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February 16, 2012

Open thread 170
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 01:19 AM * 926 comments

Were I to distill the Aubrey-Maturin books of Patrick O’Brian into two sentences, it would be these ones from Desolation Island:

They played, not beautifully but deep, ignoring their often discordant strings and striking right into the heart of the music they knew best, the true notes acting as their milestones. On the poop above their heads, where the weary helmsmen tended the new steering-oar and Babbington stood at the con, the men listened intently; it was the first sound of human life that they had heard, apart from the brief Christmas merriment, for a time they could scarcely measure.

Continued from Open thread 169

Continued in Open Thread 171

Comments on Open thread 170:
#1 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 01:38 AM:

First? Guess I'm benefiting from being a night-owl and the time difference between here and the Netherlands.

#2 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 03:49 AM:

Syd, somewhat disguised @944 on OT 169: YES YOU DO DESERVE HELP Go make those 'phone calls. If you can't find the energy/reason to do it for yourself, then do it for your cats! In particular, contact the woman the feline behaviourist told you about. NOW! I don't think living in a car, even if you can find a friend's driveway, is viable for your cats, never mind for you - and the shelter isn't sounding very good as an option if the shelter woman is suggesting sleeping in your car would be better...

#3 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 04:11 AM:

Hilde and I watched DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME, an Asian action movie you might think was based on the Judge Dee stories by Robert van Gulik.

Ehh, no. Gulik's stories were inspired by an 18th-century Chinese novel he translated into THE CELEBRATED CASES OF JUDGE DEE and then went on to write his own original stories and novels about that character. That earlier Judge Dee novel was in it's own turn inspired by an actual historical figure in Chinese history, Di Renjie, a noted official back in the 7th-Century Tang Dynasty. The movie is based, kinda sorta, more on that historical figure than van Gulik's version.

Hilde pretty much nailed how close the movie is to the Judge Dee stories: "It's about as close as Stan Lee is to Agatha Christie."

But, having shattered any hopeful expectations of van Gulik fans, I have to say DETECTIVE DEE was a pretty fun movie, with a lot of wirework and other stunts and effects you see in "superhuman martial arts" movies.

If you watch it, though, either turn on the English dub or the English subtitles, not both. The spoken words and the subtitles sometimes are so widely/wildly apart that it's very distracting.

#4 ::: Dave Crisp ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 05:29 AM:

ObXkcd re: TNH's newest particle.

Which makes me wonder(a) if there's a reason these two appeared so close together, and (b) if the game could be used for the purpose Randy describes.

#5 ::: etv13 ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 05:32 AM:

@Syd, somewhat disguised: Wishing you the best, and continuing to put out feelers on your behalf. These are really rough times, but know that you have people rooting for you, and that you are not to blame for your misfortunes.

#6 ::: Dave Crisp ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 05:33 AM:

(I scored 78%, if anyone is interested)

#7 ::: etv13 ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 05:44 AM:

And on the subject of the original post: Desolation Island is my favorite of the Aubrey/Maturin books -- except for all the others (well, maybe not The Hundred Days). When I was first reading these books, it was one of the ones I found at the library, and I was eager to read it just based on the title, which is so evocative. I forced myself to read them in order, which meant buying either Post-Captain or HMS Surprise, I can't remember which (I've since bought the whole set), but getting to Desolation Island was totally worth it.

Wanna see people go crazy in a comment thread? Go into The Gunroom and call Diana Villiers a bitch. (Not that I would do such a thing.)

#8 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 07:35 AM:

I actually went to Canada to look for Desolation Island and other Aubrey/Maturin books, back when they were not in print in the US. The US border guards in Detroit thought my reason for going to Canada implausible, and strip-searched me on my return.

#9 ::: Michelle Elliott ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 07:45 AM:

My favorite Aubrey-Maturin book is H.M.S. Surprise. O'Brian's portrayal of India is rich and fascinating, and Maturin's relationship with Dil can bring me to tears even after a dozen readings.

#10 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 08:01 AM:

Already buds are forming on each tree
visible through the february mist,
this sign of coming spring won't be dismissed;
life makes to us its yearly guarantee
that after darkness comes the jubilee
while all of nature's colours still persist
and will explode the roadsides will be kissed
with light again. All life yearns to be free.
In each heart hides a promissory note
from past to future, valid for all time,
worth all the stories that our folk have told;
to be redeemed, when we are called to vote
weighed in the balance and cleansed of all grime,
for a true substance worth far more than gold.

#11 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 08:16 AM:

AKICIML Does anyone use the R programming language? If so, are there books, courses, websites, or development environments you recommend for someone getting started with it? At the moment I don't need deeply complex statistical analysis; what I need is a way to automate graphs and reports (text and tables) for comparing a subset of a data file against the whole.

#12 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 08:17 AM:

I picked my way through the Hornblower books when I was out of Aubreyad, but hit a snag when the library didn't have all of them. And of course, it's been long enough that I don't know which I've read. I know I skipped one

My dad has read all but the incomplete Aubrey book-- I read the typed bits but couldn't get through the handwriting-- and, because he's that kind of guy, Lobscouse and Spotted Dog, cover to cover. We both tend to like details and wit.

#13 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 09:25 AM:

Re: Bruce Cohen
The story is indeed by Algis Budrys: A Scraping at the Bones, published in Analog May, 1975...

Thanks so much! I found a copy of the magazine on ebay and glommed it.

There are many lines by Budrys that float up - "An dark. An cold." (sic?) Compelling writer.

#14 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 10:10 AM:

AKICIML: The band on my beloved earmuffs, souvenir of my first trip to Montreal, just broke. Can I fix it?

#15 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 10:28 AM:

I'm sufficiently a fan of the Aubrey-Maturin books that, when it came to a divorce, I suggested that my ex could keep all the Steven Brust if I could keep the Patrick O'Brian.

Which was made slightly weirder in that it was Steven Brust who introduced me to O'Brian's work, saying, "Do you like the Hornblower books?" "Well, sorta... I've read a couple." "Do you like Jane Austen?" "Of course!" "I promise, you'll love these." And then he quoted the immortal line, "Jack, you have debauched my sloth!"

I picked up Master and Commander not long after and I was thoroughly and completely hooked.

I tried the Hornblower books again recently, having become a huge fan of the miniseries with Ioan Gruffudd, and still found them sort of "meh." TV Horatio is sympathetic; beset by doubts, certainly, bound by such a strong notion of duty that he can't get out of his own way sometimes, certainly, but nevertheless sympathetic. Book Horatio is essentially Eeyore but without the underlying severe sense of humor, and reading his internal narrative is just no fun. (Also there is no Archie.)

I'm midway through another re-read of the O'Brian books. Right now I'm somewhere in the middle of The Thirteen-Gun Salute.

I could no more name my favorite than I could name the favorite of my internal organs, for all love.

#16 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 10:29 AM:

Abi... Speaking of words that encapsulate a long-running story...

"Where would you estimate we belong, Miss Keeler?"
"You? At his side, as if you've always been there and always will."

#17 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 10:47 AM:

Rikibeth @15:
And then he quoted the immortal line, "Jack, you have debauched my sloth!"

"The Debauched Sloth" is the name of my Kindle.

No, really, this is not a Scalzi joke. I named my Kindle "The Debauched Sloth". It goes with my laptop, which is "The Nutmeg of Consolation".

#18 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 10:49 AM:

Rikibeth @ 15... I am rather fond of 1951's movie "Captain Horatio Hornblower". One of my favorite parts is when sailor Quist realizes that the Captain does know his name and that of each and every one of his people. My other favorite is at the very beginning.

"You know why I'm having Hummill flogged, Mr. Gerard?"
"I reported him for fighting, sir."
"I am not having him flogged for fighting, Mr. Gerard. I'm having him flogged because you said in front of the men that you'd flog him. This is a ship of war - as it's captain, I must uphold my lieutenants' authority."
"I understand, sir."
"Flogging only makes a bad man worse, Mr. Gerard... but it can break a good man's spirit. Is Hummill a bad man?"
"Aside from his temper, sir, he's a good sailor."
"A good sailor, ill-fed and thirsty. Watch the cat as it cuts his back to pieces, Mr. Gerard... and in the future, perhaps you'll think twice before you threaten anyone with a flogging. "

#19 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 10:52 AM:

I may have bungled somewhat; I acquired copies of "Mr. Midshipman Hornblower" and the movie-tie-in cover edition of "The Far Side of the World." I started reading one, then partway through it became temporarily inaccessible, so I started reading the other. Then I trade chapters in them for a while, and now I'm knackered if I can remember which plot points belonged to what ...

I think I need to get a multi-book whack of one or the other series out of the library and spend some serious time in them.

#20 ::: MilesToGo ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 11:10 AM:

Elliot@794 of previous:

I have altered the thesis. Pray I do not alter it further.

Doggerel #3

The worm cares naught for who he eats today;
From Rudyard Kipling’s cat he learned this ‘tude.
Then how shall I conceive to feed this worm?
My critic’s corpse would ample foodstuff make.
The body of critique of me is large;
On that a worm might feed for many months.
But who should be the representative,
The proxy, scapegoat, bearer of the sin?
What person has contributed the most
To nervous tics, anxieties, and grief
Incurred by this relentless monologue
Correcting every word, each act, each thought,
Till all my being aches with doubt unchecked
And only in a dream might I be free
To truly be the hero of my tale.
In some rare restful night I find success
A poignant counterpoint to daily strife,
A glimmer that this harlequin may yet
Discover how to quell that hated voice.
But whence its source, that timbre I despise?
Of course. I know it well; it is my own.
How can I still this part of who I am
And yet remain the one I know as me?
Who would I be if triumph of the night
Were mine to hold, to own, in light of day?
If I could kill my doubt, who would I be?
I can say only this: go ask a worm.

#21 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 11:15 AM:

I'm going to confess that I've never read the Aubrey/Maturin books, and have no particular desire to, either. Or Hornblower, for that matter. I adored Dudley Pope's Ramage books when I was in high school and college, so I'm not sure why the others hold no interest for me. But there it is.

#22 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 11:20 AM:

I like Ramage, too. I don't object to Hornblower - I've read all of those. (More than once.) But I'll admit to not being able to get into Aubrey/Maturin.

#23 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 11:25 AM:

abi @ #17:

My laptop has somehow got by without a name, but my desktops since college have been Skaro, Mondas, Telos, Ares, and Sontar, and the palmtops were Tibet and London Underground.

The new palmtop doesn't have a name yet, because I've reached the end of the Top Five list I was using for inspiration, and I'm not sure where to go from here.

#24 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 11:30 AM:

Paul A @ 23... Regarding the Naming of Things... I recently found that local SF writer Victor Milàn calls his clunker car "Serenity" although his mode of transportation isn't so bad as to lose parts whenever its starts or stops.

#25 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 11:40 AM:

abi @17: that's MARVELOUS. All of my electronics are named on a theme of breadstuffs and their equipment, starting with the moment I unpacked my Mac Mini and my housemate stared at it in amazement (my previous computer having been an enormous G3 or G4 tower, sorely outdated) and said, "That's not a computer. That's a TOASTER." So it became the Brave Little Toaster, and my first iPod became PopTart, and the late Macbook was Panini, and my current iPod Touch is Gaufrette.

Serge @18: I could swear that there is a similar scene in one of the Aubrey/Maturin books. Possibly several. Jack is no friend to the cat.

Elliott Mason @19: I tend to think of both series as One Big Crossover, also encompassing Sharpe, Garrow's Law, and much of Jane Austen. Especially when I'm writing fanfic. Especially when I do the math and note that Stephen Maturin was aboard the Charwell en route from the West Indies in the months prior to the Peace of Amiens, and could easily have made a stop at Kingston in the necessary time frame to have saved one Archie Kennedy's life, or that there WAS no 95th Foot at the time of the Quiberon invasion, but there was indeed a 43rd Foot which is the regiment Major Edrington claims in the books, and that the 43rd Foot was later absorbed into the newly-formed 95th Light Infantry, which included Sharpe's 95th Rifles... it all hangs together SO entertainingly.

Mary Aileen @21: if they're not to your taste, they're not to your taste, but I will put in a good word for the Hornblower miniseries, which has, in addition to visually amazing tall ships and uniforms, both Ioan Gruffudd and Jamie Bamber very young and fresh out of drama school, Paul McGann doing excellent deadpan, one episode with Samuel West providing understated snark, Robert Lindsay filling up the screen with pure awesome, one episode with Denis Lawson being brash and sassy, two episodes with David Warner providing his usual blend of Evil and Crazy, and one episode with Cherie Lunghi stealing every scene she's in.

It's entirely possible that it's still Not Your Thing, but for me it's the Best Thing Ever.

#26 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 11:45 AM:

MilesToGo @20: I had to read it a couple of times, but very nice.

#27 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 11:47 AM:

P J Evans @22: I've noticed that the surest way to get someone into the Aubrey-Maturin books is to sit in the same room with them while you're reading them, and, every so often, succumb to a fit of snickering, and then read them the line that prompted it. Eventually, after such whimsical bits as the debauched sloth, and Jack chastising the wombat that's eating the gold lace on his best hat, and Pullings being so embarrassed when explaining WHY the Lascars are so enthusiastic about polishing the brass cannon, and the ill-conditioned ape that has had a can of ale at every pot-house along the way and has been offering itself to Babbington... well, after enough snippets of whimsy, they're likely to pick them up for themselves.

Well, it worked on my housemate, anyway. Her newly-acquired stuffed wombat (a World Wildlife Federation premium) is named Pullings in tribute.

#28 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 12:00 PM:

Rikibeth @ 25... If I were in a scene with Cherie Lunghi, she wouldn't have to steal it. I'd give it to her.

#29 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 12:14 PM:

The last time my wife and I watched "Captain Horatio Hornblower" on TCM, she said upon seeing Gregory Peck:

"His legs are almost skinny as yours!"

One of the many things I have with him, I guess.

#30 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 12:16 PM:

Serge @28: I know what you mean. Her characters - and I'm most familiar with Shakespeare's Beatrice and Hornblower's Duchess of Wharfedale, not having watched Excalibur since I was a teenager - remind me POWERFULLY of my friend Catt, who possesses great force of character and an unwillingness to tolerate any nonsense, while also having a solid core of kindness. I'd be inclined to just stand back and admire.

#31 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 12:18 PM:

Serge @29: I've been disinclined to watch the Gregory Peck Hornblower, but that aspect of it does sound amusing. My current champion for the Skinny Legs in Breeches division is Andrew Buchan of Garrow's Law. It would have been dreadfully unfashionable then, but to my modern-day eye it's adorable.

#32 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 12:27 PM:


That is all.

#33 ::: pedantic peasant ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 12:31 PM:

Serge Broom @ 16

"Where would you estimate we belong, Miss Keeler?"
"You? At his side, as if you've always been there and always will."

Excellent. One of my favorite lines. The other is from the movies: "Jim. Your name is Jim."

[And the eternal suspicion that someday Spock is going to read the Eulogy Kirk gave him the first time he died, "Of all the souls I've met on my travels, his was the most... human," and get very insulted. At least until he remembers being insulted is an emotional reaction, and squelches it.]

abi @ 17 and others

"The Debauched Sloth" is the name of my Kindle.

Generally, I have never gotten into the habit of naming my tech (although I love the names of BrainPals in the Scalziverse, and of Nelly's children in Mike Shepherd's Longknife series), but I will confess, I have named my GPS "Dawnstar."

#34 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 12:46 PM:

Niall McAuley @32: Awww.

In the western states mule deer are a common sight. Whenever I see pictures of eastern deer, I'm always bemused by their tiny little ears.

#35 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 12:46 PM:

"The names of these pirates, the Doctor thought, were not dissimilar to those of pigeons; a panoply of blacks and shades of gray, colourful in adjectives rather than hues.

"As to the pirates as agents of political transformation, he had made some notes upon the subject, which indicated that their primary purpose was taking things from ships and trading them for rum and intimate favours, in places ranging from Tortuga to Whitehall. Some did affect views on individual freedom, though these would have rattled the brains of a Paine or a Wollstonecraft, and the notion that they were a seething mass of nautical Robespierres would not stand the light.

"It was good to have an enemy, he reflected, and it was good to have an enemy who believed odd things that were incompatible with one's own views. He had encountered sailors from English towns that were fiercely proud of having been sacked by ships scattered from the Armada. While the only evidence of such pillage was here a stack of cannonballs and there a public house named 'Ye Dead Spaniardo,' every man from those villages stood ready, centuries later, to take the battle back to Philip II, with his dreadful religion and his incomprehensible consonants.

"In Celebration of Talk Like Dr. Stephen Maturin Day" -- John M. Ford

#36 ::: Susie ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 12:48 PM:

OtterB @ 11: I don't use R myself, but in case you haven't already found it, perhaps this list of resources would be helpful?

#37 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 12:49 PM:

I am currently re-listening to "The Wine-Dark Sea" which is my favorite audiobook of the Aubrey and Maturin series. Patrick Tull's awesomeness knows no bounds.

Alas, the library's CDs are beginning to skip occasionally, so I guess I'll have to pony up and buy my own (and possibly renew the library's, if I can afford to).

Debauched sloths are all very well, but it was the rhinoceros in "The Ionian Mission" that bowled me over completely. As rhinos are wont to do.

#38 ::: Krinn DNZ ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 01:03 PM:

Doug @ 35: Have you read The Invisible Hook ? Has some great bits about pirate society, leans heavily on primay sources. I dig it, despite that it's openly imitative of Freakonomics (one of the Freakonomics guys is the author's mentor) and that it's distressingly prone to Chicago School twaddle.

Also, a perennial topic here - there's another expert being rebuffed rudely by Wikipedia schmucks. This one has the new-to-me wrinkle of someone extensively citing primary sources being rebuked for not citing secondary sources instead. I grow increasingly sour and reckon that while Wikipedia is a fantastic project, its participants should not believe their own hype.

#39 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 01:11 PM:

Hey, I've done almost exactly what that passage is describing. Not on a boat, but. Am chuckling immaturely at "the poop above their heads".

#40 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 01:12 PM:

pedantic peasant @ 33... I seem to remember reading that this line came up as a result of the show's producers consulting with Isaac Asimov. Nimoy had been frustated with his status, next to Shatner's, so the Good Doctor proposed something like the above. I think.

#42 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 01:21 PM:

BTW: wondering what opinions you folks have as to the Skiffy (or non-) nature of Charles Yu's "How to live safely in a science-fictional universe". I liked the book a lot (though the second half not so much as the first half), especially for a first novel; my SF-reading friend says it is not SF.

#43 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 01:25 PM:

Last night in the parking lot at the grocery store I saw a truck with a campaign bumper sticker: Aubrey-Maturin 2012.

I was tempted to tell the driver I wasn't sure I could support a ticket where the lead man was a notorious debaucher of sloths, but I had to get back home and fix dinner.

#44 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 01:32 PM:

Rikibeth (25): I am almost exclusively a printed-word person, rather than a moving-pictures person. But thanks for the recommendation.

#45 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 01:54 PM:

Jacque re: SFPD

That is awesome. I was unsure at first what it was, but, hey, you recommended it. I've still got tears in my eyes.

#46 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 01:55 PM:

Re: my post at OT169/944, after paying the cell phone bill (needed because it's also acting as my Internet access and I don't have the nerve to do anything needed a password (checking email, etc.) over the free Wi-fi at Satanbucks) I have...not enough money to get the cats their shots. Assuming I could talk the woman at the boarding facility into swapping boarding for gruntwork.

I just got off the phone with the receptionist at my cats' regular vet. I've been keeping them in the loop about the situation, or was until I stopped having to buy the special food for Damon and my poor Runyon; I called to see if the vet was in, planning to grovel and beg and see if there was any way I could board my cats with him until I could make other arrangements. (Like, maybe one of the rescue organizations that couldn't take 8 could manage to take one or two to foster pending my getting on my feet again.)

The receptionist spoke to the vet because he had to get right in to see another pet--but he said I can board them for 5 days. It gives me a little breathing room, anyway.

Please cross your fingers that I can find a better solution in 4 days. :)

A number of people have told me, in no uncertain terms, that I have to give up these last 4 cats in order to take care of myself first. And I can see their point. But I just can't see them as disposable, not even for myself. But I have a very short-term solution.

#47 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 02:05 PM:

I have read 5 or 6 of the Aubrey-Maturin books and enjoyed them, but for some reason I stalled out and haven't read one in a couple of years. I plan to start up again sometime, but there's such a huge stack of books to be read that I don't know when that will be.

As to naming tech, I've gotten out of the habit of naming my machines with literary references; when I was doing a lot of development work and often had 2 or 3 workstations in my office I used to like using esoteric character names. At one point I was naming them after characters from E. R. Eddison's books; my manager kept complaining that he couldn't get used to typing "barganax".

I did take advantage of the free engraving offer when I bought my iPod Touch; the back reads, "We are such stuff as dreams are made on."

⚓. Kate Griffin's latest in the Electric Angels series just came out, John Barnes is putting a hard-boiled detective novel on his website as he writes it, I'm in the middle of the first book of Joe Abercrombie's second trilogy, Paul McAuley's In the Mouth of the Whale has just been released (and I'm in the middle of his collection Tales From the Quiet War) and if I can't squeeze anything else in before summer amongst the technical reading I have to do, Charlie Stross' next Laundry novel comes out in July, and Hannu Rajaniemi's The Fractal Prince is due in September. Plus the re-read of the first two books of Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles that I was originally intending to do last fall. If you have any other really good books to recommend, please don't! I'm underwater already.

#48 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 02:10 PM:

Syd, The day may, in fact, come when you have to give up the cats. But I'm with you in thinking it's important to keep the family together, if at all possible.

#49 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 02:15 PM:

Good news for the open thread, via /.:
"The government of Bulgaria, which had already signed ACTA, yesterday reversed itself, and announced that it would not seek ratification of the treaty. This comes after similar moves by Poland, Germany and the Netherlands, and a weekend of massive protests against ACTA across the European continent."

ACTA, for those playing at home, is an international "intellectual property rights" treaty written by IP rentiers and negotiated in secret over the last few years. What I've seen of the leaked pieces of it indicate that it's intended to be an incredibly agressive Disneyfication of the ownership of creative works.

Too bad, so sad: Our Galtian Landlords may have to go without the next rent check.

#50 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 02:18 PM:

My netbook is named Binky. Alas, Binky is a horse of too small brain and needs more memory, or to go out to pasture. My car is the Shuttlecraft Feynman. And that's enough whimsey for now.

#51 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 02:19 PM:


I think you're right to consider the cats' welfare at the same level as yours; it's the way I've always dealt with the health and welfare of my companions. When it comes down to it, trashing yourself won't help them, so you'll need to know when to step back; but before you reach that point I think you should help them as much as you can. Good luck to you and your cats.

#52 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 02:27 PM:

Syd @46:

As for getting the cats their shots, that is one thing I was able to find when googling earlier, hoping to find information for you about temporary fostering (which was unsuccessful). Most of the organizations I found for low-cost veterinary care only do spay/neuter, but I did find the HOPE Veterinary Center in Los Angeles that will do free vaccinations. Their clinic days are apparently only once a month, but the next one is this coming Sunday.

#53 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 03:03 PM:

Krinn @38: I haven't. Thanks for the tip!

#54 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 03:10 PM:

lorax @ 52, thank you for that link! If my own vet doesn't "throw in" the vaccines (which I do not expect him to do, he's already done/is doing so much for me), and if I can reach the boarding facility woman and work out something with her, then hitting that clinic on Sunday may well solve a problem or two.

Now if I could just catch the cats to take them to their vet... ***sigh***

#55 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 03:29 PM:

Syd at 54, I know it is humiliating and painful to ask for money, but have you considered asking friends if they would be willing to give the boarding facility some money, directly, on your behalf, so that the cats will at least have a safe short-term home while you hunt for another solution? I am reasonably sure the facility would not turn down such funds. You might even consider putting the boarding facility's name and contact info, phone number, etc. in a post here, and also include the cats' names, or your name -- some way so that the facility can identify to whom the funds should be credited. Folks on Making Light who wish to help you -- and there might be some, don'tcha think? -- can then contact the facility directly.

It couldn't hurt to try.

#56 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 03:35 PM:

Dave Crisp @4: Actually that game has been around for a while now, and I'm surprised that nobody posted about it here earlier. (Unless of course someone did.)

It's possible that the xkcd strip and the Particle are related, if the strip inspired Teresa to go looking to see what was on the web about kerning and find that game.

#57 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 03:48 PM:

Syd, riffing on what Lizzy L: If you're uncomfortable putting the boarding facility's name and contact info, phone number, etc. here, may I suggest you send it to abi, whom those of us who would help could then contact...?

#58 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 04:00 PM:

Paul A @23: Computers I was primarily responsible for have been named, in the past: Joshua, Rolan (silver and blue case), Raven (because it was very much like a writing-desk; also, blackity black black). Currently the machines I'm using were named by my husband, who has rather different naming conventions than I do; I did get him to correct one's name from 'Dinomac' to 'paleomac', though, on the grounds that it was old, not truly terrible. :->

Our previous house was The Grey Havens, because to get to it we drove out to the Utter West … sort of. Also, grey siding. The new house hasn't told me what her name is yet, but she definitely feels to have a personality and a sense of her own rights; the poor Havens was so kicked and mistreated that I got the impression they viewed us as basically equivalent to that last owner at the end of Black Beauty.

My guitar (and indeed my previous guitar) also has a decided personality but has not yet deigned to share her name with me. Our car is not named or particularly personalitied, IMHO; a previous car had a titch in its door-closed sensor on the driver's side that led to things like the dome light suddenly going on while we drove on the highway, so we dubbed that tendency 'Dennis', though the car as a whole had no particular name.

(Personifiers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but Mr. Dignity)

#59 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 04:05 PM:

Miles @20: Very, very nice. I am pleased as punch to have had a role in its nucleation.

It went interesting places from the seed-crystal that I didn't expect; kind of like how when a friend asked her LJ commenters for single images she might use to crystallize stuff.

I told her, "The playful yet eventually tragic dilemma of the snowman, born in joy to die too soon." She gave me a funny look and said she wasn't touching it, but it wouldn't leave me alone and I ended up writing most of a song sparked by it on the bus home that night.

Alas, I don't perform it much, because the way I've worked out to accompany it on guitar makes it sound in the first verse like humorous satire, and it isn't, and then the chorus' seriousness thuds on the audience and makes the whole thing flop.

Also, I think it has far too many words, but I'm not sure how to cut it down productively; diarrhea of the mouth is my primary poetic flaw. After all, if three jewellike perfect words would be ideal, why not a twenty-word run-on sentence! With parentheticals!


#60 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 04:41 PM:

Mary Aileen, #21: You're not the only one. I just let these conversations slide past, secure in the knowledge that sooner or later one will come up about something I do read.

Various, re naming things: I used to name vehicles. All my bikes had names when I was a kid, and my first half-dozen cars did as well. Sometime in my mid-30s I fell out of that habit, I don't know why; and because I didn't get my first computer until after that, those have never had names. My partner names the computers on our household network out of Pratchett, though. And our cars do have use-names, though not real names -- the closest we get to that now is "the BHV" (for Big Honkin' Van). I've never named any of my domiciles, partly because I got a little spooked by what happened to the friends who called their house Castle Chaos. (One died, two went crazy, and the last one will never go near that state again, let alone the city or the house.)

Rikibeth, #27: I think my partner has been trying that tactic with me and Discworld. So far it has yet to work; I've absorbed enough information about the series by osmosis that I'm not totally lost in discussions of it, but I still have no strong desire to actually read any of it.

Niall, #32: That's a great picture!

#61 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 05:01 PM:

Lee @60: My husband is in computer networking. His workplace has one general purpose 'the truck' for going from site to site to, for example, install new switches and whatnot. The coworker of his who is in charge of the VoIP (voice-over-IP phone system) stuff apparently always needs big tall ladders and other equipment that wouldn't fit into the usual truck, and so has 'his own' white panel van with ladder racks and various somewhat specialized equipment.

Whenever a largeish group of this department has to go somewhere en masse and fix something, this specialized van is what is used to transport them; they call it VoIPasaurus (pronounced VOYP-uh-sawr-us).

#63 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 05:18 PM:

Re kerning Particle: My average score was 89; individual scores ranged from 64 to (surprisingly!) several instances of 100. Now I want to get my partner to play with it, since he has micrometer-calibrated eyes.

#64 ::: etv13 ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 05:28 PM:

abi@17: So when you buy an ebook from the Kindle store, and it asks you where you want it sent, you get to tell it, "The Debauched Sloth"? That is sooo much better than "elizabeth's kindle."

It occurs to me The Debauched Sloth would be a good name for a tavern, preferably near a marina.

#65 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 05:29 PM:

pedantic peasant @33: I think the line from the original ST series that makes me the most emotional is a word. Not a great episode, but the greatest ending to one.

Kirk has, because of a chemical spell of sorts, fallen irrevocably in love with a woman he can't have. At the end of the show, McCoy and Spock are looking at him. McCoy tells Spock he's given him a light sedative, but that's all he can do for him, and he leaves. Spock looks at Kirk with no sign of emotion, then puts his hand on his head in a certain way, leans down close, and whispers.


(Don't know why, but it works on me every time.)

#67 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 05:58 PM:

Jacque #62: I just passed that on with the subject: "Traffic Jams: Be the change you want to see in the world...."

#68 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 06:13 PM:

I don't name inanimate objects. Never have. I don't know why. I've never given a name to my house, my car, my computer, or my katana. Nor have I ever felt that my car or my computer posses human qualities, or indeed, a personality. (My katana is smarter than I am, however. I do know that.)

I don't object to other people doing it. I assume they have a reason, either intellectual or emotional. But I am curious -- can someone explain it to me?

#69 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 06:22 PM:

Gaah. I just discovered that Gracie tore up my bed, most likely while I was off at work. (I hadn't looked since I came home and walked her.) I gather that's supposed to be an anxiety thing, but why now, after a month and a half?

#70 ::: Marty In Boise ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 06:36 PM:

Re. naming our machinery: my 1973 Chevrolet is Vlad the Impala. Sadly, during the 3 years it was out of service, someone else went and registered for the Idaho "VLAD" vanity plate, so I couldn't renew that when I resuscitated the car last winter. I'm still debating whether to get "VLADD" or some similar alternative.

#71 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 06:42 PM:

OtterB #11:
Does anyone use the R programming language?

I'm one of the developers.

At the moment I don't need deeply complex statistical analysis; what I need is a way to automate graphs and reports (text and tables) for comparing a subset of a data file against the whole.

For the automation you probably want Sweave (based on LaTeX) or hwriter (based on HTML, and so convertable to MS Office).

For a development environment I use Emacs and the Emacs Speaks Statistics (ESS) mode, because I have to work on multiple operating systems. RStudio, JGR, and Tinn-R are also population (the gnomes will get me if link to them all, but Google can find them).

The best introductory books really depend on your background. There's a long list. I like Braun & Murdoch, and Maindonald & Braun.

If you want to email me with more details I'll try to get a more focused list. My email is ROT-13 as gyhzyrl@hj.rqh

#72 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 06:46 PM:

Lizzy L #68:

Can't totally explain it, but for people who come out of the networking world of two or more decades ago, naming a computer both marks your territory and provides you with someplace to login, send/get files and monitor the thing that's not called "Biology Dept Vax #2" or near offer. (IOW, it probably makes more sense if you've got more than one computer that needs distinguished.)

In the early days it was common for large businesses or campuses to choose names out of namespaces, such as (AFAICR) wildflowers for at least some part of Stanford's research establishment, and geological formations for their geology department. UTexas had the usual stars for workstation names (hat tip to them all being Suns) except for the so-called "Disney cluster" used by individually funded students, named for the seven dwarfs.

When I worked at an Apollo-using facility, all the machines were single-user and named after their "owners". Another place, one of the development computers, the one with the not-yet-totally-debugged OEM hardware attached, was called "yoyo". Three guesses what it spent most of its time doing. My last startup, the main code repository was called "redwine". Working off that, I called my dual-boot machine that managed the repository "prosecco", because it was slightly fizzy and would sometimes just pop out of existence and boot the other system.

We sometimes name our house computers and sometimes not; it's gotten a little more urgent what with lots o'stuff on HouseNet. I have named all my Windows boxen either after Wodehouse servants (saving the butlers for Linux machines) or after windows-related architectural features--mullion, oriel, serlio. The printers are named after historical presses: caxton and aldine (guess clarendon is next?).

#73 ::: Bernard Yeh ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 06:52 PM:

A quick question to the powers-that-be:
What happened to the search box that used to be on the left sidebar of the front page of Making Light?

(At least, it is no longer appearing when viewed on Firefox 9.0.1 on Mac OS X)

#74 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 07:34 PM:

62, 67: This is recommended in the awesome book Traffic. There is good data showing that if as few as 20-30% of the cars in a given highway situation are using a new high-end doohickey called 'adaptive cruise control', concussive-braking traffic jams just simply stop happening.

Adaptive cruise control (coming just about now to a variety of 30K-and-up luxury cars near you, and probably trickling down to econoboxes in a decade or so) uses IR or radar to keep an eye on how close it is to the car in front of it. Then you tell it, as it were, "I prefer to go 68mpg, but no closer than 1.5 car lengths to the guy in front of me," and it makes it so, leaving you free to concentrate on steering and emergency car maneuvers.

BMW and other high-end German car makers tested it on Autobahns and were surprised to see the traffic waves disappear at such a low saturation point (they were, as it were, flashmobbing the highways specifically to get a lot of their cars on them at rush hour in specific several-kilometer segments to make sure the things would react well to being right behind ANOTHER car with the same system -- important safety test, there).

#75 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 07:37 PM:

My home computers have names, strictly for networking purposes, like "slackwarelaptop" and "ubuntugame" and "windowsminitower." Descriptional, with no emotional investment.

There used to be an "aquatic theme" naming convention for the video servers at work. I got tired of names like starfish, octopus, and whale, and named my servers wiwaxia, anomalocaris, pikaia, opabinia and halluciagenia. I posted pictures of these creatures in my cubicle, in case co-workers wonder what the hell I'm going on about.

Lately, there's been too much turnover in servers, so they get generated names.

#76 ::: emilly ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 07:50 PM:

Lizzy L at 68:

I don't really think my laptop has a personality, except when I'm mad at it & accuse it of being difficult on purpose. We've always named computers in our house, at least partially so that the list of shared computers in our household isn't:
"The desktop in the loungeroom"
"Emilly's laptop"
"Danni's laptop"
"Emilly's phone" etc. Cause I think that's boring, although informative, I guess!

Plus, like etv13 at 64: it's just more fun if they have names.

#77 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 08:01 PM:

My bicycle is "Panther." Because it is black, and came with off-road tires. (Between those, and the mountain-gear, it feels like you could climb trees with it.)

(Knock on wood) All of my macs have been so completely reliable and predictable that they have no discernable personality to speak of, and so have the names they came with: SE/30, iBook, MacBook.

#78 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 08:28 PM:

I don't name my computers, but I name my cars and harps. Several of my cars have been named Simba (Up, Simba!). Harps include Ace, Sterling (because it's a mule), and Conan.

An old friend of mine, a herald, had a license plate reading GULES, heraldry-speak as well as French for red, which his car was. The car's name was actually something else. His therapist asked him about it, and upon receiving the heraldic explanation, declared "But people don't name their cars!". He changed therapists.

#79 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 08:34 PM:

Fragano @10: *claps hands in delight* Now that is like the sun coming out. Thank you! (Also, it was so very good to see you last month.)

Re: Aubrey/Maturin, my small tribute, written for Mary Dell, is here. It contains a sloth reference. Sloths are compulsory. *grin*

#80 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 08:57 PM:

Kip W @ 65 -

That episode was Requiem for Methuselah.

When I first saw that episode, I thought the ending was poignant and Spock was giving Kirk a lovely gift. Later, however, I thought that Spock was taking something from Kirk that he shouldn't have. Memories can be painful, but I don't think they should be removed without consent.

#81 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 09:01 PM:

AKICIML: What the heck does AKICIML mean? TKS.

#82 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 09:07 PM:

Brenda @77 AKICIML = All Knowledge Is Contained In Making Light

that is, a request for random information that someone around here probably knows

#83 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 09:09 PM:

Lizzy, my first car was named for the person who gave him to me. My second needed a name because the first one had one. The next car will as well. No one in my family be me seems to have named their cars, though my boyfriend does too.

The first ipod was named "necessary," because it required a name, and I was trying to keep my organizing system and calendar on it, and it was necessary to carry it around. The second is named "joy," because it gives me that.

School computer was Jonas, home computer was Jonah. Again, I had to name them something to keep the computer node servers happy.

The only other things I name are stuffed animals.

#84 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 09:19 PM:

Open threadiness:

Discussions of Kropotkin and references to a Gutenberg ebook in English made me curious enough to download and start reading Mutual Aid, which is so far quite interesting. (I think I want to go back after this and reread The Super-Organism.). Very early in the book, I ran across a very interesting quote:

Mutual aid is met with even amidst the lowest animals, and we must be prepared to learn some day, from the students of  micro scopical pond-life, facts of unconscious mutual support, even from the life of  micro -organisms

Now, as I'm reading this, I'm thinking about biofilms and quorum sensing. I think neither one was much known for several decades after he wrote the book.

#85 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 09:20 PM:

On the recent Gnome Uprising:

As you recall, we have spam filters here of surprising depth and subtlety, constantly being tuned to take in the spammers' tricks.

The biggest wave of spam usually hits between 0400 and 0500 Eastern time, but there's a steady drum-roll all day.

The filters catch most of the spam, but occasionally some of it gets through, and I must tune the filters. Also occasionally, a real message gets caught, and I must tune the filters.

Some will have noticed that, from time to time, a huge wave of spam appears, seemingly all at once.

What I have noticed is this: For some reason, unknown to me, from time to time Movable Type's back end reverts the spam filter (a text file; a long list of PERL expressions) to some previous iteration.

This evening, just such a thing had happened. I have taken to putting a date/time group as a comment as the last thing I do before I save the current filter. Tonight -- it had reverted to the version from the morning of February the 6th. I'd lost 10 days of filtering tweaks.

But! This time, I'd saved a copy of the filter (from the 10th, so I still lost nearly a week), as a wordprocessing file. So, I pasted that file in. Added the patterns from today's crop of spam. Then I went to dinner.

Alas! What I did not notice was that the wordprocessor didn't save the Russian characters that I filter on (among many, many other things). Thus, the Gnomes were holding for review every post that contained a blank space.

When I noticed this, I hastened to release everything that was non-spam (some spam comments had come in too, in the midst of all this).

I think I have 'em all back and posted now.

#86 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 09:35 PM:

Jim @85: Thank you for the explanation.

Open Threadiness documentary recommendation: The Black Power Mixtape (

I'm about halfway through because I keep having to go rewind so I can rewatch some bits. The film looks at the black power movement in the US between 1967 and 1975. I was alive then, but only really aware of what was going on in the last few years of that period.

#87 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 09:45 PM:

Hosting Matters, which hosts my site and this one among thousands, calls its servers all manner of things. The most recent naming convention I noticed was this: wyeth, mondriaan, and magritte.

#88 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 09:46 PM:

Tracie, 70: No, "gules" is English heraldic terminology. French heralds say "gueules" instead of "rouge."

This comment brought to you by AP*ICIML.


#89 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 10:26 PM:

Marty in Boise @70: Does your state do 7 letters? How about VLADTHE?

Steve C @80: Kirk did not ask to be made to fall in love with her, and the memory was nothing but pain. I think Spock did the right thing.

#90 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 10:30 PM:

It was quite a gnome festival there for a while. Thanks for fixing stuff, Jim!

#91 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 10:36 PM:

Lizzy @68: I'm another non-namer. Don't know why, but it just doesn't seem important to me for objects. Animals, now -- that's different!

#92 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 10:36 PM:

Our computer naming scheme is my husband's; his computer is katana, mine is naginata, and i think there's a shuriken and a kama in amongst the netbooks, laptops, and shuttlecase.
One day I felt a little OCD and named all our thumb drives after the Flash - Wally West, Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, Bart Allen.
My first ipod was a hand-me-down that always had to be force-restarted after waking from sleep mode. I named it malus fusca after the local crabapple species.

#93 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 10:57 PM:

I've had two PowerBooks named dynamic, the first was a duo, and the second had a core duo processor. My first car was named Sniffer (79 rabbit), the second Horatio(civic wagon). Neither of them were my names, but they fit. This iPad is named YT, and my gen1 one is named Paddington. Also around the house, I have aieee (eeepc), adam(atom based Linux box), phantom (work linux, it's dark. It's heart is black).

#94 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 11:04 PM:

Well, you have to name disks something. My PowerBook hard drive is Macheath. The red portable hard drive with half a gig is Alfred ('alf...), and the two terabye external drive is Tutti. There have been other names along the way. I used to name cars. In fact, I'm pretty sure I did name the Element, and when I can think of the name again, I'll write it down somewhere.

The earliest Williams car name I remember is a semi-legendary family car named Beeping Booty. This name broke me up when I was a kid.

#95 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 11:23 PM:

Kip W @ 65... Steve C @ 80...

"I was born in that region of Earth later called Mesopotamia, in the year 3834 B.C., as the millennia are reckoned. I was Akharin, a soldier, a bully and a fool. I fell in battle, pierced to the heart - and did not die. "

One of the better episodes of the 3rd Season.

#96 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 11:28 PM:

I have a dual boot Windows/Ubuntu machine. Its names are Cox and Box.

Before that I had a Mac named King Alfred.

#97 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 11:36 PM:

My computers tend to have names. Ditto the cars I've owned.

My first car was a Betsy. The second was, I think, Sissy.

The current computer (a laptop) is called Junior (because at the time I named it, it was the newest of the suite). I had another laptop (an older model) which goes by the name of "Miss Bill", or Wilhemina. The last desktop I owned was called Charlie.

The next MP3 player I purchase (should my current one eventually reach the point of non-functionality) will probably be called either "Orac" or "Slave" - because the current one is a Creative Zen.

#98 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 11:55 PM:

Kip, #65: Tangentially, that scene also contrasts nicely with the one in Wrath of Khan where Spock (in a rather different situation) says to McCoy, "Remember."

Lizzy, #68: It seems to me that at least part of the reason some people name some objects is anthropomorphization. If you think of your car, or your computer, as having a distinct personality, then giving it a name seems like a natural sort of thing to do. Irresistible puns are another common reason.

Jim, #85: Thanks for the explanation. I figured that something had gone spla* when the third comment in a row got gnomed, and decided to wait for it to be fixed.

shadowsong, #92: Oh, that's cute with the flash drives!

* Yes, spla. Not splat, not spare. It's a personal idiom. :-)

#99 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: February 16, 2012, 11:56 PM:

Jacque at 62:
but a uniform distribution in the traffic would mean there are no gaps in it, which would mean it would have no resiliency to a sudden change of pressure.

#100 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 12:34 AM:

HLN: Local man wakes up with toothache, is told a root canal and crown would cost a thousand dollars, an extraction just $80, wonders why dental care is still not covered by medical insurance.

Pedantic Peasant @33: My brain has a hard time reminding itself not to envy you your possession of a GPS named "Dawnstar", since it won't really have her bod. And speaking of immaturity...

Modesto Kid @39: While reading to my son, his age then single-digit, he interrupted to confess that he still felt the urge to giggle when he heard the word "poopdeck". I had to admit that I did, too.

Albatross @84 re Kropotkin anticipating the discovery of co-operation among micro-organisms: I am reminded of my mother's observation that the genius of Hieronymus Bosch was not appreciated by most modern people, who had grown up seeing pictures of sea-bottom life, fossils and, for that matter, micro-organisms.

Most cars we own have names like "the Dodge", "the Volvo", &c., but I named the VW van I drove my kids around in "the Scarabaeus" because of its resemblance to the classic early minivan, the Scarab (now, we don't have that van, and the kids have all moved out). I named our current Ford Escort "Sputnik" because an error in its wiring causes it to beep incessantly whenever one of the doors is open.

#101 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 12:56 AM:

@Lee: If you think of your car, or your computer, as having a distinct personality, then giving it a name seems like a natural sort of thing to do. Yeah, I get that. I guess I lack the particular sense of whimsy which would allow me to attribute a personality to my car or my computer. My sense of humor is sometimes dormant. Or perhaps I am humor-deficient.

#102 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 01:19 AM:

Lizzy @101:

It's not really about whimsy, or sense of humor. It's (in my opinion) simply about where your line between "person" and "thing" is placed. Which is, I suspect, neurological in origin, where a broad variety of different behaviors are all within the bounds of normal.

Think of it this way. Our more complex devices—cars, computers, a few other things—have a wide range of interaction patterns with us. Over time, those devices, being complex, fall into various failure modes and patterns.

Depending on how the space between your ears is wired, those patterns of interaction and failure can cross the threshold into "person-like behavior". For people who do that, it's like the device acquiring, or revealing, a personality (note how many people talk about their named things "revealing" their names over time). Then the naming is just picking a name that, in their private universe of nomenclature, fits that personality.

It's not whimsy. Indeed, if you get a particularly failure-prone car, it can be like having a colleague you loathe, but can't afford to quit working with.

The only context in which I can see it mattering in the least, one way or the other, is if it turns out that aliens who arrive on Earth only ping some people's "these are people" (as opposed to "these are objects") meters. Then, I suspect, you'd see a genuine split between the car-namers and the not-car-namers.

(There are also those of us who name our devices because of tradition. My parents named their cars when I was a kid; therefore, car-naming is a thing that one does in my universe. I name my bikes because naming cars, for me, is naming transportation devices, and now I cycle more than I drive. We name our computers because that way it's easier to manage our network.)

#103 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 01:20 AM:

In addition to, and somewhat in the stead of, anthropomorphization, there's also the desire to individualize mass-produced objects. So, my bicycle isn't just another one of that Canadian Tire style that happened to suit me; it's Marie. This is a bit like adding decals or skins to electronics. My bike doesn't have a personality, but she does have a history with me, and I reflect that by naming her.

Or, in the case of stuffed animals, it's usually flat rebellion against the company's attempt to impose a name, especially if I feel it clashes (I've accepted them if they fit). So my stuftie isn't another Ty beanie Colosso, it's Katie, my pygmy mammoth. (Colosso? What were they thinking?)

However, I personally also find myself afflicted with a hyperactive naming impulse. Because I need to use it so much to name characters, it persists in running in the unconscious when not called upon, meaning I usually have a name before I look for one. This resulted once in my speaking the sentence "The new computer doesn't seem to have a name actually it's Arthur." (wording approximate; punctuation, or lack thereof, accurate to how it was spoken.)

I had a similar incident with my current cat; the Humane Society people had named her Irene, which fit her badly. I knew I wanted to change it, but not what to, until I got her home to the then-apartment. I let her out of the carrier, said goodbye to the friend who'd helped drive her home, turned around to find her, and said, "Élise?"

(Someone pointed out later that had I pronounced it in German rather than French, I could have called her Fur Elise...)

Which segues nicely into the fact that, yes, the inability to resist puns and silly references also comes into play. Thus the Mechanical Orchestra (my MP3 player), the Angry Chicken (my mandolin -- an in joke between me and my teacher), and the Silly Goose (the octave mandolin, continuing the trend).

#104 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 01:21 AM:

In addition to, and somewhat in the stead of, anthropomorphization, there's also the desire to individualize mass-produced objects. So, my bicycle isn't just another one of that Canadian Tire style that happened to suit me; it's Marie. This is a bit like adding decals or skins to electronics. My bike doesn't have a personality, but she does have a history with me, and I reflect that by naming her.

Or, in the case of stuffed animals, it's usually flat rebellion against the company's attempt to impose a name, especially if I feel it clashes (I've accepted them if they fit). So my stuftie isn't another Ty beanie Colosso (ugh), it's Katie, my pygmy mammoth.

However, I personally also find myself afflicted with a hyperactive naming impulse. Because I need to use it so much to name characters, it persists in running in the unconscious when not called upon, meaning I usually have a name before I look for one. This resulted once in my speaking the sentence "The new computer doesn't seem to have a name actually it's Arthur." (wording approximate; punctuation, or lack thereof, accurate to how it was spoken.)

I had a similar incident with my current cat; the Humane Society people had named her Irene, which fit her badly. I knew I wanted to change it, but not what to, until I got her home to the then-apartment. I let her out of the carrier, said goodbye to the friend who'd helped drive her home, turned around to find her, and said, "Élise?"

(Someone pointed out later that had I pronounced it in German rather than French, I could have called her Fur Elise...)

Which segues nicely into the fact that, yes, the inability to resist puns and silly references also comes into play. Thus the Mechanical Orchestra (my MP3 player), the Angry Chicken (my mandolin -- an in joke between me and my teacher), and the Silly Goose (the octave mandolin, continuing the trend).

#105 ::: Lenora Rose screwed up... ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 01:25 AM:


The first of the near-double posts was meant to be a preview. The second is the comment as intended to be posted. This $&^%@# laptop (not my computer and not named) has a mouse button that sometimes triggers if you wave vaguely in its direction.

#106 ::: debio ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 01:39 AM:

Some objects definitely deserve names. Some definitely have personalities.

My brother-in-law's old multi-disk CD player had favorite songs, and favorite CDs. It would only play those CDs and songs, no matter how you placed them.

I worked the computer lab in college as work study. The Lab Monitor Guy. I swear that some computers in that lab hated certain students and would refuse to function properly for them. As soon as that student left or moved to a different computer, it would suddenly start working properly again.

So I am definitely in the name them, camp.

#107 ::: debio ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 01:44 AM:

Lenora @ 105 The first of the near-double posts was meant to be a preview. The second is the comment as intended to be posted. This $&^%@# laptop (not my computer and not named) has a mouse button that sometimes triggers if you wave vaguely in its direction.

Cross posted, but, see. Evidence for my point.
Don't make em mad.

#108 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 01:50 AM:

I adored the Hornblower books as a teenager, and re-read them once or twice as a young adult. More recently, I thoroughly enjoyed the Aubrey-Maturin series, so it comes as no surprise that I gobbled up the Hornblower miniseries with Ioan Gruffudd. However, when watching it, I was reduced to apoplexy during some of the sea battles, crying out things like "NO! NO! Pound his hull!!!" I haven't been tempted to re-read the Hornblower books in some time, for I fear that the view of manly virtues circa 1937-1967 might jar me these days.

I've catalogued quite a few of my books on LibraryThing, and one of the features it offers is comparing the contents of your library with Legacy libraries. These are the libraries of various famous people that have been catalogued by enthusiastic volunteers. I was amused to find that Hemingway shared my love of Hornblower. The other authors that seem to show up in any 20th century library are Jane Austen, P.G. Wodehouse, and Stendhal. Jane Eyre is pretty ubiquitous, too. People who read it include Hemingway, Emily Dickinson and Susan B. Anthony. Wouldn't it be grand to get the three of them together to discuss it?

#109 ::: Russell Letson ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 01:57 AM:

We don't name our possessions*, but we did name our late cat for our car--or, to be precise, for half of the license plate, which began EVA. (She was one of a litter abandoned in the garage, out of which I spent six months taming her and her brothers.) Did we get something backwards?

The Aubrey-Maturin books are too full of splendid sentences for me to pick any--though I have been known to burden my wife with a reading of a current favorite. And speaking of splendid writers, Reginald Hill died and I'm going to miss the Fat Man and the rest of them a lot. At least Martin Cruz Smith seems to be hanging on.

*I do refer to one of my guitars as "Mr. Froggy" (for the tree-frog decorating its headstock), mostly because my vision-impaired picking partner asks what guitar I've brought to a gig and I have two by the same builder and if I just say, "The Cloutier," he still wouldn't know which one. The other Cloutier I call "the other Cloutier" and he knows what I mean. Which reminds me, I'm told that when I was very young I thought the term for car was "sonofabitch" because the family vehicle right after the war (WW2--the big one) was an ancient, arthritic Pierce-Arrow and that's what Dad called it. That's not quite the same as giving it a name, though.

#110 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 02:13 AM:

It has been A Day--much if it good, which I would not have anticipated at the time of my last post.

It only took me another hour to catch the 3 feral-borns (***sigh***), and then I was off. When I got to the vet's office, the receptionist mentioned that the cats weren't marked as being up to date on their shots. Which I agreed was the case, so she said she'd tell the tech who was putting them in their cages, so that if a contagious pet came in, that pet could be kept as far as possible from mine.

The tech came back and said the vet said the cats had to be vaccinated to stay--but he'd give me time to pay off the shots. All praises to my vet for being an awesome human being. :)

After leaving the office, I called one of my friends who had left a comment requesting same on an FB post I made this morning, of about the same tenor as the one I left here but without the good news about my vet's offering to board the cats. So. called her back, and almost the first thing she said was, "So would it help you if I paid for the cats' shots?" I explained the newest developments and said yes, so she asked for their name and phone number and said she'd call in the payment.

Went to Social Services afterward to get the replacement forms I needed (due to missing paperwork of last Friday). Because I didn't have an appointment, I again had to see a lobby caseworker--same guy as had taken my paperwork last Friday. He did say that he'd taken it upstairs per standard procedure, so he was at a loss to explain the...loss. (Heh.) He told me he couldn't give me a voucher for emergency housing at a motel--and made the same kind of comments about the selection of motels accepting county housing vouchers as the woman at the PATH shelter had made about the "winter" shelter.

General observation: Is it me, or does the fact that people within the "helping the homeless" field, whether government or private, are making generally negative comments about their available accommodations sound like there's room for improvement? I'm sure it all comes down to money, as in who's willing to house people for the likely pittance the county pays them, but damn.

The system, it seems muchly broken. Which is no surprise, really; I just never expected to have first-hand experience. Privilege in action, I guess.

Left Social Services with my replacement forms and a comment from my caseworker that if I arrived at the office before 10:00 AM, he would see me, so that's my goal: get all the catching-up stuff pulled together early, and get printing, etc., done by 8:30 or 9:00.

As to where I'm sleeping tonight, my friend E called while I was visiting Damon, so I called her back before returning to the apartment to finish packing. And when I told her the good news about the cats, she said that since she was out of town until Monday, I was more than welcome to stay at her place--all I had to do was pick up the spare key from her sister.

(The only reason she hasn't told me I could just move in with her, she confessed today, is her allergy to cats--which I completely understand, since she has enough breathing issues as it is. She also has a dog, and a doggie door, and while the dog himself might not be an issue--although my cats have never been around dogs and would likely find the experience...difficult--it's the chance they'd get out the doggie door and go on permanent walkabout that really concerns me.)

tl:dr: the cats are set for a few days, and so am I. And I am INCREDIBLY grateful for my friends--I have the distinct feeling that it will be due to their efforts, even more than my own, that I'll get out of this okay.

Now it's on to the work of finding a job.

I think I'll sleep well tonight. :)

#111 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 02:29 AM:

He tinctured Catullus-and-water;
Diana he hunted, who fled him;
He, darker twin, never caught her,
And they that he bled ever bled him.
A polyglot phoenix musician;
Of bangles that murder, the buyer;
No surgeon: he was a physician,
Tormented by rack and by fire.
His catlin could kill, or could cure.
In pity he sailed; pity harboured -
Except for himself. Never sure
Of the odds between topside and larboard.
A paladin, subfusc and shabby,
As strange then as now. Equally
The friend of the mongrel and tabby,
A champion of liberty.
Perhaps he was dark; he had reason.
Perhaps in Jack's light he was shade.
But we must have the autumn - the season
To remember how summer was made.

#112 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 02:38 AM:

joann @ 72:

One of the reasons that many of us who were involved with Unix computers in the 1970s and 80s named our computers is that the uucp unix-to-unix file transfer program used to send email required a complete machine-to-machine path (called a bangpath, because it was punctuated by exclamation marks: tinkers!evers!chance would send an email to host machine chance by way of tinkers and evers). So if you wanted to receive email on a particular computer, it had to have an externally-known name. Given that, and the nature of Unix hackers, whimsy necessarily followed.

#113 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 03:11 AM:

James D. Macdonald @85: Ah, makes sense. Please accept my gratitude for the work that you and the other mods put into keeping Making Light humming along.

When my comments went walkies, I figured it was something Deep and Subtle; my apologies to abi for the back-channel panic.

#114 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 03:19 AM:

Jacque @113:

You were not the only one to email me, but I was, in point of fact, asleep throughout the entire adventure.

Which adventure gives me the opportunity to point out how very awesome indeed our Mr Macdonald and His Marvelous Spam-Trapping Machine are. Because they really are.

#115 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 03:46 AM:

Syd @110: really glad you're sorted for the next few days, at least. Good luck on the job hunt - I do realise it's all tied up: if you had a job, you'd have money for rent and could find somewhere to live... Is it worth asking your vet/vet's receptionist that you're looking for somewhere? They might know of an animal shelter somewhere looking for a live-in animal caretaker, for example, if you're willing to do that for the moment.

And, I think it's time for another {{{{{HUG}}}}}. Sorry our spare room is a continent and an ocean away from you.

#116 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 03:54 AM:

Lenora Rose @104: my current cat; the Humane Society people had named her Irene, which fit her badly.

I avoid renaming guinea pigs when they come into my home, because they do know their names, and I figure they've got enough to cope with, learning to deal with a new human and all.

But then there was the first boar to come into my house. (A magnificient long-hair—at least when he was all combed out. In his natural state—well, one friend commented that he looked like a cheap toupée.) His previous humans had named him, for all love, "Puffy." So I named him after the kid who helped me carry his cage home: Logan. Which eventually (inevitably?) evolved to Mr. Fuzzy Logan. Which was fine, until I adopted Fuzzy from another friend.

When a new name is required, I've learned to come up with something promptly, or they wind up with names like Brown Pig and Little Pig. Brown Pig eventually became Walnut, but Little Pig lived out her days with that designation. Strangely, it actually suited her, even after she outgrew it.

(When I first brought her home, I could tuck her into a shirt pocket. That winter, she became accustomed, when it was her turn to snuggle, to stretching out along my shoulder under my sweater. Spring, then summer, then fall came and went, and when it was time to get out the sweater again—WTF!? What happened to Mommy's shoulder!? It shrank! Now she had to sprawl across my shoulder and all the way down to my elbow.)

My current crew includes, as has been mentioned here before, Gustav. She got this name because (a) it's impossible to sex guinea pigs until they're about two weeks old and (b) that was the name of the hurricane that was in the news when she was born. I figured it was apt, since, being an emergency C-section, she had a similar effect on my finances.

It's fascinating how bothered people get by a female guinea pig named Gustav. I've gotten so used to it that the name doesn't have any gender to me anymore.

I could have called her Fur Elise...


debio @107 I swear that some computers in that lab hated certain students and would refuse to function properly for them.

I am minded of the ancient and decrepit copier in the CU Physics Department, the summer I temped there a few years ago. Some days, it was obviously feeling terrible, and would only function when offered kind words and copious encouragement. One of the TAs (a young Chinese woman) came in to copy a quiz. I told her this. She looked at me like she thought I was crazy. But sure enough, the minute I'd leave the room, the copier would jam. I'd come in, clear the jam, pat it on the casing, tell it that it was a good copier, that it could do it, and it would be off rolling again. Until I left the room.

Don't make em mad.

They have stress sensors, you know. Copiers do, too.

Russell Letson @109: I'm told that when I was very young I thought the term for car was "sonofabitch"

Susan Crites says that when she was young, she had a horse who, she was convinced, thought his name was "Whoa Bill Dammit."

Syd: I'm so happy y'all have a bit of a respite. Yeah, the safety net in this country is, shall we say, a bit tattered. Scary shit, frankly. I've been through a couple of rounds, and things are better than average where I am. But, I'm grateful not to have had to test out the local accomodations. Sleep well and long!

abi @114: I was, in point of fact, asleep throughout the entire adventure.

Exceedingly sensible, I must say.

BTW, I presume it's been pondered that The Sun Never Sets on Making Light, yes?

Mr Macdonald and His Marvelous Spam-Trapping Machine

I'm envisioning something like a lint-trap, only with gears, levers, antennae, and dasblinkenlights.

#117 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 05:50 AM:

Syd, somewhat disguised @ #110:

Hurrah for good news! May there be more of the same in days and weeks to come.

#118 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 05:56 AM:

Steve C. @ #80: I thought that Spock was taking something from Kirk that he shouldn't have. Memories can be painful, but I don't think they should be removed without consent.

What's more, if memory serves there's a later episode in which Kirk is offered a similar service by somebody who does ask for his consent first - and he says No.

"Pain and guilt can't be taken away with the wave of a magic wand. They're the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves."

#119 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 06:02 AM:

On the naming of things:

I'm not one to anthropomorphize, generally; I only name my computers, and like several people who have answered already that's mostly about identifying them on networks. Which is one reason why they're named after places, not people... and also a reason why they're named after the places they are: The first one came down to a choice between "Gallifrey" and "Skaro", and I decided that Skaro was easier to type and harder to misspell, and everything since has followed from that.

#120 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 07:10 AM:

Syd @110, glad you've got things stable for the moment. Best wishes for continued improvement in the situation.

#121 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 08:10 AM:

janetl @ 108... I thought the sea battle in the 1951 movie was pretty neat.

#122 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 08:18 AM:

Last night I took the kindergardener to his sister's 6th grade orchestral concert. He got really into the music, humming to himself and beating time. I was quite annoyed with him, and resolved to speak severely to him afterwards, when suddenly I realized why the whole thing seemed strangely familiar . . .

#123 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 08:25 AM:

abi #102: Well put. I'll note also that humans in general are wired to seek personalities around them, it's just the sensitivity that varies among individuals. Just so were born the ancient gods of river and ocean, mountain and forest, storm and sun.

My PCs tend to have somewhat arbitrary names, though for a while I had a run of furry critters. I've never renamed a pet that had a name -- it just seemed presumptuous.

Syd #110: Also, both "human shelters" are themselves likely overloaded and underfunded. Their respective representatives almost surely have standing orders to discourage new "customers", and talking the place scary is easy.

#124 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 08:40 AM:

My first car was called "Buddy", because that's what I called it when I needed to get it out of a snowdrift. It was a teeny little Toyota, and I sometmes referred to it as "my familiar". None of my cars since have been named. At the moment we have "the Cavalier" and "the Aveo". (If I give in to impulse and buy an Impala, I'm going to name it Dean. Because I'm a geek that way.)

I name my computers for networking purposes. The Vaio was "FoxDen"; my current Alienware monster is "GamerGurl".

I would name things more often if I were good at coming up with awesome names, but in fact I suck at that.

#125 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 08:50 AM:

Syd at 110, this is good news, that the cats have a place to stay, and that you do, even though it's very short term.

I'm re-posting a suggestion I made earlier. You might consider putting the boarding facility's name and contact info, phone number, etc. in a post here. Include the cats' names, or your name -- some way so that the facility can identify to whom the funds should be credited. Folks on Making Light who wish to help you -- and there might be some, don'tcha think? -- can then contact the facility directly.

#126 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 08:58 AM:

AKICIML: When I was at CMU, in the mid-90s, there was a game on the server called "Antitris". It was, as the name implies, a Tetris variant, which used the standard Tetris pieces but in one of the six "rainbow" colors. To make squares go away, you had to make them contain all three primaries (red, yellow, blue), at which point the squares would turn white and vanish and everything above them would fall down. No color could go through itself; thus, a green piece could not fall through a square that already contained blue, yellow, purple, orange, or green, but it could fall through red.

Since I left CMU, I have been on a quest to discover a version of that game again. Anyone got a hint?

#127 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 09:14 AM:

This little Popean fragment just slipped out this morning....

Attend, O public, to my supple song
It is of moment but it won't last long,
Think how the world, in these dank, cheerless days
Could be improved by Satire's fiery blaze.
But no lampooning could produce the pain
Of list'ning to a speech from Herman Cain;
Of knowledge of the world he gave no sign
But like a dullard uttered 'nine-nine-nine'.
'Twas not that did him in, I shall be clear,
But an excessive liking for the fair.
Rick Perry strode so handsome on the stage,
Proclaimed himself the Hero of our Age
And truest Guardian of good Christian Rage.
Alas for him, this Spokesman of the South
Could not connect his mind unto his mouth.
The fist was small, the latter seemed so large
But could not function even at full charge.
The lady Bachmann said that she was sent
By God's command; she lost and so she went
Right back to Minnesota where she rants
Ignored by all except the Flies and Ants.
But now, as we survey the meeting hall
Behold the earnest visage of Ron Paul.
He wants the government to do fuck-all
Yet thousands think he's Jefferson return'd,
The brilliant leader for whom they've yearn'd.
Onward he leads his happy, crazy band
With a mad mix of Jesusand Ayn Rand.
And who is this who comes into our forum?
The sweater-vested, frothy Rick Santorum.
The problems of the poor do not him vex,
Instead he worries about man-dog Sex.
The great crusade that he has in his sights
Is that of cutting back on Women's rights,
On those of Fays, Latinos, and of Blacks,
Because that way the rich will pay less tax.
Now Doctor Gingrich makes the ladies swoon
With talk of bases on Mars and the Moon,
He's go to any length, will lack all ruth,
But damn it all, will never tell the truth.
He has a plan to get us out of debt
By staking all on an enormous bet
That wealthy folk are selfless. That's a bitch
Leaving the poor at mercy of the rich.
Willard declares that he's truly the One,
Ordained by Heaven, the true, blessèd son
Who has come to save us, to take us higher,
And we should rejoice for he loves to fire.
Romney's the Savior, worthy of each vote,
Even from those who can't stay afloat;
He sympathises, he'll write them a note
Explaining why each poor person's to blame
For outsourcing. Isn't that such a huge shame?
Barack Obama looks, and shakes his head
At this assemblage of the living dead.
For, like the rest of us, he's of the part
That manages to have both brain and heart.

#128 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 09:18 AM:

elise #79: Thank you! It was great seeing you last month also.

#129 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 09:37 AM:

Lee @98: Huh. That never, in all these years, occurred to me, but you're right. Cool.

Lenora Rose @103: For a while, we had a '66 VW Beetle that we called Alexander. I bet nobody else ever thought of that one. Years later, I got a rather large and very detailed metal replica for a stunningly cheap price, with the exact same paint color. It still pleases me when I notice it.

Russell Letson @109: Froggy is your magic twanger? Me confusedly!

#130 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 10:10 AM:

Syd: echoing others' good wishes.

Re: renaming of pets:

My first roommate had a black-and-white cat with a long name that suited her not at all and which she ignored. My roommate's mother had named her. When she and my roommate and I began to live together, my roommate announced that she (the human) had been trying to rename the cat, who was then around 5, with no success.

I looked at the cat and said, "her name is Spot."

And it was.

She answered to it right away and remained Spot to the end of her days, some years later.

#131 ::: Marty In Boise ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 10:32 AM:

abi @ 102: if you get a particularly failure-prone car, it can be like having a colleague you loathe, but can't afford to quit working with

Oh, yes--My first named car was an oil-leaking Datsun 510, The Nissan Valdez.

KipW @ 89: Oh, golly...according to the Idaho DOT widget, "VLADTHE" is actually available. Now If I could just nudge the kerning a bit so it looks like there's a space...

#132 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 10:36 AM:

Jacque @116, in re renaming pets …

My current pair of beagles are both renamed, because they didn't answer to their 'old names' when I got them, and said names were STUPID and did not seem to fit. My older beagle, the utterly broken one, was initially 'Buttons'. I swore I would NOT name 'Cujo' because I told him repeatedly during his early civilization process that I was utterly DETERMINED that he should change sufficiently that people would ever after ask me why such a sweet pup was named Cujo. So he's Ajax now. The younger was 'Dino' when we got him, but didn't even vaguely answer to it. John wanted naming rights, so he sorted through the history of American naval vessels to find all the USS Ajaxes and looked up ships interacting with them to find a name for our second beagle, whose name is now Boston.

I had suggested as guidelines that if it started with B that could become a trend for us, and reserved veto rights over names with consonants dogs find it hard to distinguish. An early favorite was 'Bellerophon,' continuing both the ship and classical-reference threads, but you can't tell me we wouldn't shorten it over time, making him either "Bellie" (and we have friends with a dog whose name is Belle already) or "Fonnie," both of which felt wrong for him.

In re personifying machines … Graham Leathers does a very cromulent* song on this subject. It is entitled "Don't Swear at Machinery"; in the chorus that line is followed by the statement, "Cause it never listens to you!"

* Note: not a 'corpulent' song, which is what Firefox autocorrected it to, twice ...

#133 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 10:42 AM:

Melissa Singer @ 130... I looked at the cat and said, "her name is Spot."

Your middle name wouldn't happen to be Data, would it?

#134 ::: Elliott Mason was gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 10:43 AM:

For reasons I know not.

#135 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 10:51 AM:

Way back when, my family had an open-reel tape recorder which I called Cerberus, because it had 3 heads. When the left channel went out, a friend remarked that now it wasn't even a Janus.
Otherwise not much into naming objects, though I have been very attached to many. Often I have only one of something so don't need to tell several apart. One of the hallmarks of being a "thing-oriented" person is that however much individuality or "personality" some objects and structures have, there isn't the urge to give them human-like attributes or talk about them that way. As for humanoid genders applied to any inanimates, that always creeped me out bigtime, even before I learned the "facts of life". That's one of the reasons I don't hang out with the Objectum-Sexual community much any more--the other being that for me it wasn't sexual.
Sometimes I feel like the English language is missing a few noun classes and pronouns to match.
Syd--wishing best of luck for you and furry friends.

#136 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 10:51 AM:

Jacque, #116: Reminds me of my friends who swore that their cats' real names were "Anubis Jesus!", "Aradia Forghodsake!", and "Neko Quit!"

David H., #123: Our dog Sweetie came to us named that, and my mother refused to change it, but at least the name suited her. My first cat, OTOH, had been obnoxiously named by her former owners (she was missing a leg*, and they were calling her Peggy for "peg-leg"); I said the hell with that, and renamed her Genevieve. As she was still just a baby at the time, she had no trouble adjusting.

* Lost at birth, just above the hock -- the umbilical cord was wrapped around it, and when the mother cat went to separate the cord she got the leg with it. Being an indoor cat, this was never a great hardship; she got around just fine, and as a youngster loved running up and down the stairs!

#137 ::: Roy G. Ovrebo ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 11:05 AM:

I'm not one for naming inanimate objects either. My computers only get names for networking purposes. I never name cars - and I'm a total car nut.

#138 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 11:21 AM:

Re Spot -- My black cat was quite unimaginatively named Ebony at the pound. Who knows what she was named before that, but as soon as I saw the picture on their website, I thought she was the one and I'd call her Esme if she liked me. I flirted with a few other cats when I got there, just to be sure, but it was Esme I wanted. (She's recovering from having a broken tooth pulled and is happy to be home.)

#139 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 11:34 AM:

JanetL @108: If they pound the enemy's hull, it's "sink, burn, or destroy," and I suspect they were hoping to go for "take," prize-money being a thing not to be disdained, especially for a young man who can only afford pinchbeck buckles to his shoes!

Have you watched To the Ends of the Earth? It's become very popular among my online circle, due to the presence of Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston, neither of whom appeal to me in the same way as Ioan Gruffudd and Jamie Bamber, but my housemate and I watched it anyway, what with the convenience of Netflix Instant and the appeal of ships and period costumes. We discovered that we'd picked up more about the operation of a tall ship than we'd realized, because we were forever yelling at Benedict Cumberbatch to GO BELOW and GET OUT OF THE WAY, as the crew was trying to WORK, you idiot!

AKICIML: can anyone tell my why a ship bound for Australia would have carried a complement of green-coated riflemen instead of the usual red-coated Marines? Not that I objected to seeing the pretty Sharpe uniforms, but I haven't yet found the answer in online historical sources.

#140 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 11:38 AM:

Dave Luckett @111 - just wonderful.

#141 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 11:40 AM:

On the Naming of Cars:

It occurs to me that there are two emergent patterns in my naming of vehicles: I have only named vehicles that I bought new, and my named vehicles have had personalized plates totally unrelated to their names. The Tercel was named "Tiercel" (although I don't know that I ever really used the name functionally) but had a plate with a condensed form of my (then) SCA name. The Element is named "Viridium" (because it's a green element) but has a plate originally designed by my parents which came to me attached to a different car when I got it second-hand. (Long complicated story that makes perfect sense if you're a Jones.) That one's in Czech: "s'laskou" (except without the apostrophe on the plate). Every once in a while random strangers correctly identify the meaning. But about the only place I actually use the name Viridium is as the file name in my auto data iPhone app.

But then, when talking about my named possessions to the world, I rarely find that using their proper names enhances clear communication. So it's "the car", and "the house" (my houses have all had names), and even simply "the cat" ... because it seems pretentious to expect people to remember what my cat's name is when all that is relevant is that I'm talking about my cat.

The computers and external drives have all had names, of course, but that's because they need quick visual identification.

#142 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 11:43 AM:

Per Lizzy L's suggestion, the pertinent info re: the vet's office where my kittehs currently abide has been forwarded to the wonderful abi for transmission to any interested parties.

Thank you all for your supportive words and kind thoughts...and any other assistance on behalf of the cats and me. It all helps more than you know. :)

#143 ::: Marty In Boise ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 11:51 AM:

Syd @ 110: The system, it seems muchly broken.

The truly awful thing is that this is increasingly a feature, not a bug. In election years, in some areas, it feels like candidates are almost competing to find ever more creative ways to humiliate people who need any social services--drug tests for unemployment and food stamps, and so on, because someone, somewhere, said they saw somebody buying a top sirloin with food stamps, or parking a Cadillac in front of public housing. See also Fox News's recent trumpeting of a Heritage Foundation report that revealed that many poor people own "luxury items" like refrigerators and "color TVs" (as if any other kind are still being sold?), or Rick Santorum's notion that nobody would have any trouble paying for medical care or prescriptions if they'd simply get rid of their iPhones and cable TV subscriptions.

#144 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 11:54 AM:

Rikibeth @ 138... It's become very popular among my online circle, due to the presence of Benedict Cumberbatch

...who also was in "Amazing Grace" with Ioan Gruffud, and with Paul Bettany in "Creation".

#145 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 11:55 AM:

Marty (142): Never mind color TVs, in what universe is a refrigerator a luxury item?? Without one, you almost have to eat out, which gets a lot more expensive. Or you can't buy milk for your kids without most of it going bad. Or, or, or...!

#146 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 12:15 PM:

The naming of cars is a difficult matter.

#147 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 12:23 PM:

I wonder if "My Mother The Car" is on NetFlix.

#148 ::: Marty In Boise ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 12:24 PM:

For the strong of stomach, that July 2011 Heritage Foundation report is here. Refudiated by any number of blogs, mostly invoking variations of "At long last, sir, have you no sense of shame?"

Which of course, they do not.

#149 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 12:34 PM:

Serge @146 -- or Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, or The Love Bug...

#150 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 12:41 PM:

I had a black and white cat named Spot. He adopted us during a period where dad was in and out of the hospital to knee surgery, subsequent infection and then gall bladder removal. The kids got out an old roll of blueprint (dad was an architect - unlimited blueprint paper and random templates [toilets!!] were a side benefit to us kids.) and crayons and made him a banner. We helpfully labelled the drawing of the new kitty as "New Cat". After looking at the banner, dad said the New Kitty was surely named Spot. The name stuck, but due to Dad's absence during those first couple of months, Spot never really warmed to him, only consenting to sit in dad's lap around year 17.

I tried to name my cello but nothing really fit. Maybe when I can afford to upgrade the new instrument will speak to me. I will be naming my new car (cross fingers, hopefully tomorrow) which will also technically be my first car. It may or may not be related to the plates I intend to get for it. In the spirit of Fat Tuesday, I was thinking of going with 2PACZKI, which I suppose would mean my car was named Paczek. I had considered CZRNBOG if it's a black car (after the Slavic god Czernobog) or maybe TRLOBYT (because the Honda Fits remind me of Trilobites) but I'm tempted to submit DUPEK1 and see if it gets flagged; I'm not sure there are enough people of Polish extraction at the CA DMV to recognize the word for "asshole".

#151 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 12:47 PM:

Marty, #142: It's even worse than that. The fact that the system is broken is used as support for the idea that government is broken and needs to be abolished. To that end, there's an incentive to break things even further.

Someone here once said that when you believe as an article of faith that government can't do anything right, you have no motivation to govern well. I see nothing in the current Republican Party to make me think that they were wrong.

#152 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 12:48 PM:

On the subject of renaming pets: I make a deliberate habit of it if said pet has been abused in his/her previous home. I don't want my dogs cringing when I call them. (Currently we have 4 dogs: 2 adopted from pounds, of which one had a name we kept and the other was a nameless stray; and two rescues from horrific situations, one of whom was renamed by the intake rescuer and the other by me.)

#153 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 12:57 PM:

Serge @143: I have a recently-purchased copy of "Amazing Grace" sitting on top of the computer right now, having muchly enjoyed it from Netflix - and, incidentally, said movie helped to confirm my opinion that Benedict Cumberbatch is sort of weird-looking in any role other than Sherlock Holmes.

I will have to look into "Creation." Paul Bettany is definitely a draw.

#154 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 01:10 PM:

WRT "My Mother the Car" it would appear to be viewable on Hulu.

#155 ::: Springtime for Spacers ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 01:36 PM:

I got a little Manx kitten from a shelter. His obnoxious name was Stumpy. I renamed him Tavy (from Octavius as we got him on the eighth of the eighth oh eight).

#156 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 01:49 PM:

When we got our last cat from the shelter, they were calling her "Patches". It seemed like a rather abject name for a calico with such a glorious range of colors including true rust, so we waited a week or so, and watched. After she spent enough time curled up on the sofa, it was easy to call her "Sophie".

Current Kitty was named "Cali" at the shelter, and that just didn't seem right either. As she's a Norwegian Forest mix, I put in some time looking out famous Norwegian females, but the only thing that seemed apropos was the only Miss World from Norway, whose first name was Mona. She's got this habit of sitting in Mona Lisa pose, so it really suits. (But then, I realized much later, so did Cali, if you change the spelling. Quite the little destroyer and muncher of toes.)

#157 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 01:54 PM:

nerdycellist @ 149: You might get away with it if you live in a not-very-Polish town. I knew a guy who tried to get SFACHIM as a vanity plate -- but he tried it in Huntington, NY, where there are lots of Italian people, some of whom work at the DMV.

Naming: Our cars are named Tiffany Aching and Ponder Stibbons according to me, or Tiffany and Stibbons according to Keith. We mostly just call them "the Prius" and "the Corolla," though.

All of the cats my parents have had were un-named to start with -- they were all kittens found abandoned. So they've gotten to name all their cats from scratch (sorry).

Their current cats got multisyllabic names -- Cassandra Jolie and Calypso Cherie. They were immediately shortened to Cassie and Callie, sometimes Cassie Jo and Calypso Callie Cat.

But the long-form names get used when the cats are in trouble -- just like with kids. "Cassandra Jolie! You are a little bad cat! You ate my headphones!" Handy to have long-form cat names for that purpose. "Cassandra Jolie!" is much better for expressing frustration than just "Fluffy!"

Our cats came named by their foster mom -- Ada from "Cold Mountain" and Joon from "Benny & Joon." We kept their names, but re-spelled June's, mostly because the reference wasn't explained to us at first, so we'd already started spelling it June.

However, if someone's name is what they respond to, then Ada's name is *snaps fingers* and June's name is *tut-tut clucking sound*. Keith taught them to come when called, but they learned to respond to the noises he made to get their attention, rather than to their spoken names.

When called from another room, they come enthusiastically trotting, tail held high, saying "Whrrr -- whrrr -- whrrrr?" and then usually headbutt you. If you call them from a few feet away, though, they'll usually just look at you like "Dude, I'm already here."

#158 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 01:59 PM:

Meanwhile, an article about kerning Japanese.

#159 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 02:29 PM:

Caroline @156: thanks for the lols "Dude, I'm already here" is a common experience in our household.

I've named 2 of the 4 cats I've lived with (not counting Spot).

The first was Thalia--the muse of comedy, for a cheerful beast who came to me when she was 8 weeks old and kept me laughing for 16 years. (half tabby, half Abby; she had a ringed tail, a fluffy coat, and a musical voice)

The second was Minerva, also 8 weeks old. I admit, I was hoping for wisdom, but she was dumb. Pretty, but dumb. (half goodness knows, half Russian blue; she had teddy bear fur in soft grey and no voice at all)

Alexis came to me already named and happily so. (brown-and-black tabby)

And Alex (brown-and-black tabby) was named by my daughter, who was then 9ish. I have now, btw, heard of at least two more black-and-brown tabbies named Alex, Alexis, or something similar, so clearly my kid snagged a free-floating meme.

Thalia and Alexis both came to their names. Minerva only came for food. Alex knows his name but only comes if he wants to.

#160 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 02:34 PM:

Syd: Continued well-wishes. Glad to hear there's a little breathing room for the cats.

It is possible they're exaggerating the state of the shelters to discourage you. I can see that as a viable technique. I wish I could be sure of that, though, and not just hopeful.

debio @ 107: Actually, I usually do get along with computers. Can't fix them, any more than an oft-considered congenial and trustworthy human will necessarily be a doctor. But this laptop is Not Mine, and I don't quite have the presumption to try and name a machine I don't own. (If I were to adopt it more permanently, I think I'd first get my trackball. And some kind of a word processing program; all I have here is Wordpad. But I've refused to move any of my files over from Arthur or the external hard drive on the network because this is Temporary. It's several months' temporary, not a few days, but even so.)

Jacque @ 116: I avoid renaming guinea pigs when they come into my home, because they do know their names, and I figure they've got enough to cope with, learning to deal with a new human and all.

Oh, I'd often agree. Had she the name from a previous owner of any length, I'd have kept it regardless of qualms (One of my friends ended up with a cat unfortunately named Treasure for that reason). But the Humane Society history made it clear she was a rescue from the street, so the name wasn't one she was attached to. (Not a feral, she's fairly social.) Similarly, the other cat, when adopted by my brother, was named Capone, but had only been saddled with the name for a couple of months, and was gladly renamed Irina. (Which name choice did make me laugh, as Jeff had completely forgotten Élise had been Irene.)

Rea @ 120: heh. This thread has been reminding me to read more than the first Aubrey/Maturin book (Though my to-read list is terribly long, so it may be years before the effects are seen)

Marty in Boise @ 142/147: Sputter choke froth. A refrigerator is a luxury item? In certain perspectives, maybe, but those perspectives don't include most places in the United States.

Caroline @ 156: Handy to have long-form cat names for that purpose. "Cassandra Jolie!" is much better for expressing frustration than just "Fluffy!"

Reminiscent of the comment that the reason kids have middle names is so they know when they're in trouble.

#161 ::: Marty In Boise ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 02:36 PM:

Julie @ 157

Oh, thanks...I needed THAT song going through my head today :)

#162 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 02:43 PM:

nerdycellist, you could name it TWLLDDU.

#163 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 02:50 PM:

Abi @102: Your describing the origin of the urge to name objects as "neurological" reminds me of the SF story in which it is discovered that certain people lack the circuit which lets others distinguish between men and women, but learn to use the circuit others use to distinguish species of animals -- one result of which is that some of them can distinguish between fertile and post-menopausal women on sight.

Russell Letson @109: Using "sonofabitch" as a term for automobile reminds me of the old joke about a kid who reported after a Sunday drive that Daddy had spotted an Aston-Martin, and Austin-Healey and a Stupid-Bastard.

Further thoughts on giving names to objects and/or anthropomorphizing: It was pointed out to me once that if you treat an object as though it had feelings to hurt, you were liable to treat it better, and thus get better performance out of it. This is essentially what people lacking in natural empathy learn to do with their fellow humans in order to function successfully.

HLN: Local man's wife asks him if he has ever mentioned on ML that his stories can be found at @mazon by searching "John M. Burt". Local man fears that the correct answer may be, "Often enough to count as spam".

#164 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 03:40 PM:

At Abebooks, Beth Carswell comments on the covers of romance novels, classifying them into six major categories: One Or More Giant, Disembodied Floating Heads; Uncomfortable Embraces; Three's a Crowd; Woman in Foreground, Looking Playfully At Man Over Shoulder; Woman in Foreground, Looking Dead Ahead and Ignoring Man Over Shoulder; and, of course, Nurses.

#165 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 03:48 PM:

nerdycellist @ #149, "because the Honda Fits remind me of Trilobites"

I've been looking at one of those to replace my 15-year-old Geo, but I hadn't thought of trilobites. Here's a pic at my place, for those wondering.

#166 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 04:01 PM:

Syd @141:
Information received.

Mail me at abi at the domain wherein we all are at the moment for details, if you can help.

#167 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 04:07 PM:

John M Burt @162:

I describe it as neurological because I'm borderline Aspie from a family including some very-much-not-borderline Aspies. Asperger Syndrome is a neurological profile, and it often includes a habit of insufficiently distinguishing between people and things (both ways—sometimes people get put in the "thing" box, and sometimes things end up in the "people" box.)

But this kind of category leakage, or mapping of characteristics from one category onto members of another, is not exclusive to people on the spectrum. I know plenty of (probably) neurotypical people who do bits of it as well. I think it's a useful option (one of several) for dealing with tools so complex that they're sometimes better treated as entities than objects.

#168 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 04:15 PM:

I laughed when I read this, so I thought I'd share it here.

#169 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 04:18 PM:

Abi @ 102

Well, it may not be about whimsy or sense of humor for everyone. But while my bike is affectionately named Baby, my reasons for naming my computer (Obso 1337) and my memory book and cellphone (Boris and Natasha, respectively -- need I mention both are red?) were far less pure...

#170 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 04:23 PM:

Ah, cross-post. Sorry, abi, I wasn't ignoring your post @ 166.

#171 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 04:26 PM:

Ginger, that's hilarious. Whoever wrote that had to write all of it for the joke to work, but you don't have to READ all of it to get the joke, and thank goodness.

That would be why I don't read David Weber any more. One reason, anyway.

#172 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 04:29 PM:

My first ever and still-current dog came with the name Kira, which struck me as easy to remember and suitable.*

But the first few days of dog ownership were so exhausting that I KEPT FORGETTING that two-syllable, four-letter name. For a while my cubicle had a Post-It note with her name and breed (Gronendal) written on it, as a reminder.

* I tried to adopt, but didn't act fast enough to claim, a lovely Dutch shepherd named Sweetheart. I'd probably would have changed that. Too long, a little too sappy.

#173 ::: JM ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 04:44 PM:

On the naming of computers: My mother owns a business for which my father handles the networking. After going on safari, they began naming all the computers after animals in Swahili: Simba for the server (king of the electronic jungle), Tembo for my mother's desktop (she collects elephants), and so on. Whenever a new employee joins the company, a new animal joins the menagerie. My laptop, set up by my father for remote access, is thus Bata (Duck, my family nickname).

Our iPad is Rowsdower, which I typed in as a joke and which doesn't fit at all, but I challenged my husband to rename it, and after five months, he hasn't yet.

#174 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 04:48 PM:

Next Aardman movie:

#175 ::: GraceAnne_LadyHawk ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 05:39 PM:

The current desktop is named Goldberry, though she is black and silver. Her predecessor was Brigid, named for Stephen's daughter, and the one before that was The Nutmeg of Consolation.

The current pink Acer netbook is named Laetificat.

#176 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 05:42 PM:

Xopher @ 170: I recommend reading the comments under that post as well.

#177 ::: etv13 ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 05:55 PM:

@Ginger 167, Xopher 171: I've never read any David Weber, and I still thought it was funny.

Our black cat was named Inky by the rescue people; we re-named him Lincoln, for reasons I leave to the reader to determine. Our black-and-white cat is named Penguin.

The only inanimate object we've named is the counter on the linen cabinets at the top of the stairs. It's name is Steve. This leads to such exchanges as the following:

Me: Where did you put my clean underwear?
Spouse: It's on Steve.

#178 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 06:02 PM:

Marty in Boise @131: Go for it! If you can put the space in when you request it, they may get the message and sort of fudge a little for you. Sometimes I get the idea that the guys at the stamper may have a little leeway there, and sometimes they get it and do the right thing.

Serge Broom @146: How long, I wonder, before they remake "My Mother the Car" as a movie with Betty White as the voice of the car. And, I dunno, Adam Sandler or Jim Carrey or Will Smith as the schlub.

etv13 @175: Our cat Frances had been named Princess before we got her. We took immediate action on that.

#179 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 06:11 PM:

Ginger @167: There was a piece by Ed Subitzky in National Lampoon once, called "An Evening in 1973," which affected to have been written fifty years before that, with Bill Smithers and a friend with a similarly whitebread name talking at length about each and every object they touched. "Quite a device, this pen," said John Jones. "Truly a marvel of 1973!" He goes on and on about how it contains a reservoir of hardened plastic which is melted from a pressure signal at the pen's tip, and then dispenses just enough liquefied plastic to write perfectly. "Why, I remember a long time ago when pens used to jam and leak all the time!" said John Jones.

"Things sure are different in 1973!" said Bill Smithers, grinning.

When I find the box of Lampoons, I'll probably scan that out, along with the version of "Vespers" that starts off:

"Yvggyr obl xarryf ng gur sbbg bs gur orq
Yvggyr oyhr rlrf va n yvggyr tbyq urnq
Uhfu! Uhfu! Qba'g fnl n jbeq!
Puevfgbcure Ebova vf onfuvat uvf oveq!"

And proceeds in appropriate fashion to the last verse:

"Yvggyr obl xarryf ng gur raq bs uvf anc
Yvggyr unaqf ohfl va qrne yvggyr ync
Uhfu! Uhfu! Xrrc vg qvfperrg!
Puevfgbcure Ebova vf orngvat uvf zrng!"

(Rotted for the sake of NSFW sensitivities.)

#180 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 06:52 PM:

Rikibeth @ 152... Paul Bettany is definitely a draw

So I've heard.

#181 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 07:02 PM:

I would add to the list of reasons that people name things that many blogs include interesting pseudonyms for people. I started calling Baby Sister that after my sophomore year of college, when I needed a Livejournal name for her. I've not been moved to reallly name a computer-- mine has the name of a character from a short-lived letter game, loosely inspired by my research at the time-- but my car was either going to be Little Miss Park Avenue or Milady Buick. She's a proper dowager of a car, stately and imposing, as so Milady Buick it is. The Catina, on the other hand, is Patina... spelled from the shelter, pronounced from me.

I also live in Buttercup House (Buttercup Period House 2.0), and have lived in the Little Slanty Apartment; the previous tenants of Buttercup now live down the bike path at Grassfield Manor. My roommate gave away her car Lucy and got a new one, Mr Mark Darcy.

After a while, it becomes self-sustaining.

#182 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 07:36 PM:

My mother says that Betsy is the default name* for cars. Sounds right to me. But my current one, a Scion xA, is Christa (Xopher knows why). The other possibility was Xena, but she's a lady, not a warrior princess.

*for the purposes of addressing the car when appropriate**, not for referring to it in conversation

**"Come on, Betsy, you can make it up this hill."

#183 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 07:44 PM:

Long ago a cow-orker of mine owned a ten-year-old Datsun sedan (that would have made it about the 1970 model year) which she despised. She called it "the yellow mustard s***-box." Not just when stressed. Always.

#184 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 08:02 PM:

The naming of cars.....

When I was a kid, at one point the family car was a slate blue Buick sedan, probably a Century, circa 1985. My younger brother had trouble pronouncing "Buick" so that vehicle became the "Bluick."

It was succeeded by a golden-tan 1989 Olds Cutlass Ciera that was promptly christened the Goldsmobile and retained that name when I drove in college and through two-transcontinental moves (Gulf coast to PNW to New England). The vehicle is in fact still on the road with close to 200K on it (handed down to a member of my husband's family), but has been renamed the Frankengoldsmobile after an unfortunate incident in a snowstorm that resulted in a mismatched front bumper.

I currently drive a dark red Taurus SE that tends to get called the Little Red Wagon when it's not That Damn Car. It hasn't got as much personality as the Goldsmobile has, somehow. Possibly because it hasn't had as long to get broken - although it's older than the Goldy was when I drove it to Oregon.

My husband's previous car was a dark green Buick Park Ave that he named the Stealth Lemon (it looked like a good deal when he got it, but was very expensive to repair and needed constant fixing.) His current car doesn't have a name. Yet.

#185 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 08:50 PM:

My daughter's girlfriend's previous car was named SPOC (stupid piece of crap). One of my college friends had a Chevy Nova named Hortense Gertrude Supernova.

Our neighbor's earnest, charming and clueless juvenile labrador is named Remy but we refer to him as Floppy Dog.

#186 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 09:10 PM:

In grad school, my best friend had an old, orangey-red Toyota named Portia but nicknamed The Tin Tomato. Her current vehicle is a gray pickup named Gandalf.

#187 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 09:17 PM:

abi (166) My daughter said of her father (my ex-husband): "He treats people like furniture." He's an extreme case; the rest of the family tend to err toward treating furniture like people. We tend to apologize to it if we knock it over, etc. And of course we treat our cars like people, having grown up with old VW's and the Idiot's Guide ("Be on good terms with your ass, for it bears you.")

#188 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 09:17 PM:

When my parents moved to Texas, there was an old building ion the land with the word 'Arthur' spray-painted on the side. The building was 'Arthur' from that day on. ('Where's Dad?' 'He's in Arthur.')

#189 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 10:50 PM:


Have any SF media productions included the design of a new accent From the Future? Granted, most time-travelers are trying to blend in, and I've seen hypotheses that globalization will slow language shifts.

However, the recent vowel migrations of the Northern Cities suggests new accents will continue to pop up. Have any new accents been made up?

#190 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 10:55 PM:

Janet @50: SRSLY??????? My iPad is named Binky!

My partner once let me set up an iDevice for her. "What name you want?" I asked. "I don't care, whatever the default is." I don't understand people like that. So I named it 'Flapdoodle'.

She didn't let me set up any after that.

#191 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 11:10 PM:

Several cats in a row came from people who were moving or changing their life situations and couldn't keep them anymore. My other half and I didn't change their names. So last year when we took in a stray kitten, we were all out of practice at discerning names for cats. We just called him Baby for a few months. Finally we realized that he was trying to tell us his name is Speedy. But he still has a Walgreens prescription plan membership card in the name of Baby Cat Beatty.

Yet the most reliable way to summon him is to turn on a faucet or clean his litterbox.

#192 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 11:22 PM:

My dad got to name one of the cats I grew up with. The cat was a mutt but looked exactly like a Turkish Van - white body, orange spots, light/dark orange striped tail.
The cat's name was Spot, but my dad always insisted that was just a nickname - his real name was Spot spot spot stripe stripe stripestripestripe.

I think you guys would like my dad. :)

My current cat is named Nazoko after the japanese word for enigma or mystery, because god only knows what's going on in her head. However, I rarely call her that, and she has learned to answer to "dammit cat" and "kitty!" (accompanied by excited arm waving).

#193 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 17, 2012, 11:46 PM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale @187 said: Have any SF media productions included the design of a new accent From the Future? Granted, most time-travelers are trying to blend in, and I've seen hypotheses that globalization will slow language shifts. However, the recent vowel migrations of the Northern Cities suggests new accents will continue to pop up. Have any new accents been made up?

I don't know if this is what you were looking for, but in the TV show Dark Angel (set significantly in the future at the time, but 'near future') there was a character, Original Cindy, who at the time of first airing had a nigh-incomprehensible argot (but you got used to it with exposure). She spoke differently than anyone else on the show, such that when eventually a character showed up who talked just like her, it was extremely notable, or when the other characters were copying her in gentle mockery, it was obvious.

I went back to rewatch recently, and was amazed; Original Cindy's argot has merged into modern sub-25 hipster-speak. I'm guessing some writer was hooked into an LA subculture that was inventing it at the time of shooting, and since then it's gone national for some reason.

It's a shame, because it makes some of the show make less sense; you don't notice her 'accent' nearly as much anymore, because it's no longer outlandish.

Similarly, Joss Whedon has changed how an entire generation speaks; we're all Buffy-talkers now.

#194 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 12:35 AM:

Marty In Boise @70: my1973 Chevrolet

To romp off in a completely orthogonal direction, I had a weird thing happen to me yesterday.

I've been watching, and very much enjoying, Burn Notice. As fans of the show know, the main character drives a vintage black '73 Dodge Charger. (Black? In Miami? In the summer!? Are you mad?!?)

Now, it could be charitably understated to say that I'm not a fan of cars. I particularly loathe (big, noisy, gas-guzzling) muscle cars. But during one ep yesterday, I noticed that, while the upholstery in the car is in good condition, the steering wheel and roof are kind of chipped and shabby. Suddenly, my character Cassiopeia woke up. (I haven't heard from him in a couple of years.) He's the family tinkerer, and has spent a couple of decades fiddling with and enhancing the family space-yacht. (All of this has gone on entirely without my knowledge or consent, mind you.) He blinked, stared at that car, and was struck with what can only be described as lust at first sight.

I found myself suddenly possessed of a fanfic: Cas, showing up at Michael Westen's loft, pleading to be allowed to work on that car. And, after finally succumbing to the pressure (having Cas following you around, shuffling along on his knees, hands clutched before him in supplication, and giving you the big Doe Eyes—for a couple of days) discovering that his car has acquired some unanticipated and very stfnal features—

Well. This is the closest I'll probably ever get to writing it. I haven't done any fiction for a long time, and will probably never do anything that would be publishable. But it's always disconcerting when you find someone you made up making decisions you didn't have any hand in.

#195 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 12:45 AM:

I don't have a consistent name for my car, but when I do address it, it's the Shadowcar. Or more precisely, "Hello Shadowcar, don't bite me please."

This is because it's grey, like my cat Shadow a.k.a. the Shadowcat. The Shadowcat responds to extended petting by trying to bite the hand that scritches him, even while he continues to purr. And a few months after we got the Shadowcar, I accidentally closed the door on my own fingertip (didn't let go in time), which broke.

So now I tend to respectfully greet the Shadowcar when I approach it. It also made a good go at eating two of my mom's fingers a while later, so I guess it thinks our bloodline is tasty :O

#196 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 12:56 AM:

Huh. Synchronicity strikes:

A couple of weeks ago, I watched The Man from Earth on Netflix. Very nicely done little skiffy story, in the best tradition of Theatre of the Mind; it all takes place amongst a group of friends visiting for a weekend at a cabin. The closest it gets to special effects is when they go outside to their cars. Very compelling story (though I quibble with the climactic conflict. Seems like the story would have worked better for my taste if the writer hadn't taken it there, but maybe that's just me.)

Anyway, reading the Wikipedia page Steve C. @80 points to, turns out this movie is a direct descendant of that ST ep.

It's an interesting premise. Spoiler: Jbhyq n crefba, jub unq yvirq guebhtu onfvpnyyl *nyy* bs uhzna uvfgbel, unir n crefcrpgvir gung pbhyq rira or qvzyl pbzceruraqrq ol n zrer zbegny uhzna orvat? Frrzf gb zr gung fhpu n crefba jbhyq or beqref bs zntavghgr zber zlfgrevbhf naq vapbzcerurafvoyr guna na byq crefba vf gb n gbqqyre.

#197 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 02:45 AM:

Erik Nelson @99: but a uniform distribution in the traffic would mean there are no gaps in it, which would mean it would have no resiliency to a sudden change of pressure.

Except that the spacing between cars actually becomes significantly greater, leading to increased compressibility.

abi @102: It's not really about whimsy, or sense of humor. It's (in my opinion) simply about where your line between "person" and "thing" is placed.

Also, as a matter of practicality, it's much easier to swear at something if it has a name.

Janet Brennan Croft @137: My black cat was quite unimaginatively named Ebony at the pound.

I have way too much fun naming my guinea pigs: I brought Shadow home from a pet store that kept all the guinea pigs in one pen, irrespective of gender, with predicatable results. Approximately six weeks later, she was delivered of three adorable little black boys who were completely indistinguishable. After a few days, I hit on the idea of marking them by cutting a notch in their fur, one on the head, one on the back, and one on the butt, and named them, correspondingly, Ebony, India (for "ink"), and Onyx. Immediately upon making them differentiable, their separate personalities emerged. India was the shy, sweet runt. Onyx was the quiet middle child. And Ebony was the sassy domininant one (who never let mum out of his sight because, well, that's where the food was).

Sassy—a burly, brown, rex,*— was named by the pound but she had this silly, raspy little voice, so her name quickly evolved to Sass Skwatch. When her first son was born (at three times Gustav's birth-weight), it was perhaps inevitable that his name would be Yeti.

You remember at the end, in Lady and the Tramp, half the puppies looked like Lady, and half like Tramp? When Gustav's boys were born, one looked just like her, and the other like their dad, Junior. The latter was obviously J.J., as in "Junior, Jr."


Oh, ghod. While searching for that picture, I stumbled across this intollerable cutitude.

#198 ::: Jacque, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 02:46 AM:

Crikey. Again.

#199 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 02:58 AM:

194, 195: I love that movie. It tapdances on the very line that the best Hamlet productions do: Is he mad, or is he, incomprehensibly, telling the TRUTH?

#200 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 07:44 AM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale @ #187: Have any SF media productions included the design of a new accent From the Future?

In the 1979 Doctor Who story "Nightmare of Eden", there is one character who has a truly remarkable accent; reportedly, his actor decided that since the character wasn't from Earth he shouldn't have an accent that sounded like anything on Earth. Mostly it just makes him sound weird, particularly since he's the only person doing it. (There's a story that Tom Baker put him up to it for a laugh; I wouldn't be surprised.)

#201 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 07:54 AM:

Kip W @ #177:

Randall Garrett and Lin Carter did a similar thing, some years earlier, with "Masters of the Metropolis".

Threading his way through the crowds which thronged the vaulted interior of the terminal, he came to a turnstile, an artifact not unlike a rimless wheel, whose spokes revolved to allow his passage. He placed a coin in the mechanism, and the marvelous machine—but one of the many mechanical marvels of the age—recorded his passage on a small dial and automatically added the value of his coin to the total theretofore accumulated. All this, mind, without a single human hand at the controls!

#202 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 09:08 AM:

Jacque #194: It's an interesting premise. Spoiler: Would a person, who had lived through basically *all* of human history, have a perspective that could even be dimly comprehended by a mere mortal human being? Seems to me that such a person would be orders of magnitute more mysterious and incomprehensible than an old person is to a toddler.

I don't buy your conclusion... for starters, normal people are not toddlers! A human infant is explicitly deeply ignorant about the world. Once we get that basic understanding of the world, the stuff that's truly "incomprehensible" gets a good deal rarer, and old people aren't so much. Even by the time we reach adolescence, if an old person doesn't make any sense, we chalk it up to senility -- that is, their "lengthy experience" doesn't excuse them from making themselves clear. Certainly, an older person's motivations may be mysterious, but that applies to a fair number of our fellow humans regardless of age!

But of course, that raises the question of what happens to a person who lives that long -- how much of what they've experienced to they remember in detail -- and how does that experience reflect their basic worldview? Based on what I've seen of more ordinary humans, I'd guess at at least the following: (1) Early memories get foggy, with many incidents being reduced to the responses they taught. (2) More reliance on experience over creativity, with possible inflexibility resulting. (3) True mental modeling of younger folks may be displaced by "knowing how they think at that age". (4) Long experience with their own bodies will affect their management of same; they will have learned whatever level of maintenance is needed, and they will move more efficiently, with a much better idea of their physical limits and tradeoffs. (5) Much the same will

Of course, the real question is how their extended lifetime works. Do they still have normal human needs? Is disease or injury still a threat? And for that matter, what about those memories? How well can they continue to learn from experience? And then there's the question of hormones, which have such drastic influence on human behavior and motivations. (Fertility?)

#203 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 09:24 AM:

Sorry, that last bit got cut off. "Much of the same may apply to their social abilities -- they'll have learned how to get what they want from, or at least co-exist with, all sorts of people."

#204 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 10:28 AM:

I'll sidestep reminiscences about the names my sister used to give her pets. The family we got one or two of our cats from, though, used to always give them names like "Drooly" and "Creepy." (Chauncey was originally named Queasy.) One of their cats was a flat-headed Siamese who liked to crawl into the engine compartment of their car for the warmth.

I forget what his name was before the day Mrs. E. turned on the ignition and saw fur come out, but after that they renamed him "Stupid." Strange, sideways gait and all, Stupid was the fastest thing on three legs that I ever saw.

#205 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 10:29 AM:

Paul A. @201: Now I'm reminded of the National Lampoon version of the Hardy Boys, "Chums in the Dark," with phrases like "The telephone, a squat, black instrument, buzzed ominously!"

#206 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 10:41 AM:

On the Stealth Lemon: I used to joke that Milady Buick was actually named Malady Buick. She's a wonderful car, my parents got a great deal, but there's some stuff that ages whether you drive the car or not. I would love to get her to 200k, but it's pretty unlikely given how little I drive.

#207 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 11:38 AM:

Ginger #167: I've struggled through David Weber (and met the man), and I found it hilarious.

#208 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 11:42 AM:

My father would name his cars. I've never had that urge, nor have I had the urge to give a name to a computer (having owned a few). My hard drives have very prosaic names, just derivatives of mine.

Our feline mistress, on the other hand, is named Marjorie.

#209 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 11:44 AM:

#202 ::: David Harmon

Rebecca Ore's Time and Robbery has a reasonable version of the effects of great longevity-- her main character, Vel, is 14,000 years old as the result of a rare mutation which causes slower but more complete healing than most people have, and occasional reversions to puberty.

Anyway, he's smarter and more practical than most people, but still well within the human range.

He's also a time traveler (different mutation)-- I suspect Ore was having fun piling things on, since this book, unlike the prequel, Centuries Ago, and Very Fast, also has telepaths.

I recommend the books-- intelligent, good prose, vivid moments, not to mention Golden Age pacing. A remarkable amount happens in 175 pages. Time and Robbery is on sale till March 1.

#210 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 12:02 PM:

David Harmon@202: surely to such an oldster, human history would appear to be a very long dose of Nothing Much Ever Happens On The Farm (or in the steppe, or in the jungle), followed by... what probably feels like living through the singularity. The crummiest market town in Dark Ages England might have irreperably blown the mind of someone who'd lived since, say, the start of Bronze Age.

There was an interesting thread on Language Log about the odds that we're all, every one of us alive today, descended from Confucius. I suspect that a super-long-lived man or woman who continued to produce offspring at the local culturally-normal rate for thousands of years would leave solid evidence of his or her existence in the genetic record that would be easy to spot if we took the trouble to look for it.

#211 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 12:25 PM:

Julie @158: so am I the only one who _immediately_ heard "i think i'm kerning Japanese, i really THINK so!" in my head on reading that?

--Dave, maybe if someone else does I can get rid of it

#212 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 12:27 PM:

Ah, I see Marty did only a few comments later, without the word I was searching for; apologies if I've restarted it for anyone.


#213 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 01:14 PM:

Steve with a book #210 - that would make a nice start to a story. Confused analytical personnel work out that the only way this distribution could have occured is if someone with a very long lifespan is moving from country to country over centuries. Then the hunt begins...

#214 ::: Marty in Boise ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 01:24 PM:

Dave @ 212 Oh, suuuure, the old "I missed the earlier reference to an earworm (so I could reactivate the earworm)" ploy, eh?

Well played, sir.

Longest-duration earworm I can recall: at least a solid week, maybe two, of "I am the Walrus" going through my head while working at a supermarket one summer during high school. At least it wasn't the worst song I've ever been stuck with (nor is the one under current discussion).

#215 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 01:29 PM:

All this has reminded me for the first time in years of The Grotto Of The Dancing Deer by Clifford D. Simak, which was the first place I came across the caveman-lives-into-the-present idea. Must read it again sometime.

#216 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 01:44 PM:

Steve with a book @210 -- that assumes that point mutations aren't happening in the long-lived person's reproductive cells at the same rate that they occur in the general population. Which is not at all a safe assumption.... That's dealing with a male long-lifer. Female has other difficulties: if all the egg-cells are set out at birth, she's going to run out before too long, and if they aren't the same problems apply.

There's already been a lot of work on mitochondrial DNA which shows several long maternal lineages (since mitochodria are passed along through the egg, not the sperm).

#217 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 03:03 PM:

Tom Whitmore #216 that assumes that point mutations aren't happening in the long-lived person's reproductive cells at the same rate that they occur in the general population. Which is not at all a safe assumption..

Yep. The majority of point mutations in humans occur in sperm production. In fact, you'd tend to get more, rather than fewer, point mutations from a long-lived male, since (especially in pre-industrial times) normal short-life males spend a fair fraction of their lives not producing sperm.

What you would get less of is recombinations. That would be detectable with modern genetics -- we know, because inversions of chunks of chromosome also cause lack of recombination, and these are detected with SNPchip data. If someone found a long shared haplotype that wasn't on the Y chromosome and then examined it further and found that it wasn't an inversion or anything else readily explicable, you might be on to something. Hasn't happened so far.

#218 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 03:48 PM:

thomas @317: That's a combinatorially difficult problem to mechanize, though.

#219 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 03:52 PM:

On a completely different front: A professional cat-catcher in NYC. (NYTimes website: I got there free, but I have no idea whether there's a max number of NYT pieces one can view for free. The video is definitely worth the two minutes to watch, IMO.)

#220 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 03:57 PM:

Tom Whitmore #218: That's a combinatorially difficult problem to mechanize, though.

But people are doing it. There are two approaches that reduce the combinatorial complexity while still keeping a reasonable amount of information. The first is looking at principal components of genetic variation, which is how some long inversions were found in genome-wide studies. This only works for reasonably common haplotypes, but the computation is a byproduct of stuff you have to do anyway, so it's essentially free.

The second is to look within individuals at "homozygosity by descent": if there are common haplotypes out there, then some individuals will get two copies of them, and this is relatively easy to detect. There's still a lot of computation, but people want to do this because another reason for homozygosity by descent is strong selective pressure in that region. for example

#221 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 04:40 PM:

My 1980 Chevrolet Citation's secret name was Oedipus. Man, I hated that car.

#222 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 05:01 PM:

Older @187:
And of course we treat our cars like people, having grown up with old VW's and the Idiot's Guide ("Be on good terms with your ass, for it bears you.")

My parents' named cars were Idiot's Guide-maintained microbuses: Sybil, Corinna, Cleopatra*, Mabel, Greg†. I spent a reasonable amount of my childhood with my shoulder against one or another of them.

* Cleo was painted with house paint: brown background, green snake wrapped around her, head on a driver's door, shooting yellow flames onto the front of the vehicle. Never did lose her in a parking lot.
† Greg was my high school car. '66 microbus (older than me) with a plethora of mechanical quirks that made maintaining him...interesting.

#223 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 05:18 PM:

David D., #211: No, you're not the only one. Fortunately, I have a dance to go back to, so I'll only be stuck with the earworm for a couple of hours.

Marty, #214: I once had a temp job in an office where the internal phone system rang on an ascending fifth. I had Dukas' "Sorcerer's Apprentice" stuck in my head for the entire duration of that job and several weeks afterwards.

#224 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 05:49 PM:

The earworm I've been stuck with for at least a month now is just a pattern of stresses. No idea what it is or where it came from. If I could identify it, maybe I could get rid of it. But that's tough with no tune attached.

DUH-dit-DUH-dit-DUH-dit-duhditdit and repeat. Endlessly.

#225 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 05:49 PM:

Oh, Jacque . . .

I met my brother's pig today! Boo-boo is about 2 months old now and very sweet-tempered. They cuddle and play with her every day and she loves to ride around on your arm (or, in my case, on my bosom, since I'm well-endowed). Her fur is silky smooth. She's definitely a talker, too, purrs, chirps, chatters away.

About the only problem they're having is that she doesn't like floor time--she'd much rather be carried--and complains when they put her down.

#226 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 06:19 PM:

I've had a nasty earworm for the last couple of days. It's bad because it's too short for me to identify, and it won't go away until I do. It could be from the last bar of an old R&B song; I hear it as a male quartet singing "bumpty-bumpty-bump" in an ascending triad. If anyone can identify it from that you will have my admiration and my undying gratitude (good for one lifetime or 14,000 years, whichever is longer).

#227 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 06:55 PM:

Mary Aileen @224: Maybe "On the Trail" from the Grand Canyon Suite?

#228 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 06:56 PM:

Mary Aileen @ 224

That's awkward, because it's such a short bit that it could be anything. I mean, I can make arguments for the Ghostbuster's theme, or the Pink Panther theme, or the theme from Noir (which is, not coincidentally, playing in the other room), except that they're all missing bits off the end. And that's without doing something like pulling up youtube and matching it up against random songs.

#229 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 07:55 PM:

Kip W (227): Unlikely.

KayTei (228): Hmmmmm. I heard the Ghostbusters theme not too long ago, so that could be a possibility, I suppose. I'm not familiar with the theme from Noir (or with Noir at all), at least by that name, so that's probably not it.

I should try playing a variety of loud, bouncy music in the hopes of overwriting it. Even a replacement earworm would be a step in the right direction at this point.

#230 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 08:34 PM:

Mary Aileen @ #229, "I should try playing a variety of loud, bouncy music in the hopes of overwriting it."

Try some Neil Diamond or Barry Manilow. Those songs were so ubiquitous when new they're guaranteed to earworm.

#231 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 08:38 PM:

Speaker to Managers:

Bruce, I tried to send this to you privately via your website, but after typing into the comment box had no way to send it.

Thanks for running down Budrys' "A Scraping at the Bones" in the old Analog - today I received a copy and it IS the story. I would never have found it, and it would have haunted me who knows how long? This way, it'll still haunt me, but in a more satisfying fashion.

#232 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 08:39 PM:

Gnomed. Busy, busy spammers.

#233 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 08:56 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 226:

I'm betting your earworm is "Down To The Nightclub" by Tower of Power. Oddly, I recognized it because the "bumpty-bumpty-bump" part becomes an earworm for the Trashcan Man, a character in Stephen King's The Stand. Is this it?

Mary Aileen @ 224:

The only thing I can think of for your earworm is John Williams' scare-theme from Jaws.

Lee @ 223:

A very popular brand of digital kitchen timer has four separate channels that use one, two, three, or four beeps to signal when they're done. The two-beep setting beeps in the exact cadence of the intro to "Pure" by the Lightning Seeds:

which, from the very first time I heard it, reminded me in the main melody of New Order's "Love Vigilantes:"

so, in the kitchens where they used that brand of timer, I was constantly getting earwormed with "Love Vigilantes." Such is the power of association.

#234 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 08:57 PM:

Previous comment gnomed, probably because it has three links.

#235 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 08:58 PM:

Car buying 70% achieved. The roommate got her car, and I did as much paperwork as possible for mine without the credit approval from Honda; Credit Union is just fine giving me a big old loan at a mediocre APR, but Honda feels my credit is too poor, mainly due to only having two lines of credit - the Amex charge and the Care Credit. So they've got my car on the lot with a sold tag in the window waiting for me to get the info to the credit union on Tuesday so they can cut a check and I can go back to the dealer to pick up the damn car.

Annoyingly,the manager was somewhat incredulous that anyone would give me credit with only two lines of credit open. I assured him I had spoken with the CU only days before, to confirm that the pre-approval postcard they sent me wasn't pro-forma spam as he assumed (which I had deduced when my roommate got a similar card with a different rate and spending limit). Now of course I go into money panic mode, where I spend the next two and a half days worrying that the Credit Union had totally lied to me. Such are the general anxieties of someone who grew up poor, even at nearly 40 years of age.

I guess the "wise" thing to do would be to stop shredding those credit card offers that arrive weekly and charge a bunch of stuff to them just to establish more credit. This strikes me as stupid. Guess I'll wait for the Credit Union.

#236 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 08:58 PM:

Trying again without links: Bruce Cohen @226, I'd bet money that it's "Down to the Nightclub" by Tower of Power.

#237 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 08:59 PM:

Heh. I put on Sandra Boynton's Philadelphia Chickens. Half the songs on that CD fit the beat. Now I have "Philadelphia Chickens", "Be Like a Duck", "Snuggle Puppy", "Fifteen Animals", and "BusyBusyBusy" fighting it out for headspace.

Oh, the humanity! (Not to mention the aardvarks.)

#238 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 09:08 PM:

Oops! I think I talked too much about money on my previously begnomed comment! Not trying to spam - just describing a mildly frustrating car purchase experience.

[Nope. It was not putting a space after a comma, which is usually a sign of one of the mad-lib style automatically-constructed-from-individual-phrases spam comments. -- JDM]

#239 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 09:46 PM:

Nerdycellist, keep on sheddin' those credit card offers. Consumer credit for anything except cars and homes (and maybe the cars actually) is evil.

it is always good to keep one card that one can reserve a hotel room or rent a car with, but pay the f-king thing off right away!

And the Credit Union is your friend.

My 2¢, we're still trying to finish getting out of consumer credit/high-interest debt before one of us can retire.

#240 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 09:48 PM:

And in honor of open threadiness, "Old Ideas", the newest album by Leonard Cohen is awesomeness. We listened to it on the way up to our monthly luncheon in l.awrence, KS.

#241 ::: Marty in Boise ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 09:49 PM:

Tom Whitmore @ 219, all I could think of while watching the cat catcher video was Boris, Mrs. Bond's malevolent kitty in All Creatures Great and Small. Found a couple of clips on YouTube and was mildly surprised that my memory was wrong--there actually was a cat in those scenes, not simply a snarly wicker basket.

#242 ::: Phil Knight ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 10:44 PM:

Just a quick drive-by delurk to say two things - long time listener, first time caller: firstly and mainly to share a quote that I think has a similar spirit to Abi's opening quote:

"Pentecost would never permit a day to pass in which he had not changed the water in the vases and refilled them again with taste and artistry, for he had been born in the mud huts and had in his marrow the love and understanding of colour that was the hallmark of the Bright Carvers." - Mervyn Peake

Secondly to announce that one of my guitars is called Danno, and (obligatory cat reference) - my first cat as a child was Gandalf The Grey. You can probably guess the colouring and name of my second cat.

Given that I discovered this blog about five years ago, expect another trivial post from me in 2017. I love this place too much to clutter it up with my own witterings.

Keep changing the water in the vases, keep navigating between the notes.


#243 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 10:55 PM:

Melissa Singer @225: I met my brother's pig today! Boo-boo is about 2 months old now and very sweet-tempered.

Pix! Pix!

she loves to ride around on your arm (or, in my case, on my bosom, since I'm well-endowed)

Only earthly use I've ever found for big boobs. Donkey complains when I try to snuggle him when I'm not wearing my bra. I'm just not the right shape. Does she do the thing where she smushes her face up under your chin? (Apparently, human chins feel a lot like mommy's tummy. (JJ, when he was little, would prospect around my neck, trying to find a nipple. I'd occassionally go to work the next day with little tiny hickies.)

she doesn't like floor time--she'd much rather be carried--and complains when they put her down.

Her humans need to learn The Table Game: Human gets down on the floor, standing on elbows and knees, head clasped between the hands, knees one guinea-pig-width apart. Drape a towel or blanket over the human to make a nice hidey-cave underneath. Turn guinea pig loose. Hours of fun to be had—well, for the guinea pig, anyway.

Does she have them trained yet to bring snacks and cuddles on demand?

#244 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 11:08 PM:

nerdycellist @235: I'm right there with Paula Helm Murray; I used to regard consumer credit as being slightly less dangerous than heroin. I dug myself into a hole back in '07 while I was looking for work, and have since revised my opinion, ahem, downwards.

I not only shred credit card ads, I use any return envelopes I find to send the letter back with a demand written on it in red ink that they take my address OFF their mailing list, and don't be selling or renting my info to anybody else.

UFYH gives links to opt-out of credit card offers, too. I haven't signed up, because they ask for SSNs, which always makes me nervous.

I've never done the car-buying thing, but my vague understanding is that one of the profit centers for the dealerships is the loans they make on the cars they sell; it would make sense for them to be unhappy that you're going through your credit union. But that may just be me being cynical and uncharitable.

#245 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 11:19 PM:

Phil Knight @242: Welcome, and please: witter away! I mean, srsly: is it fair for us to clutter up the place with our witterings for you to read, if you don't witter for us to read? Huh? Huh?? (Note that you've been reading ML longer than I have.)

Oh, and: ob-abi, do you write poetry? (Note that not all of us do; I, frex, don't seem to have that gene.)

So what do you do with yourself when you're not reading ML and naming guitars and cats?

#246 ::: Phil Knight ::: (view all by) ::: February 18, 2012, 11:35 PM:

@Jacque #245: I spend my time reading, strumming, walking in the little hills we Brits laughably call "mountains", trying to get a band together and hanging around with my slacker mates. I left my job as a telecoms engineer and I do some work on the fringes of the music business. I used to be fairly technical but I'm trying to put all that behind me. If I'd spent as much time with a guitar as I have with a computer, I think I'd be a happier chap.

I write poetry now and then but I don't know the first thing about it, and I don't spread it around.

Oh, okay, but just because you asked. I wrote it, but I don't think much of it:

Head With A Veteran Wound: Adding Drivers To The Kernel - for nick macro from alt.darkside (rip)

It's hard enough just to get out the foxhole in the rain
to face the queues and the questions
dole clerk doctor dealers dolls dim drunks desperadoes
the deadly detritus of the daily drudge recompiled with dependencies
without any hope at all you start your run
and you know it's not going to work before you try

It's a long war we were signed up for
More were killed in this long march than ever saw the Somme
And all those mean Swiss sax players on Omaha Beach in cactus shoes they found on the wire
i don't know everyone but I do know you
and I know it's a shame - Grandad, what did you do in the War On Drugs
Did you get any Germans high?

- the world owes you a million dollars just for that
'Hey look Jay, a sonnet. But I think it's upside down.'

#247 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 12:09 AM:

Nice poem, Phil! I think you're going to fit in well around here.... Looking forward to more from you.

#248 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 12:11 AM:

The deal I got from my CU 10 years ago when I bought my car was actually the same rate as the dealer offered. (I took the CU's deal - it had ATMs available. And refinanced it later when the rates had dropped.) I may take the offer this year, depending on whether I really like the model that's supposed to be coming out.

#249 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 12:38 AM:

Jacque @ 243, your JJ sounds rather like my cat Scooter, whom I found hiding out in the undercarriage of a parked car.

She ate kitty crunchies readily enough, but I decided she hadn't been quite ready to be weaned when she and her momma got separated: one of her first actions after filling her little belly was to find a spot on my person where she might nurse. The back of my hand was deemed unacceptable, as was the palm (although slightly less so). The outside of my arm was spurned; the soft bit near the inside elbow was almost suitable, but she kept nosing her way up until she found the right side of my neck.

At which point she proceeded to give me a kitten hickie. :) Even as an adult, she was prone to snuggling into the crook of my right arm and nuzzling my neck for old times' sake.

I miss that little girl. I hope her new people appreciate her.

#250 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 12:42 AM:

Mary Aileen #224: It could be "The Grand Canyon", as Kip W suggests. With a more driving beat, it might be "Pink Elephants on Parade" from "Dumbo".

I'm not suggesting you watch it, mind. I did, when I was eight or so, and it didn't bother me. I did again last year, and it scared the bejasus out of me.

#251 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 12:59 AM:

The superpowered-teen movie Chronicle is great wads of fun, with some surprising psychological depth.

#252 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 01:06 AM:

Aw, you guys are making me want guinea pigs - they're like the ideal portable pet.

I've just been second-guessing the credit union's offer, but I can't imagine that they would have given me such a specific APR without running my credit. Besides, they have access to my paycheck via direct deposit every week. I'll be much calmer on Tuesday. As for another credit card, I may get a traditional revolving one at the end of the year, just for car and dog emergencies. I can pay my utilities on it. Right now I have an Amex Zync, which is their charge card with training wheels, specifically for people who are repairing their credit. Cashiers are always impressed because it's a sparkly pearl color and they think it's rare. Ha!

Otherwise, I'm not really that concerned about my credit score. Living in Los Angeles, I don't see any hope of ever buying a home - and the very idea that I'd have to essentially game the system to qualify for financing is offensive to me. Keeping my eyes open for refinancing after a couple of years seems like a really good idea.

#253 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 01:28 AM:

Nerdycellist @ 235: Another one to say, keep shredding those credit card offers. If you really did want a credit card, as I understand it, the best thing is to go an apply for one at a bank or CU or appropriate store; you'll virtually always get a batter deal than the spam-snail-mail (And doesn't that conjure an image) things will ever offer.

Ginger @ 167: An apt reminder why I only read one Honor Harrington book and plan to keep it that way (The first sentence made me want to break out a red pen, Because I could literally get the same jist in half the words. And I am not noted for brevity.)

Relatedly, I really have a hard time spelling Honour that way...

Apropos the naming conversation, it just happened again. We just got Joseph a stuffed owl toy (actually a seonsory toy with all the baby doodads)> The packaging said Olivia the Owl (Because god forbid a stuffed animal ever come with a name that doesn't start with the same letter). By the time I gave it to Joseph I knew it was Sophie. (Almost as inane an association, I realised when I thought about it, but more disconcerting because Sophie already has very not-baby-toy associations with me from an old RPG, where Sophie was a lesbian Starship mechanic.)


And re: the earworm conversation, I have a bone to pick with ya'll regarding the vocabulary thread under "When we were young, we talked about ideas..." in that I've been earwormed several times with "When Adam delved, etc."

It's the second worst spokenword earworm I've been attacked by. (I'm earwormed with music close to 24 hours a day every day. I only mind *that* if it's something I really dislike or one song recurs for weeks.)

The worst was when we left for a two week holiday and the housemate who stayed completely failed to notice a banana going beyond black on the kitchen counter. When we got back, he remarked, "We've been getting a bunch of fruitflies. I don't know where they came from." For weeks afterward, whenever I ate a banana (and that's many's the morning), I heard a Groucho Marx voice`saying "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana."

#254 ::: Phil Knight ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 01:55 AM:

More on naming:

When I worked for BT I discovered they still have a computer at Bletchley, which of course is called "Colossus". My own machines - for they are silicon based - are called slab, burin, monolith, dolmen, etc.

Farmers working with pairs of horses or dogs often give one of them a one syllable name, and the other a two syllable name, so they don't get confused.

My old guinea pig was called Solomon Grundy because of the expected lifespan - but he did very well for a little pig.

I don't have a pet at the moment, but the next cat I get will be called Catesby, the next dog Lovel ("The Cat, The Rat, and Lovel The Dog, Ruled all England under a Hog" - Colyngbourne) - providing the animals don't mind the names. Having once had a rat with an evil temper (called Withnail) I don't feel the need to get another.

@Tom Whitmore #247 - Thanks!

@Bruce Cohen - need a new ear worm? How about (ROT13 in case you don't want) "Hu bu, jr'er va gebhoyr, fbzrguvat'f pbzr nybat naq vg'f ohfg bhe ohooyr" (Gebhoyr ol Funzcbb)

#255 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 04:49 AM:

Syd @249: kitten hickie

Yeah, I hope her new people clue in and let her nuzzle properly. :-)

I'm 'minded of Susan Crites's cat Mafm. He was weaned too early, too. His manner of compensation—well, let's just say, was "self-contained." Something a female wouldn't be equipped for. Apparently his particular means of compensation was, um, very satisfying.

Wouldn't have been so bad, I guess, except that he tended to suck rather noisily, and had a preference for doing so in the middle of the night.

Phil Knight @246: walking in the little hills we Brits laughably call "mountains"

*snark!* I'm from Colorado. Geographical chauvinism wrt mountains, I totally get. :-)

If I'd spent as much time with a guitar as I have with a computer, I think I'd be a happier chap.

Heh. A pretty insightful observation, true of far more people than commonly acknowledged, I think.

Head With A Veteran Wound

Heh. Sounds like something Spider Robinson would come up with!

nerdycellist @252: Aw, you guys are making me want guinea pigs - they're like the ideal portable pet.

Mwa-ha-hah. Although I'm not so sure about the "portable" part. Most of my guys are very conservative; they'd really prefer never to leave the house. Although I've had a few that were good companion pigs for going Out and About.

Get one that's gone over to the Snuggly Side of the Force, though ... I spent a good half hour this evening with Donkey tucked up under my chin. Discovered that if I scritch his ear just so, it makes him curl his little fingers and squirm closer. Awwwwwwwwwww!

I actually find it a little odd that guinea pigs are so universally regarded as pets only for children. They do take a certain skill in caring for, and they're a great apartment pet, as they don't require as much room even as a cat. And once you convince them you're not planning on eating them, they have loads of personality.

Also, they have the singular advantage of being herbivores; if one's finances go south, one can still feed them quite well on lawn-clippings and expired produce from the grocery store. (Which reminds me; we're rolling up on dandilion season....)

#256 ::: James E ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 06:08 AM:

Phil Knight @242: is Danno a Dano?

#257 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 06:11 AM:

On the naming of things: I used to pass on my way to work a Volkswagen car with the registration number VWB numbernumbernumberletter. The rear plate was square and had the first 3 letters on the top line, next to which her owner had written, or had had written, in neat letters , "eetle".
Still makes me laugh, although I am easily amused, and have a cheese plant called Dennis.

#258 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 06:18 AM:

Happy Birthday, Rikibeth!!!

#259 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 07:29 AM:

In re earworms, the very best earworm-slayer I've ever encountered is the theme music to the videogame Katamari Damacy, especially the spare acapella version that plays when you first turn the machine on. The best version I've found on the net is this video of the full (trippy!) opening credits sequence; the part of the theme I use to slay earworms starts when the rainbow fills your screen at about 0:30. The lyrics are all 'na na nas', making it very easy to remember. :->

It may only work if you've played the game a few times to get it into your brainstem, because although it is VERY good at kicking out other 'worms, it doesn't appear to settle in itself (at least not on me).

#260 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 07:44 AM:

Phil Knight... A belated welcome!

#261 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 09:43 AM:

On car-buying and credit:

The next car I buy will be financed through my credit union. I haven't had any trouble getting dealer credit, and it's a simpler process, but they've screwed me over Every. Single. Time.

Different dealerships, different varieties of screwing-over. I'm done with that crap.

#262 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 10:10 AM:

Credit subthread:

My bank, in association with one of the popular credit card companies, offers a card that presents itself to the merchant as an ordinary credit card, but deducts the money directly from a nominated bank account. Just the thing for hotel bookings and other credit-card-required transactions, if one prefers only to spend money one actually has. I assume my bank isn't the only one in the world to offer such a thing.

#263 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 10:13 AM:

In the finest tradition of "me too" posts: happy birthday, Rikibeth, and welcome, Phil Knight!

#264 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 10:21 AM:

Syd @249: Beulah was a little calico (with traces of tortie) who had been living outside near the home of a friend who was feeding her. She utterly loved people. Her mom had been taken away when she was very young, and after we brought her to our home, she wanted to climb up our necks and suck our earlobes. We stopped letting her do that, so she learned to suck one of her back toes instead. She was one of the two sweetest little cats ever, in my circle.

#265 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 10:45 AM:

Thank you for the birthday wishes!

#266 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 10:47 AM:

Happy natal anniversary, Rikibeth!

Meanwhile, the cuteness, it is exploding.

#267 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 10:52 AM:

Paul, #262: That sounds like a debit card, sometimes called a "check card". Mine can also be run as if it were a credit card, but some of the newer ones can't be.

Be aware that there are some gotchas with these. Many car-rental places won't take them at all, and some hotels have the obnoxious habit of putting a hold of considerably more than the expected total on your bank account; this is released after you've checked out, but sometimes the release can take up to 5 business days to be processed, and in the meantime you can't access your own money. This (plus insurance against emergencies) is why I have one honest-to-ghod credit card as well as my debit card.

Kip, #264: My Mina got her name because when she was just a baby she liked to nurse on my neck. (Or, once, my eyelid -- that felt bizarre, and I didn't let her do it again.) So obviously she was either Mina or Angelique, and she didn't look like an Angelique.

#268 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 11:08 AM:

Re: Credit/cars/Credit Unions --

I am almost out of the credit card hellhole. Using some of my retirement money, I sent the final payments on my cards this week. I am waiting for next month's zero balance statements to officially celebrate.*

I now have one credit card (from my CU) which I am paying the balance off EVERY month. When I decide to get a car, there is no way I'll use the dealership financing, BMIFCU will take care of that as well.

Lesson learned -- Do not put medical expenses on a credit card. And do not buy what you cannot pay for in 30 days time...

Re: the naming of objects. The Kindle Fire now has a real name -- Marian. The Ipod hasn't deigned to reveal its I-dentity, yet.

Nota bene: If you are a Federal employee, plan on having money amounting to a year's expenses on hand when you retire. It is taking 8 to 10 months to finalize pension payments -- and OPM's interim monthly payments can be as little as 35% of the HR estimate.

*I.E. dicing said credit cards...maybe even a banishing ritual.

#269 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 11:13 AM:

I think of credit cards kind of like alcoholic beverages: They can be useful/pleasant if used carefully, but it can be easy to get hooked in a bad way, and some people should avoid them altogether.

The kind of card Paul A. describes is a debit card, and most banks offer one nowadays. (At many banks nowadays, you have to go out of your way to get an ATM card that *isn't* a debit card.) I actually prefer credit cards to debit cards, because it's *not* directly tied to my checking account. So if there's ever a fraudulent or disputed charge, the money in question isn't gone from my account. (Debit card issuers typically ay they'll put it back if there's a problem, but I'd prefer it not to be taken away in the first place.) Also, as noted above, some uses of a debit card, such as car rentals and hotel stays, can put a hold on a large chunk of your bank balance for a while.

But yes, if you have a credit card, only use it for things you can pay off in full when the bill comes. (I use online bill-pay to ensure payment isn't lost in the mail.) Some folks who keep a running check register put their credit card charges down in the register as if they've written them as a check; that way, as long as they watch their register they're not tempted to pay with money they don't already have. Some other folks keep their cards in a drawer or even in a freezer ice block instead of their wallet, so they only take it out to use when really necessary.

If possible, it can be useful to get a second credit card (assuming it has no annual fee) as a backup, so you can use it if there's ever any problem or billing dispute with the first card. Most decent credit cards don't charge any interest as long as you pay off the full balance every month, but if you're carrying a balance, either due to an emergency or due to a disputed charge, any new charges start accruing interest right away. But if you switch over to the second card for new charges, you can still use its grace period while you work out the issues with the first card.

Hope that's helpful rather than hlepy.

#270 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 11:16 AM:

Jacque @243:

No pix, sorry! We were too busy visiting with the piggie and my niece, who is 7.5. (plus I have never figured out how to upload photos from my current phone. this is something I have decided I must learn to do when I get my next phone, in a few months.) I'll try to get pix next time, or pester my bro to take some more.

She does not do the smush-self-under-chin thing, or at least not with people she does not know well (though she was happy enough to be carried and stroked by relative strangers).

I suspect my niece will enjoy the Table Game, which I will mention to her. They have a playpen for Boo-boo, which they say she enjoys.

She has them about half-trained to provide food and cuddles on command--the humans have begun to match specific sounds with specific desires. So they're getting here.

Apparently they have tried a few different foods and made a small mistake by buying some that contained small bits of dried fruit--poor Boo-boo went batshit from the sugar. Now they read ingredients obsessively.

#271 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 11:17 AM:

Felicitations upon sharing your natal anniversary with my younger son, Rikibeth!

#272 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 11:23 AM:

Happy Birthday, Rikibeth!

#273 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 11:31 AM:

Happy birthday, Rikibeth, and many very happy returns of the day.

Phil Knight: Nice work. We like your kind.

Also: walking in the little hills we Brits laughably call "mountains".

I once twitted a hill-walking colleague in Edinburgh by saying, in a meeting, that someone was making a mountain out of a Munro.

#274 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 11:52 AM:

All of this credit discussion is actually very helpful to me. Right now I really enjoy my Amex because I have to pay it off every month. It's been a boon to my budgeting skills, has not caused me to overextend myself and allowed me to get money added to my transit card or some emergency food when rent week comes up. I have converted all my "points" to B&N gift cards to add to my Nook library.

I'm definitely keeping my eyes open for a CU credit card. My roommate, who has a stellar credit rating, is currently trying to get out from under her three accounts. The joke is that I can afford a new car much better than she can, but I'm the one with the craptastic credit.

#275 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 02:12 PM:

Lori Coulson @ #268, BMIFCU?

Body Mass Index Federal Credit Union?

Hau`oli Lā Hānau, Rikibeth!

#276 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 02:19 PM:

HLN: Area woman discovers that NONE of her trousers fit, debates the (f)utility of clothes shopping versus the probability of disaster if she refuses to leave the house due to having nothing fit to wear except pajamas.

Area woman notes that the pajama pants don't really fit, either.

#277 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 02:32 PM:

One of the differences between credit cards and debit cards is that there are more protections for the consumer on credit cards (ironic, really). If someone steals your credit card and runs amok, the bank takes the hit, not you. The same protections don't apply for a debit card.

I second Lori Coulson's point at 268 about not paying medical bills with a credit card -- unless it's a small charge that you can pay off promptly. If you are uninsured and get hit with a big medical bill, and you pay the bill with your credit card, the negotiation is over. You owe money to the credit card company, and they aren't interested in how or why you ran up that bill. If you don't pay the hospital, and then open negotiations, they may agree to a smaller bill.

#278 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 02:33 PM:

I will not go so far as to say credit cards are evil. What I will say is that I am apparently not one of the people for whom they are a good idea. I do not know that I ever will be, although at some point I may well join a credit union and see if they have a card with credit-rebuilding training wheels.

And the gotchas: hi, if your payment is late, we'll charge you a late fee (makes perfect sense to me, actually--maybe the penalty will be painful enough to help you remember to pay on time). Then if it's late again, we'll boost your interest rate. And we'll do the same thing again if you're late, and if you wind up with a rate nearing 30%, don't come crying to us to lower it if you manage to pay on time for the next 6 months or so, because we won't do it.

The fact that this will make it progressively more difficult for the client to make their payments, because so much of each payment goes to interest rather than principal reduction, seems to be a feature to the credit card issuers rather than a bug--either they'll get more money via the interest boost, or they get to write it off as a business loss if the person files bankruptcy or the debt becomes otherwise uncollectible.

And the hell of it is, I NEVER realized I was in trouble while I was working. The fact that I would refi the house for a lower payment--and pull money out to pay off credit card debt--for some reason never raised any red flags for me. Oh, I'd go through the motions, taking one card out of my wallet completely and taping several layers of notepaper around the other to discourage use...but sooner or later, off would come the paper, and I'd be charging away as if I was always going to have the money to bay the bill.

And at the time, I didn't have a financial advisor, which if I'd had one, s/he might have been able to point out that the light at the end of the tunnel actually had a very large train called Bankruptcy behind it.

I do try not to wonder where I'd be now if I'd learned that lesson, since I know it doesn't help. But I strongly encourage all parents who are not already teaching their kids how to rationally handle their money, to do so. And if you have doubts about your own skills in that area, find an independent financial advisor, possibly a CFA, who can teach the whole family. It can be very hard to notice what you've never been trained to see in the first place.

#279 ::: Phil Knight ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 02:40 PM:

@James E, #256. Yep, it's a slightly modified Danelectro 1959 Double Cut in black with a white scratchplate and side tape, with a modern bridge, and strung left handed. A cheap guitar but a good one.

random thought: Would LOTR be better or worse if it ended

"And The Witch king of Angmar drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Gollum upon his lap. He drew a deep breath. 'Well, I'm back,' Sauron said."

#280 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 03:06 PM:

Mary Aileen @224: what I get from that is "Do the Hustle."

#281 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 03:34 PM:

nerdycellist @235 (and Syd @ 278): a credit card should be used only as a debit card with a one-month delay, to pay for something for which you already have the funds, and should be paid off in full, monthly. If you can't trust yourself to do that/that's not possible in the USA (surely should be possible to set it up automated - it's what I do), then you don't want a credit card.

Happy birthday to Rikibeth.

HLN: Are woman finishes first 50 K running race - although it was actually 32 rather than 31 miles, according to my Garmin - in 5 hrs 5 mins including stops to e.g. get across busy road. Quite pleased. Has now officially entered 50 miles event for early August.

#283 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 03:49 PM:

Dave Luckett (250): Arguing against The Grand Canyon Suite is that I'm not really familiar with it (except by name) and don't think I would have heard it in the background any time recently.

HelenS (280): I don't think I know that one, either.

But thank you both.

#284 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 04:09 PM:

Happy Birthday Rikibeth!

In other news, the prophesied winter is upon us the predicted winter storm for this weekend has arrived in C-ville. We had a littler snow/ice storm a few weeks ago, but this is big fat flakes and serious accumulation on the ground.

Prob'ly gonna be one of those evenings when I'll wish I could have taken the dog out for all three walks up front in the morning. ;-) Maybe she'll be impressed enough to go quickly and retreat to cover.

#285 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 04:16 PM:

Mary Aileen @283: So it's even less likely to be "The Sorceror's Apprentice" or a little piece by Alec Templeton called "Springtime in the Village," I'm guessing.

#286 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 04:49 PM:

Kip W (285): Possibly The Sorcerer's Apprentice (but I doubt it); I'm not familiar with the other one.

I'm not sure the source is knowable. It may not even *have* an explicit source. But if I sing something else every time it starts up, maybe it will eventually go away.

I hope.

#287 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 05:03 PM:

Well, with all the talk about guinea pigs here, I thought I'd sound out the household about the idea of having one. That's right; I asked the cats!:

Me: "Hey, cats, how would you feel about having a guinea pig in the house?"

Sethra (long-haired prima donna): "No. And get rid of all the other cats, too. And feed me tuna. Only tuna."

Aliera (pre-confused shorthair): "Huh? What?" [long gaze into space] "I'm sorry, did you say something?"

Bastet (stodgy old overweight black cat): "Would its food be something I'd enjoy stealing?"

Cassie (professional lapcat): "Only one fluffy, adorable, sweet-tempered animal at a time, please."

Tyr (the new 6-month old Siamese): "A smaller fluffy animal that runs around on its own, without batteries? Wow! Great! Yeah! YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH!!! GUINEA PIG! GET ME A GUINEA PIG, NOW-W-W-W-W-W!!!!"

Me: "That settles it. No guinea pigs."

#288 ::: Phil Knight ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 05:07 PM:

@Mary Aileen #224: Is it the Dogtanian theme tune?(It's on youtube.) That's certainly an earworm, now I've got to go and wash my mind out with some Edwin Starr.

#289 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 06:48 PM:

This is odd: I have Mobipocket reader on my laptop and was revisiting "A Study in Scarlet". At some point I randomly moved the mouse over the large A that deals with fonts, etc., I assumed of the text one was reading. I do not recall clicking on it, only of moving the cursor over it. And yet I suddenly noticed that the font size was smaller--not of the text I was reading, but of everything in the frame surrounding the text. When I clicked over to Firefox (v. 3.6.26), all the text on the various tabs was also noticeably smaller.

I have no idea what I did, but I would like to put things back to normal. My eyesight is good, but even for me, the print is a little squinty. Since AKICIML, does anyone have any ideas as to what I did, and how I might undo it?

#290 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 07:10 PM:

Paul A. @262: Just the thing for hotel bookings

Yeah, well, except. The Denvention Hyatt pulled a stunt I'd never seen before. First day I check in, they make a charge to cover the day. So far, so good. Second day, they make a charge covering two days. Without releasing the (now redundant) charge for the first day. Third day, etc. Fourth day, I get a call that my card has been declined. WTF? sez I. Given that my starting balance was more than enough to cover the whole weekend (though only once), I wound up having words with their bookkeeping department. They presume the unused "pending" charges will just automatically be released in the fullness of time—say, a week or so later. Evidently, it doesn't occur to them that the customer might have, shall we say, other uses for that money during that time...? Still makes me fume.

Oh, I see that Lee @267 already covered that. Heh. Occurs to me that it might be worth calling the police in that circumstance, since they're debiting rather more money than they are owed, even if they don't plan to keep it. Have the nice officer speak to the nice accounting manager. In the lobby, preferably. (Hey! Two can play at this game!)

Melissa Singer @270: Oh yeah: WARNING! Do not feed apples to the guinea pig. Or at least, make damn sure you core them first. Turns out some apple seeds have enough (cyanide? arsenic?) to kill a guinea pig. I found this out the hard way. :-(

Dried fruit is dis-recommended, btw. If a commercial guinea pig food has anything but pellets in it, don't waste your money/guinea's health. Here's a good source on guinea pig diet. If you really wanna become your guinea pig's Best Friend EVAR, introduce them to wheat grass. Can be bought at most health food stores and Jamba Juice outlets. Can be grown at home for a fraction of the cost. (Of all the pigs I've had, I've only encountered one that didn't like wheat grass.)

A resounding second to what Syd @278 says about teaching your kids about credit. I didn't get much formal training from my parents, but it was enough for me to be on the alert. Even so, I managed to righteously screw myself into the ground once, and I'm still carrying that balance on my mortgage. When I got my new credit card after paying off the old one, I made them pin the limit at $2500. None of this "automatic limit increase because you've been a good customer" crap for me.

Bruce Arthurs @287: Who knows, they might surprise you. ('Course, I suppose the surprise could go the other way, too.)

#292 ::: James E ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 07:16 PM:

Phil Knight @279: marvellous. I've got a Dano DC myself (spangly purple), and yeah, they might be cheap but they're an immense amount of fun. And so irresistible to play...

#293 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 07:17 PM:

Phil Knight (288): The which what?

::clicks over to Youtube::

Um, no, but I certainly see why you suggested it.

#294 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 08:02 PM:

Phil Knight @279, in re cheap-but-good guitars … at my first guitar lesson, years ago, the teachers spent some time taking whatever guitar the students had brought to the class and tuning it up (or giving feedback on why it was unplayable and instructing them to get a loaner from the school store).

One of my classmates brought an old Sears Silvertone; the teacher offered, in passing while tuning, that nowadays you only ever see really, really good Silvertones. In his opinion, they were about 50/50 crappy and awesome when constructed (really bad manufacturing controls). However, over the 50-70 years that have now elapsed since they were made, all the bad ones have been tossed or destroyed, and only the really good ones survive. :->

The first guitar I tried to play (not at that lesson; independently) was my dad's old 12-string, which had unfortunately just spent 7 years in a closet without being detuned; the neck was badly warped. The guitar I brought to class and played for several months while learning was my mom's spare; it was originally made as the smallest guitar in a mariachi set, handmade in Mexico, and was good for my short stubby fingers.

Once I was sure I really did want to learn to play, I went to the school's used wall and bought a plywood Yamaha with lovely tone and an amazing volume trick: when strummed hard it wasn't too loud for a small room, but when strummed gently it was approximately the same volume if sitting 1" in front of it or sitting 15" in front of it. VERY useful for filkcircles.

Unfortunately, it was not possible to set it up with both (a) a low enough action to make barre chords feasible and (b) no buzzing. It was an amazing beginner guitar, but eventually I had to trade up; luckily, a friend of mine was getting rid of one of her 8+ guitars (she rebuilds/builds-from-scratch electrics, and she needed to destash ahead of a house-move), and it liked me. So I sold my Yamaha back to the same school store I got it from. Hopefully it found another beginner to hook on the instrument (only now with an actually-fits-its-odd-shape case I'd ordered from Yamaha in the several years I owned and played it).

#295 ::: Throwmearope ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 08:23 PM:

Re naming of pets--

We had a pet parakeet that didn't utter a sound for the first three months or so that we had him. Not a peep.

Finally, one day when I was listening to my favorite John Renbourn album, the bird started singing his little heart out. So we changed his name to Renbourn.

The day after that he sang his heart out to the garbage disposal and the vacuum too. But we left his name as Renbourn, a bit out of spite for his disliking our taste in music.

#296 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 10:08 PM:

HLN: Local man's messiness causes his daughter to accidentally break two salad bowls. Local man's intense attachment to the set has him bummed out and seeking advice on how to replace them.

#297 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 10:26 PM:

Jacque: some apple seeds have enough (cyanide? arsenic?) to kill a guinea pig

Cyanide. (or, more precisely, amygdalin, but it breaks down to release cyanide). It's the same toxin as in bitter almonds and plum/apricot kernels, which are much more likely to cause poisoning in humans. It's also the same as the famous cancer non-cure laetrile.

There are websites urging you to panic and go to hospital if a child eats an apple core, because of the cyanide content, but that's insanely over the top - no plausible dose of apples would come close to producing a dangerous dose of cyanide for a human.

#298 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 10:35 PM:

Open Threadiness - is there an "SF Tropes" with history of common stfnal ideas? The particular original topic of interest was "Head in a Jar", which is covered by TV Tropes. They make it original with Donovan's Brain in 1942, with C.S. Lewis borrowing it or reinventing it in 1945 for That Hideous Strength.

#299 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 11:04 PM:

#298: There was a most-creepy Lovecraft story that was essentially about a brain in a jar. A scholar who was "onto" the secret of alien invaders got his brain plucked and put in a cylinder. His body was used as a puppet by the aliens to put the protagonist of the story at ease.

And then there's Bernal's "The World, The Flesh, and the Devil"

Published in 1929.

#300 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 11:27 PM:

Stefan Jones @ 299: And then Fritz Leiber did Lovecraft that same favor in "To Arkham and the Stars". What goes around, comes around, especially when it's in a flying can.

#301 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 12:37 AM:

syd @289: don't know much about mobipocket, but have you tried checking the view menu in firefox? there's both a zoom option and a page style option you could try.

if that doesn't work, you might have changed something at the OS level - in win7 there's a display option that will let you change font size. the address bar says it's in control panel > appearance and personalization > display, but i found it by searching for "font size" and clicking the link for "make text and other items larger or smaller".

#302 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 12:56 AM:

Re: heads in a jar

You all remember the scene in The Order of the Phoenix when Harry and friends enter the Department of Mysteries straight into the Brain Room, right?

#303 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 04:54 AM:

I picked up a cheap electric guitar a few months ago, a Telecaster clone, and spent a few days googling on technical data and getting it set up right. As supplied, the tremolo system didn't work, all the screws too tight. One thing you might need to get is a spring, dropped into the bottom of the hole, to hold the tremolo bar in place.

The small adjustments to the bridge and intonation are a bit further than I was used to, but the tension on the tremolo springs was definitely wrong, and that was a bit "am I going to break something".

Instead of an Amp, I use a guitar-to-USB lead with software to emulate effects, amplifier, and speaker responses. It's maybe too much fun just fiddling with the possible sounds.

#304 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 08:52 AM:

Henry Troup #298: Well, "brain in a jar" itself would be limited by the concept of preservation/reanimation, so roughly Mary Wollstonecraft's period. C.S. Lewis suggests that the "Literal Head In Charge" idea is a theme of evil in general, and links it to automatons such as Bacon's Head. (But that may be world-rules rather than commentary.)

And yeah, Lovecraft played with it too, so that probably pushes it back to at least the 30s or 20s.

#305 ::: Phil Knight ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 09:53 AM:

You can pick up some really good telecasters cheaply if you don't insist on them having Fender written on the headstock - I've got a very solid Japanese Fenix, and a Stagg with a Bigsby that cost less than £100 - the Fenix is as good as any 80's Fender I've played, and the Stagg isn't bad.

@Elliott Mason - I've seen Silvertones going for ridiculous prices, possibly cheaper to build one from scratch. The cases with a built-in amp are quite expensive now.

@Throwmearope #295 - That's lovely! I don't know John but I do see him every once in a blue moon, I'll mention that, I'm sure it'll amuse him. I don't suppose the tune was "The Hermit"? A lot of the trills sound like a songbird to me.

I once asked John Renbourn what he thought of electric guitars, he answered that he had a couple, thought they were marvellous toys, but "they aren't really instruments" - all said with a smile.

If you ever get the chance to attend a guitar workshop hosted by him, it's really worth it, he's kind and patient and funny. Although he does expect a certain technical level in his students - his opening line was "Of course, you all know how to play Goodbye Pork Pie Hat"..

re:head in a jar - it's not in a jar, but the talking John The Baptist head myth is very old. I know that doesn't count, I'm just footnoting.

#306 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 10:19 AM:

Also, follow up on last night. The air actually cleared before the after-dinner walk, and it wasn't even that frigid. Not only does Gracie like the snow, she luurvs long runs across snow-covered fields. And unlike the underlying meadows, she's faster than me over snow.... We had a longer "walk" (run) this morning, but I'm not sure how much snow will be left by this afternoon.

#307 ::: Throwmearope ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 10:41 AM:

@Phil Knight #305--

Pretty sure I was listening to the Lady and the Unicorn.

I still love John Renbourn's music. I saw him in concert a couple of times. He's phenomenal.

Alas, I am quite tone deaf, can't carry a tune and have 6 thumbs on both hands when it comes to music.

I don't think even Renbourn could teach me to produce music.

#308 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 11:30 AM:

Linkmeister @275:

Batelle Memorial Institute Federal Credit Union -- the tiny Federal employees CU I joined many many years ago merged with BMIFCU about five years ago. As Batelle has more employees (locally) than the Feds, it was like jumping from a Yugo to Cadillac.

Multiple physical branches, loads of affiliate ATMs, and Batelle does mortgages. My partner and I are currently debating refinancing. The debate centers around whether we want a 15 year, 20 year or 30 year fixed. There are advantages to each option...

#309 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 12:03 PM:

(This may have a British bias.)

Why is a guitar tremolo like a vehicle shock-absorber?

(Don't look, Ethel!)

They're both wrongly named.

The Tremolo mechanism on a guitar produces a vibrato effect. The shock absorber in a vehicle's suspension is the spring--what we Brits call the shock absorber is properly called a damper.

#310 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 02:04 PM:

John Scalzi's father-in-law, Michael Blauser, has died. Posting this here in case there are Fluorospherians who a) would like to know and b) are not regular readers of Whatever.

#311 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 02:13 PM:

Some folks who keep a running check register put their credit card charges down in the register as if they've written them as a check;

That's how I was taught to handle credit cards, and did for several years.

Credit cards work well for me, but I still don't recommend them. I'm somewhat OCD about money and book-keeping[1]; as of next month, I will have had a credit card and a checking account for 20 years. In that time, I have never paid a late fee, or an overdraft fee, and I've balanced my checkbook every month.

1) As in, I will never be allowed to forget that I balanced my checkbook the morning of my wedding.

#312 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 02:26 PM:

Awecome book art.

Phil, #305: I once asked John Renbourn what he thought of electric guitars, he answered that he had a couple, thought they were marvellous toys, but "they aren't really instruments" - all said with a smile.
Q. How many folk singers does it take to change a light bulb?
A. Twelve -- 1 to change the bulb, 4 to write songs about how much better the old bulb was*, and 7 to complain because it's electric!

* Especially likely if the old bulb was incandescent and the new bulb is CFL or LED.

#313 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 02:29 PM:

Rikibeth @ 233:

Oh, yes, that's the one. Thank you, the tune may still earworm me, but at least now I have the horn section too.

Also, Happy Birthday, and many returns of the day but not the earworm.

Phil Knight:

Welcome. That was a good poem; please bring more. And there's popcorn in the kitchen. Thanks for the new earworm; I got lucky and it didn't take.

Lori Coulson @ 308:

I'm fascinated by the evolution of credit unions. I joined the Tektronix FCU in the mid 1980s when working at Tek was a requirement for membership, and they had pretty good interest rates for car loans and second mortgages (amazing just how much remodeling costs). Since then it has changed its name to First Tech FCU, then absorbed a couple of smaller cu's, then disconnected itself from Tektronix (about the time I did). And despite that it's much larger than it used to be, and doesn't have a uniform customer base anymore, its service remains very good and its rates are highly competitive.

Re credit cards: I have 2 active cards, one whose fee is paid for by the financial service that manages our retirement fund and an American Express card issued from Costco (the only card they'll accept). I pay off the Amex card whenever there's a balance on my statement, which is usually when I've been to Costco. I pay off the other card most every month, though I've had to keep a balance for as much as 3 months when we have to bridge the gap between paying for something really expensive like plane fare, hotel bill, and car rental when visiting our new grandchild (clearly not a luxury) and selling off something in our retirement account to cover the cost.

I'm somewhat phobic about credit cards because I got in over my head for about a year when our kids were young and still at home and unexpected expenses starting hitting us hard. We dug out from under that, but it was a wakeup call.

#314 ::: Kevin Reid ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 04:24 PM:

Dave Bell #309:

The shock absorber in a vehicle's suspension is the spring--what we Brits call the shock absorber is properly called a damper.

I'm not sure that's right wrong.

It's true that without the spring you'd get rattled. But without the damper, you'd get bounced instead. It is the damper which the energy ends up in (is absorbed by).

(Mods, could <ins> and <del> be added to the permitted HTML?)

#315 ::: Affenschmidt ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 06:00 PM:

On the naming of cars (going back a few days now):

My oldest aunt and uncle had a large number of children and, it being the sixties and seventies, found the best vehicle available to transport them all was a VW Bus. They gave it a name: Herman (changed to protect the innocent). When one of my cousins, whom I'll call Shirley for complicated and rather silly reasons, was sixteen, she was at the wheel when it got crushed by a liquor truck. She was ultimately ok--a few cuts and a dislocated shoulder--but she was a trifle concussed when she got, or was gotten, out of the wreckage. A policeman asked her if there was anyone else in the car.

"No, it was just me and Herman," she said.

The policeman looked in horror at the twisted remains of the vehicle. Shirley, seeking to reassure him, said: "It's ok. Herman's dead."

#316 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 06:16 PM:

Kip W @169: I remember that poem. I started to describe it to a friend, who sternly ordered me to stop, because Milne poetry was as sacred to her as her teddy bear.

John A Arkansawyer @282: Suspicions confirmed.

#317 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 07:45 PM:

To whoever mentioned "Hatoful Boyfriend" (the pigeon-based dating sim) in a previous open thread-- I played the complete version of the game over the weekend, and it has broken my tiny little mind.

Definitely the best five dollars I have ever ever spent. (Though I do wish the English patch had nicer-looking font management, but once cute pigeons start getting tragic backstories and imminent doom approaches, anything else is gravy.)

#318 ::: Sam Cooper ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 09:24 PM:

Another long-time reader with a short naming of things note: my silver Toyota Matrix is called Argent Smith.

#319 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 09:32 PM:

HLN: Area woman's teenage daughter acquires violin. Makes music come out.

Considering said teenager had touched a violin twice in her life prior to yesterday, the fact that she managed a not-awful version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in 24 hours is pretty cool.

Search for live teacher, as opposed to YouTube and other instructional videos (which have their place) has commenced.

Area teenager has habit of humming Sherlock theme song, giving area woman earworm.

#320 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 09:44 PM:

Melieres did a movie about a disembodied head on a table that was inflated with a bellows. Before 1910?

John M. Burt @316: I'd love to chat with you and see if you can remember any parts of the verse that I can't. I have put together an "all I can think of" version, and it's within one or two stanzas of being all there. The issue it's in is in [gestures] one of these boxes.

#321 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 09:46 PM:

Méliès. Méliès!!

Aw, merde.

("Hey! Where'd you pick up that language?")

#322 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 10:01 PM:

Thomas at # 297: It makes a difference if you chew the seeds or not. The fruit tree wants you or any animal to swallow the seeds whole and poop them out somewhere else, so that new trees can spring up in new locations. The bitter-tasting poison inside the seeds is to discourage animals from doing it wrong.

#323 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 11:08 PM:

Sam, #318: Hi! Fancy meeting you here...

Melissa, #319: I think the Sherlock soundtrack CD is going to be out shortly. I like the main theme, but for my money "Sherlock's Theme" (the Bollywood-influenced one here) is the real earworm-trigger.

#324 ::: Lee has been gnomed again ::: (view all by) ::: February 20, 2012, 11:09 PM:

No idea why this time.

[Accidentally matched a fairly-rare spam pattern. Removed that filter. -- JDM]

#325 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 12:10 AM:

And to change topics a bit, the Fluorosphere's kindness and generosity has bought my cats another couple of days' boarding at the vet's--and the vet thinks you're awesome.

I do, too. On behalf of Garbo, Minerva, Houdini and Poppet, thank you. :)

#326 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 01:56 AM:

Let me add my small voice to the chorus which asked "Where did the search box on the main page go?"

I wanted to see if I'd asked this question here: "In the Grand Fenwick universe, how did Gloriana's consort Tully die? He was only five years older than she, and she's in her mid-40s in The Mouse That Saved the West, the last of the five-book series. The reader is told in it that he's dead.


#327 ::: rat4000 ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 06:00 AM:

Re: guitars

AKICIML, thought of because of Elliot Mason @294: how does warping happen to guitars? I'm asking because I've got a nylon-string which, in the near future, I likely won't be playing for a month/months at a time: what do I do with the strings? Take them out completely, let them hang in several tones beneath the normal tuning, leave them in as they are now? I know that nylon strings have a tension way lower than steel strings so I don't know how the neck will warp if I do those things and if yes, how badly; I also don't have anyone with enough experience around to tell me. (Those I know who play nylon-string guitars never do seem to leave them lying around.)

#328 ::: debio ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 08:18 AM:

re: earworms

I read somewhere once how to get rid of an earworm. I tried it and it works for me quite well.

Give it to someone else. This doesn't usually work on forums, because it only seems to really work if you sing or hum it for someone. I think these little parasites travel on soundwaves or something.

Try it sometime. Hopefully it will work for you.

#329 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 08:52 AM:

rat4000: IANALuthier; everything I'm about to say is repeating stuff Trusted Professionals have told me in the tennish years since I started learning about guitars.

The accepted best-practice for leaving a guitar unplayed for lengthy times (years; for some delicate guitars, months) is to slack the strings until they flap back and forth a little when you wiggle the guitar: no tension at all.

Nylons usually aren't a problem, especially if your neck has a steel shank in it -- if you turn the guitar over so you're looking at the back of the soundbox, then tilt it so the headstock points at the floor, the 'butt end' of the neck should be facing you. Either there, or on the inside of the soundbox where the neck joins in, there may be what looks kind of like an Allen-key or hex-nut or square-head bolt: if so, this is the bottom of your neck's internal strengthening metal bar (which has a term of art I'm forgetting just now), which is intended both to resist warping and to bring the neck back into true should it warp anyhow.

Nylons rarely harm the guitar they're on (the string stretches before the wood warps), and if you have a steel neck rod don't worry about it other than planning to get new strings soon after you start playing again.

Steel strings, especially in a no-neck-rod guitar, are more problematic, and the more strings, the more tension. My dad's guitar was a fairly cheap steel-string 12, so, um, yeah, problematic. :->

Should it get warped anyway (or you buy a used one), a luthier with a proper humidifying box of juiciness-making can sometimes use that and his tools and mystical powers to bring it back, especially if it's a mild warp.

#330 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 09:49 AM:

Dave Bell @303: What you describe is tempting me once again to learn to play guitar! Well, in the past I've been more tempted to learn bass. Either way, I've learned I'll need a Daisy Rock or kid's model, because my hands are TINY.

The main reason I wanted to learn to play bass before was to be able to play the addictive riff from the Smithereens' "Blood and Roses." Hearing about the effects-pedal software makes me want to learn the Damned's "Wait For The Blackout" and mess with effects until I get the astonishing chiming sound Matt Skiba used on Alkaline Trio's cover of the song. Matt Skiba loves his effects pedals.

#331 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 09:50 AM:

Lee @323: We are well aware of the impending soundtrack. Sherlock is the teen's OTF (One True Fandom), so it's pretty much all Sherlock, all the time, around my place.

Benefits: teen is reading Conan Doyle, is re-interested in violin, is looking at technical details of filming/editing, is open to looking at other interpretations of Holmes (except Robert Downey Jr's because she's heard me ranting about how un-Holmesian they are) (so I'm going to show her some of the Jeremy Brett stuff), and is writing fanfic.

Her ringtone is now "Staying Alive."

She keeps me up to date on all the #believeinsherlock stuff and periodically sends me cute pictures of Martin Freeman (my age-inappropriate crush-object).

I periodically get echoes of my parents' care and feeding (and tolerance) of my own teenage fandom.

#332 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 10:03 AM:

Melissa Singer @ 330... open to looking at other interpretations of Holmes

Has the Teen seen "The 7-percent Solution", in which Alan Arkin plays Freud? And may I recommend "Murder by Decree", with Christopher Plummer as Holmes, James Mason as Watson, and the immortal line "You squashed my peas!". Oh, and there is a recent affair with Rupert Everett as Holmes.

#333 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 10:08 AM:

Melissa Singer @330: You are not the only one with a teen whose ringtone is "Staying Alive," for precisely the same reason.

No violin acquired here, but rather a lot of tumblr-based RP, and cosplay that occasionally extends to school. Also a certain amount of chasing down the rest of Benedict Cumberbatch's body of work. Teen had already started on Conan Doyle canon, and acquired a version in a smaller format, disliking the unwieldiness of my annotated Baring-Gould version -- well, they ARE unwieldy.

This is not the teen's first fandom - that started very young, with Harry Potter. Also, I should note that each of the inhabitants of the household possess their own sonic screwdriver. It's interesting to see how fannish participation changes with age, though. At age six, it was naming an entire collection of Barbies after the Potter characters, and dressing as a wizard for Halloween. Now it's fanfic and RP and, well, dressing as a consulting detective whenever possible. ;-)

#334 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 10:28 AM:

Serge @331: The teen has not seen anything yet other than Cumberbatch/Freeman. I am an old Holemsian, so I've seen the things you are referring to, but I want her to read 7 Percent before she sees the film.

This is the 3rd generation of the family to love Holmes; my dad bought the book club edition of the Complete Holmes, which I then read and my teen is now reading. His shelves also hold 7 Percent Solution and at least one collection of pastiche stories, which I expect my kid will work her way through over the summer.

Rikibeth @332: One of dd's bffs has the Sherlock theme as her ringtone and has dd in her contact list as "Sherlock;" when dd called her this weekend to invite her to a movie, A's first thought (reported to me because I took them to the movies) was, "Why is Sherlock Holmes calling me?" (We went to see "The Secret World of Arietty," which is beautiful and has amazing sound work.)

dd has a tumblr too, and, as you may have seen because I posted it on a previous open thread, has made a "Sh*t Sherlock fans say" video.

As for cosplay, I myself sewed the red buttonhole onto her lovely black peacoat. She and A (who cosplays John) are going to a Nerdfighter gathering this upcoming weekend in full gear. They are _not_ Femlock and FemJohn; they are Sherlock and John. (There are, thankfully, a small number of other Sherlock and Downton Abbey fans at her school, and the rest are accepting . . . it's an arts-oriented school so they all have interesting passions.)

Ditto on the Cumberbatch search here as well. The Third Star is considered especially worthwhile because of the crying it provokes. Does yours know about Cabin Pressure?

The teen's first fandom, again following family tradition, was Trek. She became a Whovian right before the Sherlock bug bit, so the bedroom is decorated in an interesting mix of Star Trek (a few remants), Lady Gaga, Dr. Who, and Sherlock. David Tennant is over the bed and the back of the door is completely covered with a large Tardis poster. We haven't found good Sherlock posters in the US yet and are hoping there will be some at NYCC this fall. (I say we since I'm the one who usually pays for them, lol.)

"Now it's fanfic and RP and, well, dressing as a consulting detective whenever possible." Here too. RP via text message, though, not tumblr. Tumblr seems reserved for an endless stream of gifs and photos and "all the feels."

(I rather love it, in case you can't tell. There are far worse obsessions to have.)

#335 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 10:40 AM:

Melissa Singer @333: I just handed the teen a skein of my red floss to do the buttonhole on the black greatcoat that I've accepted I won't get back; I was busy swapping out buttons and applying stripes to the epaulettes on the coat I was using for Jack Harkness. And no, I wasn't fem!Jack either. Braces, men's trousers, the works.

I'm not sure about Cabin Pressure. Mine spent several hours watching Fortysomething with the housemate - I wasn't sufficiently interested to join in. I was either watching Garrow's Law or writing my Hornblower stuff. I was the one to watch To the Ends of the Earth with the housemate, though - put tall ships in it and I'm there.

Oh, and mine's a Nerdfighter too. And a brony.

The Sherlock RP has become SuperWhoLock, with Good Omens thrown in on top.

It really is a delight to observe.

#336 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 10:57 AM:

Rikibeth--is this online? Because wow, sounds like fun, and I'd love to observe. :)

#337 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 11:10 AM:

There are lots of collections of Holmes on video. Besides the inexpensive public domain Rathbone/Bruce movies, there are low-price half-hour TV shows from the 1950s, and movies with Arthur Wontner. There are also radio shows.

I'll recommend all of them ahead of anything by Nicholas Meyer, but that's because I hate what he did, and in fact hated fanfiction for years and years because of it.

#338 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 11:16 AM:

ps is a good resource. Here's a page of results from a search for Mr. Holmes.

Other movies that I liked that partake of the Holmes creation in varying degrees include THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS (really good; great cast), THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (pretty good), and THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE (which is not as impressive now as when it came out, but still continues to hold up). I can't remember much of anything about THE ADVENTURE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES'S SMARTER BROTHER for some reason, but I don't know if that's the movie's fault or my own.

#339 ::: Kip W - caro gnomes! ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 11:19 AM:

I really thought I had previewed the link. Maybe it doesn't like the way I mentioned archive dot org. Sorry to be a nuisance.

#340 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 11:36 AM:

Rikibeth: ditto on the brony stuff too, though that has faded in the last couple of months.

Carrie S: a lot of this is going on on tumblr. That's where my kid blogs and where there are hundreds, if not thousands, of Sherlock, Who, etc. blogs. They know/find/follow each other. It's possible that Rikibeth's teen and mine know each other through tumblr, though possibly not, as mine does not (yet) do RP there, and more than one person may use the same or similar handles.

WhoLock does seem to be a popular substream and has started to spawn crossover art and fanfic.

Kip, I liked 7 Percent but nothing else.

I think we'll probably work back to Rathbone/Bruce; I grew up loving those but dd will have a hard time swallowing a stupid Watson.

#341 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 12:11 PM:

One of my kid's RP tumblrs is I very deliberately don't follow any of my kid's tumblrs. It was weird enough when we discovered we had an acquaintance in common, hornblower24601. (How could I resist a name like that?)

Tumblr has a lovely tags feature that lets you track them - this is how I meet fellow fans in my own tiny fandoms; anyone posting on those tags is generally worth following. In a huge fandom like Sherlock or Doctor Who, it's a bit more complicated.

Clicking on my name in this post will link you to mine. ;-)

#342 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 12:51 PM:

While I am allowed to link to my kid's videos and sometimes to her Fb page, I may not pass around her blog URL. That crosses the boundary into "creepy" as far as she's concerned.

This is fine with me; I think at nearly 16 she is perfectly able to set boundaries (and indeed, should be setting them--one of the reasons I instigate conversations about boundaries is so that she consciously sets them). And one of my parenting promises is not to violate them . . . though the family rules about danger to self or others still apply.

It's tempting, at times, especially as she's gotten older, but I've been good so far.

#343 ::: Antonia T. Tiger ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 01:24 PM:

I did make a start on a cross-over between my Spontoon Islands stories and Sherlock Holmes, but there are copyright issues in the USA, and we all try to keep the Spontoon Islands clear of those.

But, for your titillation:

I would suppose that it is a sign of the wily fox’s fame and reputation that, more than thirty years after his retirement, the death of Sherlock Holmes should have been news across the world. Not the shocking banner headline news that Herr Hitler’s latest claim might bring, though as I recall it was indeed that man again who monopolised the front pages. However, his passing was marked by a summary of his career taken from the Associated Press wire, and a brief Third Editorial in the Mirror. In the Elele the coverage was shorter, pointing to his significance as a pioneer of scientific detection, a field so ably exemplified by Inspector Stagg.

I fancied that Inspector Stagg would be as much annoyed as flattered by that comparison. I looked across the office at my companion. “Sherlock Holmes has died,” I said.

“Holmes?” Bellman looked a trifle surprised. “I hadn’t realised he was still alive.”

“In his eighties,” I said.

“I suppose,” said Bellman after a moment of reflection, “that he must have been.”

I nodded. “I met him once, when I was taking a course at The Manor. I suppose you were gadding about in India.”

“Likely,” agreed Bellman. “The Brigadier apparently knew his brother, and said he’d rather have one of Cromwell’s plain russet-coated captains. I think he was flattering me.”

Saunders chuckled. “Mr. Holmes said his brother was too clever by half. The country was lucky that he was so lazy. And I don’t think the Brigadier was flattering you.”

“So, secret stuff, then.”

“Teaching us some things, maybe assessing us for some future work. I think I was lucky to meet him. He told us what he’d really been doing in ’14, said Watson didn’t know the real story.”

Bellman nodded. “I wouldn’t expect Watson to have put the whole story into print,” he agreed. “Not during the War.”

“And then on the second evening he was staying at the Manor, he came to my room...”

We then go into a tale of Sherlock Holmes, told by Horace Saunders, set a few years after the Great War.

#344 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 01:35 PM:

Kid was sitting just across the room; I asked before posting the blog address. Since it's an in-character blog instead of a personal one, kid was fine with it.

#345 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 02:04 PM:

Rikibeth: simply explaining why I could not reply in kind.

Lest anyone think I only take and never give . . . .

#346 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 02:14 PM:

OT wonderfulness: Jo Walton's Among Others is on the Nebula shortlist! Details here.

#347 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 02:17 PM:

Melissa: No worries, then!

#348 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 02:36 PM:

Melissa, #331: I just think of the latest Holmes movies as being AU. Sherlock is AU too, by virtue of being set in the current day (I was absolutely in stitches over the way they brought in the deerstalker hat!); the movies are steampunk AU Holmes.

I came up with the "think of it as AU" concept when I was watching Bones and noticed how little the TV show had in common with the books. It saves me a lot of fulminating. :-)

I am very pleased that Martin Freeman is going to be playing the young Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit. I think he'll do very well.

#349 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 03:05 PM:

Lee: I agree on the AU front, but that's half the fun, imo.

The RDJ/JL ones just push the envelope a little too far for me. _That doesn't mean they're not *fun*_ but I, and the dear friend with whom I always see them, have decided for ourselves that they are sortof "fancy-dress" Holmes rather than AU.

Martin Freeman . . . how does a 40-yo look so young? In the Bilbo photos, he looks like he might be in his 20s. _le sigh_ (stop it, brain! he is _12_ years younger! behave!) (I am glad at least that it is not Cumberbatch who is my lust object, given that he was born the year I graduated from high school.)

The news that Johnny Lee Miller has been signed to the in-development CBS Holmes is interesting. Miller was in that Frankenstein last year with Cumberbatch where they switched roles for every performance, taking it in turn to be the doctor and the monster. I saw a taped version of Miller as monster/Cumberbatch as doctor and want to see the other but I don't think there's a DVD of it (yet?). Miller's quite a good actor.

#350 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 03:22 PM:

WARNING: possible rape trigger.

I am enraged and I must rant...

I am so, so angry that I am barely coherent. I just heard Dahlia Lithwick on NPR discussing the new Virginia "ultrasound probe" law. Prior to getting an brtn (which is still a legal medical procedure in this country, gdmnit) women in Virginia MUST be penetrated with an ultrasound vaginal probe, whether they want to be or not, whether their doctor thinks this is a medically appropriate test, or not. There are no exceptions in the law for women who have been raped. Consent of the woman or the doctor is not required or desired: in fact -- this is what made me completely lose it, folks -- the VA legislators who passed this abomination were given the opportunity to add an amendment of patient/doctor consent to the bill, and voted it down.

Of course they did. This is not a medical procedure. This is punishment. Doctors must do it. Women must endure it. The smug, patriarchal, self-righteous ugliness of this "law" is beyond belief.

"O God, break the teeth in their mouths...
Let them vanish like water that runs away;
Like grass let them be trodden down, and wither.
Let them be like the snail which dissolves into slime..." (Psalm 58.)

#351 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 05:17 PM:

#350: Outrage over that unbelievable P.O.S. bill has been sloshing around Twitter (at least, among the folks I read) for a few days.

I liked this editorial cartoon response:

Wait, it's a LAW now? Unbelievable.

#352 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 05:24 PM:

I understand it's been the law in Texas for a while. Someone I know on Facebook suggested a law requiring a colonoscopy before a man can get a prescription for Viagra™ or any ED medication.

Not at all equivalent, of course. That's not the point.

#353 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 05:26 PM:

Proposed new law: Any man who seeks to limit women's access to abortion, contraception, or other reproductive health care must, before taking action, submit to a thorough colonoscopy, in order that they may make their decision fully informed as to the possible presence of their own craniums within their colons.

#354 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 05:28 PM:

No, it's not a law yet. The lower House in Va. is putting it off, partly (I think) due to mass demonstrations by women outside the state capitol building.

#355 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 05:38 PM:

Avram @ 352:

I liked the proposal to give such men a urethal catheterization. Much more humiliating and painful than colonoscopy (which has a real medical purpose anyway, so we probably shouldn't waste it on them).

#356 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 05:44 PM:

Gnomed. Used a brand name for a commonly-spammed medication. Comment redundant now anyway.

#357 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 05:53 PM:

Bruce Cohen: Or make a chlamydia test of a lawmaker who voted yes mandatory for each transvaginal ultrasound performed -- that's a thorougly unpleasant and humiliating medical procedure. Especially if it comes up positive.

#358 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 08:05 PM:

Re my comment at #350: turns out this monstrosity is not a law, yet. It's a bill which the VA legislators were all excited about until they started to get some pushback. It may be dawning on them that they've stepped over a line. Or, not. The governor has already said he'd sign it.

Stay tuned.

#359 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 08:15 PM:

Xopher @352, that was actually a proposed amendment to the Virginia bill. I don't think anyone was enlightened, but the point was made for those who already got it.

#360 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 09:17 PM:

Rikibeth: apropos of nothing, the teen has decided it is okay to share her blog info.

#361 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 09:30 PM:

My suggestion for the legislators in VA (and in Texas) is that they get the nearest physical equivalent of the exam they're inflicting on women ... with the probe chilled. And this should be required, in addition, every time they want a prescription for little blue pills.

#362 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 09:56 PM:

The car has been purchased and brought home. Finished the money bit at the Credit Union and discovered I get a quarter-of-a-point discount for using auto-pay. Also, their credit score for me was about 50 points higher than either of the scores the dealership showed. So yay, credit union! I am somewhat crabby that State Farm does not take AmEx, which, as one of those regular bills that I would pay on time anyway, would be a great way to continue establishing credit.

Very funny note at the dealership today; the salesman goes over your car with you when they deliver it - the windshield wipers are here, this is how you operate the moon-roof, etc. The roommate's demo for her Civic took about 15 minutes as the salesman showed her things like how to set up her bluetooth, pointed out various light-up icons on the dash and told her how to download "up to three wallpapers!" on her dashboard display thingy. My demo was about 3 minutes of "You know how to work a radio, right?" and "here's how you move the mirrors". I'm sure she'll enjoy those wallpapers (I suggested she use a pic of her old car, a '98 Civic) but I'm also quite happy I don't have to learn too many new things.

#363 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 10:16 PM:

Here we go again...or should I say, still...

The cats, thanks to y'all and some FB friends of similar charitable bent, have bought the cats until at least Thursday, maybe a little longer. I didn't check after my visit tonight because I was suddenly very depressed, due to a conversation with the friend on whose sofa I've been sleeping since last week.

Namely and to wit, the conversation friend and I had last week, wherein she said the only reason she hadn't asked me to just move in was the cats? Not so much the case. More of an "I wish this was the case, so I'll say it without realizing I might get asked about it later and have to recant." I had called her last night to let her know that cats had a couple of extra days, and ask whether our prior convo mean that therefore I might also have a couple of extra days at her place. I didn't get a call back from her, so I decided I'd better call again rather than assume anything.

But of course, I had assumed that she'd meant what she said last week, so I hear, this evening, that in fact her present health issues, combined with plain old having gotten used to living alone, meant she wasn't up for houseguests of any sort. And that she would be back in town on Wednesday and so I would need to not be staying there, and I kind of got the impression that if we didn't actually cross paths--that is, if I and my stuff were absent when she got home--she wouldn't be too fussed about it, and might actually prefer it.

I freely admit the last bit is probably my disappointment talking, although I wouldn't be surprised to find I'm correct in my interpretation.

Please understand, I know my friend has health issues right now, and that having another person underfoot, even a loved friend, may--hell, probably will--cost her more spoons that she has to spare. I get that, and I never had any desire to impose on her generosity and good nature. I just wish she hadn't said what she did last Thursday if it wasn't what she really meant.

All of which is to say, I'm homeless again as of tomorrow. I was going to go back to PATH today but talked myself out of it on the grounds of needing to be careful with gasoline (which is true), and since I'm going to be on the west side tomorrow anyway for my networking meeting (soon to be a casualty of straitened finances), it would be easier to just stop there on the way back to my friend's... Famous last words, or something like that.

At least the nice young man I spoke to last week when getting my homelessness verification (required by PATH) told me about a place in Pasadena that does cold-weather overnight shelter, one that tends to serve more women and families and so is potentially less sketchy than other places might be. Of course, I don't know if our current weather (nice during the day, in the low 50s at night) qualifies as "cold" for purposes of shelter, but it's possible. And assuming there's no room at the PATH location that takes pets, and while I may keep my fingers crossed, I think I won't hold my breath for it.

Unless y'all have any LA connections with a driveway in which I might park tomorrow night while I sleep in ye old little winged go-devil, aka the car. If not, thanks anyway. :)

#364 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 10:22 PM:

And did I mention the place in Pasadena that offers cold-weather overnight shelter is a church, and that as a non-believer, I'm going to feel like a hypocrite if I go to them for help--but that I'll go anyway?

#365 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 10:27 PM:

custom wallpaper for your dashboard? shouldn't you be keeping your eyes on the road?

#366 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 10:29 PM:

On a happier note, I stopped in today to visit Damon, who deigned to wake up for a while so I could give him skritches. On a whim--and trying to plan my day tomorrow--I just checked the animal shelter's adoption pages...and he's not listed anymore. I will call tomorrow to make sure, but it looks like my last little boy has found his new home!

So since this is good news, why am I crying?

#367 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 10:42 PM:

This photo annoys me because the lighting is wrong. The centerline of the crescenty lighting on the planet should be in line with the center point of the sun.

#368 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 10:52 PM:

Syd @ 364: A non-believer isn't hypocritical to accept the help of a church.

If the church is one of those that insists you worship with them to receive their charity, then they are the hypocrites. Such churches are not the norm but they do exist.

So long as you stay away from the Starvation Army, what Utah Phillips says here is more typical:

In my years at the Joe Hill House I never heard a grace, or supplication, or blessing of any kind. The getting of food was part of our prayer. The fixing of food was part of our prayer. The gathering of wood for our fire was part of our prayer. There was nothing we did that was separate from our prayer. And the answer to our prayer was feeling good and hopeful about what we were doing. The answer to our prayer was a stomach that was full instead of empty, A body that was warm instead of out in the cold, Someone with an arm around the shoulder instead of being alone. Our prayer was in the deed.

I myself am an atheist and have been for a long time. On the occasions I've needed help from a church (food bank, utility assistance once), I've taken it and been grateful. Please, do the same.

(The gratitude part? Strictly optional.)

#369 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 10:53 PM:

Syd Did I mention the place in Pasadena that offers cold-weather overnight shelter is a church, and that as a non-believer, I'm going to feel like a hypocrite if I go to them for help

Syd, I don't know about that church, of course, but mine has long served a Sunday evening meal for those who need it with the attitude that we don't do it because of what the guests believe, we do it because of what we believe. So no need to feel like a hypocrite.

And I'm glad it sounds like Damon has found a home, but of course you miss them all.

And continued uncertainty must be very hard. Continued good wishes coming your way.

#370 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: February 21, 2012, 11:46 PM:

#Linkmeister @ 354: Thank you for sharing the story about the protest in Virginia. I found it quite heartening.

#371 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 01:20 AM:

Syd, #364: Nowhere in the Bible is it written that the Church should care only for the poor who are its members. If they were to turn you away for not being a believer, they would be the hypocrites. (And yes, this has been done, and the churches which have done it are not well thought of by most of their fellow Christians.)

#372 ::: perilla ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 01:31 AM:

Delurking to share the following skywatching moment with other Fluorospherians who may be interested--the weather here in Cambridge will *probably* be OK tomorrow, but just in case I wanted to make sure someone, somewhere could enjoy it.

It's just a fingernail moon--not all that rare, but the explanation here got me interested:

(When's half an hour after sundown in your locale? Ask Gaisma: Is it possible I initially learned about Gaisma from ML years ago?)

#373 ::: perilla ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 01:38 AM:

Oops. Despite previewing, did *not* pick up lack of HTML. Sorry for having to re-post. (Esteemed moderators, you are welcome to delete #372.)

Delurking to share the following skywatching moment with other Fluorospherians who may be interested--the weather here in Cambridge will *probably* be OK tomorrow (2/22, 30 min. after sunset), but, just in case, I wanted to make sure someone, somewhere could enjoy it.

It's just a fingernail moon--not all that rare, but the explanation here got me interested.

(When's half an hour after sundown in your locale? Ask Gaisma. Is it possible I initially learned about Gaisma from ML years ago?)

#374 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 01:43 AM:

janetl @ #370, Even more interesting news: Va. Gov. McDonnell is backing away a little from his support for that awful bill.

#375 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 02:26 AM:

I'm trying to figure out how to create a hyperlinked table of contents in my MS Word novel.
I feel like such an idiot -- I can look at tutorial after tutorial, and there is even a button that says "Table of Contents" -- but I can't figure out how to actually create those links, and I am told my book will be unreadable without ToC links.
Can anybody give me a hand with this? Please reply in comments, or e-mail me at

#376 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 10:57 AM:

Linkmeister, #374: From the article:
But delegates and governor's staff were scheduled to meet Tuesday night to strike a compromise after learning that some ultrasounds could be more invasive than first thought, according to two officials who were aware of the meeting but not authorized to speak about it publicly. Many of the bill's supporters were apparently unaware of how invasive the procedure could be, one of the officials added.

My ass they "weren't aware". Makes a good excuse for pulling their... hands... back out of the hornet's nest, though.

I just hope the teahad supporters have also noticed that, after running on the platform of "jobs, jobs, jobs", the people they elected have done not one damn thing about either creating jobs or boosting the economy. Instead it's been all attacks on civil rights, all the time.

#377 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 11:18 AM:

It has taken me several hours to calm down.

A lady came to see me this afternoon to ask for advice about marketing her writing. She had published two books, she said. I looked at them. They were the unedited, schlock, desperately poorly produced products of a faux vanity operation, based in Melbourne. They had cost her her savings. They'd taken her for everything she had. Christ only knows what the markup had been.

All the usual crap. "Marketed" to bookstores. (By sending them catalogues in the mail.) Posing as a "publisher". The whole lousy vicious con.

In fact, it was worse. She couldn't remember the contract details, but seemed to think she'd simply signed over the work. All rights. Everything.

I could only give her Jim's advice, plus as much of my own as I could. You bet I quoted Yog's Law. I gave her the P&E site, and Writer Beware, and this one. She went away vowing to write another book.

If she shows up here, I know that everyone will be as kind as usual. But just now I want to take the red-eye to Melbourne and do some serious mayhem.

#378 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 12:17 PM:

Syd, re "I just wish she hadn't said what she did last Thursday if it wasn't what she really meant."

She almost certainly meant exactly what she said, when she said it Thursday. After having said it, she had a chance to look at it and revise it.

We all change our game plans all the time (your plans are very different now than they were a month or so ago). Don't be too hard on her.


#379 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 02:00 PM:

John A. Arkansawyer @368, addressing Syd @364: "Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words." -- Francis of Assisi

#380 ::: rat4000 ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 02:07 PM:

Elliott Mason @329

My guitar doesn't have a truss rod, but if nylon strings generally stretch before the wood warps I should be fine; I don't think it's quite that delicate. Thanks a bunch!

#381 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 03:38 PM:

Va. Governor has now reversed position on that transvaginal ultrasound probe law.

Mandating an invasive procedure in order to give informed consent is not a proper role for the state. No person should be directed to undergo an invasive procedure by the state, without their consent, as a precondition to another medical procedure.

For this reason, I have recommended to the General Assembly a series of amendments to this bill. I am requesting that the General Assembly amend this bill to explicitly state that no woman in Virginia will have to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound involuntarily. I am asking the General Assembly to state in this legislation that only a transabdominal, or external, ultrasound will be required to satisfy the requirements to determine gestational age. Should a doctor determine that another form of ultrasound may be necessary to provide the necessary images and information that will be an issue for the doctor and the patient. The government will have no role in that medical decision.
There go his hopes for the VP slot on the GOP ticket.

#382 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 06:25 PM:

Linkmeister, not good enough, not nearly good enough. It's still totally not okay for the government to force women to have an unnecessary medical procedure. He thinks making the procedure transabdominal will make everybody feel better. No. Screw him and the horse he rode in on.

#383 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 07:05 PM:

It gets more amusing, if you're deeply cynical about politicians and their motives. Now the Va. House has dropped the requirement altogether.

The amended bill now returns to the Senate where its sponsor, Sen. Jill Vogel, said she will strike the legislation. A House version, by Del. Kathy Byron, is pending before a Senate committee.

#384 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 07:16 PM:

I bet a lot of VA politicians suddenly realized that they were liable to find themselves featured in utterly crushing campaign adverts.

#385 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 07:42 PM:

Stefan Jones @ #384, not to mention they suddenly remembered that half their constituency is made up of women.

What I wonder is, do none of these old white guys have wives who might have taken them aside to say "Fool! What are you thinking?"

#386 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 08:39 PM:

HLN: Houston-area man out doing errands spots wildflowers -- some evening primrose, some that I think are called "crow poison", and a mat of really tiny blue ones that might be some sort of forget-me-not. It seems a little early for it, but as warm as it's been I guess not.

#387 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 08:50 PM:

David Golfarb @386, could the little blue ones be veronica persica, also called birdseye speedwell? They're blooming here in North Carolina.

#388 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 09:09 PM:

David Goldfarb, I had never heard the name "crow poison", but Google turns up images of a plant I recognize (though I didn't know either a common or a scientific name for it)--it grows in my neighbor's yard. Cool!

Similarly, I recognize Naomi Parkhurst's Veronica persica, and knew that there was a blue flower called speedwell (from a description of a character's blue eyes in Greenwillow), but had never connected plant, common name and genus-and-species.

Thanks to you both!

#389 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 09:49 PM:


If I were you, I'd be crying because I'm happy that he's found a home, and sad because I won't be seeing him again, and relieved because that little bit of stress is off. (But I am not you, so you may be crying for different reasons.)

Also, have some [[hugs]].

#390 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 09:56 PM:

Teh Google provides these as the first two results for 'word "table of contents"':

The first seems to be less technical and easier to follow. I've done it in Word, and yes, it will do it for you, if you do it the way they tell you. (Otherwise it's a massive pain.)

#391 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 10:10 PM:

Thanks all for the pointers to heads in jars above (298 et seq.)

My earworm therapy is to do mental arithmetic; something like working out the 17 or 19 times table. This seems to use all available mental capacity. Puzzles like Sudoku or Kenken may work, too, especially if you max out the number of things you're holding in memory. I read somewhere that much of music appreciation is associated with short term memory, which makes some sense.

Canada has experienced a burst of protest at a "lawful access" Internet bill (C-30). In short, the Minister of Public Safety, Vic Toews, said (on the record in the House) that you had to either support the bill or "stand with the child pornographers". The subsequent protest includes the Twitter #tellVicEverything campaign, in which he's getting lots of @ mentions and a good few emails CCed to his mailbox. I'm hoping some amount of the outrage will be remembered come next election (October, 2015, in Canada.)

#392 ::: Tom Whitmore note to mods ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2012, 11:58 PM:

(Note to mods: the alldeadmormonsarenowgay link is going to something inside ML instead of the outside link it should be!)

#393 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 12:40 AM:

Although, the broken link shows a way to get to the site's search engine, useful now that there's no longer a box on the main page.

#394 ::: Marty in Boise ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 01:27 AM:

I don't know, maybe I need my meds adjusted, but I actually teared up a little at a comment on Wonkette, of all things. In reply to the video of President Obama singing a bit of "Sweet Home Chicago, regular commenter "Extemporanus" wrote:

A song written nearly 100 years ago by a young African-American man whose father was run out of town by a lynch mob of white landowners...

Performed by a multi-racial group of American and British musicians in a White House built and at one time inhabited by African-American slaves...

Sung by a bi-racial African-American president of the United States of America whose wife and daughters are descendants of African-American slaves.

The E string of the aural universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

#395 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 02:40 AM:

Here's a question that occurred to me yesterday while trying to get the accounting report balanced and finished and ready to submit to the probate court for our friend Anne's estate:

Do novelists think like accountants?

By which I mean that a good accountant can go thru a set of financial books and maintain an overview of where money's coming from, where it's going, what it's for, what part it plays in the overall picture, etcetera.

Likewise, a novelist has to keep track of his characters, their actions and moivations, the plot points, the details of continuity, the overall narrative path and goal, etcetera.

Do a novelist and an accountant both use the same part of their brains keeping track of all those details and flows?

This would certainly explain why I've written short stories, but have never been able to complete a novel. Because while I didn't have too much problem with the Monies Received and Monies Spent forms from the probate court, trying to complete the Gains and Losses forms has thrown me for a loop. The final calculations produce a number nowhere near where it should be, and I have no idea why, even after hours of trying to puzzle it out. Frustrating, to put it lightly.

(I put in a call this morning to the CPA who helped get Anne's tax returns caught up a while back, asking for his help in getting these final forms properly completed and balanced. I suspect the problem will probably be something blatant and obvious to him, but non-intuitive to a mind like mine.)

But if the brains of novelists and accountants work similarly, I would expect to hear that Gene Wolfe has never made a single error on his tax returns in his entire life.

#396 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 02:43 AM:

Gnomed. Say what? Do common financial terms trigger a spam alert?

#397 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 03:15 AM:

Bruce Arthurs @397:
Do common financial terms trigger a spam alert?

It really depends on the noise:signal ratio of that term's usage. If we, here, rarely discuss a topic, such as probate (I've commented it out of the filters), but our spammers try very hard to sell us services in that area, then we tend to make it a keyword to bump a comment to moderation.

I know it's frustrating if a comment gets gnomed. We're doing our best, here, but this site is like the Netherlands: it's below spam sea level, and without the protections we use, we'd be flooded. They spoil the view (she said, stretching the analogy beyond its point of elasticity), but they're the best protection we have at the moment.

Also, if you put "gnomed" or something like it in your name for flagging, then even if there's not someone reading every comment right then, we'll pick it out of the infostream that much faster.

#398 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 05:58 AM:

Henry Troup @ 391... the Minister of Public Safety, Vic Toews, said (on the record in the House) that you had to either support the bill or "stand with the child pornographers".

Wow. The Land of my Birth's current government really is made of GOP-wannabees.

#399 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 07:20 AM:

There are no answers coming in the night
nor clarity in morning, that is why
we seek for explanations on the fly
in earnest wish for ending of our plight;
but nothing comes, there is no vivid sight.
All's grey, and dullness settles on each eye,
there's no firm sanity we can espy;
the universe seems ordered by mere spite.
When we were children we were told that cause
and effect followed by a straight decree
of nature's and the world was really plain
to adult eyes, but now we have no laws
to follow and we find we are not free
since those who want to lead us are insane.

#400 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 08:50 AM:

There are no more Misses in France:

#401 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 09:54 AM:

Naomi Parkhurst #387: That veronica persica is out in force here in VA, wasn't bothered by the brief snow.

#402 ::: Stevey-Boy ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 10:19 AM:

RE: Va Govenor reversal. I would not be surprised if this reversal has nothing to do with how invasive the procedure is, or that voters protested. I think it's more likely that a Health Insurance lobbyist pointed out that it would be a State mandated procedure that they'd have to pay for.

#403 ::: Marty In Boise ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 10:34 AM:

Me 394/395

Whoops--inadvertent double-post... I liked the Wonkette comment, but not THAT much! Could someone please moderate one of those out of existence?

[Done. -- JDM]

#404 ::: Marty In Boise ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 10:44 AM:

My son, 14 going on Immortal Being of Pure Energy, called me out last night while I was watching the Republican debate, following a liveblog of same, and consequently getting a little shouty at my laptop (the frequent loss of WiFi signal didn't help).

"You know what these debates are for you, Dad? They're anger porn."

God, I love that kid!

#406 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 10:50 AM:

Naomi Parkhurst #387: That veronica persica is out in force here in VA, wasn't bothered by the brief snow.

From Previous try: "The server encountered an internal error or misconfiguration and was unable to complete your request."

No idea what might have caused it.

#407 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 11:49 AM:

Fragano @401

They take Mademoiselle from Armentieres,
Who once was young, when Grandpa frolicked there.
So many men she knew, they grew not old.
"Make room!" they cry, "Mademoiselle is cold!"

#408 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 12:13 PM:

Linkmeister @385

not to mention they suddenly remembered that half their constituency is made up of women.

It's worth remembering that a significant number of those women were vigorously and outspokenly in favor of the requirement. (Facebook has been somewhat a-buzz, here in VA.)

#409 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 12:15 PM:

Fragano, #400: Depressingly accurate.

and @401: Interesting. I wonder how well it will work without a neutral alternate option such as "Ms." -- over here (as you know), we tend to get all 3 versions. And come to think of it, I also wonder how frequently each version is used -- that would make an interesting statistical study.

Dave B., #408: Very nice!

#410 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 12:49 PM:

Not your mother's Princess.

Looks promising, although I'll withhold judgment until I've seen the whole thing. Too many such stories have ended with the plucky young woman discovering that True Happiness lies in giving up her dreams for a man.

#411 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 01:03 PM:

Lee, 409: Madame *is* the neutral alternative. This just brings officialdom in line with what everybody's already doing--once you're visibly an adult, you're "madame."

#412 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 01:37 PM:

If I remember correctly, France tried 'Mad' as an alternative to both 'madame' and 'mademoiselle'. For reaons unknown, that didn't catch on.

#413 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 01:52 PM:

Bruce Arthurs @395: a good accountant can go thru a set of financial books and maintain an overview of where money's coming from, where it's going, what it's for, what part it plays in the overall picture, etcetera.

Eric Van has an interesting model of how that works. (All five parts of the essay can be accessed here.)

#414 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 05:18 PM:

Spoiler for The Kerning Game: Gur S unf n ovt yvtngher.

#415 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 05:19 PM:

We wish to apologize for the preceding comment.

#416 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 05:24 PM:

The "Piracy" particle, like everything else, is subject to the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Amazon, for reasons unknown, started selling print copies of Seanan McGuire's latest novel in advance of the official release date. B&N quickly followed suit. In the meantime, the e-book version won't be available until the official release date of March 6.

Seanan has been subjected to a shit-ton of hate mail about this, including threats of rape and other sexual violence. Even though she has NO control over the situation -- her publisher is trying to get Amazon to stop, but you can't put the genie back in the bottle.

I wonder how many of the people who have been sending that hate mail will now consider themselves fully justified in pirating a copy of the e-book?

#417 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 05:47 PM:

Steampunk jewelry: Ur doin it rite.

#418 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 06:25 PM:

Lee @416, except, how are they going to download an unlicensed copy of the ebook before it's released? I suppose someone might scan-and-OCR the physical book, but is it likely that anyone will make the effort knowing that the official ebook will be out in a week or two?

If they're going to use the release screw-up as an excuse, then they were probably going to download the unlicensed ebook anyway.

(Man, it sure is awkward to lack a handy verb to describe unlicensed downloading that doesn't imply that the people who do it are engaging in an act of violent physical robbery.)

#419 ::: Marty In Boise ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 06:49 PM:

Lee @416, lordy. "One person kindly suggested that sexual violence would be the appropriate response to my forcing Amazon to withhold ebooks. Another offered to slap the stupid out of me. And several stated that they would now be pirating all my books, because I had given up my right to their money (I had a right to their money?)."

Uh, wow. And this is how people write to an author they presumably like?

"Dear Mr. Vonnegut: I wish you hadn't died, so fuck you."

#420 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 06:54 PM:

Avram, #418: If you read the linked post, you'll see that some people have indeed said that they will now download pirate copies of everything she writes, rather than spend another cent buying her books legally. All because of an Amazon screw-up that she couldn't do anything about.

But in all honesty, that doesn't bother me nearly as much as the rape threats.

#421 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 07:25 PM:

On the no more misses, it was on the radio yesterday, with the presenters asking if people liked to be Mrs, Miss, Mizz etc. All depending on marital status.
It then occured to me that we could balance it up, what would be the male equivalent of miss? Mr just covers everything, why not spell it differently to indicate someone unmarried? After all, many years of making women do it must mean it is a good thing, right?

#422 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 07:28 PM:

guthrie @421: perhaps the word should be "meester", pronounced "me stir"?

#423 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 07:39 PM:

It then occurred to me that we could balance it up, what would be the male equivalent of miss?

That would be master, which is regrettably less common than it used to be (you still hear it occasionally, from older Southerners in fairly formal settings.)

#424 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 08:43 PM:

SamChevre, #423: I don't think "master" is an exact approximation to "miss". The latter applies to any unmarried woman, no matter her age; the former only refers to a young man who is younger than a certain age -- I'm not sure whether it means a "schoolboy" (younger than age 13 or so), or a legal minor. But you'd never hear a 30-year-old man addressed as "master", whether married or not.

#425 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 09:57 PM:

Lee @420, I read the post hours before you ever linked to it; Seanan's a friend of mine, and I'm subscribed to her on LiveJournal. I'm as shocked as you are by the abuse and threats, but I'm not concerned that she'll lose a significant number of sales to "piracy". Despite what angry jerks may have written, I'm still pretty confident that most people who'll go for the unlicensed downloads are people who would've done so anyway.

#426 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: February 23, 2012, 10:22 PM:

Re: Salutations for women

On the no more misses, it was on the radio yesterday, with the presenters asking if people liked to be Mrs, Miss, Mizz etc. All depending on marital status.

As a point of reference, I stopped using "Miss" when I turned 18 (IOW, when I was legally an adult). I started using Ms. Mylastname, and still do so in professional contexts. I also use the following, and consider them perfectly appropriate in social contexts: Ms./Mrs. Mylastname-Hislastname, Mrs. Hislastname, and Miz Myfirstname.

Miz is a southernism, a contraction of Mrs., used in front of a non-related adult woman's first name when you are close enough not to use her last name, but not so close to drop titles of address entirely. (Or at least, that's been my experience in my family.)

Ms. and Miz are not pronounced the same, but darned if I can describe the difference. It's subtle, but it's definitely there.

#427 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 01:15 AM:

Seanan McGuire's trouble with awful-people-who-purport-to-be-fans is coming on the heels of the thing with Jennifer Hepler's (Bioware RP game writer) savaging by gamers this last couple of weeks. The commonality between the two incidents is the level of entitlement both groups expressed about having things work the way they thought stuff should work, because they are fans who pay money, and that the wrath they would visit upon both women is directly related to their being women.

It makes me wonder why anyone would want to continue making nice things for others, except I know why, but lord! I'm no stranger to internet escalations, but reading those accounts made me want to curl up in despair.

#428 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 01:35 AM:

I stopped reading Harry Turtledove's World War series after three books, but I may have to go back to him after reading about this gesture he's made to a terminally-ill fan.

#429 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 01:41 AM:

pericat @ 427:

The dirty underbelly of entitlement is the need to preserve it by oppressing those below in the social strata. If the entitled can't oppress their "inferiors" with real physical, economic or social power, all they have left is words and the need to make them as harmful as possible. That and the self-righteous anger that tells them their entitlement is deserved.

#430 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 01:47 AM:

This xkcd made me realize that gur ryringbe cvgpu sbe gur fcnpr ryringbe cebwrpg fubhyq or "Jurr! Yrg'f ohvyq na ryringbe!"

#431 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 04:09 AM:

On the Miss/Mrs/Ms thing, it was one of the reasons* I did my PhD! It's really satisfying: "Is that Miss or Mrs?" "Dr."

And yes, I hate the labelling by marital status - men are not labelled the same way, women shouldn't be. And here in the UK, many people still assume that only unmarried women would use Ms.

What I've found frustrating at conferences in continental Europe is that I'll sign in as Dr, but the hotel staff will constantly call me "Mrs". Never managed to find out why - they don't delete the appropriate honourifics from my male colleagues.

*Not the main reason, but I did consider it a definite fringe benefit.

#432 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 04:41 AM:

Singing Wren @426: Salutations for women

I'm eternally waiting for a salutation that doesn't specify gender. Annoys the crap out of me: sites that require a salutation, but don't offer a non-gendered one that's not some sort of rank marker, for which I will never qualify, short of outright fabrication. Ms at least lets me refrain from declaring my marital status, but I still have to declare a gender. (And, of course, in the few cases where it's not required, but the database has to have something in that slot, it innevitably defaults to Mr. Or, at least it does for me, anyway.)

My candidate: "Per," short for "Person." "Per Marshall, would you care to follow me...."

#433 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 06:44 AM:

dcb @431 on "Dr" as a prefix - years ago I worked in a research center for the wife of a husband-and-wife pair who both had PhDs, more than a little uncommon at the time. Because she had taken his last name, "Dr. So-and-so" was ambiguous, and thus when spoken about (not spoken to) he was "Dr. So-and-so" and she was "Mrs. Dr. So-and-so".

#434 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 07:32 AM:


We could always use "Meesa". It is somewhat similar to elements of current salutations for both males and females.

Of course, there is the disadvantage of sounding like Jar Jar Binks...

#435 ::: Dave Crisp ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 07:42 AM:

OtterB @433: Dr. Mrs. The Monarch?

#436 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 08:18 AM:

In school, I try to match what the permanent staff use, whether it's Ms Lastname* or just my first name. I tend to be Miss Cassie given a choice, though I pronounce it Ms; it's hard for little kids to get it completely right. I also try to use Ms for all female teachers because it's not like I have time to ask personal questions.

I think Miss Manners puts the cutoff for 'Master' at seven years old. But a quick check in the Guide's index doesn't give me a page.

*Oh, whatever, it's Krahe. "Krahe as in fish," I say, which led a kiddo I met two years ago to say, "You worked at Elementary! You're Miss... Miss Fish!"

#437 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 09:19 AM:

Dave Bell #407:

Hinkey-dinkey, parley-voo!

#438 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 09:23 AM:

Lee #409: The French government will now address all citoyennes françaises and other women it deals with as "madame" regardless of age or marital status. That's the neutral term. One hopes that somewhere Olympe de Gouges is smiling.

#439 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 09:27 AM:

Guthrie #421: The male equivalent of miss is master. That is the polite term of address for boys (not unmarried men) until they reach 18, at which point they can be mistered.

#440 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 09:44 AM:

Michael I #434: Sounding like Jar-Jar Binks is precisely what you do not want to do.

#441 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 10:08 AM:

dcb @431:

On the Miss/Mrs/Ms thing, it was one of the reasons* I did my PhD! It's really satisfying: "Is that Miss or Mrs?" "Dr."

It's one of the things that drives home how often places use a required "Title" field as a gender proxy, too. Plenty of online stores and the like will have a required, seemingly-innocuous, and entirely unnecessary "Title" field. Invariably it will be limited to specifically gendered options, excluding "Dr". It seems pretty clear that they're doing this because people might balk at a required "Male/Female" checkbox, but think nothing of ticking the box next to "Ms", which allows them to get more money for more specifically-targeted advertising information. I didn't really notice this until I got my PhD, either; while I don't generally use my title, if someplace is going to require a title I'd like to be able to use the correct one.

OtterB @433:

These days that situation is still uncommon, but it's more because women in academia tend to keep their names to preserve continuity of publication records. When I've encountered it, disambiguation has been by first name, which I much prefer since it doesn't rely on the notion of male as the unmarked default.

#442 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 10:30 AM:

Xopher @417: Do you have a link for where one can get that sort of ring? Because on seeing the picture, there is a large portion of my brain going DO WANT at me now.

#443 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 12:29 PM:

Diatryma (436): Do your students have trouble with the 'z'-to-'s' switch in Ms. Cassie? My mother found that being "Ms.* Buss" at school meant she was often called "Ms Buzz" instead. And not just in person: She was a music teacher at a private school and was paid directly by her students' parents; some of the checks were made out to N---- Buzz.

*actually 'Miz', as explained by Singing Wren in #426

#444 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 01:05 PM:

lorax @441 When I've encountered it, disambiguation has been by first name, which I much prefer since it doesn't rely on the notion of male as the unmarked default.

Agreed. This was getting on toward 40 years ago (I was a high school student at the time) and jumping to first names was less common.

Dave Crisp @435 Dr. Mrs. The Monarch?

I'm missing something here ...

#445 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 01:37 PM:

General question on music lessons:

My 15-yo has decided to learn the violin. We have acquired same, and she is beavering away with an instruction book, YouTube videos, and a CD/DVD package.

However, a real teacher would be a good thing.

I am at a loss in terms of what to ask prospective teachers. I have contact info for some from the store where we bought the violin and there are others on Craigslist. There are also a couple of music schools in the area but it looks like they work more with younger students.

Anyone got any advice?

#446 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 01:41 PM:

I'm another one who, when faced by forms that require one to state a prefix, insist on "Dr." (I've don't recall seeing any where the field was obligatory and that wasn't an option, but I may simply not have encountered them.) About the only place I would decline to do so would be airline reservations, staving off the very minor risk of some flight attendant asking me if I could provide medical services. (Ordinarily, I'm prepared at all times to defend the primacy of academics with regard to the right to the title "doctor" against those jumped-up barbers and nostrum-pushers who appropriated it in order to pump up their social cachet.)

#447 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 01:53 PM:

HRJ #446:

The Assistant Instructor's Plaint

You can't call me Dr cause I'm ABD
You can't call me Prof cause that's not my job
You can't call me Miss cause this wedding ring--see?
You can't call me Mrs cause I kept my name
You gotta call me Ms, that's the academic biz

#448 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 02:11 PM:

Melissa @445 -

The music department of a local university or community college can be a good place to find a music teacher. The former often has grad students who can teach and the latter often has a music performance program with professional music teachers with space in their schedule.

#449 ::: Dave Crisp ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 02:20 PM:

OtterB @ 444 : Then clearly, you need to watch The Venture Bros.

#450 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 02:21 PM:

Has anybody heard from Syd? I'm presuming she is having access issues, but it would be nice to get an update...?

#451 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 02:25 PM:

OtterB @444

We're not quite at that stage in the UK, but the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge both have an MA degree from the University of St Andrews. Also, the Commonwealth Realms have agreed a change in the succession rules that would allow their first child, regardless of gender, to inherit the throne.

I don't think it's impossible for that first child to earn a PhD before Prince William becomes King.

And that is just the Windsors. There are the monarchies of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Spain, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The wife of the current Prince of the Asturias (Spain) has a Licenciate degree (equivalent to a Masters). Quite a few of the wives and daughters have Bachelor degrees.

I haven't found any PhDs close to the succession. The next generation of heirs is mostly way too young.

#452 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 03:24 PM:

joann #447:

At HBCUs the custom is for teaching assistants and adjuncts lacking the post-hole digger to be addressed as "professor". This caused me no end of confusion for some time.

A quite senior colleague over at Spelman College happened to keep addressing me as "professor". One day it occurred to me that she thought I was missing a degree and I told her that I did, in fact, have a doctorate.

#453 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 03:35 PM:

Fragano, #439: But that's my point. Unmarried women don't become not-Miss at age 18, or at any age. "Miss" and "Master" share some characteristics, but are not equivalent modes of address; one is specifically a marker for marital status, and the other is not.

#454 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 03:37 PM:

Fade 442: Unfortunately, I have no idea. Saw the GIF and thought it was cool, and don't know any more about it than that.

#455 ::: Laurel ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 03:44 PM:

Melissa @445, your daughter may have to accustom herself to being one of the older students in a studio, but that doesn't mean it's a bad studio for her, just that most children start instruments a little younger.

Coming from experience with piano, cello, and voice teachers (although most of it should transfer to violin), what you would want to see from prospective instructors would be membership in their local or national professional organization (look under LOCALTOWN Music Teachers Organization or Club or Federation) and a record of entering students in local competitions. This doesn't mean that all the students want to become professionals or want the little trophies, but it does mean that they're teaching to a professional standard and encouraging their students to constantly improve. Most teachers should either be holding annual/semiannual recitals, or, depending on the size of their studio, participating in some other regular public performance event. And I agree with nerdycellist about university music departments being a great resource. If you attend church, depending on the size and quality of the music program, the music minister/director may also be a resource. Hope your daughter enjoys her lessons!

#456 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 04:02 PM:

I should perhaps state that we are in New York City . . . .

Most of the schools I've looked at seem to not have classes for teens, just for the under-10 set. It seems that by the teen years, there is an expectation at these places that the student will have been playing for some years--there are pretty much no listings for beginner classes for older students. (as for recitals, totally not a problem--everyone does them, even the tiniest hole-in-the-wall studios. I know the owners of a two-room dance/gymnastics school who have recitals in the local church hall twice a year.)

I think dd is better off with one-on-one instruction in any case as she must really start from the basics, as she has mostly forgotten how to read music (she learned in 3rd grade).

Laurel, thanks for the thought about houses of worship--for whatever reason it had not previously occurred to me to ask the cantor at our synagogue.

#457 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 04:05 PM:

Fade Manley @ 442: Looks like that ring is $165 from Kinekt Design.

#458 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 05:05 PM:

Mary Aileen, half the time it's *me* who has trouble with the Z/S switch. They're not going to get it scrupulously right anyway, so as long as *most* of the time I'm not Mrs, I let it slide.

#459 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 05:20 PM:

Melissa @445

One thing I suggest (which might not be the first angle that comes to mind) is to make sure that your daughter and her teacher are aligned with respect to her personal musical goals. What does she want to do with her music? What styles does she want to play? In what contexts? What level does she hope to achieve? How long does she want to budget to achieve it? Realistically, how much time will she have available for practicing? (Also important to consider: what is her current musical background of any type?) Has she identified particular learning styles that work well for her?

These are questions that generally don't get asked of grade-school age beginners, but for a near-adult beginner I think they can be crucial to the difference between a successful and enjoyable experience (on both sides) and a frustrating and miserable one.

One of my flute teachers when I was in jr. high thought he was grooming me to be a professional concert flautist. I wanted to be able to play competently in ensembles and enjoy making music. It was not a good match (although there's probably some difference of opinion as to who fired whom).

From the other side, I once gave harp lessons to a student who confessed that, essentially, she was paying me to listen to her practice. I was ok with that, but I needed to adjust my expectations.

#460 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 05:54 PM:

Thank you all, I had totally forgotten about 'master', although yes I think it does tend to be unused past 18 or so.

#461 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 06:02 PM:

Sometimes in cartoons and whatever I've used the prefix "M." to denote a non-sexical salutitle that doesn't actually exist but should. No idea what it stands for, and yes, I know what it is in French.

#462 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 08:52 PM:

Lee #453: I know. I wondered at that when I was a lad learning the intricacies of honorifics. It seemed to me back then, as a child in the early 1960s, horribly asymmetrical.

Equally asymmetrical was the fact that most British men had two honorifics available to them, they could be addressed in writing as Mr So-and-So or as So-and-So, Esq. Women* were restricted to Mrs So-and-so or Miss So-and-So.

*Note the most in the previous sentence, it applies in that one too. Excluded are the range of honorifics applied to knights/dames (who are not noble), and the nobility.

#463 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 09:21 PM:

Melissa @445 When my daughter wanted to take up flute lessons at slightly-older than standard, I had great luck finding a teacher by asking the school listserv for recommendations for teachers for an older beginner.

#464 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 10:48 PM:

On honorifics: My grandfather, who was a primary-school teacher, reportedly was often addressed as "Miss" by small children who thought that was what you called teachers.

#465 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 10:56 PM:

Melissa @ 445

You might also sound out the local Renfaire community, or similar. I know of a not unreasonable number of Faire fiddlers who picked up the skill as adults.

#466 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 10:57 PM:

Fragano Ledgister #462: Wait, since when is "Esquire" universal? In America, at least, it's reserved for lawyers, and I haven't heard of competing usages.

#467 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 11:36 PM:

She was from my home town: It Hurts Me Too

#468 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: February 24, 2012, 11:43 PM:

For violin lessons, check at your local musical instrument store - it's fairly common for them to either run classes, or have ads for teachers, or both. You'll have a bit of complexity depending on whether you're looking for a violin teacher or a fiddle teacher, so a store that also sells French horns is more likely to have one and a store that also sells mandolins is more likely to have the other.

#469 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 12:00 AM:

Fragano@452 - There's also a cultural gap between (approximately) the sciences and the humanities over whether the title "Doctor" or "Professor" has more status. My grandfather, who was a French professor, was Dr. Crain, and not all the professors had doctorates in those days, but by the time I was in university, most science and math professors needed a doctorate to get the job, and there were getting to be enough people who'd stayed in school for draft-deferment reasons that there were lots of PhDs around. My father was a research chemist, and the tradition where he worked was that the only people addressed as "Dr." were either actual medical doctors or young researchers who'd gotten their degree recently enough to brag about it, or people whose first name you've forgotten.

Dave Bell @451 - So if Prince William does get his PhD, will his title be Dr. King?

#470 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 12:11 AM:

Thomas, there is a fellow at one school I work at whose kiddo calls him Teacher Ty. I've known a lot of kiddos who think 'teacher' is equivalent to 'sir' or 'ma'am'.

#471 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 12:16 AM:

David @466, before lawyers took over "Esq" (more successfully even than physicians did "doctor"), a man who owned land, real property, was entitled to claim that honourific, if he wanted. (cf Squire Brown, Tom's father in Tom Brown's Schooldays, when the term was even more bound up in land ownership including collecting rents from tenant farmers.) What actual relationship that had with the squires of old, I don't know, but I'm pretty sure it had to do with patronage expressed as land grants.

#472 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 01:19 AM:

Bill Stewart @469: Technically, people of Prince William's standing, in the UK, don't actually have surnames. For military service purposes (and on, say, his passport), he is William Wales and his brother is Harry Wales (because their titles are William, prince of Wales, etc -- interesting fun fact, Kate is now formally "Princess William of Wales", not "Princess Kate" of anything). They are of the House of Windsor, but that's not their surname.

I'm not sure what's on HRH's passport in the surname field; presumably she has one. Maybe she gets 'Windsor', since she's the head of the house. Or possibly 'England'.

#473 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 02:04 AM:

I had an email from Syd Thursday; she seemed to be doing okay. (I don't want to put more information out than she wants; hopefully she'll pop in if she gets the chance.)

#474 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 02:09 AM:

Elliot @472

Er, not quite.

The Prince of Wales is Charles, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, and a lot else. His wife, Camilla, would be Princess Charles of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, etc., and chooses to use the secondary title of Duchess of Cornwall.

Now Prince William is Duke of Cambridge, he doesn't use the "of Wales" element, but he is still a prince. Catherine's full title and style is "Her Royal Highness Princess William, Duchess of Cambridge, Countess of Strathearn, Baroness Carrickfergus."

There are traditions in all this, and certain distinctiona to be made, but, as with Princess Diana, everyone knows who Princess Kate is, and the formalities will, I expect, slowly shift. One of the features of the British Monarchy is that it does adapt to changes in society, but the traditions do matter. Three quarters of a century ago it was unthinkable that the king could be married to a divorced woman. So a young girl suddenly became heir to the throne.

#475 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 02:11 AM:

Heather Rose Jones @459: One of my flute teachers when I was in jr. high thought he was grooming me to be a professional concert flautist. I wanted to be able to play competently in ensembles and enjoy making music. It was not a good match (although there's probably some difference of opinion as to who fired whom).

Interesting; I had pretty much exactly the same experience with learning piano. Though I didn't know it at the time, what I wanted to do was learn to play by ear, and be able to improvise enough to jam. Unfortunately, I had neither the conscious conception, nor the words to put it into.

This meant that, just about the time (after a year or so) my teacher wanted me to go from one hour of practice a day to two, I had satisfied my curiosity and quit. (I was eleven at the time.) I could play from sheet music if I sat down and laboriously picked it out and had heard the piece in question. Then, once I had a piece in muscle memory, I could play without music—as long as I started from the beginning. Ask me to pick it up from bar eight? I was completely lost.

Additionally, I couldn't pick out songs by ear, except for the very simplest of melody line, and getting harmonies and such in—utterly hopeless. (I was absolutely awestruck by a classmate who had learned to play the Peanuts theme by ear. Superpower, that.)

Altogether, not a very satisfying expenditure of my time.

#476 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 02:57 AM:

Jacque @475: There's a PBS-show piano teacher who aims himself squarely at the your-sort-of-learner market: Scott the Piano Guy. He explicitly points out in his group classes (one of which was filmed and shown as a 'special' during pledge season one year, which is how I heard of him) that most people wanting to learn to play piano have no interest whatsoever in going the orchestral or classical-recital route: they want to learn to play to accompany Christmas carols, entertain their friends, and generally have fun.

He also states that most of the people that come to him to 'learn to play piano better' have already had lessons, and usually dropped them when the problem became disinterest or inability to READ MUSIC well enough to do what their teachers wanted them to do: the physical skills weren't the main roadblock.

So his whole teaching method is built around showing people how to vamp chords and play melodies, sight-reading only the simplest of lines and doing the rest by muscle memory and knowing the basics of building harmonies and playing rhythms.

#477 ::: Elliott Mason, rambling on about cooking ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 05:32 AM:

In other non-news, why am I posting at 2 and 4 in the morning? Because I'm staying up all night making stock.

Scratch that. I'm staying up all night (kid-related), so while I'm up and unable to be sleepy, I figured I'd make stock. It's a lot of chopping and boiling, and I have need of a Massive Pot of Gamer-Chow tomorrow, so there we are.

I started just after we got back from dinner by putting in a large amount of chicken thighs (skin and bones included) in the oven to roast for two hours. Took them out, left to cool on stovetop for a bit; then I stripped the skin and bones for the stockpot, putting a bowl of just-the-meat into the fridge.

Peel and roughly section (not chop, just cut into the blanks that will later be chopped) quantities of carrots, turnips, beets, and onions; all peels/skin/bones/cut off ends go into stockpot, along with a variety of whole spices and some water. Stock pot goes into a 250degF oven for several hours.

Pot came out. I fished out as many of the big chunks with a slotted spoon as I could, then strained it coarsely with a colander and finely with a wire strainer; the stockpot was washed out and the strained liquid (pinkish -- beets!) returned to it. Then, since I still wasn't sleepy (this was one of the 'and if I'm sleepy I'll go to bed' points), I coarse-diced all the previously prepped veggies and boned, cooked chicken thighs and put 'em in the stockpot while listening to podcasts.

The pot is now in the fridge. Tomorrow morning sometime I'll put it back in a 250degF oven to simmer for a while before I check flavorings and adjust the spicing with a fresh mind; then it shall be lunch.

I also loaded and ran the dishwasher, so it hasn't been a total wash (though stressful). I'm about to go try to get into pjs and lay down, which will almost certainly result in more kid-wakening, but I'm ready to try it, anyhow.

#478 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 07:57 AM:


But you see, if everyone sounds like Jar-Jar Binks then it's less of an issue...

#479 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 08:24 AM:

Michael I: But you see, if everyone sounds like Jar-Jar Binks then it's less of an issue...

And if everyone jumps off a cliff, the roads will be less crowded. Tell you what: you go first and I'll watch and record the results.

I think that I would rather be kicked in the testicles by a placekicker after a lengthy run-up than sound like Jar-Jar Binks under any circumstances.

#480 ::: Phil Knight ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 08:38 AM:

There seems to be a divide between Briain and the US about the term 'Professor' - in the UK it's reserved for an academic with a chair - usually a head of department or group leader, at least I think so. I think the title was reserved for academics at universities rather than polytechnics etc. Of course these days almost everywhere that offers a degree is called a university.

(Once at an academic conference Fred Hoyle popped his head into a meeting room and said 'Sorry, I'm looking for a chair' - to which all the postdocs replied 'So are we!')

I had thought that 'Esquire' was a term for the sons of someone with a knighthood but a quick google suggests that I'm wrong about that. Shame, because I fall into that category, due to no merit of my own.

#481 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 10:17 AM:

There's a news item over at Boing Boing that has me confused as an observer from the U.S.A., but I don't want to sign up for their messageboard system just for one question so I'm hoping one of our U.K. residents can explain it for me. The article says Labour has passed some mutant child of SOPA and a member of Parliment named Harriet Harman is hot to send out the "Someone says you've downloaded copyrighted material so goodby Internet" letters. I'm unclear on the details of how the system in the U.K. works regarding acts over there. After Harriet Harman receives the first notification letter and has her personal Internet access and the access of her office yanked leaving her staff unable to respond to electronic communications from her constituency, will she have to write a new act to get out of it happening daily, or can the law be amended by adding riders?

#482 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 10:18 AM:

A wholly internal naming thing: after a few Spanish classes in college, I started confusing titles. I still want to use profa/profe instead of 'professor' when speaking-- and I never used those in Spanish since those prof-- wanted to type 'profes'-- professors used first names instead, mostly.

#483 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 10:53 AM:

David Harmon #466: I was a child in England. I find the American reservation of Esquire for lawyers only rather odd. Especially since it is highly unlikely* that American lawyers will be knighted, while the average Englishman, Welshman, Scot, or Northern Irishman does have a real chance at knighthood.

Unlike Haile Selassie, who was knighted.

#484 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 11:01 AM:

Michael I #478: I refer you to Bruce Durocher's posting #479 which puts matters succinctly.

#485 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 11:01 AM:

Michael I #478: I refer you to Bruce Durocher's posting #479 which puts matters succinctly.

#486 ::: Andy Brazil ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 12:31 PM:

Bruce #481
Labour aren't in power and won't be for some years. Harriet Harman is a shadow secretary of state - basically the title for the person in the opposition party whose job it is to develop the policies for a particular department that the party will use when they do get into power. There's like a zillion of em, each beavering away producing policy documents. By the time Labour are re-elected it's unlikely she will still be doing the same job - reshuffles happen quite frequently in opposition. And in any case only a few of such policies make it into the manifesto. So this is not significant, more a boing-boing knee -jerk.

#487 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 12:38 PM:

Elliot Mason @ 472: That's fascinating. I never knew that (though it makes sense in terms of the evolution of surnames.)

#488 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 01:25 PM:

Argh, I just found out that somebody I know "published" their book through AuthorHouse. They were telling me that they're having trouble getting it into e-formats other than Kindle...I did tell them about Yog's Law, but I don't think it worked.

Also this person is all excited because somebody's bought the movie rights. Please tell me that AH doesn't have a film scam too.

#489 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 01:42 PM:

Bruce @481

Alarm Bells are ringing for me. Labour isn't in the government, so Harriet Harman is Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. It means she's the Opposition spokesman on the subject. She doesn't decide legislation. She is something like the Minority leader in a congressional committee, but likely with far less formal power.

But she made a speech last Monday, about the music industry.

It doesn't sound like she said what Boing Boing is reporting, but what she said is consistent with taking a harder line on copyright enforcement.

#490 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 01:58 PM:

#471 ::: pericat
...What actual relationship that had with the squires of old, I don't know, but I'm pretty sure it had to do with patronage expressed as land grants.

Unsubstantiated personal take, starting farther back:

A knight had to have enough land (and therefore tenant income) to fund his horse, armour etc. which with his person and various of his landsmen (foot soldiers - pike, archers et. al.) were on call to his liege lord(s), and who in turn gave him protection. A squire was a knight-in-training, stood a vigil to qualify.

So, a squire owned land, whether or not he got to be a knight.

#491 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 03:06 PM:

Nancy C. Mittens @473: Thanks for that information re. Syd; I'd been worrying.

David Harmon@466: In the UK, a rarely-used male honorific, not associated with any particular occupation..

Re. Dr/Prof., if I'm e-mailing a scientist and I don't know their status, I always simply say "Dear Dr. XXXX":if they have published papers I'm trying to get hold of, they probably have a PhD, and won't be upset to be so addressed if they don't, and it's still correct, even if not fully accurate, if they're prof. Of course, if I can find their status online and it's Prof. then I use that.

Re Piano: I quit learning at age seven when my teacher said I obviously wasn't practicing between lessons and I must do so or he wouldn't teach me any more. I felt frustrated (I did so practice, but nobody would believe me) and chose extra reading time over piano. Only a few years ago I opened an old piano book, sat at the piano and realised what the problem had been. I couldn't read music. Never really had been able to. So I'd played by ear and by muscle memory, then when I got stuck, had to laboriously work out where I'd got to, count lines and spaces up/down from middle C/E, count keys along the keyboard... No wonder it took forever and my teacher thought I wasn't concentrating. Neither my mother nor my teacher even thought of "can't read music" as a possible reason for my erratic playing. I do regret, now, not being able to play at least a little (other than e.g. basic scales - muscle memory lasts a long time). But I still can't read music, which is a large barrier.

#492 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 03:49 PM:

dcb @491

Only a few years ago I opened an old piano book, sat at the piano and realised what the problem had been. I couldn't read music.

This reminds me of another incident with my problematic flute teacher. Within the first few lessons, he asked me, "So how do you learn to play a new piece?"

We went through several rounds of complete non-communication before it became evident that I interpreted this question as a request for me to describe my personal technique (i.e., listen to the teacher play the piece and then perform it largely from memory) while he intended it as a prompt for me to recite the "correct" answer (i.e., the mechanics of sight-reading). How was I supposed to know that? He was asking me how I did it, so I told him. Did he think I was lying? Was that why he kept asking me the same question over and over again?

(Evidently my mother, who had a bit more experience in my question-answering strategies, figured out the glitch when the teacher talked to her later.)

On the whole, regarding my instrumental music experience, my conclusion is "I won". Unlike a lot of my peers who took very intense musical training in school and then never touched an instrument again, I've found a lot of ways to integrate casual playing into my adult life. (As I'm typing this, I'm facing the music cabinet in my living room which holds about 5 shelves worth of books and sheet music, as well as my flutes and whistles, plus the harps and guitar sitting right in front of it.)

My father is a great example of an adult-learner. When he married my mom (an instrumental music teacher) he decided to learn the flute so he could play with her. (I tried several ways of wording that and they're all double-entendres.) He never became a technically "good" flautist, but he was good enough to keep up in casual ensembles. When I was a kid, my parents would have friends over for chamber music the way some families have friends over to play cards. I'm a great believer that music is far too important to be left in the hands of professionals.

#493 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 04:06 PM:

Well, asking the teen what her goal was was not particularly productive, because the reply was (and I more than half expect this), "I want to be able to play the Sherlock theme music."

Okay, then.

Obviously we'll have to talk about this further.

The suggestions about finding teachers are useful, but the suggestions about how to talk to teachers are just what I'm looking for. I would never have thought of most of those. Much, much appreciated.

#494 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 04:21 PM:

Jacque @ 450 and Nancy C Mittens @ 473--I'm alive and well, although I think I have re-caught the creeping crud I had about 3 weeks ago.


Weekend Update (tl;dr: cats at vet are fine, emergency homeless shelter is...good to have):

It's been quite an interesting few days, for values of "interesting" that approximate that old Chinese curse about may you live in interesting times. Prepare for another novel. ;)

On the plus side: Damon was indeed adopted after I visited this past Tuesday! Made me doubly glad that he'd deigned to wake up during my visit and come close enough to the cage door for skritches and pettings. :) So all the kittehs who were available have their new homes, and I just hope their new owners love and appreciate them as much as I did.

Also, several folks have kicked in for my cats' stay at their vet's--they paid for the shots and several days' boarding--and I spoke to a friend who works there (she was my petsitter when I had the green to travel a bit) and she said the vet had basically dropped any time frame for me to move my cats.

:D :D :D

Of course, I'm going to continue the process to get into PATH/Petco Place, because I don't want to take extreme advantage of the vet's kindness...but I don't mind telling you, it's a load off my mind to know my kittehs are in a safe, caring place.

Carol Kimball, re: my friend who can't cope with a houseguest right now--I know she'd ask me to stay if she felt up to it, but thank you for the reminder that things change. You'd think I'd know that. ;) I'm just keeping my fingers crossed for her: job interview upcoming on Monday (yay!) and thyroid surgery to follow on Friday (more fingers crossed that nothing's amiss).

I've slept in that "emergency" homeless shelter I mentioned previously (a church gym) since Wednesday night. Nightly shelter here also includes a meal funded and cooked by one or another of the local churches (to John A Arkansawyer, OtterB and Lee, I am no longer feeling hypocritical about coming to them for help :), which is definitely appreciated!

It's in the same city as the Social Services office I've been going to, so that helps...but its last day of regular operations is Feb. 29; after that, it will only reopen if the nighttime temps are forecast to be 40 degrees or lower, or there's a 50% chance of rain, and even then it won't operate much past mid-March. So I'll keep on track for PATH, and keep looking for work, and if I don't find anything before mid-March, the county will have me start their jobs program on the 13th (I think). And if I haven't had any luck on my own by then, maybe that will be the boost my search needs.

It's definitely taking some getting used to. Fortunately, they are a chivalrous group and let "the ladies" into the gym first, and there's a room downstairs that's women only (17 cots, give or take). One of the shelter volunteers suggested I use it rather than stay on the main floor, which is co-ed (160 cots), and I took his advice. I won't say it's perfect, but getting used to half a dozen snorers/coughers/whatever has to beat dealing with two or three or four (or more) times that many.

If the place has a drawback, it's that there are no shower facilities. But a couple of the other ladies staying at this shelter, as well as another of the volunteers, referred me to a place that is women-only from 1-4 PM on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and 9 AM-12 PM on Tuesdays (they serve breakfast that day).

You can sign up to shower (towels, toiletries and shower flip-flops provided) and/or do a load of laundry, you can have a snack (afternoons), an art therapist comes in on Thursdays, a gal who does chair massage comes in every now and then...and there's writers' group on Tuesdays from 1 to 4, and I think I'll hit that until I either score a job or the county jobs program conflicts with it.

In other news, after I left the animal shelter after seeing Damon on Tuesday, I stopped off at a nearby Satanbucks to get in some computer time on someone else's dime (so to speak). While there, I was approached by an older man who wanted to know if I'd be willing to make some edits to a couple of documents he had with him. So I did (trust me, I did a virus scan of his USB drive before I opened any files!), and we got to talking, and the upshot is that he's had me transcribe a couple of other things and paid me with a box of staple groceries; says that if he gets funding to actually write the book these sections are supposed to be part of, he wants me to proof it; has written me a blanket letter of recommendation; and wants to put me in touch with someone who's in the management hierarchy of the local 50+ senior center, so I can go in and use their facilities (like plug in at their library) without having to pay for a $35 annual membership (that's HIS plan, anyway--haven't had a chance to call the gal he recommended me to, but I'll do that on Monday).

I feel like his pet project. Just hoping he doesn't expect me to take every single suggestion he makes, since some of them might not be right for me based on what I hope to accomplish--and I doubt we'll ever have a detailed political conversation (he's a chiropractor who is also retired law enforcement and/or military, and for example, he thinks the Occupy movement is treasonous and will lead to the downfall of the US of A, and I...don't)--but on the other hand, if he wants to be a cheerleader, I will gratefully accept!

In the "It never rains..." category, I noticed Thursday afternoon that my brake lights were staying on after I turned off the car. It wasn't a problem during the last bit of running around I had to do that day, but I decided on Friday morning that I'd ask one of the shelter volunteers if he could recommend an honest and cheap mechanic.

He could and did...and I got to my car (parked in the gated church parking lot) to find my battery had died. Hurrah for still having my triple-A membership, and for the very kind contribution that wound up paying for the new switch or relay or whatever the hell it was that needed replacing. All better now! :)

I think that's it for the moment. Please keep your fingers crossed that I can find a replacement shelter to stop-gap me until I can get into PATH/Petco Place--or that I can find a job good enough to let me get my own place fairly soon--or...well, something good, anyway.

And yes, Internet access is occasionally problematic, more from the consideration of finding a place to plug in than anything else--the battery life on my laptop isn't very useful.

As always, thank you to the Fluorosphere: your kindness and support (in whatever form it comes) are enormously appreciated.

#495 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 04:46 PM:

Melissa Singer... I quite enjoyed Vonda McIntyre's "The Case of the Field Equations", in which circa-1900 Holmes has to deal with crop circles... and with a fairy-obsessed Conan Doyle.

#496 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 04:47 PM:

dcb: Re. Dr/Prof., if I'm e-mailing a scientist and I don't know their status, I always simply say "Dear Dr. XXXX":if they have published papers I'm trying to get hold of, they probably have a PhD, and won't be upset to be so addressed if they don't

There are a few people who are Professor but not Dr and get upset when the wrong title was used. On the other hand, they tend to be sufficiently prominent and/or notorious that you will know about it. In my field, the late Julian Besag (FRS, but not PhD) was an example.

#497 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 04:53 PM:

Syd, your emergence from all this should leave you in a position to write one hell of a philosophy book. Seriously, I'm glad things are gradually coming around to something more like they should be. Best wishes for more good news.

#498 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 05:00 PM:

Phil Knight #480: There seems to be a divide between Briain and the US about the term 'Professor' - in the UK it's reserved for an academic with a chair - usually a head of department or group leader, at least I think so.

That was the historical situation in Britain, Australia, and NZ. The standard academic ladder topped out at Senior Lecturer, with perhaps a few Associate Professors, and the Professor, who typically ran the place. There's been a bit of title creep in more recent years, and more people end up as A/Prof or Prof. Also, the head of department position tends to rotate among all the senior staff members, not just the Professor(s). The title is still much more restricted than in the US.

#499 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 05:10 PM:

Singing Wren @ #426: Ms. and Miz are not pronounced the same

Really? I've been living in Georgia since I was born here, and they sound the same to me. Also, the title I use in front of the first name of older, unrelated women is "Miss" whether they are married or not. Perhaps there is local variation at work. Or maybe I just have a tin ear.

#500 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 05:24 PM:

Syd @494: Thanks for checking in. I think of you often. I'm glad Damon found a new home and that your vet is being so wonderful.

I'm glad that you've got shelter. I wish it were better/permanent.

I'll keep thinking good thoughts in your general direction.

#501 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 05:42 PM:

Syd, sending you good thoughts. Thank you very much for letting us know what's happening with you -- it matters.

#502 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 06:08 PM:

deb, #491: Wait, what? You were seven years old; how were you supposed to have learned to read music without having been taught?! It's like reading words -- it's not just something you know how to do, somebody has to show you and let you practice before you can do it! I took piano lessons too at that age, and the very first ones were about learning how the notes on the page related to what I was doing on the keyboard, and to the melody I was hearing; I got scales, and key signatures and time signatures, and major/minor, all at the same basic beginner level and in ways that made them tie together.

If I've misread you, and what you mean is that you can't sight-read and play at the same time, then let me assure you that this is very common among amateur pianists. I never have been able to play by sight; I have to work out a few chords at a time, practice them until I get them right, then add the next few chords onto the sequence -- it's all done by muscle memory, but I read music well enough that I don't have to count lines-and-spaces or keys on the keyboard. And it's good enough to allow me to play* things like "Moonlight Sonata" and "Bridge Over Troubled Waters", which are not beginner-level pieces; it just takes me a few weeks to work all the way thru them.

I can also play by ear, but only "single melody line in the right hand, chords with the left" style.

I used to be able to sight-sing choral music, in which you're only having to follow 1 line of melody at a time, and I had a pretty good feel for where a given note on the staff fell in my voice. But I haven't done any choral singing in ages either, and that skill is long gone.

*Or rather, to have played when I had regular access to a piano, which I haven't had for some 20 years. Right now I'd have to go back and work them up again, but it would be much easier the second time.

#503 ::: Phil Knight ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 06:24 PM:

The musicians who get paid the least in the band I'm most fond of are the only ones who can read music (the hired string section). The one who gets the most money can barely hold a guitar the right way up.

Just, you know, hit your instrument with your fingers. If you like the sound do it again, otherwise hit it in a different way.

#504 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 07:15 PM:

If Star Wars Were an Icelandic Saga.

Sweater Quest, an account of a year-long project to knit an Alice Starmore sweater.

Starmore is the Howard Roark of knitting patterns, and if you can't imagine how such a thing is possible, that's why you should read the book.

#505 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 07:32 PM:

re Kim's "Smashwords" particle: Holy Crap!

I'm particularly perturbed by the ban on "rape-for-titillation". How do you tell if the author intended a rape scene for titillation? How do you tell if the reader will be titillated by it?

There's a rape scene in my own story "Death And The Ugly Woman". I've been told I got the ugliness and brutality of violent rape right, even in a relatively short section of the story and without going into very specific detail. But I'm sure -- SURE -- there are people out there who would read that section and be aroused by it. Would that make my story obscene? In PayPal's eyes, probably yes.

#506 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 07:39 PM:

Errr, make that "Jim's" particle.

#507 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 08:10 PM:

Andy Brazil, Dave Bell: Thank you. So if I have this right, Labour has set this up as a go-ahead when they come into power again but since they're out of power it just sits and H.H. is proceeding as if she'll still be in power to stick it to folks down the road and is staking out her position with distressing zeal? That makes it a little less confusing.

On another note, I startled the living hell out of my wife the other night by doing a perfect vocal imitation of Mitch McConnell in the middle of a conversation when her head was turned. (It's Droopy with the nasal component removed.) So I may have a second career path if necessary...

#508 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 08:22 PM:

Re: replacing "Miss" with "Ms. and pronounced 'Miz'", when that first began happening, my paternal grandmother, having been raised in the South, said, "I don't like 'Miz', it reminds me of what the little (African-American) children used to call us back home," with the phrase in parentheses being replaced by either "colored" or the n-word, depending on how she was feeling when the topic came up, I guess--and neither of which struck me as being terribly appropriate.

She also used that unfortunate "n-word-toes" expression for brazil nuts.

***sigh*** I know we're products of our environment, but my grandparents, mother and aunt all used expressions that it would never have occurred to me to use. There must have been some consciousness-raising going one somehow, but I guess it was by osmosis from the wider world.

#509 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 08:49 PM:

Phil Knight @ #503: "hold a guitar the right way up."

You could argue that Jimi Hendrix held his wrong way up. Didn't seem to diminish his talent any.

#510 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 09:13 PM:

Years ago (as the sonnet says), I found Fort Mudge on a quad map of Okefenokee. It was a speck by some CSX tracks. At that level, the map would have indicated any buildings. There were one; I imagined it to be, perhaps, a sign near the tracks (if it hadn't been stolen) or maybe one of those metal boxes out in the middle of nowhere.

Now it looks like a road goes through it, but that doesn't seem to have changed the essential unbuilt charm of it all. (You can change it to satellite view and zoom in. The link doesn't carry that stuff over somehow.)

#511 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 09:15 PM:

I was severely disappointed in the Phantom Menace, when we met the second Gungan. I wanted him to talk like Rex Harrison. "Ah, I see you've met poor Jar-Jar. Fine fellow — heart of gold, you know — but (sigh) well, let's just say he has a heart of gold and leave it at that, eh? Now, what can we do for you chaps?"

#512 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 25, 2012, 09:42 PM:

Syd, #508: I'm just glad that, 3 decades after "Ms." came into common usage and more than a century after it was first proposed, we finally seem to have run out of would-be wits* who insist that any woman using it must be a book.

* In the sense of "He thinks he's a wit, and he's half right."

#513 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 02:22 AM:

dcb @491: I can "read music" insofar as I can, with a great deal of effort, correlate the notes on the page with the keys on the piano. (Though, when you throw in keys other than C, I start to have seizures.) (Reading for guitar leaves me utterly baffled. I'm told that if one wants to learn music theory, guitar and other stringed instruments are the way to go.)

One of the more mind-boggleing things I've ever seen was the time I handed my Sacred Harp hymnal to my friend Larry (a music major), who opened to a random page, scanned down the score, smiled, turned to another random page, did the same thing, and handed the book back to me. "Very interesting!"

It had never before crossed my mind that one could read music the way that you and I read text. E.g., the marks on the page getting translated instantly and automatically into sounds in one's head. In retrospect, that's and obvious and logical extrapolation, but it was not a skill I had ever encountered before. (I don't think even my piano teacher could do that.)

I know people who can do that with math...but music? The mind boggles. Which just goes to show how deficient my training was.

I suspect this cultural deficiency is not dissimilar to the way drawing ("drafting," but not in the architectural sense) has fallen away as a core skill in our culture. Since it's not taught as a basic in school anymore, people generally regard it as very arcane, something only someone with "talent" can do. What most people don't realize is that the primary difference between someone with "artistic talent" and the rest of the population is that the "talented" one has had time, patience, and motivation (and belief in the possibility) to develop that skill.

I continue to contend that anyone who can write with a pencil can learn to draw. It may be a very difficult and frustrating experience, getting to the point where they can make a drawing that they're happy with but...your point? (If you see what I mean.)

Heather Rose Jones @492: I interpreted this question as a request for me to describe my personal technique ... while he intended it as a prompt for me to recite the "correct" answer (Your instructor sounds generally kind of clueless.)

Hah! I am reminded of the bug I found in my own instruction-interpretation strategy during an NLP training. We'd been handed a page of prompts for some exercise, and I kept locking up when I tried to execute the exercise. (Can't remember any specific examples, unfortunately.) I finally worked out that how one responded to the prompts depended on how one read it, e.g., where one put the emphasis in the sentence. Emphasize the noun, you get one thing. Emphasize the verb, something else entirely.

One of the teaching assistants later told me that that was kinda the point of the exercise, but the instructors had left it to the students to work that out. Woulda been nice if they'd dropped, like, a little clue here and there. Would have saved a lot of useless thrashing on my part.

Those instructors were, in general, not the most clueful. Another time, I was struggling with the concept of "anchors," and I went to one of the instructors asking for clarification. He responded with something that amounted to "blah blah blah Ginger blah blah blah."

I mentioned my frustration to the TA, and she came back with, "Watch for naturally-occuring instances of anchors, and see how that process works." Bing! Problem solved.

Syd @494: I'm so glad to hear from you! See also: *Whew!*

Couple of tricks I learned from a fellow who lives nomadic out of his little panel-van: some of the local grocery stores (out here, it's Safeway. Don't know if the King Soopers have similar services. I'd also check out the local Whole Foods.) have a little sit-and-eat-a-sandwich alcoves that also provides outlets and free wi-fi. No purchase needed.

Another trick: There are a bunch of folks (truckers, among them) who park in the local 24-hour fitness club parking lot, and pay the monthly membership fee ($35-ish?) just to use the shower facilities. Not free, but far short of what actual rent would cost.

#514 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 07:11 AM:

Random thoughts and misc.sht:

McDonald's coffee isn't as good as Starbuck's, but it's cheaper and they have wifi too.

In my experience, professors without doctorates are uniformly above the average of people with doctorates who were not professors, so I say professor if I'm in doubt.

How to translate a song in one's head into a song which can be communicated to others when one does not play a chording instrument is something I would dearly love to learn.

I'd never heard the Ms./ms. confusion joke before, and actually, it is kind of funny, once. I suspect I could write to a punchline using it in a way that would be lastingly funny.

Having written that last paragraph makes me wonder just what sort of slash fiction Ms./ms. is.

#515 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 07:21 AM:

Syd - if it's just wifi you're looking for, it's worth checking out your public library. The library where I work requires a library card to use the public access computers - but the wireless is available to anyone.

#516 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 08:32 AM:

Re: Jim's Property search sidebar:
The Massachusetts search suggests two "David Harmon" s with unclaimed property. At least through the first screen of "initiating a claim", there's no place to enter the addresses you had then, or even a middle initial. But then, there was at least one other "David M. Harmon" there back in the mid-'80s, anyway. Hmm...

#517 ::: Phil Knight ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 09:42 AM:

@Linkmeister #509:Yep. I'm a sinistralist too. One of my favourite Hendrix moments is him playing "Hear My Train A Comin" on Alexis Korner's right-handed acoustic. I met him once, though I don't remember as I was a sleeping baby at the time. Apparently he sang me and my brother a lullaby (my dad was a promoter in Sussex). Once my mother wouldn't let Alexis Korner into his own gig, thinking he was a random blagger because "everyone knows Alexis Korner is black".

My dad turned down a chance to join management at Island Records to work on his PhD/DPhil. He is now a professor, which brings us neatly back ontopic.

Incidentally, at any folk festival you can't swing a .. swingy thing .. without hitting about a dozen tenured academics. There seems to be something about folk music that attracts people from the hard sciences.

#518 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 10:47 AM:

I can read music like that, but I won't guarantee that what I hear in my head is what it would sound like if actually sung/played. (I don't have perfect pitch, for one thing.) I think it's an outgrowth of music classes (clarinet) and a piano in the house: this marking results in this sound. (Musical notation is like math notation: it's a very compact kind of symbology for a very non-compact field.)

#519 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 11:16 AM:

PJ Evans @ 518... I can read music like that, but I won't guarantee that what I hear in my head is what it would sound like if actually sung/played.

If I read "La Pastorale" then tried to play it, it'd come out like "Yakkety-sak".

#520 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 11:25 AM:

To all, thank you for being concerned. It's heartwarming. :) Please be aware that if things begin to look dire for any reason, and/or I anticipate a lengthy Internet absence, I will try to post to that effect, or at least get an email to abi.

So far, though, so good. The shelter volunteers are all cool folks, and although some of the homeless folks strike me as potentially sketchy, most have also been nice.

Re: plugging in and wifi and such, the former is definitely nice. I had my former land line ported over to a cell phone (since I'd had the number 30 years and pretty much all my friends have it) that also has a data plan (so I can use it as my tethered Internet access point), but I have to be hyper-aware of my usage so I don't cost myself extra by month-end (4G included, $10 for every G over that). Having wifi available means I can save my phone connection for secured needs (submitting resumes requiring private contact info, checking emails and bank balances and such) but do general surfing on the free connection.

This being true, it's literally just finding a place to plug in my computer. I have a replacement power supply (thanks to friends whose new dog decided my prior cord was a tasty snack) that's one of those flat-against-the-wall types (about the size of a smartphone or a tad larger). I was at a laundromat yesterday and was overjoyed to see a strip of outlets beside the tables in the windows--and couldn't use a single one because of the size of my power supply.

McDonald's is definitely preferred over other coffee suppliers as a place to plug in and surf, but at the only McDonald's I've found in the area of the shelter claims to offer wifi, damned if I can find an outlet there that hasn't been covered by a solid metal plate. I even asked one of the servers, and she couldn't point me to one; the other times I've been there and seen folks with computers, they weren't plugged in. I will have to try the patio areas idea, though; the ones I've seen have not featured outlets, but maybe if I find a place with a covered patio... Worth a look.

Of course, this morning I looked for another McDonald's and couldn't find the blasted thing where the map said it was. Wondering if I "reversed" the street address (wrote East instead of West, perhaps). I wound up at Denny's which doesn't appear to have wifi but does have outlets.

And I know why I did it. Oh, sure, I "justified" it by telling myself it's important to keep my laptop charged, and maybe they would have wifi so I could look for jobs, and that even if I had an $8 something off their 2-4-6-8 menu, the portions are large enough that it will keep me going until dinner back at the shelter, so it would only be about $4 each to "cover" breakfast and lunch.

The real reason is it makes me feel like a normal person.

Jacque, joining a gym to use the showers is definitely an appealing idea right about now. :) My understanding is that my food stamp and GR allotments get added to my EBT card on the 2nd of the month, so I'll do some checking on cheap monthly memberships.

Oh! The YMCA! According to the site for the local branch, they offer financial assistance for memberships for those who can't afford them. It's possible, I suppose, that they'll have a room with places to sit, plug in, etc., which would kill two birds with one stone. And membership can be used at other locations, so that if it makes sense for me to be in another part of town, I can still clean up. Theoretically. Worth checking into also, although it might eliminate the place-to-park idea--and I'm not sure local law enforcement lets people hang out in parking lots all night, anyway. But still--ideas!

It is worth noting that my cousin, who lives in the Fresno area, has offered me his couch if it becomes necessary. Drawbacks: no cats, and...well, I'm sure Fresno is a fine place, but it isn't my home. He is also hoping to work out something with his current landlord re: my moving into a house that needs to be rehabbed, and helping my cousin do the work. (I won't call myself spectacularly handy, but I can use a hammer and a staple gun--well, a small one--without hurting myself, can change out light switches, etc.) Benefits: housing, and my cats! But again, if I can find something in or near LA, I'd rather, simply because I've lived here all my life and I really am not in a hurry to leave.

I guess we'll all see what happens.

Kip W, I still plan to write about my experiences, which is why I was pleased to see the writers' workshop at the women-only place I mentioned. As always, I seem to be having trouble getting started, although I sat down one day and sketched out the first couple of sections.

I'm curious, though: why philosophy in particular? I admit it's an idea that had not occurred to me, but it sounds promising.

Well, it's beginning to get crowded, and I imagine my server would like to turn this table. More later, I hope.

#521 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 12:26 PM:

dcb @431: Many and many a year ago, my wife and I made the acquaintance of a graduate student in history whose name was something equivalent to "Sally Denton". She said that since she was working on a PhD, she definitely intended to take her hypothetical future husband's name, rather than going through life as "Doctor Denton". I asked her what would happen if she married, say, "Joe Proctor". As it turns out, she wound up joining a religious order, and is now known (at least in our household) as "Sister Sal".

Joann @447 re what-to-call-her: I remember during the 1984 elections, a Young Repug publication taking pleasure in referring to Geraldine Ferraro as "Mrs. Ferraro". I took pleasure in my own turn in pointing out to them that the Senator was not married to any "Mister Ferraro".

#522 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 01:31 PM:

Jacque @513: I can now just almost sight-sing. It's like tightrope walking for me. If I get a little off on guessing an interval, I might not be able to get any further. If I'm rattled, I won't be able to remember the tonic note. But it's coming along. Sight-reading at the piano is much easier, mostly as a result of doing it for years, including practicing with pieces I'd never play otherwise. What I still need (and at this point in life may never get around to) is more theory, and (I still have hopes for this) better improv and memorization skills. I'm at least to a stage where the word "better" is not completely unnecessary in that sentence.

syd @520: Philosophy occurred to me because you're dealing with so much, and all of it stressful. You haven't exploded yet, so it's possible you have something to teach now.

Oh, and just a thought: if starting to write something is difficult for whatever reason, skip the start and go to the middle. You can always go back later, and maybe what you're writing starts in the middle anyway. Good parts: They're not just for readers.

#523 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 01:33 PM:

Syd, good to hear from you; I was concerned too.

You said: The real reason is it makes me feel like a normal person.

Unless it slips into denial (which it doesn't sound the least to me like you are doing) this is important. Pick your small indulgences for the mileage they give you.

Best wishes continue coming your way.

#524 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 01:42 PM:

Re Patrick's sidelight on microfinance: it looks to me like the problem is not microfinance per se, but for-profit microfinance. But I am not an economist.

I am, however, a nasty and cynical person, and if this were happening in the U.S. I would be surprised if said loansharks were not taking out life insurance policies on their customers.

Re: sight-reading, I am always surprised and saddened by stories of "I took music for x years and never learned to read music", the more so since my father's entire career was focused on teaching (vocal) sight-reading. It's not as if effective methods of teaching it don't exist. Indeed, back in the 19th century a significant portion of the U.S. population learned to read shape notes at 'singing schools'. But alas, that was deemed too...something. Non-academic? And it fell out of favor, though it still goes on in the background, as it were.

#525 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 01:42 PM:

Jacque, #513: A quick look at your link about anchors suggests to me that this is term-of-art for what I was taught to call "conditioned reflex" -- you know, the salivating-dog thing. Am I right?

John, #514: Oh, it wasn't confusion at all. It was an absolute insistence that this abbreviation meant one thing and one thing only, and that therefore any woman using it for herself HAD to be that thing. IOW, reactionary backlash.

Syd, #520: Most Wal-Marts will allow people to park overnight, as long as you stay on the outer fringes of the lot. (Which you'd want to do anyhow, because it's less noisy.) Look for semis or campers parked there, and go over where they are if you see any. Also, freeway rest areas are generally okay to park in overnight, if you happen to be near one.

#526 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 02:23 PM:

Lila #524: I sang in my grade-school choir for all 7 years I attended (starting at age 5), and was a soloist for more than half of that. In theory, we were taught sight-singing; in theory, after one's first year in choir that was all one was doing.

In practice, my ear is fast enough and my memory good enough that once the teacher had run through the song once or twice, I was singing it from memory and using the sheet music for orientation.

I also took two years of spotty piano lessons, which taught me where certain notes on the staff are on the piano keys, so if I want to laboriously figure it out going back and forth, I can use a piano to produce the sounds off a staff, but it is in no way 'reading' it.

Effective methods may exist, but I've never been shown any method at all besides "here is the paper, we are now going to make music, watch the notes go by" or "here is the paper, I want you to tell me what letter those notes are as we move along it, and on the second pass as you say the notes push the right piano key simultaneously."

For some people those methods may work. For me they totally didn't.

As an adult I took a community-college piano class that got me a point where I could (on a piece we'd been doing in class) sit down, orient myself, and actually play it at speed while running my eyes over the staff, which is the closest I've ever come to sight-reading, but I think it was still 90% muscle memory and tune memory. It still felt like a superpower when I did it, though.

#527 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 02:29 PM:

Syd @494/520: great to hear from you and to know that some stuff is positive. Fantastic that Damon is re-homed, and that your vet is being so good about the other kitties. Good luck that some of the possibles turn into real positives.

Lee @ 502: Oh, I'm sure I was told which note was which, and the correspondence between the notes on the page and the keys on the piano. But I never got to be able to read music. I never got to the point where I knew that the note on the page there meant that key on the piano - I did it by fast counting (one-two-three lines up, one-two-three keys along, that's the note, oops, sounds wrong, try the one below - never mind "that note on the page = that tone". I sang in my junior school (7-10 years) choir where we learned be ear but never even tried for choir in high school (11-18 years) because one of the first requirements was being able to sight read. Never mind that i would have been singing with everyone else the second time through whatever song, I knew I wouldn't pass the auditions and didn't even try.

Jacque @513 has it right: It had never before crossed my mind that one could read music the way that you and I read text. E.g., the marks on the page getting translated instantly and automatically into sounds in one's head.

#528 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 03:02 PM:

Elliott Mason, what you describe is not what I would call a method of sight-reading instruction, any more than watching TV with the captioning on could be called reading instruction.

For example, we learned the sounds of the various intervals (a fourth has a distinctive sound, no matter what key you're in), how to recognize those intervals by sight, and how, from the printed page, to identify the key and find the key center (e.g. "last sharp is 7, last flat is 4, no sharps or flats means C is 1"). And yes, that is an oversimplification, but it enables you to start reading music quickly and accurately, adding a better understanding of theory later.

As for the "some people can just naturally (sing, read, draw)" canard, as Jacque mentioned--and I hear that ALL the time--the program for which my father became known *required* everyone in the school to take music in 6th grade, and the curriculum was about 75% sight-reading, with a bit of theory and music appreciation thrown in. After their one compulsory year, so many kids tried out for (optional) choir that the school had five choirs. This was public school in Moultrie, GA--not one of the Western World's cultural jewels. A good many of those kids became music teachers, and the choir members had a well-attended 40-year reunion at which they demonstrated that they can still read music.

#529 ::: OtterB reports an oddity ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 03:33 PM:

The "most recent comments" sidebar shows several comments on a piece called "Piracy -- A Real World Example". All, when clicked, give a "page not found" error.

#530 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 03:41 PM:

I'm vehemently in favor of functional literacy in both music and art being taught to as many kids as possible before culture teaches them that they shouldn't even try it because they aren't already good at it.

I think that part of the reason people struggle with music is that it's not one skill, it's a set of skills, much in the same way that having full use of a language is a set of skills (comprehending, speaking, reading, writing, each of which is an aggregate of skills itself.) For music, I would describe the parallel skills would be appreciation, expression, (sight-)reading and composition.

Even a rudimentary understanding of musical notation ("The hollow notes last longer than the solid notes, the more flags a note has the shorter it is, and the pattern of notes up and down the scale corresponds to the pitch") is enough to prompt a congregation through an infrequently used hymn. I was taught to decipher music notation in the context of after-school piano lessons when I was in elementary school. I learned my way around a piano keyboard because we had one - my mother played and presumably still does, so there was an accessible instrument and sheet music around, and I had a couple of years of lessons before getting bored with that.

I took up flute a few years later in middle school band, and by high school had an intermediate ability to sight read that - the range was different than piano, but with an instrument it's largely a case of "See this mark, do THAT with your fingers" muscle memory.

I didn't learn any sight-singing at all until five years ago, joining the church choir I sing with now. Learning to sight-sing was absolutely a different skill than learning to read musical notation, but the former is absolutely as much a prerequisite to the latter as knowing the alphabet is to reading text. (Anyone uncertain about this is invited to check their spam trap for opportunities presented in an unfamiliar character set.) Prior to actively learning some sight singing, I'd always learned vocal music by ear and repetition - plonk it out on the piano to hear how it sounds, then sing it a few times to make it stick.

I've been working at it for five years and am a lot better at it than I was, but still have a lot of room for improvement. Sight-singing is harder than sight-reading for most instruments because you are not only learning to decipher the pattern of sound as written but also training your voice to reproduce it and your ear to hear whether you have done so correctly (I think this may also be true of fretless string instruments and possibly the trombone, as opposed to keyed or valved instruments that will make the right sound if you push the right button at the right time.) And I am never going to have perfect pitch, that is, the ability to start in the written key every time. (I have pretty good relative pitch, the ability to end in the same key I started in (absent any expected modulations anyway), but ask me to hum a middle C and it will get you somewhere within a fifth of the note in question. It's higher than I think it is, but I'm not always sure by how much.)

#531 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 03:44 PM:

I previewed that and I still swapped my latter and my former. Please imagine that they are where it makes sense.

Causation was never my strongest suit.

#532 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 03:57 PM:

Thena @530: vehemently agreed.

By Lila's standards, I've never been taught to sightread music. Some of my classmates learned it when exposed to the same inputs I got, but I think it may have just hit their protean learning-languages-by-osmosis circuitry (since the instruction started around 6-7, when those circuits are still working well).

I am exceptionally familiar with musical notation conventions, which on analogy to reading English means I know absolutely all my letters by heart, what sounds they can make, and have additionally memorized a significant subset of Unicode and can recognize it instantly. I work things out (when forced to) by finding landmarks and counting quickly in my head, and hoping I don't screw up things like key signature, which are still annoyingly difficult for me to keep track of (and to remember on the right edge of the line which of the lines/spaces are sharped/flatted right now).

I've been interested in getting more music theory under my belt (it would help me in my filk performance and also in my composing), but the first third, at least, of every class I've tried to take on the subject starts out at the "This is a quarter note. It is worth half as much duration as a half note!" level of notation-explanation, which bores the everliving crap out of me and removes entirely my ability to pay attention in class.

Unfortunately, they either expect you to be a perfect, fluent sight-reader or a complete utter "Wait, there are lines?" music newbie. I am neither, and there don't appear to be organized classes that expect me -- either to teach me to BE a fluent music-reader, or to take into account that I know how the system works but I *can't* read it fluently. So I muddle along.

For a while I was able to use Finale PrintMusic to (with great laborious difficulty) notate tunes I have written, but it doesn't run on any machine I still own and I can't afford to replace it.

#533 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 04:20 PM:

OtterB (529): I'm seeing the same thing.

#534 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 04:23 PM:


Where I started with the sight-singing thing was with a crash course in intervals from my choir director. "This here. This is a fourth. You know what a fourth sounds like." "No we don't." "Yes you do. You know 'Amazing Grace,' right?" "Yeah...?" "The first two notes of 'Amazing Grace,' that's a fourth. (sings) // A-maaaaaa-zi-ing Graaaaace....// That's a fourth up, followed by a major third up, back down and up again." And so forth. The idea was to look at the notation for an interval, hear what that interval sounds like, then sing the interval to get what it feels like in the voice. Lather, rinse, repeat. After almost five years of this I've got to a point where I can sing the harmony line out of the hymnal as long as it hasn't got any accidentals in it. (I despair of ever learning to reliably sing a tritone - the interval between C and F#. It's just wrong.)

If you don't have access to an instrumental keyboard there's one here (provided you have a computer with a sound card as I imagine many of us do.) It's got the bonus of the conventional notation written above the piano layout so even if you're not sure which key goes with that note, it's easy to sort it out.

#535 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 04:37 PM:

Thena 534: (I despair of ever learning to reliably sing a tritone - the interval between C and F#. It's just wrong.)

In "Ma-ri-a, I've just met a girl..." the tritone is from the Ma- to the -ri-. It then resolves to the -a, which is a good way of thinking about it, because with that "destination" the tritone is easier to sing. In this YouTube video the tritone comes in at about 0:40. It's the Maria he sings after the intro, at the beginning of the main body of the song.

#536 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 04:45 PM:

472, 474

HRM doesn't have a passport. My UK1 passport says "Her Britannic Majesty's Secretary of State requests and requires in the name of Her Majesty all those..."

So HBM doesn't need one; I surmise she does her own requesting and requiring in that case. Or her equerry does. It's not like she tends to arrive unannounced, after all.

Recently, this passport detail was covered in Canadian newspapers, I don't recall why.

1. Interestingly enough, the said passport says "European Community" first, then "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland", then the Royal Arms.

#537 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 04:56 PM:

Thena @534: I have a keyboard (well, it's in the storage unit, but I own one and it will be set up for use at some point in the next several months). It doesn't help me notate tunes I know by ear (or have composed and memorized), because the amount of time spent going back and forth from 'sound in my head' to 'find sound on keyboard' to 'what note is that again??' to 'write on paper' utterly kills my ability to stay focussed on the task, and often caterpillar's-dilemmas me on the entire subject of remembering the tune in question. Finale was useful because I could click on the staff and it would make the noise; if wrong, I could slide the note up or down till it was right. Much more intuitive, and yielded sheet music.

What I wish I had (and nobody appears to make them) is a keyboard, even a smallish one, with LEDs in or near each key and a button/interface on top to light up all the notes that go in a given key signature -- ask for the key of F#, and all the right whites and blacks will be visually highlighted in real, physical space. It would be invaluable for me, not only in learning to play scales and suchlike, but when I am composing; sometimes I know what note I *hear* being there but utterly cannot find it on the keyboard. If I could 'put it in gear' and limit the number of choices it would help me immensely.

I've seen 'teach kids to play' pianolets that light up the keys you are supposed to play in order to achieve a given tune (Baa Baa Black Sheep or similar), sort of like a cross between 'follow the bouncing ball' and karaoke, but nobody seems to make a keyboard with 'light up and keep lit all the notes in x key.'

In re interval ear-training (which I HAVE been trained in, just not in any way in reference to sheet music -- singing and improvising harmonies), a teacher once gave out sheets with examples of all the intervals up and down. I don't remember most of them anymore, but we used "Here comes the bride" for major fourths upwards. The tricky ones don't occur much. For minor seconds up and down the only suggestions she had were from 'O Canada' (national anthem), the interval in "true, patriot love in all thy sons command" in the beginning of the first verse of the song, and for downwards the interval in "Ba-li Hai will find you ..." from South Pacific.

Those songs are not nearly as widely known as Jingle Bells ('jin-gle all the way ...') or "Hap-py Birth-day to you", but they're reasonably available.

#538 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 04:58 PM:

Argh. Here Comes The Bride is major FIFTHs, and I did know that, I swear ...

#539 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 05:55 PM:

Fun fact: I was taught to ear-tune my guitar strings using intervals. Going up from the thickest string to the thinnest, you mentally sing, "Here comes the bride" up to the string that's not fifths apart, then "N-Beeee-Ceee!" (plucking the string you're tuning last), then "Here comes the bride" again.

#540 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 06:06 PM:

dcb, #527: I never got to the point where I knew that the note on the page there meant that key on the piano

Did they not teach you the letter-names for the lines and spaces on the bar, and the keys on the piano? I'm pretty sure that's how I learned that bit. And also that "sharp" meant the black key next up, and "flat" meant the black key next down, unless there wasn't a black key in between.

I didn't get any formal music theory until I took it in college, and then it was a revelation -- my ability to play something by ear (which was already pretty good; I had a little kiddie piano when I was 4 or so on which I could reproduce the tunes of my kiddie records) improved dramatically once I could analyze the chord structure of what I was listening to. Until then, the nearest thing I'd had to music theory was the Circle of Fifths, and that was by rote.

Thena, #530: I can sight-read a single line of music pretty well as a result of years of cello and choir. Sight-reading piano music is still an arcane and awesome ability to me; this may be related to my general lack of multitasking ability (getting the right finger onto each note in the chord is a separate task, and I can only focus on 1 at a time). But I can follow guitar chords with no trouble (as long as they fall within the range of chords I can actually play), which suggests that I might be able to learn the vamping-with-chords style of piano improv.

#541 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 06:09 PM:

Lila #524: I agree! The original programs were run by people whose basic goal was "make microcredit available to the populace for the public benefit". These new companies have the basic goal of "make as much money as possible off making microcredit available".

That italicized phrase isn't really inherent to corporations, but... well, I wanted to say "it's inserted by the corruptions of modern business practice", but then again, exploiting the poor and weak is hardly new.

#542 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 06:24 PM:

I'm enjoying the discussion of sight-singing, music theory, etc. I recently joined a women's barbershop chorus and I don't have to know music theory or learn to sight read to sing with the group, but you all are confirming that more musical training would be helpful. (Mine is scattered from junior high chorus, some guitar lessons in high school, and a year or so of piano as an adult.) This intervals thing is hard for me.

#543 ::: Naomi Parkhurst sees spam at #543 ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 06:44 PM:

I don't know if I'd rather rhumba or Zumba, but I know I don't like spam.

#544 ::: Naomi Parkhurst was gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 06:45 PM:

Ironically, it was a spam report.

#545 ::: Rob Rusick suspects SPAM at #543 ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 07:10 PM:

First and only post, not relevant to anything anyone has said, and a google-search of the phrase turns up a lot of hits.

#546 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 07:16 PM:

And the link in the name doesn't match the name being used.

#547 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 10:51 PM:

Elliot Mason: Here Comes The Bride is major FIFTHs, and I did know that, I swear

Umm. I think you were right the first time.

The other aspect to sight-singing, apart from being able to produce random sequences of intervals, is being able to cheat. You can cheat by picking the note out of the chord, finding it in the harmony, recognizing patterns such as major triads, seeing a repeat of the main theme, or just developing a feel than Victorian-era hymns sound like that. You can tell how important cheating is to many choristers by how their sight-reading degrades when singing in an unfamiliar style.

#548 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 11:21 PM:

WRT Teresa's particle about 'is this for real' - the corporate CEO has resigned. Today.

#549 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 26, 2012, 11:58 PM:

Spending more time with his family. Really!

#550 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 12:13 AM:

With help from online persons, I finally figured out how to make an internally-linked table of contents for my novel, The Christmas Mutiny, and posted it to Amazon (keeping in mind the warnings seen in one of the sidebar articles). Now to see if anybody buys it. Sincere thanks to Nielsenhaydenizens and other online people who helped me figure out the tricky parts of both writing and formatting my book.

#551 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 12:24 AM:

Elliott Mason @537: I'm glad you mentioned well-known songs for interval awareness. To at least a little of my own surprise, I was able to find one fairly quickly. Here it is.

I should go back to that book of learning harmony at the piano. O time, pull your arrow out of me!

#552 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 01:44 AM:

Kip, #551: I'd be a lot happier with their examples for minor thirds if more of them started on the tonic. The interval from 3 to 5 is indeed a minor third if you're playing in a major key, but to my ear it sounds wrong as an example of same, because I'm hearing the major chord underneath it.

#553 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 02:26 AM:

Well. I tried running the Property Search thing just for a lark, and actually found something that's unequivocally mine -- apparently a very small insurance-company payout in Tennessee. I've printed out the claim form to send in, and they want all sorts of documentation with it. Most of it I have, but I'm quite sure I don't have anything left with my name and that address on it. (Ironically, I went thru my wallet recently and tossed several old ID cards which did.) From the way the form is worded, I don't think the requirements are "check all which apply". Suggestions?

#554 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 02:42 AM:

Singing Wren @ #426: Ms. and Miz are not pronounced the same

Back when "Ms." got introduced to my part of the Northeast (which I think was about when it hit national popularity), the definition we got of how to pronounce it was "'Miz', like Southerners call Mrs. Somebody", which is what made it familiar enough for most people to adopt it.

#555 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 03:52 AM:

Lee @ 540: Did they not teach you the letter-names for the lines and spaces on the bar, and the keys on the piano? I'm pretty sure that's how I learned that bit. And also that "sharp" meant the black key next up, and "flat" meant the black key next down, unless there wasn't a black key in between. Yes, they "taught" me that stuff, but I never got to the point where I knew it - and it was just assumed that I did. Mostly, I didn't use the notes themselves, I used their relationships - up two, down three - which was fine until I lost my place on the page, then I'd struggle to re-start... I never got to the stage where I'd see a note on the third line up and think "B" and hit the correct key - I had to count up from the bottom line "E-F-G-A-B" then similarly along the piano keys, rapidly. Like Thena indicates @530, I never really learned the alphabet.

I love music, I have a pretty reasonable collection of classical music CDs and I've been lucky enough to be taken to live classical music performances since I was very young (I was giving the bouquets to the 1st violin or solo pianist or whoever when I was about 6 or 7 years old). But because I never really learned to read music my abilities to make music were severely curtailed.

#556 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 06:41 AM:

The discussion on reading music is very interesting. I'd always assumed that "reading music" meant hearing the music play in your head, but apparently there are different levels of musical literacy. I'm reminded of John M. Ford's WEB OF ANGELS, where society was divided along different levels of computer proficiency.

On an unrelated note of hyperlocal news, Local Man today made home-made chicken liver pate' for the first time. This was probably a mistake, because I've gnoshed far too much of it already and probably blown my diet to hell. (Chicken livers, minced onion, sherry, seasonings... and a stick of butter. Yep, that diet's blown.)

#557 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 08:08 AM:

Bruce Arthurs @ #556:

Any diet plan that can be fatally wounded by an occasional indulgent meal is not worth following.

#558 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 08:56 AM:

Paul A @ 557... Any diet plan that can be fatally wounded

James Bond *will* be back in "Live and Let Diet".

#559 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 08:59 AM:

Bruce Arthurs #556: butter? What's wrong with hard-boiled eggs?

#560 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 11:30 AM:

Lee @552: I would make a subset of the list for my own reference. If nothing on it suited me, I'd listen to the interval until something suggested itself. We all have our own internal hit parade to choose from. Good thing, as I don't know some of the TV show themes they mention there.

#561 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 11:44 AM:

I'm a pretty good sight-reader for playing recorder, but it's eye-hand coordination. I'm not hearing the notes in my mind.

Sometimes I hear possible notes as alternatives I can choose between when I'm improvising.

I taught myself to read music for the piano out of a book. I still remember having to figure out that the first tune (expressed as letter names, not notes) had a deviation from the pattern of just going up and down. There was a repeated note.

On the other hand, it took me a long time (and a lot of bodywork) for me to get comfortable with maintaining a rhythm. Until I changed, rhythm felt like an external force taking me over, so I'd resist.

#562 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 11:55 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz #561: On the other hand, it took me a long time (and a lot of bodywork) for me to get comfortable with maintaining a rhythm. Until I changed, rhythm felt like an external force taking me over, so I'd resist.

Odd, practically the only way I can keep a steady rhythm (usually on drums) is to hook into the group's rhythm.

#563 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 12:08 PM:

I play violin as a hobby and have played in a community orchestra for a while. That's really polished up my sight reading skills on the violin. I do fall down very high in the register where you have 4-7 drawn in extra lines and it all just merges into "high and squeeky" in my head.

But yeah I don't have much time to practice the scores so Im mostly sight reading at speed for the first few weeks after we pick a new repertoire to play.

I am however in the read a bit, reason it out and memorise the score when it comes to reading piano sheet music. I'm not fluent in many notes at once and melody lines in both hands. Violin is easy there because it's just the one line to follow normally.

I did learn how to read music around the same time I learned how to read normal books and I can't really remember what it's like not knowing how to do both and it seems all very simple to me (Im well aware that that's an artifact of me having learnt it all when I was 6 and kept it actively in use since then)

I can read scores and get a rough idea of what they're going to sound like. My fingers and bow arm often twitch though when reading like that, the muscle association is very strong

#564 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 12:29 PM:

It's odd indeed. I had no idea what my problem with rhythm was until it went away.

#565 ::: Stevey-Boy ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 01:15 PM:

Elliott Mason@537: there's an App for that!
If you search "piano chords" you are provided such well named Apps as Chordpicker!!!

#566 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 03:36 PM:

Serge @ #558

This moose has, on the other hoof, twisted the slogan of the French Foreign Legion to suit his purpose:

March or Diet!

#567 ::: FaultyMemory ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 04:30 PM:

PJ@548: Stratfor's Twitter account refutes the resignation claim.

#568 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 05:47 PM:

David Harmon @559: Where do you buy a stick of hard-boiled eggs?

#569 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 06:51 PM:

A short movie inspired by M. C. Escher's works and what his workshop might look like. Fascinating viewing for fans of Escher's work and people interested in lithography and the history of optics in Western art. Don't miss the dragon at ~2:30.

#570 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 07:49 PM:

mjfgates #568: Possibly make one using these methods?.

Or cute faces.

#571 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 08:36 PM:

Elliott @537 and following -

Sounds to me like you have most of the pieces of sight-singing already (the notation and the intervals) and it may just come down to rote memorization of what a fourth (fifth, minor third, augmented 6th, whatever interval) looks like, if you know what it sounds like. Possibly a project for some time when you need a project (as opposed to the "parenting a toddler and just moved house and associated chaos" immediate moment.)

For what it's worth, I usually compose in C major / A minor, to minimize the sharps and flats I have to deal with, and then if it's looking unsingably high or low I transpose it to the easiest singable key. I get lost with more than two sharps in the key signature - I think in flats (legacy of marching band, I guess.) So when I hear a fourth ascending to the tonic, I write G-> C; when I hear a fourth ascending from the tonic to the 4, I write C ->F; and so on. Never mind what key I'm hearing it in my head - I am writing down the pattern of intervals in an arbitrary key that's easy to write in. (Sometimes I guess wrong about where in the scale I started and then I go back and adjust things. No perfection here, folks.)

Depending on how old your Finale family software is, you may be able to buy an upgrade rather than a full new copy (when you are ready to do that) if you still have the registration information. I bought PrintMusic 2011 last year and it's delightful - now all I need is a synthesizer and a midi cable. And time to play with my toys.

Also, Thomas @547 is correct - you were right the first time. First two phrases of "Here Comes The Bride" go 5-1-1-1, 5-2-7-1 or in intervals: Starting on the 5th of the scale, a fourth up, unison, unison; down a fourth, up a fifth, down a minor third, up a minor second / half-step to end on the tonic.

I have no idea what key it's actually written in, but I would transcribe that melody as G-C-C-C G-D-B-C just for simplicity's sake.

By analogy with English -- if music notation is the alphabet, intervals are the syllables. Being able to recognize and decipher intervals from sheet music is I think closely analogous to the technique many of us probably encountered in school of "sounding out" unfamiliar words one syllable at a time. (Those of us who don't remember learning to read our native language may have run into this in learning a second language.) It's not the same as the fluent reading most of us probably manage as adults, but it's a step between.

Wow, I am in danger of geeking out here. :-)

#572 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 08:37 PM:

HLN: Area woman submits two job applications online. "I've been out of the job hunt for so long, I forgot how much information employers ask for on their form. No wonder people get overwhelmed when they have to go job hunting."

Area woman wishes to note that she is gainfully employed, but is hoping for employment that is a little more, well, gainful.

#573 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 08:56 PM:

Syd @520: Oh! I'd forgot to mention: check Y[MW]CAs for job-search counselling. Also, local county government. Boulder County has something called Workforce Boulder County which offers very helpful classes in things like resume writing and networking, as well as various software packages. If memory serves, they're all free. Our YWCA has a wonderful job-search coach who charges on a sliding scale, and has a bottomless bucket of references for things like temp-agencies and such.

Also, for "sleeping rough" in your car: the people I've known who do it tend to move their car to a different location every day or two, the better to be less conspicuous. Another trick: scope out when the grocery stores (Whole Foods in particular) tend to do their free samples. Timed appropriately, once can make most of a meal by cruising around the store and hitting each of the different samples stands on a busy Saturday afternoon.

Following on Kip W's @522: (Hleppy tl;dr) Also, journalling now would be valuable. First: the things you remember in retrospect will be different than the things that are worthy of note now. Second, it's amazing how clarifying (and calming) getting stuff down on paper can be. Particularly with stressful stuff, it seems to somehow drain the stress out of one's head. Also, writing it down seems to make for more "swap space," so patterns and possibilities will become apparent that you won't notice while it's still whirling around in your brain. Furthermore, it's useful to have a record to look back on: "Oh! I solved that problem." "Oh, damn! I'm glad I decided not to do that!" Various life-coach writers swear by the practice of writing your goals down every day. Be ambitious. Be specific. Break it down into departments: Body, Mind, Community, Spirit. Or: Fitness, Education, Money, Recreation. Whatever. And for each major goal, write down one objective you can achieve tomorrow. It's amazing how helpful that can be. (I've pointed you at Wishcraft, haven't I?)

And: if you write a page a day, at the end of a year, you'll have a first draft of a book!

Lee @525: A quick look at your link about anchors suggests to me that this is term-of-art for what I was taught to call "conditioned reflex" -- you know, the salivating-dog thing. Am I right?

Operant conditioning more usually refers to the repeated association of a stimulus and a response.

They're related, certainly. But the tricky thing with anchors is that, while they can be reinforced with repetition, they can be set in one go. "One trial learning."

This is one of the reasons PSTD can make such a mess. To steal the example they used in Grey's Anatomy, a helicoptor rotor becomes associated with a comrade's violent death in Owen Hunt's mind. Then, later, when he's in a similarly charged emotional situation, the sight of the blades of a ceiling fan re-invoke all of those feelings and physical/emotional responses, too. Voilà: flashbacks.

Works for good stuff, too. One time, I was doing yoga, and kept flashing vividly on a play I'd seen in New York the previous year. Finally worked out that (since I hadn't exercised much in the meantime) it was the smell of my own sweat that was evoking the memory.

#574 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 09:25 PM:

Then someone did a really good fake resignation letter for him.

#575 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 10:08 PM:

Classical conditioning associates a stimulus with an involuntary response, like salivation.

Operant conditioning associates a stimulus with a voluntary response, like pecking a key.

#576 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 10:25 PM:

Re PTSD triggers: I recently realized that a person I have to work with for the next little while is a PTSD trigger for me. He was one of the responders to the shooting I witnessed. I'm hoping that now that I've figured out why I keep acting nervous and stupid around him, I can stop.

#577 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: February 27, 2012, 10:49 PM:

re: stick of hard-boiled eggs

A place I used to have lunch had sticks of hard-boiled eggs. My guess was that they must have had a long cylinder of the right diameter, into which raw eggs were broken (perhaps broken into something else and carefully slid in, yokes remained spherical). Then the open end was capped and the whole thing put in a water bath. The long white cylinder of egg was pushed out and could be sliced into "salad" bits without the usual waste. I'd love to have seen the actual process.

I've used egg cubers for deviled eggs for years. Hadn't seen the Japanese versions, or how to make other solid shapes. I've got plenty of raw eggs, but have burned through my kitchen allocation of the day.

#578 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2012, 01:07 AM:

There don't seem to be any terribly recent threads that this fits with:

A human at the bookstore [stables] and [peer of the land] is reporting that a certain book ("Moon over Soho" by Ben Aaronovitch - I just ate "MIdnight Riot" and it was delicious) will be released March 1st. Their website confirms. Online store [South American river] has it for sale, and when I was buying the first book, they had both books for sale; I know this because we did the dance of trying to figure out which book was first in the series.

The odd thing is, I thought it was [stables] and [peer] -although a different branch- where I bought the first book.

Any idea, O publishing experts, what's up with that?

#579 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2012, 01:15 AM:

Xopher, #575: Thank you! That sorts out my confusion very nicely.

#580 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2012, 01:48 AM:

Found in a comment thread on the PayPal/erotica issue that Jim mentioned in Diffractions:

I suspect the competition threw Indies under the buss ...
#581 ::: Hilary L. Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2012, 07:45 AM:

Sandy B. @538 Judging by the release date on the website, the human misread the year. Moon over Soho was released in the US and UK last year on March 1st, not this year. I can confim this as I had an advance reader copy of the first, and the release of the second coincided with a trip to England, so I remember looking for it in bookshops there (though I didn't actually acquire a copy until I got home). The third volume, Whispers Under Ground, is due to be released in June.

#582 ::: Hilary L. Herzoff ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2012, 07:48 AM:

That last comment should be for:
Sandy B. @578

And that will teach me not to comment when I first wake up.

#583 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2012, 09:37 AM:

Thena @571: Just because I can recite what songs have what intervals (and once I've run through that lookup table in my head, sing the bits) doesn't mean I can reflexively sing a fourth when asked to; it's a multi-stage lookup.

Part of the problem for me with the sheet music is after one or two lines/gaps, they kind of blur in the part of my brain that 'knows' numbers at a glance and it becomes 'many'. I have to actually count them in my head (or did, when taking that piano class) by silently saying the numbers. Relates to my discalculia, I presume. I bet I could get my spatial-thinking/kinesthetic circuitry trained to do the job for me if I spent enough time drilling it, but I haven't got that set yet.

I have the damnedest time memorizing 'abstract' information (though what counts to my brain as 'abstract' doesn't always match up with what seems 'abstract' to other people). I memorize well if it's context-linked to other things I know or find of interest, but things like the pattern of an octave (how many piano keys, regardless of color, between each note in a major scale) slide right off my brain's surface if I'm not using them five times a day, even if people give me a mnemonic for them.

If I had the time, energy, and a motivated teacher to immerse myself in the skills for weeks (and then kept them up and active for at least six months afterwards), I might be able to properly learn to sight-read. However, I have a toddler, and I therefore will not have that much time to focus on music for at least 2-4 more years. :->

As it is, I can improvise harmony very well on the fly; the only thing I do semi-regularly that would be made simpler by being properly 'paper-trained' is notating multi-harmony arrangements that I've composed so other people (who are paper-trained; which doesn't include most of the people in my 'band') can also sing them without me teaching them first.

#584 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2012, 10:10 AM:

Apropos of nothing, a new (to me) eggcorn found in the wild: joist-stick.

#585 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2012, 11:02 AM:

Hi all, over the past few weeks I've been uploading to YouTube some videos of me playing ballads and hornpipes and jigs on my fiddle, in my kitchen -- take a look if you care to, I modestly think that some of it is quite nice. (For possibly the first time in my adult life, I have looked at myself on camera and not felt hideously disappointed at the image.) The Kitchen Tapes.

#586 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2012, 11:04 AM:

BTW: any of you New Yorkers going to the East Village Other event at Cooper Union tonight? Say hi if you are there.

#587 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2012, 11:30 AM:

On the sight-reading of music notation:

I rather suspect that the transition from "count the lines and spaces, identify the note/interval, produce appropriate sound" to "see note, produce sound" is neurologically equivalent to the transition from sounding out words phonetically to doing whole-word reading. We often forget just how much practice went into accomplishing that transition for the reading of language. (I was forcibly reminded of it when I studied Sanskrit and had to start from scratch again with a new alphabet.) Especially for later-learners, it can be hard to work in the simple slogging volume of practice required to move from "phonics" level music reading to fluency.

I was fluent enough sight-reading for flute that even with a brand new piece of music it truly felt like the notes went in my eyes and directly out my fingers without having to process them in my brain at all. It was "whole-word" playing in the sense that I could look at a sequence of notes and process it as a whole (which helps a great deal in the fast passages). Of course, practicing a particular piece over and over adds the element of muscle memory and the ability anticipate, and whatnot.

When I started playing harp as an adult, I had to start that whole process again from scratch (except for the bit about knowing what the notes on the staff were). So one of the parts of my practice routine (back when I had a practice routine) was to include sight-reading of pieces in a graduated sequence -- starting out with relatively slow, one-handed stuff and working my way up to more complexity. It could be just exercises, but it had to be something I couldn't remember because what I was exercising was the "in the eyes, out the fingers" function.

I've made some stabs at learning sight-singing the same way, but without putting as much effort into it (and thus not getting very good at it). Ah well, there's still time.

It's certainly possible to learn as an adult, but it's also useful to keep in mind that to get to that level of ability on the flute I was practicing an hour a day, every day, for (... calculates ...) about 12 years.

#588 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2012, 12:39 PM:

In the "deliciously ironic good news department":

Remember Will Beback, star of this thread, with special guest appearances here and here? He has just been banned for, well, generally being a combative, scheming jerk, up to and including a direct appeal to Jimbo Wales to prevail over someone else in the TM articles.

It couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

#589 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2012, 02:03 PM:

Thena @534: If you don't have access to an instrumental keyboard there's one here

That reminds me: in days of yore, there was an app for the old Mac that allowed you to use your keyboard as an intrumental keyboard. Does such a thing exist here in the Future?

#590 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2012, 03:27 PM:

God #%&^%$^%***#^#%$ DAMNIT!!!

One of my college buddies back east lost a son to leukemia about five years back.

His wife made it through treatment for lymphoma a couple of years back.

Now his daughter has been hospitalized after a mass was found in her kidney.

Clear across the country, I feel helpless to help except sending the usual messages of support. ("Gee, I hope it's only a giant abscess.")

I'm wondering if I should offer to pay to have their drinking water tested.

#591 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2012, 03:56 PM:

Jacque, if you have Garage Band, you may have the program already.

#592 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2012, 06:36 PM:

Xopher HalfTongue @575: Classical vs. Operant conditioning

Ah! Thank you for the clarification. I was unaware of the difference in terminology.

Lila @576: He was one of the responders to the shooting I witnessed.

I have certainly found that becoming more aware of the specific trigger makes it easier to respond more choicefully. I hope you find this to be the case as well.

Kip W @591: if you have Garage Band, you may have the program already.

I do have Garage Band, but be damned if I can figure out how to make it operate in the desired manner. (Just to be clear, if I wasn't before: I'm wanting to use my computer keyboard as if it was a piano keyboard.)

#593 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2012, 07:58 PM:

Mary Aileen way back at #224 - well, I don't know what you had, but posting that immediately earwormed *me* with Brubeck's Blue Rondo a la Turk, because I recognized that form of 9/8 right off.

And had it kick through all day. I'm guessing I'll need Take Five to get it out of my head.

I like odd time signatures - Rush's Limelight has been driving me nuts trying to figure it out for a while now.

#594 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2012, 08:22 PM:

Mycroft W (593): Sorry to infect you!

Singing something else every time that starts up seems to short-circuit it for me.

#595 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2012, 09:12 PM:

Over on the Dysfunctional Families thread, someone talking about issues with an inconsiderate roommate said:

Every time I raise any issue, to her it is clearly an isolated, accidental, freak occurrence, whereas the fact that they are predictable and constantly occurring makes us feel more like they're a pattern of behavior she needs to address *as* a pattern.

When I read the JotForm Sidelight (American law enforcement: casually destroying legitimate online businesses without noticing), that statement immediately popped into my head. Every time a fuckup like this happens, the argument is that it's an isolated, accidental occurrence, one of those "everybody makes mistakes" things that nothing can be done to guard against. And yet, from the outside, it happens frequently enough, in predictable ways, to look like an ongoing pattern of behavior that needs to be addressed via better regulation of the enforcing agencies.

I suppose something similar could also be said about all the "isolated instances" of domestic terrorism we've been having for the last couple of decades, but those would be much harder to address by regulation. When it's government agencies, though, the solution is very clear: more oversight = fewer mistakes.

#596 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2012, 09:21 PM:

Mycroft, #593: I'm pretty sure that "Limelight" is done by good old-fashioned rapid meter-changing. Significant parts of it are straight 4/4, the main guitar riff is clearly 7/4, and I'm pretty sure I can hear some triple-time sections in there as well. If it were notated, there are places where the time signature would be changing every bar or two. Jethro Tull did the same sort of thing in "Thick as a Brick".

#597 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2012, 09:22 PM:

Jacque @ 573: good to know about the Y(MW)CA and job searches. Being as I'm part of the county's GROW program, I'm hoping it will include software training, e.g., while I'm not thrilled with the idea of going back into accounting, it's possible such jobs will be more prevalent that the copyediting/proofreading jobs I'd really like to do...but I've noticed many listings for the former, even generalist staff accounting jobs, that want experience in Quickbooks, which I've never used.

Of course, GROW doesn't start for me until 3/12, and I really don't want to wait that long. But I'll see what I can come up with.

Thanks also for the notes about varying my parking location, should it come to that--and it might, since the cold-weather shelter I'm currently using ends tomorrow night and will NOT be "weather activated" into March. (That is, previously, through March 15, they would open if the chance of rain on a given night was greater than 40% or the temperature was forecast to fall below 40 degrees. They announced yesterday that they won't be doing that this year, as they've already run out of funds.)

Something else that was pointed out to me this morning, re: parking in lots with truckers, is that it was conceivable that the truckers would possibly of a certain sort, and that I might be mistaken for that sort of company. Which I suppose means I might park in the same lot as truckers, but far enough removed to avoid...misunderstandings, shall we say?

Ye ghods, the things I'm having to think about.

And to continue on the good-ideas train. Journaling. Yes. Even if I just take a few minutes before lights-out to cover some of the high points. It's been mostly hit-or-miss for me before, and mostly missed, but the potential for useful insights, or just recording what I got done, is worth giving it another shot.

Might indeed also help me clarify content for my intended book. :)

I'm pretty sure my copy of Wishcraft is in storage. I'll have to see if an inexpensive ebook-for-laptop version is available.

The women's facility I mentioned previously (or I think I did) also hosts a writers' workshop on Tuesday afternoons, so I attended today. I found it helpful. Also, a volunteer I'd spoken to yesterday left an email for me with the facility manager--said volunteer had mentioned a local women's employment resource center was having a job fair of sorts on Wednesday and the email had the details. So, connections are often found in unexpected places and can be most helpful!

What the email didn't mention is the $5 entry fee for non-members, as I discovered when I checked the website for the address. And I still haven't had the spoons to revamp my resume in multiple directions. But still--employers! In the actual room!

Tomorrow starts with my first actual appointment with a case manager at PATH. I went to a local homeless aid center this morning as well, on the recommendation of several people, and the case manager there said she'd have referred me to PATH anyway, due to my pets. She also said some people with pets have turned down housing there because the pets are in kennels, rather than allowed in clients' rooms. Maybe that's a good sign for me, because hell, I assumed the kennels (or read about the arrangement online). Sure, it won't be as nice as having the kittehs curled up on my bed, but it beats being separated or having to give them up.

Feeling scattered. It's been that kind of day, and I have to leave the library now to make sure I can queue up at the shelter in a timely manner.

Thank you ALL for being here, and for all your help. You ROCK. :)

#598 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2012, 10:35 PM:

Syd: I used Quickbooks for most of a decade to manage the accounts payable and accounts receivable of a photocopy shop, and I can say that for most things it's pretty easy. To be sure, that doesn't address the problem of them wanting experience and you not having any....

#599 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2012, 11:02 PM:

Best "typo" I've seen in a while: Rmoney. You know, that guy Mitt Rmoney.

#600 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2012, 11:09 PM:

And this poor guy's Blackberry is not working.

#601 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: February 28, 2012, 11:21 PM:

And then there's pop conditioning, which involves turning on the autotune.

#602 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 03:02 AM:

Jacque @ 592:

These instructions are for GarageBand '09, which is the version I have.

Create a new track with menu Track>New Track ... and choose Software Instrument (with the picture of the piano) and then push the Create button.

Check that the row of small icons on the track have the record enable (the leftmost icon, a round dot) turned red, and the solo enable (the icon of the headphone) turned yellow, so that you'll get sound out. Then choose the menu item Window>Musical Typing, and the keyboard popup will be displayed. It can be played either with the mouse or the computer keyboard; the keys are marked to show which keys play which note. The keyboard only has an octave and a half worth of keys; you need to use other keys or the buttons on the popup to shift which octave the keyboard is mapped to.

#603 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 04:18 AM:

A link that's going around my friendslist:

Hey, remember that one time when Big Bird faced down a major Egyptian god?

(Not a fanfic! Not a dream! Not an imaginary story!)

#604 ::: LMM ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 10:23 AM:

@603: I *remember* that special, although I watched it as a rerun -- probably in the late 1980s or very early 1990s.

#605 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 11:43 AM:

Lee @ 596 - yeah, it's rapid meter changing; but it's amazing how they keep to the "idea" of 7 almost throughout.

The riff, of course, is straight 7/4 (as "4 and 3"), but the verse is 4 7s, in the form: 3 3 4 4 4 3 3 4, and the chorus is basically 7 bars of 3/4, 7 bars of 4/4, then either "3 4" or one 7 (as "3 and 4").

Plus, apart from the first drop in from the 4/4 intro into the 7/4 riff, nothing feels like a broken shift - something that seems to be very hard to pull off when going in and out of complex meter. You get the feeling of "odd" or "this shouldn't work", without the obvious "oh, that's why".

We have one piece in our church that throws the organist every time (as he says, he can play music, but rhythm isn't his strong point), and as a result, he thinks it's throwing us all the time, too (he does tend to think that he is better at music than us amateurs - granted, he usually is!) But it doesn't - because when it drops into 5/8 for 4 bars, it's so smooth that it's just "natural", at least for the singers.

Now you've got me thinking about firing up Audacity and trying to switch the 10th and 11th notes in each run of the intro to "YYZ" (and now I've told everybody where I live, neh?)

#606 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 12:55 PM:

Syd @597: I'm pretty sure my copy of Wishcraft is in storage. I'll have to see if an inexpensive ebook-for-laptop version is available.

PDF of the complete book is here.

Bruce Cohen @602: instructions are for GarageBand '09

Oo! Thank you! I've emailed myself a reminder to look at this when I get home.

#607 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 01:49 PM:

Patrick's surveillance post reminds me: coupla weeks ago, I was fiddling with my wifi for some reason. About halfway down the list of wifi servers my mac could receive was "Surveillance Van 24."

#608 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 02:55 PM:

Jacque @607, I love it.

#609 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 02:57 PM:

Paul 603: That's actually cool, though of course it's an example of how blaspheming against Pagan gods is considered OK. And as usual they get the feather thing wrong: it wasn't that your heart was supposed to be lighter than the feather; it was supposed to be exactly the same. This is another hieroglyphic pun, IIRC: the feather is Maat, or balance. You had to have lived your life in a balanced way in order to move on.

#610 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 03:11 PM:

HLN: Area woman's father, visiting, brings a Liber Usualis. Area woman is idly browsing the introduction when she realizes it's in Latin.


* Pronounced "Squeee!"

#611 ::: Ian C. Racey ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 03:18 PM:

Jacque @607

Was it at least password protected?

#612 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 03:52 PM:

Ian C. Racey @611: Was it at least password protected?

I considered checking, but that's the kind of attention I'm loath to attract.

#613 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 03:54 PM:

...I did consider going out and finding it, knocking on the window, and pointing out that they might want to name it something a trifle less conspicuous. But, you know, @612.

#614 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 04:00 PM:

Jacque @613, I thought about that too, that it was probably best left alone.

I also thought that I might rename my own home network.

#615 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 04:09 PM:

OtterB @614: I thought about that too, that it was probably best left alone.

In the words of a neighbor's bumper sticker:

Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons
for you are crunchy and good with ketchup.

I also thought that I might rename my own home network.

::giggle:: *SNARK* "Surveillance Van 23" Ahem.

#616 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 05:27 PM:

Jacque @ 615:

I like "Watchbird", as in "This is a watchbird watching you."

#617 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 05:36 PM:

And now that I think of it, just allowing the network to be visible shows that whoever they are, they're amateurs. Even my wifi network, which runs vanilla firmware and software on an Apple Airport Extreme is closed (doesn't advertise its name to arbitrary clients), MAC-access protected (it only allows the particular machines it already knows about to log in), as well as password protected (and it's a fairly strong password). All that's available from the standard Airport Admin app. If you're really after security, you can do all that plus add a RADIUS server for challenge/response. And if you're an intelligence agency (and you really have some intelligence, unlike some agencies whose initials are FBI), you'd put custom firmware in the network servers and clients to make it impossible for even a savvy wardriver to find and access your net.

#618 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 06:07 PM:

I've seen people comment about seeing "wireless surveillance van" or what have you in their wireless network, and I'd always assumed that was just someone making a joke. Though given the ignorance of some government employees, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised if they were real.

#619 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 06:23 PM:

Bruce, #617: Tinfoil-hat time! What if it really was an Official Surveillance Vehicle, and the apparent lack of security was a honey-pot trap for hackers?

#620 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 09:31 PM:

Related to absolutely nothing in this thread that I can recall...

I miss cooking.

More precisely, I miss the ability and means to cook if I want to.

I mean, is isn't as if I was cooking up a storm in my last months in my house*--in fact, I did very little cooking other than the occasional waffle or "brekkie special"**. And most of what I made tended to be of the "tart up Trader Joe's frozen something with more frozen veggies, shrimp, etc." I can't even recall the last time I made a Dutch oven's worth of my fake cassoulet.

But I'm reading Orangette's back posts, and some of what I'm finding--LOTS of what I'm finding, to be honest--makes me want to hit the market and go into a kitchen and just cook for days.

And I can't, because my cookware and knives and wooden spoons and such are in storage, assuming the mover from hell didn't manage to help himself to any of my Kitchen boxes when I wasn't looking, and anyway I gave him my stove. I hearted my stove with big puffy hearts, a GE Hotpoint four-burner double-oven range Mom bought the year before she died, and it could turn out a stellar cheesecake...the last time I had the oven adjusted, the guy from the gas company was envious of my stove.

Gone now. Stuff in storage.

Want to cook.


Missing it.

*I made a conscious decision to use "house" rather than "home"--it came to me years ago, in response to a song written by a friend (on this album, track "Home"), that the former is a physical object, while the latter is something one carries inside and applies to whatever locale merits the designation.

**Your potato product of choice, e.g., frozen tots or hash brown patties, in a skillet, cooked in your fat or oil of choice until of a consistency to mash into a cohesive cake, then cooked until crispy enough to flip; second side cooked to almost done, or continue to flip and cook until both sides be done enough; make a well in your tater cake for each of your desired number of eggs--an 8-inch skillet is a nice size for 2-3 eggs, forex--break eggs into wells, lower heat, cover skillet and cook until the eggs also be done enough. (I like the whites cooked but the yolks runny. YMMV.) Plate and serve with chosen accoutrements such as cheese, salsa, ketchup, etc. Devour. :)

#621 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised, and also gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 09:33 PM:

My probable comment #620 has been captured. If I had to guess, it's the link to CD Baby re: a song I referenced. Although there's a link to a food blog as well.

Apologies to the gnomes. Chocolate chip cookies?

[[It was, in fact, the word "forex" (a brand of condoms, but mostly FOReign EXchange, which is widely spammed). The usual abbreviation of "for example" is "frex. -- JDM]]

#622 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 10:50 PM:

I have also seen a "Surveillance Van nn"; mine was in Montreal.

Apparently it's common.

#623 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 29, 2012, 11:00 PM:

Oh, and many thanks to HRH for graciously pointing out what I (and the human) missed.

#624 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 12:24 AM:

SFWA has apparently removed links to Amazon over a dispute that resulted in a distributor being dropped. This is likely to be an interesting face-off. Reports also on io9 (that link is to Locus) and many other places.

#625 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 12:58 AM:

Hang in there, Syd. And thank you for the updates.

#626 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 02:35 AM:

Stefan Jones @ 590: How terribly sad, and statistically off from what one would expect.

#627 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 05:22 AM:

Names for a network:

Stross & Co Laundry Services

#628 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 05:51 AM:

Hyperlocal news... At a book signing by local writer Walter Jon Williams, local writer Daniel Abraham is seen building up a stack of books (by the likes of Greg Bear) he's planning to give his own 6-year-old daughter next year. Daughter, inspired by a Mythbusters visit, recently did a school project that demonstrated the shrinking of polymers under the influence of heat - using bags of chips. Local fandom fears what will happen to the Universe when Abraham's daughter becomes a teenager.

#629 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 06:27 AM:

Serge, 628: I for one welcome our new sfnal overlady.

#630 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 06:34 AM:

Dave Bell @ #627:

Blaise Removals

(Named, of course, in honour of that organization canonically known simply as "The Network".)

#631 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 08:37 AM:

Anent PNH's eating while walking sidelight, that's a campaign started by everyone's favourite Straussian political theorist Harvey Mansfield. Mansfield considers eating while walking a sign of indiscipline and lack of self-control. Apparently, we need to discipline our appetites to eat indoors; it would be more manly to do so.

#632 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 08:38 AM:

Anent PNH's eating while walking sidelight, that's a campaign started by everyone's favourite Straussian political theorist Harvey Mansfield. Mansfield considers eating while walking a sign of indiscipline and lack of self-control. Apparently, we need to discipline our appetites to eat indoors; it would be more manly to do so.

#633 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 09:10 AM:

Fragano @631: I like quoting an aphorism whose source I have lost (cites solicited, if you have one!), to wit: "If you've never walked into a parking meter, you're wasting valuable reading time."

I often bring it up when, say, people in the elevator to my dentist's office remark in a nonplussed manner, "Wow, that must be a good book," having seen me come into the elevator reading it and keep reading it standing up. I reply, "Better than standing here doing nothing, for sure," and then quote the aphorism with a smile. Some of them get it. It doesn't seem to offend the rest.

#634 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 09:17 AM:

TexAnne @ 629... I for one welcome our new sfnal overlady

Here is a photo of her from one year ago.

#635 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 09:21 AM:

Book news... Madeleine Robins's Regency novel "Lady John" is now available as an e*book from Book View Café. Yay!... Next Tuesday will see the release of Seanan McGuire's "Discount Armageddon" by DAW Books. Yay again!

#636 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 09:42 AM:

Fragano #632 - only peasants eat outdoors; civilised people, i.e. aristocrats, eat indoors in a genteel fashion.
Why don't they just go the whole hog and demand everyone use the correct knife and fork for what they are eating?

#637 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 10:12 AM:

re 636

I will just note that I learned, when in college, that sitting down to eat, at a table, with a proper plate and silverware, made the meal much more satisfying to me. (Even if it was my "no money special"--rice, eggs, oil, salt and pepper--which $5 will buy a weeks worth of meals of.)

#638 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 10:17 AM:

Paul A @603, I do in fact remember that special, and I thought it was pretty neat when I saw it as a kid.

#639 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 11:06 AM:

Syd: send me an email. I still don't realize that I'm in California sometimes. Neighbors, approximately, even.

arohybhfzranpr [at yahoo dot com] sounds SO MUCH COOLER in rot-13. If you can pronounce that a demon will show up and eat you.

#640 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 11:14 AM:

SamChevre, #632: You're quite right that eating your meal at a table is nicer (in the sense of "more pleasant", not "more proper"). It would be even more nice if that option were always available to everyone, and nicer yet if nutbag politicians didn't confuse cause and effect. And what about picnics? It would be a shame to lose those.

#641 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 11:26 AM:

Guthrie #636: Which fork should I use for eating an ice-cream cornet?

#642 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 11:31 AM:

Lee #640:
Just waiting for Tony Bourdain to start the counter-crusade.

#643 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 11:34 AM:

Bruce Cohen @602: GarageBand ... Window>Musical Typing

Ah-hah! That was the piece I was missing! Thank you!

#644 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 11:42 AM:

Lee @ 640... And what about picnics?

Good movie, although William Holden was too old for the part.

#645 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 11:45 AM:

AKICIML: Soldering Edition

We received* at Giftmas possibly the perfect toddler night-light: an electric snowglobe, with an LED underneath and a spinny thing to auto-swirl the glitter inside. It absolutely enthralls my daughter, and helps her get to sleep.

The problem is that it ran through a set of three AA batteries in less than two days, which says to me there's something wrong inside. Being provided with a set of technical screwdrivers, I took it apart, and the innards are a very simple circuitboard: a switch, three batteries wired in series, an LED (and a small doohickey I assume tells it to change color slowly), and a magnet on a spinny stem to engage the in-ball rotor.

I assumed the low battery life was due to some kind of short or failure, but I don't see any scorch marks or obvious breaks. Any idea where I'd start diagnosing this? It seems silly to go to great lengths to fix a piece of tat, but she absolutely adores it, and if it could be made to work more reliably it'd be very useful.

I have taken a close-up photo, if that would help in diagnosis, but it'll take me a while to get it uploaded and viewable.

* It was a mathom, because some well-meaning idiot customer at my sister-in-law's work had given it to HER. She was side-eyeing it in disgust until her mother pointed out it was precisely the sort of thing a three-year-old would adore -- and she was right. :-> Horses for courses.

#646 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 12:23 PM:

Elliott Mason @ 645:

Since the problem is excess current from the batteries, discharging them more quickly than expected, the cause is most likely to be a short rather than an open. One thing you could try is to wash the circuitboard with a mild solvent (use a brush and just a small amount of detergent or rubbing alcohol at a time, then dry the board out with a blowdryer) to get rid of any spills of flux or other conducting material.

Depending on what the doohicky is (probably a simple IC), it might be the problem, in which case there's not much you can do.

#647 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 12:29 PM:

Elliott Mason @645: If it runs on 4.5-5v or so (AA cells start out around 1.7v and are usable until they're maybe 1.2v, or less, depending on application), maybe you could get an adapter at Radio Shack and put something like alligator clips on the wires or even just solder the beggars in, and get clear away from the whole battery cycle.

Sarah got a snowglobe for Christmas one year when she was almost three that swirls the snow as it plays "It's a Small World After All," but that's a windup, so there's a natural limit to how long it goes.

By the way, here's Sarah about a week and a half ago, enduring being photographed once again, for the benefit of those who haven't seen her lately. Or recently.

#648 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 12:48 PM:

I put new batteries in it, and now it's still not working as it first did: the swirler and the LED each cut off (or slow/dim) on no pattern I can predict.

Sigh. It was so awesome for the two nights it worked ...

#649 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 12:55 PM:

And on a completely different matter, here's Stephen Fry, with an appropriately mild and temperate response to a budding wit who thinks that knowing stuff is kind of pointless, if not downright icky. (NSFW: He didn't say "fudge.")

#650 ::: Kevin Reid ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 01:48 PM:

Elliott Mason #633: Umeshisms contains many aphorisms in the same spirit.

#651 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 02:35 PM:

In re soldering: for those interested in looking, I have a picture of the teeny circuit board (long dimension: less than an inch) in question up on Flickr. The adjacent shot in my photostream is the entire base, with switch and all, if that matters.

I have lightly scrubbed it with a microscopic dab of dishwashing liquid and a very old soft toothbrush, and am letting it dry thoroughly before putting the batteries back in.

#652 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 02:36 PM:

Re: my gnoming: thank you, Jim, for both the release of my post and the explanation. I knew I'd seen a shorter "for example" but forgot to shorten it enough. :)

#653 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 02:48 PM:

Elliott Mason #633: I used to read while walking on the way from the school bus stop to my home. It was a five mile walk, and I had nothing else to do on the journey before night fell.

#654 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 02:56 PM:

Sandy B. @ 639, email sent, with this name and the Fluorosphere mentioned in the subject line. Howdy, neighbor!

Fragano Ledgister @ 641, one like this, apparently. Although you may well be able to find a less expensive example.

#655 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 04:21 PM:

Ghods! I love living in the Future!

Okay, so with Bruce Cohen's @602 I happily go trotting off to try transcribing the Sacred Harp hymn Sweet Prospect. I immediately slam face-first into the hash-mark on the score, provoking a repeat of Elliott Mason's @537 lament. Figuring that the app mentioned in Stevey-Boy's @565 probably doesn't cover GarageBand's keyboard translator (Though wouldn't surprise me if GB has some internal thingy that serves this function; too lazy to look into that right now.) I gallop off to Google.

Some while later, by assembling various pieces-parts I find on the web, I come up with this, not incidentally making it possible to now quickly match the hash-tag to the relevant piano keys (and from there the computer keys), and for extra chocolatey goodness, actually copy the key cheat onto the sheet music!

Now: to be really silly about it, what I want to do is transcribe the notes into the relevant text characters, and then copy the text into GB to make the music score. Seems like such a thing ought to be possible...?

#656 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 04:31 PM:

Syd #654: But then what do I do with the cornet?

#657 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 04:40 PM:

Blow, daddy!

#658 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 04:40 PM:

(coming off a week of reading Louis Armstrong's memoir)

#659 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 05:09 PM:

On earworms, from upthread: I tend to get both the musical kind and the "random syllables" kind. (Currently earwormed with the name "Rooney Mara." No idea why.)

What works for me, at least for regular musical earworms, is a couple of songs that are sort of anti-earworms. They reliably don't get stuck in my head, so a mental runthrough of one usually gets rid of the earworm. Mine happen to be Evanescence's "Never Was, Never Will Be" and Sarah McLachlan's "Stupid."

#660 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 05:25 PM:

Elliott Mason @633: "If you've never walked into a parking meter, you're wasting valuable reading time."

I frequently see people at work coming up the stairs, staring at the cellphones in rapt attention. "Didn't your mother ever tell you not to text and walk at the same time?"

Mostly, people either (a) they don't get it, or (b) think the question is as hilariously funny as I do.

Elliott Mason @651: going on the idea that it's a short, I wonder if this is your problem? (Can't jack the magnification enough to be sure, but looks like there might be a micro-miniscule bleb of solder lolling over almost onto the neighboring pad?) My other theory wrt excess current consumption would be that stirring water probably eats a lot of energy...?

#661 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 05:30 PM:

Unnnh! I did proof on preview, I did!

staring at their cellphones

Mostly, people either (a) they don't get it, or (b) think the question is as hilariously funny as I do.

Mostly, people don't (a) get it, or (b) think the question is as hilariously funny as I do.

#662 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 05:36 PM:

Jacque @660: I'll take it apart again and look later. I've also noticed that the multicolor LED is, well, not so much anymore -- it does red pretty well, and a pinpoint of green, but none of the other modes do anything at all (so it's a pulsing red-and-dark ball now, instead of a cheerful multicolor). That's probably internal to the LED itself.

#663 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 06:16 PM:

The WTF QR link makes me wonder two things, especially about the subway and subway platform ones:

1. Maybe the people who created the ads were aiming at kiosks and didn't have the ad budget to do a different one for subway.

2. Maybe with a good zoom on your iPhone or Android phone you could get close enough to capture that pesky QR.

3. Or, more likely, the people who made and sited the ads were idiots.

But sometimes it's more fun to try to figure out the possible ways apparent idiots aren't, quite.

#664 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 06:16 PM:

Elliott: It occurs to me that, now that you know what you're after, it might not be entirely beyond the pale to build a new one of improved quality with enhanced features, like being plug-in instead of battery-operated. (In your copious spare time, of course!)

Which in turn reminds me of my ongoing quest to find a Maker to do odd-job little projects for me. For example, I dearly love my Shark sweeper, but the battery only lasts a couple of years, and is expensive enough that one winds up just buying a new sweeper. Which really offends my cheap-skate tree-hugger soul.

I'd really like to convert the thing into a plug-in, but am not willing to put in the time/effort to learn/figure out how to do so. I'll bet there's someone out there in the world who could figure this out. I'd like to find them and hire them.

#665 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 07:22 PM:

Elliott Mason #662: The LED issue may also be a circuitry problem -- I remember RGY LEDs where the red and green came from feeding it power in opposite directions (and the yellow by alternating between the two. Yours sounds more complex, but might still have similar issues. (In particular, not lighting completely suggests low voltage.)

#666 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 07:48 PM:

664, 665: I may have to find a way to get the little lampy bits into the hands of my local GT members. If it's still not working by MuseCon, I can bring it there and offer to bribe the soldermasters, but I'm hoping it won't take till August to resolve this. :->

If it were carpentry, or fiber arts, or anything else I can DO, it would probably be a fairly trivial fix ... as it is, tough.

#667 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 09:03 PM:

If it's any consolation, most of the time music won't have more than three of either sharps or flats.

#668 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 09:21 PM:

Jacque @ 655
what I want to do is transcribe the notes into the relevant text characters

Either I'm missing something, or this is easy. Is what you want (for the melody line, from the beginning) "E F# G A B B D B B A..."; if so, just label a staff with the letters - I always start at middle C in the middle and label up and down - and then write the letter for each note. The F's are all F# (that's what the # means--it's on an F so it moves all the F's up).

#669 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 09:27 PM:

OK--somehow posted half my comment.

If what you want is what I need--note names--the sentences are "Good Deeds Are Ever Bearing Fruit" (sharps-#) and "Fat Boys Eat Apple Dumplings Greedily" (flats--sort of like b). One sharp--key of G--so do is on G. "la ti do re mi mi sol mi mi re sol."

#670 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 09:34 PM:

I learned "Farmer Clark Gets Dinner At Eight Bells" for the sharps.

#671 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 09:34 PM:

Elliott@645, it may be worth trying rechargeable batteries - NiMHs hold several times as much charge as disposables, so they'll generally last longer. On the other hand, the common NiMH and older NiCd batteries are slightly lower voltage (about 1.2), which may not be quite enough, so you might have to find Nickel Zinc rechargeables (which aren't very common, even at Fry's), which put out about 1.6v.

#672 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 10:41 PM:

Is it an accurate description to say of the keys in this song, that the keys modulate from F# to Bb to Eb? (Or rather, that the musician modulates between that set of keys)

#673 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 10:46 PM:

Evil Mad Scientist Labs has projects with leds and stuff, so you might find something similar to make for your kid, Elliot.

#674 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 10:53 PM:

Elliott Mason @666*: get the little lampy bits into the hands of my local GT members

<blink> I've been gafiated too long. "Bill Higgins, Bill Higgins, Please come to the white courtesy networking phone."

* Is your retaining fee current with your local exorcist?


SamChevre @668: Either I'm missing something, or this is easy.

You are missing nothing, and this is easy.

Then, if I really want to get my geek on, I run the resulting transcript through sed to get the appropriate GarageBand keyboard stand-ins. However, from there, I want to just copy the text and paste it straight into GarageBand to produce the track, rather than having to re-keyboard it. That's my question.

669 & 670: "Various People Eating Food Things Differently"

This, however, reminds me of another question: For the love of Pete, if the F is what gets the sharp on the treble clef staff, why is it called the key of "G?" Zathras very confused. And for the record, the black keys need letter names (or maybe number names) that are not variants of the names of the white keys. Srsly. (Somebody didn't think these things through when they came up with this scheme.)

And, completely unrelated: Just so's you know, conversion of Japanese screen capture formats really suck. Not to mention the complete absence of any proper internet transfer protocols between dream state and waking state. Just sayin'.

(I'm curious: does your brain supply appropriate memories along with all the world-building for a dream? I really wish that Japanese show had been filmed, and was available on Hulu. Although I'm just as happy not to have to deal with that whole business of the Japanese government refusing to renew its endorsement of the American constitution.)

#675 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 11:31 PM:

Jacque, #674: For the love of Pete, if the F is what gets the sharp on the treble clef staff, why is it called the key of "G?"

Okay, I'll take a shot at this. It would be much easier if we were both sitting down in front of a keyboard; see if you can envision this as I talk.

A musical key is named for its "do" note. C is called that because it starts on the note C; G is called that because it starts on the note G.

A musical scale is defined by the pattern of whole and half steps between its notes. There are actually 7 different scales, 1 starting on each white key and going up on nothing but white keys, but for now we're only concerned with the one that starts on C. If you play an octave from C to C on only white keys, you get what's called the "major scale" in Western music. Its pattern is whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half.

Now let's say you want to play a major scale starting on G. You can't do that on just the white keys, the intervals are wrong. You'd be playing whole-whole-half-whole-whole-half-whole. In order to get the correct pattern, you have to play a sharp on the 7th note -- the F, which makes it an F-sharp. So the key of G (or more specifically, G-major) has one sharp, which is on F, because that's what you have to use to get the major scale.

More generally, the key of any key signature with sharps in it is one-half step above the last sharp in the group. Sharps are always specified in the order F-C-G-D-A-E-B on the staff.

It really does make sense, if you dig far enough into the reasons why.

#676 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 11:44 PM:

There are some folks here who knew him who may not have heard that Mark Bourne died of a cardiac event last weekend. David Levine did a G+ mention, and there is more info moving on from that.

Mark was a really fun man to know, a great improv comedian, and a good writer. I'll miss him.

#677 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 11:49 PM:

I'd probably just say that that's the way somebody Way Back When decided to do it, and, like QWERTY, we're stuck with it. Because, when you think about it, there's really no reason why the entire set of half-tones in an octave couldn't each have a name of its own.

#678 ::: Susie ::: (view all by) ::: March 01, 2012, 11:51 PM:

(Music nerd delurking...)

Jacque @674: Building on Lee @675's excellent explanation, if you know the song from The Sound of Music, you could think about the major scale as Do=1, Re=2, Mi=3, Fa=4, Sol=5, La=6, Ti=7, Do=8.

The interval from 1 to 2 is a whole step or major second; from 2 to 3, another whole step; from 3 to 4, a half-step or minor second; and all the other intervals are whole steps except 7 to 8.

That is, the major scale contains two half-steps, and all the others are whole steps. In the key of C major, as Lee said, the notes of the scale are all white keys. In other keys, you substitute whichever black keys get you the right intervals.

(White keys with a black key in between are a whole step apart. White keys without a black key in between are a half-step apart. And I have no idea why my fingers want to hyphenate half-step and not whole step.)

The last sharp in any key signature is the 7 or Ti. Next letter-name above it is the name of the key. So if there are 3 sharps in the key signature, they are F, C, G, in that order. G=7 or Ti, so 8 or Do = A.

True to the theme of strange eating, the mnemonic I learned at age 7 for the order of the sharps was Funny Cats Go Down Alleys Eating Bugs.

- Susie

#679 ::: Susie ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 12:20 AM:

PJ Evans @ 677:

I like your QWERTY analogy, and if we were starting from scratch with a 12-tone scale, the notes probably would all get different names.

The system we've got makes a lot more sense if you look at how European sacred music developed. When the notes got their letter names, no-one thought in terms of a chromatic (12-note) scale. Heck, the medieval Europeans didn't even use our octave scales; they conceived of the gamut in overlapping hexachords: 6-note scales starting on G, C, and F that each contained only one half-step, which was always solmized mi-fa.

And they didn't have to memorize the order of flats and sharps because most of them were fictitious ("musica ficta" - I kid you not). They did have to learn up to three sol-fa syllables for each note from G-on-the-bottom-line-of-the-bass-clef to E-in-the-top-space-of-the-treble-clef, though.

- Susie (who could go on and on but probably shouldn't)

#680 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 12:28 AM:

Lee @675: A musical key is named for its "do" note. C is called that because it starts on the note C; G is called that because it starts on the note G.

Okay, I'd speculated something of the sort. I still say it's bad UI, though. If I was designing this system, I'd name it after the thingie that has, like, the label on the musical score. :-)

It really does make sense, if you dig far enough into the reasons why.

See, that's what I'm saying. Edward Tufte would never approve.

P J Evans @677: that's the way somebody Way Back When decided to do it, and, like QWERTY, we're stuck with it. Because, when you think about it, there's really no reason why the entire set of half-tones in an octave couldn't each have a name of its own.

Right? Right!? That's what I'm sayin'.

Susie @678: Do=1, Re=2, Mi=3, Fa=4, Sol=5, La=6, Ti=7, Do=8

Now, see, that's another thing. It's entirely unreasonable that I should be expected to remember two names for each note. (Nevermind the half-notes, which don't have names in the Do-Re-Mi schema. Except that they do. Which is really unfair.) Although I suppose there's something to be said for relative versus absolute designations.

I trust that it's apparent that much of my whining is tongue in cheek. And I also expect that a lot of this confusion is the sort of thing that evaporates once one gets the mental model fully internalized. (Sort of like the distinctions between folders, paths, and documents/files in a computer OS.)

Also, I did kinda know this sort of thing, once upon a time. But like with any language, it's knowledge that becomes patchy with disuse.

BTW, did I mention? Something as simple and obvious as my little crib-sheet linked above would have saved me no end of grief, learning piano as a kid. But either (a) nobody thought to put something like that together for beginning piano students or (b) there was no way to disseminate it to the audience that could really have benefitted from it. It's fascinating to me how much of what had to rest on internal memory and comprehension Back In The Day can be end-ran with modern tools. (Like the QWERTY problem, cited above.)

One of the things that strikes me is that, starting from scratch, a notation scheme like what you see in the Rock Band GUI is so clearly more intuitively obvious that, in retrospect, it's a little surprising that that's not the form the field took in the first place.

#681 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 12:32 AM:

Susie @679: (who could go on and on but probably shouldn't)

What? In this crowd? You're joking, right? :-)

Pedantry Я Us

#682 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 12:51 AM:

Woops, and after all of that, I still forgot to say anything about the difference between sharps and flats. Which is very simple -- sharps raise the note they're on by a half-step, while flats lower the note they're on by a half-step. My earliest music teacher said that sharps are pointy, so that a note which sits on one jumps up*, whereas flats are where the note has been squashed flat down.

P.J. Evans, #677: Actually, I think it's so that any given scale will contain only the letters from A to G. The black keys may substitute for either one of the notes on each side of them.

Jacque, if you want the next installment (which is about minor scales), just let me know.

* Which now reminds me irresistibly of Gul Dukat sitting down on a sand-spine in the DS9 episode "Indiscretions".

#683 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 02:24 AM:

IIRC there were several early 20th Century composers who promoted twelve-tone scales with octaves divided into equal half-tones. But the better known ones like Schönberg, Webern, and Stockhausen (who was a little later and reversed his entire philosophy of composition in the 1970s) used them primarily in the context of composition with tone rows, which are a formalism about on the level of writing sestinas using different languages for each line. This *cough* somewhat reduced the popular appeal of their work, and made the scales less appealing to musicians.

#684 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 04:14 AM:

Lee @682: if you want the next installment (which is about minor scales), just let me know.


#685 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 06:05 AM:

Jacque @681

Also there are other instruments than keyboards and the key and scale system needs to work for all the instruments.

I play violin and we have no "black notes" it's just the string and you put your finger down in the right places and then put your finger down half a step higher than you would if you were playing in C if you know there's a sharp on the note, or half a step lower if there's a flat.

Violin strings are tuned in 5ths so we have no "all white notes" key where all the fingers on all the strings would be in the same pattern and in a pattern that sits well on the hand.

G and D major are probably the nicest from that pov which is probably a part of why a lot of fiddle type folk music is in those keys.

Anyway also to complicate things further, the half tone interval isn't always the same :P it is on piano because they've forced things into being equitempered. String players quite often play not exactly the same note when playing a G flat and an F sharp for example. If you're playing with a piano you have to but if you're in a string quartet for example you can colour the music ever so slightly by doing that.

But yeah I think the key to grok the system is to learn the patterns. A major scale/key is a set pattern of whole and half steps, a minor scale/key is a different set of whole and half steps. The name of the key is the note you start on, the sets of sharps or flats are the notes you need to nudge up or down half a step to stick with the pattern. On a keyboard that means you need to hit some black notes but on other instruments you'll manage the scales differently.

#686 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 06:22 AM:

Here's a nice graphic showing the 1st position on violin, the strings, the fingers and the notes you get when you hit those spots

Violin finger position chart

The most comfortable shape for your hand when you're starting out is the ones in the bright blue lines, but you can see that when playing in C you have to lower the 2nd finger on all strings except the G string and even worse from a newbie pov you have to lower the first finger on the E string to play an F rather than a F sharp.

G major is nicer because you get to play the F sharp and also only have to have the lowered 2nd finger on the A and E string rather than on the D string as well. However in D major where you get to have the higher 2nd finger on the A string you've rolled into having to stretch the 3rd finger on the G string to hit that C sharp.

F major with the Flat B isn't that different to play on the violin than C major, the lowered first finger pattern just starts on the A string rather than the E string (and the lowered 2nd finger pattern rolls onto the G string)

Heh ok I'm probably going into way too much detail but I figured it might be interesting to see a non piano pov on the scale and key system.

#687 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 07:35 AM:

Sica: But yeah I think the key to grok the system is to learn the patterns.

There clearly is a pattern to it. Once I played around with that piano key-chart above, the way the fingering progresses immediately leaped out at me. And given how tied up music is with mathematics...well!

a nice graphic showing the 1st position on violin

I only tried guitar for a few weeks. Crummy used guitar + total inability to form adequate calluses.* The whole stringed instrument thing seems like a complete dark art to me. "Make these mystic genuflexions, sacrifice the tips of these four fingers, and you'll get the sound you want. If you hold your mouth right and you're lucky." Trying this on an instrument with no frets—pure folly! Of course, the fact that I bailed on piano lessons just as my teacher was starting me on music theory didn't help; I didn't have the conceptual groundwork to make any sense of it.**

As I say, my complaints are mostly jokes. Any system with as much range, nuance, and history as music has is going to be complex. Written English has at least as much difficulty/poor planning/hacks. But writing is transparent to me because I've been using it for as long as I remember and I'm fluent in it.

* I've since learned that one trick is the judicious application of a dab of Super Glue.

** Given how poor my learning strategies were back then, combined with (in retrospect) somewhat questionable communication skills on the part of my teacher, I'm not sure how far I would have gotten with that effort anyway.

#688 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 08:50 AM:

Jacque @674: He's even local(ish) to me, though I only see him at cons. I was thinking more of my friend Cally, who also lurks here, but is currently somewhere in the middle of the Carribean with no internet access to speak of.

@687, etc: the 'Rock Band' method is much closer to guitar tablature. I've always viewed sheet music as being effectively 'piano tablature,' though that may be due to the order in which I have encountered the very few instruments I've tried to learn to play. Also, Rock Band/etc ignore the fact that there are six different strings you could be playing, but I agree -- I want Keyboard Hero, whose controller should be a small but usable midi keyboard.

#689 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 09:05 AM:

It's entirely unreasonable that I should be expected to remember two names for each note...Although I suppose there's something to be said for relative versus absolute designations.

That's it, exactly.

Standard staff notation (A, B, C D...) marks ABSOLUTE pitches; it is optimally designed for piano, where a particular key makes a particular pitch. The relative pitches "fall out" of the absolutes.

Only a few people can accurately hear absolute pitch; almost everyone can hear relative pitches quite accurately. (If you can sing/hum "Happy Birthday" recognizably, you can hear relative pitch.)

Shaped note notation (do re mi fa...) marks RELATIVE pitches directly; the absolute pitches depend on what pitch you start on. (And people who sing unaccompanied a lot will just shift the starting pitch either for effect or just for ease of singing.) While they are generally written on a staff, they don't need to be--you can just write the notes in order with a separate line for each higher group (in Aiken that's an octave, in the 4-shape systems it's a third).

The whole system of music notation basically is a hack, trying to get something that works for both humans and machines.

#690 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 09:18 AM:

Heh yep re: calluses, guitar is particularly bad there. Also guitar does my head in because the strings aren't all tuned with the same interval between them so the fingering patterns change in ways I don't expect.

Note also with the whole thing, I'm one of the ones who learnt how to read sheet music when I was 6 years old or so and Ive internalised a lot of the complexity so it all seems very straight forward to me. I'm well aware though that's basically because my parents gave me the opportunity to learn when I was young and I got along well with my teacher etc. I recognize my privilege there.

Going back and reading through the posts a bit more carefully

Jacque One of the things that strikes me is that, starting from scratch, a notation scheme like what you see in the Rock Band GUI is so clearly more intuitively obvious that, in retrospect, it's a little surprising that that's not the form the field took in the first place.

One place where the current way of doing musical notation shines (which is also why it's quite tricky to figure out I guess) is just how information dense it is and how it works pretty much the same for all the instruments (in the western musical tradition anyway). It would be very hard to write out full orchestral scores in a Rock band style notation or to share snippets of tunes between very different instruments.

#691 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 10:30 AM:

Jacque, #680: If I was designing this system, I'd name it after the thingie that has, like, the label on the musical score. :-)

That works fine for 1 sharp. What do you call it when there are 4? :-)

I trust that it's apparent that much of my whining is tongue in cheek. And I also expect that a lot of this confusion is the sort of thing that evaporates once one gets the mental model fully internalized.

Yes, exactly. And I'm glad you said that, because sometimes I'm uncomfortably literal-minded and Don't Get The Joke. Also, Sica makes a good point about the differences once you get away from the piano keyboard, although I wasn't going to get into equal temperament -- that's kind of advanced, and this is Music Theory 101.

Okay, on to minor keys. Western music mainly uses 2 out of the 7 possible scales. One is the major scale discussed above. The other is the minor scale (sometimes "natural minor scale"), which is what you get if you play an octave on the white keys starting on A. Its pattern is whole-half-whole-whole-half-whole-whole. Music written in a major scale tends to sound happy or sweet. Music written in a minor scale tends to sound sad or dark.

Poking around last night, I found this page which is a really good intro-level discussion of scales in general... except for one really egregious error. In the description of minor scales, it says that they have more half-steps than major scales. NO THEY DON'T! A major scale has 2 half-steps; so does a minor scale, but they're in different places. And you can see this on the illustration -- A to A has no more half-steps than C to C. (Sadly, there is no contact information on that website for me to tell them about the problem. It's a shame, because the page is otherwise outstanding.)

If you look further down that page, you'll find information about the other 5 scales (which are generally called "modes", and music which uses them is called "modal"). Most modes sound odd to us because we're not used to hearing them; we will tend to interpret them as "major" or "minor" depending on the whether the interval from 1 to 3 is a major or minor third.

Modes can be really cool-sounding. Simon and Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair" is in Dorian mode, the one that starts on D. Check it out -- if you start the melody on D, you can play it all on the white keys, even though to your ear it sounds as though it has accidentals (which is the umbrella term for sharps and flats). Sheet music for it often notates it in D-minor (one flat), and then cancels out the flat with a natural sign.

Which brings us to the concept of "relative minors". A relative minor is the minor key with the same signature as a given major key. A-minor is the relative minor of C (and yes, C is the relative major of A-minor). The relative minor starts on the 6th note of the major scale, so D-minor is the relative minor of F and shares its key signature.

Why do some key signatures have sharps and others have flats? As I mentioned @682, it's because any given scale is supposed to contain the letters A-G inclusive. If you tried to write F-major in sharps you'd get F-G-A-Asharp-C-D-E-F -- B would be missing. So instead you write it F-G-A-Bflat-C-D-E-F.

(Incidentally, musical convention is that an unadorned letter represents the major key, and minor keys have to be specifically indicated as such. Yes, this is an example of marked and unmarked cases.)

I know I'm throwing a lot of terminology at you. If I get over your head, please say so and I'll see if I can explain it better. IME, having the term to anchor the concept to helps me keep things straight, so that's how I tend to teach.

#692 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 10:44 AM:

Lee, I'm enjoying the music theory and learning from it. Thanks.

But discussion of the scale needing to contain the letters A-G inclusive sends me completely off on a tangent by reminding me irresistibly of the professor who taught my assembler language programming class umpty-ump years ago. I can still hear him teaching us hexadecimal, saying, "A, B, C, D, E, F. No G! Don't give me a G!"

#693 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 11:09 AM:

This video, which, I predict, will all by itself make "quadrotor" a household word, may be of interest to the music-theory discussion.

The engineers built special-purpose hardware to exploit certain regularities in the James Bond theme. (For instance, only a small subset of keys on the synthesizer's keyboard need be pressed.) I invite comment from those more musically knowledgeable.

There's also an Archy-the-Cockroach vibe, since tiny, lightweight entities are struggling to manipulate instruments made for humans.

Jacque @674: Never fear, I'm looking at the problem.

#694 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 11:29 AM:

Jacque: this is Music Theory 102.5, so ignore "for now" if you wish.

Lee: I thought - before looking at that paragraph - yes, that's truly grotesque - that they were going to be talking about minor scales we actually use (which, as you know Bob Lee, do have more accidentals than either the major or the natural minor scale) rather than that stupidity.

On oddities in modern music: for some reason I get totally blissed out by Webern. And Berg's Wozzeck is a masterpiece (although how the singers learn to sing serial, I have no idea. Must take *years* to untrain habits). But even in "approachable" "popular" music, there are oddities - in an arrangement of "What A Wonderful World" we're singing, the accompaniment has a chord with e♭ and an f♯, both marked accidental as we're in C. An augmented second, written. I don't have enough theory to know what the chord is, or why it has to be written that way. But it works...

#695 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 12:21 PM:

Jacque @ 687:

sacrifice the tips of these four fingers

This line immediately reminded me of Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, a well known violin soloist, telling the story during a performance with the Oregon Symphony of the time she accidentally cut off the tip of one finger on New Year's Eve and spent the evening rushing around with the finger in a plastic bag trying to find a surgeon who was not partying to sew it back on. She did, and was playing again within a few months, but that story sent chills down my spine, even though she told it as lightly as she could.

#696 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 01:48 PM:

Re: Abi's parhelion of posters for childrens stories; Mostly those are pretty good, but they did get Snow White's apple wrong.... It should be half red and half green; also, the queen takes a bite from one side, Snow White from the other.

#697 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 02:13 PM:

Some thoughts:

1. Only MAJOR keys are named for their "Do" note. Minor keys are named for their "La" note. While there IS a system that treats the central note of a minor key as Do, it's hopelessly confusing to do so, and falls apart when there are sections of a piece in the major key and others in the minor with no change in key signature.

For example, when there are no sharps or flats in the key signature, C is Do. C is always Do, but the key could be C major or A minor. If it's A minor, A is still La, but the main chord is La-Do-Mi (a minor chord, with a minor third between La and Do) rather than Do-Mi-So (a major chord, with a major third between Do and Mi).

2. The reason the notes are named that way instead of naming each note on a keyboard separately is this: the keyboard is a human invention, whereas the relationships between notes of the scale arise from the natural harmonics of any fundamental tone. Yes, scales vary widely from culture to culture, but it was only after the invention of keyboards that the idea of including all notes at the same time became current.

In fact, equal temperament (the idea that every half-step on the piano should be exactly the same pitch interval) is only a couple of hundred years old. Bach's klavier was "well-tempered," but it wasn't equal temperament.

It's suggestive that the relationship of a note in equal temperament to the note a "half-step" above it is p*1+log122. Yeah, the 12th log of 2. In Just Intonation (a more natural system) the ratio between any two notes' pitches is a rational number. But that requires retuning your piano to play pieces in different keys...which we should now be able to do, technologically.

3. The reason there are two different names for the "same note" is that they AREN'T THE SAME NOTE. Except on a keyboard, D♭ and C♯ aren't the same note. In equal temperament they split the difference, and the note between the C and D on the keyboard isn't perfectly in tune when EITHER D♭ or C♯ is required.

In singing (the first way humans made music), these adjustments happen automatically as you sing together. Some of them you have to think about; for example, we sing C♯ just a bit higher if it's the third of an A major chord...not that it's perfect Just Intonation to do so, it just makes the chord brighter.

This is one reason Renaissance motets sound dull and lifeless when they're accompanied by a keyboard. The choir unconsciously tunes to the piano or organ, and the harmonics don't work (there was no equal temperament in the Renaissance, and the great composers of the time could make exquisite chords using the natural harmonics...because there was no vibrato either).

#698 ::: Susie ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 02:21 PM:

Jacque @ 681: I hope you don't regret the encouragement... :-) I often feel that others explain these things more clearly, but I enjoy the attempt anyway.

Mycroft W @694: A chord containing both F# and E-flat could be an F# diminished 7th (F#dim7): from bottom to top, F#, A, C, E-flat. Fun fact about diminished 7th chords: every interval is a minor third. Even if you continue up from the E-flat to the next F#, in equal temperament the interval is identical to a minor third despite being spelled like an augmented 2nd. (Yes, "spelled" is the technical term my theory prof used.)

Lee @ 691, I can't resist adding that major and minor are also modes--although I do have what I think of as a folkie habit of referring to scales-other-than-major-and-minor as "modal".

Jacque, feel free to skip over the next part for now, or read if you're curious.

In the medieval era there were the "church" modes or tones, sometimes (I think erroneously) called by the Greek names Dorian/Hypodorian (Tones 1 and 2, tonic=D: i.e., play the white keys from D to D to hear the interval patterns), Phrygian/Hypophrygian (Tones 3 and 4, tonic=E), Lydian/Hypolydian (Tones 5 and 6, with tonic=F), and Mixolydian/Hypomixolydian (Tones 7 and 8, tonic=G).

The use of musica ficta (accidentals) eventually helped create additional modes, sometimes called Ionian (major; tonic=C) and Aeolian (minor; tonic=A).

When these modes were transposed to use other tonic notes, the appropriate signs got added to the key signature - more often flats at first; later sharps.

Technically, IIRC, sharps and flats are only "accidentals" if they're not in the key signature, but I do sometimes use the term as a convenient umbrella, as Lee did.

(Tangent on the cool history of accidental signs: the flat, natural, and sharp all originated as the letter B! The flat was the "soft" B found in F hexachords and was, in the right context, not musica ficta; it was a "real" note that had a proper place in the gamut. The natural and sharp developed out of the "hard" B found in G and C hexachords.)

OK, enough for now!

- Susie

#699 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 02:42 PM:

Xopher HalfTongue @ 697:

But that requires retuning your piano to play pieces in different keys...which we should now be able to do, technologically.

And the saga of attempts to do this, either by increasing the number of intervals in an octave, or by using computers to generate the correct frequency depending on what chord is being played, is long and varied. Not, however, very successful in terms of acceptance by the general music community.

#700 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 02:45 PM:

Open Thread, political division: According to both Daily Kos and TPM, President Obama has called Sandra Fluke (you all know who she is, right? I thought so), praised her courage, told her he supported her, and said that her parents should be proud of her.

*gestures indelicately in the direction of Rush Limbaugh*

"I do bite my thumb at you, sir!"

#701 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 03:30 PM:

A pretty good article that essentially asks "Why the hell should we act like we're sad about Andrew Breitbart's death?"

(I keep almost calling him Seth, mixing him up with a similarly-surnamed person whose death I should most certainly regret.)

#702 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 04:13 PM:

Lizzy L #700: I hadn't but I Googled. I'm struck how similar Thrush's attack is to some of the online abuse of women....

#703 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 04:32 PM:

David Harmon @ 702... Thrush's attack

Quick! Someone contact Ilya and Napoleon!

#704 ::: Ian C. Racey ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 04:44 PM:

Kip W @649

I actually find Jo Brand funny on QI most of the time (I've not seen any of her comedy outside of QI), but there are definitely times when I think, If you find learning new obscurities such a waste of your time, why are you on the effing show? Which is, I think, another point Stephen Fry once made to her during an episode.

#705 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 04:56 PM:

Just to add to the amusement of those newly tackling the topic of musical note names ...

My first year of private flute lessons was spent with a teacher who used the German* system of note names in which the letter "B" is used to name the note we know as B-flat, and our B-natural is named "H". I still remember the brain-bending required to translate.

*The teacher was, in fact, Czech but evidently they use the German system.

#706 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 05:26 PM:

Cue all the "variations on BACH" written since good old J.S. For years I thought it was "a theme by Bach", until reading somewhere about this quirk of German notation.

#707 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 05:29 PM:

Following Heather Rose Jones, 705: See also.

#708 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 09:03 PM:

Jacque @ 680
"It's entirely unreasonable that I should be expected to remember two names for each note."

Just to add to your existing headache, I was taught, in both voice and violin, that sharps should sound ever so slightly more sharp, and flats, ever so slightly more flat, than their opposite number. So they really are ever so slightly different notes. Now, to what extent (and in what ways) this is a psychological effect, an interpretation, or deliberate insult is a question for the individual... :D

#709 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 09:10 PM:

Fluid piano and dulcimer.

A little about the fluid (every key's pitch can be modified) piano. I was expecting more of them to be produced, but there's still hope.

#710 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 09:22 PM:

Bruce Cohen @695: Your story of the fingertip that almost didn't get reattached is indeed nightmarish. When I was training as a Navy Hospital Corpsman, I heard an anecdote about a Corpsman who tidily threw a severed finger overboard, when sailor and finger could probably have been reunited.

Xopher @701: I'm just glad that Breitbart's career of harming innocent people is over.

Heather Rose Jones @705: Differences between the German and Anglo-American systems of musical notation sound like a real brain-bender, all right.
Dang, and I thought it was tricky to go back and forth between "Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog" and "Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta" when I was in the Navy.

#711 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 09:48 PM:

SamChevre @689: If you can sing/hum "Happy Birthday" recognizably, you can hear relative pitch.

That was one of the things I was pleased to discover when singing Sacred Harp with Jon Singer at Minicons: doing the relative pitch thing comes quite easily to me.

(Interesting tangent: The place I work, when they burst into Happy Birthday, it's positively euphonious. You have to work to pull them off pitch. It's downright creepy.)

The whole system of music notation basically is a hack, trying to get something that works for both humans and machines.

Heh! And that's without even considering the more exotic (to me) music systems of, say, gamelan or didgeridoo.

Sica @690: information dense

Yes, thank you. That's the concept I was going for. I will say this for the tiny bit of programming I've learned: it's given me an appreciation for how complex the things we humans get up to are, without our even realizing it. Start out to do something that seems straightforward at first blush, and before long you find yourself mired in a bog of exceptions, conditions, and options.

Lee @691: "I'd name it after the thingie that has, like, the label on the musical score. :-)" That works fine for 1 sharp. What do you call it when there are 4? :-)

Uh ... not my problem I just work here? :-) :-)

description of minor scales

'Nother interesting tangent: they point out that "Eleanor Rigby" was written in Dorian scale. Somebody once mentioned somewhere that that's a fairly reliable pointer to George Harrison's work. He used that a lot. (If I'm not mixing up my references.)

Wow. That site has oodles if interesting info on it. Bookmarking it straight into my "School" folder.

Sadly, there is no contact information on that website for me to tell them about the problem.

There's an email address at the bottom of this page.

If I get over your head

I'm not concerned. I'm mostly reading it at a Saturday-supplement level as I don't plan to dig into it in any detail right now. (My life is currently being eaten by painting, which quite enough obsession for the nonce, thankyouverymuch.)

Also I think I did encounter a lot of this in Days of Yore, as much of it sounds familiar, even if I couldn't quote you details. (And, in any event, I plan to ditch the pop quiz next Tuesday. :-> )

'Sides, there's always Google, for when it does "come back around around on the guitar," as it were, and I want to dig into it in more detail. I generally find that stuff explained in the course of conversation tends to make much more sense than the more formal "lesson style" employed by a lot of teachers, which is only one of the many many reasons I'm really grateful that Making Light exists.

Shorter me: No worries!

OtterB @692: "A, B, C, D, E, F. No G! Don't give me a G!"

"Jargon collision! Jargon collision" WHOOP! WHOOP!

I love it. And, *ping*, you just clarified a confusion that was circling around in the back of my mind without my realizing it.

Bill Higgins @693: This video, which, I predict, will all by itself make "quadrotor" a household word

OMG!! That is outstanding! <granny voice> "What won't they think of next?" I'm particularly tickled by the custom guitar built from a couch frame.

Xopher HalfTongue @697: The reason there are two different names for the "same note" is that they AREN'T THE SAME NOTE. Except on a keyboard

Yeah, with my generally inadequate musical education, I tend to forget that music != piano.

@707: Wauuugh!!! (Organ rush!)

One thing I do regret from my piano lesson years: my teacher took me to play on the pipe organ at her church (to impress upon me some obscure point of technique that totally went over my head). Sadly, I was so entirely clueless that I utterly failed to appreciate the experience.... Da-da-DAHHHHH!!

#712 ::: Jacque, gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 09:48 PM:

nom nom nom

#713 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 10:02 PM:

On major and minor scales:
Use for examples C major and A minor scales: same notes, same intervals, but starting from a different place in the scale. And no accidentals in them.

I am so not getting into the different kinds of minor scales.... (Yep, several years of music lessons will do that - even when it's a clarinet.)

#714 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 10:34 PM:

Open Thread curiosity... I have now heard 2 different people (one here, one elseNet) complain that their dentist insisted on doing everything that needed to be done at once, or at best in side-of-the-mouth chunks. I have never encountered a dentist who did this, and if I did I'd be looking for a different dentist -- it's my money, so I get to decide how much of it I spend at once! But now I'm wondering if this is an emerging paradigm, and something I might need to be wary of in the future. Has anyone else encountered this?

#715 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 11:09 PM:

HLN: Local man, teaching himself Javascript, writes text disemvoweller.

#716 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 11:23 PM:

Sigh. I reported a bug on another site, which was that their search function failed if any word in the search string was less than five characters. For example, a search on 'Evening duty shift' would fail because the word 'duty' is too short.

Just heard back. The reply was "this has been changed to 4 characters."

Idiots. I explained that this doesn't fix the problem, and that I should be able to search on "I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK" without having it choke on the fact that 'a' is only one character.

#717 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 02, 2012, 11:31 PM:

Lee, my most recent dentist visits included a discussion of the work to be done (very minor filling), the necessity thereof (yeah, it's something you want to get taken care of), and the cost (two days' work, give or take). But I haven't needed complex dental work at all, so my data point may belong in a different set.

#718 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 12:30 AM:

Lee: The dentists I've known have strongly suggested that as an option, but have been amenable to being redirected into more affordable patterns. To give an example, my current dentist is slowly replacing all of my old fillings. When I asked her how urgent was urgent, she got the hint and pointed out the one that had to be done first (which had an emerging cavity beneath it) and has since scheduled them according to the calendar year so as to take full advantage of my dental insurance. I think I've got this year and next year for crown work and then hopefully just maintenance until these ones start aging out.

#719 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 12:40 AM:

This reminds me of something. This next bit is phrased like a joke but is not:

What do you call a Vietnamese boat person in Sacramento? A strawberry farmer. What do you call their kids? Dentists.*

The reason this is interesting is that this is an encapsulation of the refugee experience in several levels. You have people who came to America with literally nothing beyond the clothes on their backs. All they had was whatever skills they brought with them—which in many cases, was basic farming skills. Strawberries are a luxury crop, take very little land and very little capital investment, and with some hard work you have a living in less than a year. Many of the strawberry stands around where I live are still with those families.

It's the kids that are interesting. Not only is dentistry a good professional skill, it's a highly portable one: people don't expect you to provide your location or the tools. So a family traumatized by being uprooted will tend to look for those skills.

When Evil Rob pointed this out to me, he used the classic example of the Jewish musicians. You either have violinists, who can carry their instrument around with them, or pianists, who are not expected to take their instruments anywhere.

It makes me wonder how long the refugee trauma lasts. Obviously, in the case of the Jews, there's a trauma re-up factor. But it hadn't occurred to me how that kind of anxiety could be handed down. "Get some skills that can move with you, in case you're forced to leave."

*Seriously, there's something like a 1-in-4 chance your dentist has a Vietnamese surname, though the population of Vietnamese descent isn't nearly so high. My dentist's from India, though.

#720 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 01:04 AM:

B. Durbin @ #719, Not just violins, though. Clarinets, too. (There must be Jewish guitarists, but I can't name any offhand.)

Oh. After a brief search, Mark Knopfler. Well, yeah. He's a pretty good guitarist.

#721 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 01:07 AM:

re Xopher's link to "a pretty good article" about Andrew Breitbart's death, how about a link to an excellent article on the same subject?

Ta-Nehisi Coates writes wisely not just about how destructive a personality Breitbart was, but ultimately how self-destructive he was.

#722 ::: Mea ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 01:14 AM:

Lee: my dentist intentionally worked on only one tooth and told me that the tooth next door had some decay but could wait until the next visit because he wanted me to be able to tell if there was a problem with the very big filling he was replacing. My friend had a dentist who did several on the same side and it made it very difficult for my friend to figure out if there was a problem. I prefer my dentist one tooth at a time method.

#723 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 01:17 AM:

I used to play piano as a kid, made it through a bunch of years of lessons till HS let to a lack of time and a coincident lack of interest in the music I was playing. In later years, I've said that I wished I'd known about jazz piano, as that would have kept me in it. But I really think that my teacher and I were going along the "concert music" track, including recitals and competitions, and that just didn't grab me.

Looking at it now, after this thread, I think what I'd rather have had was more of the social tradition, something to play in a band or in a bar. I also realize that I really didn't have a handle on the variety of music out there till well after I stopped playing. I knew of my parents favorite stuff (mainly beatles/simon/garfunkel era) and top 40 (pre synth/new wave). And the totally different Bach/ Beethoven/ other classical stuff that came in the piano books. Now, I wish I'd known enough to pivot and build on my skills to learn the blues riffs, the basic reggae beats, some of the jazz improv, some irish folk, even through that's not normally a piano thing. Being able to do any of that would have probably kept me in it enough to not lose the skills.

Feh. High school kids those days.

#724 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 02:08 AM:

B. Durbin, #719: Very likely. My dentists (there are 2 in the office and I've seen both) are Dr. Wong and Dr. Gaw. I'm not familiar enough with Asian nomenclature to place them by ethnicity.

#725 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 06:00 AM:

B. Durbin @719: What do you call a Vietnamese boat person in Sacramento? A strawberry farmer. What do you call their kids? Dentists.

Variation: When I had my latest crown done, I got into a discussion with my dentist about the (awesome) craftsmanship in the crown. Turns out that some absurdly high percentage of dental techs are Vietnamese. They were actually dentists in their homeland but, for whatever reason, were unable to get licenses to practice in the US. So, they became (very good) dental techs.

#726 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 09:53 AM:

If your school had had a dance band, maybe.... (That was one of the things my mother did with her piano lessons.)

#727 ::: Joseph M. ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 09:54 AM:

As an interesting aside--a neat little video: the title sequence to a (unfortunately fictitious) documentary on...title sequences.

#728 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 09:55 AM:

714, 718: in re dentists getting a lot done at once … the ones I have had recently (last ten years) have *asked*, but they've certainly all assumed that if it can be gotten in one injection of numbing agent to a given nerve, and they CAN get it done in the span of the appointment, they SHOULD. Their view being it was better to do the mouth in as few 1-hour (or however long) appointments as possible, to not waste the patient's time and discomfort.

Of course, they also almost invariably assume you are insured, and most insurance covers simple fillings at next-best to 100% -- but you co-pay for appointments. If you explain to the dentist up front that you're paying cash per procedure, they'll probably be more willing to let you have a hand in scheduling the work.

However, many dentists are subject to what Suzette Hayden Elgin called 'the MDeity complex,' so you may need to sit down with them and mention that you're different BEFORE they shoot up your mouth with numbing agent; once you're numb they tend to go on autopilot and not ask any questions.

I am the kind of person who tends to need an awful lot of work, regularly (my mother's dentist once described her teeth, which are like mine, as 'lumps of talcum powder with a thin skin of enamel on top'), to the point that I am currently banned from eating 'hard food' with the entire front of my mouth, as there are so many fillings there that I effectively have incremental crowns (made from stuff you don't make crowns from, as it's not strong enough).

B. Durbin @719: The other subset of humanity that is overrepresented in dentistry (across the board) is kinesthetic-primary learners, as it is very nearly the best-paid kind of manual labor out there, short of surgery. Unlike surgery, dentistry is effectively very small-scale sculpture with an exceedingly specific set of materials in use.

Jacque @725: When I was pushing wheelchairs at the airport, my coworkers came in two varieties (sometimes overlapping): high school students and the Greatest Hits of Eastern Europe. The latter, if adult, almost invariably had exceptional qualifications … that they couldn't use until (a) their English got better and (b) they recertified here. They had the job I was doing because it CAN be done with fairly minimal English, but also allows them to practice their (incrementally better) English on the passengers and bootstrap themselves up quickly. At one point I was on the same shift as three doctors, a dentist, an agronomist, four engineers, a veterinarian, and two MBA-equivalents.

My favorite co-worker there thought his English was awful; I thought it was better than most native speakers (though, for some reason, he sounded like an Italian who'd learn English from a Brit; not sure why, as he was Bulgarian, and none of the other Bulgarians had his accent). He used to bring me words he'd found in murder mystery novels and looked up so I could tell him connotations*, not just denotations. Back home, he was a veterinarian; I tried to help hook him up with resources to get him a part-time job as a veterinary assistant, which I happen to know (because of friends of the family who've done it) requires no specialized training whatsoever. I figured that would get his foot in the door and some networking, and the people in the office could certainly tell him what he'd need to do to recertify as quickly as possible.

* One of my favorite such conversations started, "So, how would you use this word in a sentence?" The word was 'tumescent.' I blinked and said, "Um, you wouldn't. Nobody does, for the most part. The author used it to prove he owned a thesaurus. Oh, and you really REALLY wouldn't use it in a sentence because although it DOES mean 'swelling,' 90% of the time it's used it is means the specific swelling of, um, something men have and women don't." He was such an old-fashioned gentleman, I wanted to talk around it without embarrassing him, and almost managed. :-> The author in question had used the word in reference to a corpse and its taphonomy. He was amazed in general at how many of the words he brought me are "I'm an author and I own a thesaurus, but you'll almost never use this in conversation" words. Apparently Bulgarian doesn't do that as much.

#729 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 10:07 AM:

B. Durbin @719:

"Maybe that's why we always wear our hats..."

#730 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 10:37 AM:

#719 ::: B. Durbin


What do you call a Vietnamese boat person in Sacramento? A strawberry farmer. What do you call their kids? Dentists.*

The first time I ran across this was in Willa Cather's "My Antonia". I don't remember what the causes were for the influx to the American midwest by Bohemians, Germans, Czechs, Scandinavians, et. al. Wars, ethnic oppression, disease... Even after we'd thoughtfully removed indigenous peoples and "opened" the land, people don't tend to relocate to our "land of opportunity" unless they're fairly desperate.

Don't want to fight for your overlord? Too many brothers for your grandfather's land? Whoops, the differently-religioned, frustrated guys on the other side of the tracks have gotten liquored up and are headed your way? The Nebraska territory starts looking good...

Usually, the first to come are the young men. Once they've got a toehold, they bring their brothers, with the rest of the family following as fast as they can manage.

To farm, you need the experience, land, and a plow. Do we buy an ox or mule, or bring over the aunt and her babies?

The more portable skills (music/entertainment, tailoring, peddling) hadn't occurred to me until this conversation.

If you haven't got a fiddle, you can cook, clean houses, or run a laundry. Or work someone else's gardens/fields (which brings us back to the hired girls in Cather, whose children became wealthy farmers who sent their kids to college).

For women, the next step above caring for someone else's property was often schoolteaching or nursing.

#731 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 12:30 PM:

HLN: Local man discovers he doesn't have enough eggs or sugar to make the brownies for the church supper. Goes to the store, buys

Biotene™ dry-mouth gum
Water filters
Lycopene capsules

Local man is self-described idiot.

#732 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 12:39 PM:

Is it an accurate description to say of the keys in this song, that the keys modulate from F# to Bb to Eb?

Probably it would make more sense to say either "G♭ to B♭ to E♭" or "F♯ to A♯ to D♯".

#733 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 12:43 PM:

Sounds normal to me. You go to the store fro something, and maybe you remember what it was for before you get out with the other six things you realize you need....
[grocery list] eggs, bananas, carrots [/grocery list]

#734 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 12:51 PM:

Joseph @727 -- That is fantastic!

#735 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 12:53 PM:

(There must be Jewish guitarists, but I can't name any offhand.)

Robert Zimmerman?

#736 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 01:02 PM:

Bruce, calling an article by Ta-Nehisi Coates "excellent" is almost...well, not redundant, but kind of a dog-bites-man. When he writes something less than excellent, that'll be news!

Seriously, that article about Breitbart is up to TNC's usual high standards, but it's an article about Breitbart...I was thinking of the one I linked as being more about why we shouldn't pretend to be "saddened" by the death of the truly evil people in the world, especially when the nil nisi bonum ends up inhibiting talking about the rotten things they did...or even justifying their behavior in retrospect.

My favorite point in the TNC article is that "he was a nice guy in person" is irrelevant. I don't give a damn if Breitbart was nice to children and old people. There's good in the very worst of us, which is NOT to say they aren't so bad; they are. It's just that eradicating all good from a human soul takes a lot of work, though not as much as eradicating all evil.

#737 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 01:09 PM:

Elliott Mason #728: Your anecdote reminds me of the time I had as a student in an American government class an older (50ish) lady from Uzbekistan. It came out that she was a physician who was attending the community college where I was an adjunct so she could requalify in the US as a nurse. She was a very nice lady who brought hamantaschen to class at Purim.

#738 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 01:24 PM:

Kid @ #735, do you really think of him as a great guitarist? I don't remember ever seeing him praised as one of the best with that skill. Words, on the other hand . . .

#739 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 03:11 PM:

Linkmeister: not (or not often) a great guitarist, but without question a guitarist... (and pianist, and harmonicist)

Probably it would make more sense to say "G♭ to B♭ to E♭".

Agh, this is what comes of not knowing one's notes properly. The sequence is in fact "F to B♭ to E♭" and is a straightforward sequence of fourths. (Discovered after trying to show the chords to my guitarist so's we can play it together.)

#740 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 04:20 PM:

Jewish guitarists? Steve Mandell, who played the uncredited half of "Dueling Banjos." He's Elaine Stiles's brother.

#741 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 05:12 PM:

AKICML: I know it was linked to from somewhere here, but my Google fu has failed me. I'm looking for a page of fantasy novel cover pose re-creations. The woman doing the poses has short red hair, and she's imitating both men's and women's poses, and looks strikingly good in the male characters' poses, and predictably awkward in the female characters'. Any help?

#742 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 05:31 PM:

The Modesto Kid #735: Shouldn't he be in the list of Jewish harmonica players?

#743 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 05:38 PM:

Lila @741: That would be here. She also did romance novel covers, later.

#744 ::: Abby N ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 05:59 PM:

Lila #741: I think here:

#745 ::: The Modesto Kid ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 08:19 PM:

I do find his guitar quite moving on a couple of songs, mostly from early or late in his career -- "In My Time of Dying" for instance, or "Two Soldiers".

#746 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 08:45 PM:

Tangentially related to romance novel covers: I particularly like the use of horses in romance novels. The man riding the horses gallops up, and snatches the woman up onto the horse. Uh, yeah. Or they ride for miles, two on the horse -- exactly how? The horse usually is saddled, so hanging on behind, riding on the rump, awkwardly bumping into the saddle, or he's described as carrying her in front of him (and no details offered of how that's supposed to actually work).

#747 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 09:39 PM:


I'm pretty sure they have special "rescue saddles," just for heroes. They're always doing that sort of thing, so you'd expect them to have specialized equipment for the job. I'm sure they're just so ubiquitous that nobody thinks to comment about it, because it would be like commenting about fire engines being red -- the only time it's noteworthy is when you deviate from the expectation.

#748 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 10:30 PM:

Elliott and Abby, thanks! That's the one (and thanks for the romance-novel one, which I hadn't seen). Bookmarked this time!

#749 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 10:43 PM:

I got to see the Cirque du Soleil show, Cavalia, a few months ago. Those highly trained equine stars and remarkably acrobatic equestrians could pull this off without a hitch*, in a well lit stadium, on smooth sand, with careful rehearsal. So it's not impossible.

*pun intended, d'uh.

#750 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: March 03, 2012, 11:18 PM:

KayTei wrote, #747:"nobody thinks to comment about it, because it would be like commenting about fire engines being red"


#752 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 01:03 AM:

Bruce @ 750

Well, that was sort of what I was awkwardly aiming for. Off the cuff, I couldn't think of a better example (outside of the realms of prejudice) where the default assumption is quite so undeservedly rigid. ("Of course the fire engine was red. It was a fire engine." vs. "Of course he has a rescue saddle, he's a hero.")

#753 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 01:16 AM:

Honolulu's fire engines are yellow. I don't know why. I looked for an FAQ section of the HFD website, but they don't have one. Pity.

#754 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 01:34 AM:

Who says fire engines have to be red?

I've seen a lot of the hot-lime ones -- apparently at some point they were thought to have better visibility, especially after dark -- but I had no idea there were so many other colors!

#755 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 08:39 AM:

HLN: Area woman's ancient cat (17), close to expiring from pyoderma/eye infection or possibly tumor/galloping heart rhythm, having received heroic dose of antibiotics and having gotten started on BP meds and steroids, eats all her own breakfast + her sister's leftovers and washes face and paws for first time in a while. Woman cautiously optimistic, though she admits "I am the world's worst pet owner to have neglected her this long."

#756 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 10:59 AM:

I like that in one episode of "Mission:Impossible" they had to have a fake fire engine, so Willy was putting a coat of paint on a vehicle, and remarked to nobody in particular, "Fire engines were a lot redder when I was a kid."

#757 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 11:45 AM:

Here in Britain, we still have some traditional colour elements such as the red for fire engines, but they all have some sort of high-visibility markings. Ambulance doors have banks of LEDs which light up as they open, in that area of the door which goes against the frame, invisible while the door is closed.

Ambulances use patterns of yellow and green checks, and the green might be ambulance specific. I wonder if some of the choices are set by the features of colour-blindness, and maybe how sodium street-lighting makes them look.

I heard, once, that some US States banned red cars for everyone but fire fighters.

#758 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 12:24 PM:

I never heard that about red cars in some states. (They do restrict add-on lights, though.)
We had a VW truck ('transporter' in model name) that got repainted a bright red. It was easier to find it in parking lots than when it was 'pearl gray' (a warmish gray), but it was never going to be mistaken for any kind of emergency vehicle, either.

#759 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 12:39 PM:

Until after WW II, it was thought that red was an easier color to see at night than, say, blue. Emergency lights were red, supposedly hard to see lights were blue. Turns out it's the opposite, and emergency lights began the transition to blue. Ever noticed how green grass and plants seem most intensely green at twilight? There's a name for this effect, which I can't recall, but it's the basis for lime green emergency vehicles.

#760 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 12:47 PM:

The officer on the scene after a drunk (who had run a light) smashed into our car said that they'd recently found that drunks had a tendency to aim for flashing red lights — that sometimes a police car would stop for an accident and be hit by a drunk. This was in 1980, when I was first starting to see some blue lights on police cars.

#761 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 12:51 PM:

Lila @ 755, yay that Ancient Cat is doing better--and please do not beat yourself up re: the length of time it took you to get her to the vet. I'm sure many, if not most, pet owners have a similar kicking-themselves story about delayed medical care or improper pet-proofing or etc. I have at least 5, unfortunately; frex, I still have trouble believing how long it took me to notice that Q, my then-eldest cat, wasn't going into the kitchen to eat because he didn't have the strength to get down from the couch.

You got her to the vet. She's improving. Celebrate.

#762 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 12:57 PM:

I've always had red-and-blue lights on emergency vehicles, and I was taught in driver's ed (2000) that school-bus yellow was reserved for school buses. It still bugs me when I see cars that are close to that.

#763 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 02:44 PM:

Diatryma @ 762:

Yellow cars bug me too, but mostly because the yellow paints are ugly. They're either very muddy colors, like cadmium yellow mixed with enough gray and red to make a very light brown, or they're very pastel, or they're a really yucky orange. The worst of them might just as well be primer yellow.

#764 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 03:14 PM:

The one in my memory is the 'suntan yellow' that Toyota used on its early pickups. A slightly orangish yellow - I don't know why they called it suntan, 'sun yellow' would have been better.

#765 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 03:25 PM:

Tracie @759: emergency lights began the transition to blue.

In Colorado, back in the '70s, only snowplows had blue (and yellow). After my brother moved to Florida in '74, he was crusing along the road, and finally realized that a cop had been following him for a while, lights flashing. He finally pulled over, and the cop came to his window, obviously annoyed. "Oh, I'm sorry," said my brother. "I thought you were a snowplow." The cop was not amused.

Syd @761: many, if not most, pet owners have a similar kicking-themselves story about delayed medical care

I have several. My worst was undoubtedly being slow about getting Albert in about the bladder infection that wouldn't clear up (and not being sufficiently alarmed by the odd crustiness on her belly). When palpating her abdomen, the vet found a mass. X-ray revealed that the mass was ... a head. $1.5K and an emergency C-section later, Gustav entered the world. She wound up being a bottle baby because that crust on Alberta's belly? That was her milk coming in and then drying up. And, unfortunately, A was so depleted by the whole experience, she passed away a week after G was born.

#766 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 04:36 PM:

Fire trucks:

I've heard that the attempt in some parts of the US to switch from red to chartreuse fire trucks because the latter was more visible didn't really catch on in many places because, while bright yellow-green may be more visible than red, it didn't immediately say "FIRE TRUCK" to drivers the way red did, so the driver responses of pulling over and getting out of the way remained better for the slightly less visible red trucks.

#767 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 04:50 PM:

HLN, Classics Section: Local woman discovers she shares a birthday with Roman Emperor Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, AKA Caligula. Local woman hopes she leaves the planet with a somewhat better reputation.

#768 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 05:59 PM:

lorax @ 766

Around here, it was more politics than anything else that resulted in the year 2001 decision (after amalgamating 14 municipalities and fire department) that all the trucks would be red. Pragmatically, there's so much lighting and reflective whatnot that the base colour probably doesn't really matter.

What I do remember as a case study on colour was 1960's GPO (UK Post Awful/Telephone monopoly) dark green vans. Often seen (or not!) parked on grass next to hedges. I recall they had a high rate of collisions when parked.

#769 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 06:21 PM:

Jacque @787 -- I don't know, the world probably had a better reputation after any of the Roman emperors died than it will after we do....

#770 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 06:32 PM:

Elliot Mason:

Re your nightlight. I was looking for some tools in the tool chest in the laundry room and came across an old multi-color LED nightlight. We bought a package of six of them years ago (it averaged to a dollar and a half apiece, IIRC) and haven't used them in forever. I uploaded a short movie of it cycling through the colors to youtube. If you want it, to either use or to take apart for components to repair yours with, send a mail address to me at brucecohenpdx at gmail, and I'll mail it to you.

#771 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 07:16 PM:

One of the worst bits of the NDAA goes away by policy directive of the Obama administration.

#772 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 09:45 PM:

I'm astonished to learn that Rex fuit Elizabeth: nunc est regina Jacobus—"Elizabeth was King: now James is Queen" is used by homophobic fundamentalists as a denunciation of the King James Bible.

You think you know how wacky people are, but they can still astonish with even greater heights of wackiness.

#773 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 09:53 PM:

I've seen yellow and red fire trucks pretty often. And in Chapel Hill, NC, powder blue ones.

#774 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 09:57 PM:

Elliott 728: He was amazed in general at how many of the words he brought me are "I'm an author and I own a thesaurus, but you'll almost never use this in conversation" words. Apparently Bulgarian doesn't do that as much.

That might be because English has a huge vocabulary compared to other languages.

#775 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 10:03 PM:

I'm used to seeing white firetrucks/ambulances in most communities around here. Most of them have red accents, but the first white firetrucks I saw (sometime in the early 80's, when most everyone else was still using red) had green accents. Of course, it was the Green Township fire department, so the color scheme made perfect sense. They told us the white trucks were easier to see at night than red trucks, which seems quite plausible.

#776 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 10:51 PM:

Tracie @ #759: Ever noticed how green grass and plants seem most intensely green at twilight? There's a name for this effect, which I can't recall

That's the Purkinje effect.

(Which, I have just learned, I have been mispronouncing for years, following the Psych lecturer's lead and never having enquired into it far enough to realise that it's a European j. The effect is named in honour of Jan Evangelista Purkyně.)

#777 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 11:13 PM:

Xopher @ 771... Thanks for pointing this out. I'm sure some people will still say that Obama is no different from Republicans, but I promise not to utter rude words in response.

#778 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: March 04, 2012, 11:25 PM:

Xopher @ 771: Oh, that is splendid. Can I haz a few more tiny steps back towards the rule of law, please?

#779 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 12:11 AM:

On English vocabulary and the hugeness thereof: I went to a spelling bee this past weekend and holy cats, the words. In the last ten rounds, I was able to identify about two of every three words-- and by 'identify' I mean 'yes, I've heard of that before'. It was incredible.

#780 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 12:28 AM:

HLN: Mini-Gathering of Light goes well! I didn't think to take pictures, but Syd and I had a late lunch and excellent conversation.

#781 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 12:51 AM:

Re: Sandy B. @ 780, yes. Yes, it did. :)

Personally, I'm just as pleased about no pix, simply because the camera always seems to add about 50 pounds to my physique rather than its usual 10. (I mean, I know I'm overweight, but why do I always look fatter in a photo than I do in the mirror? Croggles the mind. Boggles it, even.)

But lunch was luverly, and I did my public service by recommending Vroman's as an awesome local alternative to chain bookstores of either the brick-&-mortar or online types. (It ain't Powell's, but from what I've heard of Powell's, nothing is.)

Switching to other open-threadiness, I just finished watching the ever excellent Inherit the Wind. And was both perturbed and saddened that 50-odd years on from the film, 55+ years after the play, and nearly 90 years after the Scopes Monkey Trial...we're still having the same stupid discussion as to whether an accepted scientific theory is fit to be taught in classrooms.

The fervor with which the townsfolk were willing to turn against someone they'd known all his life--the casual ease with which they called down damnation on him, threatened to lynch him--have we really NOT come any farther than that? Or is it just that the extreme positions make such good press? (Circling back to part of the conversation over lunch...)

Maybe I'll have a nice cup of tea and watch The Princess Bride again.

#782 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 01:06 AM:

Re: me @ 781, understanding of course that the film and play are a dramatization, not an accurate historical rendering of the 1925 trial. But still--is the rhetoric in that dramatization similar, in at least broad and general terms, to what we're hearing today? Because it sounds similar to me, though I would love to be mistaken.

#783 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 01:09 AM:

There's some states that have a particular hierarchy of emergency lights. (I think Oregon is one.) Yellow for road construction, snowplows, tow trucks, etc. "Watch out" without emergency. Red lights are for emergency vehicles—fire trucks and ambulances. Blue for law enforcement only, though they can have the red lights too and will often have yellows attached for traffic-moving purposes.

I'd never heard of snowplows having blue lights. Then again, I've never lived someplace where snowplows were more than briefly necessary. (Denver's snow melts off the streets at the first sunny day. Welcome to altitude.)

#784 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 01:32 AM:

Xopher @ 771:


* Does the dance of partially fulfilled democratic aspirations *

#785 ::: Mea ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 01:48 AM:

xopher at 772: Thanks for posting that link! I learned something about King James,and then I went exploring on that website and read about the pirates Ann and Mary.
[Richard Norton, "Lesbian Pirates: Anne Bonny and Mary Read", Lesbian History, updated 14 June 2008 . ]

Very fun read. I especially like the capture by theatrics story.

#786 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 02:20 AM:

After seeing today's Girl Genius, I'd like to hold it and squeeze it and pet it and hug it and call it George.

#787 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 08:26 AM:

Bruce Durocher... "Curses! Foiled again!"

#788 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 09:04 AM:

Xopher HalfTongue @774 quoted me when I said: He was amazed in general at how many of the words he brought me are "I'm an author and I own a thesaurus, but you'll almost never use this in conversation" words. Apparently Bulgarian doesn't do that as much. Then Xopher said: That might be because English has a huge vocabulary compared to other languages.

Yes, and we keep so many of them in current circulation (at least among relatively learnéd people who like to read), instead of letting the less-favored bits wither on the vine.

Diatryma @779 said: On English vocabulary and the hugeness thereof: I went to a spelling bee this past weekend and holy cats, the words. In the last ten rounds, I was able to identify about two of every three words-- and by 'identify' I mean 'yes, I've heard of that before'. It was incredible.

Spelling bee words are a special subset of Scrabble words, in the sense that they're often odd technical or jargonistic vocabulary that was just common enough in the 1890s (often) to qualify as 'real English' and not just 'funny words for strange people' by the lights of the dictionary-compilers. Scrabble words, of course, are more often likely to run in the sub-5-characters range, whereas spelling bee words often go right out past the length you CAN put on a Scrabble board.

I used to be quite good at spelling bees until I hit the point where they issue you the phonebook-sized 'supplemental word list' and send you home to study the specialized vocabulary of the field -- where the field is "spelling-bee contestants." I lost interest around there, though I did read dictionaries for pleasure when I was younger.

#789 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 09:07 AM:

Oh, and HL(knitting)N: Local knitter has embarked upon the most perilous period of "knitting my first pair of gloves" -- ten tiny tubes of tediousness are staring him baldly in the face. Pray for his soul if you will, readers, for he shall sorely need it.

The rest of the glove was actually pretty awesome; knitted flat with cables and eyelets up the edges, it will be a gauntlet-style neo-Victorian thing that laces up the back of the hand. Local Knitter was careful to knit them both at once on a long circular needle, back-and-forth, so as to make sure there WERE two gloves when he was done. Also so the pattern repeats lined up.

#790 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 09:58 AM:

Of course, it was the Green Township fire department, so the color scheme made perfect sense.

Near me, there's a place called Grapeville--it's a suburb of Jeannette, which is a suburb of Greensburg, which is a satellite town of Pittsburgh. The Grapeville fire trucks (I think there are two) are purple.

#791 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 10:21 AM:


Studying for spelling bees at the level of school champion or some such thing probably actually helps you with real-world spelling--the stuff you're memorizing is useful in spelling things right that you'll sometimes use or see. Studying at the national competition level seems like it's almost all kind-of pointless memorization--the equivalent of studying up for a quiz on conversational Klingon.

And there's an interesting sideline here about standardized testing. At one level, getting the kids up to the level where they can pass the standardized test probably does require that they have some basic set of needed skills and knowledge. At another, focusing on raising the scores a bit to meet an artificial target probably doesn't benefit the kids much at all.

And this leads to a fun thought experiment: What if your high-stakes test (equivalent of the SAT or GRE) was[0] in some utterly useless made-up subject--say, conversational Klingon, the history of Middle Earth, the different alien races of the Uplift books and what they're like, etc[1]. How would the world be different? One answer is that huge amounts of effort would be poured into studying things that only mattered for these tests. On the other hand, you'd have a pool of rather obscure knowledge that was held by essentially all smart, ambitious people under a certain age. You'd start seeing interesting experimental literature written in Klingon, clever references to Uplift races in poetry, new books that could be seen in some sense as a retelling of some story from Tolkien, etc.

[0] Weird grammar question: Should this be was or were? I have the sense that I'm choosing between the subjunctive and conditional tenses, but in English, I'm never quite sure....

[1] Or, you could make it ancient Latin and Greek and extensively test on Greek and Roman mythology as a marker for scholarship and education, but that's been done. Also, in that case, you're talking about real cultures created by millions of people over thousands of years. Tolkien was pretty good, but he can't carry the same weight as a whole civilization's product during its golden age.

#792 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 10:25 AM:

albatross @#791: I'd say it's subjunctive, and thus "were". But I am known to be trigger-happy on the use of the subjunctive, so I may be wrong.

#793 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 10:27 AM:

albatross @791: Something similar (high-stakes testing on utterly artificial body of knowledge) happened in imperial China, with the eight-legged essay and universal civil service exams.

#794 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 10:37 AM:

Albatross #791, Elliott #793: Such a scheme does in fact reward the ability to learn, not to mention persistence.

Local news: Charlottesville is being hammered with iirc our biggest snowstorm to date -- at least 4-5 inches so far this morning. Walking Gracie in that will be... interesting.

Yesterday was a big day for Gracie too... Morning: found dead mouse at edge of a field (body intact, likely froze or drowned last week). Gracie sniffed at it but wasn't interested. Noon: Still not interested. Then off to the dog park! Gracie seems interested in meeting other dogs, but she doesn't really play with them (or with the kids we had along). Evening walk... spots the dead mouse, immediately picks it up with apparent intention, promptly foiled by owner's rapid response.

#795 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 10:39 AM:

791, 794: I'm also reading Aubrey/Maturin from the start, and between that and the smattering of Hornblower I had, I'm amused at the Latin-ing of midshipmen. It appears to be being done 'for their own good', and also so they can make offhand references in Latin to their later high-officer peers without being looked down upon. The math, geometry, astronomy, etc, are obviously of use in practical ship-handling, but the Latin appears to be class-based.

#796 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 11:47 AM:

albatross @ 791:

Re [0]:

You're quite right, that should be the subjunctive "were"; the clause containing that verb is introduced by "what if", clearly indicating a hypothetical case. On the other hand, my computer's dictionary says about the subjunctive:

In modern English, the subjunctive mood still exists but is regarded in many contexts as optional. Use of the subjunctive tends to convey a more formal tone, but there are few people who would regard its absence as actually wrong.

#797 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 11:53 AM:

Albatross @791 -- it's the odd construction called "conditional contrary to fact," which takes the subjunctive "were."

#798 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 12:17 PM:

791, 796, 797: This is all a side-effect of the fact that, despite English's massive throbbing vocabulary, an awful lot of words and verb-forms that really are DIFFERENT are spelt exactly the same, and therefore look casually like the same word used eighty different ways, confusingly.

#799 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 01:34 PM:

Excellent lecture about the details of how polarizing political language works

I've seen dayglo (or nearly dayglo) yellow green firetrucks, but not lately.

#800 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 01:35 PM:

I've been gnomed.

#801 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 02:10 PM:

albatross, #71: As I understand it, you're proposing a hypothetical case, so you use "were".

And the idea of "a body of knowledge that all reasonably-educated people have in common" is one of the purposes of "The Canon" in English literature which does make some sense. There's a similar "canon" which gets used by fannish folks for much the same purpose.

#802 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 02:31 PM:

albatross 791: Were. It's an unreal conditional, therefore subjunctive mood (not tense). If there were a particular test whose content you didn't know, you could say "what if it was a test about sphinges*" and then someone with the facts could answer "it wasn't, it was about striges†" or whatever.

One easy test is putting it in the future: "I will fail if there are questions about sphinges on the test" vs. "I would fail if there were going to be questions about sphinges (but there won't be)." The first is a real conditional, the second is contrafactual and so gets the subjunctive mood.

Lee 800: So a piece of new work which is a strong candidate for inclusion in the canon would be "canon fodder"?

I've just decided that 'Canon Fodder' is the name of my next band. We will sing nothing but time-displaced part songs, of course.

Hmm. If a piece of music has harmony by virtue of being a canon of identical parts, does it have a fractional number of real parts the way a fractal has a fractional number of dimensions? Must think more on this, since I have no actual life.

* My favorite plural for 'sphinx'. Pretty sure it's not actually correct, but I like it.
† Singular 'strix', a mythological blood-sucking bird.

#803 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 02:39 PM:

Xopher Halftongue @802 -- would that make syringes the plural of syrinx? Though a syringe would be more like a portion of a syrinx, making syrinx the plural of syringe....

#804 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 03:46 PM:

Xopher, I thought Canon Fodder was defined as "likely subjects of photography."

#805 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 04:53 PM:

Albatross@791: many years ago I read an interesting thought-experiment article by a mathematics educator about what would happen if mathematics in schools were replaced with chess (I suppose that basic arithmetic and the specific mathematical needs of the sciences would have to be exempted). Once one moves away from defending mathematics on the basis of immediate and obvious utility, most of the pro-maths arguments (it teaches abstraction and logical thinking and being methodical and so on) probably apply just as much to chess.

A quick Google didn't turn up the article, but it did turn up the interesting news that some schools have actually experimented with replacing one or two maths lessons a week with chess lessons. A teacher at my primary school spent a week or two teaching us all chess (I already knew it), and some of my year clearly got a lot out of it. (A few years later, different teachers were teaching us turtle graphics. More useful? Less useful? I have no idea.)

#806 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 05:04 PM:

I think that the weirdness of spelling bee words comes mostly from the need to find a winner-- the bee I went to had more than twenty-five rounds between 'down to three' and 'winner', and a dozen of them were after they moved forward in the word list, which is actually in the rules because otherwise you waste a lot of time on words that might as well be 'crate' and 'kitchen'. For many people, it's not a huge challenge to spell all the words they'll need in daily life*. Most of the spelling bee errors I've seen have been people who didn't recognize the word, not people who thought it was spelled differently.

So you get down to the people who already know all the easy words, then you bring in the hard ones. Otherwise they'd still be spelling 'necessary' and 'environment' in Dubuque right now.

*I haven't used spell-check in years, but I typo by swapping entire words rather than letters and write with specialized vocabulary. Not worth it.

#807 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 05:46 PM:


Yeah, I agree about the cause. I'm just pointing out the general pattern that you can have a scholarly contest or test or something where studying for it has more or less benefit in the rest of your life. In general, it's better to have that kind of contest have more applicability for the rest of your life, rather than less, so that the time the competitors spend preparing for the contest isn't wasted. (But at the same time, hard mental work isn't ever entirely wasted, since it helps you get better at hard mental work in the future.)

#808 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 06:06 PM:

Tying back to the Aubrey/Maturin in the top post, I must greatly admire what Mr. O'Brian did with the bear-leader scene early in Post-Captain (which I am currently reading for the first time). Well misdirected, sir, very well done!

I must admit I am utterly entranced by the thought of what word(s) he is ______-ing out, since 'damned', 'f*cking', and similar are sometimes quite pointedly left in. Bl**dy, perhaps? What words were so unmentionable to a Napoleonic-era audience that a thoughtful author has elided them?

#809 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 07:24 PM:

PS to snow post: The snow stopped before noon, at something like 8-10 inches (fluffy). Then the sun came out, and the snow melted as fast as it came, leaving the still-green grass. (The grass here did get killed by frost for a few weeks, but grew back fast.)

My, the seasons come and go so quickly here!

#810 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 08:00 PM:

Xopher HalfTongue @802: "Sphinges" is a perfectly valid transliteration of the Greek plural of "Σφιγξ". (In looking that up, to be certain, I discovered something I didn't know: the Greek for "griffin" is "γρυψ".)

#811 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 08:47 PM:

HLN: Area man starts a course of dental work that is long overdue, necessary, and expensive. Discovers that a couple of days of steroids afterwards makes one feel great.

#812 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 09:15 PM:

Xopher, albatross: It's an unreal conditional, therefore subjunctive mood (not tense). If there were a particular test whose content you didn't know, you could say "what if it was a test about sphinges*" and then someone with the facts could answer "it wasn't, it was about striges†" or whatever.

Some people (eg, Geoffrey Pullum and the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language) argue that the irrealis and subjunctive are different. If it be a test about sphinges would be subjunctive, and If it were a test about sphinges would be an irrealis conditional, and I demand that it be a test about striges is subjunctive but not conditional.

#813 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 09:21 PM:

thomas, perhaps it's my age or ethnicity, but I find that my hair is quite thin enough without splitting it further.

#814 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 10:31 PM:

David Goldfarb @810: I was very amused to find while watching an old episode of Good Eats (the one about chicken and dumplings) that there is apparently a Spanish noodle called "ñocki". For those of you non-Español-ers out there, it is pronounced precisely the same as the Italian word "gnocchi", which is classic Spanish (respelling something completely to pronounce it the same, as with "el suetér" or "la chaquéta")

#816 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 10:44 PM:

B. Durbin @783, Virginia and North Carolina are the same way: caution lights (e.g., snowplows, tow trucks) are yellow, law enforcement is blue, fire and ambulances are red.

#817 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 10:44 PM:

Time for an update, I think, although I don't have anything concrete to report. Gonna be another long one, so be warned you may need a cuppa to get through it. :)

Kitties are still at their vet's thanks to his kindness and that of numerous others. At the moment, they're all in the isolation ward, as Poppet got the sneezles, then the other three followed along. Thing is, I've not heard them sneeze and they don't sound at all congested during my visits, which are at various times during the day, nor are any of them displaying runny noses, watery eyes or any other external symptoms. So I'm hoping it isn't anything to worry about, because a repeat of the Great Upper Respiratory Debacle of 2009 is not desirable, even though that involved 10 cats and this would "only" be 4.

Still, they appear to be mostly comfortable. Garbo actually came completely out of the carrier they've left in her cage, and deigned to nom and drink while I was in the room. This is a Big Thing, since she usually stays in her carrier ALL the time anyone's in the clinic; they know she eats and drinks and uses the box, but not when anyone is around. Minerva and Houdini both seem to have decided that burrowing under the towels padding their cages is a Good Thing, despite running the risk of upsetting their food and/or water bowls. Minerva has taken to giving my hand a swat when she's had all the petting she wishes, but she's only drawn blood twice. :) And Poppet just wants to play, and rolls around on her towel so I can give her belly rubs--and it's an expansive belly, so we're talking much rubbings.

Silly lovely little beasts. I do love them. I don't want to try taking photos of them in their cages, lest the sounds or flash distress them, but I'll put up a blog with some representative pix, so y'all can see who you've been helping.

Re: me, my friend E has, if not saved my bacon--again--then at least given me a more convenient place to keep it for a few days than would otherwise be the case. In other words...hell, already too long, and I have to backtrack a bit. Sorry.

Last Tuesday, I went to a local-to-the-cold-weather-shelter organization, Passageways, in hopes of coming up with a place to sleep after the cold-weather shelter shut down on 2/29. The case worker said she'd have referred me to PATH due to my cats, but she also asked me to keep in touch in case we could work something out in the meantime. She also gave me a list of "rotating" shelters for the East San Gabriel Valley, one of which would be operating until March 15. There were even lists of pick-up points to be bused there and back, assuming you could get to one of those locations.

My only concerns: (1) If I made use of the bus option, where could I safely leave my car overnight? It's one thing to leave it in a gated parking lot behind the church in whose basement I was sleeping, and entirely another thing to leave it...20-odd miles away with my day-to-day "survival gear". (2) I could, of course, drive, since I do have a car. But the gasoline to get there and back to the area I was in? With the mileage my winged go-devil gets, it's at least a gallon each way--and the cheapest station I've been able to find is running at $4.259/gallon, and may have gone up a few cents since then. So, an option, certainly, but one with potential problems re: its utility...

Wednesday morning, I had my first meeting with my PATH case worker, a very nice guy who--like everyone else I've met on this journey--really wants to help.

He told me the average waiting time to get into one of their facilities is 3-1/2 months but said he wasn't sure if PATH/Petco was running shorter or longer. But he explained how the process would work, went over a goals sheet with me (housing, employment, physical health, mental health, personal goals), and asked me to email him at least once a week to let him know how things are going and if anything changes. I got the impression that, even though a waiting list exists, it isn't outside the realm of possibility that sticking to the program before I get admitted, and being communicative, might well have a positive effect on my wait time.

First email will be tomorrow. :)

So, last Wednesday was my--and everyone else's--last night at the cold-weather shelter. Thursday morning, 3/1, I called a place recommended the night before by one of the women I met in the shelter; she had been accepted there the day before as a full-time resident and told me that space seemed to open up fairly regularly. It wouldn't be a place I could have the cats, but it might bridge the timing gap between the cold-weather shelter and getting in at PATH/Petco. So I called, but was told they had no openings and I should call back the following Tuesday (they do intakes on T-W-Th). And I was invited to use their drop-in facility, which is much like the women-only place I was referred to in Pasadena (called, appropriately enough, The Women's Room).

While the invitation was nice to have, the call did not result in my having a place to sleep Thursday night. One of the volunteers at the Women's Room suggested I park in the lot of the shelter attached to the place I went Tuesday morning; she said at least there would be people around, so it might be safer than a generic parking lot. And so that was my plan when I left there to visit my cats.

When I reached the vet's office, one of my very good friends, H, was working the desk. We got to talking, and I told her about the parking lot plan, and about the East SG Valley option--but said the latter concerned me re: gasoline. So she gave me some gas money.

Honestly, I have so many people going the extra mile (heh) on my behalf, it's a wonder I'm not in happy-tears mode every minute of the day.

Anyway, after that I only needed to find the paper I'd gotten on Tuesday from the case worker at Passageways, so I'd know where to go. All I remembered was the name of the city.

Do you think I could find the bloody page in my purse? Or in my computer bag where I'm keeping all my paperwork? I KNEW it had to be somewhere, and I would have sworn a blue streak I'd removed and checked Every. Single. Paper. in my purse, but I couldn't find it. So, back to the parking lot plan, which meant going back up to Pasadena to spend some time at the library, grab a bite to eat...and go to the shelter after everyone was bedded down for the night in hopes of parking there undisturbed.

Upon arrival at the library, I pulled out my phone to hook it to my laptop for charging--and discovered I'd missed a call from E. As you may recall, she was facing thyroid surgery; it was scheduled for March 2, last Friday. So here's my friend, trying to get a boatload of stuff dealt with before going to the hospital at 5:00 AM Friday, and she calls me the night before to ask if I want to stay at her place again while she was in the hospital and then headed to the desert afterward to rest up.

If I'd found that paper the case worker had given me before checking my phone for messages, I'd have been 20-odd miles away and worried about the gasoline to get back to E's place. I don't know whether to call it serendipity, synchronicity, or dumb luck.

E's surgery went well; she was released on Saturday and spent that night at her folks' place, then went to the desert yesterday. The biopsy results should be available in a couple of days, and any good thoughts you can spare for a good outcome are GREATLY appreciated.

Being able to stay at E's made things very convenient for me this morning, since I didn't have to worry about how to get cleaned up for an INTERVIEW! It was with another property supervisor at the same company I'd filled out an app for in December, the one with the rep I'd been connected with by my friend from the clinic. This guy is looking for a manager for a property in Bellflower.

Didn't get it. Which, to be honest, didn't surprise me. The gal I'd met in December had told me the company had part-time resident managers--24-25 units or fewer--and full-time (25+ units), and the Bellflower property would be part-time manager territory. Meaning the manager would get perhaps a 50% break on rent, rather than free rent, and even with the little salary they'd pay me for office hours and such, I just don't have enough resources to cover the rest of the rent.

This being the case, the subject of whether the building was "pet friendly", at least for the manager, never came up.

I think it went well otherwise, though, and he did leave the door open for me to call when I'm more financially stable to see if they have any openings.

Other than that, I fired off a resume on Friday or Saturday for a temp job that sounds right up my alley, but I haven't gotten any response yet but the robo "got your app" email. And I start the county's jobs program next Monday. After dinner, I'll do some more poking about on the Web and see what I can turn up.

You know, even though I'm not sure where I'm going to be sleeping by the end of the week (assuming E comes back by then and wants to continue recuperating without a houseguest :), I'm not nearly as worried as I was a couple of weeks ago.

As long as I don't get complacent and fall back into my old "everything will be okay because it always has been before, and I didn't have to DO anything!" mindset, I really do think I'll be okay. And it will be thanks to a goodly number of people, in meatspace and on the 'net, helping me in a multitude of ways.

Many, many thanks.

#818 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: March 05, 2012, 11:21 PM:

So, you guys. If you aren't following the Mass Effect 3 related twitter accounts (and why would you be, if you're not an avid follower of the franchise or one of my Google+ followers) you are missing out on some really unique 21st century fiction.

In a nutshell, the game (releasing tomorrow) is telling the story of an invasion of Earth (and the rest of the civilized galaxy) by extragalactic genocidal monsters. The company making the game has several in-universe Twitter accounts that have been pretty boring. Up until about 12 hours ago, when @AllianceNewsNet started tweeting about communications being interrupted. Soon after that, a minor character from the first two games, Journalist Emily Wong, began tweeting on that account (via "Quantum Entanglement Communication") descriptions of unknown ships arriving in the sky, and the horrors of her very personal experience of the invasion. The other in-universe accounts, @SystemsRep and @SirtaFoundation, also began to tweet, in coordinated "real-time" messages related to the same events described by @AllianceNetwork, using the #solcomms hashtag. This is when it started to get really interesting, because hundreds of fans picked up the narrative and began their own stories of destruction and seeking shelter using that same #solcomms hashtag. It's one of the most fascinating, moving, and science fictional things I've ever seen. Worth checking out!

#819 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 01:32 AM:

John A Arkansawyer @ 815:

Freshwater economics comes a crapper?

#820 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 02:26 AM:

Warning lights generally: here in the UK I don't think red beacons are used for anything. There are so many red lights on the highway that it would be confusing. It's yellow for caution, blue for emergency services. The emergency services includes coastguard, mountain rescue, bomb disposal: theses are ones I have seen.

I think emergency doctors use a green beacon. It may be to get around some legal-status limit, it also makes their vehicles distinctive at an accident scene. Technically, they're volunteers, a local doctor with extra training.

Yellow beacons may be over-used. Some fairly ordinary trucks have them, possibly for work involved with road repairs, and the drivers will leave the beacons running. So you see the flashing on a vehicle ahead, and it doesn't look anything special, and then you realise this is something slow-moving, this time. Those warning triangles used in the USA are a good idea. I've not seen anything similar here which is as distinctive at a distance.

#821 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 03:06 AM:

Syd @817: thank you for the update. Really glad that you have somewhere safe to stay for the next few days, and that your cats are okay at the vets for the moment (sneezing apart - which might be a reaction to some chemical, in the absence of any other signs?). I will keep thinking good thoughts on your behalf, and on the behalf of your friend. Good luck with the job applications.

Ignore the following if hlepy: Have you got a couple of places, one electronic, one not (redundency is good), where you can keep lists of what you need to do and when you need to do it (such as e-mailing the PATH guy, sending off resumes). When everything is pear-shaped, reminders like that can (in my experience) reduce the panicked "oh no, did I forget??? Was it due yet? I forgot to do..." Also, crossing them off can help you realise you -have- done stuff. Helps me, anyway; as I said , ignore if not useful to you.

#822 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 07:29 AM:

Some people window shop. I read the San Francisco newspaper.

One of their bloggers gets what appears to me to be a coordinated attack and I don't like it. What she says is usually good (if poorly copyedited--bloggers need editing but only have editors). It's one more sign of the cesspool that is a poorly moderated newspaper commenting system. (It's not really moderated, in my opinion. It just has a very coarse voting/flagging system.)

I have gotten fed up enough that I have stopped commenting in her defense, as I cannot stay civil.

If you might be better behaved, check it out:

Margaret Magowan.

#823 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 08:58 AM:

"Discount Armageddon", the first book in a new series by Seanan McGuire, is coming out today. I'm going to the bookstore after work.

#824 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 09:18 AM:

Syd: glad to hear the update and that things are going relatively smoothly. Still sending good vibes your way for more long-term solutions to emerge (and good wishes for your friend as well).

#825 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 09:57 AM:

Syd @781: In my case, the mirror knows just what angle to have me stand at so that I can convince myself I'm not grotesque. Cameras seem proud of not knowing this. If I could make a mirror that would freeze an image so that I could then snap a picture of it, I'd not only be fabulously wealthy, I'd be ten years younger and have a shapely neck.

B. Durbin @783: "Denver's snow melts off streets at the first sunny day."
That's not fair! I lived 20 years in Fort Collins, and every year, it went like this:

Sooner or later, every year, there's a big snow.

City fathers run around in little circles, flapping their arms. "Snow! Snow? What'll we do! IT NEVER SNOWED BEFORE!"

For a day or so, the snow sits there.

Then they get the plows out to push the snow into piles in the middle of the street and occupying about half the parking spaces.

The snow, thus piled, takes extra long time to melt, often acquiring new snow from subsequent falls.

Eventually, it all melts off.

City fathers congratulate each other heartily. "Well done, us! Glad that's over. IT'LL NEVER SNOW AGAIN!!"

#826 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 11:20 AM:

Syd, Seconding OtterB @ 824.

Glad it's looking up.

#827 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 12:18 PM:

Syd, Kip W.: How not to hate being photographed

Also, Syd, I've been following your posts with great interest and sympathy. I'm so glad you're hanging in there. You have more supporters than you realize!

As dcb said above, ignore if this is hlepy, but in my day job, I've done some writing about job hunting and have some pieces on resumes and cover letters that may help you quite a bit. If you're interested, shoot me an email at pearlandopal at the mail with a g and I'll send you the links. (I'd tell you where to go outright, but the site search there is abysmal, and I don't want to add more frustration to your day.)

#828 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 12:39 PM:

dcb @ 821, re: the lists idea, not at all hlepy! In fact, one of my friends has a method of prioritizing listed items so one doesn't feel the need to go back and rewrite the list when something of a higher priority shows up further down on the list.

**ahem** The ways we, or rather, I, can find to waste time...

And there are indications I'm kind of strong on the kinesthetic-learner continuum and that writing things down (rather than typing them on an electronic device) makes them stick better. But both could be more than helpful, and I did get this bloody smartphone so I could use it as my secure Internet tether, and thus it also has features that will allow me to type, say, a reminder and NOT drive myself mad using a touchtone phone-style keyboard...

#829 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 02:13 PM:

Dear Patrick O'Brian fans, someone has knitted The Garment.

#830 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 02:17 PM:

Albatross @791: At least one of my alternate-history stories is going to feature a world where the rebellious American colonies renounce Greek and Latin in favor of studying Native American languages and culture. Remember the chief who wrote back to an Eastern school declining to send them any boys, but promising to "make men of" any boys the whites would send to them?

#831 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 02:58 PM:

Syd, thanks so much for the long update. It sounds like the kitties are doing well despite possible rhinitis, and I am so glad you have a place to sleep with a shower and kitchen and all. Prayers for you and your friend E.

#832 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 03:20 PM:

Syd: What Lizzy L said!

#833 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 03:48 PM:

Syd: I wish you all the best and hope things continue to improve for you. I haven't said this before, mostly because what's going on with you paralyzes me with fear when I read it; I hope you'll accept my apology, and my good wishes going forward.

HLN: Local man finally gives in and gets Twitter account. Uses second half of ML posting name preceded by at sign.

#834 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 05:12 PM:

John M. Burt@830: and if, in their turn, the Romans and Greeks had taken a keen interest in the languages of the territories they were invading, and had taken notes, we'd have some very interesting records to go over. It's a shame.

#835 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 06:07 PM:

Two random acts of kindness to report;

One received, as one of the Downtown vendors had brough a chair and vat a little way from her scarves and knicknacks, and was giving out free bowls of soup. Thick with pasta, a fair amount of veggies, and spicy....

One I'm transmitting: An interesting book got weeded at the shop today, and when I told Sandy (my boss) that I knew where someone would certainly be interested, he said I could give it away: The Machine knitter's Guide to Double Jacquard, by Betty Bailey, 1992, hardcover with dust jacket, good condition. Alibris link, B&N link.

I glanced through the book, and it's exactly what it sounds like -- a guide for users of modern Jacquard looms. Pattern codes, diagrams, photos of the machinery, and various advice. (I had no idea such things were still in use!) Naturally, I thought of you guys... Any takers?

First-comer gets it, with the exception that if one of our hosts here wants it (before I actually ship it to someone else), they get priority (for all they've done and do).

#836 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 06:35 PM:

Is there something wrong with Google Plus right now? The only thing currently showing in my stream is my last post, from Sunday. My circles are all still there, I just can't see anything they've posted.

#837 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 06:59 PM:

@ Mary Aileen (quick, look and see if I spelled that correctly...)

Mine seems to be working; maybe all your friends are just being quiet today?

#838 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 07:04 PM:

Thena (837): No, all the posts were missing (except my last one), not just any new ones.

They're back now. It was odd: I logged back in and again saw only my last post, clicked over to my Circles page to confirm that everyone was really, truly still there, and when I clicked back to my Stream, there everything was. Bizarre.

#839 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 07:23 PM:

John, #830: I would read that story with great interest!

Xopher, #833: I tried searching on that and it came back "no people matching". If you want to follow me so I can follow you back, it's @starcatjewel. (Fair warning: I post about 1 tweet every 2 or 3 months, and it's mostly stuff related to my business.)

David H., #835: If you don't get any takers here, I have a friend who has a Laurel for weaving who might be interested.

#840 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 07:58 PM:

David Harmon at #835:

Because of a geek interest in the history of computers, I'm trying to learn more about Jacquard looms and planning to write something about them soon.

This book might be over my head, and might be better off going to someone more expert on weaving. But count me as interested!

#841 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 08:53 PM:

PS: I'll be going back to work, and ship the book, on Thursday. Pending request from one of the hosts, Bruce Higgins has it; I suspect that if it is indeed over his head (somehow I doubt this), he can be trusted to pass it on to someone more appropriate.

#842 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 09:49 PM:

Lee, my NAME on Twitter is my real name. My at-sign tag is as described. I'm not sure what we're supposed to search on, but I found you and Followed you. I think that should mean that you get a message saying I'm now Following you, but I'm new at this tweeting thing.

#843 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: March 06, 2012, 09:53 PM:

Thanks, David. Do you need to know how to get it to me? Contact higgins at f n a l dot gov.

I suspect that if it is indeed over his head (somehow I doubt this), he can be trusted to pass it on to someone more appropriate.

Such as Lee's friend, perhaps.

The book may or may not be appropriate for a level of understanding I can reach with reasonable effort. Perhaps you underestimate the vastness of my ignorance of the fiber arts.

That said, I have found some good texts and some helpful people recently. I also gave an informal talk at Capricon about the Jacquard Jacquard and the Jacquard Jacquard Jacquard. Must write this down soon...

#844 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 12:35 AM:

Lizzy L. and Jacque, thank you!

Xopher @ 833, first of all, thank you. Second, please believe me when I say no forgiveness is necessary because I haven't been offended by your decision not to comment--but if you truly feel it's needed, consider it gladly granted. Although I think you did comment, re: my shelter cats, and I appreciated the support.

I'm trying to come up with words that apologize for inspiring fear in any other commenter, because that was never my intent, and yet I've read...well, for example, about your surgery and the fear surrounding it generally and how it might affect your singing in particular, and I've said to myself, "There but for the grace of whatever's running the universe..." And maybe I didn't comment, because I wasn't sure what I could add to what others had already said. I just figured that was your feeling in this case. For what it's worth, talking about it has made me less afraid. No idea if that would apply to you, so ignore if hlepy.

What I will say is, may all things align so that reading about my experiences is as close as you get to such a situation. Ditto for all, as a matter of fact.

And now, a complete change, because I'm having a real "Whuh??" moment, and I don't want it to come off as looking a gift horse in the mouth, but...

Y'all may recall the guy I met in the coffee shop a few weeks back, for whom I wound up making edits to some documents and, since then, have done more in the line of transcribing his handwritten notes into Word docs.

He has, to this point, been paying me in groceries, which is fine and dandy and appreciated against such time as I might be without the ability to stay at E's place--or anywhere else with the modern conveniences. But he asked me today if I enjoyed the ham he'd given me a couple of weeks ago, and I said I hadn't opened it yet. And he looked rather surprised and pointed out to me that it had been a fresh ham (rather than canned).

Sure enough, when I got back to E's place, there in Box o' Groceries #2 was a box containing a ham. On the box was printed, "Keep refrigerated. Store at 40 degrees." I did not open the box, because let's face it--the ham has been in my car for two weeks, and the temperature inside the car has been well above that recommendation.

Here's my "Whuh?": who gives a single homeless person a 4-pound supposed-to-be-refrigerated ham? Or anything else that needs to be kept at a certain temperature?

Okay, technically, I wasn't homeless in the sense of having nowhere to sleep--I was in the cold-weather shelter during the night. But that didn't include the ability to say, hey, here's a ham, can you stick in in the fridge for me? Or at least, it didn't occur to me to ask, but the shelter volunteers couldn't have kept tabs on it during the day, anyway--no way to keep anyone not affiliated with the shelter, but who had access to the kitchen, from taking it.

So, insert guilt feelings over wasting food, which at this point is one of the few things I'm willing to call a sin. But is my confusion on this understandable? And if not, then please set me straight, because the more I think about it, the more boggled I get.

#845 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 12:43 AM:

844, on the ham
I'd be croggled too. (I don't know what I'd do with a ham, and I have a refrigerator.)

#846 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 01:17 AM:

Syd @844: the ham was a great example of what hlepy looks like. There was a great deal of kindness intended, some actual relevance to something you needed, and it took absolutely no cognizance of what your current circumstances are and how it might be used by you. It's rare to see such a concrete example of hlepiness.

#847 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 01:42 AM:

Syd @ 844:

We bought a 6 pound ham for two of us several weeks ago; after cutting a pound or so for use in the huge batch of pea soup we cooked and froze at the same time, I sliced the ham into steaks and froze them. In the weeks since, we've used about a pound of the steaks for sandwiches and other lunches; the rest remains in the freezer. I have no idea what I'd do with it if it were just me (I like ham, but there is a limit to how often I can eat it). In your position I wouldn't buy a ham for fear of never finishing it, and wouldn't expect someone to give me one.

#848 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 05:40 AM:

Shall XKCD compare thee?

It makes a change from the usual standards of literary criticism. But I'm not sure how I should react to the last box.

#849 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 08:17 AM:

It's okay to feel a little fear.

Dave Bell @ 848: After the brief moment required to get the joke, I reacted by laughing.

#850 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 08:23 AM:

Syd, that is great helpiness, marred only by the fact that you haven't told us he got angry you didn't thank him profusely. I may have to use it as an example if helpiness vs helpfulness comes up in the future.

My current example is a tech at the blood center who is perfectly nice, just new and we haven't clicked yet... but when she brings me string cheese, she opens them and then sets them on a table out of reach. Each time I go, I get a bit better at letting her know it doesn't work that way, but really.

#851 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 08:35 AM:

Syd #844: Given this is a single incident, this sounds like it could be simple cluelessness. You might gently tell him... "Sorry dude, that ham was meant to be refrigerated. Being homeless, I don't have a refrigerator."

#852 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 08:50 AM:

I am always amazed when I see my daughter (or anyone) demonstrating a skill set I share in no way, shape, or form.

Hence my continuing astonishment at her video editing skills.

Her latest piece is VERY SPOILERY if you haven't seen Sherlock season two but is imo an amazing piece of work. She chose, cut, and ordered all the visuals, laid them over the music track, put in the visible words . . . and built this 3.5 minute video in 2 days, during which she also went to school and did a ton of homework.

Gave me chills the first time I saw it and also literally left me agape.

#853 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 10:10 AM:

Behind our brows the pressure's far too high
The dam of silence burdens us too hard
The hand we hold leaves us no other card
So come; the weight's too much. It's time to cry.
We'll prime the pump of salt ourselves at first
We're all alone. No one will mock our sobs
The others are too busy at their jobs
And won't be here to see us at our worst.
Some gland purrs like a cat behind our eyes.
We pray that brain's endorphins give some peace
Too much to hope our cares might really cease
But for a time, that hard lump liquefies.
That silent burden won't be eased by sleep
So come; the load's too great. It's time to weep.

#854 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 10:42 AM:

Kip W #853: Intriguing. I like it.

#855 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 10:53 AM:


It has "that" on two lines in a row, so make that "this hard lump" up there.

#856 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 10:55 AM:

Kip W @853 I like it. The last line in particular rang for me.

#857 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 11:17 AM:

Melissa Singer @ 852... Wow.

#858 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 11:32 AM:

Diatryma @ 850, David Harmon @ 851, I really do think he just...didn't think, in this particular case. And I guess he can be excused for giving me, yesterday, a box including half a dozen tomatoes and a similar amount of green bell peppers--after all, I had mentioned I was staying at a friend's. I don't think I got around to mentioning that I will likely have to leave E's place tomorrow, as her current plans call for her to be back in town then.

Not so sure how to explain the obviously opened box of Baker's chocolate that appears, from its packaging, to be vintage late 1980s... 0_o

Oh, well. What I can't keep fresh in my car (should it come to that), I'll see if E wants to keep. If she doesn't, I'll take it with me to the Women's Room to see if anyone can use it. And I will, gently, both thank Coffee House Guy for trying to help, and remind him that perishables are not the best idea right now.

#859 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 11:58 AM:

Helpy gifts: I don't recall if I mentioned it here, but the other week a neighbor came up to me during my dog walk and handed me a can of dog food: "I don't have a dog, someone should have it." Multiply dented, and "Best by 12/12/10". (That might be YY/MM/DD, but I'm not betting on it.) <Sigh>

#860 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 12:02 PM:

In the last few years, my synagogue has taken to including "No outdated food, please" in its requests for donations for its various food drives. I don't think most people do it with any kind of malice, but some seem to think of a food drive as a way to clear out the pantry.

#861 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 12:08 PM:

Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey #843: I've sent you a note.

#862 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 01:04 PM:

Dave #848:

The problem with perspective is that it's bidirectional.

#863 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 01:55 PM:

Syd's ham story reminds me of a picture that circulated after the Haiti quake. It was of a sign hung up outside of a yoga studio: "We are collecting used yoga mats for Haiti!" I'm sure they earnestly wanted to help and thought that this would help, but . . . urm.

* * *

I pretty much run the annual food drive at work, and (despite putting "unexpired items only" on the poster) routinely get donations of dusty, old, sometimes really odd stuff.

Just-expired stuff, I keep and replace with un-expired items that the Food Bank won't toss. I'm not afraid of old cans that aren't bulging.

Example of really odd: A restaurant's private label clam chowder kit. A big can of clams, an zip-lock bag of dehydrated potatoes, and (taped to the can) instructions that had been scissored out of the box. Obviously a gift or impulse purchase that someone decided to get rid of.

#864 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 01:57 PM:

RE: Elliott Mason @#662:I've also noticed that the multicolor LED is, well, not so much anymore -- it does red pretty well, and a pinpoint of green, but none of the other modes do anything at all (so it's a pulsing red-and-dark ball now, instead of a cheerful multicolor). That's probably internal to the LED itself.

If the LED is no worky (someone who knows more about which pin is which than I, and appropriate voltages, can tell you how to check it) you can buy self-contained multicolor flashing LEDs at various places. (Link is to, but there are plenty of other sources - you want two pins only, ~4.5V operating voltage) There is no need for the big circuit board if using a replacement LED, IMHO, unless it is slowing the motor down. It can be snipped out and replaced by the new multicolor flashing LED wired in parallel with the motor, with both hooked up to the switch.

See your friendly local electronics geek for better, in-person advice. (I'm a dabbler only...)

#865 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 02:27 PM:

Stefan Jones @863: Used yoga mats have a significant number of other uses than for yoga. They're good solid rubber: put several together, and you've got a quick lean-to. One makes a fairly good sleeping mat, particularly for uneven ground. They're also fairly good insulation. So collecting used yoga mats for a situation like that in Haiti isn't as bizarre as it might sound.

#866 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 02:36 PM:

I am having an unusual mental sensation this week (probably Yet Another way that depression can manifest; mine just hasn't done it yet, till now): the overwhelming inner certainty that any activity by me in [insert specific spheres of competence here] will result in humiliatingly incompetent disaster.

In this week's case, carpentry. Since there are several screws-and-wood-related housemodding tasks very high on my itchy-problems list, this has been rather annoying.

I'm about to put on my shoes, go out into this lovely unseasonal 60degF weather with a crowbar, and take the first steps towards dogproofing our fence.

For those interested, one panel of the 6' wood fence around our yard is sagging several inches out from its posts, barely held on by its original nails, and needs to be Made To Work again; another area has a beagle-sized gap that can be plugged by screwing a short section of 2x4 over it, etc. Nothing strenuous. Nothing even involving terribly accurate measurements. But I've been sitting around paralyzed, avoiding them out of terror, all week.

Wish me luck ...

#867 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 03:25 PM:

Re: hlepy benefactor

I'm not having your problem reconciling his actions with your situation.

What did you tell him about your life? IIRC, at that time you were on your way to a shelter.

Shelters need food. If he's linking the concept to shared housing/hostels, then contributing to the communal pot makes a lot of sense (wasn't it Dorothy Parker who defined eternity as two people and a ham?).

Honoring his intention while getting his generous impulses more closely aligned with your needs is good. Remember that he may be wanting to help a wider circle than just you.

And if I were in Haiti post-hurricane and sleeping on the muddy ground, a yoga mat or two would be very, very welcome.

#868 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 04:02 PM:

The Diffraction "The Rural Writer" is subscriber-only content.

#869 ::: Syd, somewhat disguised ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 04:04 PM:

Carol Kimball @ 867, while I don't recall exactly what I said about the shelter--for example, before I got into it, I would not have known that various local churches prepared food offsite to serve for dinner, so the possibility of sharing food might otherwise have come to mind--your interpretation makes much sense. Thank you.

I will make sure my communication on the topic is clearer, including about sharing with a wider circle. If he keeps giving me groceries *to help me* and something similar happens, I now have more knowledge myself and can contribute perishables to the Women's Room or the food bank with which it shares a building.

I really am sorry I didn't realize it wasn't a canned ham...

#870 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 04:10 PM:

#868 ::: Xopher HalfTongue

I'm aware of that. That's why I set the Title (viewed by hovering over the link) so.

#871 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 04:24 PM:

Oops. Sorry, Jim. Didn't notice that.

#872 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 04:40 PM:

Elliott Mason @ 866: Good luck!

Depression definitely manifests itself for me that way sometimes -- I recognize the feeling you're describing. (Me, I usually don't have a particular humiliatingly incompetent disaster in mind -- it's just a general paralyzing sense of "This is going to be horribly frustrating and accomplish nothing.")

Sometimes it makes me feel better to do one small tangible thing toward my goal. (Sometimes it doesn't.) I usually have to reassure myself repeatedly that I just want to try doing this one thing, and if it totally isn't working and I'm miserable doing it, I can stop.

I hope you feel better, whether taking the first step towards dog-proofing the fence is the thing that helps you feel better or not.

#873 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 04:54 PM:

Caroline @872: It turned out when I got out there that the panel was actually only attached via one nail -- and today is VERY VERY WINDY, so the whole thing was swaying a bit. So it's a good thing I got off my duff today. :->

I impressed our neighbor on that side by how competent and professional I looked (close to a quote: "Wow, you really know what you're doing"); from my pov it was fairly simple, but I'm sure there are things she does twice a week with no problem that I'd think were complicated. :->

I pulled it off and laid it flat, slats-up, then screwed every single slat to its horizontal supporting member (even the ones that weren't loose yet, on principle), then hoiked it back up and screwed the panel to its posts. It still has two bad breaks in the horizontal boards that I want to fix by sistering 2x2s against them, but it's reasonably structural. I also need to buy some wider thinnish stock to cover the edge-gaps where our enterprising puppies are certain to attempt to squirm out.

The light is rapidly going (despite that it's only 4ish), but I really want to try to get the side gate re-hung, too, since that's the other major dog-proofing-the-fence task, and not having to walk around the propped-in-the-hole-but-not-hung gate would be a major annoyance-removal in general.

The rest of it will probably wait till I've had a chance to go out and buy wood and hardware (tomorrow?), but I still feel pretty good.

I took stepwise photos, so I might blog the project later. I greatly admire(d, before I lost the URL; the family that moved from Puerto Rico?) the old-house-fixing-up blog a fannish acquaintance-of-acquaintance was posting in for a while there, so I know there's a market.

#874 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 05:13 PM:

Elliott Mason @ 873, might you mean Michael Roberts?

Adding my voice to those who have asked for a return of the "search Making Light" option...

#875 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 06:04 PM:

Syd @874: Yes, him! I couldn't remember his name, only that it was two extremely common names, and googling on what I remembered wasn't helping. **bookmarked**

#876 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 06:46 PM:

I kept hoping that Michael would find secret corridors or a hidden room in that big old house, maybe with a howling purple vortex handy for disposing or trash and/or zombies.

#877 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 06:59 PM:

On the topic of hlepiness, large scale variety:

I am taking Disaster Life Support courses (BDLS yesterday, ADLS tomorrow and the day after, for those keeping score). Today's class mentioned the habit people have of cleaning out their closets after disasters and sending (sometimes literally) tons of unsorted clothing to the site, which mostly ends up either at Goodwill or the landfill.

Later in the day the lecturer mentioned that random volunteers showing up to help after disasters are a serious problem--they're not clued in to the command structure, you don't know whether they know what they're doing, they risk becoming casualties and they generally get in the way and cause confusion.

"Get 'em to sort clothes," I said, to general approval.

I was actually being flippant, but I think I'll file that away as a possibly useful notion.

#878 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 07:28 PM:

Smashwords kicks back against Paypal censorship.

Smashwords apparently kicked up enough fuss to get some traction. Paypal is now offering some sort of "relaxed enforcement", with negotiations ongoing. Personally, I'm wary of that -- it smacks of selective enforcement for targets who are too tough to beat down this year.

#879 ::: Persephone ::: (view all by) ::: March 07, 2012, 10:52 PM:

Melissa Singer @860, I've seen a disaster preparedness strategy that involves stocking (reasonable amounts of relevant) shelf-stable food until a few months before its out date, then donating it and replacing it. I haven't done so because I doubt my ability to donate it three months before it expires, as opposed to six months after.

#880 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2012, 01:49 AM:

Elliot Mason @ 873:

My experience with depression tells me that you just did the best thing you possibly could to fend it off. Getting up and doing something that needed to be done, and completing the job competently is just what the doctor should have ordered.

#881 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2012, 05:44 AM:

Hyperlocal news... Spring is officially over in Albuquoique.

#882 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2012, 08:03 AM:

Elliott Mason @ 866/873: Well done! Sounds pretty competent to me, as well as to your neighbour. Maybe file away for the next time you're having such thoughts: "I thought I was going to be crap at mending the fence panel and that worked out well - I even got praised for it."

Lila @877: getting the untrained volunteers to sort the unwanted clothes sounds like great lateral thinking. I've never had formal training in disaster response, but I have worked in a large-scale oiled wildlife response, and later wrote an electronic encyclopaedia volume on that subject, with sections on the command structure and teamwork, contingency planning, facilities & staffing, and public education, as well as the stuff on wildlife catching, feeding, washing etc. Having a system that works is so important.

#883 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2012, 10:06 AM:

Stefan @863:

Syd's ham story reminds me of a picture that circulated after the Haiti quake. It was of a sign hung up outside of a yoga studio: "We are collecting used yoga mats for Haiti!" I'm sure they earnestly wanted to help and thought that this would help, but . . . urm.

Any time there is a major disaster of any sort anywhere in the world, there are knitters who will organize "knit for $PLACE!" drives, no matter how useless or inappropriate knit hats and scarves would be for the culture and climate. People tend to want to personalize how they help, I suppose, rather than just donating money to the Red Cross so that it can be transported and used most efficiently, and this does tend to produce hlepy results at times.

#884 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2012, 10:20 AM:

Somehow I'm reminded of the Sam Gross cartoon (from National Lampoon) of Jesus on the cross and a couple of visitors: "We thought a nice birdie would cheer you up!"

#885 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2012, 10:27 AM:


On the other hand, in our church, the knitting ministry knits baptism blankets for the babies scheduled for baptism (at least the ones in the baptism class). This has always struck me as a really beautiful way of making both prayers and the community *visible* and *tangible*. And the parents are always really moved.

#886 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2012, 10:49 AM:

Persephone @879

I've mentioned that particular method: I anchor my memory/motivation on Easter and Thanksgiving to avoid forgetting. I also keep all the foods in one box, not mixed in with the regular pantry.

#887 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2012, 11:39 AM:

Syd @ 844

I'll second David @ 851. One thing that might be helpful is to work up a list of things you can eat without having to cook, that won't spoil if left for a few days. So, according to taste, things like bread and peanut-butter, fresh apples and carrots, dried fruit, dry cereal (not oatmeal, unless it's instant and you have access to hot-cups and hot water), granola bars, canned fruit (if you have a can-opener) and in individual servings if not... Stuff like that. My imagination is probably limited. Or really, "anything you could take on a camping trip without a cooler" would also sum it up nicely, but I find that the more concrete the list, the more helpful it will be in this kind of situation. You can vary it based on whether you have reliable public access to a microwave or somesuch.

I'd be careful to present it in a way that doesn't put him on the defensive, but it's the kind of thing I find really helpful when I want to assist a friend in trouble, because it saves me the trouble of standing in the store going "Now, what of all this plentitude would be most practical? Does she even like rutabagas?"

#888 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2012, 11:53 AM:

albatross @885:

There are absolutely worthwhile and useful applications for charity knitting; I've knit many hats myself for charity. The key is whether the specific items are requested by or useful for the people they'll be donated to. Your example of baby blankets is a good one; my hats went to an organization on the Pine Ridge Reservation, who had specifically requested "anything warm". But making scarves for tsunami victims in Sri Lanka was hlepy in the extreme.

#889 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2012, 01:38 PM:

The teen mentioned in my message #590 does indeed have cancer. Buggar-all. That family has been through enough.

#890 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2012, 11:12 PM:

Stefan Jones @ 889: Those poor souls -- and all those (like you) who care for them.

#891 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: March 08, 2012, 11:47 PM:

Knitting for charity: Hospitals often have groups knitting hats or blankets for premature babies. Some also have comfort quilts for the oncology department. If you ask around, there's usually a group that will deal with the particular item you like to make.

#892 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 12:00 AM:

Elliott Mason@798, on English having lots of words spelt the same way - there's certainly a kernel of truth to to that.

(Also, multicolor LEDs that are happy to be red, reluctant to be green, and don't bother being blue are a symptom of not enough voltage, usually from a low battery. Red LEDs trigger glow at a lower voltage than green, and green than blue.)

#893 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 12:30 AM:

Kindly moderators of great power:

My e-mail address has been shredded by CenturyLink eating Qwest. I'm posting this note with my old address, and will post another with the new suck-filled one, so if you can work the appropriate magic on "View All By" I would appreciate it.

[Behold Bruce's new view all by, soon to be filled with all things Durocher-the-second -- AS]

#894 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 12:32 AM:

Kindly moderators of great power:

My e-mail address has been shredded by CenturyLink eating Qwest. I'm posting this note with my new suck-filled address, and just posted with the old, dead, non-suck-filled one, so if you can work the appropriate magic on "View All By" I would appreciate it.

[Herein find the record of Bruce's former life as lived out on these pages. -- AS]

#895 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 12:33 AM:

Elliot Mason @866: Depression is a wicked little imp, ain't it? I also find that doing something I know damn well I am good at can help -- some of the time. [I note that I inadvertently actually did type "hlep" when I meant "help" -- is that a bad sign?]

lorax @883: Remember the squeals of outrage when some money donated to the Red Cross after 9/11 was spent on something other than helping the "right" victims of disaster?

#896 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 01:42 AM:

Bruce E. Durocher II @ 894: About 20 years ago, when a friend kindly gave me an email address on the server in his basement, I was grateful -- but I didn't realize how much of a boon he was granting me. I've seen many ISPs come and go, but my email address lives on!

#897 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 02:16 AM:

janetl @896: 's why I finally broke down and shelled out for a Panix account. By the time I got around to it (before free email accounts were common) I'd already been through at least three (paid) addresses, as various ISPs ingested others. Knock on wood, Panix continues to be a good, stable, ISP. (Even garnered me an unexpected hug at Denvention 3.)

#898 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 03:33 AM:

John Arkansawyer @822 - on the abuse Margaret Magowan gets from commenters in her SF Chron column blog - I think it's misculture rather than conspiracy. The blogging system there is pretty troll-friendly, liberal columnists get abused more than moderates, and women who dare to talk about gender issues get abused more than just about anybody, which is to say that Magowan gets treated worse than anybody except Violet Blue did back when she had a column there. I'm really glad I don't have to see the comments the editors do block.

#899 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 07:27 AM:

Melissa Singer @ #852:

That is a very impressive piece of work.

Has she noticed the typo yet?

#900 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 08:00 AM:

Sometimes you find groups that knit blankets for babies. for various reasons.

#901 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 08:24 AM:

John M Burt, one of the reasons I find a local blood center to donate to is that one of my family's friends is in charge of the one near my hometown and, after 9/11, instead of soliciting tons of blood donations and then having to toss them, they strongly encouraged people to wait a week or two-- you could call in and they'd schedule you for *later*. Now, since I donate at the hospital, it's also a keep-it-local sort of thing.

(sigh, I deeply resent my body for getting sick *right* when I was up for blood again. And before spring break! I could have given in the morning, which is so much better than in the afternoon!)

#902 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 09:05 AM:

Bill Stewart @ 898: I think you're probably closer to the truth than I am. It still bugs me, though.

On a totally unrelated subject: Tax time is coming up and I'm coming to a couple of inflection points involving filing status and choices of when to declare income. I've been using generic on-line tax filing software and it's not very useful in gaming out these possibilities. Who out there has suggestions for more useful software that I might try out?

#903 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 10:06 AM:

Paul A @899: What typo? She'll freak!

timestamp, please?

and thanks.

#904 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 10:12 AM:

Re: knitting for babies

My mother's part of a knitting group that makes blankets and sweaters for premature infants and infants in foster care. They don't do "tragedy knitting" but provide a steady, if small, stream of stuff to their affiliates.

Unfortunately, mom seems to have developed an issue in her left wrist which makes it extremely painful for her to knit or do needlework and it's driving her crazy. It seems to be a soft-tissue problem of some kind and she's seen a couple of doctors whose recommendations basically add up to "don't do that anymore." Since not knitting is kind of like not reading to my mother (in other words, impossible), this is not heartening. She's "rested" the wrist for several months now without improvement. It's driving her bananas.

(Also, as some of you may recall, my mom doesn't have a lot of friends and the knitting circle is her primary social outlet these days--they meet twice a month.)

#905 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 10:20 AM:

Melissa Singer @904: Some people with wrist problems find that loom-knitting is much easier on their hands than needles-knitting. It's very much not the same craft (more like machine knitting), but might help scratch similar itches?

#906 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 10:23 AM:

Melissa Singer @ #903:

At 0:19, when the song says "Soldier", the caption says "Solider".

(Which might have worked for Nigel Bruce, but isn't quite as appropriate for Martin Freeman.)

#907 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 10:27 AM:

LSD helps with alcoholism>/a>

Not a surprise to me for a number of reasons, but yet another example of how the SCWoD has sent us in totally the wrong direction.

#908 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 10:49 AM:

Melissa Singer @904: How would you mother feel about crochet? In my experience it's a lot easier to do essentially one-handed, and if she's right-handed anyway, she might be able to at least do some similar crafting while letting her left wrist rest in a brace and just maintain yarn tension. It might at least be the equivalent of a heavy reader who needs to rest their eyes going to audiobooks for a while; not really the same thing, but allowing community participation and getting some similar results.

#909 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 11:19 AM:

Melissa Singer @904, following up on the crochet suggestion, there are now ergonomically improved crochet hooks. Clover has a variety of different sorts (frex padded and bamboo). Some people also get relief from special wrist-supporting gloves -- a brand-name is escaping me at the moment.

#910 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 11:20 AM:

Paul A: thank you, I will point it out to her (and am ashamed that I didn't catch it myself).

Elliott Mason: Interesting idea. I will suggest it.

Fade Manley: Mom does not crochet. Past conversations indicate that she tried it but it didn't stick.

#911 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 11:23 AM:

I'm just back from seeing the movie 'John Carter'(hey, I happen to be off work at the moment so why not take in a morning performance?) Verdict: I loved it!

I'd've liked to have seen it in 2D but I could only find 3D, so I bit the bullet and went for that. I won't discuss any details here so as not to spoiler those who can't resist temptation. I will say that they succeeded magnificently in putting Barsoom on the screen. *That* was the planet I visualised when first reading the Mars books the better part of 40 years ago. And that ending! Talk about leaving you wanting more. With the way the selling of the movie has been completely bollixed (possibly deliberately - there's apparently a new regime at Disney and this was greenlit by the old guard) the chances of a sequel seem slim. Then there are the mainstream reviews...

When I came out of the cinema I picked up a local evening newspaper and their film critic gave it two stars out of five, thus proving yet again that when it comes to SF/fantasy movies you're better off reading reviews from within the community.

#912 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 12:38 PM:

David Harmon @907 -- no news there. That particular bit of knowledge has been common among LSD researchers since the original studies in the 1960s. Now, how to get the information used well....

If you're interested in the story of how LSD was made illegal and what else it worked well to treat, take a look at Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream by Jay Stevens. It's a well done and fascinating book.

#913 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 12:40 PM:

Rob Hansen: You relieve my mind extremely. I've been so excited AND terrified about that movie -- not only did it come out on my birthday (clearly destiny telling me to go see it), but the trailer kept getting so close to reassuring me ... when I know Hollywood has been consistently awful about these things in the past, with trailers that looked awesome disguising movies that were Very Much Not My Thing (and full of idiot plot).

#914 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 12:59 PM:

How's the John Carter movie for someone who 1) hasn't read the original books, and 2) wants strong female characters? (Where "strong" does not mean "punches people" but "has agency and is not primarily a sexy thing for other people to fight over.") The few trailers I've seen have not given me much hope, but it's sounding like they may have been misleading.

#915 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 01:35 PM:

Melissa @904:

If you google for "one-handed knitting", you'll find a variety of discussions of techniques and devices used by knitters who can't use both hands (because they broke a bone, or had a stroke, or something similar). These range from the very simple (tuck one needle under the left arm to hold it steady and knit English-style holding the yarn in the right hand) to more complex devices, but it wouldn't require your mother to learn an entirely different craft.

#916 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 01:58 PM:

I am going to re-read A Princess of Mars before watching "John Carter".

#917 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 02:27 PM:

lorax @915: I would never have thought of that, but it makes perfect sense.

Will google this over the weekend.

#918 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 02:37 PM:

Knitting for disasters: if knitted garments are entirely inappropriate for the disaster in question, why not knit things then auction them off and donate the money to the Red Cross?

Might just have a bunch of knitters buying each others' stuff (but hey, invite non-knitting but financially-flush friends to the auction). Might require a bit more organizing. Just a suggestion.

#919 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 03:49 PM:

John A. Arkansawyer @ #902, I used TurboTax for three or four years in a row. It offers (or did offer) various options for you to set scenarios and go back and change them before filing.

You can file Federal for free with it; state costs you $20 or so.

#920 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 05:02 PM:

AKICIML: Anyone got any experience with wheeled backpacks? I'm wondering about a Jansport Driver 8 for flights, because I know from experience that my backpack, while basically comfortable, gets amazingly heavy when filled with stuff and carted round an airport/city for a few hours (I have to go hand luggage only in about 10 days), but I get irritated with wheeled luggage that I can't carry easily on stairs etc.

#921 ::: Tracie ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 05:05 PM:

Melissa @904: I second Lorax's advice on one-handed knitting. I taught myself to do it after seeing someone else doing it. I also figured out how to do a purl without flipping the work, which works one or two-handed. I tuck the left needle under my right armpit and carry the yarn with my right hand. If nothing else, it's an entertaining knitting trick.

#922 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2012, 06:45 PM:

All of the cool kids are hanging out in Open Thread 171.

#923 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2012, 12:06 AM:

Melissa Singer @ 904: Resting a repetitive stress injury does help, but isn't enough for a severe one. I highly recommend seeing a physical therapist -- a certified hand therapist if you can find one. I am all too experienced with hand/wrist/arm RSI, because I fall back into bad habits of too much computer, and not enough anythings. Physical therapy treatments reverse the damage fastest.

#924 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2012, 08:56 AM:

Tentatively offered: I cleaned up a nasty case of RSI (caused by a combination of too much counted needlework, Blockout (3D tetris) and being polite to someone who'd been a longterm pain when I was already stressed) with Taoist standing meditation from The Way of Energy.

I worked up to 20 minutes each of basic standing and standing while holding a large imaginary balloon in front of me, did those a few times, and the RSI went away permanently.

#925 ::: Xopher HalfTongue acknowledges the mods are too quick for him ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2012, 12:08 AM:

That was really fast.

#926 ::: Cassy B. sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2014, 10:10 AM:

Spam @928; with five links I'm not going anywhere near...

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