to make it unwise to ingest.

Personally I hate wasting all that egg, but I also vastly prefer the blown shells, which means I have to do the blowing before the dying; this is annoying, though, because air-filled eggs naturally float and have to be held under the dye, so I can't wax one while another is dyeing. This year I came up with a solution I'm rather proud of: after blowing, I fill the egg with sand and then stop the hole with wax (it's pretty easy to do discretely, especially if you use the one-hole blowing method). After dyeing, the sand comes back out, leaving me with a nice light, empty shell and edible egg.

#763 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 08:48 AM:

Crossville is the county seat of Cumberland County in a very hilly area in what is either eastern central Tennesee or the western part of east Tennessee--it's a rural area which manages to be both conservative and progressive at the same time. (It was the site for one of the New Deal's experiements in rural housing, the Cumberland Homesteads).

The county courthouse has a free speech zone, which now includes a representation of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Local reaction is mixed, needless to say. But it's there, noodly apendages and all.

#764 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 09:19 AM:

Darn it. Wrong discreet.

#765 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 10:08 AM:

David Goldfarb @ 762...

I've added photos of you, Bill Higgins, Joel Polowin and Sajia to the Project. I also added a picture of Antonia Tiger, if not a photo of her, as I assume that her head isn't really like a big cat's. The whole thing has now spread to two pages on my LiveJournal, with people listed in the alphabetical order of their nom-de-blogue, except for ML's moderators, who appear first of course.

Page One

Page Two

#766 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 10:29 AM:

Carrie: Having a superfluity of eggs (the yield is down, from the peak years of 12 dozen eggs a week; and not enough customers for them), one loses some of the absolute unwillingness to let them dry up.

These days, when we have eggs which have gone past safe, we feed them to the dogs.

Mary Dell: I keep forgetting to mention that I really like the headshot of yours.

#767 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 11:00 AM:

Paula @748: I'm sorry I didn't make this clearer but I was being snarky about our occupation of Iraq - it really isn't a territory like Guam, Virgin Islands, etc*, so any FBI presence there would have to be under the guise of a joint operation with the Iraqi government. Heh.

* Yet. Maybe a presidential executive order turning it into a state with electoral college votes just in time for the election...nah, too crazy. Right? Help me out here, tell me I'm getting too paranoid about the crazies in power

#768 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 11:47 AM:

**waves arms** I want to express my appreciation to TNH for putting up that particle about generic drugs. One of the things I like about the Kaiser system is that they push generics. And since I now take three daily drugs, one of which is not generic yet and is fucking expensive, and two of which are mentioned in that particle, you can bet this is an issue close to my heart. **giggle** (Okay, they're heart drugs. Sorry. It's tax time, I'm punchy.)

And while I'm on this topic -- recent articles have suggested that Medicare is going to run out of money more or less around in the year I will turn 73. I resent this. Can we fix this, please?

#769 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 11:57 AM:

Lizzy L @ 769... It's tax time, I'm punchy.

It's tax time, I was punched 2 weeks ago. Found we owed more than we'd already paid in quarterly taxes. Curses!

Regarding your heart, I hope things are under control and that you're doing well overall.

#770 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 12:07 PM:

I wrote tax checks yesterday. Ouch.

#771 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 12:14 PM:

Digby, today: Our intelligence services couldn't find water if they fell out of a boat... Why I love her.

Serge, my heart is fine, and the drugs help to keep it so. Thank you for your concern. For someone with my family's genetics, I'm peachy. P J, my sympathies. I do taxes for other people, so I'm way overworked, sleep-deprived, etc. and so on.

#772 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 12:45 PM:

Serge 759, Terry 760: Listen you two, this string of egg puns is ova.

Lizzy 769: My pharmacy didn't yet know a generic was available for Lexapro™; we'll see if they can get it yet. But they did know something not listed on there, which is that the company that makes Protonix™ is now selling a "generic version"—which means they call it by a different name on the bottle, and give you the same pills at a lower price.

They're even labeled 'Protonix' right on the pill.

Unless they're some kind of seconds and the company is trying to create the impression that generics aren't as good (with their own product?) this strikes me as a clear win.

#773 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 12:46 PM:

Grrrr. Taxes. Last year I "converted" a regular IRA to a ROTH. Then I rolled that ROTH into another ROTH.

Then, as TaxCut was walking me through things, it noted that I made too much money last year to be eligible to do this.

After frantic consultation, I concluded that the best thing to do would be to "recharacterize" the ROTH money back into an IRA, and include a nice letter to the IRS describing the situation.

Which I did. But then, just as I was checking my figures before mailing off the printed paper return, I noticed that the amount I recharacterized was less than what was converted. More forms, more waiting, and the IRA company called to wonder what I was doing.

Since I sent in quarterly payments to cover the conversion, which effectively didn't happen, I'm getting money back, but some of it will go for Tums.

#774 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 12:53 PM:

Fragano @ 773... this string of egg puns is ova

Yolkan't stop me. And speaking of yolky things, we still haven't seen that lovecraftian photo of your visage that you threatened us with on Monday.

#775 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 01:08 PM:

Terry @758: It's only confusing if you forget that the British English "asian" and US English "asian" are both short forms of, respectively, "south asian" and "(south) east asian".

BTW, here is a short explanation of Sikhism.

#776 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 01:12 PM:

Me @776: Sorry for the confusion, that was meant as a reply to Heresiarch @757.

#777 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 01:23 PM:

fidelio, #764: I just want to say that the phrase "free speech zone" makes me very sad. It's like an open acknowledgement that by and large, religious, social, and political minorities no longer have freedom of speech -- or that no one does except in defined areas. Can't they say "public expression zone" instead? That seems to be more the sense of what they're doing.

Lance, #768: Oh, I got it. I didn't say anything, but I was thinking, "Nice snark!"

#778 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 01:46 PM:

fidelio, #764: A "free speech zone" where the speech or display has to be approved by a committee?

That's not free speech at all.

#779 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 01:56 PM:

Lee and Ursula, I don't deny the validity of your points.

Still, the thought of the FSM in Crossville, Tennessee tickles me.

#780 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 02:01 PM:

JESR #742: I've noticed the opposite problem in at least some regional dialects of Spanish. (Anna and Fragano will surely know more.) My understanding is that in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, at least, it's common to refer to all Indians from India as "Hindu," not "Indios" (which refers to the natives of the Americas, not to anyone from India).

I don't know if this is common other places or not, it's just what I've got from a couple of native speakers with whom I've studied.

#781 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 02:03 PM:

Isn't it cute when they bring home presents for you?

#782 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 02:13 PM:

Stefan @ #782, Sure is.

That was four months ago; she's gotten increasingly feeble since then. It's heartbreaking to see her hobble around now.

#783 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 02:33 PM:

Minus what's in their mouths, the cuteness of those dogs is nigh-on unbelievable.

#784 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 02:42 PM:

ethan @ 784... I used to have a cat who'd bring us lizards and the likes. My favorite (not!) was when she brought back a mouse with its lower half gone and the upper half still breathing.

#785 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 02:45 PM:

Is there anyone here with experience in non-fiction publishing, which I suspect is different in some significant aspects from fiction? I am particularly interested in someone who could give me some opinions on the sample contract from a friend's publisher, which is here, especially items 3 and 9 and the areas of subsidiary rights, electronic publication, copyright, rights reversion if out of print, that sort of thing. I have No Experience At All in this stuff so I can't really offer her any sort of informed opinion. Pointers to helpful websites would also be useful.

#786 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 03:16 PM:

Serge #785: Eeeeewwwwwww!

#787 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 03:20 PM:

When I finally got the squirrel out.

You may notice that the end of the tail is a little sparse on fur. That's where I grabbed it when I tried to pull the squirrel away from her. All I got was a gloved hand full of coarse reddish hair.

Based on her behavior, Kira thinks I took the squirrel for myself (it was big and meaty and healthy-seeming specimen), that I still have it around, and maybe I'll take her to its hiding place when I come around to her way of thinking.

#788 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 03:20 PM:

ethan @ 787... Luckily the leftover mouse quickly passed away.

#789 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 03:31 PM:

Lee #778:

Yep, both the turn of phrase and how "free speech zones" are used is creepy as hell. Perhaps we could also have "freedom of religion" zones and "right to privacy" zones defined? ("Sorry, ma'am, I'm going to have to search your car and purse; you're not in a right to privacy zone.")

#790 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 03:38 PM:

Can we talk about oatmeal again? I need a logic-check.

Steel cut oats came up in a discussion on Lifehacker, and I got curious and looked up the serving size for them. 1/4 cup (dry) is a serving, but I eat 2/3 of a cup (measured dry) every single day and nearly always need a snack to make it to lunch.

Here's the question. One commenter estimated the cooked size of a 1/4 cup serving as being 3/4 cup. I don't think my oatmeal expands that much. I cook it in a 2/1 ratio of water to oatmeal, so I don't think it expands to three times the dry size. Could that be affecting how satisfying* I find the oatmeal? It seems to me that if we're just talking about included water, it really isn't going to affect how long it takes me to get hungry again. Especially since I drink a ton of water anyway.

Am I thinking about this properly? I really don't like the texture if I use more water. It does occur to me that subbing milk for some of the water or adding a small pat of butter might help.

*I'm thinking "satisfying" in a long-term sense. I'm currently eating something like 1 2/3 cup of cooked oatmeal in a sitting, and I'm comfortably full when I finish. I'm not sure I'd want to eat a bigger bowl even if I could get it out of the same amount of dry oats.

#791 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 03:56 PM:

Stefan @ #788, there's something to be said for pointers like Tigger; they have really soft mouths. They kill by shaking rather than tearing.

#792 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 04:38 PM:

R. M. Koske @791: Most recipes usually call for either a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of water:steel-cut oats, and I'm pretty sure most serving sizes for oatmeal are measured as 1 cup. As a rough calculation each 1/3rd of a cup of dry oatmeal cooked in 1 cup or so of water should yield about a cup of oatmeal. Your yields may vary depending on the amount of water, additional solid ingredients (fruit/nuts) and additional wet ingredients (butter/milk/cream).

We don't digest raw oatmeal very well, so it's important to cook it with enough water for a long enough time to give the grains a chance to breakdown. This is probably especially important when using steel-cut. A 2:1 ratio of water:oats combined with a short cooking time may be resulting in a food your body doesn't break down very well, so while it may be initially filling, you could very well be hungry sooner than you expect.

Without having seen or tasted the end result, I'd suggest upping your water to 2 cups. Add the oatmeal to the water when it boils, stir constantly for 2-3 minutes until it thickens then reduce heat to med-low and cook for 8-12 minutes stirring occasionally.

When I cook it I start the night before: Bring 4 cups water plus a pinch+ of salt to a boil, remove from heat and add 1 cup steel cut oatmeal. Stir to mix then cover.

That morning: cook over low heat for 10 minutes, add 1/4-1/2c half&half, a small squirt of agave and a dash of cinnamon.

#793 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 04:40 PM:

I thought this might be of interest to folks here, and a quick search of this thread and the memorial thread doesn't show any duplicates: a proposal to name the 19 March gamma ray burst in honor of Arthur C Clarke - The Clarke Event.

If this was already covered elsewhere, mea culpa, maxima culpa and all that jazz...

#794 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 05:11 PM:

R.M. Koske @791,

A meta-diet concept that I've been using is "Volumetrics." The idea is to add/ focus on / eat foods that have the greatest volume per calorie *and can make you feel full* to make you feel full. The latter part is critical--foods without protein and fats might not trigger a sense of fullness.

And small volumes of food--however packed with calories--might not trigger fullness either. That's one reason why people can eat a 1 pound steak (.45kg) with its 1500 calories and still eat a dessert--the steak isn't very large.

All to say our food-sense is not based on calories. (That's one explanation for that study earlier this month on how zero-calorie diet drinks aren't helping. We get a blast of sweetness: our bodies gear up for calories, the actual lack of calories causes trouble.)

Looking up oatmeal on the USDA nutrition site, it has fiber, carbs and protein, but very little fat.

A dab of butter or using milk instead of water could very likely help make it more filling, given that you don't want to up its volume.

To add volume (and great tastiness) to oatmeal I add frozen cherries and/or blueberries--half a cup--and sometimes also chocolate powder (unsweetened, plus splenda). A pound of frozen berries has less than 300 calories and has that deep rich color which signifies healthy flavonoids. The chocolate also has flavonoids and adds fats = 3 superfoods in one breakfast.

#795 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 06:10 PM:

Sorry to any and all who thought that I meant Sikh was a general term for subcontinent folk; I meant that around here the largest part of those immigrants are Sikh, mostly by way of BC.

#796 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 08:34 PM:

the pilot was trying to stow his weapon when it went off. Shot a hole through the front cockpit wall and exited the hull.

article

#797 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 08:45 PM:

OK, I give up. Someone somewhere on Making Light linked to an online cartoon. I ended up reading the first hundred or so "episodes" or whatever you call them for a cartoon. It was about this guy who was into indie music, and a woman he liked who worked at a coffee shop but he was too afraid to ask her out. She ends up having her apartment building burn down because of a failed attempt to cook or iron or something, and she asks if she can move in with him. He says yes. But she makes it clear that its purely platonic. All sorts of "Three's Company" stuff ensues, including one where he accidentally walks in on her while she's naked.

Try googling that, and many variations, and you come up with bupkiss. Anyone recognize this and have a URL?

#798 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 08:56 PM:

Greg, #798: Would it be Questionable Content by any chance? (I don't read it myself, but someone linked to a strip recently, and your description sounded vaguely similar.)

#799 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 09:08 PM:

albatross, #790: We've already got something like your last example in Tulsa.

Summary: a perv sneaked a camera under the skirt of a 16-year-old girl in a Wal-Mart and took pictures of her underwear. Both a local court and the appellate court have ruled that he can't be charged because she was "not in a place where she had a reasonable expectation of privacy". Note that if he'd done it thru a hole in the dressing-room wall he'd have been guilty -- but sneaking up on a woman in a public place to take Feelthy Pictures without her knowledge is not against the law. *spit*

#800 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 09:33 PM:

Greg, it is indeed Questionable Content, it's one of the things I look at daily. Be sure to look at the blackboard in the coffee shop if you read it.

I don't do soap operas, I do serial comics. Pibgorn is good too even if it's off on a really weird, involved and interesting tangent. It's only a three-a-week comic so I'm annoyed because it's TOO SLOW. Artist/author is also artist/author of 9 Chickweed Lane, which is a paying gig, so Pib has to take second fiddle.

#801 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 09:55 PM:

I understand that the words India, Hindu, and indeed the Indus river are all derived from the same root, the Sanskrit word for river, sindhu. It seems that the Punjab was known as the sapta-sindhu (seven rivers). When the Persians arrived, they pronounced sindhu as hindu; when the Greeks learnt of the place, they dropped the h and used the root "Ind" for places and peoples in that part of the world.

Back @659 And a Transit full of Daleks isn't an abnormal load?

Perhaps not abnormal, but certainly unusual; I doubt I could get hold of more than two Daleks at short notice. Oh, and the inflatable one. And the model Radio Controlled One. And the talking one.

No that'd probably be it if I had a need for Daleks in the next 24 hours.

Serge - I can't help noticing that in all the photos of you on your livejournal site, you look very serious. (Usually I can be spotted by the fact I'm six and a half feet (1m99) tall, but if anyone wants to know what I look like, there's a couple of pictures here.)

#802 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 10:06 PM:

Stefan Jones @#788: That's where I grabbed it when I tried to pull the squirrel away from her. All I got was a gloved hand full of coarse reddish hair.

I'd guess that's usually adaptive! ;-)

R.M. Koske @791: My trick for making oatmeal more filling is to add some peanut butter in the bowl. I use a couple of "teaspoons" (that is, using the spoon as a scoop).

First day at the VA Book Fest was ehh -- I bagged on the opening ceremony, missed one session, and the one I did see was mostly some people bragging about their structureless private schools (with fantastic teacher/student ratios). But tomorrow's the Asperger one, and the day after is the biggie -- science writing, Media, and SF.

That last is the one with L.E. Modesitt Jr. -- and stopping by my favorite used-book store brought the news that he'll be hanging out there before the session, and signing books, yay! I just snarfed down Gravity Dreams (and sorry I hadn't earlier), but my copy's a beater, so I'll be bringing the Timediver duology for signing. (Come to think of it, I've got The Parafaith War and Of Tangible Ghosts too, but I'll see how the crowd looks before I hand him four books to sign!)

#803 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 10:09 PM:

#793, Lance Weber

If we're talking a cup of cooked oatmeal, I'm definitely still eating more than a serving. I'll try to remember to measure tomorrow and see exactly how much I end up with.

I'm not entirely sure the problem is the oatmeal at all. I'm hungry early, but I'm always hungry between breakfast and lunch. Steel cut oats are more filling than any other breakfast I've had, but they're still not enough to keep me from getting hungry before lunchtime. Given that they have a reputation for being a very solid breakfast and I noticed the discrepancy in the amounts I was cooking and other people were cooking, I got curious. But it is utterly possible that I just can't go six hours without eating at that time of day and there's nothing wrong with my breakfast.

My current process is to put the oatmeal into a dry pan and turn on the heat, and put the water into an electric kettle. I toast the oats until the water boils (less than 2 minutes) then add the water to the hot pot and cook for 22 minutes. I only stir it when I've put it into the bowl and am incorporating my flavorings. I based the recipe off of this one from Alton Brown.

I don't stir them as they cook at all, because I don't like a "creamy" texture. I want as little starch to release from the grains as possible while they're cooking.

I started with that recipe and then cut the water until I got a texture I liked. I can probably increase the water again and live with it if there's a real chance they're undercooked, but they don't taste like it to me. Is this something I would be able to tell by flavor? I've had undercooked rolled oats before, and I'm not getting that kind of mouth feel from the steel cut. What I'm ending up with is a final texture like a cross between this and this. The first image is Bob's Red Mill Gluten free cereal (very much like grits) and the second image is quinoa. I get the quinoa sort of swollen pieces of grain, with the moisture between the grains that you see in the Bob's Red Mill picture. (I oughta take a picture tomorrow, too.)

The night before process sounds worth doing, but I've never tried it because I'm unclear about the storing overnight part. Do you just cover the pot in situ and leave it on the stove overnight? Do you pop it into the fridge, and if so, do you let it cool first, or put it in hot?

*I used to like rolled oats. They were the only kind I knew. But the last time the store was out of steel cut, I couldn't stand the rolled oats I got instead. I don't know if it was that I cooked them badly because I was out of practice, or if I've become spoiled by being able chew my oatmeal. I don't have to, but I can.

#804 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 10:12 PM:

#795 Kathryn from Sunnyvale - That was my thinking, that there wasn't enough fat in the oatmeal. I'll definitely try it.

#803, David Harmon - Ooh. I'm on a total peanut butter binge right now. Adding it to the oatmeal sounds lovely. I may skip the butter and just try PB right away.

#805 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 10:43 PM:

Neil Willcox @ 602... I alas have only one Dalek.

As for my looking very serious on those LiveJournal photos... Believe me, the alternative is much much worse. Or do you think you could stand the sight of a 1m83-tall Al Pacino, eyes bugging out?

#806 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 10:45 PM:

Neil Willcox @ 802... Forgot. Thanks for the link. I'll probably have your photo up tomorrow morning, along with one of Bruce Cohen looking like an evil Mandrake the Magician.

#807 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 11:15 PM:

#804

I can have almost anything for breakfast and my 'stomach alarm' will go off four hours later anyway, just maybe not as loudly with some foods as with others. It's probably the way some of us are, not so much what we're eating.

#808 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 11:20 PM:

Speaking of pictures, and since this is an open thread, I have posted a clutch of photos celebrating the anniversary of the beginning of the family of Cathy and Sarah and me, five years ago this Monday past (3/24/03), which began with us holding a somewhat bemused Sarah at the Holiday Inn in Hefei. My name should link to the LJ, and the post is (at the moment) second from the top.

We celebrated with a special dinner at Taco Bell. Sarah's idea.

#809 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 11:32 PM:

R.M. Koske: Cool, glad I could help!

By the way, I generally consider "official serving sizes" to be pure fiction -- except for the few cases where the servings are inflated, most of them seem to be about half what I consider a "serving". (And I'm not a big guy, though I have picked up about 15-20 pounds in the last twenty-odd years.)

#810 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 11:34 PM:

Kip W @ 8909... Does this mean you are ok with one of those photos of you being posted on "Making Light and Faces"?

#811 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 11:47 PM:

I read, somewhere, that the key to starting the day feeling full is to include a small serving of lean protein with breakfast.

Lately, I've been having, several mornings a week, a bagel with a shmear and a few gobbets of pickled herring bits. The kind that come in wine sauce. Very satisfying; almost as good as lox on a bagel.

#812 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2008, 11:49 PM:

Kip W @ 809... Sarah IS a cutie.

#813 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 12:15 AM:

R.M. Koske, I favor quick oats because they cook up nicely in the microwave and it's a 2 parts water to 1 parts oats, plus I add in a handful of dried fruit (plums, currents, dates, raisins, craisens, whatever is at hand).

I still want something mid morning but try to hold it to a handful of cereal or something of that calorie value

Granted I'm not working right now so I've got the liberty of my home kitchen.

#814 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 12:45 AM:

R. M. Koske @804:

Two interesting topic here.

Oatmeal

I'm not sure I've ever had undercooked steel-cut oats, so I don't know if they have that funny gritty taste like undercooked Quaker Oats does.

Between my wife and girls I have to support both religions (creamy and chewy), so if I'm making a family batch once the oatmeal is "creamy done" I dish that half, then I keep stirring the rest. As the water cooks off the texture becomes more like what you have in the pictures.

Oddly enough, I've found that the overnight process seems to make a better "chewy" oatmeal but I may be fooling myself there. You could certainly do the front half of your cooking process (toasted oats, boiling water) then let it sit in the kettle overnight. I leave it covered right on the stovetop, off of the burner.

Metabolism

I had the lapband operation about 15 months ago* so now I pretty much need** to eat every three hours but I generally only have a cup or less of food. I think there's something to be said for the grazing approach in eating more moderate portions every 3-4 hours vs three big meals. So, if you're consistently hungry before lunch, instead of eating a bigger breakfast why not have a banana or a handful of nuts or something similar sometime between breakfast and lunch...

-----

* Down 85+ lbs so far, woot!

** Yes need, not want - a distinction I could never make before.

#815 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 12:50 AM:

Neil Willcox and Bruce Cohen... Your photos have been added to the gallery.

#816 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 12:52 AM:

P.S. Paula - Our leftover oatmeal goes into single serving containers that can either be refrigerated or frozen and popped in the microwave, packed in lunchbags, etc. If you like steel cut oats but prefer the time savings of instant/rolled this is a nice solution.

#818 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 04:32 AM:

I'm riffing off something shamelessly political, but...

In another blog I saw a reference to "Sec Treas Paulson", and for a long moment I wondered what sort of name that was. Vietnam? And then it occurred to me that, if the Puritans gave their kids names such as "Charity" and "Chastity", extolling particular virtues, why not other groups?

"Secret Treason Paulson"?

But, no, it's an abbreviation of his job title. Boring.

#819 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 04:56 AM:

Susan: I don't like that contract. It has no sunsets. The one I just signed off on, has reversion clauses (based on closed print runs/lack of sales). Those were separate for different printing media (to prevent a POD counting as, "in print" and so closing off the right to rework, and resell, material which wasn't being offered).

I don't like the rate for the royalties, and quarterly is what I'm used to. We got 17 percent of wholesale. I don't know the subject, the size of the expected print run, or a reasonable guess at sales.

I really don't like the sense that one is giving up all rights, in perpetuity, and is out of pocket for any costs (which is to say for inclusions which are under copyright, and need to be paid for). The lack of authorial input to any aspect of the way the book looks is painful (since I'm working on a photography book, it might be a more personal thing).

All in all, I'd reccomend flying it past a lawyer, who has some experience in the field, because I don't like it.

R. M. Koske: Maia puts beans, of various sorts, into her oatmeal. She also has taken to regular snacking (carrots, celery, etc.) to keep from actually eating between meals. Small bits, more often.

Serge: Did you get the link I sent you... There are also some pics in my LJ, hold on, I'll find the good links, so you don't have to search for them.

Cutting meat which has some "scary" looking pics of me playing with knives.

Self Portrait which was done very formally. All the elements are meant to reveal something about me. The gallery has some other photos, but most of them have Maia in them as well.

#820 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 05:39 AM:

Everyone here who's interested has heard that the last ep of this Torchwood series is showing April 4, and the first ep of the new Doctor Who series is showing April 5, right?

#821 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 06:02 AM:

So I'm bewildered...when did this oatmeal thing start, and how? I've been out of the states for two years now--did I miss some sort of oatmeal renaissance?

#822 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 07:08 AM:

#808 PJ Evans - Me too. So it probably isn't the oatmeal at all.

#810 - David Harmon -

I agree with you on serving sizes, but usually my disagreement with them doesn't feel as extreme as it did when I read the package of oatmeal. I get a scant six servings from a package that is supposed to make fifteen.

Come to think of it, that's a little over double what they're expecting me to eat, and that's typical, isn't it? They tell you a serving of soda is half a can, a serving of chips is half a bag, et cetera. So maybe there's nothing odd going on here at all.

#812, Stefan Jones - I've heard that too. My problem has always been finding lean protein that is appetizing in the morning and convenient. I seem to be able to fill two of the three criteria* easily, but never all three.

#814, Paula Helm Murray - That's exactly how I started out eating oatmeal. Microwave quick oats with dried fruit. I kinda surprised myself by liking it.

#815, Lance Weber -

*More* stirring leads to chewy? Hm. There's experimentation ahead this weekend. Stirring and overnight cooking. I also want to try the crockpot method I've read about, but I'm thinking the lid would prevent liquid evaporation and fail to give me what I want.

And I definitely think that metabolism is part of it. I was just startled to realize that I was seemingly eating more oatmeal than most people (as much as I can comfortably eat in a sitting without stuffing myself) and am still hungry later. I suspect the "eating more" is an illusion, like David says. Snacks are something I do routinely.

Woot on your 85+ pounds!



*Is that right? It's the plural, but it looks wrong.

#823 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 08:24 AM:

#820, Terry Karney - Beans? Cool! Just beans, or other flavors too?

For a very long time, I wanted a savory, rice-based breakfast recipe, but was too lazy to experiment. I still think a mild pilaf would be quite nice for breakfast, but I haven't been able to convince myself that oatmeal would be good as a savory. When I was most desperate for a savory breakfast, Cheerios with milk (yes, the original unsweetened ones) counted in my mind as an objectionably sweet breakfast, but for my current palate, oatmeal with honey and raisins isn't. It might be a measure of the relative protein content of the two, or it could just be that I'm in the mood for a sweet breakfast this year.

#824 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 08:54 AM:

Terry Karney @ 820... No, I never got any email from you. When you send it again, you might want to post a "Got it?" here, in case you're being blocked.

#825 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 09:02 AM:

Questionable Content! Yes! Many Thanks. I'd been poking around the web the last couple days trying to find them. I've bookmarked it in case I get another bout of amnesia.

Now all I gotta do is figure out where I ended off last time...

#826 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 09:07 AM:

kip w,

oh, wow. beautiful. you all seem really blessed to have each other.

#827 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 09:17 AM:

Serge @ 807

* gestures hypnotically *

Quick, Lothar, grab his wallet while I've got him distracted!

#828 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 09:20 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 828... You do that again and I'll report you to Theron. And I don't mean Charlize.

#829 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 09:20 AM:

I don't have many pics with just me in them, as I'm often the one with the camera. This one is OK.

#830 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 09:31 AM:

Niall McAuley @ 830... Done.

#831 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 10:37 AM:

Serge, if you're grabbing pics, here's mine.

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2059/2135219767_0a47fceb9c_o.jpg



Picture

#832 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 10:53 AM:

Steve C @ 832... You're in.

#833 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 11:18 AM:

Lee #800:

That's a truly bizarre decision.

When you start getting technology involved, though, expectations of privacy get pretty confusing. Do you have a legit expectation of privacy in a public place? Probably not, exactly, but if someone manages to use surveillance cameras or cellphone location tracking or something to completely detail your movements everywhere in public for a few months, you'll surely feel like your privacy was violated.

There are a fair number of pretty intrusive imaging techniques available that might fit with the case you're describing, too. Remember the video camera that, when used in "night vision" mode in daytime, would see through some clothing[1]? Or the backscatter X-ray technology that lets people basically look through clothes? With pretty simple spy gear, you can eavesdrop on public conversations moderately far away, listen in on analog cordless phones, and many other things. And with slightly more complicated and expensive equipment, you can be incredibly intrusive--tracking peoples' movements, getting details of their financial and medical histories, etc. Remember the

HP scandal[2] regarding this?

[1] I remember hearing about this on the news, but I never heard how it worked or why.

[2] In which it was made clear, once again, that criminal acts that would send you or me to jail for several years are embarrassing but forgivable missteps when done by very wealthy, powerful people. Though there apparently were some criminal charges filed, and at least some of the bad guys lost their jobs.

#834 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 11:22 AM:

Susan @786: I actually published a book with that publisher and this looks pretty much like my contract. They were not very receptive to changes in the contract adapting it to the needs of an edited essay collection, so I had to do sub-contracts with my contributors. They wanted me to say I "own" their essays, which bothered me a great deal, but I eventually came up with some alternate wording that was satisfactory. Clause 3 bothered me too, but I have kept correspondence from the publisher explaining that the rights revert to the author when the item goes out of print. (I got the impression that the people I was dealing with didn't really understand copyrights and contracts and were used to people just accepting their boilerplate without reading it.) Clause 9 means they can contract your book out to, say, the Science Fiction Book Club and you get half. How this interacts with when the item goes out of print is unclear, so if there's a possibility this might happen, you might want to propose clearer wording. It's always a good idea to have a lawyer take a look at your contract, especially if this is the first time; a good lawyer will teach you what to look for in future contracts. Good luck!

#835 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 01:00 PM:

albatross, #834: Personally, I think they charged him with the wrong thing; the charge should have been "sexual assault", possibly (since the victim was a minor) with a side of "child pornography".

And of course, there is no shortage of asshats saying that the skirt was probably short enough that she wasn't hiding anything anyhow, and/or that she probably displays more on the beach (and somehow therefore loses the right to complain about this incident).

But I think the ultimate point is very clear: once again, women have been declared legitimate prey. If I were living in Tulsa, I'd be keeping a very sharp eye open in public places! No judge's ruling can put back eyes stabbed out with a ballpoint pen.



#836 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 01:03 PM:

Serge, thanks to you and Debbie, Marilee and any others who've been wishing me well. The last week was something of a wipeout, but I have much to be optimistic about.

Breakfasts: Has anyone tried some of the varieties of congee that might be available? It's a traditional breakfast in parts of Asia, though it can be eaten anytime, and is often recommended to buck up sick people. Sometimes called 'rice porridge', in plain or savoury flavours. We can get it, mainly in Asian supermarkets, sometimes in health food stores or the Asian section of our big duopoly chains, either in 'instant' packet versions or as a mixture of prepared grains and dried ingredients. My digestion has been so badly upset this last week that I'm on a clear-fluids fast to try and recover, and I'll probably start solids again with a watered-down congee.

There are very few pictures of me I like, preferring to be behind the lens, but would this or that be useful? They're closer to current reality than my librarything, flickr or blog profile images.

#837 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 01:16 PM:

R. M. Koske #824

For a very long time, I wanted a savory, rice-based breakfast recipe...

Congee. In my family, our basic congee is rice cooked to porridge consistency in canned chicken broth with canned or chopped up leftover chicken added. Frozen peas, frozen peas and carrots, chopped little green onions, etc. are easy additions, and you can get more elaborate. Use four cups of broth to each cup of rice; add more liquid if necessary. Cook the day before if you want a quick breakfast. Reputed to have many of the therapeutic properties of classic chicken soup.



#838 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 01:31 PM:

My pal Todd can make something beautiful with a spring-loaded punch, a slab of acrylic, some dry ice, and a 5 MeV electron linac.

#839 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 01:32 PM:

Serge #775: You can't tell me apart from Xopher? It's true, we've never been seen in the same place.

#840 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 01:38 PM:

R. M. Koske: Beans. Pinto, edamame, black beans, etc. I've done lots of things with rice for breakfast (apart from the more traditional puddings and custards).

A pilaf is a great way to start the day. Sadly, for me, I'm not usually hungry until I've been up for a few hours, so my breakfast habit isn't consistent.

Serge: Hrmn... I sent it your Lj-email, and it would have come from flickr. I've sent it again.

wrt to the decision in Tulsa: The judges were, in point of law, correct. It's funny, I was just in a conversation at Feminism Without Clothes (not always worksafe, she's, among other things, a nude model, and some shots of her work are posted) about the ethics of reusing images from the web to make voyueristic/erotic compilations. I say funny, because in it I made reference to the conversation here on rule of law.

As a photographer having someone be able to tell me I have to circumscribe what I'm doing because they have a penumbra of privacy is problematic. I've been accosted by people in public places who merely, "thought" I was taking pictures of them.

It's part of why I keep the numbers for, several, local police dept.s in my phone (people tend to respond differently when the response to their, "I'm gonna call the cops," is, "Want to use my phone, all you have to do is push talk".

I've also had them call the cops. That was less unpleasant then having them assault me, but more disturbing too. There were, you see, children on that beach, and I might have been a pervert.

There have been people arrested (in Calif.) because they were taking pictures at the beach, and there were children in them.

Were they shooting the pictures because they liked children? I don't know.

Do I think this was a fair use of his camera? No. He obviously was going out of his way to get the shot. But where is the line? If he took a picture when she was sitting at a table, is that actionable?

I think the proper course would be to file charges for any other injuries (and I'm conflicted about the child-porn issue. The present laws are very much a case of thought crime. If I, the viewer, decide someone else might think an image of a child to be sexual, I can complain, and the charge will be child pornography. The law is written that poorly; and has been enforced in just that way).

I'm just not sure what those charges should be.

Interestingly, in Holland, positioning oneself in a place where one can take such surreptitious pictures, was recently criminalised.

#841 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 01:48 PM:

Fragano @ 840... Oops.

#842 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 01:53 PM:

Mez @ 837... I have much to be optimistic about

I'm glad to hear that. About your photos, I like them both a lot, and equally so, but which one do you prefer?

#843 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 01:56 PM:

Terry #736:

I agree with most of what you said. I was just responding to the posted link, which looked to me like it was wrong or incomplete on several points.

As to the status of people in ERs, they are, by and large, poor. They have to use the ER as primary medical coverage. There is no way (absent requiring gov't ID before treatment [and even that is suspect] to determine their status. Futher, the rhetoric has so poisoned the social id, that the fact of most hispanics are legally in the country (and a lot of them before the whites) isn't seen.

Yeah. The way we've turned ERs into free clinics of last resort is incredibly broken, but I don't know how to fix it. I'm damned sure I don't want people with crushing chest pains turned away at the ER door for failing to have their papers in order.

The issue of who does what... yes, it depresses wages some, for the bottom end work, but not so much as all that. The blame for that has more to do with the coporate culture/requirements for maximal profit. If they can find a group to exploit, they will.

I assume businessmen have always been greedy, so it's hard to see how that would account for a change in well-being of people at the bottom, except that it's now possible to hire illegal immigrants for less money than native-born folks with few skills. And this is surely made worse by the fact that people at the bottom in the US are often there because they're not very smart, or they have mental health problems, or drug or drinking problems, or something else going on which makes them not all that great as employees. I've certainly heard this kind of comment pretty often, w.r.t. hiring illegal immigrants vs poor Americans for various kinds of work.

At any rate, assuming we can't make businesses non-greedy (we can't), the policy question is whether we ought to alter our immigration policies somehow to address the impact of low-skill immigration on the poorest, least skilled, least functional people in the US. I really don't know whether we should do that (it may be cheaper to help the folks on the bottom in some other way), but it's the sort of discussion I think would be healthy for the country to have. (Of course, what we'll get is sound-bite crap that sweeps all subtleties under the rug and either demonizes immigrants or demonizes people who oppose having lots of immigration.)

The "crime problem" is one of failing assimilation. The kids don't see any hope of betterment, they are scorned, and told they are criminals; merely for being, so what point in striving to get real jobs?

That seems plausible, though around here, there's a pretty visible hispanic middle-class, so it's not like there's no hope of advancement in the US. At any rate, if there's a factual question about the impact of immigration on crime, it's pretty clear that the impact of the kids of the immigrants is worth looking into.

#844 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 02:00 PM:

Terry Karney @ 841... You wrote to the email address that can be seen here under "view all by"?

#845 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 02:06 PM:

albatross #781: In general, in the Spanish-speaking world, a person from India, regardless of religion, is called 'hindú' to distinguish them from 'indio' or 'indigenous person from the Americas not an Inuit'.

#846 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 02:29 PM:

Terry @ 820, That self-portrait makes you look like Rudyard Kipling as played by Christopher Plummer in The Man Who Would be King.

#847 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 02:31 PM:

Serge: I sent it to serge-lj@lj.com, which is what comes up when I mouseover your name.

albatross: The assimilation problem (I think) isn't so much one of the kids of immigrants, as the attitudes of citizens. There was (Orcinus detailed it, if I recall) a national pundit who referred to the citizens of someplace in S. America as "illegals". She was talking about them where they lived, in a different country. They weren't in the US. That sort of mindset, that all latinos/hispanics/choose your name of choice, are somehow less american, is a problem.

I have friends, whose families have been in the US since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (which, BTW, says that Spanish is a legal language in all of the ceded territories, that to "English First" idjits), who get told they need to present green cards.

That sort of thing, like the grinding poverty blacks face, doesn't lead one to want to take as much part in civil life.

Are there middle class hispanics. Yes. That doesn't mean they aren't treated shabbily. It doesn't mean their kids have the same expectations of advancement a white kid, from a middle class family does.

As to bosses. The first solution is to enforce the wage laws. The second is to not make the status of the worker something which puts them in the power of the boss. It's hard to complain about being screwed, when the boss can have you deported, and the 20 bucks a day you are making is a lot more than you could get at home.

Maia's sister's boyfriend works for the Dept. of Labor, looking into worker abuse (farms and carwashes), and that's the real sticking point. The boss can screw the employee, and who are they going to call? The surrounding environment is one which tells them they are no better than muderers (when the actual crime is, for the first offense, an infraction; i.e. equivalent in law to speeding).

That gives the boss leverage. The present system (illegal workers, native unrest) suits the corporations; even if they aren't working to create it.

It suits the stockholders, because they get more money for their investment.

It suits the gov't because the depression of prices (we don't pay what our strawberries are worth) keeps the rest of the people happy.

That the healthcare system is broken isn't their fault, but they make a handy distraction to keep the rest of us from seeing why.

Undocumented workers are paying taxes, into social security, and; in all sorts of other ways, pumping our economy, to the tune of billions of dollars.

A lot of that tax money they pay, they are denied the benefits of. They get it coming and going. A more reasonable policy (and work to improve the lot of the places from whence they come, so the income gradient wasn't so enticing) would fix lots of this.

Raid the companies, and then assess the losses; demand the records, make them pay the fair wages, with interest. If the workers have to be deported, don't steal from them twice.

#848 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 02:38 PM:

Terry Karney... Argh. I somehow never saw the links you had posted in #820, not until Linkmeister's recent post. I guess I'll use the self-portrait photo unless you prefer being shown gleefully looking at the camera with a big knife.

#849 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 02:55 PM:

Serge: Depends on how you think the world better appreciates me. The other didn't work?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/pecunium/2364217469/

Is a different photo

#850 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 02:57 PM:

Terry Karney @ 848... The only email I had in there was from someone else 2 months ago. Best is to use my "View all by" address. By the way, your photo is now up.

#851 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 03:21 PM:

Serge: Found it. I'll resend.

#852 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 03:26 PM:

Are there middle class hispanics. Yes. That doesn't mean they aren't treated shabbily. It doesn't mean their kids have the same expectations of advancement a white kid, from a middle class family does.

I think you're not paying sufficient attention to the racial/skin color aspect. I can assure you that I had the same expectations of advancement as a white kid of similar class and that those around me certainly expected the same or more. I am pretty sure this is because I "pass" unless I make a point of not-passing. "White" hispanics, especially ones with ambiguously ethnic names, get treated differently than brownish ones.

#853 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 03:45 PM:

I see Mez already mentioned congee; I'll add that I've occasionally cooked some dried fish or beef jerky into my oatmeal (treating it as a savory rather than a sweet). I could also fry onions or mushrooms in there, but that's a bit more complex than I want to deal with in the morning.

#854 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 03:48 PM:

Terry #848:

It seems like our culture has (no surprise) quite a wide variance of how it addresses immigrants. Around here (Montgomery County, MD) there are a bunch of Spanish-language radio stations and a couple (fairly crappy) local newspapers, and it's very common to see (mostly Salvadoran) obvious recent-immigrants chatting in Spanish in public, public signs and government publications in Spanish. None of this looks like people intimidated into hiding out in the shadows.

And yet, we also have some of those minuteman guys wandering around taking pictures of the folks waiting for someone to offer them a job, and the national media has a fair bit of that venom. (I'm not sure how many Salvadorans washing dishes in the restaurant listen to Rush Limbaugh, though. OTOH, violent rhetoric and rare nasty events can absolutely be scary--just look at the US' response to 9/11.)

It's worth pointing out that there are two issues here that need thinking about:

a. How much immigration is good for the US, and how ought we decide that?

b. What can we do about the fact that a bunch of people are here illegally, which means they're at least somewhat subject to being mistrearted now, and subject to having their whole lives torn up at any time in the future when the country decides to crack down on illegal immigrants and deport them.

It seems very clear to me that (b) is an unambiguous bad thing--a big pool of second-class people with fewer legal rights/protections than everyone else, with strong reasons to avoid the police and lie on their paperwork and use fake IDs is a bad thing.

I have no idea how to approach (a), other than that what we're doing (allow the group in (b) to grow to meet domestic demand for low-wage labor indefinitely, while occasionally media-oriented enforcement efforts or raids or "get tough" measures) isn't a very good policy.

And the existence of a huge pool of people in (b) makes any attempt to change this policy really hard, because it would be genuinely awful to deport any large fraction of those 12 M people one day, perhaps upon the election of a new president or the change of power between parties in Congress. And yet, any attempt to control immigration has to deal with those 12 M people.

#855 ::: broundy ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 04:01 PM:

Teresa just posted a lengthy moderation policy over at BoingBoing, and the following comment made me laugh out loud:

"Longest post ever! Teresa Nielsen Hayden, is this really necessary? ... Me thinks you should just get your own website."

#856 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 04:17 PM:

Terry @856: What I picture TNH really saying:

Readers, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by mods with disemvowellers. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Mr N00B? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for the vowels and you curse the Moderators. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that your post's death, while tragic, probably saved readers. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves readers...You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't post about at Slashdot, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.

#857 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 04:21 PM:

Lance @ 857, to which someone would instantly respond (quoting Grace Slick): "Tear down the wall, m_____ f_____"

Or, I suppose, paraphrasing Reagan, "Ms. Nielsen Hayden, tear down this wall."

#858 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 04:49 PM:

Just saw on CNN that the SecDef has called for an inventory of all US nukes...

Why do I have this awful feeling that some of our bombs are missing?

#859 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 04:56 PM:

#859: Karl Rove was seen leaving an Air Force base with a big lump in his pocket?

#860 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 05:00 PM:

Stefan @860:

I'm sure he was just pleased to see...someone?

#861 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 05:04 PM:

Must be that Dalai bin Lama terrorist guy.

#862 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 05:10 PM:

Lori #859: It's probably (ahem) fallout from yesterday's discovery that the US had accidentally shipped nuke triggers to Taiwan a couple of years ago.

#863 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 05:36 PM:

maybe it's related to the "misloading", and misplacing, which happened a few months ago.

#864 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 05:41 PM:

Agreed, Avram (a grin for the pun) -- but I can't help thinking that maybe Cheney took something special to the Middle East?

I'm wondering if there were a couple of nukes stowed in the belly of Air Force Two...it makes me think of the 6 wandering nuclear missiles that went from Minot to Barksdale last year.

#865 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 05:43 PM:

#861. One of the sentry's guard dogs, I'm guessing.

#866 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 05:55 PM:

Lee, that case in Tulsa is creepy, but there does look to be a three-way collision between the intent of the law, the established meaning of the words, and what happened.

"illegal, illegitimate, prurient, lewd or lascivious purpose with the unlawful and willful intent to view, watch, gaze or look upon any person without the knowledge and consent of such person." That is a definition which pretty solidly fits the situation. This isn't normal photography. But then there was the bit about it having to be a place with a reasonable expectation of privacy. And, bang, it all falls apart.

The legislators messed up big-time, but I can see how "reasonable expectation of privacy" matters. What is a reasonable expectation of privacy in that place? If they were groping for a way to put that in the law, they blew it.

You have a different "reasonable expectation" in your bedroom than in your front yard, and different again on the street or in some other public place. Some places, you don't want any cameras.

And ultimately, wharever shape your body is, it's about making your own choices, about being in control of your own body. And this wasn't a wardrobe accident waiting to happen.

#867 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 07:44 PM:

I can't help but think that "inside my clothes" is a space where I have a reasonable expectation of privacy. If I and my clothes are at Walmart, then the outsides of my clothes and the bits of me that aren't inside clothes get a Walmart expectation of privacy. But I'm wearing clothes for a reason, and the stuff inside them is private.

#868 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 08:28 PM:

Lori #859:

Yeah, that was kind of my thought, too.

More and more, each day, I feel like I'm watching the news in Robocop. (I'd buy *that* for a dollar.) Just sort of casual background news: No big deal, we're just reacting like people who've realized a few nukes have maybe turned up slightly missing, that's all. On the other hand, a stolen nuke in the hands of our enemies does offer solutions to both the subprime housing crisis (no housing, no inhabitants, no banks--no problem) and the medicare/social security future funding crisis (so long as the bad guys only nuke places with lots of old folks).

Given how well he played the rest of the government in other areas, I suspect Chalabi. He probably smooth-talked the military into hiring his brother in law and third cousin to oversee nuclear security as part of the plan to democratize Iraq.

#869 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 08:50 PM:

albatross @ #869, Nah. Not Chalabi, but this guy, a 22-year-old arms merchant selling 15-year-old ammunition to the Afghan army on a $5M contract from (wait for it)...the US Army.

#870 ::: sherrold ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 08:59 PM:

Re 'hispanics' (which actually ties in nicely with 'native american/indian' earlier -- since a lot of south of the border types don't identify with Spain, the oppressor, and therefore don't love the word hispanic)

I met a woman a few years ago who was obviously proud of her chicana background, mentioned her Spanish-speaking grandfather, Mexican heritage, etc. I (in Seattle) asked, "so, where are your people from?" She said, "Colorado." I said, "no, back in Mexico." She said, "Colorado. We didn't move. The border did."

#871 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 09:41 PM:

Sherrold, I always get sidetracked by trying to name the people who I grew up with who got called, then, in the bad old days, "Mexicans" (pronounced Mesk'ns). They were from Spanish speaking backgrounds but almost all from families who had always lived in Colorado (mostly, again a local quirk), California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Some of them have ancestors who left Europe well before the Mayflower; all of them have some degree of disinherited Pre-Columbian ancestry. They are Spanish-speaking North Americans but not newcomers by any reasonable measure, and every name I have for them- even after long conversation- seems not to fit. Which would be perfectly fine- labels are not reality- but namelessness is, too often, invisibility and powerlessness.

#872 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 10:00 PM:

R. M. Koske: Oh, how complicated it it.

I agree with you, and with the court. There are shades of consent/risk (and now I enter various areas of danger and difficulty).

If one wears a skirt (and I've worn kilts and linne, and nightshirts; in public), one runs the risk of flashing the public. If someone takes a photo of that, I can see an argument for an implied consent.

OK, that's the first part.

Now, as described, that's not what happened. This guy is alleged to have taken his camera, and moved it to a place where he could use it to capture a view which wasn't exposed to public view.

At that level, yes, he violated her privacy, and I'd be really pissed if someone took advantage of me in that way.

At the legal level... I think, as Dave Bell said, the law is funny. Case law is even funnier. As I said at Feminism Without Clothes, if you have an open window, and you know my balcony overlooks it, you have a lessened expectation of privacy. Wearing something which is revealing, has (legally) some of the same problems. One knows that revelation may take place. If someone works to exploit that...

It's a hard line, the freedoms are in conflict.

#873 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 10:06 PM:

Terry Karney @820: Serge: Did you get the link I sent you...

Serge @825: No, I never got any email from you.

Terry Karney @848: I sent it to serge-lj@lj.com, which is what comes up when I mouseover your name.

Serge @851: Best is to use my "View all by" address.

I suppose you didn't get the scan of Superman/Zod I sent you either (to smailloux at comcast dot net)? I'll try again with the other addr.

#874 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 10:18 PM:

Broundy @856: It probably wasn't the intention of posting the moderation rules, but it does seem to have made a nice tar-baby for a fine bunch of demi-trolls. I'd have a hard time not marking the cards of all those who repeat the toxic memes that BB disemvowels for mere disagreement or for repetition, not to mention those displaying faux disingenuousness ("Oh, is that what happened to those threads? I didn't realize").

#875 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 10:24 PM:

NelC: Some of the "Censorship shows the violence inherent in the system," sorts aren't demi-trolls. For them it's a hobby-horse.

#876 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 10:37 PM:

Terry (#736); albatross (#844)

… the coporate culture/requirements for maximal profit. If they can find a group to exploit, they will.
I assume business[wo]men have always been greedy,
"Much of the labour law which has evolved in the 20th century ... stems from an experience-based perception that the market constraint is not a sufficient protection." — Keith Hancock, senior deputy president (1992-1997), Australian Industrial Relations Commission

From about 1903 up to the last few years the antecedents and successors and State-level equivalents of this body arbitrated assorted types of large and small industrial disputes, including setting award rates for jobs, which could have group or individual 'above-award' payments by agreement between payer and payee, but not below, and also hear something we used to have called a 'National Wage Case'. It was AFAIAC, one of the bases of the best in Australian society, along with compulsory, free, secular education; another foundation stone being eroded recently.

There's a relief high up on the building of a 'mutual' insurance company near Martin Place in downtown Sydney showing a man trying to break a bundle of sticks across his knee. The point is that he could easily snap any one of the smaller parts, but tied together they are much stronger. To me, this is the purpose of government, to provide the strength of the many ordinary people of good will, who just want to live their lives quietly (Voltaire's 'garden') against the 'strongmen', whether they be warlords, gangsters, corporate robber barons, merchant bankers, property developers and speculators, etc. Hundreds of years of history demonstrate this, and it has been one of the bitterest things in my life to see so many good things built up being chipped away, back into nineteenth century and earlier situations, instead of being improved and extended to more places. Has there been similar loss of rights and responsibilities in the workplace in the US? I know that you have (or had) a different basic system, but has that framework been changed to disadvantage anyone over the last few decades?

Upskirting: I remember reading a number of stories about this happening in Japan over some years. With advances in imaging technoloy it seems to have spread, and there's been a bit of a reaction including recent Australian laws in different States. I wonder what the decision under those laws would have been in that circumstance?

Serge (#843), re photos. The close-up Christmas one is better quality, and probably makes me look better than the other, which maybe has more sentimental value. Nearly all my current full-length photos are in those unflattering hospital garments :(

#877 ::: B.Loppe ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 10:54 PM:

R.M.Koske @824:

Have you ever tried kedgeree? I had a period in my childhood where I fell in love with Scottish smoked haddock for breakfast. My mom would make a big tupperware of the curried rice and some hard-boiled eggs and in the morning I'd toss the rice with cut-up egg, some butter and the flaked smoked fish in a frypan until it was warm. It is the most savory breakfast I know of, and with the ingredients pre-prepped it is pretty fast to come together.

#878 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 11:12 PM:

Hi, guys. Never doubt I'm earning my salary over there.

#879 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 11:21 PM:

Teresa: I never did. I was, in fact, talking about the "you need to get your own blog comment" with my housemate, who (having heard more than a little about ML) said, "Doesn't she?"

And then I explained about Boing-Boing hiring you, and he said, "they pay a living wage", to which I said you were working at least as hard as you were at Tor.

Threads like this just prove it to me.

#880 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 11:24 PM:

Lori Coulson @ 859 ...

Just saw on CNN that the SecDef has called for an inventory of all US nukes...

Why do I have this awful feeling that some of our bombs are missing?

Unfortunately there's nothing new about missing bombs - there's a pretty astounding laundry list of bombs that are known to have gone missing over time... and that list always has me wondering about the ones that didn't get listed as missing...

#881 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2008, 11:58 PM:

TNH, I admire your composure in the poo-flinging over at the BoingBoing moderation thread; I'm afraid I'd have dismissed the whiners with "What, were you people raised by whiny emo wolves?"

#882 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 12:08 AM:

broundy@856: Teresa just posted a lengthy moderation policy over at BoingBoing, and ...

Wow, there are some seriously messed up comments over there.

#883 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 04:04 AM:

albatross @ 844: "I assume businessmen have always been greedy, so it's hard to see how that would account for a change in well-being of people at the bottom, except that it's now possible to hire illegal immigrants for less money than native-born folks with few skills."

Poor people are getting poorer, that's a fact. Blaming it on an influx of immigrants is overly facile, though; it's not as simple an equation as you suggest. I, the bleeding heart that I am, would point to the effects of government regulation--or to wit, the lack thereof--as something notably absent from your equation. The past decades have seen huge increases in CEO compensation, and an increasing focus on short term profits. This has come about because tax law has changed, making it easier for senior management to make their fortunes in an orgy of layoffs and soaring stock options, instead of over decades of careful guidance. As American workers at every level have seen their wages stagnate, the average CEO salary has increased from 42 times that of the average hourly worker in 1980 to 531 times in 2000. I'm not sure how one can blame that on immigrants.

"And this is surely made worse by the fact that people at the bottom in the US are often there because they're not very smart, or they have mental health problems, or drug or drinking problems, or something else going on which makes them not all that great as employees."

This kind of sentiment always raises my hackles. It might very well be true that, all else being equal, not very smart people, crazy people, and addicts would all tend towards the bottom end of the economic spectrum. But all else is not equal. Research is increasingly showing that intelligence is substantially affected by economics. Mental illness, it seems, is also caused and/or exacerbated by poverty. And, unshockingly, drug addiction is the result of poverty as often as it is the cause. People aren't poor because they're stupid, crazy, or smoking crack; they're stupid, crazy and smoking crack because they're poor. At a certain level, poverty becomes self-reinforcing. Most poor people aren't at the bottom because of anything other than because they were born there.

That said, the policy questions you raise @ 855 are dead on.

#884 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 06:13 AM:

I've just had one of those days when I've wished Usenet were dead. A loathsome little scrote has been persistently forging message headers in a newsgroup I frequent, and now he's taken to posting the real-world addresses of regulars, attached to accusations of paedophilia and other on-line sexual predation.

If is, for the technically aware, very obvious that the messages are forged. The MID uses the 4ax.com domain-name, but X-headers claim that the article was posted with Outlook Express. The NNTP-posting-host has an invalid IP address. And it's such a contradictory mess that the chances of tracing him are minimal.

The weird thing is that there are times when, whatever the identity he's pretending, you can have a rational conversation on some topic, before he switches to abuse and defamation.

Anyway, I'm using a two-stage news process: download to a local news-spool and read off-line. The downloading uses a Perl script with limited filtering on headers.

I'm reluctant to change the user interface I use. I could, perhaps, switch to Linux, if I could sort out the wifi on the laptop, and with some hassle get something running that feels much the same as I use.

What I'd really like to do is trace the bastard and drop a small pack of rabid lawyers on him, but I'd settle for a way of downloading news with a better filtering system: scoring rather than a simple pass/fail. I don't want to filter out everyone using Free Agent (the default 4ax.com thing) but I want a system that can be suspicious of somebody suddenly appearing to start to use it.

Sooner or later he's going to start pretending to be me. :(

#885 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 06:46 AM:

Linkmeister #870: That's one more event in what I'm coming to call 'the world on bad acid'. The script for the Bush Administration is being written by a team of Dadaists, Surrealists, and Freaks.



#886 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 06:49 AM:

#878 - B.Loppe

I've never heard of kedgeree before now. Is it the name of the dish as a whole? I'm honestly unfamiliar enough with smoked fish of any kind that the idea of including it in breakfast makes me nervous.

I used to think I could eat anything for breakfast, and maybe that was true at the time, but it isn't now. Not that things make me ill, but that I can't face some strong flavors early. Pizza's still okay, but too much onion is a major no. Kedgeree does sound convenient, though.

Regarding the oatmeal/breakfast discussion on Wednesday - I definitely undercooked my oatmeal yesterday morning, though I don't think I usually do. I added peanut butter, and it worked, for an unsatisfactory value of "worked." It was very rich and I couldn't finish my usual volume of oatmeal. It actually provoked the "Ugh, I can't eat another bite, get it away from me" reaction, which I really didn't expect or I'd have been watching my satiety a little more closely. I wasn't hungry until nearly six hours later, and even then thinking of the leftover oatmeal (which I took to work as a snack) was vaguely revolting. I finally ate the leftovers, reluctantly, as an afternoon snack.

I think I'll try PB again eventually. I did like it at first, so maybe with a little less added, I'll get a longer period of satisfaction from my breakfast without the problems. I'll have to wait a while, because the overeating means I'm still feeling disgusted by it this morning. Drat.

#887 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 06:50 AM:

#839, Bill Higgins -

That was exceedingly cool. It also makes me curious about the processes of discovery that led up to such a seemingly unlikely activity. The dry ice seems to be the part that blows my mind the most, though it may be more logical and self-evident than putting slabs of acrylic into the particle accelerator in the first place.

I'm guessing the resulting figures are actually useful artifacts for study in their own right? Or are they mostly a pretty novelty resulting from a studiable moment?

#888 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 07:11 AM:

#870 - Terry Karney

I don't agree with the court, but I think I can see why they arrived at the conclusion they did.

I agree that wardrobe malfunctions and accidental flashes are implied consent. (For a silly phrase about an overblown incident, "wardrobe malfunction" is surprisingly useful!)

But I don't see how him putting the camera where he did is in any way equivalent to the overlooking balcony. If you have a window with the balcony, you can see that someone can see in, and though it might not occur to you in general, you can also see that they have every right to have a camera there and take pictures of what they find.

The point for me seems to be in considering the circumstances if someone put their face where they're putting the camera. On the balcony, their face, and therefore, their camera, are perfectly acceptable. You do not put your face under a stranger's skirt in a public place. You do not position yourself such that you can see under a stranger's skirt in a public place (in general - I'm sure there's architecture that renders this an acceptable thing to do, but we're talking about Walmart, with its flat, tiled floors.) Therefore, doing the same with your camera is wrong.

And I'm guessing that's where it becomes significant that it is Walmart and not a public sidewalk. Walmart may very well put cameras in the dressing rooms. Many places do. So you walk into Walmart knowing that there are cameras in places that it is unacceptable for a person to stand and watch.

So I think I see the gray area of the whole thing. I just think that the court came down on the wrong side of it. The *only* places in Walmart that there are cameras where you'd expect to have privacy are (potentially) dressing rooms and bathrooms. I still think it is reasonable to expect public-street privacy inside your clothes when you are not in those places. You might specifically choose to not go into those places because of privacy concerns.

It seems to me that they're saying that if it is okay for someone to put a camera somewhere, then we must assume there is a camera in that place (which becomes nearly everywhere, in a public place) at all times, whether we can see one or not. Stated like that, I can nearly agree with it. But only nearly.

Hm. I want to say "I especially think the decision was wrong considering that this odd interpretation of the law is likely to affect women far more than men," but I'm reconsidering. Should that have been something the court took into account? I think so, but that may be bias on my part.

#889 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 07:27 AM:

heresiarch # 884

Another thing that makes me very suspicious of the argument that blames poverty on the poor and the immigrants is that it's an argument that gets dragged out by various reactionary and populist politicians every time the economy goes sour. It seems to be simultaneously a way to shift the blame for hard times from the greedy asshats whose Ponzi schemes caused the problem to some other group that the majority of the victimized can look down on, and also to emphasize to the victims (the average middle and lower-class citizens) that there is still someone lower on the totem pole than they are, so things can't be all that bad. At one time or another the scapegoat group has been American Indians, African-Americans, Chinese, Irish, Jews, Italians, or Poles (with special appearances by dozens of other minority ethnic groups). When I hear these sorts of explanations for the bad times, I start looking for the magician's other hand, because I know someone's trying to misdirect me.

#890 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 08:03 AM:

New photos on "Making Light and Faces"... Mez and Juli Thompson. I have also replace the 'Dorian Gray' photo of Terry Karney with one of him doing his laundry. ('Him' being Terry, not Dorian.)

Page One: http://pics.livejournal.com/serge_lj/gallery/000118yw

Page Two: http://pics.livejournal.com/serge_lj/gallery/000118yw?page=2

#891 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 10:17 AM:

March certainly isn't acting very lamb-like as it goes out. It's 7:15 AM local time here on March 28, and it's snowing outside. The snow's not sticking now, but who knows?

#892 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 10:59 AM:

I don't know about snow, but I feel like an old gaffer with the way the cold gets into my bones, and aches and aches... and my back...

#893 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 11:06 AM:

Lee #836: Yeah, I'm cool with either the formal or informal methods of discouraging this behavior, where the formal methods involve the perp leaving in handcuffs, and the informal ones involve the perp spending the weekend holding an icepack to his groin (from the victim's knee) and butt (from where the store manager tossed him out so hard he bounced twice).

I wonder how the same police/prosecutor/courts would react to a parallel case involving the same kind of intrusiveness, done by a grown man against a 16-year old boy. My guess is that this would be seen very differently, though I'll admit I don't really understand law very well.

#894 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 11:13 AM:

Serge@891

I guess we'll just have to wait a bit longer for the picture of Dorian Gray...

#895 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 11:17 AM:

TNH 879: Oh, believe me, I don't. Some of those people...well, I already told one of them to FOAD, and another to stop whining. That thread is a continual temptation to sddnly strt spkng ll n cnsnnts, nvlntrly.

#896 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 11:20 AM:

The Weblog of Dorian Gray:

Those of us commenters who knew the owner of doriangray.com only online considered him one of the Net's most sparkling adornments; kind, learned, witty, liberal and (within reason) verbose. How different he was in person - a dull, crabbed, profane, ill-groomed troll, whose manners and speech became more degraded and degrading every day...

(etc - turns into a Selling Your Soul story, where Dorian is offered the awful choice; either witty and pleasant in person, but a ghastly troll online, or vice versa; and selflessly chooses the vice versa, because that way he'll offend fewer people, albeit they will all be his close friends and family).

#897 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 11:21 AM:

albatross 894: No, I think if a 16-year-old boy was at the mall wearing a short skirt, he wouldn't get one bit of sympathy from the court.

Seriously, suppose a guy were caught taking pictures of the crotches and asses (fully clothed) of teenage boys in a public place, with a zoom lens. I don't know that he could be charged, but I'd assume the police would beat him up.

#898 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 11:29 AM:

Dave Bell @ 885: V unir fbzr fvzvyne pbapreaf. Zl fgnyxre unf orra bpphcvrq jvgu bgure ivpgvzf yngryl, ohg fbbare be yngre (tvira uvf BPQ angher) ur jvyy nyzbfg pregnvayl or crfgrevat zr ntnva. Vg'f snveyl yvxryl gung ur'yy ghea hc urer. Naq V qba'g xabj ubj jryy bhe ubfgf ner noyr gb pbcr jvgu fbzrbar jub'f snzvyvne jvgu VC fcbbsvat, bofrffvir/pbzchyfvir, fbpvbcnguvp, naq rawblf qribgvat uvf yvsr gb penccvat va bgure crbcyrf' fnaqobkrf (NXN "serr fcrrpu").

#899 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 11:30 AM:

Michael I @ 895... we'll just have to wait a bit longer for the picture of Dorian Gray

What about The Sins of Dorian Gray ?

#900 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 11:32 AM:

Bruce #890:

Okay, but these are questions about reality, not about morality, right? I mean, either more immigration helps or hurts or is neutral for those at the bottom. If it hurts people at the bottom (and helps the economy as a whole; that would be my guess), then we ought to consider that effect when we're setting immigration policy. And we ought to consider that effect regardless of whether there are other causes of poverty (which there surely are). I agree, we ought to try to decrease the problems of poverty, too, but we've got a lot of programs trying to do that now, we spend a fair bit of money on them, and yet we still have big poverty problems. I'm not sure why I should be confident that we'll solve these problems the next time we try[1].

Similarly, either the folks at the bottom in the US have more of these kinds of problems (drug/alcohol problems, low IQ, mental illness, criminal record, whatever) than others, or they don't. That's an empirical question, and no amount of consideration of which side of the question is argued by the good guys will tell you anything much about its truth. My understanding is that poverty is correlated with all those things.

The direction of causality of these differences is interesting, but probably not relevant for employers. As an employer, I don't care whether Joe is dumber than a stick because of native talent or because he used to eat paint chips in his 60 year old house, whether Anne comes to work drunk because her genes doomed her to alcoholism or because her impoverished upbringing drove her to drink. As a society, we ought to care to the extent that we can get rid of the paint chips and the terrible environment, but for an individual employer, he wants to see the work get done. Based on my limited reading in this area, I'd guess mental illness is mostly not environmental, drug/alcohol problems and low IQ are a mix of genes and environment, and serious crime is probably mostly environment.

I guess I'm hoping you'll accept that I'm not trying to come up with excuses to ignore all other problems in the economy while demonizing the Bad Brown People With Funny Accents. I know there are people who do this, but I'm not one of them, and it ought to be possible to talk about this stuff without being confused for one.

[1] It is always possible to argue that we haven't solved the problems because we don't really want to, or because the solutions have been sabotaged by the other party/entrenched bureaucrats/media. I'd find this more convincing, if it weren't used for every single failed program in history. You can find neocons explaining the Iraq fiasco using this explanation, frex. Historically, you can find arguments like this explaining why collectivizing agriculture in the USSR didn't work out well, why the latest privatization scheme led to worse services and a few well-connected folks becoming billionaires, why this or that education reform didn't produce any noticeable improvement in test scores or life success, etc. It's a universal out for any failure.

#901 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 11:34 AM:

Joel @899:

Srne abg. Jr'ir unq bgure crbcyr pbzr penccvat va gur fnaqobk; jr pna qrny, bar jnl be nabgure.

#902 ::: sherrold ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 12:08 PM:

I'm a crazed lefty, and I've wondered for years if the reason we have so much illegal immigration is because it "keeps the man('s wages) down". But apparently not. Roger Lowenstein's article, "The Immigration Equation," in the New York Times Magazine last year convinced me at least that, yes, basic econ seems to say that letting millions of unskilled immigrants in should reduce the pay of unskilled Americans and/or make it harder for them to find jobs. But somehow, it doesn't seem to. At most, it appears to lower pay for unskilled workers only a very small amount, and it might not lower their pay at all.

Link here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/09/magazine/09IMM.html?ei=5090&en=8b2c5c0a2ceea8e0&ex=1310097600&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&pagewanted=all

#903 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 12:10 PM:

R. M. Koske: I think you've hit three (at least) of the problems.

One is the question of active volition. He was (by accounts) actively placing the camera. In that regard he was targetting her, specifically (and that, I think, is where I see a sense of invasion). Had he owned a camera like my DH2, which has a timer (or even one less sophisitcated, which allows for a wireless remote) and just set it up, that seems to be less invasive.

Because (and I'm just brainstorming this), it's passive.

Then again, part of the shock of this case is the proximity. Someone shooting photos at a beach, is actively choosing the subjects. There are lots of people who make adjustments to clothing, and there are photographers who look for them. But they aren't intruding on the personal space of the people.

I, also think, this affects women more than men, and I do think the court needs to address this (though the present makeup of the Supremes don't, so long as men and women are treated the same in regard to pregnancy, the law is, "fair"). I just don't know how to address it, in a way which isn't infantilising.

I suspect that some distinction in terms of personal space is the answer. If the action would be assault; absent the camera (and I like your analogy of where one might put one's face), then the photo is probably invasive.

albatross: The direction of causality of these differences is interesting, but probably not relevant for employers. As an employer, I don't care whether Joe is dumber than a stick because of native talent or because he used to eat paint chips in his 60 year old house, whether Anne comes to work drunk because her genes doomed her to alcoholism or because her impoverished upbringing drove her to drink. As a society, we ought to care to the extent that we can get rid of the paint chips and the terrible environment, but for an individual employer, he wants to see the work get done. Based on my limited reading in this area, I'd guess mental illness is mostly not environmental, drug/alcohol problems and low IQ are a mix of genes and environment, and serious crime is probably mostly environment.

Maia has had to do a lot of research on mental illness (and did her first fieldwork in a mental health capacity... it was a hard time, very draining for her). A lot of it is environmental. It may be that, like my Reiter's Syndrome it has a genetic predispotion, but needs an environmental trigger, but the environment plays a much larger role than people want to admit. It is, I think, a defensive mechanism, they don't like to think that might happen to them. If they were poor, suddenly homeless, etc. they would, of course be able to cope, and to hang on.

Then again, I have some, very mild, mental problems which are environmentally caused, so perhaps I a more prone to seeing that side of things. I do know that the (thankfully brief) period in which I was living in my car, my ways of dealing with the world were different. There was a sense of shame which soaked into everything. Had it lasted much longer, my sense of self would have started to diminish, and from there... I don't know. One does what one has to do, and how one sees oneself is, no matter how we try, is partly a reflection of how others see us.

If we are scorned by one person, that's a function of that person. When everyone scorns us, we start to think it's a function of us.

I, as an employer, do care about the whys. Not for Joe, in particular, but because I need employees. The larger the pool, the better for me. Also I want more people who can buy the things I'm selling.

It might be that we haven't been able to fix these problems because people don't care about the direction of causality; or make assumptions from worldview (the poor are poor because they are lazy, and the CEO is wealthy because he isn't), and so the causes aren't addressed. Unlike Frankenfurter, we try remove the symptom, not the cause.

#904 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 12:19 PM:

sherrold #871:

The whole "hispanic" category is meaninglessly broad. The Salvadoran lady who used to clean our offices, the Chilean mathematician who works down the hall from me, and the Puerto Rican lady who runs the diversity office are all hispanic. In American racial categories, they're "Mexican," white, and black. In terms of culture, they're completely different, probably more different than English-speakers from Ireland, India and Texas.

I gather this is sometimes used to try to construct some kind of prediction about voting or buying patterns, but it's silly. Mexicans and Cubans and Puerto Ricans all make up noticeable parts of the US (as do folks whose ancestors stayed in place while the border moved), but I don't think they're all that similar in terms of political interests. Certainly, immigration issues affect those three groups rather differently, they are concentrated in different parts of the country, if they have external loyalties, it's to different countries, etc. (I'm not sure how worked up the average Mexican in California gets, thinking about us lifting the embargo with Cuba, frex.)

I think all racial/ethnic categories in the US get modeled on the white/black categories. But they're a weird special case for a lot of reasons--black Americans mostly share a culture and history, as well as some genes. That doesn't work too well in other cases.

#905 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 12:46 PM:

Self-nitpick: I'm thinking of people whose ancestry is mostly from those countries, not just (say) Mexicans here to do some construction work. Though there's also surely an important distinction between people who want to live here indefinitely, and people who are here to make money so they can one day move back to Mexico or El Salvador or wherever and live better.

#906 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 01:04 PM:

Thinking about the upskirting incident, I wonder how the court would have handled it if the woman targeted had been wearing a long skirt for religious reasons. I can't help but feel that the reaction would have been entirely different, and perhaps free of the "well, she was wearing a skirt, skirts blow around, she should have been prepared for someone to see her underwear" aspect. Although the law would not have changed at all, I can't imagine the same judgment being handed down.

#907 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 01:42 PM:

One of my co-workers recently received an interesting email from one tech-support person I've dealt with a lot. I especially liked the first sentence and the last sentence.

It's a no-brainer.

Serge is the man.

#908 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 02:34 PM:

TNH @879: In case it wasn't clear, I'm eternally grateful that you are on the wall, even (or is that especially) when I get smacked back in line!

Joel @899: Qba'g jbeel, gurl'ir unq cyragl bs rkcbfher gb yvgrenel pevgvpf.

Serge @908: You are the man! Just sent a pic, no hurries mate...

#909 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 02:54 PM:

#887: Kedgeree appears in "To Say Nothing of the Dog" by Connie Willis. The narrator doesn't have a high opinion of it, as I recall.

You can buy cans of "kippered" fish in some stores. I've tried it. Not bad. I can see having it on toast.

#910 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 03:06 PM:

I'm going to go out on a limb here in re the BB post.

It's not ML. We ought to be on our best behavior. Teresa is going to take knocks she doesn't deserve if it appears we headed over there to defend her.

I'm probably as guilty as anyone else of looking like a dittohead, going to savage the rubes. It's an interesting topic (and one we've seen hashed here, more than once), but the dynamic is different.

/concern trolling

#911 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 03:08 PM:

abi @ 902, Lance @ 909: Fbzrbar jub'f jvyyvat gb qribgr uvzfrys shyy-gvzr gb qbvat fghss yvxr genpxvat qbja lbhe rzcyblre, gura gur rzcyblre'f ohfvarff pbagnpgf, fb ur pna fraq gurz nyy fcbbsrq R-znvyf naq snkrf jneavat gurz gung lbh'er n pbaivpgrq crqbcuvyr... jryy, yrg'f whfg fnl gung vg'f n ovt qenva ba bar'f gvzr naq raretl. Ba gur cyhf fvqr, yvxr n cbbe znexfzna, ur xrrcf zvffvat gur gnetrg. Ur'f abg irel *rssrpgvir*.

Nyy V pna fnl vf gung V ubcr ur qbrfa'g pbzr urer. Ur gnxrf nal nggrzcg gb erzbir uvf penc nf n punyyratr, naq V'q ungr vg vs sbyxf urer unq gb qrny jvgu gur zrff. Jr'ir nyy tbg zhpu zber cyrnfnag guvatf gb qb.

#912 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 03:32 PM:

kedgeree, as I just confirmed with a phone call home, there are a pair of kedgerees in Lobscouse and Spotted Dog"

One is a whitefish (not kippered) dish, and the other is indian, and made with lentils (see my comment to R. M. Koske about adding legumes to oatmeal).

If no one has a copy ready to hand, I'll look into it when I get home from my babysitting

#913 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 03:51 PM:

albatross @ 901

Okay, but these are questions about reality, not about morality, right?

Not the questions I was raising, no. I was talking about propaganda and spin, and their use. And I don't think those question necessarily represent reality in any useful way. Just because you can phrase a question does not mean it's a meaningful one. And I'm not sure that any of those political statements are falsifiable in any real sense.

Part of the lack of connection to reality is that statements like "The poor we have with us always" or "People are successful if they want to be" are dependent on lots of political and social context that's different for different people and especially for different social, economic, and ethnic groups. Every one of them has some external subtext that's assumed by the person who states them, and is different from those who disagree with them. So whether such a statement is true in part depends on your previous assumptions.

#914 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 04:23 PM:

Privacy concerns prevent me from posting photos, but I must report that I have finally figured out who one of the girls in my daughter's class looks like.

How cool is this? She's shaped differently, of course, being four, and her hair is not as red. But face shape and glasses are just right. As is the energetic demeanor.

#915 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 04:28 PM:

I find myself continuing to be perplexed and angry about the Tulsa upskirting ruling. It's been on my mind all day, and I just keep mentally sputtering. Ye gods and little fishes, what were the judges thinking? As far as I'm concerned, R.M.Koske said all there is to say. I hope that judgment was a fluke, because it just doesn't fit in with other things that have gone on.

For example: Imagine an open staircase with metallic grid steps. It's certainly conceivable that you could look up and see under a woman's skirt. A skirt-wearing woman* might feel uncomfortable about that staircase, and might feel moved to complain if she found that ogling was going on. She might get some sympathy, but not necessarily any reaction (or staircase renovation). Same with aerobics classes and gyms -- ogling goes on there, sometimes people feel uncomfortable with it, and there are various responses on the part of management, sometimes in favor of the ogled, sometimes in favor of the oglers. If one doesn't like the response, one can vote with one's feet. All well and good.

Yet add a camera to either of these situations -- staircase or gym -- and I can't imagine that being supported by courts, although I have no precedence cases to support my hunch.

As a contrast to Tulsa, I can't help but think back to an incident at a public pool in the US this past summer. A woman had lowered her bathing suit straps to sunbathe. There was NO flashing or wardrobe malfunction à la Janet Jackson, yet another pool guest flounced herself over to the lifeguards, dragged them over, and insisted that they force the woman to pull her straps up.

It's probably time for a nice cup of valerian tea.

*Or kilt-wearing man

#916 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 04:38 PM:

abi @ 915... I have finally figured out who one of the girls in my daughter's class looks like.

Clank.

Clank.

Clank!

CLANK!!!

CLANK!!!!!

#917 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 04:45 PM:

albatross, I've worked within the welfare system for nearly twenty-five years. One of the big factors to keep in mind is that a lot of people bounce in and out of the categories we would class a the unemployed poor and as the working poor. There's a world of reasons why people can fall into either category, and while some are beyond the influence of social policy and governmental regulation, others are not. Some people may spend most of their lives in one category or the other, or going back and forth between the two, and others may visit one or both categories briefly. It's possible to land in either one despite intelligence, hard work, and education. I've dealt with people who represented one of several generations in the same family on welfare, and with people who had the bottom fall out of their worlds with a shock so sudden they still hadn't fully grasped it yet, beyond the fact that they had nothing to live on and were in desperate straits.

Generalization is not a reliable guide to the problem of poverty, including chronic poverty, but governmental regulation can make it both more difficult to escape it and to avoid it, and it can also make it easier to do so. Johnson's War on Poverty has been claimed as a failure (as have the New Deal policies of FDR--but not by many people who survived the Depression), but I think that's a superficial judgement--it managed to accomplish much good before the cuts that were forced upon him during the Vietnam War, and I don't believe the erosion of the manufacturing base and loss of industrial jobs can either be laid at LBJ's feet, or blamed on his anti-poverty efforts.

The problem is what programs are good and helpful, and what needs to be done to make sure they remain helpful, and which new ones need to be instituted, as well as what we as a society require both to help people to escape the traps of poverty and to avoid them.

Education is one of the foremost, and it needs to include useful sex education (it appalls me that I had better access to useful sex education in the 1970s than teenagers do now), training on personal finance and budgeting, and basic education in civics, so that people understand how their government is supposed to work. Access to advanced education and vocational training at an affordable price is essential as well; there may be people who won't benefit from it, but no one can benefit from it if it isn't there, or is available only to those few with well-to-do parents. Teaching Americans, as a society, to value and respect education and educators would be a good idea as well; I won't swear it's an intentional part of a grand reactionary scheme, but the constant denigration of educators at all levels encourages people to think poorly of education and schools in general. (Yes, I think there should be accountablility in that field, but I don't think that's what these memes have been aimed at.)

I won't allow Richard Nixon many good points, but he did at least appreciate that it was possible to be poor in spite of hard work, and that poor people were not automatically somehow morally deficient because they were poor. Perhaps having grown up poor himself helped there. The level of contempt I see directed at poor people by many is disturbing and unpleasant; there's always been some of it, but I think it's something that's been carefully developed and nurtured over the past forty years, so that it flowers in many of our hearts whether we realize it or not.

Any of us can become poor, and it can happen quickly, in spite of our best efforts to avoid it. For the most part, we live on the edge of a knife blade, even though we do not realize it.

#918 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 05:01 PM:

Debbie: (#916) In the staircase situation you describe, the courts would rule it was legitimate.

As a general rule, anything one can see from a place where one can legally take photos, is photographable.

It is legitimate for a company to tell one that photography is forbidden, and to make one leave the premises if one is so photographing.

But one can step to the street and take the same photos (this is why the security guards who come to chase people away who are shooting photos of statuary are so annoying, and unpleasant; even where the work is copyright, the photo is an independant work. It may be derivative, but it's still a separate copyright. Property Releases are a way around the hassles of conflicting interpretaions, but; again, as a rule, are more a way to avoid fights, than they are an actual necessity).

So sitting where one can take photos up the gaps in the stairs is protected behavior.

The pool incident is a different sort of problem, Mrs. Grundy will always be with us.

The real question; wrt to the case in Tulsa, is the non-passive nature of the photograph. He didn't get a naturally occurring glimpse beneath her skirt (as reported), but had to get quite close, and introduce the camera to see something which wasn't otherwise visible.

If that was the case (rather than, say, he put his camera on the floor and used a best guess angle) then I think he did intrude on her reasonable expectation of privacy.

#919 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 06:04 PM:

Terry @919 -- Thanks for the clarification -- I know you've dealt with these things first-hand. (Um, not upskirting per se, but you know what I mean. It's getting late here.)

It seems to come down to definitions of "reasonable expectations of privacy". As Mez noted in 877, reactions and laws may be different in different places. In the article that Lee linked to (800), there was a call for having the legislature rather than the courts ultimately resolve the issue.

As for the non-passive nature of the Tulsa incident, again from the linked newspaper article: "...there was testimony at a preliminary hearing that Ferrante admitted following the teenage girl in the SuperTarget store at 10711 E. 71st St., knelt down behind her and placed the camera underneath her skirt." Non-passive indeed. Yet protected.

#920 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 06:09 PM:

Help and advice, o Fluorospherians?

I am tasked (forgive the language) with giving a section of a speech on "How to Use Powerpoint" for a class of graduate students next week. I have warned the professor that I am going to be giving a speech on good reasons not to use Powerpoint, overhead text outlines, slideware, and projected images, in that order (thing one that bothers me is that we aren't distinguishing among any of these tools).

I would like to convince a reasonable proportion of the class that these things are distinct, and not always useful for teaching; and give them a short rule of thumb for when to avoid them. I have the kneejerk coder-dweeb arguments to hand; in fact, I can jerk that knee hard enough to hit myself in the face. I would rather use arguments nearer to the, mmmm, current understanding of people who assume that business practices are efficient and that all visual aids increase learning for all subjects.

Other people are covering *good* ppt practice, so I don't have to approach that; just the question of when not to use it at all.

#921 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 06:36 PM:

I have a half-hypothesis about why immigration seems to not, measurably, much damage the incomes of non-immigrant USians. I think that our economy is set up to need a 'stuck at the bottom' class (maybe any economy needs one, maybe not). Where we have a reliable stream of immigrants, the native-born get to get out of that class (mostly). This fits with the economists' reminder that in anything but the very short-term, a job market isn't a fixed sum of work to be divided up; a healthy economy can increase the amount of work and pay to go around. It *feels* to me that we need a 'stuck' class to get over some ?psychological or structural? hump and get to the stage of a growing economy; I don't know what that would be called (except Omelas) or how measured.

The upskirting echhh is an example of the "Transparent Society" hypothesis and Bruce Schneier's argument against it. Brin argues that if everyone sees everyone we will get to a (unfamiliar, SFnal) balance of power; Schneier, that power is so asymmetrical that transparency is going to entrench the current asymmetries. And, certainly, it is the case in plenty of places still that a woman who never wears a skirt faces social or even employment trouble; that a woman who posted photographs of men's parts would get in more trouble than her subjects would; and that a woman photographed against her will is still shamed, and the photographer officially unpunishable. As usual, Schneier seems to be depressingly right.

#922 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 06:38 PM:

Debbie: In some respects, I've had to deal with the same issue (candid shots of surfers).

The reason I am making niggly little clarifications is, I wasn't at the hearing. I only know what the paper reported was said about the incident.

He may have followed her in (and I would be more comfortable if she were older; not because I think that changes the moral aspects of taking an instrusive photograph, but that it colors the impressions of his motives), and gotten right behind her, slid the phone under her; quite concealing, skirt and so been really invasive.

He may (as I alluded) followed her, stayed close enough that when the least chance to get an angle to look (and shoot) beneath her skirt arose, he was ready.

He admits that such a picture was his intent. That's one thing. The next thing question is how far did he go to achieve his aim.

I know that reviewing some of the shots I've taken of surfers, they were revealing things they might not have wanted to so reveal. It wasn't my intent to record that the bathing suit being worn when the surfer was doing a headstand was, by virtue of the pose, not much more concealing than spray paint.

But I was spending a bit of effort to keep said surfer in my viewfinder.

Laws do differ. There is a case in Amsterdam right now, because a pair of photographers was doing exactly what you mentioned. Upskirting was recently outlawed there, and they (claim) they were trying to show eiher how silly the law is, or that it's mostly unenforceable (they were in place for about an hour, as I recall. I don't have the text, and it would be in translation, but as it was described, the subject has to consent in advance to such photos).

Clew: Busy graphics distract from the meaning of the slide. Reading the slide bores the audience. If the slide isn't illustrative of some other point (not mentioned) it's a redundant waste of the makers prep-time. I have more complaints (the Army is horrid for it's use of PowerPoint).

#923 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 06:45 PM:

The best powerpoints are the ones that serve as a backdrop to your one man play*. Things powerpoint isn't good for:

A transcript for your presentation - reading from the slides.

Winning debates - never try to score points with a deck. (Unless you're playing MtG!).

Nutritionally dense displays - don't pack a bunch of facts/figures/etc into slides.

Training - powerpoint is not a learning tool, it is, at best, a visual aid. Don't try to run training courses solely with slides.

Handouts - Don't give out anything if you can help it and never give out printouts of the slides. If you absolutely must give your audience a takeaway, make it a real document summarizing your points with links to in-depth material. Unless you are summarizing a large document, in which case it already has a summary at the front, right? In either case, hand them out at the end.

-----

* And like all plays, the actor, script, performance and audience are all far far more important elements for your energies than the backdrop. Unfortunately most presenters (and their managers) do exactly the opposite.

#924 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 06:46 PM:

fidelio @918 — what she said.

That theme of how the system can make things more difficult for them it purports to help is one of the things I admired about 100 Centre Street (mentioned before). There were a couple of episodes that particularly featured some examples, but it could appear as a small subplot section.

(If anyone has records of this series, I'd love to see it again, and show it to others who'd appreciate it. The lack of any DVDs, and minimal VHS release (pilot episode) is disgraceful.)

It's been good to hear that Sidney Lumet, the director of 100 Centre Street, has a new film out, which is getting excellent reviews (Before the Devil Knows You're Dead - no link, it would take me over the limit, which now seems to be about 4).

#925 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 06:55 PM:

PowerPoint: My copious free time is being used quite heavily, so no time to look it up, but I'm sure within the last year or so there was a study that determined that having the same information presented both visually and aurally reduced the audience's comprehension.

#926 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 07:41 PM:

It is being reported that Amazon are stopping providing sale/cataloging services for POD books that aren't being PODed by them.

The source-chain I've seen seems reliable, but I've not seen multiple sources yet.

#927 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 08:02 PM:

My mind is boggled.

So I'm in Iowa City. On Monday, an indicted banker beat his family to death then killed himself. Well-known family, much admired by all.

And... we're getting Westboro Baptist picketers?

Why?

#928 ::: B.Loppe ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 08:04 PM:

re kedgeree: (Terry Karney @ 913, R.M. Koske @ 887)

This is one of those dishes that has evolved over time, and so has a lot of variations. "Kedgeree" does refer to the dish itself but the name comes from a bastardized Indian dish which does originally feature lentils. The Victorian version added curry powder and sometimes raisins or chutney and was definitely a breakfast food.

The dish I used to eat featured imported scottish smoked haddock (so I only got it about two weeks during the year when I could pester my mom to buy it for me.) You can also make it with any other flaky white fish that's been poached. The other important components are the boiled rice and the hard boiled eggs. All three would be prepped in advance - I think mum boiled the fish and then flaked it for me and the rice was boiled in chicken broth and spiced with curry powder, salt, and dried herbs. I would fry up a little rice with the butter and some fish and add the chopped up eggs at the end. Sometimes I'd throw other stuff in there, but it's mostly the rice, egg and fish that's important. It's salty, savoury, and very satisfying, but definitely a strong flavour in the morning. I bet you could so something with smoked salmon and less pungent spices - maybe just lemon butter - that would also be very tasty and less of an assault first thing in the morning.

Google kedgeree and there's a pretty good range of recipes returned on the first page. I like this Jaime Oliver one best, for the lack of fussiness. I know the curry powder isn't necessary for authenticity but that's how I like it.

Jaime Oliver's kedgeree

#929 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 09:35 PM:

With respect to the "upskirting" ruling, It occurs to me that most of you are assuming that the ruling does in fact conform to law. But there's another option here... we may well be looking at a situation where the judge has, for whatever reason, simply defaulted on their responsibility to provide "protection of the law" to the girl. This, unfortunately, does happen!

With respect to the "poverty" issue, one of the major problems with welfare programs is that any such program represents a "pile of money" -- and there's any number of officials and other persons, who would like that money to go into their own pockets, rather than see it given to a bunch of poor folks they don't know.

And now I'm off to the new Open Thread....

#930 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2008, 09:42 PM:

clew: Have you thought of performing a negative example of Powerpoint use, as a learning exercise, incorporating all of the negatives? Then snap out of it for the second half, and explain what was wrong with your first half. I dunno, that just seems like fun to me.

#931 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2008, 02:09 AM:

Abi@915: So she looks like this, then?

#932 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2008, 03:34 AM:

Regarding #888 by R. M. Koske, I jumped over to Open Thread 104 to post an answer. The comment is being held for moderation as I type this, but you can click on the "view all by" beside my name here to see it.

The topic is zapping Lichtenberg Figures. Frozen lightning.

#933 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2008, 04:14 AM:

David Goldfarb @932:

Actually, she looks like the adult Agatha rather than the child one. It's eerie.

#934 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2008, 04:37 AM:

Bill Higgins @933:

I have released it from its bondage.

#935 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 03:54 AM:

R.M. Koske, #868: Exactly! I was trying to figure out how to say that, but you said it better. The key point here is that, no matter where she was, he stuck a camera under her skirt. If he'd stuck his schnozz up there, it would be a clear-cut violation; what makes taking pictures of her underpants any different?

albatross, #894: You're not the only one with that nasty suspicion.

Xopher, #898: What you'd need to make the situation parallel would be a Highland Games-style demo with a local pipe-and-drum group in full rig. The demo ends, the kids are allowed to relax and wander around a bit, and here's the perp with the camera under the kilt. They'd put him under the jail, is my guess.

Terry, #919: I disagree with your contention that it would be different if he'd been taking "best guess" pictures with a camera placed on the floor. Unless the camera was extremely visible (such that no reasonable person could have walked over it not realizing it was there), he was still targeting someone in a way that would not have been legal for him to do with his hand, or his physical eyes.

And I'll bet I know where his other hand was, too.

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