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March 3, 2009

Open thread 120
Posted by Teresa at 10:31 AM *

“I will tell you a story,” Schmendrick said. “As a child I was apprenticed to the mightiest magician of all, the great Nikos, whom I have spoken of before. But even Nikos, who could turn cats into cattle, snowflakes into snowdrops, and unicorns into men, could not change me into so much as a carnival cardsharp. At last he said to me, ‘My son, your ineptitude is so vast, your incompetence so profound, that I am certain you are inhabited by greater power than I have ever known. Unfortunately, it seems to be working backward at the moment, and even I can find no way to set it right. It must be that you are meant to find your own way to reach your power in time; but frankly, you should live so long as that will take you. Therefore I grant it that you shall not age from this day forth, but will travel the world round and round, eternally inefficient, until at last you come to yourself and know what you are. Don’t thank me. I tremble at your doom.’”
—Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn
Addenda: from the thread
Fragano, 161: Spring break coming up. Essays being marked as midterm grades are due. Fascinating things, as always, being learned:
“Emma questioned how those who dictated social moirés could place such a limited and finite view on what was considered morally sound.”
Serge, 164: Social moirés? Was the rest of the essay as lamé?

Steve C., 170: I giggled when a commenter in another forum went on at great length about social morays.

Ajay, 172: Questioning moirés can weaken the fabric of society.

Irritatingly, “mores” is one of those words that doesn’t have a singular (like “measles” and “smithereens”). The Latin is mos, plural mores. Hence the saying that, if you travel too much, you’ll effectively be a stranger everywhere, unfamiliar with the customs of your own country as much as with those of any other: a rolling stone gathers no mos.

Comments on Open thread 120:
#1 ::: Dan R. ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 10:38 AM:

Whoa. Taran Wanderer, writ large.

It's taken me half a century to perfect gazpatcho, apple pie, cross-country downhill technique, and modeling permafrost thermal regimes.

#2 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 10:56 AM:

Meanwhile, when I took the elevator this morning, one woman told me I reminded her of Jim Cramer. Yeah, the "Mad Money" guy who played himself in "Iron Man".

#3 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 11:02 AM:

Holy cow, you guys, I just got my internet connection back after the snowstorm. We had huge clots of wet snow that stuck to the trees like glue--four to six inches of it. Saturday night you could hear the trees falling, one every few minutes. Four trees fell athwart the street next to ours--and it's only a block long. Our house didn't get hit, but we have an uprooted oak tree that's being held up solely by another (smaller) tree; if it falls before we get to the top of the tree-service queue, it'll take out our fence.

My poor boss got stranded in Dallas on the way back from teaching a course in San Diego; when she finally got home, she had no power, no phone, no water, and her cell phone had run out of power. This morning, as soon as we'd called all our patients to confirm that we'd be open today, the clinic's power and phone went out.

And there were two apartment complex fires in town last night.

ENOUGH ALREADY!!! *shakes fist at sky*

(Forgot to mention that Friday night/Saturday morning at the state Thespian Convention on the other side of Georgia, we had 7 inches of rain, thunderstorms, and a tornado warning.)

#4 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 11:13 AM:

Meanwhile, it was 77 degrees in some parts of Prescott AZ yesterday (and the birds are getting really loud and boisterous). But it could be snowing again by the weekend. Global weather turning chaotic, indeed!

My sympathies for all the snowed-in, power-lost, and other sufferers.

#5 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 11:16 AM:

Lila #3: Ye gods and diminutive piscines, that sounds truly nasty. Down here, we had hail, rain, thunder, lightning and snow, but the power didn't flicker (at least not in our part of Fulton County). Did have some significant work delays, and a lot of school closings (and I had the best excuse for a late arrival in class -- a student phoning me at 11 yesterday morning to tell me that he was at the airport in Indianapolis and might be a bit delayed; what was he doing in Indianapolis? Apparently a family matter. 'What's her name?' I asked sweetly).

#6 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 11:30 AM:

My wife and I are going to WesterCon/FiestaCon, to be held in Tempe, Arizona, during the July 4th weekend. Anybody else planning to go?

#7 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 11:43 AM:

What we have wanted was an end to cold
and signs of spring were there on every side:
young buds, bright flowers, the darkish days belied;

some might have said that we were getting old
and told us there were better ways to bide.
What we have wanted was an end to cold,

just warmer days, and colours green and gold,
birds coming from the tropics in their pride;
now it is snowing, and we could have cried!
What we have wanted was an end to cold.

#8 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 12:05 PM:

Marilee had to spend some emergency time at hospitals. You can send your good wishes here.

#9 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 12:18 PM:

Serge, 8,
Marilee had to spend some emergency time at hospitals. You can send your good wishes here.

Oh good heavens. That's terrible. Glad to hear it wasn't what they thought it was, though.

#10 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 12:28 PM:

Arright, here's my frivolous post that I was busy composing when the news about Marilee turned up. Um. Feel free to ignore this one if you like.

Fluorosphere, fluorosphere, lend me your ears...
O, Hai,
Why do some people not follow directions, even especially when it is in their best interests to do so? The context for me is college students not following paper submission guidelines.*

*nothing hard, mind you. Things like "this sort of thing should be centered" and "label this 'running head' and "double space your reference list."

#11 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 12:37 PM:

I'm working at the EFF this summer! Woo. I just need to survive Con Law, Admin, and Crim Law first.

#12 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 12:45 PM:

Congratulations, Will! And good to hear from you, since your last post was in November.

#13 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 12:54 PM:

Law school eats your life. OK, OK, I knew the job was dangerous when I took it (buck-buck-buckaw!), but still.

(When I started considering whether Watchmen's Keene Act was a violation of the Constitution because it was a case of Congress reaching into the police powers of the State, I knew I was lost.)

However, now that we're well into the second semester, I'm getting the hang of this. And after all, most of my classmates are on Gchat or Defamer or Perez Hilton during class.

#14 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 12:56 PM:

Serge @ 8:

I hope everything turns out for the best.

don delny @ 10:

Because they don't read the guidelines in the first place? Of course, this merely shifts the question to why they don't read them rather than why they don't follow them. I think part of it is that before university a lot of students have never really had to stick to a required format beyond putting their name on something, date it and give it an obvious title. Even if they have, no great harm came of it beyond losing a point or two.

I'm assuming here that you're talking about new college students. If you're talking about people who have been at university for a while, they have no excuse at all.

What always amazed me when we were told, repeatedly, in class, by the professor, things that we most definitely should not do, ever, on our papers for him, was that some students still did them anyway.

#15 ::: dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 12:56 PM:

I found this to be a scary, yet informative insight into how the Right view themselves. See, it's about upholding justice and honor and being hard workers, fighting those who would take advantage of the sweat of their labor: 25 top conservative movies.

#16 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 01:10 PM:

Will "scifantasy" Frank #13: When I started considering whether Watchmen's Keene Act was a violation of the Constitution because it was a case of Congress reaching into the police powers of the State, I knew I was lost.

That sounds like an interesting research paper topic.

#17 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 01:25 PM:

Will, #13: Law school definitely eats your life. Back in my 20s, I dated a law student off and on for several years. Literally off and on -- during the school year he didn't have time for a social life, but every summer he'd start calling me again!

Dolloch, #15: I just found this LOLRepublican, which I think says a lot also.

#18 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 01:49 PM:

KeithS, 14,
Because they don't read the guidelines in the first place? Of course, this merely shifts the question to why they don't read them rather than why they don't follow them.
Well, I'd like to think that too, but it depends on what you mean by 'don't read the guidelines'. I mean, they get told in class multiple times, it shows up in the syllabus, there's an example paper in the back of their textbook, they get a handout example of a cover and first page...but if they really aren't paying attention, then they aren't exactly reading the guidelines.

I think part of it is that before university a lot of students have never really had to stick to a required format beyond putting their name on something, date it and give it an obvious title. Even if they have, no great harm came of it beyond losing a point or two.
Yes, I've thought that too. I know a number of high school teachers at private schools, and I understand they struggle with that very thing. It seems one of the things that separates good private schools from mediocre public schools* isn't excellent delivery a-la Robin Williams in Dead Poet's Society, but rather a plodding persistence in insisting on doing all the fiddly bits in the required work until it becomes second nature. Still, you can hand back their papers ungraded and say, 'do it again' but they still don't necessarily fix the list of things you ask them to fix. Very odd.

I'm assuming here that you're talking about new college students. If you're talking about people who have been at university for a while, they have no excuse at all.
Yes, well, they have to have been in college for at least three semesters to have the prerequisites for this course, which is essential to their major.

What always amazed me when we were told, repeatedly, in class, by the professor, things that we most definitely should not do, ever, on our papers for him, was that some students still did them anyway.
Heh. Yes, that's humans for you.

I'm really curious about how this behavior shows up outside of college. I'm wondering what TNH, PNH, Scalzi & Co here encounter when they do writing workshops? Do you have students there who don't follow submission guidelines? Have they ever told you why? Does abi or Bruce Cohen have stories to tell about recalcitrant coders who don't turn i required documentation? Do Stross or Jim Macdonald** have tales of patients who don't follow the aftercare instructions? More importantly, WHY?

*no slight intended against good public schools, nor privileging of private vs. public
**is that capitalization right?

#19 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 01:55 PM:

> 25 top conservative movies.

What a weird list! Their idea of essentially conservative films includes Groundhog Day, Ghostbusters, The Incredibles, Brazil (!), Juno, and Team America: World Police. Gosh. What a strange idea of "conservative" they must have.

The runners-up list at the bottom of that page is better. They include a few that I'd put on my list of left-wing films out of basically conservative Hollywood.

Their runner-up list includes Amazing Grace (about the anti-slavery movement which is one of the founding myths of our British Left), Serenity (rebellion against the corporatist state), The Truman Show (the corporatist state destroys your identity in an obvious riff on big business advertising and marketing), The Witness (cop from the big bad world takes time out in an genuinely egalitarian and fraternal society - the barn-raising scene is a heartbreakingly beautiful fantasy about co-operation being better than exploitation)

And the runner-up list also includes, of all films, Three Kings. That has to be a plant. That really has to be a plant. Surely any US conservative who watched that film ought to storm out of the cinema in anger? It ought to be like a slap in the face to them. A film in which a gang of criminals trying to rescue left-wing Iraqi rebels betrayed by the US military and in the end saved by... the Iranian Revolutionary Guard!

That runner-up list has to be a plant. Some hacker sneaked in and put it there as a joke. Really.

#20 ::: Madeline Ashby ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 02:00 PM:

On good days, I remember that my greatest competitor is myself. She's the one whose records I should concentrate on breaking, because focusing on others' accomplishments is merely another way of allowing myself to maintain a static self-image, rather than a dynamic one capable of growth. Instead, I should focus on what truly lies within my control: myself, my choices, my priorities.

On good days, I remember this. On bad days, I forget.

#21 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 02:11 PM:

Apparently, Lord of the Rings is a conservative movie. I guess they missed the part where Aragorn looks at the corpse of an enemy soldier and wonders what lies his leaders used to suck him into the War on Sauron's side.

#22 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 02:18 PM:

From the 25 top conservative movies dolloch cites, guess what this movie is about, without looking:

Terrorist bombings, national-security scares, universal police surveillance, bureaucratic arrogance, a callous elite, perversion of science, and government use of torture evoke the worst aspects of the modern megastate.

For bonus points, does the 25 top conservative movies site approve or disapprove of the society portrayed in the movie?

#23 ::: katster ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 02:21 PM:

Howdy, everyone.

I mostly lurk around these parts, because you're all so awesome, and well, I'm only me, and a bit shy to boot. But an APA I belong to will celebrate five years with the next distribution, and the members of the APA have all been asked to muse on what fandom might be like in five years.

I'm still sort of a newbie at this fandom thing, so I figured I'd ask around to people who have more experience than I do. I've got a few ideas, but I always like hearing more.

I made a post on the subject to my own blog, but I'd love to hear your thoughts in any medium -- well, except maybe interpretive dance.

Thanks in advance for any help and I apologize if this is out of place.


#24 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 02:22 PM:

dolloch @ 15:

Er, wow. Some of those films I haven't seen, and some I can see where their conclusions are drawn from, but some... Yeah.

Once in a blue moon, Hollywood releases a conservative movie, or at least a film that resonates with conservatives in a particular way.

Only once in a blue moon? Really? It seems to me that Hollywood is incredibly conservative (in the US sense of the word), aptly pointed out here.

Regarding Groundhog Day:

For the conservative, the moral of the tale is that redemption and meaning are derived not from indulging your “authentic” instincts and drives, but from striving to live up to external and timeless ideals.

Groundhog Day is a good film for a number of reasons, only one of which is that there are so many different ways to read it. That said, I find it troubling that the reviewer is equating being a jerk with being one's 'authentic' self.

10. Ghostbusters (1984): This comedy might not get Russell Kirk’s endorsement as a worthy treatment of the supernatural, but you have to like a movie in which the bad guy (William Atherton at his loathsome best) is a regulation-happy buffoon from the EPA, and the solution to a public menace comes from the private sector. This last fact is the other reason to love Ghostbusters: When Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) gets kicked out of the university lab and ponders pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities, a nervous Dr. Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) replies: “I don’t know about that. I’ve worked in the private sector. They expect results!”

The EPA are the bad guys, that means it must be a conservative film, right?

Also, another implication here is that the university or university research doesn't count as the private sector. It seems to me, though, that the university expects results too, which is why they were kicked out. In the fantasy world of Ghostbusters they do get results, all well and good. Who's funding their entrepreneurial scheme? Venkman forced Stantz to take out three mortgages. Sounds like the private sector hard at work to me.

11. The Lord of the Rings (2001, 2002, 2003): Author J. R. R. Tolkien was deeply conservative, so it’s no surprise that the trilogy of movies based on his masterwork is as well. Largely filmed before 9/11, they seemed perfectly pitched for the post-9/11 world. The debates over what to do about Sauron and Saruman echoed our own disputes over the Iraq War. (Think of Wormtongue as Keith Olbermann.) When Frodo sighs, “I wish none of this had happened,” Gandalf’s response speaks to us, too: “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

Yes, Tolkien was conservative, but not in the modern, US sense of the word. The debates over Sauron and Saruman were helped by knowing that they were actually a very real threat to the world. Also, there was no preemptive war based on false intelligence, and the fellowship was made of people who volunteered despite knowing the risks. The fact that the book and the film both paint war as something that might be necessary but is never good seems to have gone straight over the reviewer's head.

12. The Dark Knight (2008): This film gives us a portrait of the hero as a man reviled. In his fight against the terrorist Joker, Batman has to devise new means of surveillance, push the limits of the law, and accept the hatred of the press and public. If that sounds reminiscent of a certain former president — whose stubborn integrity kept the nation safe and turned the tide of war — don’t mention it to the mainstream media. Our journalists know that good men are often despised by the mob; it just never seems to occur to them that they might be the mob themselves.

Did the reviewer miss the part where Batman acknowledged that his surveillance device was too much power for one person to have? Did the reviewer miss the part where it was destroyed? Did the reviewer miss the pretty explicit moral gray areas surrounding the entire story? Did the reviewer miss the part where Batman could have just killed the Joker but didn't? I certainly seem to have missed the part where Bush's reckless actions made us safer, or where the press hated him.

17. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (2005): The White Witch runs a godless, oppressive, paranoid regime that hates Santa Claus. She’s a cross between Burgermeister Meisterburger and Kim Jong Il. The good guys, meanwhile, recognize that some throats will need cutting: no appeasement, no land-for-peace swaps, no offering the witch a snowmobile if she’ll only put away the wand. Underlying the narrative is the story of Christ’s rescuing man from sin — which is antithetical to the leftist dream of perfected man’s becoming an instrument for earthly utopia. The results of such utopian visions, of course, are frequently like the Witch’s reign: always winter, and never Christmas.

A humanist desire to better society and help people looks like an oppressive, totalitarian regime run by a power-hungry dictator? Ok, then. The reviewer's claim, "The good guys, meanwhile, recognize that some throats will need cutting" is particularly bloodthirsty and not, I think, in line with the film. It's certainly not in line with Lewis's text, if I remember correctly.

Didn't Jesus have some particularly socialist things to say about wealth, poverty and helping one's fellow people, too?

This is far too long, and I've only touched on the films that I've seen. Comments?

#25 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 02:24 PM:

The Lord of the Rings is a deeply conservative story, and Jackson and Co. didn't entirely destroy its message.

But it's not about Americans with inherited wealth stamping on the faces of the poor, so it's not a "U.S. Republican Party" story.

#26 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 02:37 PM:

don delny @ 18:

I understand what you're saying about good schools versus mediocre schools. I think you're right that the good ones make the students internalize all the fiddly bits to make them routine. I also think it's sad that there is often such a difference in quality between public and private schools.

That said, yes there are plenty of adults who don't follow requirements, too, for whatever reason. Sometimes people believe that they know better than the experts for inexplicable reasons. Sometimes there's a belief in an inherent specialness so that the rules don't apply. I wish I understood it.

#27 ::: dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 02:43 PM:

Lee @ 17 - That is AWESOME. Thanks!

Ken Brown @ 19 - I know, bizarre right? I get the impression that the train of thought is something like "I work really hard to get what I have. The world is inherently a fair, even, and just place. Therefore, anyone higher on the social economic ladder than me must be a harder worker with better skills. Likewise, anyone lower than me must be lazier or less skilled. Those above me have no reason to lie because they're better than me. Those below have every reason because they're jealous of my success."

On a related note, I'm sort of surprised (but not really) that Rambo III didn't make the list. I watched it recently and it was almost funny in a laugh-or-else-you'll-cry sort of a way.

A short excerpt:

Mousa: This is Afghanistan... Alexander the Great try to conquer this country... then Genghis Khan, then the British. Now Russia. But Afghan people fight hard, they never be defeated. Ancient enemy make prayer about these people... you wish to hear?
Rambo: Um-hum.
Mousa: Very good. It says, 'May God deliver us from the venom of the Cobra, teeth of the tiger, and the vengeance of the Afghan.' Understand what this means?
Rambo: That you guys don't take any shit?
Mousa: Yes... something like this.

#28 ::: dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 03:07 PM:

KeithS @24


Jesus was down right communist! That whole "love thine neighbor as thyself" and "love thine enemy as thyself" thing seems to lead directly to "afford people you don't like the same rights and privileges you enjoy, and they won't have a reason to hate you".

The theme that gets me is (and I know there's a proper term for this, but I can't recall it) a sort of proletariat-knight ideal: The honor and duty of a Charlemagne knight mixed with "lets roll up our sleeves and get it done 'cause it needs doin'". Plus it has a touch of the "whatever it takes" thrown in, particularly in The Dark Knight. Never mind that in the Batman universe, the regular system is so corrupt that there's no hope it will turn around on it's own (and they even address it when Bruce considers the Bat might not be needed anymore).

#29 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 03:09 PM:

#26, from KeithS,
That said, yes there are plenty of adults who don't follow requirements, too, for whatever reason. Sometimes people believe that they know better than the experts for inexplicable reasons. Sometimes there's a belief in an inherent specialness so that the rules don't apply. I wish I understood it.

Yes, THIS. Really, I think about 20% or so of all people are resistant to following directions, regardless of age or training. I'm wondering if it's because they are resistant to learning how to do it, or if they are just resistant to doing it.

#30 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 03:16 PM:

Ken Brown @19,

Serenity (rebellion against the corporatist state), The Truman Show (the corporatist state destroys your identity in an obvious riff on big business advertising and marketing),

Thing is, they like to see themselves as being against state power, and like to pretend that the main thing the state does is to limit business, and that they, therefore, are some kind of bold rebels.

And the runner-up list also includes, of all films, Three Kings. That has to be a plant. [...] A film in which a gang of criminals trying to rescue left-wing Iraqi rebels betrayed by the US military and in the end saved by... the Iranian Revolutionary Guard!

Well, for them, anyone who's against Saddam obviously has to be right wing.

Niall McAuley @22, the posts on the different movies are written by different writers, and the one on Brazil is from one of those "we're the Real Conservatives, and the Bush supporters aren't" types, whom National Review apparently invited for one post as some kind of token gesture.

#31 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 03:30 PM:

I need to complain for a moment.

I am in the jury lounge waiting to see if they need me for afternoon court.

CNN is on and cannot be shut off.

I believe it is actually making me stupider. It is certainly giving me a headache.

I don't usually watch CNN. It really is every cliché of lazy journalism. Shouting heads; a guy stating, without opposition, that Obama's stimulus plan will cause a depression, 100% guarantee -- that last during a financial advice segment, presented as financial advice (his advice seemed to be "Panic").


#32 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 03:45 PM:

I wonder what Joss Whedon thinks of Serenity being perceived as conservative.

("Why is Joss doing a Joker impersonation today?")

#33 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 03:52 PM:

dolloch @ 28:

Batman is an interesting fantasy to consider. I can't speak to the comic books at all, not having read any of them (there goes some of my geek cred), but I have seen and enjoyed the new films. In the films, Batman is explicitly a result of the breakdown of law and order. He recognizes that what he is doing is as illegal as anything else going on in Gotham City, and looks forward to the day he can hang up his cape. He holds strong morals, and yet he compromises them on occasion.

On one level, we like Batman because we see that he serves justice that is otherwise lacking. We want good people to be safe and bad people punished. On another level, we see all the problems inherent to that situation. He's only one person, although he does have help. (There's an interesting question; how many people would acknowledge that Batman couldn't do the things that he does if he hadn't started off wealthy and with good friends?) He doesn't "push the limits of the law", he breaks the law time and again. Sure, he gets results and serves the spirit of the law even as he breaks it, but do the ends justify the means? I don't think that they do in the real world.

Caroline @ 31:

Accidentally trip over the power cord? I was stuck in an airport, and I could feel myself getting stupider as CNN was playing, despite trying to ignore it. Fortunately, the terminal was not yet crowded and I could relocate. It's things like that that make me want to buy one of these.

#34 ::: Comelovesleep ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 04:31 PM:

KeithS@33--I always thought that Batman was a crazy man. I didn't dislike him as much as Superman, growing up (Superman just seemed so naive to me, even as a nine-year-old) but I've met a person or two in real life who viewed the world the same way that the character does. I love one or two of them, but that doesn't stop them from being really creepy sometimes.

And apropos of nothing--
My favourite piece of poetry today.

#35 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 04:34 PM:

Makes me wonder how many criminal gangs started out as self-defense organisations against other criminal gangs.

#36 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 04:45 PM:

Comelovesleep @ 34... Superman has always been my favorite of the two, even though they both have a major loss as their origin. Batman is edgier than the World's Mightiest Boyscout, but, if both characters existed in the real world, which one would we want kids to emulate?

"Live as one of them, Kal-El, to discover where your strength and your power are needed. Always hold in your heart the pride of your special heritage. They can be a great people, Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you... my only son."
#37 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 04:45 PM:

#34, Comelovesleep -

One of the Batman fans I follow on LJ loves him precisely because he's seriously messed up (and is passing the crazy on to multiple Robins), and pimps* the comic accordingly. Makes it look quite intriguing, actually.

*Well, she used to. She's still a fan, but as fen do, she's wandering in other fields and there haven't been any Crazy!Batman scans lately.

#38 ::: Comelovesleep ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 04:53 PM:

Serge@36 -- Oh, Superman, definitely. I would much rather raise my someday-kids to be buddhas than paranoids. But I think I'm probably a lot less cynical now than I was as a child.

R.M Koske@37 -- good point. It can definitely be fun to watch the crazy...but troublesome to watch people hold it up as heroics, too.

#39 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 05:09 PM:

#38, Comelovesleep-

Ack, yes. Forgot the context *that* quickly. A role model he ain't.

#40 ::: dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 05:13 PM:

Raphael @ 35

Quite a few, apparently. IIRC, MS formed to protect El Salvadorian immigrants from the abuse of local thugs.

#41 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 05:39 PM:

Serge, #21: I think that scene is only on the extended DVD version. So yeah, they probably did miss it.

Alternatively, they view us as being Sauron, and think that anyone who believes in our ideals must have been led astray by foul lies... which is also a plausible reading for their reaction.

KeithS, 24: "Authentic self" = "jerk" is very much in line with the idea that Christianity is the only thing keeping everyone from becoming selfish, brutal monsters. "Living up to timeless ideals" is code here for finding (the Christian) religion.

and #33: how many people would acknowledge that Batman couldn't do the things that he does if he hadn't started off wealthy and with good friends?

IIRC, this is made pretty explicit in the comic version. Batman can only do what he does because he has the Wayne fortune and its influence behind him, and because Commissioner Gordon accepts him as an ally (albeit sometimes an uncomfortable one). I don't know how much of this has carried over into the movies, because I've only seen the first one.

It's interesting for me, as an adult, to look back on the comics I read as a kid and be able to sort them into genre categories. Batman was very clearly Gothic horror, and that had its influence on all sorts of things within the series -- including the fact that both Batman and a lot of his opponents were shown as being seriously messed up mentally. Not just the Joker, but think about the Riddler, the Penguin, Two-Face, even Catwoman...

#42 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 06:02 PM:

Lee @ 41... If I remember correctly, that scene was also in the original theatrical release, but that was a few years ago and since then we've watched the whole story on DVD a few times. That being said, yes, they see us as the Wormtongues of our world, corrupting everything that is Good and destroying what it cannot corrupt. Still, I wonder how they deal with the fact that the Good Guys are shown as literal tree huggers while Saruman is destroying Nature for the sake of accelerated industrialization.

#43 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 06:06 PM:

Comelovesleep @ 38... I'm probably a lot less cynical now than I was as a child

It becomes exhausting to see everything thru the prism of cynicism, doesn't it? There's plenty to be cynical about, but there's plenty to be awed by, and in love with.

#44 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 06:11 PM:

Comelovesleep @ 34:

I'm not sure that Batman comes across as crazy in the Christopher Nolan films, and his portrayal in the comics rather depends on who's writing him at the time. Even so, you probably do have to be a little cracked to dress up as a bat and run around the city fighting crime. Kit Whitfield has an interesting read on the plausibility of it all.

Lee @ 41:

While the review and reviewer for Narnia are very much of the Christianity is the only way school, I'm not sure that's true of the Groundhog Day review. I read the condemnation of the "authentic self" as a condemnation of the idea that we can be who we want to be, and "Living up to timeless ideals" more as a call for returning to the mythical sitcom '50s (as opposed to the '50s that actually were). You might very well be right as to the religious aspect, though.

The reason I asked about Batman's money and friends is because only as I was writing that did it strike me that US conservatives seem to think (or say they think) that success in life is something that you earn with hard work, rather than something that is a combination of money, friends, family, work, luck and many other factors. Imagine some poor schlub who decided that he wanted to fight crime too. He might be able to afford some tights and a balaclava, and I'm sure he'd work very hard, but he'd wind up arrested or beat up by gangs. So much for only hard work bringing success.

#45 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 06:19 PM:

You know, if I'm this wiped out at the end of the first day I have to vaccinate calves, I am not looking forward to the next dozen.

#46 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 06:25 PM:

KeithS @ 33, I gave my father one of those for Christmas one year, since he was traveling a lot for work. I really wished for one today.

Unfortunately the TV (and power cable) was mounted high on the wall, so you couldn't accidentally trip over it.

I've escaped, though. Ahhh, peace.

Today I have learned that I actually cannot read while the TV is on. I already knew that I couldn't carry on conversation while it was on. I really need to increase the SNR in my brain. Maybe some improved filters.

#47 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 06:41 PM:

On guidelines and following them:
I really dislike the thesis template I am required to use. It's useful, I won't deny that, but there is no support nor any version for the new Word (which I happily do not have) and it's just frustrating. Most of the people I've spoken to see it as a major obstacle in writing, more than anything else.

As for things you are told not to write by professors, and yet write anyway, one of the best professors I've had had a style sheet of her own. Species names are not adjectives, "there is" does not happen, "it is ___ that" does not happen, things like that. The first paper I turned in was still full of them because it was so automatic. I try not to use them still, but it takes more time to make a decent sentence good than I sometimes have, and I've forgotten my workarounds.

#48 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 07:02 PM:

There's been talk on Making Light from time to time on how moderation works, how a healthy online community is built and so on (And is Teresa writing a book on that, or do people just wish she would? I forget...)

I've just noticed that Paul Graham has an essay on it over at, and there's certainly some overlap with things I've heard here - most specifically "don't let bad behaviour start or it will snowball".

It's an interesting read, but I'm refraining from having any opinions about it for the moment, as I've never done any moderation.

#49 ::: Mashell ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 07:10 PM:

Katster @23: I would think any topic on the evolution of fandom should take into account Twitter, where one can read updates, opinions and thoughts from your favorite authors, actors, etc. I am sure in the next 5 years such networking sites will grow ever more pervasive.
Any particular type of fandom you are writing on?

#50 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 07:20 PM:

I'd be interested in more moderator discussion. I'm a mod on a big flickr group, and we've got a good community, but growth is outpacing the group culture, and it's starting to have some issues.

Some of it is solved by technology, some with more moderators, and some by harvesting some of the energy of the more committed users. I think. We'll see how well it works.

#51 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 07:40 PM:

I'm a fan of Batman, and I'd like to bring up another aspect of the story that a lot of people miss.

One of the central points of Batman is that No One But Batman Can Be Batman. Firstly, he's as good at everything as it is possible to be while still being an unmodified human. He's insane, but his insanity dances on this perfect knife's edge that actually improves efficiency and prevents harm. He's one of the wealthiest people in the world. Without all these things perfectly balanced, it wouldn't WORK.

In a lot of ways, Lex Luthor is the perfect example of this. Take Batman's mental acuity and inherent talent and add offensive capitalism and a desire for fame and you get Luthor.

There have been a lot of Batman stories where someone other than him tries to do the job and gets it wrong. Sometimes they get it wrong, things go bad, and the person ends up injured, sometimes they get it wrong and become a villain themselves, there's an almost endless number of variations on that theme.

This lets people think that batman is cool without wanting to emulate him, because you have to know that you'll fail. I think that someone or something can be a figure of reverence without being a "role model" or a subject for emulation. That's where I put Batman. He is his own thing, not an example or a moral system. He's just the Batman.

#52 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 07:50 PM:

Re: conservative films.

Lord of the Rings is conservative? Well, in a sense. But one of the main themes is a sharp criticism of the panopticon, which doesn't resonate too well with conservatives these days. That's not even touching the anti-war idea, and the concept that even if you're forced to fight you need to retain a sense of the enemy's own humanity and possible helplessness in the face of circumstances. (Incidentally: that line is Aragorn's in the film? It's Sam's in the book, and I think it fits him much better.)

Braveheart? "Armed revolution doesn't get you anywhere except the scaffold".

Team America: World Police... oh, I see what they've done there. They refer to the central characters as "heroes".

The Incredibles: I have to admit, the only clear message I came away with from this one was that all short people are comedy characters.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: well, the film did involve a lot of waving swords around at pointless and dramatically inappropriate moments, and the Pevensey children manage to take all the credit despite not actually doing very much of anything. If that's conservative...

As for 300 - this is just how bad 300 is.

#53 ::: WereBear ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 07:54 PM:

I always liked Batman because he was flawed, knew it, and struggled with it. And we are talking some of the craziest, most compelling villains ever, such as Two-Face, who flipped between dark and light, mutilated and not.

This train of thought was tripped by the comment here:

Raphael @ 35:

Makes me wonder how many criminal gangs started out as self-defense organisations against other criminal gangs.

Perceptually, to them, they all did.

#54 ::: DonBoy ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 07:56 PM:

When I rewatched Batman Begins recently, I realized that they'd turned the justification for the batsuit completely around from the ancient original, although it's only the logical endpoint of how the character has evolved. In the classic 193x origin, he dresses as a bat because "criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot", so they should be scared of bats. In the movie, Bruce says in so many words that he dresses as a bat because he's scared of bats (from the childhood fall into the cave, for a start) and "now it's their turn". Yeah, their, Bruce, you're just trying to project your fear outwards. (And his guilt about his fear; he makes his parents leave the opera because he's freaked out by the character in it dressed like a bat, and then they get killed.)

#55 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 07:57 PM:

Caroline, #46--Ear protectors. Might double up with both the internal and external kind if you can get away with it. Best of luck and my sympathy.

#56 ::: katster ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 08:47 PM:

Mashell @ 49:

Yeah, actually the Internet in general and Twitter in specific. I'm still not entirely sure what to make of Twitter despite the fact that I'm an active participant on the site, but I love seeing the experiments.

My focus is general science fiction fandom, somewhat tying into the "how do we save (and grow) worldcon", but I'd not mind hearing from folks in other fandoms. Fandom as it's defined on the internet strikes me as fascinating -- things like Harry Potter fandom, these ultra-specific things as opposed to the general umbrella. (Of course part of me wonders how to get them from the specific to the general, but that might be out of scope.)

In general, I'm mainly looking for thoughts on the subject. The way I approach things like this is to ask a bunch of people what they think, and then mix liberally with my own thoughts. Thus, I tend to be somewhat vague about the question in order to get answers without biasing them.

But, yes, I think any discussion of the next five years is going to have to involve the Internet. So much has changed just since 2003-2004, and I don't see the innovation slowing down anytime soon.

(As why five years? Fifth anniversary, of course.)


#57 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 08:51 PM:

Caroline @46:
My local hospital has TVs in many of the waiting rooms. They're OK with my waiting out in the hall, they even moved a bench for me when they saw me sitting on the floor reading a book (the first time this happened, they were surprised how easily I bounced up from the floor since I was there for pre-admission testing for urgent surgery).
My own TV still works -- I turned it on for the Inauguration. And proceeded to be appalled at how fast it segued from "The Audacity of Hope", and "The Fierce Urgency of Now" to the utter banality of political commentators.

#58 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 09:14 PM:

Leah Miller @ 51... Take Batman's mental acuity and inherent talent and add offensive capitalism and a desire for fame and you get Luthor

Luthor's motivation in the revised comics is that he feels that Superman has robbed humanity of its destiny, and of his being the one to guide that destiny. Others, like Lois Lane's father, have similar feelings and want to destroy the alien from Krypton who recently found out that not being the last of his species is one of those wishes that one should be careful of.

#59 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 09:50 PM:

I used to read superhero comics regularly in my teens. I never much liked Superman or Batman. The one was dull; the other was crazy. I had more time for Blue Beetle, the Elongated Man, and the Martian Manhunter.

So if superheroes reflect what we find heroic, apparently I metaphorically look up to no-respect second stringers whose fans Google them years later only to discover they've been ignominiously killed off in a cheap attempt at "grit."

Thanks for the life lesson, DC!

#60 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 10:42 PM:

Serenity is Johnny Reb the Red State Loser out in the w/i/l/d w/e/s/t continuing to fight against the despicable Y/a/n/k/e/e/s anti-rugged-individualist- l/e/f/t/i/e/c/o/m/m/i/e/p/i/n/k/o/s/o/c/i/a/l/is/t-Establishment Opposition that t/o/o/k h/i/s/ p/l/a/n/t/a/t/i/o/n disenfranchised and displaced him.

The equating of the Deep South victim mentality (I remember at Noreascon II or II Greg Benford going into "the south fell a century plus ago oh woe oh horror whine whine whine" and still can't be bothered to get up and do anything except whine about it mode... )with the characters of Serenity is I suspect what put it into the "conservative film" bin by the article's writer(s).

#61 ::: JHomes ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 11:15 PM:

Sam Kelly @ 52.
(Incidentally: that line is Aragorn's in the film? It's Sam's in the book, and I think it fits him much better.)

It's actually Faramir's line in the film; it's still part of the ambush in Ithilien, where Aragorn was not. But it still works better as Sam's.


#62 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 11:34 PM:

Nice bait-and-switch, Teresa.

#63 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2009, 11:44 PM:


#64 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 12:18 AM:

Sam Kelly @ 52 - For some reason, I was convinced your '300' link was going to be to this Robot Chicken sketch. Different ways of getting to the same place, I guess.

#65 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 01:39 AM:

Paula, #60: I agree. Maybe it's a function of having grown up in Michigan and then moving first to Tennessee and then to Texas, but the whole Confederate-worship thing makes me ill. I picked up the Confederacy identification vibe almost immediately from the Firefly/Serenity tie-in merchandise, and that's one of the reasons I've never been able to take a shine to the show. No matter what Joss intended, it feels like Confederate-worship propaganda to me, and that's very off-putting.

#66 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 01:41 AM:

Oh my croggle. This Watchmen pastiche is so utterly perfect.

First one's not bad either.

#67 ::: daisy ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 06:22 AM:

im loving the refernce to ghostbusters - highly appropiate

its got the theme tune running through my head

#68 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 06:32 AM:

Wesley @ 59... Ever read the Martian Manhunter mini-series American Secrets? It was quite good.

#69 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 06:34 AM:

JHomes @ 61... Faramir, not Aragorn? If so, my apologies for the mistake.

#70 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 06:38 AM:

Paula @ 60... Lee @ 65... I think this came up in ML a couple of years ago, but I saw Firefly/Serenity as what if the North had lost, if only because of slavery.

#71 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 07:23 AM:

Serge, #68: No, but the Martian Manhunter I liked was pretty specifically the easygoing, cookie-munching guy with the odd sense of humor who appeared in the Keith Giffen Justice League series. Every other time I've seen him he's been written as a dour creep.

If this is different, I might seek it out someday.

#72 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 07:35 AM:

Wesley... American Secrets came out in the 1990s, but is set in the late 1950s. It's been some time since I read the story, but it did have some humor in it, like when Jones goes to a restaurant and, upon asked if there's a table he'd prefer, he responds with a smile that any table is fine as long as there's no burning candle. Then the story introduces a game show where a contestant explodes on the air, a thinly disguised version of Mad Magazine, some rock & roll singer too if I remember correctly. And did I mention Fidel Castro playing baseball?

#73 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 07:46 AM:


I tend to see the structure of the situation in Serenity/Firefly as being more like the result of the North and South teaming up against the West.

#74 ::: Peter Darby ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 08:01 AM:

Top Conservative movies?

(Then again, the original is so close to being self parody, was this necessary?)

#75 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 08:01 AM:

Michael I @ 73... Interesting theory, but can it deal with Mal's wartime people wearing WW2 outfits and helmets while the Alliance has sailors attired like the Kaiser's Navy?

#76 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 09:40 AM:

Is there somebody in the New York City area who'd be willing to record "Sita sings the Blues". The local PBS station is supposed to air it this coming Saturday, I think.

#77 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 09:40 AM:

Is there somebody in the New York City area who'd be willing to record "Sita sings the Blues". The local PBS station is supposed to air it this coming Saturday, I think.

#78 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 09:40 AM:

The Scriptorium, home of all the cool fonts, has put up a free "Little Guide to Home Bookbinding," based on scans from an early 20th Century decorative arts book.

#79 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 09:41 AM:

So writing this means admitting to the other show that I watch every week. Please keep all snickering and pointing to a minimum. (Really! I only watch it because of Neil Patrick Harris! I swear!)

Reading this list of "conservative movies" reminds me of this week's How I Met Your Mother, where Barney's talking about all his favorite movies. He likes the Karate Kid because it's about THE Karate Kid - Johnny Lawrence. He lists about half a dozen movies and in each one, he's got this totally bizarre (yet vaguely plausible) reading of the movie where the villians are actually the heroes.

As far as superheroes go, I've always been a Spiderman girl. (My very first sneakers were Spiderman. Turns out they can turn a whole load of laundry pink, so you shouldn't let your mom wash them with your dad's underwear.) Superman was kind of boring and Batman was ok when it was the tv show, but as I've gotten older and gone along reading the comics, I've liked him less and less. Now he's... I don't even know what he is. Some sort of bizarre god to whom mortal rules no longer apply. It disturbs me that he's shown as always being right in an ends-justifies-the-means sort of way. I mean, duh, EVERYONE thinks they're right about everything, but that doesn't make it true. I get the wish fulfillment bit of the superhero genre, but...

(But what? I don't really know. I'm not a social pyschologist or anything, I just think Batman embodies some really twistable ideals in probably a not-good way.)

#80 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 09:51 AM:

Serge, #6: Hilde and I will be at FiestaCon/Westercon, though we'll be daytripping.

KeithS, #44: Middle-Class Batman

#81 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 10:17 AM:

Iceland protects its elves! According to Michael Lewis,

Alcoa, the biggest aluminum company in the country, encountered ... problems peculiar to Iceland when, in 2004, it set about erecting its giant smelting plant. The first was the so-called “hidden people”—or, to put it more plainly, elves—in whom some large number of Icelanders, steeped long and thoroughly in their rich folkloric culture, sincerely believe. Before Alcoa could build its smelter it had to defer to a government expert to scour the enclosed plant site and certify that no elves were on or under it. It was a delicate corporate situation, an Alcoa spokesman told me, because they had to pay hard cash to declare the site elf-free but, as he put it, “we couldn’t as a company be in a position of acknowledging the existence of hidden people.”
Hat tip to Hilzoy, who comments further,
I wondered, though: could the bit about the elves possibly be true? According to Iceland's Tourist Bureau, the answer is basically: yes, although they make the part about making sure that construction sites are elf-free sound more voluntary, and the 'hidden people' include not just elves but gnomes, trolls, fairies, and others:

"Builders of the country's first shopping mall took care to lay electrical cables and other underground installations well away from the suspected homes of gnomes and fairies. Couples who are planning a new house will sometimes hire "elf-spotters" to make sure the lot is free of spirit folk. Such broadmindedness might be just self-protection. Tales abound of broken limbs, busted equipment and other woes befalling builders daring to go where elves and hidden people traditionally tread.

The Iceland road authority typically responds with sensitivity, routing roads around hallowed boulders or delaying construction long enough to give non-human constituents time to find new accommodations.

When bulldozers kept breaking down during work on a new road a few years ago at Ljarskogar, about three hours drive north of Reykjavik, road crews solved the problem in an unorthodox way but one which is fairly common in Iceland. They accepted an offer from a medium to find out if the land was populated by elves and, if so, were they causing the disruptions.

Viktor A. Ingolfsson, a spokesman for the road agency, says, "When Native Americans protest roads being built over ancient burial grounds, the U.S. listens. It's the same here. There are people who believe in elves and we don't make fun of them. We try to deal with them.""

#82 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 10:21 AM:

Bruce Arthurs @ 80... Glad to hear you'll be at Westercon/Fiestacon too. Maybe if there's enough of us there, we could have a mini-ML gathering.

#83 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 10:22 AM:

Mary Dell @78, I am grateful that The Scriptorium, back in the day, contributed the design of an arrow character for the (fairly incomplete) Chili Pepper font that was used in the design of the San Antonio WorldCon web site.

#84 ::: sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 10:49 AM:

Serge @ 75

The Alliance's uniforms resonate in the American hind-brain as those of the Bad, Tyrannical, Controlling Germans with their mustard gas and barbed wire and trenches, and the WWII uniforms are of "Our Brave Boys," heroes of so many battles against the evil Hitler. It's a cultural resonance thing. I'm sure a good thaumaturge/dramaturge could give you a better analysis.

#85 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 11:08 AM:


Sorry I missed your first post in amid all the Batman stuff. Welcome. I can't really help you with your question, but there are many knowledgeable people here.

Caroline @ 46:

I'm still looking for the liberal bias that CNN is supposed to have. I have to take multi-month breaks between exposures because I can feel the stupid when I watch it.

Peter Darby @ 74 and Bruce Arthurs @ 80:

I needed a good laugh to start the day. Thanks.

Mary Dell @ 78:

Very pretty.

Now I'm trying to think of some other conservative films. How about these?

The Adventures of Robin Hood: Good King Richard goes off to fight a holy war against the infidels, but while he's away his immoral brother Prince John and his cronies usurp power. They implement liberal taxation policies and regulations that make free enterprise impossible. Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men bravely take up arms against their illegitimate ruler so that they can return their true leader to his rightful place.

Ratatouille: You may not think your CEO does much to earn his keep because he tends to remain hidden from the everyday workers. This movie cleverly demonstrates what would happen if ungrateful workers expelled their hard-working executives using the clever allegory of a rat helping a boy to cook. It also demonstrates the folly of intrusive government regulation in an otherwise successful private enterprise.

#86 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 11:25 AM:

Sisuile @ 84... It's a cultural resonance thing last year's comic-book revival of Dan Dare, where Dare, a man of 21st Century, is seen wearing the jacket of the Battle of Britain's flyboys. Not subtle at all, but it gets the message across loud and clear. That's really what culture is: it's a series of assumptions that don't need to be explained.

#87 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 11:27 AM:

NEW Clovis cache site found by a landscaping crew working in the yard of a homeowner below Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder is 13,000 years old.

#88 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 11:43 AM:

Prehistoric craftsman rolls over in his grave, slaps forehead, mutters "So that's where I left those tools!"

#89 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 12:19 PM:

The droghte of Marche is somewhat oppressive hereabouts already--we could use some Aprille shoures sote to perce it to the rote.

#90 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 12:24 PM:

Jacque, thnks for posting that. Although the word's "it was all out of the ground" made my heart bleed; even cache sites have context and context is all!

Although protein residue and flaking patterns are pretty darned useful. Having spent a semester breaking rock in the lithics lab at WSU the surfaces of those tools are like a long book.

#91 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 12:25 PM:

#862 ::: David Harmon (previous Open Thread)
The Firefox plugin "leetkey" does Rot13 quite nicely. (You just need to assign it to a key.)

David (or anyone) -

Up till now I've been using highlight text/right click & etc. Your way sounds a lot better. I can get to the Leetkey settings, but am unable to figure out how to assign a key. It default-inserts VK_L, which means what? Which key do you use? What do you type in to assign it?


#92 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 12:49 PM:

Note: I have once again used a greengrocer's apostrophe. I suspect I should have stopped reading Making Money one page earlier.

#93 ::: Dan R. ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 01:25 PM:

Carol @ 91:

1. Get ROT13 from the dropdown box for Function Name.

2. Click into Key Shortcut Combination box.

3. Hit your shortcut combination (I chose alt-R). It will show as Alt +VK_R (don't know why!)

4. Hit the Apply button.

#94 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 01:54 PM:

Well, I always do the ROT-13ing in my head. Fb gurer.

#95 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 02:14 PM:

KeithS #44:

Okay, but the richest, most athletic guy in the world, with the baddest-ass toys, would also soon get shot or beaten up by criminals or arrested or something. That stuff works in movies and comic books, but not in reality, where (for example) a badass combat vet wearing body armor can be done in by a 15 year old kid with a rifle, or by a remote-control bomb that a malevolent high school science fair contestant could put together.

#96 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 02:17 PM:

Ever want a tee shirt declaring that you've stopped masturbating? You can get one here.

I'm boggling.

#97 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 02:33 PM:

albatross @ 95... We tend to forget that comic-book characters are fantasies - meaning that we wouldn't want them to occur in the real world, but we go what-if while consciously putting the negative aspects away in a box.

#98 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 02:42 PM:

albatross @ 95:

That's true as well. I was thinking more that someone without the money and connections would have a harder time squeaking out of the consequences of his actions, but a knife between the shoulderblades definitely cramps anyone's style.

R.M. Koske @ 96:

If you have to wear a shirt that says it, would anyone at all believe you? The comments on the page in Comic Sans are tripping my not-a-parody-at-all-unfortunately sense.

#99 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 02:46 PM:

R.M. Koske @ 96 -

Those t-shirts will probably work as well as The Contest.

#100 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 02:48 PM:

Firefly is a very conservative show--you can tell, because the highest-status character on the show is a prostitute, the crew is constantly on the run from an oppressive corporatist, militaristic state, and most of the people they deal with day-to-day are on one end or another of some kind of really ugly economic exploitation. It's also a deeply liberal show--you can tell, because everyone carries a gun around all the time, the characters are always trying to evade meddlesome regulations and (presumably) taxes, and the driving loyalties of the show involve family ties and a deep friendship forged between two combat vets. The complete absence of racial tensions or awareness implies that it's a conservative show (or was that liberal?). The constant hostility to authority at all levels implies that it's a liberal show (or was that conservative?).

American political coalitions cover, like, 0.00001 of the range of possible worldviews/positions, and inevitably stick together all kinds of utterly unrelated ideologies and ideologues. Any movie or TV show or book that follows those lines cleanly and perfectly is likely to be almost a self-caricature. Reality doesn't follow the party lines established by compromise and the need to hold together a coalition to win elections, and good art doesn't, in general, either.

#101 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 02:54 PM:

Serge @ 97:

That's usually true. In this particular discussion I don't think it's entirely true in different ways.

The original review seemed to think that it was a perfectly desirable fantasy, while most of us here think that it's most certainly not. In my query about recognizing that Batman's success depends on his existing resources, I was pretending that it was at least somewhat realistic for the sake of argument.

Also, The Dark Knight is good because Batman has to do what needs to be done including having massive, unchecked surveillance powers, but Brazil is good because it shows how dangerous having massive, unchecked surveillance powers is? Cognative dissonance, much?

#102 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 03:16 PM:

Carol Kimball #91

Sorry, I forgot about that that awful settings panel... OK, here's the "high bit" on setting up ROT13 in leetkey:

There are six boxed groups of controls on the panel. Ignore everything but the second box from the top. This one has two controls, labeled "Function Name" and "Key Shortcut Combination".

The former is a dropdown box which is probably showing something like "Type in l33t". Drop the menu and select "ROT13" from the second batch of entries (not "type in ROT13" from the first).

Now click on the other control (giving it focus) and type whatever key combo you want to invoke ROT13 with (I use Alt-R). Now click on something else to get focus away from the control. The OK button will do..... ;-)

Now you can select text on a webpage, and press (e.g.) Alt-R to ROT13 the selected text. This works in comment boxes, too. Unccl gevfxnqrpnchgerfprapr!

#103 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 03:17 PM:

Wireless robot vacuum cleaner by iRobot. Powered by a hamster ball.

#104 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 03:30 PM:

For the hero discussion, here's a review of the new straight-to-DVD Wonder Woman animated movie. I'd noticed on one of the new animated series on Cartoon Network they were trying to go a lot grittier, and it looks like they've carried that interpretation of Wonder-Woman-as-hardass-Amazon over.

#105 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 03:42 PM:

KeithS @ 101... There isn't really a congitive dissonance because, as was pointed out in this thread, even Batman knows the dangers of such powers and gives the keys to someone else.

As for the original review seeming to think that it was a perfectly desirable fantasy... He may think it's a fantasy he'd like to see carried over into the real world, but I bet you he wouldn't like the results once it happens. Especially if the fantasy turns out to be a Democrat like Steve Rogers, aka Captain America.

#106 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 03:50 PM:

And from the comments underneath that WIRED review:

"Born in the 40's when women were beautiful and gracious beings, I can see how women have been so completely perverted into masculine thugs as many are today. A young girl growing up with these kind of he-woman cartoons are sure to loose any sight of God's designs for women. But then you women know better than God as to what you should do. And when things start going terribly wrong with our country and your life as a result of your love and voting for your new messiah, Obama, then don't come running for the nearest man for protection and support as you are inclined to do."

I snorted. How unladylike.

#107 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 04:17 PM:

J Austin @ 106... Born in the 40's when women were beautiful and gracious beings

...such as Marjorie Main, Thelma Ritter and Mary Wickes.

#108 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 04:22 PM:

Serge @ 105: Good point. I hadn't thought of it that way.

#109 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 04:29 PM:

Serge@107... Right? Even if that's a real comment, I kept wondering which 50's he grew up in. I was born much later, but I lived with my grandparents a long time, so I watched a lot of wonderful old movies with fabulously un-ideal women.

#110 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 04:31 PM:

KeithS @ 108... By the way, that reviewer would have a fit if Green Arrow (whose nickname for Batman is 'Chuckles') started shooting boxing-glove arrows at corporate criminals like Ken Lay.

#111 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 04:35 PM:

J Austin @ 109... Assuming that this is not a spoof, one could also point out the likes of Katharine Hepburn, whose characters were flawed and who... gasp!... had a mind of their own.

#112 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 04:42 PM:

I miss those old social comedies, and the balls of fire--the list of interesting actresses, writers, photographers and all just goes on--and now, it's really hard for me to put together a list of fascinating younger celebrities. Maybe they're just fascinating in retrospect, after an accumulation of life in the corners.

#113 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 05:04 PM:

About the old movie stars -- life is a bit harder for impressionists these days because the voices for contemporary stars just aren't as distinctive. How would you know if an impressionist was doing Brad Pitt or Ben Affleck? There's Nicholson, of course, but he's been around since the sixties.

But we don't have voices like Robert Mitchum or Jimmy Stewart or James Cagney anymore.

#114 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 06:43 PM:

J Austin @ 112... I don't know who among today's actors will be remembered the way we remember some of the old-timers. Clint Eastwood, maybe Harrison Ford, at least among Americans, but I'm not sure that people have a long-range memory of cinema anymore, or even how much longevity the actors have. And yes, my saying that does make me feel like an old guy shaking his cane at the kids on his lawn.

#115 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 06:45 PM:

Steve C @ 113... Well, there is Alan Rickman. Also, I've been told I can do Christophe Lambert although I didn't know I was doing it.

#116 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 06:59 PM:

J. Austin, #104: Noah Berlatsky on The Hooded Utilitarian just finished a long series of posts about why Wonder Woman, in Berlatsky's opinion, rarely works as a character.

In the process he looks at the surprisingly weird and disturbing original stories featuring the character, in which the writer's personal obsessions lurked much too close to the surface. Like the work of Fletcher Hanks, they're the kind of thing that gets classified as "outsider art."

#117 ::: WereBear ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 07:48 PM:

What I always liked about comic books is that they were audaciously larger than life.

aka I got your mythology right here.

Exaggeration and stark dilemmas are their bread and butter. Adding nuance brings a different, post-Golden Age sensibility, but often, as in The Dark Knight, it brings too much of the real world in, to the detriment of the story.

I loved what Stan Lee did with Spiderman, bringing some serious problems to the comic book world. No longer could Superman put on his glasses and have everyone think he was a nerdy wimp. But there's a lot about comic books which only work because there isn't too much reality in it.

Because a lot of it is simply too horrible without an unreality lens which dictates the shape of things and lets them be handled on the level of fantasy, not reality.

An actual human could not handle the constant mayhem and challenges and soul-shattering trauma without going mad. Trying to pull comic books into our world too much; it just doesn't work for me.

#118 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 07:50 PM:

Wesley@ 116...thanks for the link to the Berlatsky posts. That last one is interesting, and I'll have to go back and read through. Yeah, Moulton had some definite eccentricities, but originally (as Berlatsky noted) I think that resulted in an, at least, interesting female hero.

The new animated incarnation, from the Justice League movie I saw on Cartoon Network, seems perhaps more real, but not any more likable than her bland, cardboard version of the last few decades.

#119 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 07:54 PM:

R.M. Koske #96: Please don't tell me you've seen any of those in Smyrna.

#120 ::: Wirelizard ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 08:11 PM:

This is just to post
That this is comment #120
In Open Thread #120.

(Yes, I know it scans badly. Someone is also likely to post before I finish this, which will make this 121, and make me look like an (even bigger) twit. Ah well.)

#121 ::: sara_k ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 08:27 PM:

Koske @ 96

My daughter wants one of those (or the others on the site) though the ex-masturbator one is not allowed at school. She is surprised that the ex-Hustler one only comes in "boy".

#122 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 08:41 PM:

J Austin, #106: Which 1940s would that be? The one where widows had to convince a judge that they were competent to administer their late husbands' estates without a guardian, or the one where women built the tanks for the soldiers in WWII?

#123 ::: Bill S ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 08:47 PM:

Steve #113, there are younger movie actors who are distinctive enough to do impressions of. Keanu Reeves is obvious (like, whoa!), but Matt Damon would be doable.

As far as Batman goes, I haven't seen most of the recent movies or the whole Dark Knight version of the character; Batman for me was the Adam West TV series era, with lots of campy Dick Tracy-style villains and Biff! Bam! Pow! onomatopoeia during fights. And when I was a kid, it wasn't obvious that Robin was totally gay, although apparently everybody else knew, so they were toning it down in those years.

#124 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 09:08 PM:

R.M. Koske @ 96: If one is still masturbating him/her, is s/he really an ex?

#125 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 09:18 PM:

Lee @ 122:

You can go ask him if you like, but I'm pretty sure it was just some dork trying to start a flame war. Show up on a comments thread about Wonder Woman, hold up the beautiful and gracious women of His Day, lament their masculine modern presentation, AND promise he won't be there to protect them when their choice of Obama for president puts them in mortal danger?

Yeah, I'm pretty sure it wasn't those 1940s, either.

#126 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 09:25 PM:

And Serge @112:

I'm only going to be thirty-five this year, and I find myself popping up off the couch when I hear those dag-burned skateboarding whippersnappers coming down the steep sidewalk that runs next my fence. Better stay away from mah propertye! Arrggh.

#127 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 09:39 PM:

WereBear @ 117... I got your mythology right here

I must recommend Kurt Busiek's mini-series Marvels, which revisits Marvel's crucial events, all from the point of view of a normal human. Ever wondered what people on the sideline felt when Galactus first came to Earth and it looked like it was going to be Curtains! for humankind?

#128 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 09:42 PM:

KeithS @85: The Adventures of Robin Hood: Good King Richard goes off to fight a holy war against the infidels, but while he's away his immoral brother Prince John and his cronies usurp power. They implement liberal taxation policies and regulations that make free enterprise impossible.

A high school teacher pointed out that King Richard got to run off to the Crusades and play heroic, leaving his brother behind to collect the taxes to cover the costs of the king's war. When King Richard was captured and held hostage, it was not so surprising that his brother was reluctant to scrape up even more money to cover his ransom.

I'm sure we could hammer out a corporate bailout metaphor here.

#129 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 09:51 PM:

#6 et al:

I'm local. My wife and I are planning to commute to Westercon, at least working around the holiday and fireworks when Tempe throws a giant drunken block party. Said block party is not my cup of tea, I'm afraid.

If we avoid the Fourth, I'll be happy to provide logistical support for a Making Light party.

#130 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 10:01 PM:

Hey, speaking of commuting to Westercon: the Metro light rail has two stops within a block of the Westercon hotel! So we locals can easily commute.

#131 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 10:24 PM:

Patrick Connors @ 129... Thanks. If we don't have an ML party at Westercon/Fiestacon, we can at least have a gathering - smaller scale, but can also be loads of fun.

#132 ::: sara_k ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 10:36 PM:

Joel @ 124

Ex-masturbator - current fornicator

#133 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 10:44 PM:

J Austin @ 126... Cut to Clint Eastwood in Gran Torrino pointing his shotgun at disreputable young men and telling them to get off his lawn.

#134 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 11:04 PM:

I wish I could pull off an Eastwood snarl and steely glare. Was Gran Torino very good? I don't see many movies in the theater (I think Iron Man was my last big splurge)but I thought about renting it.

#135 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 11:30 PM:

J Austin @ 134... Actually, all I saw of Gran Torrino was that clip, but I'll put it on our NetFlix queue when they release it on DVD. I'll probably wind up watching it by myself because I don't think my wife has forgiven Eastwood yet for Million Dollar Baby.

#136 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 11:36 PM:

Meanwhile, Turner Classic Movies, my favorite movie channel, has Ronnie Raygun as its Star of the Month and tonight was his night. Whoopeedoo. (I was much more amused by Tom Selleck's appearance on Jon Stewart's show last week. He officially was there to promote his latest TV movie, but all he and Stewart did was talk about Selleck's ranch and his psychotic sheep.)

#137 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 11:40 PM:

#96: "I'm boggling"

Is that what the kids call it these days?

#138 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2009, 11:47 PM:

I remember when the glory of cable descended on tiny Electra, Tx. Before that we had channels 3, 6, 7, and U. There was MTV, and then there was TNT, and Turner Classic Movies--wow. Up until then, my mom had bought me musicals and old movies on tape or laser disc(!)and I watched them over and over. I was probably the only little kid in the world who's favorite movie was "Laura."

#139 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 12:14 AM:

J Austin @ 138... And they thought it was related to Little House on the Prairie, right? One TCM movie I almost always wind up watching, no matter at which point of the plot I catch it, is 12 Angry Men. And I love Best Years of Our Lives, and To Kill A Mockingbird.

#140 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 12:23 AM:

Serge@139: Best Years of Our Lives is such a good movie. I always like it when Go For Broke comes on, because it's always so surprising they even made it.

#141 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 12:54 AM:

J Austin @ 140... For some reason, Go For Broke isn't shown very often. By the way, when I was living in the Bay Area, I found that the father of one of my Japanese-American co-workers had been in that group. The first time I heard about Japanese-Americans who had served during WW2 was in an article about those in their ranks who had been the first to liberate the people inside a concentration camp, except that they were ordered to stay outside while the big shots were deciding what to do. They hesitated, but they could see people dropping like flies so they went in anyway. One prisonner was quoted as saying that he thought he had died, when he opened his eyes and saw a Japanese dressed like an American.

#142 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 01:03 AM:

I was checking on Wikipedia to see if Go for Broke was the right title, and you should see how many of the actors in the movie were really veterans from the 442nd.

Just following the links somehow, I also found an article about the actor who played Colonel Saito in Bridge over the River Kwai, Sessue Hayakawa. Fascinating stuff--he was apparently as well-known as Douglas Fairbanks, and was an honest-to-god heartthrob. Valentino before Valentino, making over $5,000 a week in 1915.

#143 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 01:14 AM:

#102 ::: David Harmon

[instructions on setting up a key command for ROT13]

Thank you.

I had found the box you mentioned under Mozilla Firefox's Tools/Leetkey Settings, and fiddled and fussed and it wouldn't and WOULDN'T work. Somehow my system had scrambled the commands, as the command entered differed from the one that popped up when manipulating text the older, laborious way. Only the old one worked on highlighted text. Your patient explanation encouraged me to try again. No better luck.

Perhaps if my system were rebooted...



(Rapbqrq jvgu nygreangr-E)

#144 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 01:23 AM:

J Austin @ 142... A few months ago, TCM had a theme of Asians in Hollywood, and Mako mentionned that about Hayakawa. He was quite amused that an Asian man could have once been a heartthrob for today's white greatgrandmothers. Mako is someone I'd have loved to meet. (Remember him as Evil Aku in Samurai Jack? He was having a ball.) Interesting family history too, with his parents being students in the USA when the war broke out and their working for our war dept while he was a little kid still in Japan.

#145 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 01:29 AM:

Lee @ 65: "No matter what Joss intended, it feels like Confederate-worship propaganda to me, and that's very off-putting. "

Firefly feels to me like a liberal trying to figure out the attractions of the conservative point of view, and specifically the appeal of that Confederate worship giving you (and me) the heebies. In some ways, the cause of the South is very admirable from a liberal perspective: in most cases I'd support rebels against a coercive central state. The rebellion has ample cause.* That in the case of the American Civil War they were fighting to preserve a repressive, decaying, slave-holding aristocracy is unusual and unfortunate--the repressive aristocracy is usually on the governmental side. It's even more unfortunate that admirable parts of the rebellion (people should have control over their own governments) have become a a way of deflecting criticism of the nasty, racist attitudes they were in support of. I see Firefly as an attempt to disentangle these two strands of Confederate nostalgia, the better to stamp out the latter.

*the American Colonies, Kurds, Uighurs, Tamils, and almost any former colony you'd care to mention.

Steve C. @ 113: "But we don't have voices like Robert Mitchum or Jimmy Stewart or James Cagney anymore."

I think part of that is just a move to a more naturalistic acting style--being able to sink into a role is valued over distinctive, if interesting, mannerisms. Think, perhaps, of Johnny Depp: you couldn't do a Depp impression because he sounds, acts, and even looks totally different in every movie he's in. With Jimmy Stewart the second he opens his mouth you think, oh, it's that Jimmy Stewart character. It's great for impressionists, but it kicks suspension of disbelief right in the teeth. It also tends to limit what roles an actor can take--people think they already know what Jimmy Stewart is like, and it you go against that, people will feel betrayed. Depp can do anything.

#146 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 01:33 AM:

Mako was one of my favorites ever since Conan--yeah, he sounded like he was having a blast as Aku. I remember him playing every kind of Asian needed on MASH, and think about how many remarkable people he worked with--it should be Seven Degrees of Mako!

There's apparently a film called The Slanted Screen that he, Cary Tagawa, and several other actors were interviewed for, about the history of Asian American cinema and theatre. Sounds interesting--I wonder if that was where TCM's theme came from. I haven't watched Charlie Chan since I was a kid, but I loved it. I wonder how much I would wince now.

#147 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 03:00 AM:

I'd like to point to my comment at the end of the "Bank of America Utter Slime" thread, with selections from this gem of a story:
For Debt Collectors, the Dead are a Healthy Bet.

One debt collector has "master's level grief counselors" on standby for people who aren't yet in the bargaining-about-debt stage of grief.

#148 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 03:15 AM:

katster @23&56

I've been watching fandom pretty keenly the last five years. I'm in an odd situation, fandom-wise: I'm pretty deep into a lot of the newer stuff, but I also like the classics that "old guard" fandom seems more into. I'd very much like to see them come together more.

If you want to look at where fandom is going, I'd say you have to look at the following topics and their related phenomena:

Games: Pennyarcade and PAX, the resurgence of RPGs and CCGs
Anime: quick fads, internet, and the cons
TV: Whedon, lost, and BSG. Wikis and message boards

I think PAX is bigger than Worldcon, population wise. So are two or three of the anime cons. And San Diego Comicon is just as much a pop culture/television con as it is a comic con, at this point. So the fans are out there, and they're looking to go to cons, but worldcon isn't on the radar. I'm not entirely sure why that is. I planned to go to Worldcon once, but was unable due to work. Every single friend I have is a geek, and 80% of them have been to some kind of a convention at some point in their life, but none of my friends have ever been to worldcon. It's not on the radar anymore. The only reason I know about it is that I hang out here. The way to grow worldcon might be to pay more attention to these new trends, and their strange scattershot of media and celebrities. Get someone like Whedon or the Lost showrunners to show up, do a more robust anime section, get some gaming in.

In five years I think the anime community will still be going strong, even if it's not still growing. PAX will still be a major force. The expansion of available topics at Comicon will continue, and more different topics will rise to prominence.

The one phenomena I'd be watching closely is "geek creep." Did you know that at anime conventions you might well find Ghostbusters cosplayers, Coraline cosplayers, a handful of Captain Jacks or Willy Wonkas, and more than a few Team Fortress 2 cosplayers? Why are all these costumes at a convention that is supposed to be devoted to Japanese culture? It's because of the geek creep... these people like anime all right and don't have a convention devoted to their particular fandom, so they creep that fandom into the anime con, knowing that there will be enough fandom overlap to make it worth their while. Comicon is an even better example of fandom creep - I can't think of any aspect of fandom that doesn't have at least some level of representation there.

I'd love to see a really good "general purpose" con spring up. The closest to that you get currently is Comicon, and that's in many ways more a commercial endeavor than a fan one. I think a con that managed to capture and respect the fandoms of anime, games, cult tv, and traditional SF would do incredibly well, but I'm skeptical that anyone could really get it together.

I'm into Lost, webcomics, tabletop roleplaying, anime, steampunk, some SF fiction, and computer/console RPGs. Most of my friends don't read normal SF, but they read comics and watch SF TV. We all play tabletop RPGs together. Everyone watched anime at some point, but how much we watch it now varies. None of us is primarily focused on any single fandom, or even any single genre. I guess I'm saying we're all over the place, chaotic and with a sort of Fandom ADD. It's just really hard to explain where I think fandom is now and where it might be going, but I've tried to give a gestalt from the eyes of your average twentysomething. I think I have an anecdote that may more aptly illustrate my point:

A friend of mine showed up at our anime club in college, and stayed after to chat. He told us this "I don't like anime all that much, but I like the kind of people who watch anime." He kept coming to club screenings, and one day he offered to run D&D for us. We accepted, and more than half of us added "Tabletop gaming" to our list of geeky interests.

I think that's how fandom works increasingly... it's this utterly, unimaginably huge collection of interests so vast that no one can really know about everything. Each fandom grows via its connection to other fandoms. You could be a webcomics fan, and one day someone introduces you to Girl Genius. Some people will just enjoy the comic, but a certain percentage of people will catch the Steampunk bug from it, and add that to their collection of fannish interests. Or you go to hang out with a bunch of Science Fiction fans, and one of them suggests you all play Settlers of Catan... which might be a gateway drug into board-gaming geekdom. Modern fandom is a web, or a smorgasbord. There's so much to pick and choose from, and yet it's all connected.

#149 ::: Juliet E McKenna ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 04:07 AM:

Apropos Asian Americans, the story of Winnifred Eaton, aka Onoto Watanna, is fascinating.

Winnifred Eaton was the daughter of an English merchant, Edward Eaton, who met her Chinese mother while on a business trip to Shanghai, China. Her mother was Grace "Lotus Blossom" Trefusis, the adopted daughter of English missionaries.

In the early 1870s, the Eaton family left England to live in Hudson, New York but stayed there only a short time before relocating to Montreal, where Winnifred was born. Her father struggled to make a living and the large family went through difficult times. Nonetheless, the children were raised in an intellectually stimulating environment that saw Winnifred's elder sister, Edith Maude Eaton (1865-1914) become a journalist and an author of stories about the struggles of impoverished Chinese immigrants, under the pen name Sui Sin Far.Winnifred Eaton was only fourteen years old when one of her stories was accepted for publication by a Montreal newspaper that had already published pieces by her sister. Before long she also had articles published in several popular magazines in the United States, notably the Ladies' Home Journal.

She left home at the age of seventeen to take a job as a stenographer for a Canadian newspaper in Kingston, Jamaica. She remained there for a year, then moved to Chicago, Illinois where for a time she worked as a typist while continuing to write short stories. Eventually, her compositions were accepted by the prestigious Saturday Evening Post as well as by other popular periodicals. She moved from this to writing novels, capitalizing on her mixed ancestry to pass herself off as a Japanese American* by the name of "Onoto Watanna" (which sounds Japanese but is not Japanese at all). Under this pseudonym she published romance novels and short stories that were widely read throughout the United States.
And after that, her life continues to be even more interesting, ending up in Hollywood as a screenwriter!

I have her biography, written by her granddaughter Diana Birchall, who is a very interesting person in her own right, judging by the talk I went to hear her give about her grandma.

*Because before WWII, Japanese = mysterious oriental allure whereas Chinese = despised coolie.

After WWII, she reinvented herself as a Canadian cattle rancher/oilman's wife.

#150 ::: Eirin ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 04:51 AM:

Lila @ 3 and Fragano @ 5 re. weather.

I'm just now in the middle of Elizabeth Bear's Hammered and had a dizzying blurring-of-realities moment when I read your posts.
Are there dikes going up around New York?

#151 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 06:46 AM:

In seeking out my foes, I fired six.
Or maybe it was five: 'tis hard to say.
So arrant knave, who disses on my pals
This query should you make within thy heart.
'tis fortune, not my skill, which rules this day.
So ask yourself, O vilest of your line,
Dost I feel lucky? Dare you cast the dice?
Well, do ya, punk, or shall you run away?

#152 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 07:44 AM:

Leah Miller, 148,
katster @23&56

So the fans are out there, and they're looking to go to cons, but worldcon isn't on the radar. I'm not entirely sure why that is

Uhm. *shuffles feet nervously* I didn't know worldcon existed until I read about it here. After I had been reading ML for at least a year and a half.

I'm 36.

It seemed to be this mysterious, expensive convention for old school science fiction fans to get together to vote for some SF award, that moved all the time like the Olympics. The award has something to do with those massive best-of SF anthologies I stopped reading in tenth grade.*

I go to Otakon (pop 26,000) and ACEN (pop 13,900 ) semi annually, and donate to Child's Play (a PAX affiliated charity) annually. I used to collect comics, now I read webcomics (Girl Genius, yay!). I love it when Cory posts about steampunk. I read Scalzi, Stross and James Nicoll daily. (But have never bought their books). I think plush Cthulu is funny, but I've never read Lovecraft. I'm learning Japanese because I want more stories, dammit. I played D&D in High School, Warcraft in College, Neverwinter nights later on, and now all I have time for is a quick game of Settlers of Catan.

*I have since learned more about what's what, who's who and all that, but...

#153 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 08:02 AM:

Serge, 144
J Austin @ 142,
Mako is someone I'd have loved to meet. (Remember him as Evil Aku in Samurai Jack?

He also had a long running role as Uncle Iroh on Avatar the Last Airbender (animated series, not the upcoming live action movie with only mostly white people playing Asian characters.*) He totally rocked as Iroh. Speaking of the fandoms of the young, that series is worth checking out, as it moves quite steadily for three seasons from adventure-of-the week through impressive character development to awesome** sfx laden heroic finale.

I would have loved to meet him too. Dante Basco, who got to work alongside him in the recording booth, spoke of how much of a delight and honor it was to work with him. Just a really nice guy. I'm happy he got to play a character of some complexity for his final role.

*much fandom wank about this.
**with awesomesauce

#154 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 08:31 AM:

Juliet E McKenna @ 149... Eaton certainly had interesting life. I do smile that she went from reinventing herself as a Japanese woman of mysterious allure as a Canadian cattle rancher. Somehow the latter just doesn't sound as mysterious.

#155 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 08:33 AM:

J Austin... Don Delny... If I remember correctly, Mako said, about Aku, that he went back to the kind of theatre he saw as a kid. By the way, remember him in one of the best episodes of Time Tunnel?

#156 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 08:42 AM:

#115 - Serge -

Lambert has a semi-lisp that I think of as being a feature of the accent of French-speaking Canadians*, so I'm not at all surprised to hear that people have told you that.

#119 Fragano -

No. Thank heavens.

#124 - Joel -

Now I'm imagining someone coming up to the wearer and demanding "Break up with me!"

*Not that I have a large sample to speak from.

#157 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 10:25 AM:

RM Koske... Meanwhile after a couple of decades living in anglophone environments, I've been told that my accent when I speak French has become quite clipped.

#159 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 10:36 AM:

Squee! Thank you Teresa! Your timing is excellent. I'm not in dire need now, but I'm having one of those weeks where I could tip to needing one at any moment.

#160 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 10:48 AM:

About students not following the directions: As a somewhat spacey person who's worked on it, it's a surprising jump to realize that something you haven't been paying attention to is actually important.

In re the top 25 conservative movies list not reflecting a coherent ideology: Conservatism isn't a coherent ideology. Part of it might be that the US was started by a Revolution, so you can be conservative in terms of what you won't put up with, or you can be conservative in terms of maintaining the existing power structure.

You think liberalism isn't a coalition?

*** Groundhog Day and the authentic self: Maybe that wasn't the best choice of language, but there really is what I call the Romantic problem-- figuring out what you really care about vs. those impulses that just screw up your life or piss your time away.

My impression is that liberals are actually pretty good at the orderly virtues (or are at least less inclined to the embarrassing scandals which are plaguing the conservatives) in spite or perhaps because of not talking about it as much.

*** Does Icon count as a solid general interest convention?

*** A theory about why new actresses don't seem to be as fascinating as those from some earlier eras: I think the demand for extreme thinness is a problem, possibly just because it's harder to be a vivid personality when you're drastically underfed, but also because if only acceptable actresses are those who meet an extremely narrow physical standard, then you can't select from as large a pool for acting ability or star quality.

I don't think it's just being thin, either, I think it takes a lighter than average bone structure to be Hollywood-thin.

On the other hand, I'm not a movie buff, so I might be wrong.

#161 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 10:51 AM:

Spring break coming up. Essays being marked as midterm grades are due. Fascinating things, as always, being learned:

"Emma questioned how those who dictated social moirés could place such a limited and finite view on what was considered morally sound."

"Society thought morally reproducing, even if the woman did not want to reproduce is right, also even if it harmed the woman, society thought she still should reproduce."

"Morally society thought contraceptives or any form of contraceptives were not right as a result they were prohibited."

#162 ::: Evan ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 11:05 AM:

Fragano at #161

Ah, yes. A fellow teacher of mine has the best metaphor for student writing:

"You ask for a simple machine; they hand you a jar of iron filings."

As for that first quotation, I think there's a whole new novel in there: Emma meets the three fates!

#163 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 11:11 AM:

Fragano Ledgister @ 161:

If there were people who could dictate moirés, I think they would be in high demand (especially around here). Also, I would pay to see that.

Are social moirés friendly fabrics?

That second quote makes my brain hurt. Please make it stop.

#164 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 11:22 AM:

Fragano @ 161... Social moirés? Was the rest of the essay as lamé?

#165 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 11:38 AM:

Nancy #160:

I think one underlying problem here is picking out which of the instructions you've gotten are actually things you need to follow, and which are not. It's pretty common (it almost always happens) that you get self-contradictory instructions or requests from a boss or client, or even a teacher. It's extremely common in school to have learned one set of rules for how to do something (say, write a paper), and then to have a new teacher demand a new set of rules.

More broadly, I'll admit I'm getting a bit creeped out by the sense of KeithS' #26 and don delny's #29, which seem to me to be glorfying the virtue of shutting up and doing as you're told. Understanding the requirements of what you're doing (whether it's a school assignment or a work project or your taxes) is important. Slavishly following the instructions of your teacher is the sort of thing that probably teaches you all the *wrong* lessons for later in life.

Or maybe I'm just grumpy today, I don't know.

#166 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 11:52 AM:

Caroline #31:

My best solution to this problem, in general, is to wear noise canceling headphones[1] with some music on, and also to wear sunglasses. Somehow, the sunglasses help me not have my eyes drawn to the flickering IQ-sink, while not leaving me unable to see other stuff going on.

One thing I find really offensive about the 24 hour TV news is the way they pretend to be giving you the news, while actually expending great effort not to inform you. They will happily have talking heads spend three hours debating something that none of them understands, rather than go chase down someone who actually understands what's being discussed.

I suspect this is intentional. An informed participant in these discussions will almost certainly derail whatever agenda the talking heads (or their management) has for the discussion, and will usually make the talking heads look like uninformed fools. (This is made easier by the fact that those talking heads almost always really are uninformed fools.)

But the effect is like that of junk food, or "education" using propoganda--you feel like you're doing something to make yourself better off (full, educated, informed), while really getting negative value from the whole operation.

[1] Noise canceling headphones are a genuine life-changing technology for me. YMMV.

#167 ::: Tuxedo Slack ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 11:54 AM:

@Fragano: "Beethoven wrote music even though he was deaf. [...] He expired in 1827 and later died for this."

#168 ::: Tuxedo Slack ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 11:57 AM:

Or, perhaps more relevantly: "The third movement was a lower pitched, the flute as if it represented one person and the orchestra a few others, the harsh tones and the melancholy feeling that felt as the orchestra with its brass section the cymbals and the strings all expressed a very angry and vengeful melody." It certainly reads more like what your students "write".

#169 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 12:02 PM:

Leah, #148: Pax broke the 10,000 mark several years ago, so it's officially larger than Worldcon; it will probably be close to 30,000 this year. There are more than just a few anime-cons that routinely break 5,000. And then there's Dragon*con, which you didn't mention, and which routinely draws 30,000 or more. (I think Dragon*con is that "good general-purpose con" you were talking about.) It should be noted that Pax and Dragon*con are on the same weekend, and neither seems to be hurting the other -- but they're on opposite sides of the country.

Worldcon has several problems from my POV, some of which are procedural and some attitudinal.

1) They are a lit-snob con, and actively hostile to people with interests beyond books. Look how long it took to get a Dramatic Presentation Hugo -- there was a significant voting contingent that didn't want any Hugo recognition of media at all. If reaching out to the fandoms where younger people concentrate is the key to rejuvenating Worldcon, we've got a huge problem.

2) They are expensive, to the point of being out of reach of the average fan. For most anime-cons, a membership runs around $50. Dragon*con is $60 or so. Pax I'm not sure, but I'd be surprised if it were over $50. Worldcon? If I'm reading the page right, it's currently at $195US for a new membership, $150US to convert from a supporting membership to attending. That's a significant discouragement for a lot of people.

3) The switch from a 3-year bid cycle to a 2-year one has hurt them badly. Seattle had to pull out of bidding for 2011 because the facility told them they had to make a sizable, non-refundable deposit to hold the space against several other conventions that wanted the same dates... and they didn't know yet whether they'd even get the bid! We're up against competition that sets their dates 3 to 5 years in advance, and that's a big issue.

4) They don't advertise where people who don't already go to Worldcon are likely to see them. I don't think they're aware of crossover fandom at all. Our local con has had pretty good luck with putting flyers at local anime-cons; the folks who are anime-only won't be interested, but there are plenty of people who like both anime and regular SF, and who have been delighted to discover that they had a local SF con.

I enjoy Worldcons when I can get to them, and it's frustrating to me to watch them (apparently) shooting themselves in the foot in so many ways.

Don, #152: Exactly. I'm 52, and the difference between what you wrote and what I wrote above reflects that generation's worth of difference in the perception of Worldcon very well.

Fragano, #161: "Social moirés" made me giggle, but at the same time I'm mildly impressed that a student would actually be aware enough of the terms "moiré" and "mores" (neither of which is what I'd exactly call in common usage) to mistake one for the other.

#170 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 12:13 PM:

Lee @ 169 -

I giggled when a commenter in another forum went on at great length about social morays.

Friendly eels, anyone?

#171 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 12:24 PM:

albatross @ 165:

What I said can be read that way, so I don't think you're being grumpy. Let me take the time to explain myself more thoroughly.

My main and unstated assumption is that the requirements set out by the professor are reasonable, even if they're not something that you necessarily care for. As an example: specifying that papers shall be double-spaced, twelve point type, with a title page that has the title, author and date centered on the page. Perhaps I don't like double spacing, but it's not an inherently strange requirement and it makes it easier for the professor to read and comment on. If the professor insisted that all papers had to be turned in using 17.5 point, pink Comic Sans, I would seriously question his or her judgement, take it up with the professor and possibly the department.

When a doctor gives you a course of antibiotics, you should take the whole set for its prescribed course, even if you're already feeling better on day two. There are lots of people who stop once they feel better and make things worse. This is not to say that you shouldn't ask why the antibiotics are necessary, or that you should keep taking them if you have an adverse reaction.

To take an example I alluded to in one of my earlier posts, the professor for the critical thinking class we all had to take in university went over many different logical fallicies as part of the course material. We were assigned a paper to write either agreeing or disagreeing with an essay that we read for the class. He didn't much care if we agreed or disagreed with the essay, since the important point was to engage with the essay's argument in a cogent manner. He warned us of all the common logical fallacies and inattention to detail that he had seen on previous students' papers, and yet some students turned in papers that were full of fallacies, missed the point of the essay (even though we had discussed it over multiple days in class), or simply ignored the questions we were asked. I don't think it's unreasonable to wonder what those students were thinking.

My job as an engineer requires me to follow the desires of the client. Each client typically has certain ways of doing things that aren't necessarily right or wrong. I might prefer one way to another as a matter of taste, but as long as it is correct and safe, it is my job to follow their instructions and standards. When the client asks for something unreasonable, unsafe or just plain stupid, it's my job to say no.

Most of the time, the directions that we're given are reasonable, whether or not you or I agree with them aesthetically. Of course you should question things that don't make sense or that seem wrong. Your doctor often has your best interest at heart, even if it doesn't seem that way. Your professor wants to make grading papers easier so that they can be returned promptly. I do not believe that you should follow requirements unquestioningly, but I also think that most instructions are fairly reasonable most of the time.

#172 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 12:30 PM:

"Emma questioned how those who dictated social moirés could place such a limited and finite view on what was considered morally sound."

Questioning moirés can weaken the fabric of society.

Irritatingly, "mores" is one of those words that doesn't have a singular (like "measles" and "smithereens"). The Latin is mos, plural mores. Hence the saying that, if you travel too much, you'll effectively be a stranger everywhere, unfamiliar with the customs of your own country as much as with those of any other: a rolling stone gathers no mos.

#173 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 12:32 PM:

A small addendum to my previous post. There's nothing wrong with questioning things that are right, too, because sometimes the things that we think are right are wrong, or they're right but for interesting reasons.

#174 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 12:33 PM:

albatross, 165,

I was thinking about the value of following directions as a matter of practicality, not morality. Umm. More on that in a few minutes.

#175 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 12:54 PM:

I don't know if the student who used the phrase "social moirés" knows what a moiré pattern is, or what moiré silk is, for that matter. I don't know if I want to ask.

Evan #162: Iron filings sound about right. Now, if only I had the right kind of magnet.

I let students know at the beginning of the semester when essays are due. Nevertheless, the odour of the lamp is plain every time they turn them in.

A few more:

"John Stuart Mill lived during nineteenth century England )."

"As a fighter of women’s liberation, Goldman proposes that, Comstock’s form of morality causes a natural decay that seeks to hinder a woman’s growth by limiting her freedom."

"For it, restricts especially the women from exploring her natural human nature."

The majority of my students are young women, so it isn't surprising that they choose to answer questions about feminist thinkers. I just wish they'd think a bit more before writing.

#176 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 12:54 PM:

David Harmon@#102
Thank you so much for that. I was doing it the hard way (so can I have a t-shirt to prove I've stopped?).
If you highlight the text and right-click, you get a drop menu of leet-keys so you don't have to remember that you assigned Alt-R.
Now I can reassign's speeddial slot.

#177 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 01:48 PM:

Fragano, it's not just the quality of any thinking about the subject...

"For it, restricts especially the women from exploring her natural human nature."

I would be ashamed to be caught writing such an inept sentence. Never mind the thought its author might be trying to express, I wouldn't have expected to pass my O-level English language exam if I was writing that carelessly.

It took me another 35 years before I actually wrote a complete novel, and there are passages in that which I cringe at.

#178 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 02:50 PM:

sara_k @132: Why does it have to be one or the other? (Aside from the latter requiring multiple participants.)

#179 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 02:51 PM:

Dave Bell #177: If they thought for a bit they'd be less likely to produce such monstrosities. At least, I hope so!

#180 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 02:56 PM:

heresiarch @145: Depp can do anything.

Michael Callahan?

#181 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 03:01 PM:

re 160: Well, no political ideology is coherent, except for the ones that can't get enough traction to get into office. Or perhaps the problem is that all of this analysis is predicated on the conservatives being the Other. Consistency is a luxury reserved to those who only talk about politics. What strikes me about most of the discussion above is how the reasons conservatives like certain movies are derived from what people already "know" about conservatives. And of course, some of the comments about the movies on the original site have their foundation in stereotypes about liberals-- see especially under Brazil and Ghostbusters. The subtext I see running through the whole discussion (except for the discussion of Serenity, which I haven't seen) is that people really like these movies for more basic reasons, but for whatever reason feel they need to put a political spin on them. Well, in this case it's because they were asked to.

As for the conservatism of Hollywood: again, it isn't that simple. On one level they indulge in a certain kind of transgressiveness as an indulgence to the perceived childishness of the audience. On another level they indulge in it as a sop to their sense of artistic integrity; the problem on that axis is that forty years of this has led to a lot of transgression fatigue, to the point where even a decade ago I didn't find Watchmen that subversive, but rather a product of the age. A lot of their conservatism arises out of the difficulty that both of these kinds of transgression often don't sell tickets.

#182 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 03:09 PM:

albatross @165 More broadly, I'll admit I'm getting a bit creeped out by the sense of KeithS' #26 and don delny's #29, which seem to me to be glorfying the virtue of shutting up and doing as you're told. [snip] Or maybe I'm just grumpy today, I don't know.

KeithS @171 seems to have addressed most of this.

In the general category of "pick your battles" and "facilitate civil social interaction" I'm a believer in doing as you're told unless you have some reason to do otherwise. Unreasonable or conflicting directions, unintended consequences, and unauthorized direction-givers are all good reasons to do otherwise, or at least to inquire. Inadequate reasons include expecting the universe to adapt to you, and feeling yourself above the mundane need to follow the directions that apply to everyone.

Recently at work I emailed a list of 200-some graduate students telling them they were accepted for a workshop, pointing them to a fact sheet with travel information and an online form to confirm attendance, and telling them that if they had trouble with the form, to email me, and that if they had any other questions about travel or the workshop, to e-mail someone else in the office. Somewhere more than 5% and less than 10% of them sent me questions about travel anyway. It's not a huge problem; I send them on to the right person and they get answered. And people overlook things; I've certainly been known to misread, misinterpret, misremember, or just plain lose instructions about something. But still, after a while it can't help but make me wonder, "What are they thinking?"

Related, re good schools making students internalize the fiddly bits, if the students are going to be in an area where they will be using a common style sheet like MLA or APA style, it is indeed a virtue and an eventual timesaver for them to internalize it.

#183 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 03:15 PM:

I can't remember who recommended Eva Cassiday's Live at Blues Alley to me, but I've finally gotten a library copy, and it's spectacularly good. The set selection was wonderful; finding Tin Pan Alley standards mixed with Pete Seeger and Paul Simon was unexpected.

#184 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 03:16 PM:

Bah. Cassidy, no "a."

#185 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 03:39 PM:

I reviewed WATCHMEN in the form of the MAD satire over on my LJ, and Avram responded with a link to the Saturday Morning Cartoon version. If that's not enough, PVP is serializing the syndicated characters version. It has a certain elegance and sure-footedness to it. I don't remember reading PVP before.

Apologies if these are old hat here. I don't know where my time goes. I keep avoiding time sinks, and still end up staying awake late just to break even.

#186 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 03:46 PM:

By the way, I've been spreading the gospel of tooltips far and wide. I made a plea for their use at Sadly, No, and they are now used in about half the links offered. Not so much to clarify things as to add a layer of jollity, but what the heck. I started using them over at the Comics Curmudgeon, and several folks there are now hep to the device.

And for this I must thank our hosts, whose use of them inspired mine. I viewed source to find out how to do it, and, well, the rest is a boring anecdote. Oddly enough, they don't seem to work in comments here. I think that qualifies as cheap irony (which is different from true irony). Just shows to go ya.

#187 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 03:47 PM:

Worrying... Does anybody have a way to reach Marilee, by phone or in person? She had a medical emergency on Tuesday and posted about it later that day. Since then, not a peep from her. I'd like to make sure sure she's ok.

#188 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 04:17 PM:


It wasn't me, but I have Dizzy Gillespie Live at Blues Alley and it's _excellent_.

I've also seen McCoy Tyner there, and that too was excellent. But, no recording from that one.

#189 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 04:19 PM:

Hot as Hate

Black as coal and red as blood

We think we know the tale,
the young beauty rising
from the fading of the old
saved by sympathy
and succored by the world.
We've lost the cues
the comb, its poisoned tines
the corset laced tight to press the breath away
signs of beauty, warped by jealousy
We are left with only the apple
health and temptation inverted.
We think we know the tale
but willful blindness marks our telling
a car pushed into a lake
in a bathtub, one by one
we do not wish to remember
that at the start
there was no stepmother involved.

#190 ::: Janet K ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 04:26 PM:

There is an update by a friend on Marilee's situation at the end of her most recent LiveJournal entry ( She's been admitted to the hospital.

#191 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 04:27 PM:

Just a random link: Ta-Nehisi Coates' diagnosis of the GOP's current state. The best paragraph:

The GOP is out shopping for a new dining set, a new couch, a flat-screen--anything to make the crib look a little more inviting. Meanwhile the water bill is two months past due. The lights are off. And the eviction notice is in the mail.

#192 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 04:33 PM:

C. Wingate #181 The subtext I see running through the whole discussion (except for the discussion of Serenity, which I haven't seen) is that people really like these movies for more basic reasons, but for whatever reason feel they need to put a political spin on them. Well, in this case it's because they were asked to.

For some of them I got the impression they'd picked those movies partly because people would look at it and say "Huh? Ghostbusters?" and then impress us with their deep and innovative thinking (and maybe have people go back and watch it again from a new angle).

If by some mischance I was asked to contribute to a list of conservative movies, I'd probably go out of my way to prove that The Matrix or Sunshine or if I wanted a challenge Battleship Potemkin were actually conservative movies.

#193 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 04:36 PM:

Diatryma, 47,
I really dislike the thesis template...
I had not thought to use a Word template to do style guidelines. That sounds handy. What makes it obstacle-y?

Nancy Lebovitz, 160
About students not following the directions: As a somewhat spacey person who's worked on it, it's a surprising jump to realize that something you haven't been paying attention to is actually important.
Oh, that's interesting. I have that experience too, from time to time.

One of the things I'm trying to tease out is the distinction between attention failure (like you described), ranking failure ("which instruction is important?") and something...else.

albatross, 165;
aiii! I didn't mean to creep you out!
I totally agree that understanding the requirements is important. I think not understanding them leads to one of the failure modes! And I remember having learned one set of rules for writing a paper, only to re-learn another in school. Maddening! Even more so, discovering that some of the things that I was being asked to do weren't important enough to mark me down on!

But what I was thinking of when I wrote, was more about the learned, semi-conscious, habit-of-mind of pausing to read the directions and tick off each item. I have a hunch that nobody does that unless taught, and that maybe some people are particularly resistant to learning that skill.

OtterB, 182, and KeithS, 171,
thanks, you said what I was thinking and then some!

finally: KeithS said:
I don't think it's unreasonable to wonder what those students were thinking.
YES! THIS. We are all students of human behavior here, and we've all missed following directions before. What is going on inside our heads?

#194 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 04:40 PM:

Battleship Potemkin?

Is the Libertarian angle too obvious?

#195 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 05:04 PM:

B. Durbin @189: That one catches the light. Very nice indeed!

#196 ::: y ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 05:09 PM:

170 puts me in mind of the Japanese restaurant that served deep-fried moray eel morsels. The patrons were known to exclaim, "O tempura! O morays!"

#197 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 05:21 PM:

Janet K @ 190... Thanks. The news are not good right now.

#198 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 05:45 PM:

Don Delny @#193:

We are all students of human behavior here, and we've all missed following directions before. What is going on inside our heads?

I think it's more general than most of the prior explanations -- I'd call it an outright "cognitive failure", albeit one that normal humans are quite prone to. Simply put, we do not rationally perceive, evaluate, and consider everything we come across, or even most of our environments. Much, even most, of our daily business can be handled on "autopilot" -- that is, falling back on habits and conditioned responses. We "wake up" the higher levels of awareness when our environment, or goals, present us with something that seems to call for them.

The problem is, some people let their "autopilots" handle things they really should have paid attention to....

#199 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 05:52 PM:

To clarify that last statement: Everyone does it sometimes, but some people do it a lot.

#200 ::: lightning ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 05:57 PM:

albatross@165 --

Slavishly following the instructions of your teacher is the sort of thing that probably teaches you all the *wrong* lessons for later in life.

Some requirements are just traditional, some are authoritarian chain- yanking, some are actively destructive, some are really necessary. Figuring out which is which is a vital talent.

#201 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 06:07 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ 160:

About students not following the directions: As a somewhat spacey person who's worked on it, it's a surprising jump to realize that something you haven't been paying attention to is actually important.

I know I've done this from time to time. For all I've said upthread, it is important to be understanding as the situation warrants. Ideally this is what rough drafts and meetings with your professor/boss/client/advisor/whoever are for, but ideals don't always turn out.

Of course, then there's the reason one of my grandmother's students (university student) gave her for why her paper wasn't right: "I guess my mother didn't understand the instructions when she typed it for me."

I am flattered that OtterB and don delny think that I did such a good job of explaining my position, as I still think it's clunky and incomplete. In fact, I think that don saying "I was thinking about the value of following directions as a matter of practicality, not morality", and OtterB saying,

In the general category of "pick your battles" and "facilitate civil social interaction" I'm a believer in doing as you're told unless you have some reason to do otherwise. Unreasonable or conflicting directions, unintended consequences, and unauthorized direction-givers are all good reasons to do otherwise, or at least to inquire. Inadequate reasons include expecting the universe to adapt to you, and feeling yourself above the mundane need to follow the directions that apply to everyone.

are more understandable and more succinct.

y @ 196:

Since it was deep-fried sea food, you probably didn't have to worry about salmon-ella.

lightning @ 200:

Ah, now there's the rub. That's something that I don't think is often taught very well at all.

#202 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 06:40 PM:

The thesis template is something no one uses except for theses and dissertations. I don't think it can be used with the new Word, and there's certainly no suppport for it on the web page. What it does, I think, is force students to do their captions a certain way, the figures a certain way, the table of contents a certain way-- the way where if you insert a figure, a figure appears in the table of contents.

I recently spent five minutes watching a groupmate fight with Word, struggling to make the words 'Figure 4' or something like that appear. There's a lot of right-clicking, updating fields, things like that, which are very useful when they're useful at all, but for almost everything we write, aren't.

#203 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 07:18 PM:

don delny @ 193: But what I was thinking of when I wrote, was more about the learned, semi-conscious, habit-of-mind of pausing to read the directions and tick off each item. I have a hunch that nobody does that unless taught, and that maybe some people are particularly resistant to learning that skill.

Some years ago, in a first-year-university chem lab that I was TAing, one of the students stopped me as I went around the room. "Joel, can you show me how to do question 3? I don't understand."

I re-read the instructions in the lab manual. They seemed pretty clear; there wasn't an obvious point which might be confusing or hard to follow. So I asked, "Did you read the instructions in the paragraph before the question?"



"Huh? Oh." Student read the paragraph. "Oh, I get it! Thanks!"

#204 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 07:38 PM:


1. How long do you think it took to get a DP Hugo? They're old enough that there was at least one year when all the nominees were original-Star Trek, and the Hugo itself dates only to 1953. As for actively hostile to people with interests beyond books -- that's an Ellison-class canard. (Have you looked at the programs/exhibits/events of recent Worldcons?) It's true they give a lot of space to books -- books are where they started -- but it's not exclusive. (I won't answer for individual people at the conventions any more than I'll answer for the Ted Whites who think that the only real fandom is privately-produced fanzines.)

2. Unfortunately, that's an effect of size; either exploding or crumbling would probably reduce the membership cost substantially. (And contra this: how many people travel to the big commercial conventions, and how much do they spend?)

3. The switch happened just recently year -- and it happened because 3 years wasn't enough to help (cf DC in 92 and Boston in 98 both losing facilities) but was enough to wear out amateur committees. (Yes, Worldcon is run largely by amateurs -- some of them serious and repeating, but still amateurs. That's why it rotates; a standing, paid committee might do better, but then it would be just another commercial con.) I haven't heard of anyone else who could realistically have had a chance if the decision were 3 years out, although I don't follow in as much detail as I used to.

4. I won't speak for what other groups do, although I suspect they're much more aware (and active in publicity) than you give them credit for; Noreascon 4 spread flyers to all types of conventions. I don't know how much attention one more flyer would get. N4 also advertised on Google; somewhere there's a count of the number of clickthroughs that produced memberships....

I'm not surprised that these are \perceived/; perceptions have as much to do with rumor and the perceivers' desire to believe they're being mistreated. (And I know some people on the Worldcon side who are tired of fighting this battle.)

#205 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 07:54 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ #160 wrote: I think the demand for extreme thinness is a problem

I heard that stated by a couple of actresses on Irish radio: they were asked why there are more Irish actors who make it in Hollywood than there are Irish actresses, and they said that Irish actors like Peter O'Toole or Colin Farrell can act the maggot, drink, get in the papers for bad behaviour and everyone just says "Ha! those Irish madmen!", while the ladies, who are used to coming offstage at the Abbey and going for a few jars, arrive in Hollywood and are immediately told that they are impossibly overweight and are issued with a lettuce leaf.

So, the men are selected for acting talent and the women for eating disorders.

That's before we tackle plastic surgery.

#206 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 08:10 PM:

Diatryma @ #202

And then there are a few of us ....

I didn't have an official Word thesis template at the time -- just instructions to use the MLA style handbook. But I wish I'd known one-hundredth what I know now about Word templates, style formats, and auto-updating indexes when I was writing my dissertation. I had just barely begun learning what was possible at that point. Having gotten a taste for the possible, it serves me well at my present job, where I find myself handing in multiple interleavedly-updated versions of investigation reports (with all manner of inserted tables, figures, appendices, and attachments -- all cross-referenced several times in the text).

I am regularly amused at how often my grad school experience is directly applicable to my present employment ... in an entirely unrelated field. (Degree in linguistics; employment in pharmaceutical manufacturing.)

Speaking of which, must get back to work.

#207 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 08:21 PM:

From reading the thread one by one, I now see the PVP has been pointed out. This makes me wonder why my 'find' function told me that nobody had used the word "Watchmen" on this page before I posted, when it has in fact been used several times. Dial up the prophylactic apology to a definite apology to heresiarch @66.

#208 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 08:37 PM:

lightning @200 The problem is, some people let their "autopilots" handle things they really should have paid attention to....

The other important thing is properly programming your autopilot. Seriously.

#209 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 10:19 PM:

via John Gruber (Daring Fireball) I found

It's another url shortening service.
Link to making light:

Link to last 1000 comments:

#210 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 10:22 PM:

albatross, #191: Oh, my. I went link-surfing from the comments on that entry, and found this. I'm not even going to try to excerpt it -- go and read it for yourself. Fair warning, it's pretty long.

#211 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 10:23 PM:

"Remember, even if this turns into a witch hunt, it doesn't mean that you're not a witch."
- Keith Olberman about Karl Rove tonight

#212 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 11:19 PM:

Paging Red Mike, paging Red Mike!

A winner, a winner! in the "how vile can a published (allegedly) novel be," shows at

Someone mentioned it in an on-line chat and reluctantly gave me the link, not wanting to spread negative publicity about that or any other book. I of course suffer much less from reservations regards, "this thing seems to stink, why pretend the odor isn't there and why ignore it, stinking roadkill removal is a public boon!"

And I thought that Slave by Cheryl Brooks was an overhyped piece of unmitigated obnoxious trashy lame tripe (among other faults such as worldbuilding shortcomings, biological worse than improbabilities, stupid stereotypes, etc., it also makes a complete mockery of regarding slavery as offensiveness and appalling)--but the review at the link, is about what looks like the epitome of inanely conceived and appallingly implemented really vile time travel romances.

I'm partway into reading the review, and I'm laughing so hard it hurts! Red Mike really needs to read the review! (Warning, it would have gotten banned in Boston half a century ago.)

#213 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 11:22 PM:

Real Books that look like Photoshops

Warning: some quite NSFW.

Some of these I've seen. The overall effect had me hardly able to breathe with suppressed laughter and bogglement by the end of it.

Disclaimer: I think I've got a copy of "Why Cats Paint" somewhere. (Not on the list, but "Why Paint Cats?" is.)

#214 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2009, 11:39 PM:

Paula @212...Okay, okay, I see where I've gone wrong now. Off to rewrite for SUCCESS!

#215 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 12:06 AM:

Paula @ 212
ROFLMAO reading that review!

#216 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 12:59 AM:

Kip W @ 207: No problem!

Clifton Royston @ 213: Oh lordie. I am slain, and the weapon was laughter.

The part that destroys me is when the books are second or third edition.

#218 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 01:41 AM:

Paula @ 212

OMG! I can attest that 2 of those books are real. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven has been made into a fairly decent movie. The Texas/Israeli War was the first Waldrop I ever read; it's maybe not as crazy as some of his later work, but still. As for the rest, my diaphragm is starting to hurt from laughing.

heresiarch @ 216

One of them was the 11th edition!

#219 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 02:08 AM:

Stefan Jones @ 217


I had to check, but no, she doesn't speak ROT13 in the throes of ecstasy.


#220 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 02:36 AM:

Have there been any genre writers who have used ROT-13 to sub for an alien language? heh.

#221 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 02:43 AM:

Re: Knight Moves - does anyone else get the sense that that book was written by a man? The conviction that the sight of large male genitalia sends women into a state of complete sexual frenzy, the single-minded focus on the purely physical aspects of sex to the exclusion of the emotional, even the ultimately disappointing lesbian experimentation all remind me more of really bad male-written erotica than really bad female-written erotica.

If not, it's a real step forward in gender equality.

#222 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 03:15 AM:

Paula Lieberman @ 212... I think you've liked some of my wife's stories in that genre so I should mention that her latest will be out soon. No lavatorial loving in it, rest assured. I rather like the cover, but I haven't figured out yet whether the hero looks like Jim Morrison or Neil Gaiman.

#223 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 04:13 AM:

And using the character-name "Lord Verdigris" is hardly a good sign.

I have a little trouble with names myself. I'ma bit too prone to "First Murderer", and getting on with the plot. It's not so good for a novel. But I don't pick names which are that daft.

I didn't finish reading the review. A few paragraphs was enough to know how bad the book is.

#224 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 06:30 AM:

Teresa @158: Thank you, I needed that.

Paula @212: My cat looked askance at me as I guffawed my way through that review.

Clifton Royston @213: We picked up a copy of Comment chier dans les bois, the French translation of How to Shit in the Woods, two days ago. My husband assures me it is well worth the read, although he admits to buying it for the title.
A special chapter for women tackles the tricky technique of peeing in the woods.
I hope I will need neither skill in the future.

#225 ::: Janet K ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 06:30 AM:

About Marilee--

A place for updates about Marilee's condition has been created by Steve, her friend from bookgroup.

He visited her at Fairfax hospital last night. She's alert but is having great trouble with words.

Steve retrieved her keys from the hospital and passed them to her neighbor who will care for the cats.

I'll try to visit her in hospital. Unfortunately not during the day--he says visiting hours for non-family is resticted to 8-9 pm.

#226 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 06:35 AM:

If by some mischance I was asked to contribute to a list of conservative movies, I'd probably go out of my way to prove that The Matrix or Sunshine or if I wanted a challenge Battleship Potemkin were actually conservative movies.

Battleship Potemkin:
1) supports the troops - the mutiny starts over rotten meat being served as rations
2) supports the family - the anguished mother and the famous pram rolling down the Odessa Steps
3) supports the duty of right-thinking troops to rebel against weak civilian politicians (like Nicholas II) whose incompetence was responsible for a humiliating defeat in an Asian war

For my next trick, I will explain why "Red Dawn" is not just liberal but actually pro-Castro.

#227 ::: Juliet E McKenna ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 06:35 AM:

Serge @ 154 - indeed, oriental siren to cattle baroness is quite a change of pace :)

Still, I bet the footwear was more comfortable, and these things matter as one approaches one's more mature years, I find...

#228 ::: Stephen Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 06:50 AM:

How exciting - Melbourne just had an earthquake. Just a little one, but it made the windows rattle nicely.

#229 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 07:45 AM:

This is not good news about Marilee, but far better than some of the alternatives would be.

1: pass on my best wishes, of course.

2: everyone remember we have the recent example of Soren DeSelby.

#230 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 08:35 AM:

Janet K @ 225... Thanks for posting about it. I was just about to, but see that you got there first.

#231 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 08:38 AM:

#189 - B. Durbin -

Wow. That one goes on my list of poems to memorize.

#232 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 09:00 AM:

This is extremely funny and relates to books, so it's probably on topic, somehow.

It's marginally NSFW, depending on your co-workers senses of humor.

#233 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 09:15 AM:

Speaking of reviews, I liked Kennicott's review of "Watchmen".

(No, I haven't seen the movie and was never planning to, but he turns a lot of phrases about the book that I wish I'd been able to express so well.)

#234 ::: V ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 09:26 AM:

Re to Lee who says: it's frustrating to me to watch them (apparently) shooting themselves in the foot in so many ways.

I'm sure it is.

Anticipation has a forum for this. It is called the "Suggestion Box"

So come forth and comment. ( :

#235 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 09:28 AM:

Cat Meadors@233

I find it very funny, however, that Kennicott seems to think that too much "reverence for the original" was a major problem for the LOTR movies.

(I liked the LOTR movies, but it was clear that Jackson had few qualms at departing from the books when it was necessary. And sometimes when it wasn't.)

#236 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 09:36 AM:

Cat Neadors @ 233... It's been a long time since I read Watchmen and I probably would not 'read' it the way I did because comics have changed since then because of that story. (I personally prefer Kurt Busiek's later approach to comic-books, which may have been a reaction to Moore's, but that's another story.) On the other hand... This reviewer didn't think much of Lord of the Rings as a movie so I'm not sure our cinematic tastes agree. I was amused by the following...

A script doctor might have helped de-clutter the often incoherent story line and tart up the leaden chatter.

I was because that's what I had hoped would happen with League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Up to a point, it did. Not successfully, mind you, but it did.

#237 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 09:41 AM:

Cat Meadows @233

Wow. To me that review is almost a perfect essay on "missing the point." I'm really starting to dislike the word "pretentious" when used in any form of criticism. At this point it's pretty much shorthand for "I didn't get the emotional effect from this work that many other people did, and I think it's because I'm better than they are."

Also, I'm beginning to think I'm the only person who read Watchmen as a comedy from the start.

#238 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 10:06 AM:

Lovely story-in-progress with charming pictures:

Life Is Life, a cerealized* story

*Not a misspelling.

#239 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 10:09 AM:

Leah Miller @237: Also, I'm beginning to think I'm the only person who read Watchmen as a comedy from the start.

I would have never picked up on that, but it does start with a blood-stained smiley button.

IIRC, it got an respectful review in Analog when the first graphic novel printing came out.

#240 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 10:19 AM:

RM Koske @ 238...

"You calling us a bunch of flakes?"
(I know a scientist who is actually & truly named Flake.)

#241 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 10:29 AM:

#240, Serge

There you go again, milking every conversation for puns.

#242 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 10:46 AM:

RM Koske @ 241... Well, I have been called corny.

#243 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 11:00 AM:

Oh Serge, wheat tell you if your puns ever cut against the grain...

#244 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 11:02 AM:

Surprise, surprise, major news outlets are lying again.

Serge @ 242:

Eggsactly. Lots of things are just baconing to be punned.

#245 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 11:14 AM:

Catching up a bit late, but I'll join in the applause for B. Durbin's poem at #189: impressive! Someone should publish it.

And best wishes for Marilee, with hopes she'll have a swift and full recovery.

#246 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 11:15 AM:

KeithS @244

Wow, thanks for pointing that article out. That myth is insidious, and that's the clearest explanation I've seen yet!

#247 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 12:15 PM:

re 192: Well, it says right at the top that they took a reader survey, so I then must conclude that they had to find someone for each movie to rationalize it as conservative.

re 226: Ah, but the question is, did you like it? If you answer yes, then it is eo ipso a liberal's movie.

#248 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 12:36 PM:

Serge @ 240

Would that be Gary William Flake, the author of The Computational Beauty of Nature?

#249 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 12:39 PM:

heresiarch, #221: Against that interpretation, I think most men would be aware that flaccid penis size (which is what she'd be seeing if he's just peed) bears little or no relation to the erect result. However, a woman with very little sexual experience might make the false assumption that they're connected.

The least believable part of the setup IMO is that the female protagonist is not the least bit put off by either a filthy, stinking men's room or the male protagonist's lack of hygiene. Either of those would be serious deal-breakers for me and most of my friends (male OR female).

#250 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 12:39 PM:

247: a bit, yes. The point is this: "Red Dawn" is no more a work of gung-ho pro-Americanness than "War of the Worlds" is a work of pro-British Empire jingoism. If you say "ah, but the heroes are American [British], defending their country against a foreign [alien] invader" then you are completely missing the point.

Wells had an easier time, because he was writing a novel, not a screenplay. His narrator pops up again and again to say "gosh, it was awful to see Britons being slaughtered by invaders with superior weapons - just like we'd been doing to Africans, etc for the last half century. Eh?"

Milius was writing a screenplay, so he didn't have a narrator or even an authorial voice. But the whole point of "Red Dawn" is: this is what it is like to be invaded and dominated by foreigners. It's horrible. He didn't seriously mean to warn Americans that there was a real danger of a Soviet/Cuban invasion - the man wasn't a complete idiot - any more than HG Wells was warning about the risk of a Martian landing.

This is the difference between, on the one side, "Red Dawn" and "War of the Worlds", and on the other "The Riddle of the Sands" and "Red Storm Rising". The latter are presenting warnings in the form of plausible scenarios. The former are allegories, intended to evoke sympathy for the victims of an invasion by a technologically superior force. An invasion by the US.

Why is it pro-Castro? Well, what else would the Cubans be doing there? It's a depiction of the tables being turned. If you don't like seeing Cubans strutting down Main Street USA, Milius is saying, maybe you can imagine how the average Latin American feels about United Fruit and the USMC mucking around in his capital city. (No one could possibly believe that the USSR would need to enlist Cuban help to invade the US.)

#251 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 01:27 PM:

I would certainly like to see more Cubans strutting down Main Street, as tourists. Returning the land of Guantanamo Bay to Cuban rule would be an outstanding way to celebrate the breaking of the Cuban embargo.

#252 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 01:33 PM:

Dave Bell #223: No doubt a connection of the De Cay family.

#253 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 01:42 PM:

Lee @ 249, that's an interesting point. However, I think a vast majority of men are completely delusional about penis sizes, their own size (flaccid or erect) and its significance to women. (See for example the spam thread on weights, exercises, pills, etc.) So yeah, that is something I would often expect to see in a book written by a man, despite it being patently ridiculous.

I don't think there's enough to say one way or the other who wrote it. Fantasies for either sex can go some weird places - consider the female Gorean fandom. (Or don't, if you'd really rather not think about it.)

#254 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 01:44 PM:

The new Star Trek trailer is out.

(It looks awesome!)

#255 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 01:46 PM:

A thought: I finally got around to looking up the phrase "smell of the lamp" (vars: odor, candle), and was surprised to find it given as simply "to give evidence of laborious study or effort".

Clearly, Fragano and everyone else have consistently been using it sarcastically... but is it your experience that this is now the "usual" interpretation of the phrase?

#256 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 01:52 PM:

It's usually used pejoratively to refer to an off-the-cuff witticism that was obviously rehearsed. Meaning "you sat up all night thinking of that!"

#257 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 02:10 PM:

Clifton Royston @ 253:

In reading the comments on that post, it seems that that abomination was indeed produced by a woman, surprising as it may seem.

I'm also going to agree with you on men being a bit underinformed about certain matters anatomical. I believe it was pointed out in the True Porn Clerk Stories that breasts are rather visible even when covered and so men by and large have a reference point, but certain male features, well, aren't.

#258 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 02:21 PM:

I'm very well acquainted, too, with matters anatomical,
in all the range of formats from the elegant to comical....

#259 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 02:54 PM:

tykewriter #256: Hmmm. That fits in with the original reference I saw, too. Thanks!

#260 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 03:02 PM:

David, #255: I've been interpreting that phrase to mean "something hastily produced in a last-minute all-nighter". But I suppose I should ask -- is that what you mean by it, Fragano?

#261 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 03:04 PM:

Resentful free market politician high on Objectivist crankery is calling for an Atlas Shrugged style strike by Achievers to show that damn socialist Obama and his slacker followers that they won't take it any more.

Daily Kos diarist Hunter responds:

"If Only We Could Be So Lucky"

So yes, please, by all means, teach us a lesson, Achiever Class, and do it quick. You take your money, and we'll take the people who know how to fix your goddamn plumbing at three in the morning. You grab your portfolio and hold it high above your heads, a symbol of your lifetime of accomplishments, and we'll take all the firefighters. I can only presume you will not need our doctors, our schoolteachers, our grocers or even our tax accountants. Ayn Rand would have wanted it that way: Ayn Rand, oracle of the prickish class, official trumpet section for anyone and everyone that thinks themselves a king.
#262 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 03:51 PM:

Teresa's particle Jane reviews Knight Moves had me cringing in horror and laughing helplessly. Almost to the point that I think the book being reviewed was deliberately written as a Naked Came The Stranger pastiche. Almost.

#263 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 03:56 PM:

Stefan @261:
Love it. The politician in question, Rep John Campbell says:

The achievers, the people who create all the things that benefit [the] rest of us, are going on strike. I’m seeing, at a small level, a kind of protest from the people who create jobs, the people who create wealth, who are pulling back from their ambitions because they see how they’ll be punished for them.

What, pray tell, does a politician create that an Objectivist would recognize as benefitting the rest of us? He's like the suck-up praising the bullies who despise him, isn't he?

#265 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 04:02 PM:

re 250: It's been forty years since I read the book, but the last time I checked, the British defenders do not in fact defeat the invaders, or for that matter even put up much of a meaningful fight. Nor did it seem to me that there was much to the plot that pinned it particularly strongly to England, or for that matter to any particular time and place on earth. And while I haven't seen Red Dawn, I imagine that at least for an American (especially a young American boy) it's very heavily invested in a time and place. For me (age 24 at the time) it would have very definitely about kicking some commie butt, just as Potemkin (especially with its dramatic lies) was about what brutal tyranny the Romanov government was (when the truth was more that it was totally dysfunctional, and that the Bolsheviks took power in a walk-over coup against a completely different government). Some things only fly free of context in the literati fantasies of critics.

#266 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 04:25 PM:

Keith, Leah (#244 et. seq.), the thing that strikes me is that the idiots (and I include the ABC reporter in this) have apparently never done their own taxes, or they'd have an immediate understanding of marginal tax rates.

The phrase "dumber than a box of rocks" comes to mind.

#267 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 04:45 PM:

Linkmeister @ 266:

Not necessarily. The easy form, at least, can be treated purely as an exercise of doing a couple subtraction problems, a couple comparisons and a table lookup. How the values in the table are derived can be considered a form of magic if you're not curious.

I wish I could say that they're just being run-of-the-mill idiots, but sometimes it's very difficult for me to tell malice and stupidity apart. You're probably right that they don't do their own taxes, though.

#268 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 04:46 PM:

Stefan Jones @261, problem is, while that scenario would be great if the Achiever Class would simply leave all the relevant stuff to the rest of us and then go and sulk, the more likely scenario would be that some of them keep their legal ownership of the relevant stuff, and use it to shut down the economy- someone shrinking but not giving up his business, or abandoning his business while keeping the premises and real estate and tools and machinery etc., for instance- and that could theorethically cause some problems. (If the market would be as great as these people claim it is, whenever one of them would shrink his business, someone else woulf fill the void, but the market isn't as great as they claim it is.)

@264, it's a reference to the review Paula Lieberman linked @212; more precisely, to the first sex scene quoted in that review. Or were you wondering were the author of that book got it from?

#269 ::: Jason Aronowitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 04:47 PM:

I have long been an admirer of M.A. Foster's SF. The Morphodite and Ler trilogies have been reissued and available at Amazon for a couple of years now, but I neglected to speak up here with a recommendation. It is good stuff with a unique style.

Mr. Foster also occasionally writes about comics here:

and that particular column gives his contact information. If you like his work, let him know.

#270 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 04:58 PM:

#268: QUEEB!

#271 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 04:59 PM:

I dunno, I've been doing my own taxes for 20 years and it was just sometime last year that I learned that thing about how you're taxed each chunk at its own rate. You do a bunch of calculations and then look up a number in a table - if you don't look at any of the other numbers (and don't really care enough to investigate) how would you know?

Now, a reporter SHOULD care enough to investigate, and SHOULD NOT continue to spread this myth that's so pervasive that I'd never even heard a rumor that it wasn't true until last year. I'm just saying that ability to do your own taxes doesn't actually imply familiarity with all, or even most of, the US tax code.

Heck, it was just last month that I learned that the US tax system is pay-as-you-go and not an annual bill, and if your husband earns some money that doesn't have taxes withheld, then you are UTTERLY SCREWED and have to not only pay a million billion* dollars in taxes but you also have to pay a penalty for not having paid enough throughout the year. Which is what I get for doing my own taxes for 20 years and not consulting a professional, so there you go.

*Not the actual figure.

#272 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 05:02 PM:

Keith@ @#267, at their income level, I'm willing to bet they're not using the 1040-EZ form. More likely they're using the 1040 with Schedule A (itemized deductions).

They may have been paying the max rate for so long and the brackets reduced to so few that they've forgotten what it was like when there were about 8 income levels which clearly showed what happened when you got a raise to the next bracket.

#273 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 05:15 PM:

When we did our taxes a few weeks ago (H & R Block), we learned that even if you took the standard deduction because the itemized ones don't exceed it, we could still deduct a portion of our property taxes on top of the standard deduction, plus a little bit extra for the Hurricane Ike damage we had (not bad, just $300 for some minor repairs and loss of frozen food).

My wife and I don't have kids and our house is paid off, so we haven't itemized in years.

I think this property tax thing is only for this year, though.

#274 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 05:52 PM:

The tax collectors here in the UK can do some incredibly dumb things.

It shouldn't be so surprising that tax payers get some weird ideas.

#275 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 05:59 PM:

Linkmeister @ 272:

You're right, of course, that they almost certainly don't use the simple form. Is the more advanced form more clear about the way taxes work, or is it just a more complex set of arithmetic and table look-up?

In the end what bothers me is not whether they're mendacious or merely stupid, but that they so easily get away with saying utter crap that they should never say in the first place.

#276 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 06:11 PM:

Getting away with saying baseless crap is the core truthiness on which cable news punditry is built.

#277 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 06:14 PM:

If you're having someone else do the taxes, you probably won't have any idea about rates and tables. The preparer might not, either: they're plugging numbers into boxes in a computer program.
(I have someone do mine, because it involves things like capital gains. Otherwise, I'd probably be using the simplest schedule possible.)

#278 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 06:45 PM:

Stefan Jones @ 264: I guess spung is for mild stuff, and queeb is for when things get raunchier. I gave up around the queeb point, as my own reaction was squick.

#279 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 06:50 PM:

Our little hospital. It's the third section of this story, LiveFit NH.

#280 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 07:02 PM:

P J Evans @ #277, "capital gains"

In 2008???? My congratulations! Who's your broker?

#281 ::: sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 07:06 PM:

I have someone do my taxes - I have two 1099 - MISC forms every year that have no witholding. I have the nice man come up with everything we possibly can do to reduce my check to the feds and states on the 15th. It still hurts, and I'm going to quarterlies this year just to make it hurt less at the end. But I know I should never do my own taxes - math was never my skill, and tax math is worse.

#282 ::: WereBear ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 07:09 PM:

Just dropped in to say the asteroid missed us.

So we should all have a good weekend.

#283 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 07:16 PM:

Lee #260: I've been using the phrase "smells of the lamp" to mean "produced late the night before it was due".

#284 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 07:41 PM:

I do notice this year's 1040 appears to have changed the calculation instructions. used for taxes when your taxable income is over $100K.

Before, it used to say

"If your taxable income is more than $T, your tax is $B, plus R% of your taxable income over $T".

Now it says "If your taxable income is more than $T, your tax is R% of your total taxable income, minus $M."

The latter is a bit simpler to compute, and it's mathematically equivalent to the former (where $M = (R% of $T) - $B).

But it may look to an quick glance like the new higher rate applies to your *entire* income, not just the part above a certain threshold.

Mind you, I don't know the extent to which this actually causes confusion in real life, as I suspect that most people with incomes over $250k don't do their own taxes with the paper forms, and a little mathematical thought shows that nothing has really changed between the two formulas. But there are a lot of Americans who aren't particularly numerate.

#285 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 09:00 PM:

Linkmeister, last year's 'gains' were the result of closing out the annuity I inherited from my mother. (We closed the annuity just before the market tanked.) Over all, the investments lost money. (I'm doing business with Edward Jones.)

I said to my broker a couple of weeks ago, talking to him about taxes and stuff, that I'd sell the couple of hundred shares of BofA that I have (they're not worth much these days), but all the people who'd be willing to buy them are working at the Treasury.

#286 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 09:17 PM:

Sounds like it's time for me to invest most of my $7.95 in savings in lottery tickets....

#287 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 09:26 PM:

P J :I'd sell the couple of hundred shares of BofA"

You remind me of the biggest investment mistake I ever made: back in the early 80s BoA was selling at $8 and I knew the real estate under its branches was worth a lot more than that by itself, but I couldn't pull the trigger (or come up with enough money to really hit it big). A few years later it had quadrupled.

Yeah, you could probably call up Geithner and offer it to him; since he has no deputies or undersecretaries he might answer the phone himself.

#288 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 09:35 PM:

On the marginal tax thread: It's been my impression that the majority of Americans don't understand that incomes tax rates apply to successive "slices" of income. I think I learned about it in a college economics class, rather than in high school, or at the dinner table. It seems that whenever the topic of taxes comes up, someone starts talking about the danger of rising into the next tax bracket, and heads start nodding in agreement. Filling out your tax forms wouldn't necessarily enlighten you on this -- unless you do some "what if" calculations. I do explain marginal tax rates when the opportunity arises, so I'm doing my small part!

It also seems uncommon for people to realize that our current tax rates in the US are at a historically low point, as well as low compared to other industrialized countries. There's a good table of US income tax rates on Wikipedia that illustrates this. What really sets me off is when I hear some politician on the radio trumpeting about how the US has the highest taxes on corporate income in the world. Strangely, they never mention the non-income taxes paid by corporations in other countries, including (but not limited) to Value Added Tax.

#289 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 09:37 PM:

I can't say I've ever had fond feelings for BofA - the only account I ever had with them was a school-sponsored savings account. My mother got ticked off at them - fairly permanently - when they asked for ID one time too many, back in the mid-50s, in a city with a population that, at the time, was around 10,000 people and BofA wasn't the only bank in town.

#290 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 09:41 PM:

Stefan #276: Yeah, but all the media do it. The way it looks to me is that the MSM has always been pretty awful about any kind of complicated story. But before widespread web access, each person reading the news caught only the horrifying goof-ups that their personal knowledge/expertise covered, and that only within those stories they bothered to read. Now, we have both alternatives, and a blogosphere full of people who are willing (and often eager) to point out the flaws in MSM reporting. So it becomes more obvious.

As a kid, I remember hearing many of my relatives comment on the low quality of news reporting. This wasn't "Evil liberal media" sort of complaining, but rather stuff like "the few times I've actually been in on something reported on the news, the newspaper article got everything wrong."

#291 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 10:11 PM:

Lee @ 249: "Against that interpretation, I think most men would be aware that flaccid penis size (which is what she'd be seeing if he's just peed) bears little or no relation to the erect result."

Hmm, I hadn't thought about it like that. Still, I think Clifton Royston makes a good point @ 253: while I wouldn't go so far as to say that the vast majority of men are delusional about penis size, certainly the kind of man who would write something like that (under a female pseudonym to boot) would be.

I definitely agree though, the general level of filth is by far the weirdest part.

#292 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 11:13 PM:

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: For the experiment to be a success, all of the body parts must be enlarged.
Inga: His veins, his feet, his hands, his organs vould all have to be increased in size.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Exactly.
Inga: He vould have an enormous schwanzstucker.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: That goes without saying.
Inga: Voof.
Igor: He's going to be very popular.

#293 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2009, 11:43 PM:

Serge, WOOT!!!

#294 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 12:05 AM:

Re: queeb (*snerk*)

I've always maintained that size does matter.

But what various erotica don't seem to take into account is that female size varies along with the male. I can well imagine how a, well, size mismatch would be a distinct turnoff.

#295 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 12:17 AM:

Just returned from a delightful dinner with David Goldfarb and Katie. We took them to Otilia's, which is a very good Mexican (not Tex-Mex!) restaurant; afterwards, we introduced them to TeaHouse and took a short cruise thru the Montrose "colorful neighborhood". The Bay Area's loss will definitely be our gain when they move here.

#296 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 12:35 AM:

janetl @ 288:

I think I largely learned about the way that income taxes are calculated in university as well, which is pretty sad when you think about it.

Also, why is this such a big brouhaha in the first place? If I remember correctly, median household income in the US is much, much less than $250000 per year.

Serge @ 292:

I haven't seen that in a while. Time to get it out again.

The True Porn Clerk Stories post that I referenced earlier is on this page titled "World's Largest Cocks". It, like most of the other posts there, is both funny and insightful.

#297 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 01:04 AM:

On a lighter note, I would like to thank Teresa for encouraging me to move The Last Unicorn to the head of my to-read queue. I enjoyed it immensely.

#298 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 01:04 AM:

sisuile @ 281

I've done my own taxes every year for the last 38 years, except for last year, when I finally got rid of a bunch of stock left over from the dotbomb, some of which was worth nanopennies on the dollar. The result was an ungodly number of form 1099s and hell's own calculation of capital loss.

The thing about doing my own return is that I'm really good at math and really bad at both arithmetic and following government instructions. Calculators take care of the first, but the only reason I've been able to keep doing my own tax returns is that there are computer programs that do the heavy lifting; they even keep track of previous info and print the forms all filled out. You might want to look into them; with a relatively simple return, you just have to copy the various forms in and answer some questions. Most years it takes me a few hours, including a pass through everything again just to check that I did it all right.

#299 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 01:05 AM:

sisuile @ 281

I've done my own taxes every year for the last 38 years, except for last year, when I finally got rid of a bunch of stock left over from the dotbomb, some of which was worth nanopennies on the dollar. The result was an ungodly number of form 1099s and hell's own calculation of capital loss.

The thing about doing my own return is that I'm really good at math and really bad at both arithmetic and following government instructions. Calculators take care of the first, but the only reason I've been able to keep doing my own tax returns is that there are computer programs that do the heavy lifting; they even keep track of previous info and print the forms all filled out. You might want to look into them; with a relatively simple return, you just have to copy the various forms in and answer some questions. Most years it takes me a few hours, including a pass through everything again just to check that I did it all right.

#300 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 01:07 AM:

Apologies for the double post. The first time I got a really bizarre Movable Type error, something about "rebuild failed", and just assumed it hadn't taken.

#301 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 01:12 AM:

I've used TurboTax for the past four years, because it dawned on me that the CPA I'd been paying $125/year was doing exactly what I'd do with TurboTax: plug raw numbers into canned software, review, print (or possibly E-file). TurboTax costs $50. Insta-savings of $75/year.

#302 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 01:41 AM:

KeithS @ 296: "...why is this such a big brouhaha in the first place? If I remember correctly, median household income in the US is much, much less than $250000 per year."

I have some vague memory that studies show that a surprising number of Americans believe that they might get rich, so that could be one reason.

About a year ago, I read Joe Bageant's book "Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War". I recall him saying that part of the reason he saw people in his hometown in Virginia identifying with the Republicans rather than the Democrats was that the Republicans were doing a much better job getting their message across. The message that "taxes kill innovation yadda yadda" has been broadcast loud and clear for an awfully long time.

Now I wonder how Winchester, Virginia voted last November.

#303 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 07:00 AM:

Paula Helm Murray @ 293... KeithS @ 296... Did you know that Peter Boyle, aka the Creature, was the Best Man at the wedding of John Lennon and Yoko Ono?

#304 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 08:25 AM:

JanetL@302: According to the Winchester Star, Winchester went for Obama, the first time since 1964 that a Democratic presidential candidate got the most votes in that town.

#305 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 09:19 AM:

janetl @ 302... a surprising number of Americans believe that they might get rich, so that could be one reason

"Don't forget that most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich than face the reality of being poor."
- Dickinson in 1776

#306 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 09:28 AM:

As for doing my own taxes, I stopped when the Republicans passed the Tax Payer Relief Act. I don't know about other people, but saving $5 isn't much of an enticement whe it means a splitting headache after spending hours on the form that replaced a line time that used to take a couple of minutes. So much for their being against Big Government. Ever since, when a Republican says that something is going to be good for me, I start worrying.

#307 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 09:43 AM:

Steve C @ 254... It does, doesn't it?

#308 ::: sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 10:05 AM:

KeithS @ 296 Listening to NPR this week, one of the commentators said that 40% of the total federal income tax revenue was paid by households who make $250K or more a year, and that 3-5% of Americans fall into that bracket. Even if those numbers are exaggerated, it still is implying that a huge amount of the taxes are paid by a very small portion of the population. That's why it's a big deal. They feel (evidently quite rightly) that they're already paying the vast majority of taxes and they worked hard for that income, just like everybody else. They may be right or wrong about the working part, but it's an understandable attitude.

I'd say raising that bar was the answer, in terms of catching executives who are getting vastly inflated sums of money from their businesses and skipping working professionals, but one of my colleagues makes close to a million every year, by my calculations. I know exactly how hard he works on every transaction, having worked with him before. He's a workaholic and very, very good at what we do. So if we set it a million, will we still avoid overtaxing professionals who are just skilled? Where do we set that bar?

#309 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 10:27 AM:

sisuile, 308,

The standard reply here is that people who make 250k plus disproportionately benefit from what government does with that money.

We all benefit from government services, but those who have the most, benefit the most.

In what way? In the form of a civil society that has consumers to buy their products, consumers that are willing to do so because they have things like roads, medicine, (peace!). Likewise, they benefit from having a pool of employees who have safe places to live, safe food to eat, and reliable communication systems. Furthermore, they benefit from having open markets (due to treaties) , with moderate amounts of regulation (FDIC, etc).

Many, many, fewer of these people would have their wealth had someone not paid for them to have these advantages.

I mean no snarkiness by this. I learned this perspective from an elderly Republican who owned his own factory.

#310 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 10:35 AM:

People with income at that level shelter as much of it as they can (and can afford the advisers to do it), but they're still paying taxes at a lower tax rate than they were even fifteen years ago, and that gets lost in translation.
(They ought to be told, with numbers based on their actual income, what they would have been paying by the tax rules under Reagan or Nixon, or Eisenhower. Then they might stop complaining.)

#311 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 10:46 AM:

"Now look. The Post: 'It Flies.' The News: 'Look, Ma, No Wires.' The Times: 'Blue Bomb Buzzes Metropolis.' The Planet. We're sitting on top of the story of the century here! I want the name of this flying whatchamacallit to go with the Daily Planet like bacon and eggs, franks and beans, death and taxes, politics and corruption."
- Perry White in Superman

#312 ::: Janet K ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 10:47 AM:

Marilee's birthday is Tuesday.

There's a thread on the Marilee medical update forum where you can post a birthday and get well messages for Marilee. They'll be printed out by Steve and delivered to her in the hospital.

#313 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 10:59 AM:

sisule #308

There are a number of logical considerations that usually get ignored/bypassed with the emotional appeal of "I EARNED that money, I should get to KEEP it!" jingoisms.

1. Society is a construct, and wealth is, too, particularly wealth as bookkeepping exercises....
a) "So-and-So works hard"--but did so-and-so do actually all the work that SaS is reaping the benefits and financial proceeds from?
a1) Big corporations executives tend to have lots of much-lower-paid subordinates. They also are in offices that there need to be people doing the cleaning, there are the people keeping their calendars, the people managing the corporate information network, the people writing the press releases, the purchasing department that bought the executive's Blackberry and keeps paying for its service and bought the computer and printer and paper.... what are those people and their associates being paid? Few of them are likely to be getting megabucks, or rewarded proportionately to their contribution to keeping the highly-paid executive employed...
a2) Corporation gets lots of tax benefits by all sorts of interesting accounting techniques--when Jack Welch former head of GE got divorced, all sorts of information about GE's financial doings became public domain information, and it turned out that MOST of the so-vaunted high-profitability-for-giant-company of GE under his direction, was really funnymoney games. Welch was one of the people who did the most to destroy US small electronics production, shutting down profitably GE facilities for making irons and other small consumer electronics and offshoring production as part of a strategy for making the businesses more attractive for selling off or swapping out to other companies (GE traded its consumer electronics business to Thomson of France for Thomson's medical imaging business... at the time GE had something like a 40% share of the market for television sets and videocameras and such, much of which had been made in the USA, after it did its hostile buyout of RCA.... that was back in the days when the idea of changing from analog to digital television broadcast was making its way through Congress and the idea there was that US companies in the electronics and consumer electronic industries, would develop computer-technology based "convergence" systems which would be manufactured in the US at US-owned and operated planted staffed by US production workers.... at the time, GE, RCA, GTE, IBM, Digital Equipment Corporation, Hewlett-Packard, Packard-Bell, Zenith, Intel, Motorola, and a slew of other US companies were all manufacturing either or both consumer electronics and computers, IBM and Tektronix were leaders in flat panel display technlogy... but a decade and a half later, it's all Asian and a couple European companies involved in such manufacturing, done almost entirely offshore, with a residual bit in Mexico, moved there from the factories which once were GE/RCA in Indiana.
3) Jack Welch is merely the most prominent of those who "created wealth" for themselves and their biggest investors by stripping the United States of manufacturing facilities and dumping millions of people out of work here and sending the jobs to lower wages lower living standards countries which have been busily been destroying their ecologies as they posthaste industrialize, damming up the rivers, adulterating the food supply, poisoning the waters and land and e.g. rendering river dolphin extinct in the process and generating grave health problems in the local populations.
4) The "cost" of the wealth, doesn't hit the beneficiaries--Jack Welch doesn't live on a poisoned river in China and hasn't lost a baby to poisoning from melamine in commercially processed and distributed milk. His actions and policies, though, paved the way for the current situation of adulterated medicine and foodstuffs produced in China and elsewhere unregulated by any scrupulous authorities with actual enforcement occurring (note that the unscrupulousness and lack of enforcement by e.g. the SEC in 2001-2008 especially in all sorts of things, and the FDA capriciousness in those years also, and the FBI politically corrupt as regards actions...) and gettign in from the bottom up to poison everything the adulterated materials went into (medicines, food products, toys in the case of lead in paint and metal...)
4) More on cost versus benefit -- Cinergy and "the dirty dozen" powerplants in Ohio. I live in Massachusetts, downwind from the Dirty Dozen, and where the acid rain comes down--so that Ohioans can get their much cheaper-than-what-I-pay-for electricity, and Cinergy and its executives and its stockholders get high profits--at the expense of MY health, and acid rain falling killing plants in MY yard, and deteriorating the bridges that have to be paid for rebuilding from income tax on ME and polluted air going into my lungs.... What benefits am -I- getting? NOTHING, I am getting socked with expenses to pay for Bad Stuff caused by Cinergy's pollution, which benefits, again, Cinergy's executives and investors and customers, at MY expense and MY lessened well-being! Cinergy cleaning up the dirty dozen or replacing them with new plants, would reduce Cinergy's immediate profits and make the executives look less finanically rewarding for the stockholders....

There are entire societal infrastructures and equippages and system without which the income that the ultrarich receive, wouldn;t be possible.... structure which is invisible or not discussed generally when talking about "productivity" and such. There are costs that get ignored, ESPECIALLY when they're being paid by OTHER people and are burdens that are getting displaced.... those stinking SUVs that pollute the air worse than higher mileage vehicles and which because they are heavier cause more destruction and deterioration to roads, the SUV drivers are NOT paying for remediation commensurate with the environmental pollution and road deterioration their vehicle effect. Everyone ELSE gets stuck paying extra for remediation, and medical costs, instead.... Ford and GM etc. have never been taxed based on pollution and resource wanton wasteful consumption and road deterioration of those stinking SUVs... actual tractor-trailer trucks the owner-operators get charged substantial usage taxes on as commercial vehicles, and also, those are used for semi-useful social purposes of transporting goods.... not so SUVs compared with less wasteful cars and other vehicles, it's the rare SUV that the operator actually NEEDS the carrying capacity of the vehicle when out driving it....

Social -costs- are things that get left out of the equation in the Republicraps' noisemaking and the wealthy whiners whining and their press relations shills' jingoisms.

#314 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 11:18 AM:

Oh, another thing... the reason why so much of the tax revenue comes from a small part of the populace is very simple--that's because that's the highly disproportionate proportion of the income and the assets in this country which are owned/controlled by that small percentage of the population! The have-nothings or outright negative net worth people, economically are noise-level as regards the distribution of wealth and income in the country... trying to squeeze taxes from someone with little income, would be a joke, except they're getting hit with the taxes anyway for Social Security and FICA and sales taxes and excise taxes on cars and the taxes on utilities and such.... As regards living above the bare scrabble level and having discretionary income, the situation is HIGHLY nonlinear....

Just before the crash all the warning signs were there and gettign attention from SOME people--"The last time the economic distribution of wealth between the people at the top of the distribution curves for income and assets and plurality of people at the bottom of the curve was this skewed and unequal, was just before the Great Depression hit."

And boom, we're now in another depression.... inequality breeds economic and social nastiness and misery.

Another ten thousand dollars to Bill Gates of Warren Buffet is noise level... another ten thousand dollars to someone in a $20,000 per year job, is 50% more than the person's pretax pre-deduction pre-expenses annual income! Taxing Gates or Buffet a few percentage points more, isn;t going to change their lifestyles or really affect them.... but the income to the governments from additional tax revenue on the upper one percent, will provide services and jobs and OVERSIGHT to help improve the living standards for the OTHER 99% of the population!, help rebuild roads which those stinking SUVs and Cinergy';s damned dirty dozen health menaces make deteriorate faster, rebuild the public health service and provide accurate information not adulterated and corrupted by religious fanatic proselytizer's chauvinistic censorship and propaganda, support remediation of the environment and cleaner air cutting down medical costs for treating people ill from air pollution; provide programs for treating and rehabilitating people with illnesses that include drug addition and other causes of low productivity/disability which have raised expenses and dropped national productivity; programs for intervention and treatment and education for people with disabilities including learning disabilities so that treated they will be productive citizens instead of finding crime the least unattractive option for getting income....

#315 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 11:30 AM:

Re: Knight Moves (Comment #212 et seq):

It went spung! up above
And queeb! down below
And its ladysoft went whirl!
I still don't know quite what it was
But it dressed just like a girl...

Also: the codpiece.

Ravenous Romance, the publisher, was minorly notorious for advertising for editors on Craigslist (at $200/book).

The author of this book, I happen to know from other sources (for Yog knows all), is biologically female. Nor is this her first book.

#316 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 12:11 PM:

don #309:

That's the standard line, but I don't think it's true, at least not directly. Very rich people live quite well in very, very poor places. Rich people live well in third-world countries where the police are indistinguishable from the criminals and government-supplied services are both horrible and unattainable without paying a bribe. They live well in the worst-run cities in the US, where gated communities and private schools allow them to bypass the awful public services. Rich executives in Russia hire bodyguards to protect them from the mafia types that might otherwise try to demand money from them. Middle-class/rich people in much of the world have houses with impressive physical defenses (concrete walls with broken glass set into the tops, swordlike iron bars) to address the fact that the cops aren't all that much help at keeping crime down. Middle-class South Africans in big cities basically pay private security companies to provide the protection the cops don't[1].

This line about "the rich pay more because they benefit more" isn't consistent with that. I think it's common because it tells a pleasing story, not because it's true.

I think we broadly require rich people to pay more because:

a. They can afford it. Take 35% of a barely-adequate wage for taxes, and you've left someone in a world of hurt; take 35% of a very generous wage for taxes, and you're left someone annoyed at you but otherwise doing okay.

b. That's where the money is. Income distribution is asymmetric, following something a lot more like a power law distribution than like a normal distribution. The 1% who makes the most money makes a large fraction of the total, so how you tax them has a large impact on total revenue.

c. If you believe money has diminishing marginal utility ($1 more means less to Warren Buffet than it does to me, and less to me than it does to some homeless guy down at the shelter), then taking $100 from me and handing it to that homeless guy, or taking $100 from Buffet and handing it to me, is a net gain in well-being. (This doesn't account for the side-effects of the transfer, however; it's easy to do that in a way that makes Buffet spend $99 avoiding each $100 of taxes, and makes me spend $99 to get each $100 in transfer, leading to a much poorer society.)

[1] This is an example of one of those ways in which the anarchocapitalist/libertarian model looks much uglier in practice than in theory.

#317 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 12:20 PM:

James D. Macdonald @ 315: "Also be sure to drop by and check out my latest release, EXPERIMENTAL: A Sex & Science Anthology. This collection of short erotic stories will forever change your opinion of science and sex, and it's already a bestseller!"

I am not going there. Trek science is bad enough. I don't want to know what she thinks happens in a lab. I've spent a lot of my life happily working in chemistry labs, without any scarring, and I'd like to keep it that way.

#318 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 12:43 PM:

albatross @ 316... Very rich people live quite well in very, very poor places.

True, but do they sell what made them rich to their local population, or to the population of societies where the wealth distribution is less uneven? (By the way, I work my butt off and yet I recently got a big fat 1% raise so I hope I'll be forgiven if I don't shed tears for those who bemoan having to suffer a similar fate, from which they seem to think they should be exempt just because their talent is to make money, not things.)

#319 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 12:45 PM:

I've always done my own taxes, even in the (taxly) hideous year when we got married and I cashed out all my mutual funds. The latter was a huge mess because what I had was a junk bond fund that had made lots of income but had also slid greatly in value. This meant calculating capital gains/losses on years of monthly dividends, remembering that in those days one had to worry about the short/long term distinction. I at least had a spreadsheet (that's what I still use). The losses where the only thing that kept us from paying penalty taxes.

The thing about the shifting tax brackets is that they do affect the chattering classes very much, because two upper middle incomes puts a household into the range where this does matter. And those people do have a lot of influence.

#320 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 12:46 PM:

albatross @ 316:

I think that both you and don at 309 are right. In places like Russia and South Africa, the rich directly pay private security forces instead of paying the government to pay the police. Obviously even in the US wealthy people still pay private security as well, but they don't have to build impregnable fortresses for homes. I'd consider that a net win, but then again I don't have that level of wealth.

The wealthy in a generally well-off country also have more need for strong national defense, which is expensive. They benefit more from the courts and justice system, as they have more assets, property, and business deals. They benefit from having good roads and infrastructure in general to transport goods.

I think that where it falls down is that, for whatever reasons, we've started to forget what the benefits of having an educated, healthy workforce who can afford your products and services are. It's so cheap to make everything in China, where they won't necessarily buy those goods from you, and sell them over here.

People in general (I'm definitely including myself in this) have a hard time making associations between tenuously connected things. We take roads and fire fighters and the FDA for granted, but taxes are something that you just have to send a off and never see again.

I think you're both right in different ways. I think we're also back to arguing morality and practicality in the context of a different discussion.

#321 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 12:51 PM:

sisuile @ 308, and generally on the topic of marginal tax rates and income distribution:

I studied economics in the late 70s/early 80s. There was a tax revolt at the time: Proposition 13 to limit property taxes in California, and then the Reagan revolution. In class once, there was a discussion about "why can't we tax the rich more and the middle class less?" The professor put up a graph showing the distribution of wealth. It was a bell curve with the middle class having most of the money. The rich had a lot of income, but there weren't enough of them to make a dent. You taxed the middle class because that's where the money was. Since then, jobs at the low to middle income level haven't seen much (if any) growth in real terms (adjusted for inflation), while the rich have gotten much richer. So the now rich have to get the pinch because they've benefited so disproportionately over the past 20+ years. As has been pointed out above, they are still paying a much lower income tax rate then they did under Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon and so on.

The perception of tax burden, and the reality, are often different. Back when California's Proposition 13 ballot initiative passed in 1978, the perception was that property taxes were out of control. Inflation has caused property values to go up, so your annual tax bill did go up. It arrived as a single lump, easy to compare year to year. During the same period of rapid inflation, the price of everything you bought had gone up, so your sales tax burden had jumped, too, but you're not going to notice that at pennies per item. More significantly, your income went up with inflation, and the income tax tables had not been adjusted. So your income went up (typically) at a lower percentage rate than the increase in the cost of living, so you were behind already, and then you got taxed at a higher rate.

If people had done the careful analysis, they would have been clamoring for income tax changes. Instead they noticed real estate taxes. I'm not saying that anyone was dumb. There are only so many hours in the day, and who is going to track the price of butter from one month to the next?

#322 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 01:02 PM:

janetl @ 321... There are only so many hours in the day, and who is going to track the price of butter from one month to the next?

Your point basically is like the metaphor of a frog dropped in very hot water vs the frog drop in cool water that eventually becomes extremely hot.

#323 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 01:02 PM:

James D. Macdonald @ 315:

I'm glad I wasn't drinking anything when I read your little poem.

Editors for $200 a book? Back-of-the-envelope calculation time. Now, $400 per week turns out to be $10 an hour, assuming a standard forty hour work-week, so you'd have to 'edit' two books per week to even make that. If we assume a short book of 200 pages, that means that you'd be earning a dollar per page, and that you could only spend six minutes on each page. Obviously, the longer the book the shorter the time you can spend per page and the faster you have to read.

I don't think I'll be buying any books from their press with that level of editing, thanks.

#324 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 01:06 PM:

heresiarch @ 291: Clifton Royston makes a good point @ 253: while I wouldn't go so far as to say that the vast majority of men are delusional about penis size...

How can you doubt my word? No man alive uses less hyperbole than I!

#325 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 01:23 PM:

Serge @ 322: The "boiling frog" analogy is perfect!

Some context for tax rates - there's a table in Wikipedia on the history of America's top marginal income tax rates.

From 1932 through 1981, the top rate ranged from 63% to 94%.
During the early Reagan years (1982-1986), the top rate was 50%.
Since 1987, the top rate has ranged from 28% to 39.6%. I believe that the recent change puts it back to the 39.6% from 35%.

#326 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 01:44 PM:

In the meantime, top executives are making heroic sacrifices to do their part in getting the economy back on track.


#327 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 01:58 PM:

As Warren Buffett will tell you, the rich pay a considerably lower percentage of their incomes in taxes than the rest of us, because the capital gains rate is much lower than that for regular income, and because payroll tax doesn't apply on income above a certain amount (around $90,000 IIRC).

Raising the top rate from 33% to 35% won't change this much, if any.

#328 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 02:05 PM:

KeithS, #297: If you liked the book, you'll probably enjoy the animated movie as well. It's the most faithful book-to-movie adaptation I've ever encountered, bar none.

P J Evans, #310: Precisely. If the soi-disant "liberal media" were to make an issue of just how much LESS the super-rich pay now than they used to, and how much more money they have left after taxes than the middle class, a lot of that sympathy would evaporate very quickly.

Personally, I think most tax shelters should be eliminated. It's not right that someone who makes $10,000 a year (or $50,000, or $100,000) gets taxed on every dime while someone who makes $1,000,000 a year can sequester huge chunks of it and not have to pay taxes on it at all.

albatross, #316: Income distribution is asymmetric, following something a lot more like a power law distribution than like a normal distribution. The 1% who makes the most money makes a large fraction of the total, so how you tax them has a large impact on total revenue.

That's key, I think. The fact that income distribution is severely asymmetric is carefully glossed over in favor of calls for a tax system in which "everyone pays their fair share". For example, in that NPR story referenced above -- okay, so the top 5% of taxpayers contribute 40% of the total government revenue. How much of the country's total wealth do they own? I'll bet the answer to that is closer to 80% than 40%, so they are actually paying considerably LESS than their fair share. But nobody ever points that out.

#329 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 02:10 PM:

I learned about the 90 percent marginal tax rate from a Nero Wolfe story--the third one from Trouble in Triplicate. (I remember because this is my favorite volume in the series.) Wolfe was always on the lookout for an excuse to avoid work. Archie Goodwin's most important job was to goad him into taking enough cases to stay solvent.

(As an aside, the greatest thing about the Wolfe books is that Rex Stout, though he clearly likes the guy, still allows Wolfe moments of buffoonery. That's the way to keep a super-genius from getting super-annoying.)

Anyway. At one point Wolfe actually uses the "going Galt" tactic to refuse a case: he's earned so much money this year the government will get nine tenths of anything else he earns, so what's the point?

Of course, unlike the wingnuts, Wolfe isn't sincere: it's an excuse to get rid of a particularly vexing wannabe client. When the guy suggests that Wolfe should take the money under the table, it doesn't go over well:

"I am not a common cheat, Mr. Poor. Not that I am a saint. Given adequate provocation, I might conceivably cheat a man--or a woman or even a child. But you are suggesting that I cheat, not a man or woman or child, but a hundred and forty million of my fellow citizens. Bah."

We could use more Nero Wolfes in this country. (Other advantages: better food, more mysteries solved, more J. Edgar Hoovers outsmarted.)

#330 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 02:19 PM:

Lee, #328: If you liked the book, you'll probably enjoy the animated movie as well.

Although if you buy it you'll probably want to get it from Conlan Press. Apparently this is the only way Beagle gets any money out of the deal.

#331 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 02:23 PM:

At the top end, wealth distribution is even more disparate than income distribution; it's much more extreme. I don't know that there's any practical way to change that. Ever. We're decades too late.

The hideously evil forces of Zombie Reagan have won.

#332 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 03:11 PM:

Apparently, UK income tax peaked at 98% for "unearned income".

I would advise everyone with elderly family members to check that they've been given the correct personal allowances in the UK. My father is 89, qualifying for the higher personal allowance as a result, and HMRC have his date-of-birth on their computer records, but the bastards didn't notice that he qualified for several thousand quid in extra tax allowance, simply because of his age.

#333 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 03:35 PM:

C. Wingate #247 - Realising I'd skipped over the introduction to the 25 best conservative movies(see sub-thread on following instructions) I looked again. They say "Our approach in selecting them doesn’t rise to the level of an actual methodology, but there was a method to it" and their description makes me think it wasn't a straight vote. Probably most of them were the most popular amongst the of "hundreds of suggestions" though, so my hypothesis shouldn't be taken too seriously.

#226 ajay - I would have been trying to slip the phrase "liberal czarist regime" in, but that's what was on the top of my head too.

Dave Bell #274 - I won't swear this story is true, but a friend who is teaching English in the Canaries has apparently been threatend with being fined for not claiming the money she's owed by Inland Revenue.

#334 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 06:00 PM:

Wesley, #330: Yes, I forgot to mention that; thanks for rectifying the omission! Anything of Beagle's that you want to buy should be purchased thru Conlan Press.

#335 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 06:18 PM:

This is the first year my baby sister's filed taxes, and she was horribly confused. She asked Mom, who was also confused-- and why? How? It's the 1040EZ, she had the forms, she had the instructions.... I ended up walking her through an online file thing, only to be stalled when it asked for her last year's income. Last year, she didn't have income.
So I'm going to finish my taxes this weekend (maybe) and then go home and do my baby sister's.

Mine were actually kind of fun. This is the third year I've had meaningful income, and the second where I've gotten all of my federal taxes back.

#336 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 07:25 PM:

Diatryma (335): Presumably entering '0' for last year's income should work. Or did you already try that?

#337 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 07:34 PM:

Part of the problem in all of this talk is that there doesn't seem to be readily available historical median income data; all the data I can find is adjusted for inflation. Therefore, it is impossible to make comparisons between eras for any but the super rich. Also, the brackets below the top do matter. Looking at the late fifties (home that that 91% top bracket) I find that people at the very top were paying 78% or more of their entire income.

Also, it pays to look at how the brackets fell through the period. The 1964 act moved the top bracket down to $200K and the top marginal rate to 70%; the 41% rate was hit at $28K. Skip ahead to 1969: the brackets are about the same, but there is a 7% surtax stuck on top. These brackets held until the next fix in 1977, when the brackets were kicked up significantly (42% was now at $35.2K); nonetheless, the bracket moves were not keeping pace with inflation, so people were being pushed into higher brackets if their wages kept up with inflation. These brackets held, more or less, until 1986; however, what first happened in Reagan's term was that the brackets about 50% simply disappeared. After 1986 we have the current, inflation-adjusted brackets, more or less.

It's that lack of inflation indexing, coupled with the high rates on even the middle brackets, that killed off the 1950s-era tax structure. Whether it should have been killed in quite that way is perhaps where there is a real argument.

As far as income inequity is concerned, it seems to me that envy as a realized social force is far more destructive than greed is. 98% brackets are envy in action; I cannot imagine that the British government actually recovers much money that way. Maybe 50% is too low for a top rate, but 90% is something that only works with a lot of tax sheltering. Taxation that is designed to produce more income equity is, on the face of it, confiscatory.

#338 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 07:36 PM:

In the context of the generally horrid job of reporting done by the MSM, I'd like to report that my local paper did a STELLAR job of putting together this slide-show-with-narration, in connection with a story about our hippotherapy facility.

It's engaging, and believe it or not, quite accurate. I was gobsmacked.

#339 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 07:36 PM:

re 333: That's actually the impression I got: they got a big bag of suggestions and picked out a likely bunch.

#340 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 07:40 PM:

#315 was an alternate refrain for The Marvelous Toy. You don't have to do a thing to the verses....

The Marvelous Toy

#341 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 07:47 PM:

C. Wingate @ 337: Yup, analyzing income and taxes gets muddy fast. For example, just looking at federal income tax doesn't give a clear picture of tax burden, since you need to factor in the treatment of capital gains. And then there are state and local taxes...
Trying to analyze income adjusted for inflation is another nightmare. How does the cost of a phone compare in 1963 and today? I'll bet that the cost of a TV is a lot lower. How do you compare the cost of an internet connection?

#342 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 08:07 PM:

re 341: I thought about state/local taxes, and they sure queer very high brackets. Sales taxes in the 1950s were much lower than they are now (in Maryland it was 3% in the mid-'60s, then went up to 5% atthe end of the decade, and is now 6% as of last year's package of across the board tax hikes). I have no idea what the state rates were then, but 90% doesn't leave a lot of room for any state taxes.

#343 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 09:21 PM:

I have a favor to ask of you all.

I have a chance to get about 30,000 USD to spend on taking pictures and blogging about it. But I need votes. I need all the votes I can get.

The details are here at my blog.

The short story is, if I can make the top 20 in the voting, I get evaluated on other things (can I take pictures, do I do digital, can I blog decently).

If I win I get 50,000, out of which I have to pay taxes, and the expenses of the trip.

So I am begging the induldgence of your friendship, or mere acquaintance (lurkers, this is something you can do, and still be a lurker :), and asking you to follow the links, and cast a vote.

In any case, thanks.

#344 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 09:31 PM:

Terry Karney #343: You've linked to your Flickr page, not to your blog.

Nice pun in the title of that first photograph, by the way.

#345 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 09:36 PM:

As I prepare to pack up marking for the night, I take note of this:

'While the morals of these men were in good taste for that time period it is inevitable to believe that the term “We the People” really included diversity of all the people, be today we hold this to be true.'

#346 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 10:06 PM:

Also, I get a 500 internal server error when I try to visit

#347 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 10:22 PM:

Clifton Royston @ 324: =)

don delny @ 309: "Many, many, fewer of these people would have their wealth had someone not paid for them to have these advantages."

Past a certain income level, none of them would have their wealth. The amount of wealth that any individual can control in a Hobbesian state of conflict is pretty small. Given that it requires the cooperation of (nearly) everyone to maintain our state of comparative civilization, why shouldn't we spread the resulting prosperity more equally? When inequality becomes so severe that the majority of the population no longer has any stake in protecting the current order it is bad for everyone, but especially the very rich. Just ask Louis XVI.

KeithS @ 320: "In places like Russia and South Africa, the rich directly pay private security forces instead of paying the government to pay the police."

I'd actually be very interested to find out the relative percentages the very rich end up paying to protect their (remaining) wealth in Russia and South Africa, and how it compares to rates of taxation in countries with stronger civil protections.

But even in Russia and South America, those rich people still benefit from the rule of law--it's the only thing which prevents those hired guns from simply taking the wealth from those they were paid to protect. (Something which has happened more than once in history: the Normans in Italy, the mamluks in Egypt, the Turks in Iran.)

C. Wingate @ 337: "As far as income inequity is concerned, it seems to me that envy as a realized social force is far more destructive than greed is. 98% brackets are envy in action; I cannot imagine that the British government actually recovers much money that way. Maybe 50% is too low for a top rate, but 90% is something that only works with a lot of tax sheltering. Taxation that is designed to produce more income equity is, on the face of it, confiscatory."

I find it fanciful to suggest that tax sheltering only came into existence to defend against high tax rates in the upper brackets: it seems rather more likely that those with the wealth to do so will use whatever tax shelters they can invent at any rate of taxation, and that high tax rates exist in response. A 98% tax rate is probably an attempt to achieve something like a 50% rate on actual income.

And why not charge 98% tax on income that could not exist without the state's support? The earner is still 2% up compared to what they would have without the state. Further, the conceit that those at high income levels earned that money entirely on their own is fantastic nonsense. Not to deny their hard work, but no one reaches that level of achievement without a heavy leavening of luck--luck in their natural abilities, luck in where they were born, in who they were born to, in what opportunities were presented to them--the list goes on. And for everyone who luck has favored, there is another that luck has left bereft: why shouldn't society work to even out those unearned, happenstance inequities?

#348 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 10:29 PM:

Ah. A quick Google search explains much. Well, it explains something. Perhaps I was the only one who wasn't aware that the word "queeb" was coined about ten years ago as a term for "expulsion of noxious gas from the vagina", AKA a "vaginal fart"..?

#349 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 10:30 PM:

Fragano: Thanks, and crap. The entry is here

Thanks, I thought it a fitting title. I love that bird, if there is one thing I'd like to have in Calif, those birds are it.

But I can live without the slush. If a lack of cardninals is the price I pay, sobeit, I can travel.

#350 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 10:41 PM:

heresiarch, #347: Also, I find it disingenuous in the extreme for, say, the CEOs of finance companies to say that they did the hard work to make all that money. It's the hundreds of people working for them who actually made the money, but those people don't see much of it.

#351 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 10:45 PM:

Stefan: Thanks. I've sent a note to the webmaster. I hope gets cleared up soon.

#352 ::: J Austin ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 10:54 PM:

Joel Polowin@348:

The term in, is "queef." It's a lot older than ten years, too. Now, why the hell can't I retain and access genuinely useful knowledge so easily? My poor multi-degree-holding English teacher grandmother had to give up on me and grammar, poetry, and basic personal accounting, but I can confidently comment on "queef." Jesus Christ.

#353 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 11:43 PM:

Terry Karney at #343:
You have the wrong link, you are linking to your Flickr photoset rather than your blog.

But the link on your name takes us to the blog you can proceed to vote from, so I figured it out.

#354 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2009, 11:48 PM:

I see I was being redundant there.

Like when somebody wanted to be Butch Cassidy's sidekick, but he already had one. They called that guy the Redundance Kid.

#355 ::: sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 12:28 AM:

To be clear, I was not talking about executives of multinationals or of the ultra-wealthy. To imply that everyone in the $250k or above tax bracket is one or the other here is unfair - In a two-income professional household it isn't all that difficult to get there. See - small business owners. As a group, small business owners (abv SBO, because i'm lazy) have worked and worked hard to get their businesses up to the point where they can claim that kind of income. They are also taxed heavily as a result. Not having someone else do your withholding sucks rocks and the gov't charges you a premium for paying all at once or even quarterly. I happen to work in an industry where everyone is a SBO, the successful ones are generally workaholics, and tax day is in Oct, because Feb, March, and April are our busiest months. When I was talking about the 250K- 500k/1 mil tax bracket, these were the people who I was thinking of*. Not the corporate executives of multi-nationals (who make more than that bracket as a household), or the people who come from old money. We're not necessarily talking about people who come from wealth and privilege, either. I come small farmers, one of my colleagues who just passed was an orphan in the system in the 50s, many are from rural or middle class backgrounds who have worked their way up.

One of Mom's classes used a series of lists defining the things you know how to do if you're poor, middle class, and wealthy. If you're poor, you know who has the $1 bag sales and when, which thrift store is the cheapest, the best places and times to dumpster dive. The middle class know how to make mac and cheese stretch to feed 4, the sale cycles at the grocery store, how to hold a birthday party at home, how to fit 4 kids into a car. The rich know how to order a limo, who the best caterers are, etc. It's a different mentality, and many SBOs/households in this bracket think of themselves as upper middle class because they don't think of themselves as being extravagant or wealthy. They are just comfortable. They can take a vacation every year - but only if the work lets them. They can go out to dinner when they don't feel like cooking or having the same leftovers for the fourth meal in a row. Little things.

I am not saying that the rich should not be taxed. I'm saying that I think there should be a distinction between the 250-500k bracket and above. And/or no tax penalty for SBOs. I think the distinction of the 250-500k is even more necessary in the public mind than in the tax laws, because in the current news cycle we're equating CEOs of 1-50 person companies to CEOs of 1-50 million person companies. Not all CEOs are bad, evil people who don't work for their money. I see that attitude here in this thread as much as in the news. It bothers me, in the same way most generalizations bother me. It's just that this one is more personal.

*full disclosure: I'm biased, because my parents fell into this bracket off and on as I was growing up. Both are SBOs in sales, my mother in real estate, my father in heavy equipment. I have watched them and their colleagues earn every penny for decades, being fully aware what allowed people to purchase their products. There were years that Panera for lunch was an unthinkable luxury (hell, last year *McDonalds* was a luxury!) and years where things went really well. A outside sales commission income leaves no room for doubt about the state of the economy.

#356 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 01:03 AM:

This tax discussion seems like an appropriate place to link to John Scalzi's justly-famous piece called Being Poor again. There are 452 comments to it now; I didn't look to see how many are contemporaneous with the initial post in Sept. 2005.

#357 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 01:15 AM:

Got sidetracked somehow.

Terry, I registered and voted for you.

#358 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 01:20 AM:

Fragano @ 345

I get a 500 internal server error when I try to read that sentence you quoted.

#359 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 03:30 AM:

The 98% tax rate in the UK is long gone.

I suppose we all tend to accept the tax system details we're used to. We have PAYE in Britain, while you talk about "withholding". But the stories I hear make the US system sound a bit vindictive. There's no special penalty for not being on PAYE.

On the other hand, any system which deducts taxes when money is earned can be bad for people who don't work all-year-round. In the UK system, the initial PAYE calculations on a new job are usually higher than they should be, until details of previous employment and the tax code are confirmed. But once those details go into the PAYE system, you get the money refunded automatically. The US system, if I'm reading the reports right, seems to take far longer over refunds.

#360 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 03:41 AM:

I'm in the middle of changing my Eee PC from Xandros to Eeebuntu. I don't quite rule out using some other distro...

I now realise that Xandros is set up with minimal security. This does make it easier for the Linux naive, but, according to one report, trying to rectify one loophole (sudo doesn't need a password) stops the system from booting.

I really would like a better terminal app on Eeebuntu, but this may be down to how the app is default-configured. This is one reason why it may have been better to stick with a KDE-based distro.

Anyway, things are working.

#361 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 07:46 AM:

re 347: I didn't suggest that; in fact I suspect it was the other way around, that such extreme brackets were only politically feasible because tax sheltering meant that politically influential people weren't exposed to them significantly.

Also, you are slipping into putting other people's words into my mouth. I have problems with the politics of deserving from both sides, if for no other reason than that humans cannot be trusted with such evaluations. I don't obviously deserve to earn more than anyone else, when it comes to that. And the thing is, the more basic reason for taxation is that the government needs money. When the brackets for the "rich" (which in the current context necessarily excludes the speakers) get out to extremes, the extra revenue isn't that much; what those brackets get to be about is confiscation, not revenue. And while the government may have been doing something that allowed that kind of income, it certainly wasn't doing 98% of the work needed to put someone in that top bracket. I'm not surprised to learn that the 98% bracket is long gone (Thatcher, I would guess), because I for one would find it impossible to state with a straight face that someone or something deserved 98% of a part of someone else's income, short of something like Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

And not to put to fine a point on it, but we are mostly people of considerable privilege too. When we whine about top bracket salaries etc., there's a large part of it that sounds like sour grapes. There's a level at which I can agree with Paula's rant, but there's also a level at which those diatribes turn into a kind of bitter self-justification, grounded in one's lack of access to power and thus absolving one of any responsibility.

#362 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 09:11 AM:

sisuile, 355,

That's a really interesting set of experiences. I have to say I don't like how (most) SBO's are disadvantaged relative to larger, publicly traded corps.

So, your parents brokered the sale of heavy machinery and real estate, respectively? Do you know if they got to use the lower capital gains rate if they held the property for a year, or does that only work for intangibles?

#363 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 09:57 AM:

Dave Bell @#360:

I have no experience with Xandros, or with the Eee. But, discussing other distributions: I just gave up on KDE, and (with some difficulty) switched my Kubuntu box back to the Gnome desktop. After the 8.10 upgrade, KDE 4 was just way too slow (and unreliable). I'd guess that Eee + KDE => Eeek!

#364 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 11:35 AM:

Current UK Tax Rates from HM Treasury site – there is a lot of detail of all the complexity of levies, excise, taxes, benefits, allowances, &c, here. Tables starting at the top, summaries at the end.
The basic income tax rates are pretty simple, tho', viz:
Income tax: taxable bands
£ per year        2008-09 income tax rate
£0-£2320        10% (Starting savings rate*)
£0-£34,800     20% (Basic rate)
Over £34,800  40% (Higher rate)
* There is a 10p starting rate for savings only.

#365 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 11:41 AM:

Done, Terry.

#366 ::: sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 11:42 AM:

Don @ 362 - She's an agent. His strongest area is also as a dealer-to-customer broker, though he's currently doing a lot of dealer-to-dealer facilitating. Neither one holds assets, so the capital gains rate doesn't apply.

Reading over the post now that I've had 8 hrs of sleep, I think I digressed away from my point that two people don't have to individually make 250K, that it is the combination of two incomes that often takes people over the edge of that tax bracket.

#367 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 11:48 AM:

When people start saying that other are putting words in their mouth, it's a sign that the discussion is about to collapse. I think, but what the heck do I know?

#368 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 11:51 AM:

I saw Watchmen last night. I liked it, in some ways better than the original(*). For one thing, the main characters come across as flawed here too, but not so flawed that I thought of them as losers, especially the Nite Owl.

(*)OK, so I felt the same way about League of Extraordinary Gentlemen so what does that say about my tastes? Yes, that was a rethorical question.)

#369 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 12:39 PM:


What may be catching people is that those figures are taxable income: what's left after deducting the allowances. Starts at GBP 6475 personal allowance. Since there are sometimes quite specific allowances on top, working this way keeps the table you quote simple, but it's a big difference, even for the start of the Higher Rate tax band.

This is still enough to mean people on the statutory minimum wage have to pay income tax.

#370 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 12:40 PM:

heresiarch #347:

And why not charge 98% tax on income that could not exist without the state's support? The earner is still 2% up compared to what they would have without the state.

This argument works equally well for anything the state wishes to do to any of its citizens, as long as that leaves them better than they'd be in the imagined state of nature. Assuming the state of nature would be as bad as imagined[1], you could use it to justify drafting some folks for 20 years' service in the Imperial salt mines, or Jim Crow style discrimination against minorities (who, even as second-class citizens with few legal protections, are probably better off than they would be in the midst of a war of all against all), or imposing a state religion and banning alternative religions.

The fact that this argument can be used to justify so many things I'm sure are awful seems like a clue that there's a flaw there.

[1] Of course, anarchy is hardly ever stable, so the alternative to this government isn't Mad Max and Warlords, it's whatever other government would arise. This could be better or worse, but probably doesn't support rhetoric suggesting that 98% tax rates or similar things are perfectly just.

#371 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 01:14 PM:

I was thinking before about the Laffer Curve, and how it relates to a lot of current decisions. In a nutshell, the Laffer Curve is a model that says that it's possible to have tax rates that are so high, increasing them actually decreases revenue, because it causes the economy to shrink. I think it's a mathematical certainty that this is true at some tax rates[1]. But of course, it gets used all the time by politicians who want to justify doing something very popular (cutting taxes) without any kind of offsetting unpopular thing (cutting spending or raising taxes elsewhere).

The point is, here's this model which tells us something that has to be true in some circumstances, but we routinely get it applied in inappropriate circumstances, because it works well with what some politician or pundit wants to do.

There's a parallel thing which is common with the size of government. Imagine a world in which there's no government at all. Adding just a bit of government (some kind of arrangements for mutual defense and disaster response, some set of laws and impartial courts to judge them) will result in a huge improvement in well-being. For quite a while, adding a bit more government will make things better (assuming we add government in some sensible way, but that's also assumed w.r.t. taxes in the Laffer Curve model; if someone decides to impose a 100% tax on the growing of food crops or some such thing, revenue will fall even if that's the first tax raised.). Although I don't have any idea how to prove it, I also am convinced that a society where all resources are controlled by the government will be a very bad place to live. Approximations we've seen to that in the real world, at least once they get bigger than a large family, seem to always become horrible places to live.

So, ISTM that we have a similar model: In some range of size of government (say, what fraction of total resources are controlled by the government), making government bigger is broadly a good thing. At some other range of size of government, it's broadly a bad thing.

At least one part of this model is used all the time in political arguments. But just as with the use of the Laffer Curve, it's used without really discussing how we'd know where we are on the curve. We have a huge government, controlling a substantial fraction of total resources in the country. A discussion of whether the government should broadly be bigger needs to take this into account; simply pointing out that the difference between the state of nature and a minimal state is positive doesn't tell us much about whether a bigger government will make us better or worse off. Similarly, if we equate fraction of the economy taxed and size of government as a fraction of the economy, it's clear that "taxes are the price we pay for civilizaton," and yet that doesn't mean that the transition from 40% to 45% buys an actual benefit, just because the transition from 0% to 5% did.

[1] At zero tax rate, revenues are zero. At 100% rate, nobody voluntarily has any taxable income, because it all gets taken away, so revenues are also zero. From a 0% tax rate, increases add to revenue. Logically, this means there must be some rate at which increases subtract from revenue.

#372 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 01:29 PM:


According to Wikipedia's article on income inequality, the top 1% of earners makes around 17% of the nation's total income. Whether that's fair or not is an interesting question that we probably can't resolve. However, it does make clear why how we tax the folks in the top 1% matters so much for revenue collection.

#373 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 02:14 PM:

One of the more interesting facts about US taxes is that over the last 40 years or so, through high marginal rates and low, the government has collected revenues right around the same percentage of GDP -- about 18-20%. We hit a high during the Clinton years of about 20.5%, and a low during the W years of about 17.5%. (With a huge GDP, that small spread makes a helluva difference.)

We don't have a VAT as is common in European nations. One wiseacre remarked that we'll get a VAT when the Democrats realize how much money it brings in and the Republicans find out how regressive it is.

#374 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 02:42 PM:

VAT is a form of sales tax, as far as the end user is concerned. It has some advantages in some circumstances, for the people in the supply chain. And some disadvantages.

#375 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 02:49 PM:

I remember (that is, it's been decades and I can't find anything about this on Google) that Robert Silverberg quit writing sf for a while because the top tax rate (90%?) made gardening a more satisfying use of his time. Then someone told him about being a corporation, he founded AgBerg, and he started writing again.

True? False? Semi-true?

#376 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 02:55 PM:

In 1917, in the essay "The Divine Afflatus," Henry Louis Mencken wrote "There is always an easy solution to every human problem--neat,plausible, and wrong." Having gotten out of my second E.R. visit and hospital stay in a week, I can testify that Mencken is not on the required reading material in Seattle hospitals. Instead of being deferential I should have said "And why should you be sending me home when the symptoms that sent me to the hospital 13 years ago are still going on despite your pretty new toy of a diagnosis?" Jim, I know you're not a physician, but I can't believe you or your crew would have ever ignored symptoms the way the first batch of doctors did. Well, I'm out now.

Also, having been fitted with a drainage tube through the nose that made it impossible to sleep wihout gagging and (after a two-hour gap when I was delivered to the wrong room on the wrong floor and then told I'd be taken the rest of the way "sometime") being delivered to a hospital room with Hospital Basic Cable where the only tolerable channel that's not all-infomercial-all-the-time is Turner Classic Movies, I can eagerly assert that the scheduling head who ran back to back Ronald Wilson Reagan movies from midnight to 9:00 am one morning this week should be taken out and maimed.

#377 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 03:21 PM:


If that happened, it would have to have been prior to about '62, which is when the Kennedy tax cuts came in and removed the 90% tax rates.* Was Silverberg making that much money back then? I recall his career caught fire more in the late '60s and early '70s.

In the late '70s he took a long break from writing to garden weird plants. His essay about that, in Omni IIRC, said it was because he felt his writing was falling into a rut and he was running out of really fresh ideas and approaches, so he wanted to spend some time with some really alien life forms. He came back from that break with Lord Valentine's Castle, so it must have worked.

This makes me suspect that the general tax-cut storyline got attached to Silverberg's actual story, with no relation.

[*] BTW, as I recall from my economics class, if you plot various standard economic parameters like GDP growth, per-capita productivity, unemployment, inflation, etc. against each other year over year, there is a pretty visible jump in positive economic parameters the first year after the Kennedy tax cut, where they seem to settle onto a new curve. That seems to argue that those tax rate cuts, down from a top rate of 90%, did have a Laffer-like effect. I don't think anybody has found a similar effect from any subsequent tax cut.

#378 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 04:02 PM:

In any discussion of economics and taxes, it must be remembered that there is no such think as a perfect tax. Every tax will have at least one perverse, unintended consequence. A nifty example is a tax break for farm equipment which resulted in people buying Hummers to show off their wealth, and getting a federal tax benefit to help pay for it.

1. Income taxes may be a disincentive to high earners.
2. Sales taxes are regressive.
3. Property taxes can hurt people on a fixed income.
4. Calculating and collecting taxes is expensive.

There must be a Tom Lehrer song along these lines?

If you work an industry that tries to do process improvement by measuring "metrics", you've seen this, too. How's our software development productivity? I know, we'll measure lines of code written! Uh oh, we're churning out the code at high speed, but the product is full of bugs. I know, we'll measure the number of bugs per line of code! And so on. This approach can result in development teams focusing on numbers on a chart, instead of on completing good products. Tax rules result in firms choosing to lease instead of buy (or whatever) purely for tax rather than efficiency reasons.

Once you let go of the requirement to try and make any particular tax perfect, it gets a lot easier to try to sort out something that might work. In this thread, we've been mainly talking about income taxes, but of course (the Americans, at least) are also paying property taxes (indirectly through a landlord if not directly themselves), probably sales taxes, and various taxes on gasoline, alcohol, phone lines, etc. I've always wished we'd raise the tax on gasoline. If gas stayed at $4 a gallon, we'd get very energy efficient, and the revenue could pay down the deficit or provide health care.

There have been times in my life when my income taxes didn't make me wince. They weren't so hot. As I result, I now consider being in a high income tax bracket a very good problem to have. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'll stay with that problem for awhile yet, and not be in the next layoff and worrying about how long the unemployment benefits will hold out.

OK, I'll stop posting about taxes. Will someone who is better at puns than I am* please step in?

*That's a very low bar, alas.

#379 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 04:04 PM:

Clifton @ #377, "I don't think anybody has found a similar effect from any subsequent tax cut."

That particular spike has been used as the basis for countless Republican arguments for tax cuts ever since. As Bruce said in #376, "neat, plausible and wrong."

#380 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 04:08 PM:

Janetl @ #378, yes. The cost of a pack of cigarettes is going from $5.25 to $6 tomorrow at the place where I buy them, due to the financing mechanism for SCHIP, the children's insurance program Obama just signed (and the one Bush vetoed twice last year).

I'm all for insuring kids, but seems to me the tax burden should be borne more broadly for a societal good. Besides, at some point the law of diminishing returns is going to kick in, and smokers will be priced out of their habit.*

*I said that when it went over $1/pack, too.

#381 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 04:21 PM:

Linkmeister @ 380: Addicts are a great source of revenue, as any ... um ... "supplier" can tell you.

#382 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 04:37 PM:

janetl @378 -- I've really been enjoying your posts, don't feel you have to stop!

Just a note about this: If gas stayed at $4 a gallon, we'd get very energy efficient, and the revenue could pay down the deficit or provide health care.

Over 50% of the price of gasoline in Germany (according to ESSO, 70-75%) consists of taxes. Those taxes have gone up massively over the course of the last 5 years or so, but consumption hasn't declined. Instead, the price of gasoline hits those hardest who have the lowest incomes. Where is that revenue going? A lot of people wonder the same thing.

#383 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 06:57 PM:

Late to the party, as usual:

While I agree with albatross that any work of art that was unarguably 'conservative' or 'liberal' would be indistinguishable from parody, I do think that both Lord of the Rings and the Narnia books are conservative in a subtle but specific way that hasn't been discussed here. All of the main (human) characters are white, and the people who have joined the bad guys are 'Easterners,' 'Southerners,' 'swarthy', ride elephants, etc. I can forgive this racism in two Englishmen in the '40s, but frankly, it bears a close resemblance to some of the attitudes held by the American right-wing ('macaca,' anyone?)

On a related note, I was 'warned' by a clerk at my local comic book shop yesterday about Doctor Manhattan's full-frontal scene in Watchmen. I responded that, as a straight female, it didn't really bother me. He persevered ("It's this glowing, blue...!") but, come on, dude. I'm a woman, standing in a comic book shop. You really expect to elicit the slightest bit of sympathy from me over your discomfort at seeing a penis?

#384 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 07:18 PM:

Nudity and cultures (though no blue body parts):

My son had a karate exam yesterday (his first, he's now up a half-belt*). His dojo has about 400 students, and it was exam day for all the classes. This meant that a lot of kids were changing into and out of their gis as the various class groups did their tests.

The male changing room is right opposite the glass doors that face the car park. As the various kids shuffled in and out, and the various parents got them, their shoes, their gis, their gloves, their mouth guards, and their street clothes in the right order, that door was pretty much open the whole time. Facing, as I said, the car park.

That didn't stop the guys—all the way up to full-grown adults—from changing, even right down to the buff.

My daughter was surprised, but took her cue from me when I simply shrugged and pointed out that everyone's naked under their clothes. She'll get the hang of the local culture soon. The Dutch are just not that stressed about bodies.

* He now wears a white belt with a strip of orange down the middle.

#385 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 07:30 PM:

janetl, #378: Unintended consequences again: if gas prices went to $4/gallon and stayed there, it would severely impact art festivals, crafts fairs, and any sort of event that has the equivalent of a vendor hall; furthermore, a lot of small-business craftspeople who are doing okay at the moment would go under. Fewer choices for people who prefer not to buy from giant mega-corporations, fewer chances for people who make things to sell their wares, loss of "cultural events" which are good publicity for many cities. Yeah, that's the sound of my ox being gored -- but that doesn't make it any less true.

debcha, #383: Oh, SNAP! Dare I hope that you actually said it to him, rather than just thinking it loudly?

#386 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 07:32 PM:

Similar experience to abi's, other gender: I was in a clothing store in Amsterdam, the first time I ever visited Europe, and a woman walked out of the changing room while still adjusting her clothing - said adjustment involved covering up her exposed breasts. Yup, not in Kansas anymore.

#387 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 07:44 PM:

Lee, #385: Actually, what I said was that was full-frontal female nudity is everywhere - naked boobs and butts wherever you look - and he would never feel the need to warn me against that. I am pretty sure my lack of sympathy came across loud and clear in my response, my body language and my tone of voice. And, to be fair, he did get the point - the other clerk was like, 'Whoa, man! You got zinged!'

#388 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 08:01 PM:

If you're trying to see how tax rates affect tax revenues, you have to take into account the temporary spikes that happen with income whose timing can be controlled. (That is, if you drop the rate on a certain kind of income that you can choose when to take, you'll tend to get an increase in revenue as a lot of people choose to leap on the opportunity to take the income at a lower rate. But much or all of that increase may only be temporary. The reverse phenomenon happens with rate increases, especially if there's forewarning of them.)

The classic example of this phenomenon is capital gains, since often you can decide when to sell your capital, and will be more likely to do so in an interval that imposes lower taxes than usual. That doesn't necessarily mean than an increase in revenue after a capital gains tax decrease, or a decrease in revenue after a capital gains tax hike, will persist over the long term.

#389 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 09:12 PM:

debcha #683: It bears mentioning that George Allen, in addition to calling people with dark skins monkeys had a small problem about denying his own ancestry. Racism has many fascinating, or not-so-fascinating forms.

#390 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 09:16 PM:

That should have been "#383". I don't have a working time machine just yet.

#391 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 09:20 PM:

Bruce E. Durocher II @ 376

Which hospital were you at? Back in 2001 I had spine surgery at Harborview. The surgeon and assistants came from a clinic separate from the hospital administration and staff. They did a fine job, and while the outcome was not as good as I would like, it was near the top end of what I had been told was possible. The hospital staff, however ... One example: they wanted to release me after 4 days. I forced them to keep me an extra day (as much as they were willing to do), by proving to them that I could not walk more than about 10 feet, even with someone holding me up by one arm. Another example: at one point it took over an hour for a nurse to respond to a call, then another half an hour or more to get the additional pain medication I requested. This after major surgery.

#392 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 09:57 PM:

recapping things I lost in a crash:

Re Red Dawn: I didn't get the kick some commie butt idea from it. I was 18, and I left the theater in a bit of a daze, contemplating the idea of living through an invasion, and under an occupation; where there were resisters, and all the choices which went with that.

My companions (Germans in their early 20s) were not impressed.

Re Peter Boyle: He is also a member of the LASFS (death will not release you). I met him a couple of times. He wasn't a regular, nor even intermittent, attender, but he was occasional.

Re tax brackets: A badly built payroll system can screw you. I had a couple of employers who had very simple income projections (period of pay*x= annual salary), which worked fine, if things were stable. But when one suddenly works a 60 hour week, and gets an, "annual" salary bump of 75 percent 20*1.5=30 = 70 hours pay) the projected income meant most of that OT never made my pocket directly. I got a huge tax return that year, but the actual paychecks weren't that much larger than the 40 hour weeks were.

as to the amount the rich pay in taxes in places like Russia, are those guards, walls, bodyguards, defensible cars, etc. really cheaper than the collective bargaining power of taxes?

Would better roads, safety nets, and gov't salaries make life better, for less (with less crime, and less public corruption, things work better)? I suspect so.

If nothing else, the lack of need to isolate oneself from the rest of society would make for less resentment, and a smaller chance of things like riots; and heads on pikes.

My thanks to all who have voted. I've gotten into the top 100. I think, all things being equal, no small part of it is giving the idea there are people interested in what I have to write. That's part of what I think the "top 20" is all about (that and to keep it from going to the top vote getter if it's something completely unworkable [such as the guy who wants to go to the war zones in Africa and show people how bad it is], as well as avoiding things which don't lend themselves to good PR).

So, if you do go (there is a registration required, but the box about "I want info" appears to be optional), a comment about what you think of my photos/interest in reading about my trip, would probably help too.

That, I think, is the last of the "go, vote for me" I'll put up here.

Again, thanks to one and all for the indulgence.

#393 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 10:08 PM:

I might be the only person who simply did not care about Dr. Manhattan's penis. It wasn't pointed out, highlighted, or sexualized in any way (the only sex scene involving him did not involve his genitalia that I noticed); he was naked, but it wasn't a big deal. I can't say I particularly noticed it. Yet I have heard about practically nothing else on the internet. It's really mystifying me.

And I'm American, born and raised, and usually not that comfortable with public nudity. (Although I did find it funny when the girls at my college gym insisted on sitting in the sauna wearing a full set of workout clothes. I capitulated to the local mores [moirés?] by wrapping myself in a towel, but is there even a point to sauna when you've got all your clothes on?)

I think debcha is right -- there are a lot of guys who are just that insecure about seeing a penis in a movie.

#394 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 10:45 PM:

Fragano Ledgister #389: It bears mentioning that George Allen, in addition to calling people with dark skins monkeys had a small problem about denying his own ancestry.

The theme song for his next still in denial political campaign should be, of course, Hakuna Macaca.

#395 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 11:04 PM:

Debcha at 383: ethnocentrism/imperialism in children's books: I am a bit shocked in retrospect by Mary Poppins.

There was one chapter named "The Magic Compass" where each direction of the compass invoked a friendly foreigner who was here to Serve Us, and one of the boys, being Bad, stole the compass and invoked all the directions at once, and the four people attacked him.

There was one moment where Mary Poppins, frustrated that a child was being rude, exclaims "A Zulu would have better manners!"

Not sure how to process these.

#396 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 11:19 PM:

Belle Waring has bought her husband John Holbo a book by Lionel Fanthorpe.

That is all.

#397 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2009, 11:58 PM:

Linkmeister @ 380: I'd love to agree with you, but cigarettes in Ontario range from $10.00[1] - $11.75[2] per 25-pack right now, and I should know, because I just bought a pack on my way home :-(

[1] Most stores and gas stations.
[2] Fckng 7-11.

#398 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 12:00 AM:

Marna: is this where I nudge you?

Much Loff.

#399 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 12:14 AM:

Something in a mail newsgroup caused me to think of Mr Guckert, once the Schmuck's favorite alleged journalist.... has anything been heard of or about Mr Guckert lately, and just who was his visiting on his nocturnal stays at the White House? It wasn't Ted Haggerty, was it?

Meanwhile, has AP ever fulfilled their promises regarding explaining what they regarded as allowable fair use as opposed to copyright infringement to sic attack lawyers on?

#400 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 12:15 AM:


Thanks for that Scalzi "Being Poor..." link.
Most of the points were spot-on, though I'd add:

Being poor is a child staying in bed all of one winter day, under lots of blankets, because there's no fuel for the little stove that heats the one-room house.

Being poor is continuing to go to a Family Doctor who's growing senile, because he didn't press for payment back when times were even harder.

Being poor is sometimes eating almost nothing but corn-meal, powdered milk, raisins, and processed brick cheese for a whole month because that's all the Government surplus-food distribution offered then.

#401 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 01:39 AM:

Marna @ #397, with exchange rates that looks comparable (he guesses, remembering the backs of paperbacks where the price for the book is marked as roughly $3 higher "in Canada").

#402 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 02:11 AM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers):

It was Swedish. The actual nurses and the doctors I got the second time in were just fine (well, except for the nurse that kept me on the wrong floor, a later nurse's aide who tried to hook me to the wrong tube despite my telling her not to, and whatever power struggle delayed the numbing spray the doctor prescribed from making its way between the pharmacy and my room by five freaking hours). The first bunch...well, if they'd been on the ball I wouldn't have had to make the second trip. Menken's law in spades. I admit to surprise when the surgeon stuck his head in and said "Sorry for not being up earlier: I've been in surgery all day. Glad things seem to be improving: I'd scheduled you a surgical slot when I saw your first set of X-rays before I went into surgery today." I'd known this was possible, but it did seem a bit--brusque.

#403 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 02:24 AM:

C. Wingate @ 361: "in fact I suspect it was the other way around, that such extreme brackets were only politically feasible because tax sheltering meant that politically influential people weren't exposed to them significantly."

Good! Then we agree.

"Also, you are slipping into putting other people's words into my mouth."

I said a fair bit @ 347, and I'm guessing as to which part you think I put into your mouth. Perhaps you could quote the offending sentence(s) in the future, for clarity's sake?

Moving on: you call high tax rates "confiscatory," implying that the goal in seizing that wealth is punishment, not fairness. (It is just implication however, and possibly I misread you [though your further comments reinforce the impression.]) My point in answering you is that that wealth is more accurately described as being generated by the system as a whole, rather than the particular individual to which it accrued. To attribute a punitive motive to this is to entirely miss the point--it isn't about the wealthy individual in the least.

"When the brackets for the "rich" get out to extremes, the extra revenue isn't that much; what those brackets get to be about is confiscation, not revenue."

This chart shows the income of the top 1%, .1%, and 01% of income earners in the United States. The top one percent holds roughly 17.5% of all household income. Taxing them at 98% would be equivalent of taxing the entire population of the United States at a little over 17%. No, that is a substantial amount of revenue.

In fact, it really makes you wonder why there aren't tax brackets at $500,000 and $1,000,000, or even $5,000,000. There's a great deal of revenue to be collected there, without raising the taxes on 99% of all Americans by a penny.

(Accusations of sour grapes are pure projection.)

#404 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 02:30 AM:

albatross @ 370: "This argument works equally well for anything the state wishes to do to any of its citizens, as long as that leaves them better than they'd be in the imagined state of nature. Assuming the state of nature would be as bad as imagined[1], you could use it to justify drafting some folks for 20 years' service in the Imperial salt mines, or Jim Crow style discrimination against minorities (who, even as second-class citizens with few legal protections, are probably better off than they would be in the midst of a war of all against all), or imposing a state religion and banning alternative religions."

And it has justified such governments. And people did accept them over the state of nature, mostly, until the option of a slightly more equitable government came along. Then a slightly more equitable one, and then another. The market for governments is remarkably competitive that way--like any other product, it's all about doing the most with the resources and technology you have, and as resources have increased and technology has improved, we've come to expect more from government. I think that it is perfectly reasonable to demand that a modern industrialized nation will provide its citizens with healthcare; demanding that of the Thing would be absurd.

A society which taxes its wealthiest members to aid its poorest is more equitable than a society that does not. When debating how to distribute wealth within a society the relevant questions are Which option will spur the most progress? and Which is most equitable?, not Which allows people to mostly keep their own paychecks?

#405 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 02:46 AM:

Linkmeister (#401): Google's currency conversion pegs CDN$11 at more like US$8.50. But, of course, if you're Canadian, it's more like $11.

Erik Nelson (#395): Ouch. I definitely have friends who quietly omit passages with the worst of the racism, in the Narnia books for example, while reading aloud to their children. Since I don't want to make problematic decisions about other people's children, I usually give more modern books as gifts, books like The Paper Bag Princess, Coraline, The Graveyard Book, and Un Lun Dun.

#406 ::: SeanH ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 06:28 AM:

I just finished, this morning, the finest book I have ever read: David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. I have been reading this book since I got it for Christmas, and now I feel a bit bereft. As if I have nothing especially important left to think about.

The smell of the lamp is one I'm very used to. The night before, though, was for the second least demanding of my essays. The least demanding one was written on the day itself. I always felt it was very unfair that some of the best marks of my undergraduate career* were earned via these last-second conjurations. I should also note that my department had a very lenient 4pm hand-in time. Also that I'm starting reading for my Master's in September, so I must have been doing something right.

*the best mark ever was given on a huge essay on which I had sweated for months, during which I felt Gnostic levels of enlightenment and connection with the deeper meanings of the text, and of which I was very proud before handing in. This moment entirely restored my faith in the academic process and cemented my decision to pursue it further.

#407 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 07:41 AM:

re 403: The chart to which you link has the double disadvantage of not only being compensated for inflation, but indeed of having no dollar amounts at all. One of the problems in this discussion is that we've really never seen data about who is actually paying any of these rates. But set that aside: it seems to me that part of the purpose of that particular chart is that sharp uptick in 1989. If this is supposed to be about taxation, then it would seem to me that the conclusion I am supposed to draw is that we aren't taking enough money away from the "rich". Well, maybe, but that's exactly where the word "confiscation" comes into the picture. In this discussion, fairness is a shifty and subjective thing. When fairness connects to income inequity (and I note in passing that the latter is a loaded word with a value judgement hidden in it), we aren't talking the same sort of fairness as saying that people with high incomes can support a higher tax burden.

#408 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 08:06 AM:

In re steeply progressive taxes as a way of getting fairness: It seems to me that those arguments have a premise that the taxes will go towards projects which increase equity.

In fact, some of what governments do is useful, some is just pointless, and some is extremely destructive, generally to low-status people.

Is there a point beyond which it's a bad idea to increase the wealth of a government?

#409 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 09:20 AM:

I'm afraid I've lost track of what set off the tax discussion, but it seems to me worth noting that the issue back on Earth One is Obama's notion that we should move the top marginal tax rate from 35% (where the Bush tax cuts put it) back to 39.6% (where it was before the Bush tax cuts).

This is what is setting off various cries of "socialism," threats to "go Galt," people running down the street with their hair on fire, armies in confusion.

John Cole has a chart showing where the top rate was under such crazed, wealth-confiscating Marxists as Dwight D. Eisenhower.

We live in a country in which the leadership of the opposition party believes that the answer to steep recession that threatens to become a depression is to freeze government spending. "It's a wonder that they still know how to breathe."

#410 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 10:08 AM:

I have several gut reactions to the current insanities over tax.

You might get more money circulating within an economy if you cut the tax bill for the low-paid, because they pretty much have to spend all their income locally.

Just two tax bands seems insufficient. Crude, even. (Three bands if you choose to count the allowances as a tax band with zero tax.) It still doesn't needs lots.

Tax doesn't need to look vindictive, but not bothering to set a higher rate that catches bankers (and others) getting million-dollar bonuses is, as with losing both parents, starting to look like carelessness.

#411 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 10:15 AM:

#395 and #405: P. L. Travers revised the Mary Poppins book in question, some years after its first release. I've read both versions; the compass-points chapter, which was rewritten to feature animals rather than natives, was labeled "revised version" in the table of contents I saw.

So in this particular case, you can just look for a newer edition if the original version isn't suitable.

(Something similar has been done with the Dr. Dolittle books at various points. The first set of revisions, which involved some scrubbing of the vocabulary, was done in the 1960s without any explicit notice on the books. There was also a more extensive set of rewrites starting in the 1980s that involved removing or changing some racially charged plot elements; if I recall correctly those were done by the author's son and were explicitly noted in new introductions.)

#412 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 10:39 AM:

OT, but reliable sources inform me that Alan Moore, who has been crouched under a scrim net on a rooftop opposite the Paramount lot for some time now, has just been joined by an equally heavily-armed and irritated Leonard Cohen.

#413 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 12:03 PM:

John Mark Ockerbloom @ 411 et al.:

I think it's interesting to read older books like that, as you see what were commonplace ideas and prejudices of the time. It doesn't stop me from being uncomfortable with them, though. I wonder if I'd elide certain portions for children or not.

I remember the first time I read Lord of the Rings picking up on some, but by no means all, of the racial issues, and I was deeply bothered by some of it in the Narnia books. I can understand it, and if they were writing today I like to think that they would have more modern sensibilities about it. I wonder what sorts of uncomfortable things we're leaving for future generations in our writing.

#414 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 12:56 PM:

Been going thru our DVR's backup and watched Eleventh Hour's latest episode: this one was about anthrax being spread around by a young white man who has converted to Islam, and who is from... Belgium? I knew there was something fishy about that Hercules Poirot.

#415 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 01:33 PM:

Outdated attitudes... we've been mixing in some 60s-era Disney movies from Netflix for our family movie night. Some of them hold up surprisingly well. I expected more trouble with the attitudes toward women than I'm having. My teenager is amused by the married couple climbing chastely into their twin beds. There are flashes of racism, avoided in many cases because everyone visible on screen is white, which is of course its own kind of statement of what is viewed as "normal." What surprises me, because I had no recollection of it from seeing these movies as a kid, is the flashes of attitudes toward drinking. Apparently some (though not all) men were expected to get stupidly drunk, this was quite amusing, and women were expected to either enable this or scold them like naughty children.

#416 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 02:43 PM:

Otter: Yes, I've noticed that a number of the older Disney cartoons feature scenes of men drinking until they are staggering drunk and becoming violent, all in jolly good fun. (Sleeping Beauty for instance.)

But then, have you read much Thurber, or many writers from the '50s? "Social drinking" in the US up to the '60s seems to have been what we would now consider severe alcoholism. I recall the humorist H. Allen Smith wrote a lengthy humor piece on the difficult problem of how to take your first slug in the morning, when your hand is shaking too badly to lift the glass to your mouth without spilling it after a bad night of drinking.

#417 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 02:50 PM:

I read an abridged, post-80s Dr Dolittle, and was annoyed when I realized that there was a longer version of the book somewhere-- I picked up a library copy of something further on and was confused by some of the characters and references. Being a child who Started At The Beginning, not so much fun.

I had a my-parents era biography of Louisa May Alcott, and the only thing I remember from it is that at some point, she fell into a pond and a colored boy rescued her, but no one could find him to thank him afterward. Having never heard the word 'colored' used with respect to people, I envisioned someone in old-fashioned clothing with pink and yellow skin, kind of like three-citrus sherbet. And glowing faintly.

To this day, it's a tossup whether or not 'colored' makes me think of the musical Ragtime or a little glowing kid by a pond.

#418 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 02:59 PM:

Special for Xopher, but of interest to all: Milton Babbitt rocks.

#419 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 03:23 PM:

Clifton @ 416 -

Even back in the 80's, it wasn't considered that unusual to have a beer or wine or a cocktail at lunch. That's pretty much disappeared in the corporate world, and one of the reasons for that is liability exposure.

#420 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 03:29 PM:

Patrick #409:

Oddly, they didn't think that was a good idea back when their guy was in power. Though I don't really know whether the change is because they no longer have to govern, or because the recent reverses suffered by the party have creamed their moderates and strengthened their extremists. The whole GOP seems to me to be doing this weird cult-like thing right now, in which they attribute their failures to lack of ideological purity, carry out purges, and generally destroy any chance they have of being an effective opposition party. As someone who voted for Obama but isn't a Democrat, I'd really like to see a competent opposition party, someone to push back on the less sensible of the Democrats' ideas, moderate their extremes--all that stuff the Democrats didn't manage to do much of during their time as the opposition party. But at this point, honest to God, Newt Gingrich is looking like the voice of moderate reason in that party.

The shrillness about socialism is deeply silly. Barack Obama is, as far as I can see, an establishment liberal. His economic advice is coming from wild-eyed radicals like Summers, Geithner, and Volker. I think his stimulus package is awful and full of pork, but I honestly have a hard time seeing how you'd get a stimulus package (express goal: spend money fast) that didn't have a lot of pork. The talk about nationalizing companies isn't about seizing the means of production on behalf of the proletariat, or taking over a bunch of industry on the theory that technocrats appointed from Washington run companies better than management appointed by shareholders. It's about the government, which is currently pumping godawful amounts of money into various companies, possibly taking them all the way over to prop them up more thoroughly.

We may very well end up with a more socialist-looking economy at the end of this (political control of some huge chunk of the financial system is loaded with opportunities for disaster, IMO). But if we do, it will be the result of an attempt to try to bail out private companies, not an attempt to take them over as a way of moving to a government-controlled economy.

#421 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 03:47 PM:

There is a spammer apparently scraping email addresses off of Open Thread 70, and telling me that my high-traffic website could earn me thousands of dollars in advertising.

I see a slight flaw in their cunning plan.

#422 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 03:53 PM:

#421: I got one too. I'm thinking about taking the money.

#423 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 04:01 PM:

I didn't get that spam, which probably means that my blog isn't a high-traffic one. Maybe I should post naughty pictures.

#424 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 04:08 PM:

Outdated attitudes - we rented the original Disney animated version of Peter Pan, and hadn't remembered ANY of the "redskin" stuff. That was almost as fun a conversation as when I had to explain artificial insemination to my kid. (Ok, lots less fun. DNA is way easier to explain than casual racism.) Those mermaids, too... well.

I actually did get to have the experience of "taking clients out for drinks" once. It was... weird. I had to order a real cocktail! In the presence of co-workers! I felt like I'd fallen through a wormhole into some bizarro-1950's universe. I quit not too long after that, but that was because the company had switched to selling a crappy product, not because they paid for me to drink on the job.

#425 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 04:13 PM:

#423: The "high traffic blog" mentioned in the spam letter is Making Light.

The spam is from "Howard Duckworth".

I guess he thinks I'm trapped in a blog I never made.

#427 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 04:41 PM:

I got one of those spam msgs as well.

#428 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 05:08 PM:

Also. Definitely skimming addresses, but not as much fun as the fruitcake map.

#429 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 05:09 PM:

Dave, #426: Aw, phooey! I was expecting a Rickroll...

#430 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 05:46 PM:

OtterB @ 415... Speaking of Disney movies of the 1960s, I must confess that I had a bit of a crush on Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap. Mind you, by the time I saw the movie, I was close to her age when she had made the movie. I guess I had a thing for geeky girls with short hair because that's the kind of girl I wound up marrying.

#431 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 06:02 PM:

Serge @ 430 -

Small world. Besides Hayley, I had a crush on the little blonde girl in Toby Tyler.

#432 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 06:35 PM:

But... But... I thought excessive drinking was one of the signs of moral decay in our time! Everybody told me so!

#433 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 07:16 PM:

I just bought a house for $8000. It is a four-bedroom, two-bath brick house built in 1890 in Richmond, IN, a twenty-minute walk from my mother's house and a ten-minute walk from the public library. I have bought this house with cash.

Here's a link:

#434 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 07:26 PM:

Michael @ 433 -

That's amazing! Was it a foreclosure?

#435 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 07:30 PM:

Lee, #429, I do have a picture that is closer to what some might expect...

I wouldn't show it here.

#436 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 07:41 PM:

#433: I'm guessing Indian graveyard.

#437 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 07:49 PM:

Stefan Jones @ 436... Stay away from the ectoplasma TV screen.

#438 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 08:10 PM:

Cat Meadors (#424): Outdated attitudes - we rented the original Disney animated version of Peter Pan, and hadn't remembered ANY of the "redskin" stuff.

I was this little brown girl in Canada, reading all these British books that are casually racist...and in most cases, it didn't really occur to me until I re-read them as an adult.

Incidentally, it's amazing that this kind of drastic change in what's socially acceptable has occurred in a generation, and it's my standard response to people who complain that we, as a society, have become ruder - it's certainly a much politer place if you happen to be non-white, or gay, or have physical or mental disabilities.

#439 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 08:22 PM:

serge @430 and Steve C @431 One of our favorite of the old Disney movies is the original That Darn Cat with Hayley Mills and Dean Jones.

My crush was on the prince in The Fighting Prince of Donegal. I see, looking it up, that the actor's name was Peter McEnery and that he also starred with Hayley Mills in The Moonspinners. We haven't seen that one yet; I think I'll add it to the queue.

Later, in high school, there was Michael York as D'Artagnan. swoon

Clifton Royston @416. I remember thoroughly enjoying Thurber, and I remember especially liking "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" and "The Night the Bed Fell on My Father," but I don't remember much about drinking. But it probably passed as unremarked as it did in the Disney movies the first time I saw them. I did notice the casual expectation of drunkenness when I recently read "You're Stepping on My Cloak and Dagger," which is a memoir about the OSS during WW II.

#440 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 08:35 PM:

Steve @434 - yeah. (Sorry, Stefan -- no Indian graveyards known, just foreclosure plus no local economy to speak of.)

I felt bad about the foreclosure aspect, but my sister's receptionist lived in the neighborhood and knows the former owner. He's a local landlord with many houses, and failed to keep up with payments on this one. So I am not the beneficiary of some innocent being evicted, which is a relief. (Although, as I told myself, given Richmond's voting record, if one of those chickens voting for Col. Sanders lost their house to me, it would at least be poetic justice. That didn't help the feelings of guilt much.)

Bonus: he just redid the roof recently! Since I wasn't able to look at the place before putting in an offer, that was my biggest worry beyond the moral qualms. My sister and my mother just did a drive-by on Friday and told me "You have got to buy this house!". So I did.

I'm hoping this wasn't one of those stupid impulse buys one makes. It's one thing to say, "Hey, shoes for $3!" but another entirely to say, "Hey, a house for $8000!". And then at the same time it's kind of the same thing.

It's a nice house, though. I don't know whether we'll move this year or not (my daughter is 14 and really likes the school she's in here in Puerto Rico) but it's a good safety net if my income disappears.

#441 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 08:38 PM:

Michael, #433: Congratulations! I hope it doesn't require too much in the way of fixing-up.

My partner found an interesting factoid: the median price for a new house inside the Detroit city limits last year was $7,500. So he got curious and browsed the Detroit-area realty listings, and found a house with 8 bedrooms, 4 baths, total of 8,000 square feet... for $8,000. I swear, if there was any chance of the economy in that area recovering within the next 5 years, I'd be pushing for us to buy it. Anyone who has to move and who doesn't need a brick-and-mortar job should consider Detroit as a potential relocation site.

#442 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 08:39 PM:

So, speaking of re-editing classic works, and Disney, is there any chance they could salvage something from Song of the South?

#443 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 08:53 PM:

I just happened to reread the FPP and, after giggling at social morays (who knew? Biology is always so surprising -- I'll bet in five years they'll really find some social morays), I hit this: "if you travel too much, you’ll effectively be a stranger everywhere, unfamiliar with the customs of your own country as much as with those of any other." Just before a cringe-inducing pun that ran cold shivers down my back, but my point is this:

Damn straight. This is surely why I couldn't grasp that whole vote-for-W thing. Or the war. My sister, the stay-at-home who just drove by my (!) house, was behind the war at the time. My father was, too. My stepmother was worried that Saddam would break into the house and kill her in her sleep (OK, I'm going a little overboard with that one, but she did say she worried for the safety of her daughter. Who, um, is my age, but hey.)

Maybe it's a feature, not a bug of travel, not to understand the customs of your own country.

#444 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 09:01 PM:

Lee, as far as anybody knows, there is no major fix-up required. Just some paint. The built-in cabinetry is original, as are the hardwood floors. It was inhabited recently, apparently (certainly it was when Mr. Google drove by with his amazing picture truck).

Detroit scares me. Nebraska has had this kind of deal for a decade, but it was always kind of a joke idea of mine.

Richmond, though -- well, it's where I'm from, close enough. My mother lives there, my sister's office is there. I grew up loving these old brick houses there; Richmond gives me a very, very warm feeling. Earlham College provides a steady flow of intellectuals without the party mentality of Indiana University (which itself has a satellite campus in town).

I can fix this place up while borrowing my Dad's tools. There are built-in babysitters for the kids (not that they need them as much as they used to, but still). It's kind of like ... going home. If I can persuade the family to move soon, I can take this $1000/month I'm paying for rent here, and the $200/month for the school, and the $1800/month we're paying for fresh vegetables for four in an island economy, and lump it all into a bank account where in a year or two it'll make a fine down payment on a little place in Budapest, so my wife can also have the same going-home feeling.

I think maybe this is going to work. Besides, INDIANA IS A BLUE STATE NOW!!! Wooo!

#445 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 10:04 PM:

Wow, Michael, that's amazing! Congratulations and best of luck.

#446 ::: sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 10:32 PM:

Michael - Have fun! Watch out for plumbing and enjoy that courthouse. It's long been one of my favorites.

OtterB@ 439 - You're Stepping on My Cloak and Dagger is one of my favorite books. My former fiance introduced me to it, and I have enjoyed it's tales ever since. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Happy.

#447 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 10:33 PM:

A better picture from Mr. Google: here, on my blog.

#448 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2009, 10:42 PM:

Michael, Congratulations! That looks wonderful.

Sisule and OtterB - Another fan of Stepping on my Cloak and Dagger. (Between this thread and the seven deadly sins one, I'm having a nostalgic book day.)

#449 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 12:59 AM:

There was a story in the paper about folks from Europe buying cheap houses in Detroit. On speculation, not to move in.

But what if thousands of Europeans and Australians or what-not did decide to move in? Maybe bought up and renovated a few run-down retail districts as well.

I wonder what sort of critical mass of urban settlers you'd need to turn a "God, you don't want to live there" neighborhood to a "It's scruffy around the edges, but it's getting kind of trendy" neighborhood.

#450 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 01:06 AM:

Stefan @ 449 - apparently many of the really cheap ones require an affidavit that you intend to live there.

The idea of vast new Germantowns and Aussietowns and maybe even Hungarytowns, though, in Detroit, is enough to make me think of moving there myself. An interesting question.

It's quite the buzz in Europe, though. My sister-in-law and her husband have kicked around the idea of buying a house in America. And they're not terribly affluent.

#451 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 03:16 AM:

Michael, #447: That looks fabulous! It probably doesn't have any storage space to speak of (houses didn't back then; people used armoires and trunks instead), but that can be worked around.

Oh, and to clarify: I wasn't trying to suggest that you move to Detroit. It was that your post reminded me of what my partner found, and I wanted to suggest to other people who might be thinking about moving that they look at Detroit as a possibility. Disclosure: I grew up on the outskirts of Detroit, and still have a strong emotional connection to the area. I would hate to see it collapse irretrievably under the weight of the economic downturn.

Open-thread question: I've been running IE and Firefox in parallel for a long time, but always considered IE my primary browser. Lately I've started to tire of IE's limitations, and would like to move more-or-less completely to Firefox. The problem is that I've got a lot of bookmarks in IE, only some of which are also in Firefox, and a lot of organizational differences between the two; I also have bookmarks in Firefox which aren't in IE. Is there any practical way to import my IE bookmarks to Firefox and merge them with what's already there, or am I going to have to bite the bullet, overwrite my Firefox bookmark file, and have to hunt down anything that's gone missing in the process?

#452 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 04:30 AM:

Lee @451:

No fear about over-writing Firefox's bookmark file. When you import IE bookmarks into Firefox (using Firefox's "Import" option) the IE bookmarks get placed into a new separate folder (within Firefox's bookmarks) called "From Internet Explorer". Nothing is deleted.

From there, it's a case of doing a bit of fiddling to weed out duplicates. For extra paranoia points, you could always make a backup of the Firefox bookmarks before commencing.

#453 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 06:13 AM:

Lee@295: Aww, you're too kind.

#454 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 06:21 AM:

443: my pleasure. Come for the puns, stay for the eternal verities.

#455 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 08:53 AM:

So if there's no singular for "smithereens," how does one describe Pat DiNizio's solo albums?

#456 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 10:24 AM:

I've been wandering the net, and came across a couple of pages on "urban camouflage". One was a picture of a guy in a ghillie suit made of sheets of office paper. The other was a private vehicle painted up in the style of any other commercial truck, disguise rather than camouflage.

This is urban camouflage done for real.

#457 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 10:32 AM:

While not strictly camoflauge, we had a recent incident in Houston. Someone noticed an HEB truck parked too long at a warehouse and they called the cops. (HEB is a big grocery store chain in Texas) Turned out it carried 4,400 pounds of pot -- the smugglers had painted the truck to look like it belonged to the grocer.

#458 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 10:43 AM:

Yo, Abi!

How does one say "It's clear to me" in idiomatic Dutch? ("It" being a theory.)

#459 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 10:56 AM:

Allan Beatty @ 442:

Song of the South was released on video in Europe, but not in the US. Checking, it seems that it's not currently available new, but there are used VHS tapes for sale.

Michael Roberts @ 443:

Maybe it's a feature, not a bug of travel, not to understand the customs of your own country.

I, uh, resemble this remark a little. I think that traveling abroad and, for better immersion, living abroad is a good learning experience, as you get to see other cultures and learn that there are other ways of doing things. Maybe you don't like them as much as the things you're used to or maybe you like them more. You wind up with a better overall understanding that there are different people and different ways of doing things.

I think it does make it both easier and harder to understand aspects of your own native culture. You wind up with a bit of an outsider's perspective on certain things, while at the same time wondering how anyone could possibly behave in certain ways.

It can also, of course, lead to feelings of being a permanent outsider wherever you happen to be and uncomfortable feelings of forever being a wanderer, but I try to push those thoughts out of my mind most of the time.

Congratulations on the new house.

Dave Bell @ 456:

I never actually thought about that before. That's pretty cool.

#460 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 12:47 PM:

Wow, I'm never going to get caught up on all this! So I'll just touch base to say that the surgery went well, I was standing the SAME DAY, came "home" (friends' house, not to my 4th-floor walkup) two days later (Friday) and am progressing rapidly. Less pain every day, all signs good for timely return to normal activities (though I'll have three months of bizarre restrictions to observe).

That's all I can type on this awful (i.e. normal, unsplit) keyboard. Thanks for all your good wishes; your continued ones are also appreciated!

#461 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 12:55 PM:

Xopher, That's good to hear. May your recovery be speedy and trouble-free. Take care of yourself.

#462 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 01:39 PM:

Jim @48:

How does one say "It's clear to me" in idiomatic Dutch? ("It" being a theory.)

Volgens mij is het duidelijk.

I'd love to hear why you need it...

#463 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 01:45 PM:

I'd love to hear why you need it...

An act of moderation.

#464 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 02:02 PM:

Remember that today is Marilee's birthday.

#465 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 02:14 PM:

OtterB @ 439... Another fan of Hayley in those halcyon days of our youth, eh?

About Michael York as d'Artagnan... No argument there. Did you know that the movie was originally conceived as a vehicle for the Beatles?

Back to Disney... I'm still waiting for them to release Patrick McGoohan's Scarecrow miniseries.

#466 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 03:24 PM:

Serge @465
Did you know that the movie was originally conceived as a vehicle for the Beatles?

That one almost got diet Coke all over my keyboard. No, I didn't know that. There's a certain horrifying fascination in the idea.

It could have been the Monkees, I guess.

#467 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 04:23 PM:

#439 OtterB

Michael York as D'Artagnan. EUWWWWW! I've never appreciated Get a clue! overgrown adolescents-- 35 going on 11. Ick, ick, ick!

#468 ::: Janet K ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 04:38 PM:

As Serge at #464 says: Remember that today is Marilee's birthday.

I was pleased to see the 80 birthday/get well wishes that folks posted to the special thread on the Marilee health forum. Thanks to all of you that contributed. Steve will print them out and deliver them to Marilee.

I hope to visit her again tomorrow afternoon.

#469 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 06:02 PM:

Lee @451 - in re storage space. I don't know about elsewhere, but in Indiana, houses of that age had really nice built-in cabinetry. Although thinking on it, I think you're right: there's probably no finished attic, for instance, and the basement may not be suitable.

Fortunately, the apartment we're in right now has no storage space, either. So we're used to stacking lots of plastic boxes in closets not meant for them. Also, this house has three times as many rooms as we are in right now, so we could always just rope off half the house and stack stuff in it. (Ha.)

I'm really looking forward to having bookshelves again. And my six large boxes of SF paperbacks are also informing me, from the closet, that they are looking forward to alphabetization once more.

We shall see. My daughter really likes Puerto Rico (good friends at school, and she's really starting to get going on the academic competition circuit -- just took second place at a chemistry competition today, actually) and so we're going to have to at least have one foot in, one foot out, for the next couple of years.

#470 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 06:04 PM:

Oh, well, hey Marilee -- happy birthday, then!

Also, as long as we're taking care of social niceties, I wish you good health, Xopher.

#471 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 06:15 PM:

I have just returned from a daylong course given by Edward Tufte.

I am now exhilarated and terrified at the idea of doing my Ph.D prelim without slideware. I'm afraid my committee will throw me out if I don't give them some bullet points. I already had the experience of a lot of my classmates rebelling when I used Powerpoint only to project charts, without summarizing my talk in bullets.

I imagine my committee will probably take it a lot better than my classmates, since they're thinking people. My classmates wanted to turn off their brains and be spoonfed bullet points. In fact, I got the most flak from people who cut class that day, expecting to be able to just skim the slides posted online and get all the information that was in the presentation. They were mad that my slides weren't completely redundant with my talk. (I was inclined to not feel sorry for them, but eventually I gave in and posted my written talk alongside the slides.)

Has anyone here gotten a negative reaction from an audience for not using Powerpoint? How did you deal with it?

#472 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 06:32 PM:

Caroline - three cheers for Tufte! I have seen academic talks without bullet points galore, but they tended to be in the social sciences using qualitative work. I don't know your field, but since you mention charts, I assume it is not qualitative. People do appreciate visuals, so I wouldn't go completely slideless - but if you have a polished speech, your committee should be ok without bullet points.

#473 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 06:37 PM:

Caroline #471:

Art historians don't know from PowerPoint, and I would have gotten in serious trouble in grad school had I decided to use it. (That discipline sticks with extempore remarks about pretty pictures projected on the screen. Half of the time, it's stream of subconsciousness.)

That said, if I *ever* have to sit through another technical presentation in which the presenter does nothing more than read through his effing slides, word for word, I will rise up and commit justifiable homicide, iff I can keep from offing myself first.

#474 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 06:41 PM:

And speaking of qualitative work (@472), I would like to thank all of the participants in last summer's "Mama's little babies love zucchini" thread. I am currently teaching a class in design research, and last week's class was on the topic of qualitative data analysis. I provided that thread as an example of "authentic user data" and we spent a great hour extracting the key themes in how people talk about zucchini (the concept of "too much", humor, and recipes were critical). It was a very successful lesson.

What was even more interesting - I had asked the students to only analyze content, but they also offered some deductions about the participants in the thread. They told me that the participants were educated and literate, creative and with a sense of humor. And they also commented on the obvious camaraderie within the group.

I had given them absolutely no context for the discussion, so I was impressed at how obviously these things came across to them. So three cheers to our hosts, for supporting a place for literate, funny people to hang out together!

#475 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 06:44 PM:

Michael #469:

I'm wondering about those horizontal wondows above the (US) second-story tall windows. Are they transoms for the windows below them, or some sort of low-level windows for an attic floor? Even if the attic is not finished, you can put down some decking (e.g., plywood) and store a bunch of stuff on top of it, as long as it's not overly temperature-sensitive.

(I'm not sure what I'd do with two formal dining rooms, but I bet one of them would make a great library.)

#476 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 07:14 PM:

oliviacw @ 472, I'm in biomedical engineering. It is definitely quantitative. I like using slideware as a glorified slide projector -- to show images and/or movies -- but I've never gone completely bullet-less, although I've minimized the bullets significantly.

#477 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 07:26 PM:

joann@475 - they sure look like little windows into an attic space, don't they? I don't know, actually. There was so much interest in this house at this price that when my sister said it wasn't obviously falling over or radioactive, I put in an offer. In the first five days, they'd had (and turned down) two cash offers. I took the simple expedient of offering slightly more than their asking price, knowing that nobody else would do that in its first week on the market.

The agent sure did try to get me to up that offer. "There's another offer on it, are you sure that's your final bid?" I told him I wasn't going to bid against my own uncertainty, and that was indeed my final bid. And I was right, it turns out.

The upshot: I have bought a house, sight unseen, on the hearsay evidence of some people who might or might not be trustworthy. (My sister is trustworthy -- she's a CPA -- but she's a sucker for real estate, and so her judgment may be clouded. Also, I think she really kind of wants us to move back for a while.)

My sole consolation is that when I get up there to Indiana in May, and it turns out to be unsalvageable for my (admittedly narrow) purposes (narrow due to our health concerns and possible mold in the house), I'll easily be able to find a sucker to offer me $8000 for it, sight unseen.

I've never even contemplated doing anything so foolhardy in my life. I have to admit, I'm feeling very good about it.

I'm thinking probably one of the four bedrooms as a library, actually. But yes, one of the two "dining rooms" is probably just as likely. I suspect Wayne County calls a room a "formal dining room" to increase the tax assessment, probably due to county ordinance defining a formal dining room as a luxury. That's my guess. But -- haha! -- I don't know!

So May is going to be fun.

#478 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 07:55 PM:

Paula Lieberman @467
Michael York as D'Artagnan. EUWWWWW! I've never appreciated Get a clue! overgrown adolescents-- 35 going on 11. Ick, ick, ick!

Well, I was an adolescent myself at the time, and insufficiently supplied with swashbucklers. I don't think I've seen that version since. It may or may not hold up for me, but I'm looking forward to finding out.

#479 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 09:12 PM:

Elaboration: I've been told by several people that trying to vote for my dream photo assignment is a pain.

More to the point that, once they started they lost my project and had to find it again, which was difficult. So, in the interests of making things easier for people this is the easiest way to do it:

1: Go to the link above. After the page loads, copy the URL from the address bar.

2: Click on the button which says, "Submit your idea now"

3: Fill out the registration form (the ticky box about wanting e-mail is optional; if you aren't planning to submit a proposal, feel free to fake the phone number).

4: Follow the link in the registration e-mail.

5: Load the copied url into the address bar.

6: Vote.

I hope I'm not being too pestery with this. I confess it's eating my brain. Another hundred votes (for the moment) and I'm in the running.

#480 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 09:14 PM:

Given the age of the house, I'd bet on a (formal) dining room and a parlor (possibly also used as a breakfast/lunch room). Some houses had folding doors between those two rooms, to allow for bigger groups (think Christmas dinner).

#481 ::: DavidS ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 10:12 PM:

"Has anyone here gotten a negative reaction from an audience for not using Powerpoint? How did you deal with it?"

Mathematician here. Yes, I've gotten flak for not using slides* in talks, and I think some of it was justified. While mathematicians appreciate a well motivated informal talk, they also want to be able to take away a precise summary of my results. If they are just writing down my words, they have to worry that they've missed a nuance.

The best way I have found to deal with this is to write out ahead of time a few sentences which describe my results concisely, but completely accurately. When I get to that part of my talk, I copy those sentences onto the chalkboard while I read them out loud. If I give my audience that security, they are much more comfortable with the rest of the talk being less documented.

* The standard in mathematics is Beamer, not Powerpoint.

#482 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 10:13 PM:

Xopher: Glad your surgery went so well! Keep us posted.

#483 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 11:08 PM:

Lee @451: After importing your bookmarks, try using a program like AM-DeadLink to weed out the duplicates. Added bonus of doing what its name says and pointing out dead links as well.

#484 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 11:46 PM:

I'm not sure how long it'll be before they're taken down, but here are the opening credits for Watchmen.

#485 ::: Harriet Culver ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 11:55 PM:

Just noticed that Soren/Scraps has posted an essay about his stroke as the first entry to his blog "Parlando" since before it happened. It's cross-posted to his LJ as well, and is well worth reading in either place.

#486 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2009, 11:56 PM:

Oh dear Lord, I just looked at the aerial photography from the south. Lee, I really, really don't think I'm going to have to worry about storage space, ever again.

I updated my blog post here, for the morbidly curious. We'll just see, in May, how much work there really is in this house. It could end up being an endless battle.

Maybe I'll just take in boarders. It sure looks like there's room for them.

#487 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 12:06 AM:

Serge -- thanks! I know nothing of the Watchmen, but I sure enjoyed that trailer. I'm going to have to see the movie, it's clear.

#488 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 12:07 AM:

Michael Roberts, 486,
Oh dear Lord, I just looked at the aerial photography from the south. Lee, I really, really don't think I'm going to have to worry about storage space, ever again.

congratluations Michael! Wow! What a house! You are living my dream, dude!

#489 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 12:17 AM:

Michael Roberts @ 487... Glad to hear it got you interested. By the way, and at the risk of sounding sacrilegious, I think that, in some ways, the movie is better than the celebrated comic-book it's adapted from. Especially the ending.

#490 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 12:19 AM:

Michael, that's a wonderful house.

If I were now where I was standing 20 years ago, I'd have done the same thing.

#491 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 12:34 AM:

Boarders might be a good idea. The rent could help pay for double-paned windows and other improvements.

#492 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 12:40 AM:

Yay Xopher!

#493 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 12:43 AM:

Standing in the middle of an "economic downturn" is helping on that front, anyway. In 1989 you probably wouldn't have found this house for $8000.

#494 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 12:49 AM:

Stefan, it might be a while before I spend a winter there. Besides, a house like that? Double-paned windows? Visqueen, man, stapled to the frame. I'll be living the dream.

Seriously -- can you imagine the cost of vinyl windows in this place? Easily five times the rest of the house.

No, clearly my best option is solar heat panels on that vast expanse of roof. I have a nice southern exposure unblocked by anything but the street. Perhaps even a greenhouse on the south face of the building; it looks like there's room.

Alternatively, the entire family could probably just live in one of the dining rooms. My sister says they're really big. We could put up tapestries and burn the furniture during the winter months, then expand back out into the further reaches of the structure come spring.

#495 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 01:28 AM:

Michael #486

Fluorospherian Steampunk Fix-Up Party-Convention at Michael's house next year!

(In a way it reminds me a bit of the fate of the once-Wang Towers--Wang downsized and sold what remained of it self to Bull and relocated, and handed what had cost more than $80 million in 1980s dollars to build and included massive amounts of fiber optic cabling going in and out and cross connections, over to the bank. The bank put it up for auction, the winning buyer paid something like $500,000 for the facility, which consisted of a substantial amount of property and the three towers... the buyer spent some millions of dollars renovating the facility, sold or leased some of the land to a cinemaplex operator, got tenants, and turned around and sold the facility two or three years later for around a hundred times what it had paid....

I don;t know what the property values around here have done, but $8000 for a house doesn't seem to be credible in this part of the country.

Some of the people where I work remarked that he restaurants and stores they want to over the weekend, didn't look like they were hurting at all for business.

#496 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 01:45 AM:

Michael, #486: HOLY COW! What have you just bought? Our dream house, that's what. If it turns out to be too much for you, please contact us -- it might be too much for us too, but I know my partner would like to at least look at the possibility.

#497 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 02:19 AM:

Michael - wow! It looks tidy from the front photo, but you have a HOUSE there, all right. Looks like there have been a couple of additions onto the back, hope they were done well. If nothing else, you'll have fun exploring all the nooks and crannies. And heck, for $8000, why not? If there were anything remotely like that in my neck of the woods, I'd consider buying it for cash sight unseen too.

#498 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 03:02 AM:

Caroline @ 471

Color me envious; I've always wanted to attend one of Tufte's courses, and just never had the time and the money simultaneously. A week or so ago, though, I was in Powell's technical book store (they deal my kind of crack), and treated myself to a copy of his most recent book, "Beautiful Evidence". Hard to do anything else when your hand won't let go of the book.

Back when I gave regular technical presentations (distributed computer systems, software development tools, and computer languages mostly) I very rarely used PowerPoint, but always had some sort of slides. Whether there were bullet points that recapitulated the entire presentation depended on what kind of audience was involved. When it was a class, I used lots of bullet points so the slides could be used as notes later*. I hate making the audience divide their attention between listening to me and frantically taking notes, trying to keep up.

But I always used some kind of slide creation software that had graphic tools good enough to draw system architecture diagrams or program flow diagrams. The visuals have always been more important to me than the written points, and when you're trying to give an overview of a very complex system, they're really the only way to put enough information on a few slides to make the points required.

* Which is not to say that everything I talked about appeared in the slides; they were primarily an outline of the ideas presented, or particular results, or interesting URLs.

#499 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 03:02 AM:

Michael, you have a daughter, and you also now have a barn?

I'll bet there's an equivalent definition of horses to the one of boats: "A hole in the water you pour money into."

#500 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 04:48 AM:

Michael, I doubt you could rent a house for the interest on $8000, even at pretty usurious rates.

Don't forget wall-insulation. We have rather different construction in the UK, but some people are starting to put extra insulation on the inside of the wall. There's stuff made for the job, fire resistant, but it seems best done in an unoccupied house.

Electrical wiring, likewise. A modern living seems to need far more outlets than even modern house-builders install.

I suppose ethernet is optional.

#501 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 05:40 AM:

Xopher, glad to hear the operation went well!

Michael, that's a dam' big ole house! Congratulations. I would have done the same thing in your shoes. You could turn the barn into a ballroom if you run out of ideas.

#502 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 07:24 AM:

Fluorospherian Steampunk Fix-Up Party-Convention at Michael's house next year!

"OK, so that's the ethernet installed. We'll have the fully-equipped shock-trauma suite here, by the kitchen, because that's where major injuries are most likely to happen; the barn can be converted into the Hall of Contemplative Knitting, and that leaves the entire second floor free for bookshelves!"
"What's that barrel for?"
"Oh, that. A constant supply of bad puns comes out of the hole in the top every day except Friday."
"What happens on Friday?"
"Friday is Serge's day off. You'll have to take his place in the barrel."

#503 ::: Velma ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 08:33 AM:

Soren is posting to his blog, Parlando, again:

#504 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 08:46 AM:

Ajay @ 502 - LOL

#505 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 08:50 AM:

ajay @ 502... I have a day off?

#506 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 08:52 AM:

Turner Classic Movies's guest programmer this month is director John Landis. One of his selections is "The Brain That Wouldn't Die". Why am I not surprised?

#507 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 10:09 AM:

Ajay @ 502, perhaps we should copy some of the features found at 62, West Wallaby Street.

The wonders of medern living...

#508 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 10:44 AM:

Xopher @ 460:

Glad to hear you're out and recovering.

oliviacw @ 474:

You have good students. The sense of fun and community attracted me here, and I'm very glad to have found this place.

ajay @ 502:

But I don't want to go in the barrel! I'd have to make a tun of puns, and when I couldn't come up with any I'd be the butt of a whole bunch of jokes. It would be enough to drive me firkin crazy!

#509 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 10:46 AM:

Serge @505: Of course you do. When daylight come don't you wan' go home?

Dave Bell @507: Watched the Wallace and Gromit shorts for the first (!) time yesterday and realized the sheep got its name because it was shorn.

#510 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 11:01 AM:

Congratulations, Xopher! And my congratulations on the improvement so far, and hope that it will continue to get better, to Soren.

#511 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 11:21 AM:

Michael Roberts:

Flanders and Swann have some recommendations for home improvement.

#512 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 11:33 AM:

505: I have a day off?

We live in hope, Serge. We live in hope.

#513 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 11:37 AM:

ajay @ 512...

I've never been so insulted.
("The day is still young.")
I heard that.

#514 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 11:54 AM:

Caroline @ 471: I've always wondered what it would be like to attend a Tufte presentation.

I'm a veterinarian, so my presentations have been slides (pre-power point, practically hand-painted) or (way back in the old days) overheads. I had an excellent course on this subject*, and learned how to minimize the writing on the slides. My "bullet points" are the outline of my presentation, and are meant as a visual aid for my audience. Just about every slide I make has a picture on it, primarily supporting the subject of the slide (i.e., here is a eye, and we are discussing eye anatomy). When the topic doesn't have an appropriate photo, I'll put in something related (i.e., here is a picture of a dog looking at you and we are discussing eye anatomy).

I use graphs, charts, tables, photos, diagrams, and whatever else I can find that's visual -- anything to avoid having words on the slide. I'm responsible for the words, and they come from me, not the screen.

*The most difficult presentation to write/give is the ten-minute one. Anyone can do an hour, but ten minutes? Argh!

#515 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 11:58 AM:

Michael #486:

Not boarders. Turn part of the barn/garage into rent-a-storage. Less call for expensive improvements.

But oh god, I have the weirdest feeling about the kitchen(s), having watched at least my share of "Restore America".

Please blog this extensively when you actually get there; sounds like a lot of us are consumed with (friendly and admiring) curiosity.

#516 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 12:11 PM:

A barn that size was probably being used, in part, as a garage, after cars came in. It would be useful as a workshop, if you have power tools. (My parents' place in Texas came with a building like that. It became the garage for the lawn tractor, and part of my father's shop (bench saw, band saw, acetylene and arc welding sets, miscellaneous tools and parts ....)

#517 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 12:17 PM:

Ginger #514:

I will admit to having used overheads in addition to slides. The overheads were one per lecture, stayed up the whole time, and contained 4-6 bullet points and any vocabulary that I was sure would be unfamiliar to at least half the class and/or cause spelling hiccups. (I'd had professors do this on the chalkboard, and while it struck me as an essentially good idea, it also didn't work very well in a darkened room.) The slides ran off two projectors simultaneously and changed about once every couple minutes on average--all pictures of paintings, sculptures, architecture. Everything was susceptible to the Laser Pointer of Doom.

#518 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 12:21 PM:

ajay @ 512... You asked for this.

I was thinking that maybe Michael Roberts got such a good deal not because his house is built on top of an Indian burial ground, but on top of an old Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. The first signs that something is awry is when eggtoplasm oozes out of the walls in the kid room.

Coming soon...
Steven Spielberg's Poultrygeist!

#519 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 12:26 PM:

Xopher #460: All the best. May your recovery be both swift and easy.

#520 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 12:28 PM:

Ginger @ 514... Just about every slide I make has a picture on it, primarily supporting the subject of the slide (i.e., here is a eye, and we are discussing eye anatomy)

I'm sure a photo from Buñuel's Un Chien Andalou would go over very well with your audience.

#521 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 12:31 PM:

Serge #518: He might have to worry more about a visit from 11 Scary Spices, then.

Michael: It looks like a lovely house.

#522 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 12:31 PM:

Bruce @ 498, I was lucky enough that they were offering cheaper rates for students -- and then my advisor offered to get it paid for. I was planning to find the money myself before that.

The cost was $200 for students, which included copies of the four books. I figured $200 was about the cost of the books anyway, so I was coming out ahead. For non-students it is $380, which likewise includes the books.

Ginger @ 514, it's more or less like reading a Tufte book, in motion and with some music. Except that you actually get to see first editions of the English translation of Euclid's Geometry (with fold-up models), and Galileo's book which includes sunspot diagrams. That was seriously cool.

I had a brief chat with Tufte about his experiences consulting on interface design at Medtronic and the importance of outside-in design.

The crowd seemed to be largely scientists and engineers, from the snippets of conversation I overheard. Some social sciences representation.

I do recommend the one-day course if it's financially and otherwise possible. It's probably the single most interesting thing I've done in months. Plus, pretty books are now mine! *pets pretty books*

Next ones are in Atlanta, GA; Arlington, VA; Seattle, WA; and Portland, OR; register at (Full-time students have to fax in registration with a copy of your student ID and registrar contact info, so they can verify your student status.)

#523 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 12:39 PM:

Serge @ 518 -

Poultrygeist? C'mon...the cluck* stops here. :-)

*Even a stopped cluck is right twice a day

#524 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 12:41 PM:

And then there was The Eggsorcist, with that shocking dialog:

"Pluck me! Pluck me!"

#525 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 12:56 PM:

There is also Richard Matheson's The Legend of Hen House, and Steven Donaldson's Lord Fowl's Bane.

#526 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 12:57 PM:

Steve C. @ 523:

And how do you un-stop a cluck? With a crow-bar?

#527 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 12:59 PM:

Thanks, everyone! Doing better every day, haven't taken any painkillers in a while, looks like I'm getting the staples out early! So my progress is good. I might be back at work by the middle of next week (as in, barely two weeks after the surgery, pretty much unheard-of for a total hip replacement) if all continues to go well.

On the topic of KFC horror, you forgot to mention the infamous Slaw series.

#528 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 01:01 PM:

Did Ursula Le Guin's The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelettes ever win a Hugo?

#529 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 01:30 PM:

Serge et al: (cracks up) You all deserve a standing ova for these. I shell now duck out of this.

Joann@ 517: Ah, the Laser Pointer of Doom! I had one of those, and it ended up becoming the Cat Toy of Awesome! Then I gave it to my dad, who wanted a laser pointer for his larger lectures.

But all this reminds me, I'd better get cracking on my updated "Disinfectants, Sterilants, and Quality Control" lecture. I'm scheduled to give it sometime this year. (Exactly when, is debatable.)

#530 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 01:53 PM:

Caroline -- I did that seminar when I was a grad student, about 2-3 months from turning in my thesis. I wound up redoing all the graphs.

And doing as few slides as possible for the defense/presentation, but that went over really badly because the thesis was turned in late and I put together the presentation in about a day and a half.

(and my wife did the seminar too, and the books we got from that were one of the few overlaps in our library.)

#531 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 02:44 PM:

Another reason for Michael to get boarders, or possibly a groundskeeper:

If horror movies have taught me anything, then non-family members are the first to go when ghouls or the spirits of Indian shaman crawl out of the basement to seek revenge.

#532 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 03:00 PM:

There will be very little money poured into this house. The very point of a house for $8000 is that you don't have to pour money into it. You buy a house for $100K, and you spend $12,000 on siding, you're thinking, well, it's only a fraction of what I paid. Me, I'll have to think, I could just buy a whole new house.

Besides, my philosophy is that this house has already stood there for 119 years. It can take another decade if I don't do anything at all. Meaning I can just take my time and do whatever I want.

Blogging? Oh yes there will be blogging. I'm tempted to get in a plane right now and take pictures -- except that would cost, like, 8% of the price of an entire house. I can feel my financial priorities realigning as we speak. (For instance, yesterday I sent an invoice to one of my customers for about two months of work that would, in fact, buy me a house.)

Dave: yeah, electrical wiring worries me. Plumbing worries me due to mold risk. Ethernet, not so much, that why we have WiFi. Although I'll probably want more than one access point, and if I'm unlucky, the walls might turn out to be slats and plaster with a metallic mesh. It'll still be better than the reinforced concrete in our current apartment, but ... well, we'll see. I have to admit it's fun to drill holes in your house to string Ethernet. So maybe I'll set up a lot of hubs.

We currently suspect that the roughly hexagonal projection on the south face must be the dining room (we have friends with a similar structure in New Castle, IN), and the windowless expanse on the south face is the stairs to the second floor. What room has a hexagonal window structure on the second floor, we don't know, but consensus seems to be that it shall henceforth be the library.

The Fluorospherian Steampunk retrofit may now commence. (Well -- as soon as we have deed in hand, and the school year is over: target date May 16th.)

#533 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 03:02 PM:

Best of luck, Xopher, and congrats Michael!

#534 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 03:02 PM:

Michael, if you get a groundskeeper, be sure it's not this guy:

#535 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 03:12 PM:

It sounds like that house was a foreclosure victim, right?

#536 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 04:25 PM:

Earl, if by "victim" you mean "area landlord who didn't keep up with payments," then yes. To my great relief.

#537 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 04:31 PM:

The latest about Marilee... Her reading skills are making a comeback. Yay!

#538 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 04:37 PM:

I think that there should be certain essential purchases.

A Quantity of smoke machines, a few work lamps, and some orange gels should start you out. And green. Gotta have green too.

#539 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 04:42 PM:

Linkmeister: Yeah, but as Debcha pointed out, I (mostly[1]) get paid in CDN. And salaries aren't THAT much higher.

It's the price of a paperback. Which is pretty good reason to quit, even if my Beloveds weren't looking at my mournfully and nudging me on ML and stuff like that.

[1] Except when I get paid in USD. Wanted: regular proofreading gig which pays in GBP.

#540 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 04:46 PM:

#537: Was there supposed to be a link?

#541 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 04:51 PM:

And a lightning tower. And a zeppelin landing hook. Some apes for the apiary.

#542 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 04:53 PM:

Other lessons learned from horror movies:

If mysterious and horrid things start happening, and you're all freaked out, the most apparently vulnerable member of the family (preferably teenager, fallback to wife) should loudly announce, "I don't know what could be causing all this strangeness. I think I'll go alone down into the dark basement from which strange sounds are emerging, without a flashlight, and try to find the light switch."

(Then while the creepy-crawlies are waiting for her, your whole family instead immediately leaves the house and drives somewhere else. They hate that.)

#543 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 04:55 PM:

Hey, a trifecta of good news -- Xopher, Marilee, and Michael, glad good things are happening to all of you!

#544 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 05:02 PM:

Stefan Jones #540: Was there supposed to be a link?

For your Marilee Fandom needs, people are chronicling their hospital visits in the threads.

#545 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 05:28 PM:

I have just returned from a daylong course given by Edward Tufte.

Great! Hey, do you know if the slides are on...

[Looks over shoulder at bookcase where The Visual Display of Quantitative Information suddenly appears much more menacing.]


In fact, I got the most flak from people who cut class that day, expecting to be able to just skim the slides posted online and get all the information that was in the presentation. They were mad that my slides weren't completely redundant with my talk. (I was inclined to not feel sorry for them, but eventually I gave in and posted my written talk alongside the slides.)

Wasn't there a sub-thread about students not following instructions somewhere around here? Slightly related to that, why is there at least one, and sometimes many, many more pupils who turn up without a pen to every class? And why don't they borrow spares from their friends, rather than expect adults to produce them?

Has anyone here gotten a negative reaction from an audience for not using Powerpoint? How did you deal with it?

A couple of times I've followed a Tufte suggestion by providing a double-sided A3 handout. I think they expected the stuff on the handout to appear on a screen, but were okay when it didn't. Also that did mean they had something to distract them by reading while I warmed up* with my introduction (which was "tell them what you're going to say", so you could listen to that OR read ahead and still not miss the actual talk)

* By which I mean use most of the "um" and "er" quota for the day and try to remember the logical thread that flowed through the presentation.

#546 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 05:35 PM:

#545 - Neil -

Slightly related to that, why is there at least one, and sometimes many, many more pupils who turn up without a pen to every class? And why don't they borrow spares from their friends, rather than expect adults to produce them?

Because borrowing a pen from a friend uses whuffie*, while the teacher will lend without cost because it is a necessary learning tool?

I suspect if the query to borrow were answered by a loud call of "Can anyone lend [student's name] a pen?" the problem would slow way down.

*For loose definitions of "friend." Real friends likely wouldn't notice a one-off forgetting.**

**What, you were expecting an explanation of whuffie? Look here.

#547 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 06:06 PM:

For addicts of a couple of kinds, a link to a report on Tobacco in Australia, 2008 online edition ( and its publisher. Here is Chapter 13, on pricing.

Michael Roberts: Cheering!

Xopher: Cheering & cringing simultaneously!

Marilee: *sighs, worries, lurks silently while sending good thoughts*

#548 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 06:49 PM:

Michael, have your thought about maybe approaching a home improvement show to see if they'd adopt your new house as a project?

It is interesting enough a property that someone might go for it.

#549 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 07:00 PM:

Michael Roberts: congratulations and good luck with the house. My advice: after you check the wiring and the plumbing, check out the insulation in the attic and the exterior walls and get an idea of what your heating bills will be like in the winter. Aside from fixing things that are broken, adding insulation is the one change that could pay for itself no matter how much the house cost.

Xopher: belated congratulations on the success of the operation. I love it when a surgical plan comes together.

#550 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 07:35 PM:

Stefan @548 - now there's a notion. Where would one even start?

Bruce @549 - yeah, I'm guessing there will be decent insulation in the attic, and none whatsoever in the walls. Our current logistics are indicating that I'll be there from May 16 to the first part of August. We might decide to stay on -- but honestly, it's looking like we might just not be there during the coming winter, unless it's just for the holidays. Which will cut down on the heating bill a whole lot, although I suppose I'll have to wrap the pipes.

I've always heard and read about blowing insulation into existing walls, usually a cellulose fiber sort of thing. Since it looks as though I'll have access to the walls from the attic, that might make sense. We'll see when I get there.

I feel like a NASA scientist, gleaning information from individual pixels taken from orbit.

#551 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 07:40 PM:

Neil @ 545, I was planning to just tell my committee that I couldn't use bullet points, because if I did, E.T. would come from Connecticut and hunt me down. *grin*

He did have slides. They consisted of a few short videos and pictures that he wanted to project, which he says is the only good use for Powerpoint/Keynote.

I was the kind of student who was perpetually penless, because I'm brilliant at misplacing objects as small as pens, but I always bummed one from another student (and in return, now happily lend out pens). I recommend gluing large, embarrassing things to pens you lend to students.

#552 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 07:46 PM:

Caroline @551 - alternatively, you can always glue the pens to the students.

#553 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 07:47 PM:

Hey, abi, are your host country's citizens enthusiastic about their baseball team's shocking success against the Dominican Republic's team (twice!) in the World Baseball Classic?

#554 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 08:06 PM:

#550 I assume check the shows' websites. Probably a good idea to visit your new place first; take pictures, jump up and down on things, write down a wish list first:

[pained voice echoing up from cellar]
"Number one. Replace rotten spot in dining room floor."
[/pained voice echoing up from cellar]

#555 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 08:25 PM:

Linkmeister: I was gonna ask that! I love the Dutch headline OPNIEUW STUNT HONKBALLERS ORANJE! Abi, I gather "stunt" means something like "upset" in Dutch?

I think we New Yorkers, to honor our New Amsterdam forebears, should call baseball "honkbal" at every opportunity. Change the name of Citi Field to Honkbal Gebouw, or something.

#556 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 09:05 PM:

So the bumper sticker is "Toot if you love Honkball", right? heh.

#557 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 09:13 PM:

Michael Roberts:

My God. Foreclosures around here are in the $175K range for 4/2s. $8000 would be worth buying for almost any problems, barring mold or meth house.

As for approaching a TV crew, I'd say the best way to go about it is to survey the house for needed repairs & upgrades, put together a list of tasks, and create a presentation to try to sell to HGTV or whomever. A video bit of you is a must, because they want somebody telegenic.

No, I've never done this. It's just a surmise.

#558 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 11:39 PM:

Regarding the amazing $8000 house*, how much is the lot worth?

*the laptop which arrived today and has been lightly played with cost 1/8 house. I do not need a house. I do not need a house. I do not need a house.

#559 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 12:15 AM:

Hmm. Telegenic? I dunno.

In re mold or meth -- I know it's not a meth house, but mold? We shall see. I doubt it, sight unseen, or I wouldn't have bought it in the first place -- but our son is allergic enough to mold that we've considered renting him out as a detector. So it's an issue.

Diatryma - the lot's probably not worth much. Richmond is small, it's not growing, and there is puh-lenty of land just minutes from town, so why would anybody buy a lot in town?

Except that there are lots for sale, in town, for $10K and up. Goes to show you how little I understand economics. Plus there's the value of the bricks. But ... I am not going to be party to the destruction of anything built in 1890. America has little enough sense of history.

Plus if I keep blogging about it, I think I'll probably be able to sell it right here for more than I paid for it. Lee's close to buying it already and I haven't even closed on it.

#560 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 12:55 AM:

Snort - Stefan, I just noticed your reply. Ha!

#561 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 01:30 AM:

Michael Roberts @new house,

Yesterday when I followed a link to the map of your new house, the other Google search results suggested that it was (not long ago) an intentional community home of Quaker persuasion, with the name "Renaissance House."

#562 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 03:47 AM:

There's a British TV show which follows guys who buy houses at auction, fix them up, and sell at a profit. "Homes Under The Hammer"

I doubt they're making any, now.

I am now imagining Wallace and Gromit's Pimp My House.

Wall insulation really needs more ventilation to counter damp.

Decorating schemes which suit you may be unwise if you're likely to sell.

Check what regulations might apply to rented property, and whether there were any issues with the previous owner..

You must have a garden gnome.

#563 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 05:28 AM:

You must have a garden gnome.

Or better yet, these.

#564 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 09:17 AM:

Kathryn - if it had been Renaissance House (which rings a bell) my stepfather would have known it; he works at First Friends. But Quakers are thick on the ground in Richmond (I'm a Quaker atheist myself) -- it's always possible there's yet another group I hadn't heard of, and "Renaissance House" is just ringing one of those illusory bells.

Dave@562 - I hadn't heard that about wall insulation -- thanks! Also: sell? I finally get real estate unencumbered by a mortgage and I would sell? I'm only considering sale as an escape hatch if I really can't use the house due to mold or something, but if I ever once manage to get properly moved in, this house is never leaving my grubby little fists. The kids can sell it if they want, after inheriting.

Yes, I'm thinking Wallace and Grommit is the decor I'm striving for. I'm particularly looking forward to being dropped into my trousers of a morning, toast ready.

Pendrift - yeah!

#565 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 09:55 AM:

Dave Bell @562:
I watched today's episode of Homes Under the Hammer after reading your comment. The numbers sounded very off, until I saw that the auctions and valuations had been conducted in 2006. Not exactly a faithful representation of the current real estate market.
I spent my mornings watching BBC 1 programs for a brief spell in 2004. Am I the only one who finds their daytime shows bizarrely addicting? Bargain Hunt, Cash in the Attic, Car Booty, Flog It. All that junk turned me into a junkie.

#566 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 10:09 AM:

Lord, Kathryn: you're right: a potluck was held there in 2007.

#567 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 10:32 AM:

Well, joann@515 -- now we know about the kitchen, which will smell of vegan curry, all spices bought in bulk at the Earlham Coop. Man! It's been twenty-five years since I left Richmond and it's like yesterday!

#568 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 11:10 AM:

So Serge was almost right - the house wasn't built on the site of an ancient Indian graveyard, but an ancient Quaker potluck supper.

"It's horrible, Dan! Every evening when I'm at home alone, the smell of tuna casserole and three-bean salad starts seeping out of the walls. And then the voices start!"

"Voices? Can you tell what they're saying?"

"No, but it always sounds so... moderate..."

#569 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 11:41 AM:

Quite possibly the purplest piece of prose ever professionally published.

The only thing distinguishing this from The Eye of Argon is that this author appears to understand what his vocabulary words actually mean, and is on reasonably good terms with the Muse of Punctuation. That it was later reissued by a vanity house doesn't surprise me at all.

#570 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 12:49 PM:

Here's a quiz to see how progressive you are.

I scored a 291, which surprised me a bit. The average score is 209.

#571 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 01:20 PM:

Steve C. @ 570:

That's a fun toy. I'm a little suspicious of the zero to ten ranking scale, feeling it's a bit too fine-grained for subjective answers, especially for a couple of questions that seemed like they were more binary than nuanced in any way. I also thought that a couple of the questions were unclear or could have done with more detail.

Maybe I should pass it along to one of my Republican-but-wishes-they'd-return-to-sanity friends and see what happens.

#572 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 01:22 PM:

I came out at 334. I didn't realize I was quite THAT much of a flaming liberal.

#573 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 01:22 PM:

In lieu of actual participation, a bovine version of the unicorn chaser.

#574 ::: Ruth Temple ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 01:23 PM:

Tunes! Get-cher red-hot sizzling medieval springtime tunes here!

Check it out: one of our number made great recording of our concert, In Bucca al Lupo, last Friday night, March 6, and has plunked the tracks up as a podcast. The songs are 12 - 15th C. French & Spanish, and we had a whole lot of fun singing them - one of those concerts when you get to the end and someone asks, Can we do it all aGAIN?

From the Amazing DW:
There's a podcast URL for In Bocca al Lupo! If you start iTunes, and pull down Advanced / Subscribe to Podcast, and enter the following URL:

You will be rewarded with the dulcet sounds of our concert earlier this week, plus some archival blasts from the past.


In Bocca al Lupo means "into the mouth of the wolf" - which is what Italians say to someone going on stage, like we'd say "break a leg".

--of course, by blasts from the past, D. means there's also last spring's concert (which I wasn't around for) and also bunch of learning tools/practice pieces that you can ignore unless you're curious as to how 20 people can rehearse four times and sing like this. Some of these, Revecy Venir du Printemps and Janequin's Chant des Oyseaux, a subset of Friday's group of us sang together in the Middle of Nowhere, La Toulzanie, up the river Lot from Cahors in southern France summer of 2007.)
Wonderful, the kind of recording you can do when there's reliable electricity.

Please forgive Barbara for dropping a chair in the middle of Revecy because rolling your eyes at her wouldn't make any difference...

It is, of course, all the fault of the esteemed Shira Kammen, Early Music maven that she is, for pulling us & the music all together, and being a part of the ensemble Cançonièr.

Enjoy, dear ones.

#575 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 01:27 PM:

Keith S @ 571 -

Yeah, some of the questions were not well done. The ones where I clicked zero or ten were all ones that I had a strong emotional reaction to.

#576 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 01:43 PM:

336 on progressivity, although many of those questions were really simplistic.

Here is a picture of a man with an alligator in back? to the side? of my house. I think maybe he's sitting where my greenhouse is going to go, which bodes well as evidence that there is, in fact, room there for a greenhouse.

#577 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 01:51 PM:

Carrie S. @ 572:

I came out at 351/400, which probably makes me an evil Commie who's trying to pollute our precious bodily fluids. To rectify this horrible impression, I hereby offer glasses of rainwater or grain alcohol (your choice) to anyone who asks.

It's forty questions, with a scale from 0 to 10. I'm assuming that the total is the sum of your answers to the questions, except for the few reverse-sense questions (like the ones about abortion and homosexuality) where it's 10 - your answer instead. That leads me to another thing that's possibly wrong with the quiz: if you disagree with most of the 'progressive' positions you're usually disagreeing with the statement in the survey. I don't think that most people like to always disagree with things, so that introduces a bit of a bias into their results. That it happens to be the bias that they want makes me suspicious.

Steve C. @ 575:

Pretty much the same here for the ones I picked zero or ten on. They were either strong emotional reactions or "duh, there's no nuance here" reactions. These may or may not be the same thing.

#578 ::: y ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 01:52 PM:

I scored over 300, but I can't say that I liked the quiz. It seems to consist primarily of mouthing various conservative and liberal slogans to see who salutes. Not what I would call progress.

#579 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 01:53 PM:

Teresa: Your Benny Hinn particle has an extra "%22" tacked onto the end of the URL.

#580 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 02:05 PM:

KeithS @579:

Thanks for the heads-up. Fixed.

#581 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 02:07 PM:

Steve C #570: My score was 371, I am, it seems, to the left of Barack Obama. No surprise there.

#582 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 03:30 PM:

I wonder when he's going to open Bennyhinna Restaurant, where the waiters bop you on the forehead instead of bringing your food and you tithe ten percent of your income as a tip....

#583 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 03:33 PM:

I took the quiz again to test my hypothesis, and it definitely looks as though the score is simply the sum of each response when ten is the progressive position and ten minus the response when zero is the progressive position.

I was wrong about the number of questions where ten was the progressive response and zero was not. The number of each is about even. It seems that the questions come up in random order, so my first impression was probably due to many of the zero is correct answers coming first when I took it initially.

#584 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 03:52 PM:

I got a 323, making snap-judgment answers. The question I really had a problem with was, "The primary responsibility of corporations is to produce profits for their owners and stockholders, not to improve society."

My immediate reaction was, "Yes, and that's the problem!" But there's a nuance not being addressed in the question. The real problem is the current corporate mindset that short-term, immediate profits are their primary goal, often at the expense of their own long-term welfare. Prioritizing large dividends over everything else is the equivalent of selling their birthright for a mess of pottage. And this is a problem that the free market can't fix.

#585 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 03:54 PM:


I agree the questions are often crude and seemingly designed as tribal identifiers, but that's true of most surveys of this ilk.

#586 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 03:55 PM:

323 on the quiz, and I tempered some of my knee-jerk answers!

Guess I need to cut my hair, wash, and get a job.

#587 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 03:59 PM:

Earl Cooley III @ 582:

Reading the Benny Hinn piece and then your response reminded me of an experience I had a few years ago.

A family member dragged me along to a charismatic church once. I'm sure at least some people here know the type: small but with a loyal congregation of very nice people, renting a function hall to use as their sanctuary.

After the first part of the service, the preacher called people up front. He did the power of the Holy Spirit schtick, and touched people on the forehead to make them fall down, "slain in the Spirit", whatever that means. (It was incredibly obvious to me that on one person he definitely had to do more than just touch; more of a push and a bit of frustration that the guy wasn't going down.) One or two other people that didn't go up and he didn't touch fell over too.

What do you do for someone who's lying on the floor, "slain in the Spirit"? You bring out a cloth that looks remarkably like either a very large cloth napkin or a very small tablecloth and drape it over their legs, of course.

Quite frankly, I was appalled. People just falling over is normal? One of my family members thought this was normal? What if one of those people were having a heart attack or a stroke rather than an experience of the divine? I'm sure it would be embarrassing to just cover the person with the little blankie only to find out half an hour later that they were never going to get up again.

#588 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 04:01 PM:

Lee @ 584: That's one of the two or three questions that I had the largest problem with, for exactly the same reasons.

#589 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 04:02 PM:

Michael, re the house. Do you know about plastic insulation for windows? I don't know if it's common in Indiana, but here in Minnesota, anyone who can't afford to replace old windows can buy kits to put heavy-duty plastic either inside or outside that seals the drafts around windows pretty well. The kit for 5 windows runs around $15-20.

That house looks beautiful.

#590 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 04:31 PM:

I think this author really needs to get in touch with the author of Knight Moves.

#591 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 04:43 PM:

Julie L, after reading that I can safely say my eyes are a pair of bulging ping-pong balls and my brain is melted sloppy gray goo.


#592 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 05:47 PM:

Although the fan art link had me laughing helplessly. Really.

#593 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 05:56 PM:

Julie L@590: That LJ appears to be friends-locked, by the way.

#594 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 06:00 PM:

Earl @ 593, it doesn't look friends-locked to me. Did you get a 404 error page? That's been happening randomly to me all day with various livejournals; usually reloading fixes it.

#595 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 07:11 PM:

Julie, #590: I thought so too, back at #569. Unfortunately, the next post was a big distraction, so I'm glad someone else re-linked it.

Open Threadiness: Would anyone here have a use for
1) a 1939 Funk & Wagnalls college dictionary, or
2) a Chinese-English dictionary, undated but probably circa 1970?
If so, drop me an e-mail with your address and it's yours.

#596 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 08:06 PM:

Lee @ #595, Re: the Funk and Wagnalls dictionary, call Dan Rowan or Dick Martin.

#597 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 08:16 PM:

Lee, 584: I managed not to see your comment earlier - I strongly agreed to the same question myself, but as far as I'm concerned, this is why you don't entrust the vital functions of a society to corporations. True, governments are not always responsive to the will of the people, but corporations aren't expected even to try. This is a slightly different take on it from yours, which is also valid in its own way.

#598 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 08:41 PM:

Lee @ 569 and Julie L. @ 590:

The thing that strikes me about that book is that, as Lee pointed out, the author actually seems to know what the words mean, although he doesn't go so far as to make sure they're entirely appropriate to what he's describing; he wasn't just blindly abusing a thesaurus. Apart from the excessive detail, multiple, wildly different descriptions of each body part, and lack of poetry, part of what makes it so obnoxious to me is that it's written as metaphor, not simile.

Also, "Her face had the fragrance of a gibbous moon"?

The fan art was great.

Ruth Temple @ 574:

Thank you for the link. I'm listening to it now, and enjoying it.

#599 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 08:43 PM:

Julie L. #590: Holy Cow! I thought the fan-art was the best possible commentary on that passage.

Hey, if today's theme is bad writing, here's a random find ( via TV Tropes): The Salvation War, a collaborative effort to demonstrate that not everyone is James Morrow, really. ;-)

The basic idea is that God's final message to his creation was essentially "To Hell with humanity". The fundies laid down to die, Satan has declared dominion over Earth, and the U.S. has declared war on Hell and Heaven. The demons are invading, and they're really big and ugly, but they're using Bronze Age weapons and tactics, and they've never seen guns, much less planes and missiles. They do have a few "magical" tricks, but those are easily analyzed and countered by the U.S. scientists (led by James Randi).

The logical gaps and inconsistencies are many, but I don't want to hog the fun....

#600 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 09:12 PM:

David Harmon @ #599, me oh my and a custard pie, as my old grandma used to say.

"Even better, the jet of fire was a perfect infra-red source for his AIM-9 Sidewinders. Both annunciators were screaming with the demand to be let loose."

Pictures gauges on pilot's panel emitting little thought balloons: "Let me go! Lemme go! I wanna go, dammit!"

#601 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 09:26 PM:

Lee @ 595
With full-page illos showing musical instruments, horses, cattle, chickens, etc?
If so,oh yeah.

#602 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 09:43 PM:

Linkmeister, #596: Pbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbth!
(Also, calling Dick at this point would entail serious long-distance charges.*)

Chris, #597: Good point, and a very strong argument against privatizing social-safety-net functions. Talk about a conflict of interest...

* Now there's another thing only us old fogies remember any more -- Before Cellphones, it cost less to call someone in the same area code than to call someone in a different one. The only non-local calls I make on the landline these days are toll-free ones.

#603 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 09:50 PM:

Lee @ #602, re: "Linkmeister, #596: Pbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbth!"

I really really need text-to-voice software.

#604 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 09:52 PM:

Also, getting a phone number for Dick is a whole 'nother story. (Probably a story that has Ernestine on the switchboard, too.)
One ringy-dingy ....

#605 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 10:31 PM:

Julie L @590 ...

... So, essentially, you start a, anatomically-sequential riff on the Song of Songs while on some really bad acid, then you put it in a blender? Righto then.

I'll file that under "writing techniques to try when all else has failed, and I have grown to crave the sensation ... "

#606 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 10:39 PM:

David Harmon @ 599: Sounds like a rehash of a couple of James Blish books which took off in part from the ideas: What if the Lemegeton of Solomon really worked? And then what if, after summoning all those demons it claims you can, you were to simply let them all go? Apocalypso!

A quick Google tells me the first book was Black Easter.

#607 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 10:39 PM:

317 out of 400. No surprise.

#608 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 11:19 PM:

y, #578: I think part of the point is that the people who take it are scoring, overall, more progressive than they have in the past. This suggests that social attitudes are shifting -- although of course this is a self-selected population of test-takers, which means that conclusions drawn from it are of limited value.

P J Evans, #601: That appears to be the case. Send a physical address to the mailto linked from my name, and we'll drop it in the mail.

Also had a taker on the Chinese-English dictionary, thanks!

#609 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 11:25 PM:

I found the progressive quiz on a forum that leans conservative, except for a few brave souls. How conservative? One commenter scored 119.

#610 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 11:25 PM:

Lee, it should be in your mailbox about now.

Score: 337. Didn't expect it to be quite that high, but there are a few question that I can only answer 'H*ll no!' or 'H*ll yes!'
(I'm going to run it past my brother, who is somewhat further left than I am, him being a Green and all.)

#611 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 11:30 PM:

Ah hah! I thought the name "Ron Miller", the author of the Very Very Purple passage linked to by several people in this thread, sounded familiar, but worried might refer to several people bearing the same name*. Best known for his space & art books, which seem to be generally well-regarded.

*like when I conflated. some years ago, Don Simpson the 3-D artist with Don Simpson the comics artist.

#612 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2009, 11:46 PM:

The latest about Marilee... She has asked not just for her cell phone but for a book she was half-done with before her stroke.

#613 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 01:02 AM:

Serge, doing the happy dance here despite the late hour!

THANK YOU For that report! (hugs across the e-ways)

#614 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 01:17 AM:

Yay for Marilee!


#615 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 02:06 AM:


#616 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 02:53 AM:

Bruce, #611: Ye ghods. All I can say is, he's a much, MUCH better artist than he is a writer. I have a couple of art-books of his work.

#617 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 03:18 AM:

David Harmon @ 599, me @ 606: ... and having finally followed the link... yow. A much more significant difference is that Blish could write.

#618 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 04:00 AM:

Looking at that sex-scene, I suspect that if you want a realistic participant-POV sex scene, you need to hire James Joyce as ghost-writer.

#619 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 06:46 AM:

My guess, from the questions, is that it's actually measuring on a neocon vs. libertine socialist scale, so that (for example) a paleocon is going to come out as less conservative and a libertarian is going to land towards the middle. I come out as slightly progressive (214 as I recall), though some of that is undoubtedly the large number of 5s on issues that I don't care about. It's also a test of fervor, and I'm not in a fervent mood these days. OTOH if a really conservative response is 111, then that would tend to imply a large body of somewhat conservatives pitted against a smaller group of adamant liberals in order to get a mean of 209.

#620 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 02:12 PM:

Re Bookmarklets: In safari, the first 9 bookmarks (including bookmarklets) in your bookmarks bar are cmd 1-9.

I'm using cmd1 for the workdpress publishing bookmarklet, and I've got a couple of other photo related ones in the low numbered positions. (not that you'd know it from how often I write something on the blog)

#621 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 03:48 PM:

As with every quiz of this type I've ever seen, it seems like it's fundamentally BS. It scored me a 237 (progressive), which looks fundamentally wrong to me. At least half the questions were ones that needed some answer other than a one-spectrum agreement score (like "that questions assumes stuff that ain't true").

The main value for this kind of quiz is to group people into teams, because people broadly do that anyway. This is why knowing someone's beliefs about the morality of abortion and the advisability of strict gun control is very likely to predict a lot about their view of whether human-caused climate change is a big problem and whether life as we know it arose though evolution. Because we're fundamentally talking about beliefs that are used as markers for team membership. Most people don't have strong beliefs or deep thoughts on most of those issues individually, and so they just adopt the beliefs of folks with whom they identify in other areas. If you are a devoted Catholic, you're quite likely to oppose abortion and gay marriage. In US political alliances, that also means you're supposed to support aggressive war and torture to fight terrorism, and decreasing marginal tax rates on rich people to cause government revenues to rise. And mostly, people do adopt the banners of the group they find themselves in.

The downside of that is that if you're an honest thinker who tries to actually think through these issues individually, you will never really fit in a political coalition. Sooner or later, you'll find that your pro-free-market ideas put you in with the Republicans, but your revulsion at the idea of torture and preemptive war make you an outcast. Or you'll find that your belief in evolution and human-caused global warming helps you fit as a Democrat, but your beliefs about the morality of abortion make you unwelcome there, too.

#622 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 04:56 PM:

Looking at that sex-scene, I suspect that if you want a realistic participant-POV sex scene, you need to hire James Joyce as ghost-writer.

James Joyce? ..........
What I got out of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was the impression I was reading something WORSE than a MarySue, I was reading the product of a narcissistic exhibitionist masturbator.... (not that I had those terms to use/would have used them when I was in high school, but thinking back to how I felt then, that's how I'm expressing it now!)

#623 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 05:09 PM:

Madoff is headed into the pen for the rest of his life. The person who departed the White House in January, however, whose directived has caused financial reverse at minimum as consequence to most of the people on the planet, isn't. He defrauded more people than Madoff, causes loss of income to a lot more people, instituted a war on entirely bogus grounds, is responsible for the destruction of millions of books and irreplaceable archive and library contents (failure to provide ANY policing and civil order patrolling for schools and libraries and museums and archives and government offices in Iraq with the sole exception of the Oil Ministry), failing to allow any policing and curfew, failing to lock up and do orderly outprocessing of the Iraqi Army and especailly Saddam;s special goon squads, failure to guard and preserver records which would have identified the murderous goon squad member and promote keepign them sequestered and investigating them for their abusive actions, arresting people on bogus bases of offering fees for "information" without vetting the tips for actual validity (go ahead, report your business rival or your neighbor whose house you covet as a "terrorist" and get them locked up in Abu Ghraib thereby...) ... the destruction and looting of all sort of antiquities and archaeological sites, the failure to guard munitions dumps allowing homicidal maniacs free rein to collect and stockpile materials to make bombs out of and blow thousands of people up with.... Madoff;s actions weren't ones which effected the arming of homicidal maniacs and the creation of terrorists. The Schmuck, however..... he wrote statements and authorize warrantless searches and seizures, warrantless arrest, secret "renditions," destruction of records which was banned by federal law, and many other egregious violations of civil and criminal law both in the USA and internationally.


#624 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 05:11 PM:

Paula, I was thinking of the last few lines of Ulysses. I've certainly seen passages which attempt to copy that.

#625 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 05:13 PM:

Of course the so-called news media is assiduously avoiding any and all commentary regarding the heinous consequences of the 2001-2008 misadministration.... including that the SEC failing to investigate Madoff, involved political appointees and their henchminions put in by the Schmuck fascist regime.

#626 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 08:16 PM:

Dave Bell #624: Yes?

#627 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 10:20 PM:

Serge #612: Yay!

Clifton Royston #606: Yeah, it's basically an extended fantasy of "Science/USA/Humanity Uber Alles", via lots of big guns to gib the demons with. There's the fragments of a decent short story in there, but they're awash in gore and hiding from the gun experts. ;-)

#628 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 10:33 PM:

Found while Twittering (Tweeting?): The Periodic Table of Typefaces.

#629 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 10:44 PM:

KeithS @ 598: "Also, "Her face had the fragrance of a gibbous moon"?"


#630 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 11:03 PM:

Ezra Klein's response to the progressive quiz was this:

One of the useful progressive projects in recent decades has been the effort to dismantle the idea that progressives offer the answer of government before knowing what the question is. Sometimes, the market is insufficient, as in health care, and sometimes, the market is tremendous, as in the provision of flat screen televisions. Modern progressivism has the advantage of being able to simultaneously support both flat screen televisions and universal health care. And it's a real advantage!
Recently, I read Tony Blankley's new book, American Grit. In it, he describes his evolution from conservative to "nationalist" in fairly startling terms. “While I usually fall upon conservative policy prescriptions," he writes, "my motive is this: What will help America? What will make her strong and safe? My first objective is no longer to find the policy that best fits my definition of conservative, but rather to find the surest path to protecting my country.”
Blankley, of course, is a former aide to Gingrich and Reagan. And he is flatly admitting that his thinking across this period put ideology before country. That is, I'd say, a shameful admission. One of the virtues of progressivism is that it's largely free of that kind of thing.

I agree. In modern American politics, progressivism is mostly (not always) the ideology of empiricism, of deciding what to do based on the evidence. Quizzes like this test (and reinforce) prejudice, not informed opinion.

#631 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 11:07 PM:

Serge @ 465:

Back to Disney... I'm still waiting for them to release Patrick McGoohan's Scarecrow miniseries.

They did that. Last November. And they did it right: crisp, clean images and good sound quality, with both the 3-episode "Disney's Wonderful World of Color" version and the British theatrical release on two discs, plus some additional material.

The problem is that they only released a ridiculously small number of copies compared to the demand--I think I read 25,000, but I can't find the article now.

But here's what I found on Amazon:

Dr. Syn: The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh.

Since I managed not to do a search for this at an opportune time, I ended up getting my copy on eBay.

Pricey. Not happy with the limited number of copies...but it's worth what I paid for it.

#632 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 11:10 PM:

Well, I just got a very nice email from one John Fitch, "director of Renaissance House and former owner of 302 N 11th". The intentional community is alive and well, having retreated to two other houses they had already been operating in the same street. Their rental base started failing about two years ago, and they moved out of the house in December, the bank took possession soon after, the bank didn't winterize the pipes, and so now I already know what my first task this summer is going to be! Yay!

Followed by roof work. Electrical. The aforementioned Ethernet and Wifi installation, and then the tank for the social morays. Do they build their own reefs, or do I need to think of appropriate symbionts?

Anyway, he says he's glad I bought it. Turns out he lived and taught in San German, about half an hour west of here, before going to Richmond to seminary. And the alligator lived in the upstairs bathroom of our new house! My son is intrigued.

#633 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 11:17 PM:

Oh, also he's offered to keep an eye on the place in exchange for use of the porch for worship services. So I get both a quasi-groundskeeper as foil for paranormal invasions and Quakers being really quiet on the porch. I tell you, you can't beat this with a stick!

#634 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 11:22 PM:

albatross, 621: Yeah, there's a strong component of tribal identification, like I said earlier.

I wonder if the Founding Fathers were wary of "factions" in part because of their reductive nature, and the discomfort induced in thoughtful people (which they mostly were) by having to adopt the typical hodgepodge party platform?

#635 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 11:35 PM:

Michael, 633: That does sound like a formidable set of defenses!

I don't think I ever heard what part of Puerto Rico you're in. It sounds like you aren't far from Sabana Grande, which is my paternal grandfather's birthplace.

#636 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 11:36 PM:

Addendum to my 631: You may find better prices elsewhere than Amazon, but I had a problem with several low-price sellers being out of stock.

Good luck on your search!

#637 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 11:42 PM:

Can anyone help me identify this melody, which is running thru my head as I read the song of the elfs welcoming Bilbo Baggins and entourage to Rivendell?

#638 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2009, 11:49 PM:

Fragano @ 626:

*peals of laughter*

#639 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 12:40 AM:

Chris @ 635 - Ponce es Ponce; lo demás es parking. Sabana Grande is a cute little town, the turnoff to the Maricao state forest, which has some breathtaking views of the western end of the island, including the Montaña del Estado, from which you can see both the Atlantic and Caribbean sides of the island as well as the Mona Passage to the west.

They also have a library. Ponce has a library, but the one in Sabana Grande has books in it. Do not get me started. Did I mention my new house is a ten-minute walk from the Morrison-Reeves public library in Richmond? A library which also owns and lends books?

#640 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 12:41 AM:

Perhaps of interest for Hobbit-lovers and Moomin-lovers (and doubly so for me): Tove Jansson illustrated a Swedish edition of The Hobbit; the drawings are online at ff.

#641 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 12:58 AM:

Headline on this week's Science News... "Science Makes A Comeback!", about Obama's plans. Why does Science News hate America?

#642 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 01:13 AM:

Jeremy @ 640 - those pictures are great!

I just reread the Hobbit, out loud to my son. I hadn't read it for a very long time indeed, and was surprised how much I'd forgotten.

We're reading Tom Sawyer now. The surprising aspect this time is how many of the words and concepts I have to explain to him. Middle Earth seems more natural to him than Mizzourah, apparently.

#643 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 01:26 AM:

Syd @ 631... What? Disney released McGoohan's Scarecrow on DVD? Let me see. Yes, they did, and of course it's not available anymore, except thru 'used' dealers. I guess I'll have to go that route. Meanwhile, do you remember the Hammer film where the character was played by Peter Cushing? I haven't seen that one in decades, but I enjoyed it.

#644 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 01:32 AM:

An update from a previous ML thread: Iraqi who threw shoes at Bush sentenced to 3 years

The Iraqi government apparently had the Tikrit Shoe Memorial taken down as well.

#645 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 02:18 AM:

Michael @ #639, as long as you're in land-buying mode, I see that Roosevelt Roads, P.R. is up for sale in three separate parcels by the Navy. The base closed in 2004.

I lived there when Dad was the Public Works Officer from 1954-1956. Went to a Spanish-language kindergarten and was fluent; regrettably I lost the language when we moved to Connecticut.

#646 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 03:16 AM:

re Marilee... squeals of joy. Thanks for the news Serge.

353/400:Extremely progressive

re the story: "Even better, the jet of fire was a perfect infra-red source for his AIM-9 Sidewinders. Both annunciators were screaming with the demand to be let loose." Yep, the sirens really wanted to go kill something. The missiles feelings on the subject we know not.

Lee: re phone charges. Not always. When I was a kid we lived in an area with two companies (AT&T, and General Telephone). It could be a free call clear across town (Los Angeles) and a toll to call across the street.

#647 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 07:45 AM:

Michael @ 642 -- what a coincidence! I am currently rereading The Hobbit for the first time in round-about 30 years, in preparation for reading it out loud to my daughter. (We are currently in the final quarter of The Amber Spyglass and Tolkien seemed like a logical next step...) All I remember from 30 years ago is liking it a whole lot, and I'm happy to say that that quality of enjoyment is coming back very strongly.

#648 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 07:53 AM:

I'm waaaay ahead of you guys; we read the Hobbit last year and are well into LOTR. Night before last was the gifts of Galadriel; tonight will be the departure from Lothlorien. (The Hub and I take turns putting the kids to bed.)

It's interesting taking a couple of kids who mostly meet these fantasy tropes thirdhand in games and children's films through an older expression. Interesting, too, to watch their expectations. My son (7) expected LOTR to be about gathering up all of the other rings before the "boss battle" with Sauron at the end, for instance.

#649 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 08:06 AM:

abi @ 648... Do either of you do voices when reading to the kids? I'd like to hear your Nazgul.

#650 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 08:12 AM:

Linkmeister @#628:, Periodic Table of Typefaces:

Admittedly, I'm not a font wonk, but I don't get the point. I can see that they've arranged them so that the typefaces and families ape the arrangement of various types of elements. But in the real Periodic Table, that arrangement reflects deeper patterns presented by chemistry itself; I don't see any such underlying pattern to the fonts in this table.

#651 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 08:13 AM:

Abi @ 648... When I visited my sister-in-law last year, her then-less-than-2-year-old son must have liked the way I read because he kept bringing new stories for me to read to him. (The funny part is that he'd put the previous book back in its proper place in the stack before spending some time to choose the next one.) When I visited him a couple of weeks ago, he wasn't into being read to. He was more interested in my holding him way up to the ceiling when we wouldn't watch DVDs of a chamber music orchestra.

#652 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 08:22 AM:

I vary my voice somewhat, in accent and tone, to convey the different characters. And I vary speed and volume to pace the story; Martin could hear Gandalf's confrontation with the Balrog from downstairs, for instance.

Sometimes, if a tune suggests itself, I'll sing the songs. (A history of singing plainchant doesn't hurt in this regard.)

#653 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 09:00 AM:

abi @ 652... Martin could hear Gandalf's confrontation with the Balrog from downstairs

Oooooh. I'd have liked to hear that.

#654 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 09:06 AM:

abi... It'll be interesting when, a few years from now, your son discovers Peter Jackson's movie and compares it to Mom's version. The power of Imagination...

#655 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 09:21 AM:

The children, free-associating riffs on various things they read/hear/play with, just came out with:

"By Belenos and Toutatis, YOU SHALL NOT PASS!"

I find myself sketching out the plot of Asterix in Middle-Earth.

#656 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 09:34 AM:

Linkmeister @ 639 - real estate in Puerto Rico is a fool's game, or that of a rich man. A one-room, paint-flaked wooden shack in the Ponce pueblo will run you $40K to $60K, let alone an actual house.

Real estate has gone up here monotonically for 50 years. It's going to take more than a measly little Depression to make prices sag. (Although from looking recently, I may be wrong -- but since I wasn't thorough about it, this might just be my impression.)

I guess any place that crams 3.5 million people into an area 45 miles wide is not going to feature cheap real estate, though.

#657 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 09:36 AM:

I mean Linkmeister@645... now how did I do that?

By Toutatis, you shall not PASS! Ha! I'd pay money to read that one. (I paid money to read plenty of others.)

#658 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 09:36 AM:

Coming soon... Peter Jackson's Asterix!
(And whatever happened to filming The Hobbit and its sequels?)

#659 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 11:52 AM:

Gandalf to Ricky Gervais: "You shall not pass!"

#660 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 12:38 PM:

Tangentially to "Four Deaf Yorkshiremen": ASL power ballad.

#661 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 01:18 PM:

Serge @659: Thank you for the link to the clip from Extras. I hadn't seen the show before, and it looks wonderful.

#662 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 03:03 PM:

Michael @ #656, oh yeah, island real estate bears out Will Rogers' investment advice: "Buy land; they ain't making any more of it." It's been like that on this island too, although we have had land increases on the Big Island thanks to Kilauea.

#663 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 03:17 PM:

There is some sense to it - the left and right sides are sans serif, the middle is serif, and the 'lanthanides' are script. (They need an 'actinide' set, too: possibly the more grungy/industrial display fonts?)
If you read the top left corners on the boxes, they do come in groups, but not obvious ones.

#664 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 03:36 PM:

heresiarch @ 629:

To be perfectly fair, I've never really been close enough to a gibbous moon to know what it smells like. Then again, what would make a gibbous moon smell different from a new moon or a full moon? If I think about this for too long it's going to make a lunatic out of me.

Jeremy Osner @ 637:

That sounds vaguely familiar but I can't really place it. Doing this search at Musipedia might or might not help you.

abi @ 655:

Count me as someone else who would be interested in hearing that particular story.

#665 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 04:12 PM:

Also, someone else has created more artwork based on that passage of so-far-past-violet-that-it's-vacuum-UV prose.

#666 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 04:17 PM:

Julie, #660: On the topic of ASL song interpretation: I Had A Shoggoth, performance by Tom Smith, signing by Judi Miller -- who had never heard the song before. My partner's comment: "If there's actually a sign for 'shoggoth' in ASL, I'm worried!"

KeithS, #664: It made me wonder if the writer had synesthesia.

#667 ::: Wyman Cooke ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 05:04 PM:

There's something wrong to my eyes when a discussion of Sluggoth appears in a post numbered 666. :-0

#668 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 05:25 PM:

Lee@666: Looks to me like she starts doing "shoggoth" as the tentacle-face sign for Cthulhu ( ). Then, when the literal Cthulhu turns up, she has to do something like "Great Cthulhu"...

(Disclaimer: I know two words of sign language, and neither of them is Lovecraftian. I guess *technically* they're both Unspeakable Words...)

#669 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 06:26 PM:

It's the sort of challenge that Judi regularly undertakes at filk cons. Performers generally learn that it's best not to watch her when she's dealing with the odder bits of filk, or else risk totally losing track of where they are in a song.

At the last OVFF, Judi provided simultaneous ASL for Seanan McGuire's set. I was there in the hall with them after the set, when Seanan was asking Judi how she'd translated such phrases as "hemorrhagic fever", "internalized necrosis", and "I will kill you with a chainsaw". (The last involved acting out using a chainsaw, with 'pbb-bbb-bbb' lip-and-cheek motions.)

#670 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 08:12 PM:

It appears that Realms of Fantasy isn't dead. Warren Lapine's Tir Na Nog Press has bought the magazine, which will resume publishing in May, with the same people at the helm.

#671 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 09:13 PM:

Wyman Cooke @667: There's something wrong to my eyes when a discussion of Sluggoth appears in a post numbered 666.

Wasn't Sluggoth that scruffy companion of Nancyeth?

#672 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 09:56 PM:

Another fragment from "The Salvation War":

“None Sire. Although we do have a message that was transmitted by one of their warlords. It refers to a Predator aircraft.”

“And just what is a Predator?” Satan was struggling to keep his temper under control.

“A hunting bird.” The voice came from a tiny minor demon on the floor. Satan glanced sideways and his glance mashed the speaker into a purple pulp that drained away through the stone floor.

“Does anybody else want to state the obvious?” There was a sudden shuffling of cloven feet and demons glancing sideways at each other. The more astute of them were already trying to work out the best place to take cover when their infernal overlord decided it would be necessary to stage a massacre.

(1) Now that's a killing glare!

(2) Judging from many prior usages, "astuteness" for demons consists of knowing when to suck up and when to just hide....

#673 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2009, 10:06 PM:

Real Estate Report: Sydney's cheapest inner city flat? On the 6th floor of an attractive, if slightly seedy, Art Deco building with rather wonky lifts, in a central, if also slightly seedy (sketchy?) precinct where I live (close to shops, transport, my hospital, nightclub strip, courts, homeless shelters, drug, alcohol & mental treatment centres). A single room maybe 10 foot by eight. Not too much to keep clean, I guess. Rolled futon on the floor. Door & swing-space takes most of inner wall. Two nice light windows on the outer wall. Small wardrobe & a desk/dining table with shelves above cover left wall — agent suggests one of those fold-up 'murphy' beds.

Right wall taken up by world's smallest bathroom & kitchen ditto. I could sit on the toilet & turn the taps on the tiny handbasin opposite; a hand-held shower perched between them, with the shower curtain across the door.
In the kitchen, an eensy sink with room for a mini bar-fridge (say 18" square) beneath faced a bench with an electric hotplate/griller for the stove. For a space I could just stand & turn in, it had quite a few shelves & cupboards.

All this for roughly 3x mean male annual earnings — $155,000. Le sigh.

*Cheers news about Marilee*

#674 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 01:21 AM:

David Harmon @ 650

Yeah, there's something really odd about the font s1 shell. And the magic numbers are totally different from the elements table.

#675 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 02:47 AM:

Mez @ #673, that sounds remarkably like the ground floor apartment I had in Yokosuka, Japan in 1973-1974. I paid 17,000Y per month rent for it. The exchange rate at the time was 300Y to the dollar.

#676 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 10:04 AM:

Any news yet about a 4th season of Eureka?

#677 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 12:11 PM:

Serge @ 643: no, I haven't seen the Hammer version--the studio wasn't on my radar during my formative years (if it had been, Mom would likely have tried to purge said radar). Then, when I did start to hear about Hammer Studios, it seemed to always be "Hammer Horror".

And "horror" is a problematic category for me--as in, I devoured Poe's works in grade school but haven't read Lovecraft since college: I'd find myself waking up in the middle of the night to stare at the stack of library-obtained Lovecraft books...waiting for a tentacle both squamous and rugose to grab my ankle...

So I dropped Hammer from my radar again. Looks like I'll have to revise that decision!

#678 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 12:49 PM:

Syd @ 677... The movie is 1962's Captain Clegg and it'd appear that my memory played tricks on me. Cushing's character isn't the same as in Scarecrow, but he too is a reverend sticking it up to the Crown's Nasties. Interestingly, Cushing is Doctor Blyss while McGoohan is Doctor Syn. No matter what, I do have fond (if slightly inaccurate) memories of the movie.

As for revisiting Hammer Films... I wasn't that fond of much of their outings because I prefer dark fantasy to horror and they tended to do horror-by-the-numbers. And you might stay away away from The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires, where van Helsing goes to China, which means lots of Kung Fu fighting, and where we learn that Asian vampires are repelled not by the Cross but by the sight of a statue of Buddha. I kid you not.

On the other hand, Hammer also did some good stuff, for example Quatermass and the Pit.

#679 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 03:28 PM:

P J Evans #663, Bruce Cohen #674:

Yeah, there's some grouping of the fonts -- but in the chemical table, the columns and rows, the transition series, even that diagonal metal/nonmetal boundary across the right side of the table, are all linked to the underlying pattern of electron orbitals and valencies. They're observed phenomena, but hardly arbitrary.

With the table of fonts, I don't get any sense of what the arrangement represents, what underlying pattern it's meant to portray.

#680 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 04:22 PM:

Serge @ 678: Actually, I think you're right--I remember reading (or possibly watching on one of the DVD extras) that there was a contretemps between Disney and Hammer because they both had Dr. Syn projects in the works. Disney got the nod because they'd bought the rights to at least one of the Syn books (possibly titled Christopher Syn) in 1961, before Hammer started filming their version.

So Hammer went with Reverend Blyss.

Re: The Legend of the Seven Golden At your mention of the Buddha statue, I mentally flipped to The King and I and am seeing, in my mind's eye, "The Small House of Uncle Thomas" sequence conflated with Seven Golden Vampires. "Praise to Buddha! He repels from us the Vampires!"

I've got to get out more...

#681 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 06:32 PM:

If smells had color, my dog would be producing clouds of brownish-green haze with sparkling little skulls dancing around in them.

Anyone know if someone makes poultry flavored Pepto Bismal?

I think I'll put on a sweater, open up some windows, and let the windstorm currently roaring through carry it all away.

#682 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 06:33 PM:

Syd @ 680... The King and I conflated with Seven Golden Vampires?

"You will order the finest gold chopsticks."
"Your Majesty, chopsticks? Don't you think knives and forks would be more suitable?"
"I make mistake, the British not scientific enough to know how to use chopsticks."

#683 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 06:37 PM:

Here's what a friend of Marilee's posted today...

"...I received a call from Marilee this afternoon and she has been told she may be released on Monday. (...) we didn't find the right charger for her cell phone, so she hasn't been able to make the calls she wanted to. But she is doing better and will be back under the supervision of her watchful cats soon..."
#684 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 07:07 PM:

Too many spammers recently. Is it time for ML to finally implement something like Captcha or TypeKey?

#685 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 07:12 PM:

Earl Cooley III @ 684:

We just need to introduce them to Stefan Jones's dog.

#686 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 07:32 PM:

We have very unpleasant methods of dealing with such things in the ML control room. I have done so.

Really, really don't ask more. Just know that I have to go take a shower now, and use the...special soap. Or the stains will set on my very skin.

Very unpleasant methods indeed.

#687 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 08:29 PM:

#685: I could can the gaseous effluent and make it available as a Making Light anti-spam munition. But the jars keep melting.

#688 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 09:01 PM:

Serge @ 682: No, no, no...the chopsticks have to be wood if you're going to use them on vampires.

Unless golden vampires do, in fact, require golden stakes. In which case, best be glad there's only seven of the blasted things, or slayage could get expensive.

Oh, great. Seven Golden Vampires + The King and I + Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I think I need food, I must be hallucinating...

#689 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 09:56 PM:

Here's a question that came up where I work. Perhaps the Making Light brain trust has the answer:

When the Official Office Cell Phone has been dropped into a port-o-john... yes, really... what steps can you take, once the dumbass who dropped it in* has been made to get it back out, to be certain it's been thoroughly cleaned enough not to pose a health risk?

It's been rinsed off -- lots -- and sprayed multiple times with a disinfectant spray, but a lot of the staff are still reluctant to use it, and one guy outright refuses. (To be fair, he has a pretty good reason, having come close to losing his lower leg to one of those flesh-eating bacterial infections a few years ago.)

*Not me. Not me! I tell you three times, it was not-t-t-t-t me who dropped it in.

#690 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 10:13 PM:

Bruce, #689: Don't even bother. Cellphone bodies are dirt-cheap these days; buy a new one and stick the SIM card from the old phone in it. Think of it as the alternative to hiring all new office staff who won't know where the old one has been.

#691 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2009, 10:41 PM:

Bruce Arthurs @ 689: I agree with Lee, you might just want to get a new phone body. In general, for less icky situations, put the electronic item immediately into a freezer and leave alone for at least 30 minutes (maybe longer if thoroughly dunked). After the liquid has been frozen, you can either shake it out or use a hot air device to sublimate the ice.

#692 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 12:22 AM:

Caveat to the otherwise spot-on recommendations of Lee and Ginger: Make sure all the data is saved to the SIM card first (or save the data to a computer, if you have the data cable to do that with.) Phones will often save numbers, etc, to the phone memory by default, in which case you'll have to re-save them to the SIM card. It can be tedious, or less so, depending on whether your particular model of phone has a shortcut to copy all numbers or requires each to be done individually.

#693 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 01:40 AM:

Does it show my age? I'm impressed this unpleasantly-dunked phone is working just fine, no worries.

BTW, (assuming Green Card) if you had a working health system, & I could find a place with a low shooting-death rate & working public transport, I'd buy one of those cheap houses straight off (employer is US-based). Such areas probably don't have cheap houses, tho' :(

#694 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 01:49 AM:

Bruce: My partner informs me that (contrary to what I had believed to be the case) not all current cellphones have SIM cards. If yours is one that doesn't, you have two options:

1) Get a new cellphone body and jump thru whatever hoops your provider requires for transferring the data.

2) Find a company that does smoke-damage remediation and ask them to put the phone in the ozone chamber for a while. That will reliably kill anything that might be lurking; however, it still won't do much about the squick factor.

#695 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 01:53 AM:

Bruce Sterling collects names for the Current Fiscal Unpleasantness.

I've got a few more:
 Economics 0.1
 The Green Screen of Death
 What To Do Until the Revolution Arrives
 Triumph of the Merdocracy
 Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Hand

#696 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 03:59 AM:

Tech question:

For the second time in a week, something called "VirusDoctor" has popped up and refused to go away. I can't Alt+F4 it, Ctrl+Alt+Delete it, or right-click-Close it. I haven't clicked any of the buttons, but I have tried clicking the X. Another ad pops up with another alarmist message about how awful my life will be if I don't accept their Free!!!! anti-virus (yeah right) download Now!!! Sometimes this junk is a separate pop-up and sometimes it replaces whatever page I was on at the moment.

The first time it happened, I closed my programs, shut down normally, and switched off my power bar, and the next day I ran a virus scan that didn't turn up anything. I'm about to do that again so I can go to bed, but I would appreciate anybody's ideas on how to banhammer this crap. I currently have only the Norton Protection Center and I am aware that it leaves gaps. Time to fill them, I guess. I'll check back here in the AM.

Warning! Warning! Your computer will e-mail your most embarrassing photos to Howard Stern if you don't click OK now!!!!!

#697 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 04:12 AM:

VirusDoctor is scareware. One of the programs that can remove it is Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware.

#698 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 04:18 AM:

p.s., my current favorite security suite is AVG Internet Security, although there are others in the same quality class. I also use CCleaner several times a day (which may be due to an overabundance of caution).

#699 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 05:27 AM:

Thanks, Earl, it turned up some dodgy stuff on this machine.

#700 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 08:18 AM:

Yes, the Malwarebytes stuff is good. I also recommend the AVG Free package.

It was because of nasty infection with the Vundo trojan that I hastened my decision to get an iMac. Little by little I'm transferring most of my computing activities to that, and running Windows under VMware Fusion on the iMac for those Windows programs I can't do without.

An iMac isn't a guarantee of virus-free computing, but the chance of getting something is a lot smaller.

#701 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 08:47 AM:

Bruce Arthurs #689:

While it won't actually help the squick factor ;-) , you might also want to pass around this article from Computerworld.

#702 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 08:58 AM:

Syd @ 688... Unless golden vampires do, in fact, require golden stakes. In which case, best be glad there's only seven of the blasted things, or slayage could get expensive.

What are you, some kind of cheapstake?

#703 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 10:44 AM:

abi @ 686 -
Really, really don't ask more. Just know that I have to go take a shower now, and use the...special soap. Or the stains will set on my very skin.


...Lady Macbeth was a Moderator?


#704 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 11:01 AM:

"Out, damned spam!"

#705 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 11:03 AM:


No, no, it's just that any dedicated vampire slayer is going to prefer cheap stakes to expensive stakes. Supply costs, after all.

Expensive steaks are a different matter entirely. It would certainly be well done to kill a vampire with one of those. And also quite rare.

#706 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 11:15 AM:

Bruce Arthurs @ 689: I'd be inclined to soak the thing in rubbing alcohol for a while, then leave it in a warm place with ventilation to dry out. I wouldn't expect it to harm the electronics, and it ought to take care of any bacteria; I'm not so sure about viruses. It might mess up anything involving lubricated parts.

And of course you'd have to make a point of telling everyone about it.

#707 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 11:33 AM:

Joel @ 706 -

Or they could just take it back to the wireless provider and ask it to be replaced, because for some reason it sounded crappy.

#708 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 01:46 PM:

Steve C FTW!

#709 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 03:56 PM:

#701 and #689:
The article says that your cell phone is dirtier than a toilet.

If this is true, doesn't dropping it in the toilet make it cleaner?

#710 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 04:27 PM:

Steve c #707: Ever wondered where those "remanufactured" replacement cellphones come from? Now you know....

#711 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 05:01 PM:

I've been doing a near-last edit on the story I excerpted in an Open Thread last month.

Slowly starting the last stages of getting onto the Spontoons website, if only folks can stop coming up with ideas for dealing with the Graf Spee anchored in the lagoon, and the Royal Navy lurking on the horizon.

A couple of you asked for a sight of the story. Have I so much scarred your sensitive fannish souls?

#712 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 05:07 PM:

Oh wow. That Aigamemnon sidelight/particle. Oh wow.

#713 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 05:11 PM:

If you want to efficiently scar your sensitive fannish soul, just google "SyFy". (shudder)

#714 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 07:03 PM:

Earl Cooley@713

Even aside from the odd choice of a new name, they seem to have seriously botched the start of the roll-out.

Perhaps they hired Hayter's PR adviser. :-)

#715 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2009, 11:01 PM:

Re: Serge @ 702 and Michael I @ 705--

Besides which, isn't pure gold soft enough that getting it to hold a point might be somewhat problematic? Or are we talking 14K? Or *gasp* gold plate? Which might be more affordable but lacks a certain je ne sais quoi, to my way of thinking...

Oh, and Michael? Rare indeed, and yet it strikes me as a waste of a good steak. Can't we find a happy medium?

#716 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 03:50 AM:

Syd @715: An electrum cap for the point would improve the hardness, is all-natural, and *traditional* besides.

#717 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 06:27 AM:

Syd @715,

Well done!

#718 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 08:17 AM:

re: the Webservice particle - there's been one in case you're Raptured for years. I sent them an email asking how they were going to send out their emails, since presumably they planned on being raptured as well.

(Their answer is that they've got a dead-man's-switch on their server, and if they don't answer its requests for a certain amount of time then it automatically sends out the emails. But it sounded like they were making it up. Still, it was nice of them to answer me - I really hadn't expected them to.)

#719 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 11:36 AM:

Cat Meadors @ 718:

There's also a service to look after your pets after you've been raptured. I don't think it's entirely serious, though.

#720 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 11:42 AM:

Re: the deathwatch webservice:

I posted there that it's only half what's actually needed -- they need to maintain a list of your close contacts, and double-check with those before sending out the notices.

It occurs to me now, that the check shouldn't be online, either -- phone calls at minimum, so the requests aren't taken for spam.

That way, a depressive collapse or hard disk failure, will hopefully produce the lesser embarrassment of having somebody come looking to see what's happened to you, and/or saying "um hey, I got this call from someone calling themselves the Death Switch...".

Also, there should be a phone route to confirm your continued existence, in case of extended journeys away from cyberspace. It's not clear how to handle imprisonment in any case.

#721 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 11:43 AM:

Will my ISP or e-mail client filter out RaptureSpam?

#722 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 02:27 PM:

An interesting letter in today's Oregonian.
It's the first letter on the page. Note the signature.

#723 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 04:58 PM:

Bruce: I'm not getting it, sorry. Is Harold Lillywhite a name we should know?

#724 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 05:11 PM:

The content of the letter would indicate it came from the stereotypical "lily white" male.

#725 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 05:11 PM:

If you have any money in a Citi Retirement Services account, I strongly suggest putting it somewhere else. My description of the shenanigans they've been pulling on me is here.

Summary: they are refusing to follow standard banking procedures, and they have flat-out lied about the process at least twice, and I still haven't been able to get my IRA (an old company-401K rollover) transferred from them to my own bank. I'm about to pull out the big guns and go talk to the relevant department at the Fed or Treasury.

(This should probably have been posted in the BofA: Utter Slime thread, but it's been inactive for a while.)

#726 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 05:31 PM:

Lee #725: Holy sh-t! That's classic insolvent-bank behavior. Remember Maureen's adventures withdrawing money from the bank in To Sail Beyond the Sunset?

I claim no expertise at all, but if it were my money, and it weren't available in the branch tomorrow, I might make something of a scene to see if I could encourage them to somehow cough up my money. Though I'm not sure what happens next.

Honestly, I really don't know what happens next. ISTM that the biggest banks in the US are, right now, the walking dead. And acknowledging that fact will be painful and scary and may cause horrific damage (or may not, nobody knows), so our leaders are all trying to find some way to fix it without mentioning it.

We're not Iceland or Switzerland, with a banking sector many times the size of the rest of our economy. But we are vulnerable; our banking/investment sector is a huge part of our economy. What happens if we end up holding the bag for ten disasters as big as AIG? And how big are those disasters? Leverage makes it possible to rack up debts that are dozens, even hundreds of times bigger than your assets. The walking dead are immense, with tangled relationships with other banks around the world, other governments, our government, and millions upon millions of customers and depositors and investors. I don't believe anyone knows what happens when they fall apart. And yet, if this behavior you're describing is widespread, it will come out very soon, inevitably. (Have you googled around for similar stuff?)

What comes next? The phrases we're looking for here are things like "run" and "bank holiday" and "nationalization," and if we're lucky, they don't lead to much, much worse.

#727 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 05:48 PM:

Steve C: Yep, I'm still not sure if that name is a joke; being that it's Oregon, it's quite possible it's real.

Lee, albatross: This is why I've been laughing ironically at all the pundits who say the economy will turn around by the end of 2009. There's this huge other shoe that hasn't dropped yet, and when it does, probably in the next 3 or 4 months, there's going to be a Richter 10 Faeco-Ventilitory Event. What that will do to the economy is anyone's guess, but I don't think the result will be good.

The even scarier thought is that we've known that this was in the wings for some time; most of the experts and politicians have just been in denial. But what if there's something else broken we don't even know about yet?

#728 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 05:56 PM:

The key thing that's been delaying a resolution to the banking crisis has been how to place a value on the assets. If they decide to do a revision on mark-to-market accounting rules and allow the banks to value them at cash-flow values, then we might see some movement.

#729 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 06:53 PM:

Steve C @ 728 … and when one can purchase a nice house in a nice neighbourhood for $US8,000 (Michael Roberts @433, supra, 444, et seq, &c.) just what will those valuations look like? Could well be Mach 5 RVE indeedy-do (thanks, Bruce @727).

Anyone still have their Y2k-readiness plans around? *starts checking use-by dates on dried & canned food supplies*

#730 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 07:08 PM:

I'm sorry, I refuse to start coding in COBOL again. I've paid my dues in that arena already.

#731 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 07:12 PM:

Earl, I bet you didn't know that Rod Serling was a COBOL hacker: "PICTURE if you will ...".

#732 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 08:21 PM:

Bruce@727: Not only may that name be real, but it may be someone I've met. There was a Hal Lillywhite who worked at Tektronix in the Portland area when I interned there in the early 90s, and who used to post on Usenet (I remember him from the religion groups). Might this be the same person? (Or a relative?)

#733 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 09:12 PM:

Steve Lillywhite is a well-known record producer. I don't think it's that uncommon a name.

#734 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 10:48 PM:

The median price for a house in Los Angeles is down to 250K. The market here started folding early in 2006; it took a long time for the !@$%^&*s in NY and DC to figure out that it wasn't a minor local 'correction'. I'm glad I have a job this year.

#735 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2009, 11:06 PM:

And now for something completely different: Spamalot AU fanfic on Amazon. (It even lets you preview some of the text. Huzzah?)

#736 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 12:37 AM:

Re: Bruce Cohen's reference to the Lillywhite letter in the Oregonian

I got a big, sad laugh out of that letter (and its signature) this morning, too. One of the tropes out there these days that baffles me the most is references to how "America isn't Europe" as if being like a European country would be a bad thing. Lillywhite trots out the usual unsubstantiated scary statement about health care, but goes it one better by pointing out that it's hard for clerics in Europe to be homophobic and antisemitic. Horrors!

#737 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 01:17 AM:

I know I started it, but I'm fed up with wingnuts for today, so instead of talking about Lillywhite any more, here's a feelthy joke:

You know why the Romans always had to have at least one eunich* at every orgy? They were being faithful to their principle that "He who is without stones should cast the first sin."

* No, Serge, it's not an operating system.

#738 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 03:02 AM:

Syd @ 715: "Besides which, isn't pure gold soft enough that getting it to hold a point might be somewhat problematic? Or are we talking 14K? Or *gasp* gold plate? Which might be more affordable but lacks a certain je ne sais quoi, to my way of thinking..."

Wouldn't stabbing a golden vampire with a golden stake be like stabbing a real* vampire with a steak stake? Taking the analogy vampire:wooden stake::golden vampire:??? to its logical conclusion, shouldn't you stab a (soft metal) vampire with a (hard metal) stake? Perhaps titanium or platinum?

(Hopefully you don't need to find Carpathian platinum. That's hell to track down.)

#739 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 03:13 AM:

Oh, and btw, did anyone else know that "schmendrik" is a Yiddish word meaning "a foolish or contemptible person," or "a term of affection and derision, but also as slang for a sneeze, for money, and for the police?"

#740 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 03:29 AM:

Heresiarch: Well, yes. Peter Beagle, if nobody else.

#741 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 05:14 AM:

OK, I started it. I posted to the Spontoons Althing mailing list a piece about the KMS Admiral Graf Spee arriving at the Spontoons Atoll instead of Montevideo, in December 1939, and various people started running with it.

There is much skullduggery in the works.

Somewhere along the way, Wolf Baginski of the Army Union Landing Force, has occasion ro recall an exercise. (Think of a Furry Special Forces outfit, with airships.)


October 1938, Somewhere Over Main Island.

The way he had heard the story, some Songmark girl had seen a bunch of Alfies jump out of a perfectly servicable airplane, with parachutes, while she was in Seathl passing her Commercial exams. She figured it would work better than three turns of rope around her waist, when she was climbing.

Wolf had to agree with that. It didn't make what he was about to do any less mad, but he'd chosen to be an Alfie. And, because he was an Alfie, he checked everything again.

He thought the Kietsakun was too big. Why not, somebody had said, build a blimp with a battery and electric motor, like a submarine. It would be quiet. Sneaky. But thinking a Blimp could be inconspicuous was a trifle optimistic.

It needed to be a near-windless, slightly misty, night, with the mist thin enough that the Kietsakun's pilot could see useful landmarks. And not a full moon. The chances of having that met. when you needed it were pretty remote.

Wolf suspected politics.

Still, it was slightly better than parachuting into jungle or forest. And there were guys who did that to fight small forest fires, before they became big ones. Wolf had worked as a logger, and heard stories about forest fires.

There are things even an Alfie thinks are too crazy to do.

Tonight, the fire jumpers would probably return the compliment.

Only two teams--the Kietsakun was that short of useful lift--and they were doing the Blefescu Drill, hitting a Spontoonie Militia camp in the hill country of Main Island. He hoped the Spontoonies had made sure nobody was accidentally using live ammo.

He'd taken on worse odds, with live ammo.

He was still here. That was what being an Alfie meant.

There was a village in the Four Hundred which had got its women back, alive. Traumatised, but alive. It had been the mother and her cub, on that pier, which seemed to make it all worth doing.

"One day, but not, Sylvie, today," he told himself.

And then the faint note of the motor change, and the Kietsakun dropped sopes, and he stepped out into empty air, feeling the conflict between gravity and the rope/s friction as it looped though the metal ring on the left shoulder of his harness, the free end jerking a little, and a very slight smell of hot hemp.

His machine carbine was slung around his neck, bouncing against huis belly. His gloved left hand took the free end of the rope, letting it run through his fingers as he changed the angle, changed the friction. One finger was crooked out, like some posh Euro with a teacup, and he reached across with his right hand, clasping a cylindrical black object.

No, you don't pull a grenade-pin with your teeth. Not unless you have very good dental insurance. And Wolf had very strong fingers, but it was still a hard pull.

You don't want a grenade to explode accidentally. Especially not on an airship. Of course, the fuse on the grenade doesn't start burning until you let the spoon fly off, the metal lever that, with the pin out of the way, you're holding to the casing with the fingers of your right hand.

Wolf figured they'd use the same grenades on an operation. Lots of noise, lots of light. It would give them time, time to kill as their enemies were dazzled and deafened.

Okay, tonight it would just wake them up.

Throw, reach for the carbine while counting off the burning time, left arm out, and a nice gentle landing. Eyes closed. There was the bang, muffled by his earplugs, and he had already pulled the latch which released the shoulder-ring, freeing him from the rope. If it had failed, he would be dead. So many ways to die, but not tonight. Sylvie would have to wait a little longer on the Rainbow Bridge

Maybe not if it had been real. They'd tell him afterwards, but the Spontoonies had machineguns set up, the new ones which sounded like ripping canvas in a storm. And they went for machine carbines in a big way. He'd been dropped right into the kill zone, and there was only one thing to do.

Yeah, you cam just run away. It might work, but the enemy isn't scared. He shoots better. So you run at them, screaming your head off, and shooting like crazy, and it's anybody's guess who's most scared. You don't dive into cover, because that'll be where the land-mines are.

Militia? They were Guides, dammit. So Sylvie would wait some more, not that she'd mind, but it was going to be a long night in the jungle.

#742 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 08:05 AM:

RE the mosquito death ray sidelight: I would pay just to watch this in action. Hour after hour, grinning savagely. Especially if they could retune it for my nemesis, Culicoides impunctata, the Highland midge.

#743 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 08:30 AM:

Lee @725 - have you submitted that story to the Consumerist? If not, it's the kind of thing they'd be all over.

#744 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 10:35 AM:

heresiarch @ 738:

I'm not sure that the right stake for a golden vampire would necessarily be made out of metal. Normal vampires are made of flesh, not wood, after all. For a golden vampire maybe your best bet would indeed be to put your stake on a steak stake. Or maybe that's what you use on a wooden vampire in lieu of just setting it on fire.

This calls for an experiment!

#745 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 12:12 PM:

Keith S #744:

Do experiments on vampires require going through your institution's human subjects review board?

I'm visualizing a double-blind study here that would be as hard on the researchers as on the vampires. "Okay, I'm driving the stake into his heart. Oh, crap, his eyes are open, what do we do n-"

#746 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 12:42 PM:

Bruce #727:

Insiders have more information about parts of what's going to happen, but the scary stuff is mainly in the interactions, I think. No one person or group of people knows enough to predict or model that. So, someone at Treasury or Goldman or Citibank probably knows all kinds of sh-t that's on a collision course with a fast-spinning fan, but nobody knows what additional sh-t that explosion will loose, and send plummeting toward the fan. When Citibank is nationalized, and the bondholders are wiped out, what effect will that have on the other zombies' ability to raise money? Or on other fragile financial companies (which I think is most of them)? Will there be some resulting impact on some foreign government? (A bunch of Eastern Europe is in line for a meltdown, I think. And they're likely to take some richer countries' banks down with them.)

Just to lay my cards on the table, the economic crisis is scaring the hell out of me. We're in a reasonably good position to ride it out, but damn, I keep thinking that most decisionmakers are seeing the worst case in terms of lost midterm elections or maybe not getting their bonuses next year, while I'm seeing them in terms of mob violence and social breakdown. The major decisionmakers seem transparently to be:

a. Flailing about with little idea what the hell to do.

b. At least as concerned with winning political battles and getting rid of old rivals/enemies as with dealing with the crisis.

The Obama administration's problems getting Treasury staffed are beginning to put me in mind of the Bush administration's lackluster post-election handling of the terrorist threat. The stimulus bill and surrounding political theater made me think a lot of how the post-9/11 Bush administration took all that panic and urgency about the crisis and used it so heavily for partisan gains, and how that backfired for both the Republicans and the country. And the current lynch-mob mentality about the AIG bonuses, with people proposing to make up new taxes targeted at folks they don't like to avoid them getting bonuses, is in its own way a kind of odd reflection of the Bush administration's crazy power grabs w.r.t. Jose Padilla and enemy combatants. The analogy isn't perfect, obviously, and I hope Obama and company will demonstrate how much better they are than the Bush administration in the next few months. But the first few aren't all that reassuring, at a time when I and the rest of the world could really have used some reassurance.

One comment: If I were running a company that had played a little fast-and-loose with ethical behavior in the past, maybe skirted fraud laws to skim a little extra money off customers, knowing that courts and regulators would at most demand repayment, right now I'd be thinking about how to make sure all that stuff stopped. Because the mood in the country is very different now than two or three years ago, and the mechanisms to avoid unwanted mood-changes in the country that the powerful have used before (making sure some discussions simply don't take place in the MSM) are losing most of their effectiveness. In the US we'll be living in five years from now, you do *not* want to be defending your bank or insurance company's just-barely-legal game-playing to a judge, a regulator, or a jury. (And those are the best cases.)

#747 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 01:20 PM:

albatross @ 745:

They used to be human (the normal ones, anyway; I'm not really sure where the gold ones came from), but they're not any more, so probably not. This is assuming that we're even doing this at a reputable institution instead of taking part in Mad Science!

This probably calls for a steak/stake wielding robot and some hefty restraints.

Excerpt from the diary of Dr. V. Töter:

May 12: We received five new test subjects today. The department's complaining again because my grant money's almost used up. It's not my fault that vampires made of gold cost so much, but I'll be receiving the first of them in two weeks. Time to write more grant applications.

May 13: There seems to be no difference in the effectiveness of stakes made from the wood of different trees as long as the stake is inserted properly. Willow is a little too soft to make an effective stake. Must put up flyers advertising new opening for assistant position.

May 15: Igor. Why are they always called Igor?

May 19: Had a relaxing weekend away from the lab. Department head wants to talk to me. Something about lab safety.

May 20: Wood-laminated plastic test inconclusive. Stake supplier decided to cheap out and used fake wood laminate. Good thing I haven't taken down the assistant wanted posters yet.

May 22: Awful day today. Spent hours writing grant applications. Vampires restless and noisy. Smells like the cafeteria is cooking last week's fish for lunch. Screw this, I'm going home early.

May 23: The new Igor seems very eager to please. Stakes made from MDF and chipboard successful, although the chipboard ones are a bit crumbly. Perhaps stakes could be made from recycled paper products.

#748 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 03:41 PM:

This morning ws a reminder that there is honesty left in this world.

I had taken my wife in for some minor surgery and she gave me her wedding band for safe-keeping because I was less likely to misplace it than she was. Of course, I misplaced it, and noticed only a couple of hours later. I frantically looked everywhere I'd been at the clinic while I'd been waiting, without success. When I went back to the front desk and asked if a ring might have been found, yes, it had. Outside the building.

#749 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 03:47 PM:

KPLA! I got the money out of Citi (in cash, no less, so I don't have to worry about them writing me a rubber check), took it straight to my bank and got it properly recorded as an IRA rollover.

I will deal with the filing of complaints hither, thither, and yon next week; this has already eaten way too much time that I needed to be spending getting ready for MidSouthCon. (That was the whole point of my tackling this originally 2 weeks ago; I didn't have a con that weekend.) Cat, your suggestion that I talk to Consumerist is duly noted and logged, thanks.

On a different but still consumer-related topic, anyone who's been using Royal Bright clean-edge business cards from Sam's Club may want to look elsewhere for their next purchase. My partner bought a new box because he was getting low, and they were CRAP -- fuzzy, uneven edges when separated, and a weight that doesn't even really qualify as cardstock; they're flimsy. When he checked the old box and the new one, the reason became obvious: the old box was marked "Made In America", the new one is marked "Made In China".

#750 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 04:10 PM:

Lee, when filing complaints, don't overlook your state officials. (It might be something your state AG would be very interested in hearing about.)

#751 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 06:59 PM:

A bit of silliness (what happens when Welsh shepherds get bored, maybe? There is an ad component, but still.)

Extreme Sheep LED Art (a YouTube video)

#752 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 08:44 PM:

The Twenty Ridiculous Tourist Complaints are just mindboggling. Also follow the link on that page to Twenty Stupid Tourist Questions. Gah! To quote the friend reading over my shoulder, "I am ashamed of my species."

Now I have stupid all over me.

#753 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 09:25 PM:

Open Threadiness: I'm having an unusually busy week!

Yesterday, I attended my first monthly meeting of the Neon Guild, a local "geek club". Quot of the evening: "And over there is the secret mailing list...". (The club's shtick is that to get on the mailing list, you have to physically show up for a meeting.) The discussion topic was "tools of the trade for freelancers" -- the speaker favored software-as-a-service over OSS, for convenience's sake.

Today was the first day of the Virginia Festival Of the Book. I attended two sessions today, neither terribly inspiring. One was about "words that shapes our nation", but it was basically a couple of guys reading bits from their respective books -- one about (US) Colonial-era quotes, one about Webster and his dictionary. The second was about "doctors who write" -- more reading from their works (stories, poetry, and a play about Elizabeth Blackwell), but little awareness of the blogosphere (I mentioned Dr. Charles et al). They also mentioned a medical-themed site for writing, poetry, etc: Hospital Drive.

#754 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2009, 09:53 PM:

(In lieu of actual participation, again: busy, is all)

Can I be the only person to suspect that Sanjay Rainier has revived Froghammer just in time to rebrand the SciFi Channel?

#755 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 12:57 AM:

Lee: I second the motion on contacting state officials, though I'm not sure which one in this case. I was involved in a car accident (not my fault!) several years ago. It was going on 4 days, and the other party still hadn't contacted their insurance company. When I called their insurance company myself, the person on the phone was rude and uncooperative. I filed a complaint with the Oregon insurance commission, and by the next day I was getting white-glove treatment.

#756 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 01:29 AM:

KeithS @ 744: "I'm not sure that the right stake for a golden vampire would necessarily be made out of metal. Normal vampires are made of flesh, not wood, after all."

Well, I was thinking wood is a harder but still organic material, so a harder but still metallic material would be the equivalent. But not that I think of it, wood is still essentially a bunch of carbon-based molecules, just like flesh.* Maybe we need a crystalline gold alloy for the golden vampires? Is that even possible?

*Begging the question of whether diamond stakes would work.

#757 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 03:27 AM:

Jim: I'd like to see a post on the virtues of wearing helmets. If you need for examples, I can provide a few.

#758 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 06:36 AM:

I'd like to see a post on the virtues of wearing helmets.

Terry, weirdly enough I've already started writing the long-promised, long-delayed post on head injuries.

I'm not going to advocate wearing a helmet at all times, but if you're engaged in a high-risk activity (e.g. many sports) you should use all the safety gear customary for that activity.

From epidural bleeds through diffuse axonal injuries, various cerbro-vascular accidents, concussions ... bad things can happen to good brains. And it's the only brain you've got.

#760 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 07:44 AM:

From the March 17, 2009, entry to Linkmeister's diary: "Dear diary... After a nearly-continuous 40 years of sporting facial hair, I shaved off my mustache yesterday."

#761 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 07:54 AM:

heresiarch @ 756... I can't remember if stakes have to be made of wood, or if something going in with enough force then thru the heart is enough. If so, then any metal would do, tin, gold. So would a carrot. Or straw shot out of an air cannon, although the MythBusters showed that the latter doesn't penetrate much at all.

#762 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 08:13 AM:


Depends on the version. For vampires on "Buffy" the stake has to be made of wood. Other versions of vampires have other rules.

#763 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 08:15 AM:

In case anyone is wondering, Patrick and Teresa are now sitting around my dining room table eating cheese.

Later there will be bicycles.

#764 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 08:40 AM:

abi @ 763... Patrick and Teresa are now sitting around my dining room table eating cheese. Later there will be bicycles.

With wheels of cheese?
Made by Goudayear?

#765 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 09:56 AM:

Moh-scale-wise, titanium stakes for golden vampires should work, unless their material needs an alchemical/occult resonance. Iron is inimical to much in the supernatural realm.

Vaguely remembering one or two non-wooden stakings in Buffy, possibly metallic.

And, totally Open-Thread: some here might have interest in (see story at Centauri Dreams for explication), just now in my ken.

Have fun :)

#766 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 09:58 AM:

Moh-scale-wise, titanium stakes for golden vampires should work, unless their material needs an alchemical/occult resonance. Iron is inimical to much in the supernatural realm.

Vaguely remembering one or two non-wooden stakings in Buffy, possibly metallic.

And, totally Open-Thread: some here might have interest in (see story at Centauri Dreams for explication), just now in my ken.

#767 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 10:39 AM:

Mary Aileen @ 752:

For further fun, imagine those tourist quotes spoken slowly and loudly in an American or English accent to a non-English-speaking person because everyone really understands English, right?

More stupid Things People Said.

heresiarch @ 756:

As Serge and Michael I pointed out, it rather depends on the mythology, although I think the wooden stake one is popular right now. If it just has to be carbon-based, plastics should work just fine. Maybe even a diamond-edged circular saw.

abi @ 763 and Serge @ 764:

I hope they're having a gouda time.

#768 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 10:45 AM:

abi, Patrick and Teresa probably haven't done much cycling recently, so make sure they go Caerphilly.

#769 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 10:58 AM:

By the way, Abi, please pass on to Patrick my many thanks for that DVD of Nina Paley's "Sita Sings the Blues" (subtitled 'the greatest breakup story ever told' by the author). I have made a donation to her site this morning.

#770 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 10:59 AM:


There were times in both "Buffy" and (I think) "Angel" when a vampire was stabbed through the heart with something that was not made of wood, but in those cases the stabbing didn't kill the vampire.

#771 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 11:18 AM:

I always wondered why wood was so magical. Theoretically, you could dust a bloodsucker with a sharp toothpick.

#772 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 11:24 AM:

KeithS @ 767... I hope they're having a gouda time.

It'd be downright brie-zarre if they didn't. In fact, I cheddar to think of the circumstances that would make that happen.

#773 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 11:31 AM:

Serge, you may have created a muenster here.

Closing on the house on the 25th! So the economy can go to hell after that. At least I'll have a roof over my head. Of course, said roof is thousands of miles away -- but as a security blanket, it's already working.

But why I really came here is to post the trailer for the film adaptation of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. If you don't have kids under about 15 or 20, you may not know the book (I'm not sure how old it is) but it's an utterly charming book that basically has nothing whatsoever to do with this movie. The movie looks fun -- I love any Mad Science movie -- but they shouldn't have taken that title. Why do people do these things?

#774 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 11:33 AM:

I also just got off the phone with my Dad, who tells me the Amish are hurting for work. So maybe I'll just contract out all the renovation.

#775 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 11:52 AM:

Steve C. @ 771:

Now I'm having images of crossing the hand-cranked runcible gun with a supply of toothpicks. This can't end well.

Michael Roberts @ 773:

That's a real gruyère. Ricotta come up with a good rejoinder.

#776 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 11:58 AM:

Michael Roberts #773 Closing on the house on the 25th! So the economy can go to hell after that.

No, it's got to wait until after the 13th of next month. Besides, we've been in the pipeline a little longer.

#777 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 12:14 PM:

If The End of Economics As We Know It comes before the middle of next month, some of us are going to have trouble with our tax returns.

#778 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 12:30 PM:

KeithS @ 775... the hand-cranked runcible gun with a supply of toothpicks. This can't end well.

You've got that right. Did you see the dreadful van Helsing? When attacked by vampire brides who were not above indulging in gratuitous cow-tossing, van Helsing used a Gatlin pistol that appered to be loaded with close to one thousand big toothpicks.

#779 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 01:12 PM:

Serge @ 778:

The most I saw of that was some of the advertising, fortunately. Now I'm curious to know how cow tossing can be gratuitous.

#780 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 01:18 PM:

abi@763: Whoops, I posted in the other thread before I saw this.

They mozzarella be herve-ing a gouda time!

#781 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 01:24 PM:

KeithS @ 779... I'm curious to know how cow tossing can be gratuitous.

Well, one vampire lady grabs a cow, flies away with it but misses van Helsing and the cow instead hits the broad side of the barn's roof. And, believe me, you're not that curious about the movie, unless you want to see Kate Beckinsale wearing a corset as outerwear.

#782 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 01:34 PM:

Van Helsing is a movie that desperately needs to be a MST3K episode.

#783 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 02:17 PM:

Serge @ 781:

That doesn't strike me as gratuitous, exactly, but I'll go with it. Since you've probably just described the high points of the movie, I don't think I'll bother renting it.

#784 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 02:30 PM:

KeithS @ 783... Or you could round up some friends and have your own MST3K evening. (Good idea, SteveC.)

#785 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 03:33 PM:

abi @ 763, probably a stupid question, but is this the first time you meet them?

#786 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 03:42 PM:

Raphael @785:

I met Patrick last year, when he was in London at Easter and I persuaded him to come across.

I had never met Teresa before. I'd spoken to her once on the phone, but apart from that it was all virtual.

It's fun. Interactions with more bandwidth are a pleasure. (Not that I dislike the internet, of course!)

#787 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 03:44 PM:

Hey, dragon-liking people! Threadless has a new tee shirt of a dragon trying to blow out birthday candles. It's pretty awesome, and also sad.

#788 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 03:49 PM:

Abi @ 786... Interactions with more bandwidth are a pleasure.

That's an interesting way of describing Reality.

#789 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 03:52 PM:

Mary Dell @ 787...

The crême is way too brûlée.

#790 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 04:56 PM:

Serge writes: That's an interesting way of describing Reality.

Ha ha! Reality? My car keys jump about, meters at a time! The number of beers in the fridge drops randomly, yet the dog looks pretty sober.

No, Serge, I think we need a lot more processing power and a big hike in bandwidth before this is at all convincing as "reality".

#791 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 05:45 PM:

Niall McAuley @ 790... You make Reality sound like a Rudy Rucker story. Speaking of 'Reality', I just noticed that Lunacon will be held at a Hilton named Escher.

#792 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 06:00 PM:

Mary Aileen #752:

I heard a variant of the Stupid Tourist Question abut Carlsbad many years ago at Blanchard Springs Caverns in Arkansas: "Are we underground?"

#793 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 06:06 PM:

Oh dear. Doubled up. Sorry about that, Chief.
[And also for falling asleep. Should go off & Get Stuff Done.]

Unicorn chaser needed? Hope this wasn't from here earlier.

Niall @790, Serge @791, latest psychological & neurological findings indeed show we 'see' through a veil (or as in a glass).

#794 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 06:39 PM:

Epacris #793:

Thanks for the purrs. Really needed that.

#795 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 06:49 PM:

Anybody going to be at MidSouthCon? Fragano? Fidelio?

#796 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 07:27 PM:

Epacris @ 793... latest psychological & neurological findings indeed show we 'see' through a veil

...especially if one is Captain Kirk who just noticed an especially gorgeous lady.

#797 ::: dajt ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 07:58 PM:

Serge: It's called the "Escher" Hilton because of it's unique architecture. Fortunately, once you've been to enough Lunacons, your brain becomes twisted enough that you can find your way around. . . Unless you drink too much, of course.

#798 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 09:17 PM:

dajt @ 797... When a friend first described the hotel to me, I thought she was joking. Maybe one day I'll get to experience the Escher, with or without excessive libation.

#799 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 09:23 PM:

If anyone is curious, Making Light is blocked in China right now.

#800 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 09:24 PM:

Congratulations, Patrick, on your Hugo nomination.

#801 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 09:50 PM:

dajt (797): Actually, compared to my high school, the Escher Hilton seems pretty normal.

#802 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 09:54 PM:

Steven @ 800... Congratulations, Patrick!

I see that none of my fiction nominees made it to the final list though. Oh, phooee.

#803 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 10:10 PM:

If John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow tie for the novel Hugo, they'll have to break the tie by playing The Dozens on Twitter, you know. heh.

#804 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 10:16 PM:

I'm surprised - I've actually read three of the nominees for best novel, and I could make it four before August. (Most years, it's only one of them.)

#805 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 10:20 PM:

Re: Escher Hilton: DWJ's Deep Secret comes to mind.

This just popped out of my fortune file, and it's even hotel-related:

I went to my first computer conference at the New York Hilton about 20 years ago. When somebody there predicted the market for microprocessors would eventually be in the millions, someone else said, "Where are they all going to go? It's not like you need a computer in every doorknob!"

Years later, I went back to the same hotel. I noticed the room keys had been replaced by electronic cards you slide into slots in the doors.
There was a computer in every doorknob. -- Danny Hillis

Charlie Stross: Nice quote in the latest Seed!

Physics, as "through a veil darkly": See also The March 2009 Scientific American, "A Quantum Threat to Special Relativity". Despite the overblown title, it's a decent look at the current and past issues. Also in the same issue: The world's smallest radio -- a single nanotube!.

Also, I seem to recall just lately seeing something about a proof that we can't in fact know all the laws of physics, but I can't seem to lay hands on that just now.

#806 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2009, 10:26 PM:

Steve C. #771:

I always wondered why wood was so magical. Theoretically, you could dust a bloodsucker with a sharp toothpick.

IIRC, the original requirement was a stake of blessed ash (that is, wood from the tree of that name). That choice of tree strongly suggests a survival from pre-Christian times. Of course, both the requirement and the reasoning have been retconned by almost every modern source!

#807 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 12:31 AM:

Steve C. @ #782: Van Helsing is a movie that desperately needs to be a MST3K episode.

Well, there's this:

#808 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 12:44 AM:

Paul A. @ 807 -

That looks pretty funny. I'm tempted to spend the $2.99.

#809 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 01:39 AM:

David Harmon @ 805: "Re: Escher Hilton: DWJ's Deep Secret comes to mind."

Strangely enough, I'm reading that book right now.

#810 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 04:13 AM:

I had my own "stupid question" asked me recently. I was at work, and was helping a lady. She asked me if I was Brian (a co-worker), and I said I wasn't. Then she thought I was Martin. "No, I'm David," I said. She replied, "Are you sure?"

#811 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 04:16 AM:

The Escheresque hotel in Deep Secret is reputed to be based on the Chamberlain Hotel in Birmingham, where DWJ had attended a Novacon a few years prior, and which she is said to have described as "an evil little labyrinth".

#812 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 04:19 AM:

...I've just received an email from a businessman urgently requesting my assistance to "execute a transfer of funds from Honk Kong to your country".

I appeal to the collected minds of Making Light: Where (or what or who) is Honk Kong?

#813 ::: Leroy F. Berven ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 05:16 AM:

Paul A. @ 812:

If your name is Harpo, you get there by sharply squeezing the nose of a very large anthropoid.

#814 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 07:51 AM:

For your Friday viewing pleasure: Extreme Sheepherding!

#815 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 08:18 AM:

It's interesting to google some of the spam tracking codes we've been getting around here; one of them also tagged 4chan.

#816 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 08:45 AM:

Marilee is doing much better as you can see in this short film.

#817 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 08:54 AM:

#795. No. I went to Baltimore earlier this month, and have used up my going-places-fu so completely that I have to sit quietly at home until the reservoir refills.

#818 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 09:03 AM:

Paul A @ 812... The collected minds of ML? I envision a superduper alien going around the galaxy picking up minds the way others (humans, not aliens) do philately.

#819 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 09:34 AM:

Honk Kong sounds like a giant gorilla-clown hybrid.

#820 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 09:35 AM:

Michael @ 773 - Dammit! I was all excited until you got to the part where the movie has nothing to do with the book. Why do they do things like that?

(Amazon says the book's from '82, which means we must have read it when it first came out, because I remember the school librarian reading it to my class in second grade. I didn't realize the same authors did "Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing," which I remember checking out of the bookmobile in kindergarten and also loving utterly and completely.)

Well, at least my kid's got two new books coming in for her birthday, so that's cool.

#821 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 09:55 AM:

albatross @ 819... I thought it sounded like a blaxploitation flick of the 1970s, with some "Enter the Dragon" stuff thrown in.

#822 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 10:03 AM:

Serge @816: Yay! That's great news.

#823 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 10:31 AM:

Serge: Bruce Leroy, anyone?

#824 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 10:35 AM:

Paul A. @ 182: I'm not sure who Honk Kong is, but if he had a brother Hank his brother would surely be a Country singer.

#825 ::: Kevin Reid ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 10:40 AM:

I mention this merely because of the poetry habit around here: Less Wrong has just gotten a little interested in fiction and then poetry:

Rationalist Poetry Fans, Unite!

Poetry has not been very friendly to the rational worldview over the past few centuries. What with all the 19th century's talk of unweaving rainbows and the 20th century's talk of quadrupeds swooning into billiard balls, it's tempting to think it reflects some natural order of things, some eternal conflict between Art and Science.

But for most of human history, science and art were considered natural allies. Lucretius' De Rerum Natura, an argument for atheism and atomic theory famous for being the ancient Roman equivalent of The God Delusion, was written in poetry. All through the Middle Ages, artists worked to a philosophy of trying to depict and celebrate natural truth. And the eighteenth century saw a golden age of what was sometimes called "rationalist poetry", a versified celebration of Enlightenment principles.


The road to wisdom? -- Well, it's plain
and simple to express:
and err
and err again
but less
and less
and less.
#826 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 10:46 AM:

albatross @ 823... I've got to put that movie on our NetFlix queueueue. By the way, ever seen A Fistful of Yen?

#827 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 10:47 AM:

In the spirit of open threadiness, and Friday, I must point out that Making Light is not secure from zeppelin attacks!
Recommended settings: Led Zeppelin; massive; auto; and sound = on.
It is perfectly work-safe — unless you are seen to attack your employer's website, of course.

#828 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 11:28 AM:

Serge @ 826: No, but I've suffered through "The Man With Lo Mein" -- not your typical spaghetti western.

#829 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 11:34 AM:

Ginger @ 826... You made that one up, didn't ja?

#830 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 11:37 AM:

janetl @ 827 -

Love it!

#831 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 11:37 AM:

(cont'd from #829)

On the other hand, I could see a movie where Briscoe County Jr is thown back in time by the Orb, and the plot hinges on Marco Polo stealing spaghetti from a kung fu master. (And if we throw in a dragon, the SciFi Channel will probably want to make a film out of this.)

#832 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 11:46 AM:

Serge@ 829: You're right -- that was the main character in "A Fistful of Yen" and "For a Few Wontons More".

#833 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 11:50 AM:

Open threadiness:

My sister will be in San Diego in May for a 3-day conference, and would like to take a side trip for another 3 days or so to a nearby, sidetrip-worthy location, but not L.A.

Additional info, for context: she's in her mid-40s, lived in Manhattan for 7 years, does not drive, enjoys wandering aimlessly in interesting neighborhoods, likes to try new food, visits museums, national parks and graveyards, appreciates nature and ruins more than the spiffy and ultramodern. She had as much fun in Paris as she did in a Costa Rican jungle.

Any recommendations will be much appreciated!

#834 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 12:37 PM:

Pendrift @ 833:

Southern California in general is rather poor about decent public transport, so that might or might not be limiting in terms of side-trip-worthy destinations. I don't blame her for wanting to skip LA; it's not really a people-oriented city like New York is.

Since she'll be in San Diego, the San Diego Zoo should be good for a day's outing. There's also Catalina Island, and I believe that there are ferries from San Diego to there. (Caveat: I have never been to either, despite living close enough these days. I keep telling myself I'll go, but being a Southern-California local I don't have any sense of urgency.)

If she's not averse to going somewhere close to Los Angeles but not in Los Angeles, and she can get there, the Huntington Library in San Marino is definitely worth a stop. They have good art collections, and the gardens are absolutely beautiful. If she's up that way, the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena is worth a stop too.

#835 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 12:49 PM:

Glinda #638: *grin*

#836 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 12:58 PM:

I got my Scarecrow DVD set a couple of days ago and got to take a look last night. It looks great. Each episode has the original intro by Walt, but the episodes themselves are in the letterbox format of the actual filming. My wife will probably kill me if I start singing the theme song.

Scarecrow! Scarecrow!
The soldiers of the King feared his name. Scarecrow!
On the southern coast of England, there's a legend people tell,
Of days long ago when the great Scarecrow would ride from the jaws of Hell
And laugh (Ahhh! Ha-ha! Ha-ha! Haaa!) with a fiendish yell!

#837 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 01:04 PM:

Pendrift 833: I took a couple of tries to correctly parse appreciates nature and ruins more than the spiffy and ultramodern. ('Ruins' is meant to be read as parallel with 'nature', not with 'appreciates'!)

And with that I'm completely unhelpful about SoCal, and transportation is a nightmare for the non-driver there. I must say I found the La Brea Tar Pit Museum fascinating (the wall of Dire Wolf skulls alone is worth the price of admission). You also have to literally watch your step: tar oozes out of the ground randomly there, and when I visited had destroyed part of the parking lot.

#838 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 01:35 PM:

Lee #795: Nope. Going to ImagiCon, though. Anyone going there?

#839 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 01:40 PM:

Xopher @ 837:

According to Wikipedia, there are five known tar pits/asphalt lakes in the world. I've been to or very near to four of them, so I suppose I should put visiting the fifth on my list of things to do.

Now that I think about it, it's possible to take the train from San Diego to Los Angeles, then from there to Pasadena. There are buses from Pasadena to the Huntington Library. Something to consider if the Huntington or the Norton Simon are places she wants to go.

#840 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 02:18 PM:

Re Evilrooster's geocache:
a)What do "up the close" and "but and ben" mean?

b)I remember hearing that stories of bodies being stolen for medical schools is what inspired the Frankenstein story.

c)I was inspired to look for the words to the song "Cadavers" by Brian Dewan. I did not find them, but I found this discussion thread:

#841 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 02:22 PM:

The geocache also reminds me of some ads that ran a few years back: "We've hidden a case of Dewar's in [whichever city]" and lots of treasure hunt style hints to help you find it, things like "Turn left at a house that used to belong to a sea captain" that you would actually have to research in order to follow.

#842 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 02:45 PM:

I have my own particular bias here so grains of salt are indicated, but if I were in SD for three days in May I might spend three hours one evening at Petco Park watching the Padres play somebody. Hot dogs and beer and baseball appeal to me.

#843 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 03:49 PM:

I found La Jolla an interesting place to spend an afternoon. Lots of art galleries, and it was mesmerizing just watching the waves crash against the cliffs. No idea how easy it is to get there on public transportation, though.

#844 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 03:52 PM:

Pendrift @ 833:

Further to Keith S @ 834 (San Diego Zoo), San Diego Wild Animal Park is worth a visit if she can get there (don't know what options there are for public transport - I got a ride with some carpooling staff). And the penguin exhibit at the Sea World is fantastic (I went to all three places when I was in San Diego). Sorry, no idea what else there is to do around there - the purpose of my trip was to visit the zoos.

#845 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 04:10 PM:

Catching up on open-threadiness:

heresiarch, #736: Is [a crystalline gold alloy] even possible?

Actually, pretty much all metals are crystalline unless you go to some lengths to make them amorphous (like pouring molten metal on a spinning wheel that is partially immersed in liquid nitrogen). I believe that gold has a face-centred cubic crystal structure.

David Goldfarb, #810:: "No, I'm David," I said. She replied, "Are you sure?"

At my local pharmacy, I spelled out my unusual surname. The pharmacist typed it into the computer and didn't get a match. So he asked me to spell it out again, and I did, and he said "That's not what you said before."

#846 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 04:40 PM:

Re: the Hugo nominations.

Congratulations to Patrick and all the other nominees. It's a really fine list of excellent works.

#847 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 05:04 PM:

KeithS, Xopher, Mary Aileen and dcb: Thank you for the suggestions! (copy-pasting with great care, makes mental note to self to visit US again now that 15 years have passed.)

Her default side trip is New York* when she can extend her stay by at least a week. She only has 3 extra days this time and wants to stay in the general vicinity** for practical reasons. Visit California has some interesting trip ideas, but it's hard for non-locals to determine how doable they are.

More open-threadiness: Does anyone play trumpet and how long did it take you to produce a [muffled curse] buzz?

*She'll be flying from Southeast Asia. East Coast, West Coast, what's a few more hours?
**a relative term; sis is willing to book a room in another town if it's a more convenient base for exploring.

#848 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 05:19 PM:

Pendrift @ 847:

If you have any particular questions, just ask. You've already demonstrated on another thread how nice it is to have a local perspective.

#849 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 05:43 PM:

It occurs to me that the Gaslamp district in downtown SD is worth an afternoon of walking around. It's a mix of shopping, dining, and historic preservation sites. Interestingly to me, one of the prime movers behind its renaissance was Ingrid Croce, widow of the singer Jim Croce. She opened a restaurant/bar there when there was nothing much else but sleazy shops, and slowly got other businesses to join her.

Balboa Park in SD has some good museums.

#850 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 06:06 PM:

Xopher @837: Ha! She ruins more than the spiffy and ultramodern, she ruins the world! *cackles*

Soon Lee @846: Hear, hear!
Speaking of which, Patrick and company seem to be having fun.

Linkmeister @849: whoops, forgot to thank you earlier. There was a brain glitch (the chunk of salt did it!) when the words beer* and baseball were associated with my sister. The Gaslamp district would be more to her liking.

*abysmal alcohol tolerance; she once nearly passed out in a restaurant after drinking a small glass of sangria.

#851 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 06:27 PM:

Another possibility in San Diego is Old Town. Which also has a mix of historic sites etc. Dont know many details but there's an Old Town website at

And about Linkmeister's suggestion at 849, there's a website for the Gas Lamp district at

San Diego does have some public transit. Don't know many details but there's a website at

#852 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 06:39 PM:

Pendrift @ 850... Patrick and company seem to be having fun.

They do, don't they?

#853 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 06:49 PM:

Pendrift @ #850, well, I quit drinking about 7 years ago myself, but I'm usually in the soda-drinking minority at baseball games, so . . .

#854 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 09:46 PM:

re The Huntington: She could do it, but she'd have to get up early.

The Surfliner runs to Union Station. She gets off, goes into the main station, over to the Gold Line. It only runs one way from Union Station.

She either gets off at Del Mar,or Allen. If she gets off at Del Mar she walks about a mile and a half East to Allen (A right turn, relative to her direction of travel), and turns South (another right turn). Allen run straight into the Gardens.

If she gets off at Allen, she goes South (a right turn when she gets to the bottom of the stairs at the station). She walks about 2 1/2 miles to the Gardens.

I think Allen is the shorter route. It's certainly the easiest.

The Gardens open to the general public at 10:00 a.m., and close at 4:30 p.m..

#855 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 10:44 PM:

Terry Karney @ 854:

It's only about two miles to the gardens from Allen station. I thought there was a bus that ran straight there, but apparently it only runs as far south as Del Mar. That's still halfway. Either way, it's not a bad walk at all.

Still, you're right that getting up there from San Diego would probably mean an early start.

#856 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 11:07 PM:

A friend of mine does eBay sales. Jim Kennedy of Kennedy Estate Sales recently got a contract to help 20th Century Props reduce its inventory. 20th Century Props rents to movie and tv companies. The stuff is going on line in bits and pieces, so keep your eye on the page(s). I saw some of the items before they were listed and said "I gotta tell the people at Making Light." Go look. Hide your credit cards, but go look.

There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of phonograph needles, currently being cataloged for inclusion. Would Soren be interested?

Stuff gets a cert of authenticity. If the usage history is available (who rented it for what feature) that will also be provided.

#857 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 11:09 PM:

Ginger @ 832:

I read that as "A Fistful of Yarn." *grin*

#858 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2009, 11:35 PM:

glinda @ 857... Didn't A Fistful of Yarn star Lint Eastwood?

#859 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 12:49 AM:

Serge, 858: And his costar Merino Haira.

#860 ::: Leroy F. Berven ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 02:21 AM:

With music by Sheb Wooley, one might hope?

#861 ::: hedgehog ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 02:40 AM:

Apropos of #805, #809, #811 referring to DWJ's Deep Secret, may I mention Diana Wynne Jones: A Conference taking place on the suitably celebratory 3rd-5th July of this very year at the University of the West of England, Bristol, a mere stone's throw from where my evil twin works?

#862 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 08:35 AM:

Lin Daniel @ 856: "Jim Kennedy of Kennedy Estate Sales recently got a contract to help 20th Century Props reduce its inventory."

Hmmm. Both "Jim" and "Kennedy" are common names, but the movies connection makes me wonder: Does your Jim Kennedy ever go by the nickname of "Lord Jim"?

Lord Jim Kennedy was one of the members of AZAPA back in the 70's, and was an aspiring filmmaker and a stone-cold fan of old movies, particularly awful and dreadful old movies. Haven't heard from or about LJK for years, but my guess is that LJK probably spends Saturday nights nowadays in front of the TV, with a bucket of popcorn, watching the latest Sci Fi Original tv-movie and going "Yeah! This is the way to make movies!"

#863 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 08:52 AM:


Rejoice with me, for my book has just gone to the publisher! Soon it will be available to dozens of readers around the world. Possibly even hundreds.

If anyone's interested, some comments on academic publishing in the mathematical sciences:

-- Yog's law still applies. The money doesn't actually flow until the books start selling, but it does flow towards the author.

-- On the other hand, publishers are actively looking for authors. There's not much money and very little academic advancement in writing books, in contrast to undergraduate textbooks on one hand and monographs in the humanities on the other.

#864 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 10:42 AM:

Thomas, as a consumer of mathematics books, I'm rejoicing.

p.s. My favorite math books at the moment are: G. Spencer Brown's The Laws Of Form and Robin Milner's Communicating and Mobile Systems: The π-Calculus. Am I likely to want yours?

#865 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 11:21 AM:

j h woodyatt:

It's a statistics book, on analysis of surveys, so probably not. :(

#866 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 11:41 AM:

Should I pass the news on to the John F. Bell who comes up on Google in association with educational statistics?

#867 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 12:00 PM:

Ginger @ 852

I hear the next in the series, "Wonton Violence" is in prodution now.

#868 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 12:18 PM:

Ridley Scott's BladeRamen asks what being Hunan means.

#869 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 12:27 PM:

Bruce Cohen @867: Excellent! To be followed by "The Good, the Bad, and the Gow Gi"?

#870 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 12:50 PM:

Has anyone else thought, half a century later, that some of the title songs for those old Disney historical-setting movies are a bit naff?

Still, what do I know about good music (walks off humming "Robin Hood"/"Dennis Moore").

#871 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 12:52 PM:

Musical Instrument or Sex Toy?


"lap steel"


#872 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 01:04 PM:

The Particle re. the computer programmer with a prosthetic USB-drive finger? That makes me want to make a novelty "cut-off finger" USB drive, complete with a really good bloody-looking cut-off end, of course. Stick it into a computer USB slot at a cybercafe, or in the back of your laptop in a public place, and wait for the reactions.

A quick google shows me someone has made one - but with the cut-off end being the end you plug into the computer - that's no fun! (says the person with a wallaby skull stuck on the car dashboard)

#873 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 01:38 PM:

Ginger @ 869... Remember James Coburn in Leone's Peking Duck, You Sucker! ?

#874 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 01:43 PM:

Bruce Arthurs @ 862... LJK probably spends Saturday nights nowadays in front of the TV, with a bucket of popcorn, watching the latest Sci Fi Original tv-movie and going "Yeah! This is the way to make movies!"

Most of them have better SFX than the old garbage, but I'll take The Angry Red Planet over most of the 'original' movies that the SciFi Channel dishes out. One exception is Riverworld which, while it deviated extremely from the original Farmer novels, was enjoyable. Of course they never followed up with other movies.

#875 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 01:47 PM:

Erik@840: A close is narrow courtyard or cul-de-sac; Edinburgh has a lot of famous ones. "But and ben" means, more or less, "inside and outside," or, more narrowly, if you're talking about domestic architecture, "in the back room and in the front room."

#876 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 01:52 PM:

Dave Bell @ 870... A bit? How about a lot?

#877 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 03:56 PM:

Serge #868: Ridley Scott's BladeRamen asks what being Hunan means.

I would watch that movie, hopefully at an Alamo Drafthouse (a theater which frequently offers theme dinners at their movie showings).

(note to self: must not skip breakfast this afternoon)

#878 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 06:39 PM:

Serge @ 873: How about Buster Keaton as "The General Tso" (a classic silent)?

#879 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 06:53 PM:

Earl, you're in Austin? How did I miss that??

#880 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 08:51 PM:

I think the most specific (in recent years) I've been about my location is mentioning that I attend ArmadilloCon and participated in the 1980's Austin BBS scene. I have no particular incentive for making it easy for people to track me down and find me.

Bleargh. I just did an ego search and found way too many clues to my location. Thirty years ago, usually the worst consequence of saying something non-anonymously online that someone else doesn't like was it got your house TP'd. That is no longer the case. I'm not quite ready to be fitted for a tinfoil hat, but I've been burglarized a few times and still jump when I hear a sound like someone trying to enter my home (politely with a knock or otherwise).

By the way, there will be an Alamo Drafthouse in Winchester, Virginia later this year.

#881 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2009, 10:38 PM:

Oh, I see--I thought I just hadn't been paying attention. I understand your motives, certainly, but I'm still disappointed that I never got to meet you when DilloCon was an option for me.

If any non-Texans have a chance to see a movie at an Alamo Drafthouse, you neeeeed to do it. Best movie theater in the world.

#882 ::: siriosa ::: (view all by) ::: March 24, 2009, 11:53 PM:

Marilee's been sprung: she's back home, and has posted to her livejournal.

#883 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2009, 07:43 AM:


#884 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2009, 03:52 PM:

#875 - I have a photo of the sign on "World's End Close" in Edinburgh.

Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

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